The playbook has been on fire to start the 2022 calendar year. The first place, second place and fourth place finishers at Pebble Beach over the weekend were all in the playbook. My only personal regret was not putting money down on Tom Hoge, because I had winning tickets on both Jordan Spieth and Troy Merritt but they both fell short. Congrats to Hoge on his first career PGA Tour victory, another guy like Luke List a few weeks ago who has grinded for a long time and finally got over the hump.
I hope you enjoyed the views around Pebble as much as I did. All I do when I watch that tournament is think about how much Jim Nantz spent on his home right off the course. I’ll never even sniff that kind of money but it’s fun to dream right? Well anyways, let us look to the upcoming week.
While the Masters is my favorite tournament on the PGA Tour schedule, the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale comes in a very close second. This is not a major but it’s so much more than that. It’s been called “Greenest Show on Grass” and #ThePeoplesOpen. This is one tournament where golf fans get a chance to let loose and party during the event. It all starts with the 16th hole, oh baby! It is a Par 3 that is fully enclosed (the only one on the PGA Tour) by grandstands which can hold up to 20,000 crazy drunk fans. The players walk out through a tunnel and are greeted by a roar from these rowdy fans. A roar erupts every time a ball lands on the green but when a ball falls short, the boo birds are out in full force. I will never forget when Tiger Woods aced this infamous hole in 1997, it was one of the loudest cheers I’ve heard at any sporting event. It happened before the huge grandstands were even built and the legend of this hole seems to grow with every passing year.
Let’s talk about the course itself. It is a Par 71, and it stretches out 7,261 yards with around 80 sand bunkers which are placed perfectly around the greens and on the fairways to truly punish these players. There are also six holes with water, including three of the last four. The average winning score over the last few years has been around 18 under par which may make this course seem easier but it can easily bite a player in the ass.
When you look at the players who have had a lot of success at the Waste Management, they are all good GIR (Greens in Regulation) players. If players can’t hit the fairway, you must look at players who are good scramblers and bunker players for success. Length off the tee is not a huge advantage on this course but it doesn’t hurt either. This is a ball striker’s course, which is why Hideki Matsuyama is always in contention at this event. He'll be a very popular play because of his history on this course. You can definitely play him but I would recommend only cash games because of his ownership levels.
There are players on the Tour who typically love and thrive in this environment with the fans in your face but there are also guys who hate it and just want to get it over with as soon as possible. This is the one event every year where the PGA Tour let’s its hair down and brings the fun out. I wish more events like this would be added to the schedule. Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now and get to the playbook.
ONE AND DONE PICK OF THE WEEK: Hideki Matsuyama