The Waste Management Phoenix Open is upon us and that means only one thing: The Super Bowl is Sunday!
As we all know, the WMPO is one of the most-anticipated, most highly-attended and arguably the most fun tournament on the PGA Tour schedule. It is literally a party on the golf course, unlike anything you see any other week on Tour… especially on TPC Scottsdale’s coliseum-style, par-3 16th hole.
The fact is, with a raucous atmosphere like that, the WMPO isn’t for everyone.
But for those who embrace it, the vibes from the crowd are amazing.
Which players will embrace the madness this week?
We asked that very question to three caddies on the ground at TPC Scottsdale. To protect their identity, each caddie anonymously gave us three players to keep a close eye on and explained why.
Here’s a look at their picks…
- Hideki Matsuyama. The 26-year-old is already a five-time PGA Tour winner. Two of those Ws came back-to-back at the Waste Management Phoenix Open (2016, 2017 – both four-hole playoffs). In his attempt to make it three in a row last year, Hideki was forced to withdraw just before the start of his second round due to a left wrist injury after opening with a 69. He’s healthy now and comes into a place where he already has a ton of confidence on the strength of a T3 finish last week at Torrey Pines in the Farmers Insurance Open. I’m looking for him to have another memorable week in Phoenix.
- Rickie Fowler. In past years, it had been feast or famine at TPC Scottsdale for Rickie. He’s got some missed cuts, but he also finished alone in second in 2010 and 2016, tied for fourth in 2017 and finished T11 just last year. Recently, it’s been a feast. He’s the kind of player who can thrive in this kind of atmosphere. Last week’s T66 at Torrey Pines was his first start of the new calendar year. I think he shook the rust off and might be able to capture some magic at a place where he’s played well lately.
- Phil Mickelson. He’s 48, but he nearly won two weeks ago in the Desert Classic, finishing tied for second. Lefty loves Arizona. Five of his 48 PGA Tour wins have come in the state of Arizona – where he went to college at Arizona State – including three at TPC Scottsdale, most recently in 2013. He’s got loads of other top-10 finishes to go along with those wins. He loves this stage and the fans there love him.
- Xander Schauffele. Xander is on a tear right now. Just five starts into the new season and he already has a win in China and one in Hawaii. He’s No. 1 in the FedExCup standings (yeah, I know, it’s early) and riding high on confidence. In his first start at TPC Scottsdale a year ago, he finished T17. He’s a complete player.
- Tony Finau. His elite driving and iron play give him a chance to contend each week. Plus, his putting keeps looking better and better. He hasn’t made the cut here in his last three starts, which is hard to believe. But, he’s a stronger player now. In fact, you’ve got to go all the way back to last June’s St. Jude Classic to find his last missed cut.
- Matthew Wolff. If you don’t know the name, get familiar with it. Wolff is playing on a sponsor’s exemption this week. A sophomore at Oklahoma State University, he was the freshman of the year for 2017-18 and part of a national championship-winning team. This kid is a stud and will be one of the most exciting players to watch over the next few years. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 19-year-old is contending on Sunday.
- Phil Mickelson. He’s an ASU grad playing in his 30th straight Phoenix Open – a tournament he has won on three occasions. He once lipped out a putt here to shoot a 59. And, at age 48, he has somehow gotten his ball speed to 182 mph. He loves this place and this place loves him.
- J.B. Holmes. He’s a bomber on a bomber’s course. His past record at TPC Scottsdale – including two wins – speaks for itself.
- Hideki Matsuyama. Two-time champion at this event. Strong showing last week in San Diego and he finally has his regular caddie back on the bag.