Waste Management Phoenix Open 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing to Start Hot?

Waste Management Phoenix Open Round 1 matchups, 3-Ball picks and analysis from Andy Lack. Find out who to target in the matchup markets this Thursday. The PGA Tour returns to Scottsdale and Andy is here to kick off the tournament with some early winners.
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Waste Management Phoenix Open 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing to Start Hot?

After a three-week stretch of tournaments featuring multiple courses rotations, I am overjoyed that we are finally getting into the meat and potatoes of the PGA Tour schedule. 18 of the top 30 players will be teeing it up this week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, consistently one of the most exciting events of the season due to its raucous atmosphere.

This tournament has been held at TPC Scottsdale since 1987, giving us an ample amount of data to draw from when handicapping this week. TPC Scottsdale is a Par 71, measuring 7,266 yards, but it actually plays a lot shorter due to firm and fast conditions and the fact that the course sits approximately 1,530 feet about sea level. The track is a Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish design, and it features a plethora of risk/reward holes, including the reachable Par-five 15th and the drivable Par-four 17th hole. This tournament always provides an exciting finish, which has much to do with the fact that while nearly all holes present birdie opportunities, there is trouble lurking at every turn. For this reason, I will be looking at aggressive players who have an affinity for desert golf and TPC-style layouts. The one thing that you cannot do on this course is find yourself in the desert, so I will also be targeting long and accurate drivers of the ball that can position themselves off the tee to attack. Ten of the 11 par-fours sit between 400-500 yards, so 60% of all approach shots come from between 125-200 yards, thus placing a heavy emphasis on short to middle iron proximity. Finally, I do believe that course history matters this week. The same players tend to perform well here every year, and whether that is due to their course fit or their love of this event's atmosphere is up for debate.

Let's dig into my Round 1 3-ball selections.

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Round 1 3-Ball: Adam Hadwin (+160) vs. Patrick Rodgers (+175) vs. Danny Lee (+200)

Selection: Adam Hadwin (+160) (Bet $100 to win $160)

Adam Hadwin is a player I will be looking to back in all markets this week, and I expect him to get off to a hot start on Thursday. There are multiple reasons why I'm drawn to Hadwin, but let's start here. The greens at TPC Scottsdale feature a rare blend of Bermuda-grass overseeded with Velvet Bentgrass, Poa Trivialis, and Ryegrass. There are three other courses on the PGA Tour that feature this type of surface: PGA West, Innisbrook, and TPC Sawgrass. Combining all of these courses together, including the TPC Scottsdale, the number one putter in this entire field on this type of overseeded Bermuda is none other than Adam Hadwin. It's hard to say this is a coincidence, as Hadwin has played a total of 77 rounds at these four courses, and for whatever reason, he always putts well on these types of greens. Yet this is far from the only reason I have interest in Hadwin this week. Not only does he have a respectable track record at this event, he is also the number two player in this field in average strokes gained per round at TPC Summerlin and PGA West, two desert, TPC style, risk/reward golf courses. The fact that he gained 5.5 strokes ball-striking through two rounds last week at Pebble Beach is just a bonus. Hadwin is a must play this week.

As far as Lee and Rodgers go, it's hard to make a case for either. Danny Lee has missed three consecutive cuts, and lost over 3.5 strokes on approach in back-to-back weeks. He's also missed the cut at this event in six of his nine appearances. The argument for Rodgers isn't much stronger. The 29-year-old has failed to finish in the top-40 in each of his three starts this year, and he has lost strokes ball-striking to the field every single time. Four missed cuts in six appearances at TPC Scottsdale leads me to believe that this is not the spot for him to get right. I would have taken Hadwin at even money in this field, so I will gladly jump on the +160.

Round 1 3-Ball: Bubba Watson (+140) vs. Harris English (+180) vs. Si Woo Kim (+210)

Selection: Si Woo Kim (Best $100 to win $210)

I was similarly surprised to see the odds that I was offered with this three-ball, and I have to imagine it has everything to do with Si Woo Kim's less than stellar track record at this event. Yes, the former PLAYERS champion has never finished better than 50th in six appearances at TPC Scottsdale, but firstly, that is baked into his price, and secondly, his form on corollary courses leads me to believe he can right the ship this week. Kim trails Hadwin as one of the best putters in this entire field on overseeded Bermuda greens, and he was won at both PGA West and TPC Sawgrass. The World No. 54 also boasts multiple top-25s at TPC Summerlin. Kim is also just playing better golf right now than both of his opponents. The 26-year-old is coming off back-to-back 11th-place finishes at the Farmer's Insurance Open and American Express, and he gained strokes in all four major categories in both of those events. I love players who are consistently gaining strokes across the board, and Kim is firing on all cylinders right now.

Harris English, on the other hand, has been headed in the wrong direction for months, and it appears to be getting worse before it gets better. Regression did feel imminent after a two-win 2021 campaign that led him to his first Ryder Cup experience, but I was not expecting it to come this precipitously. In both of his starts this year, English has lost over six strokes ball-striking. For context, English has never done this in his entire career, and his negative 8.4 strokes ball-striking at the Sony Open was his worst ball-striking performance since the 2021 WGC - Concession.

The case for Bubba Watson is a little stronger, but I still have my concerns about a player who is making his first official start on the PGA Tour since August. Watson also played in Saudi Arabia last week, and while he did play well, I feel comfortable fading him in round one coming off a long travel schedule.

Round 1 3-Ball: Troy Merritt (+130) vs. Russell Knox (+150) vs. Tyler McCumber (+275)

Selection: Russell Knox (+150) (Best $100 to win $150)

Troy Merritt was a player I wrote up in last week's in-tournament column as someone who I expected to make a run over the weekend at Pebble Beach. Merritt almost got there, holding a share of the lead on the back-nine before Tom Hoge eventually tracked him down. While I was certainly impressed by what I saw from the two-time PGA Tour winner last week, I expect him to regress coming off a contending performance. The last time that Merritt was in contention to win a tournament, he followed it up by missing the cut by five in his next start. He is simply over-valued right now coming off a spike performance at a course he always plays well at. TPC Scottsdale has been less kind to the 36-year-old, as Merritt has missed the cut in five of seven appearances at this event.

McCumber is the long-shot of the group and for good reason. He has missed the cut in all three starts this year, and lost strokes both off the tee and on approach in every single effort. This will also be McCumber's first appearance at TPC Scottsdale, which isn't a deal-breaker, but no finishes better than 40th in five appearances at PGA West and TPC Summerlin doesn't leave me feeling optimistic about his ability to tackle desert golf.

This leaves us with Russell Knox, a player I always seem to find myself on, for better or worse. Contrary to his playing opponents, Knox boasts an impressive resume at TPC Scottsdale, with three top-20s in six appearances. Knox is also coming off a respectable 33rd place finish at Pebble Beach where he gained 4.3 strokes on approach, which is almost to be expected with him at this point. The two-time PGA Tour winner ranks second in this entire field over a large sample size in proximity from 150-175 yards, and he is not far behind from 125-150 and 175-200 either. Knox is also deadly accurate off the tee, ranking third in this entire field in good drives gained. There's a reason why he's found success at TPC Scottsdale and Merritt and McCumber haven't. Expect that trend to continue this week in the desert.

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Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from Manhattan, New York. Andy came to OddsChecker in January 2022 after previously writing for Golf Digest, GolfWRX, Rotoballer, and the Score. Andy is also the host of a golf betting and daily fantasy podcast, Inside Golf Podcast, as well as "The Scramble” with Rick Gehman, and a recurring guest on the Pat Mayo Experience. In his free time, Andy is still grinding away at his lifelong dream of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, and if not writing, can likely be found somewhere on a golf course.

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