Waste Management Phoenix Open In-Tournament Picks: It's Xander's Time
Waste Management Phoenix Open In-Tournament Picks: It's Xander's time
- Current Leader: Sahith Theegala (-12)
- Round 3 Start Time: 11:44 AM ET
- Course: TPC Scottsdale
- Purse: $8,200,000
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WM Phoenix Open Predictions
We're only halfway through the WM Phoenix Open, and I'm still ready to declare this the best golf viewing experience we've had since last year's Open Championship. Is it because 18 of the top 30 players were in attendance this week? Partially. Is it because of the raucous atmosphere? That's certainly part of the equation as well. Yet in my opinion, what really sets this tournament apart is the golf course its played on. TPC Scottsdale is everything you can ask for in a PGA Tour venue. Reachable par-fives and drivable par-fours? Check. Trouble lurking at every turn? Check. An incredible finishing stretch? Check. Firm and fast conditions? Check. My expectation is that TPC Scottsdale will continue to firm up over the weekend, and golf fans will once again be treated to an exciting finish on Super Bowl Sunday.
Through 36 holes, Sahith Theegala, playing on a sponsor's exemption, sits atop the leaderboard at 12-under par. This is not the first time that the PGA Tour rookie has contended, as he held the lead over the weekend last fall at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Yet it's certainly the first time he's had to deal with Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka, and Xander Schauffele lurking in his rear-view mirror.
Three top-20 players sit within just three strokes of Theegala, and sportsbooks seem to agree that all three of them are more likely to hoist the trophy than the former Pepperdine standout. Brooks Koepka sits atop the odds board, and the two-time WM Phoenix Open champion can be found as high as +350 via the OddsChecker golf grid. Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay are not behind, at respective market best prices of +430 and +550. Theegala rounds out the favorites at +750, and then there is a sizable drop to Jon Rahm at 18/1, who sits a full seven strokes back of Theegala, five strokes back of Schauffele and Koepka, and four strokes back of Cantlay.
Regular readers are aware of what I am always trying to accomplish with this weekly column. I generally look to spot out players above 30/1 that I believe present the most value on the betting board and have a legitimate chance to catch the leaders. Every friday evening, I look right past the favorites, and attempt to attack this middle tier, in hopes of finding a chaser that can catch fire over the weekend. Last week's article tipped Troy Merritt at 35/1, who held a share of the lead on the back-nine on Sunday, before he was ultimately surpassed by eventual champion, Tom Hoge. I always try and stay disciplined with my betting strategy and never reach for favorites. But it's Super Bowl week and this is the most wild tournament of the year, so I'll gladly justify some rule-breaking behavior.
I almost wrote up Justin Thomas at 28/1, which I am aware presents more value than the titular character in this piece. I also believe that Adam Hadwin is going to stick around and be relevant on Sunday. I was lucky enough to grab him at 130/1 pre-tournament, but it's hard to endorse a wager on him at 30/1 with three undeniably better players ahead of him. I can't argue with a 26/1 wager on Hideki Matsuyama, and I was also very close to writing up course history king and the number one approach player in this field through two rounds, Bubba Watson at 35/1. Max Homa also deserves a mention as one of only two players in this field to rank top-10 in both strokes gained approach and off the tee through two rounds.
With all of that being said, I'm going to buck conventional wisdom and go with my gut. Xander Schauffele is going to win this golf tournament. Yes, I am aware that there are some questions surrounding Schauffele right now. His caddie, Austin, tested positive for COVID, and is not on the bag this week. Schauffele will have to test after every round because he is a close contact, and whether you are a fan of his or not, no one wants to see another Jon Rahm situation at Memorial. I mention this to presuppose bettors with caution, but I am still not deterred.
Schauffele was not a player I really had a ton of interest in pre-tournament. Since winning the Olympic Gold Medal in August, he only has one top-10 across ten worldwide starts. I was also worried about the travel schedule. Schauffele just competed last week in Saudi Arabia, which is ten hours ahead of the current time in Arizona. Yet with all of that being said, Schauffele has been the number one tee-to-green player in this field through two rounds. The 28-year-old would be right there with Theegala had he not ranked 54th in this field in putting. I've come to flip my perspective on Schauffele this week. I love that he's facing a bit of adversity with a difficult travel schedule and the lack of his longtime looper on the bag. Yet here he is, the 8th ranked player in the world, hoping to avenge last year's demons.
Not to harp too much on heartbrake, but Schauffele was in prime position to win this tournament last year, but some poor some chipping down the stretch ultimately led to his demise. In a beautiful display of retribution, Schauffele ranks number one this week in strokes gained around the green. Since we're already this far down narrative street, taking down Brooks Koepka after the four-time major champion viciously stole this tournament from him last year would be a far too satisfying act of vengeance.
At the Tokyo Olympics, Schauffele arguably faced more pressure than any other player in that field outside of Hideki Matsuyama. Schauffele's coach and father, Stefan, was once an Olympic decathalon hopeful, before a drunk driver ended his Olympic dreams. Schauffele held off the likes of a hard-charging Matsuyama, Rory McIlroy, and Collin Morikawa to fulfill his father's Olympic dreams. The reason why I illustrate this point is two-fold. Firstly, I am aware that holding off Patrick Cantlay and Brooks Koepka will not be easy. In fact, I think there is a pretty high probability that one of Thomas, Matsuyama, or Rahm go low tomorrow and join the party as well. Yet the fact that Schauffele was able to close out the Olympics in Tokyo, and hold off three of the world's best players in the process, leads me to believe that the monkey might finally be off his back.
Schauffele has always had a chip on his shoulder. The San Diego native wasn't some highly touted amateur like Theegala, Cantlay, or Rahm. He wasn't offered a chance to compete at some of the powerhouse West Coast golf programs like UCLA, Stanford, and Arizona State. Instead, he stayed in his hometwon to play at San Diego State. Schauffele is not an imposing athlete like Rahm or Koepka, or a junior golf prodigy like Justin Thomas. Everything Schauffele has accomplished, he's earned. It wasn't fair that a drunk driver ended his dad's Olympic dreams. It wasn't fair that his caddie got COVID. Good, these are the conditions I like Xander Schauffele under.
Ultimately, Schauffele has been the number one tee-to-green player in this field, he's never finished worse than 17th at this tournament, and he's in a perfect position to enact revenge from last year's heart-breaking loss. I expect the course to firm up over the weekend, and over a large sample size, Schauffele is the number two player in this entire field in difficult scoring conditions. He loves this golf course, he needs a win, and he's hitting the ball imaculately. If you want value, bet Bubba Watson or Max Homa, heck, even parlay this with Rams money-line if you need to, but Xander Schauffele is going to win, and he's who I will be backing at +430 at FanDuel SportsBook via the OddsChecker golf grid.
Waste Management Phoenix Open Predictions
- Xander Schauffele @ +430 FanDuel (Bet $100 to win $430)
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.