2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open Picks: Our Favorite Outright Bets at TPC Scottsdale
Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images. Pictured: Will Zalatoris
The Waste Management Phoenix Open will look, and more importantly sound, different in 2021. With only 5,000 fans permitted per day, the PGA TOUR’s most boisterous stop will be a bit subdued. Don’t let that spoil the party, though.
While a few big names, such as Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed, won’t make the trip to Arizona, we’ve got a world-class field ready to tee it up at “The People’s Open” with five of the top-10 players in the world and 21 of the top-50 are set to participate.
Here are our favorite outright bets for TPC Scottsdale:
Rory McIlroy (+1150)
This might seem like a chalky selection, except for one little thing: Rory doesn’t seem to win very much these days. His last victory came at the 2019 WGC-HSBC Champions, 21 starts ago, and he hasn’t won on U.S. soil since that year’s TOUR Championship.
So, why now? Why this week? A few reasons. The first is those aforementioned driving statistics. Even when he’s struggling with other parts of his game, McIlroy knows how to bang his driver long and straight, which should be even more of an advantage this week than at other events.
The second is that he’s fresh off a week when he was driving it exceptionally well, even by his lofty standards. Among those who played four rounds at Torrey Pines, he finished second in strokes gained off the tee and sixth in strokes gained tee to green.
And the final reason is more suspicion than evidence, but it’s entirely possible that Rory just needs a little change of scenery to recharge his batteries. He’s never before played the WMPO, but it might fit his skillset as well as anywhere. “I’ve heard the golf course should suit my style of play,” he said last week. I understand that backing McIlroy at low odds against a strong field on a course he’s never seen before, without a win in 15 months, sounds like a fool’s errand, but he’s going to start winning again soon and you’ll want to be on the right side of it before it happens.
Daniel Berger (+2000)
I haven’t backed anyone near the top yet, but Berger is the one that draws the most interest for me. He’s a great fit for this course and it shows in his results. He’s finished 11th or better in four of his six starts at TPC Scottsdale.
TPC Scottsdale doesn’t need to be overpowered, players need to keep the driver in play, have a great week with the irons and putt well on Bermuda. All of that suits Berger, who is also carrying some good form as he placed in the top-10 in both of his starts in Hawaii.
Will Zalatoris (+5000)
I planted my flag on Zalatoris nearly as soon as things finished at Torrey Pines and I’m going to stick with it.
The 24-year-old has made an impressive early mark in professional golf and after an incredible run on the Korn Ferry Tour, he has now turned in four Top-8 finishes in seven PGA TOUR events including a tie for sixth at the U.S. Open.
I believe Willy Z is ready to make himself a household name on TOUR this season and the Waste Management is a perfect place for him to do it. He has shown early in his career to have great ball-striking ability, especially with his irons which is exactly the skillset that first best at TPC Scottsdale.
He’s my pick this week at +5000 and that’s a number you aren’t likely to see for long based on his potential career trajectory.
Hideki Matsuyama (+2300)
At first glance, a poor ball-striking performance last week may turn people away from Hideki in Phoenix. However, both of his wins at TPC Scottsdale have come after losing strokes on approach at Torrey Pines. In 2016, Hideki lost 0.7 strokes on approach en route to a missed cut and in 2017 he lost 2.9 strokes on approach and finished 33rd.
Last week at the Farmers Insurance Open, Matsuyama lost 1.4 strokes on approach but was excellent the week prior in Hawaii gaining 6.8. Therefore, I am willing to look past his poor performance and accept the slight discount relative to where we normally see the Japanese superstar priced at a course he dominates.
Amazingly, five of Hideki’s top-15 Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green performances in his career have come at TPC Scottsdale. The recipe for winning in Phoenix is excellent iron play and when Hideki is on, there are few better on TOUR in that department.
This is the week Hideki finally gets back in the winners circle for the first time since August of 2017.
Will Zalatoris +5000
Piggybacking off what Mr. Chris Murphy said, I’m also siding with the superstar in-the-making Zalatoris this week. I believe we are going to look back in about two-to-three months from now and laugh that 50/1 prices on him were once available. He will quickly become a household name to even the most casual of golf fans.
Zalatoris has made eight starts on TOUR since making the jump from the KFT and has four top-10 finishes in that span. He ranks No.1 in SG: Approach and SG: Ball-Striking in this field over his past 24 rounds, which is basically the entirety of his tenure on TOUR. In case you need a refresher, this field includes the likes of Rahm, Rory, Webb, JT and Xander. It’s pretty incredible what the 24-year old has done in his young career.
Since approach play is paramount this week, I love the idea of getting the young buck at +5000.