2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open Best Bets: Our Favorite Outrights, Sleeper Picks, Matchups and Props at TPC Scottsdale
Gregory Shamus, Getty Images. Pictured: Brendan Steele
- The 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open begins on Thursday at TPC Scottsdale. Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele are the favorites.
- Although there will only be limited attendance (5,000 fans per day) at TPC Scottsdale, the Waste Management still figures to be full of excitement.
- From outright bets to sleepers to props and matchups, here are our 19 favorite bets:
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 19 favorite 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.
Brendan Steele (+12500)
For anyone who’s watched The Gimme and noticed the caddie bib which reads STEELE hanging on the wall over my left shoulder, sure, I suppose you can accuse me of a little bias here. But I do know a few things.
The first is that Steele is terrific off the tee and thrives on courses where he can hit a lot of drivers.
The second is that he’s a course horse, playing well at the same venues year after year – and his career results at this one include four top-six finishes in 10 starts.
And the third is that despite a strong history and finishes of 21st-4th so far this year, he remains criminally underpriced in all markets. I really like him in DFS, but have zero problem with top-10/20 props this week – and maybe a little sprinkle on an outright bet, as well.
Henrik Norlander (+12500)
Norlander is in great form, having finished T2 and T12 in his last two starts, and now heads to a course that should fit his game.
The Swede has never played at TPC Scottsdale before, but his tee-to-green game has been great so far in 2021, so we’ll just be looking for that putter to heat up a bit. Norlander tends to be pretty inconsistent on the greens, but Bermuda tends to be his best surface.
Chris Kirk (+12500)
There is no better story on TOUR right now than the comeback of Chris Kirk, who left the game for seven months to work through alcohol addiction and depression before returning to the Korn Ferry Tour to find his path back to the PGA TOUR.
Ultimately, it came down to him needed a top-three finish at the Sony Open in January in order to retain his card, which he did in resounding fashion with a tie for second. He’d follow it up the next week with a 16th-place finish at the AmEx and in both events he gained more than 4.5 strokes on the field with his irons.
Kirk will bring that sharp play, confidence, and undoubtedly a sense of relief with him to Phoenix where he finished 11th in 2018. I love the form, course fit, and the price for him to extend his improbable story with a win this week at the Waste Management.
Max Homa (+7000)
Max Homa loves playing golf on the West Coast. Last year, he had a nice run on the West Coast Swing with top-15 finishes consecutively at Torrey Pines, TPC Scottsdale, Pebble Beach and Riviera. Homa is once again playing his best golf this season at a similar time.
He had a 21st-place finish at PGA West a few weeks ago and followed that up with an 18th last week at Torrey Pines. More importantly, he did so while gaining 4.5 strokes on approach. The statistics show that Strokes Gained: Approach are more important at TPC Scottsdale than any other course on the PGA TOUR.
Homa looks to be a high upside play in Phoenix.
Corey Conners (+8000)
If Conners had the short game Denny McCarthy he would be a top-10 golfer in the world. I don’t think people truly grasp how good a ball-striker this man is. Over his past 48 rounds in this field Conners ranks eighth in SG: Tee-to-Green, seventh in SG: Off-the-Tee and 18th on approach. Those numbers are better than Rory McIlroy, Webb Simpson, Daniel Berger and Harris English, just to name a few.
He’s coming in hot as well, posting two top 10s in his past four events. The last time he lost strokes tee-to-green was the third round of the Houston Open. He finished 45th in his debut at TPC Scottsdale last year, and if he could putt even mediocre he could easily contend this week.
He’s too good everywhere else to not win eventually. Bermuda is also his preferred putting surface, as he’s .3 strokes better than on other surfaces. 80/1 is a really nice price here.
Will Zalatoris Top-10 Finish (+450)
Nobody ever thought Zalatoris would be some flash in the pan after earning PGA TOUR status while playing on exemptions earlier this season, but we’re quickly learning that he’s become an immediate force with which to be reckoned. In seven big-league starts since September, he’s now finished in the top-eight four times, including an impressive T-7 at Torrey Pines last week.
This event should be right up his alley, as driving and iron play are obvious strengths which also correlate to this course. Trust me: There will be a time in the not-too-distant future when you’ll wish you could still get Zalatoris for a top-10 at this number. Take advantage of it while you can.
Bubba Watson Top-5 Finish
This is the time of year where we run through a string of “Bubba Tracks” where Bubba Watson plays the courses he likes, and generally does well. He fell short last week at the Farmers, but TPC Scottsdale is another place he seems to perform well, year after year.
Watson has back-to-back Top-4 finishes at this tournament, and has twice finished runner-up dating back to 2014. He clearly has a comfort level at this course and he may be one that will benefit even a bit more by the lack of crowds this year.
All of that is good enough for me to grab some value on Watson and overlook last week’s disappointing missed cut.
Rickie Fowler Top-5 Finish (+900)
Despite the long run of poor finishes, we are starting to see some glimpses of Fowler rounding back into his previous form. He gained 8.9 strokes tee-to-green a few weeks ago at The American Express and 4.9 at The Farmers Insurance Open. It looks like the time spent on his swing post-Masters may be paying off in terms of ball-striking.
One concern with all of the time spent on making a swing change is that he didn’t have much time to work on putting in that time. He has lost strokes putting in both events of this year and has even changed putters. With that being said, TPC Scottsdale is a great place for Rickie to re-gain his former excellent putting stroke as two of the top three putting performances of his career have come at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Fowler’s course history around here is undeniable. He has a win (2019), a 2nd (2016), and a 4th (2017) in his past 5 trips to TPC Scottsdale.
Scottie Scheffler to miss the cut (+240)
Something is seriously not right with Scheffler at the moment. He’s missed two consecutive cuts and ranks 114th in this field in SG: Approach over his past eight rounds.
Last week at Torrey was especially egregious, as he shot 7-over par on Friday to miss the cut by one stroke. He’s actually lost strokes on approach in five of his past eight rounds.
Getting him at almost two-and-a-half to one is a solid enough price, considering he missed the cut at this event last year as well.
Sam Burns (+105) over Gary Woodland
This really isn’t a Woodland fade, as I like how he’s been playing and he obviously won this event three years ago. But I like the number on Burns even better.
In two career starts at this event, Burns has broken par in both opening rounds, only to chase each of ‘em with a second-round 74 and ensuing missed cut. I’m not sure many young players have matured into their games more over the past few years than him, though, as he’s following a nice trajectory for where his career is right now.
Chunking a wedge shot into Devlin’s Billabong on his final hole Sunday afternoon undoubtedly cost him some money and left a bad taste in his mouth, as a potential top-10 turned into a T-18, but as I’ve written before, I love the fact that Burns’ game travels well and he should be ready to break through with a solid finish here for the first time.
Hideki Matsuyama (-118) over Harris English
Matsuyama is heading to one of his best spots on TOUR while English looks like his form has dipped since his TOC win.
Hideki has finished above English the last two events they’ve played and has never lost to English at TPC Scottsdale outside of his WD in 2018. English has played fine here at times and is capable of getting back on track, but we often see guys let their foot off the gas a bit after snapping an extended winless drought.
Byeong-hun An (+100) over Corey Conners
I’ll be honest this matchup was a secondary pick for me as the +105 for Rory versus Xander is the one that jumped out, but Landon covers that well below and I agree fully.
I do like Benny An getting even money over Conners as they are really quite similar players in that they are elite ball-strikers with putters that make or break (usually break) their week. The experience at TPC Scottsdale is what gives An a leg up for me this week as he has never finished worse than 23rd in four appearances, and has shown an ability to navigate this course on and around the greens.
For Conners, this will be just his second trip to the Waste Management and to me he should be the underdog in this spot.
Hideki Matsuyama (-118) over Harris English
While I don’t want to rely too heavily on a horrendous week from English in his missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, it does need to be a consideration. I do think it’s reasonable to expect a solid bounce-back week from English but it is difficult to see him actually contending.
Matsuyama has the skillset and course history at TPC Scottsdale and it’s my opinion that he should be a bigger favorite than -118 in this matchup.
Rory McIlroy (+105) over Xander Schauffele
Anytime we can get plus money on McIlroy when it’s not against DJ or JT it should immediately be pounced on. I’m pretty certain if he had any course history at TPC Scottsdale he would not be a dog in this spot, but since Schauffele has three top-20s here he gets the slight edge.
There’s no denying Schauffele’s talent, as the No. 4 player in the world ranks No.1 in this field in total strokes gained over his past 24 rounds. McIlroy ranks seventh over the same span however, and he’s been particularly locked in tee-to-green of late, gaining three or more strokes in that department in four of his past five recorded rounds.
If he could just get a few putts to drop we’re looking at an easy top-10 here, which should be enough to beat Schauffele head to head if looking at the latter’s history at this event.