2023 WM Phoenix Open First-Round Leader Picks: Matsuyama Has Value
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images. Pictured: Hideki Matsuyama.
The Super Bowl won’t be the only big event in sports this Sunday. This year’s WM Phoenix Open will undoubtedly be one of the best events of the year, with the first ever “designated” version of the event happening this week at TPC Scottsdale.
All of the biggest names on the PGA TOUR will be teeing it up in the desert, where the raucous crowd will be waiting for them on the oasis that is the stadium 16th hole before they make it to the exciting risk/reward finishing stretch.
In the past six editions of the tournament, there have been nine first-round leaders or co-leaders. Of the nine, six have come from the morning wave, and three have emerged from the afternoon wave. Additionally, six of the nine have started their rounds on the back nine.
WM Phoenix Open First-Round Leader Picks
Hideki Matsuyama +4500 (DraftKings)
First-Round Tee Time: 9:48* a.m. Local Time
Hideki Matsuyama owns TPC Scottsdale. In his past eight trips to the desert, the Japanese star has only finished worse than 16th once and has five top-10 finishes. In the past 24 rounds, Matsuyama ranks first in Strokes Gained: Total at TPC Scottsdale.
In Matsuyama’s most recent start at the Farmers Insurance Open, he got into contention by getting hot with the putter. He gained 5.7 strokes putting for the event and was especially successful on Sunday.
Matsuyama has a morning tee time on the back nine, so if he can parlay his strong run with the putter into the first round of the WM Phoenix Open, he’ll be a strong candidate to take the first round lead.
Rickie Fowler +7000 (DraftKings)
First-Round Tee Time: 3:06 p.m. Local Time
Rickie Fowler has recently been showing signs of life. In his most recent start at Torrey Pines, which is a course he almost never plays very well at, Fowler finished in 11th place by gaining 4.2 strokes on approach and another 4.4 with the flat stick. Fowler’s signature putting stroke had abandoned him for a while, and its reemergence last week is hopefully a sign of things to come for the 34-year-old.
If there is anywhere Fowler can return to glory, it’s TPC Scottsdale, where he boasts four top-11 finishes in his last seven trips, including a victory in 2019. I’m not sure I trust him fully to contend for four rounds, but if he does, it’ll likely be due to a hot start.
Jhonattan Vegas +11000 (DraftKings)
First-Round Tee Time: 9:26 a.m. Local Time
After a long layoff due to injury, Jhonattan Vegas made his return at the Farmers Insurance Open and had a very strong showing. The Venezuelan finished in 25th place and gained 5.3 strokes from tee to green. His most recent start at TPC Scottsdale came in 2019, where he finished in 10th place.
In his past 24 rounds, Vegas ranks 18th in this loaded field in Strokes Gained: Total in the first round. The 38-year-old can make birdies in bunches and historically gets off to hot starts, making him an ideal first-round-leader candidate at triple-digit odds.
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