The PGA Tour wraps up is popular West Coast Swing this week with the 88th version of the WM Phoenix Open, which has become known as “The Greatest Show on Grass,” on the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Ariz.
That’s because the par-3, 163-yard 16th hole at the course, which is now known as “The Coliseum,” was set up as the first stadium-type course hole on the PGA Tour, and can seat nearly 20,000 fans.
“(Hole 16) is pretty wild,” said ninth-ranked Justin Thomas, who has finished third twice at TPC Scottsdale and is the reigning PGA champion. “It seems like every year it gets crazier and crazier. But it’s so hard to control your adrenaline, you have so many juices pumping and you’re kind of like hands are tingling and it’s a little shaky.
“It’s just, it’s a great atmosphere, and every hole it’s a great hole. The fans are unbelievable, they are what makes this event what it is. You have to play your very best all the way around just to be in contention.”
And the field is incredibly strong.
Top-ranked Rory McIlroy, who won two weeks ago in Dubai, heads the loaded field along with third-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, who has won four of his last seven tournaments, defending champion, reigning Masters champion and second-ranked Scottie Scheffler, fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay, fifth-ranked Patrick Cantlay, sixth-ranked Xander Schauffle, seventh-ranked Collin Morikawa, and 10th-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England, the reigning U.S Open champion.
Last year, Scheffler beat Cantlay in a playoff with a birdie on the third playoff hole.
“We’re beyond excited to welcome one of the most decorated golfers of this generation, Rory McIlroy, back to ‘The People’s Open,’” Tournament Chairman Pat Williams said. “Rory’s accomplishments on and off the golf course are indicative of what it means to be a ‘pro’s pro,’ and we are thrilled that our fans get to watch him in action at TPC Scottsdale for a second time.”
Said McIlroy, who tied for 13th in his only previous start in the Phoenix Open after closing with a 64 in 2021: “I’m really looking forward to playing in Phoenix again, I really enjoyed playing the course the first time:”
Others to keep your eyes on are Max Homa, who has won the Fortinet Championship and the Farmers Insurance Open recently, Tony Finau, Sungjae Im of South Korea, two-time Phoenix champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Tom Kim of South Korea, Sahith Theegala, Jordan Spieth, Viktor Hovland of Norway, Cameron Young, Billy Horschel and Jason Day of Australia.
But most of all at Phoenix, keep your eyes on No. 16 at TPC Scottsdale.
1. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – The top-ranked McIlroy is almost as hot as Jon Rahm, with three victories in his last seven events, including the Dubai Desert Classic two weeks ago, the CJ Cup and the Tour Championship, to give him 36 titles as a professional. He is making only his second start in the WM Phoenix Open, having tied for 13th two years ago, closing with a 64.
2. Jon Rahm, Spain – Surprisingly, Rahm has only climbed to No. 3 in the world by winning four of his last seven tournaments, giving him 17 victories in his career. He is coming off a tie for seventh in the Farmers Insurance Open and has finished in the top 10 in his last nine events. This is his seventh start in Phoenix and his worst was a tie for 16th, and he tied for fifth in 2015.
3. Scottie Scheffler, United States –The defending champion in the WM Phoenix Open is ranked No. 2 in the world after a career year in which he won four times, including his first major title in the Masters. Scheffler is coming off a tie for 11th in The American Express, his worst finish in his last five starts. He also finished in a tie for seventh in the WM Phoenix Open two years ago.
4. Max Homa, United States – Coming off his second victory of the season in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, Homa also won the Fortinet Championship at Silverado Resort in Napa to start the season and has risen to No. 12 in the World Golf Rankings. With five top-10 finishes this season, he is making fifth start in the WM Phoenix Open and tied for sixth in 2020.
5. Patrick Cantlay, United States – The fifth-ranked Cantlay, who won the Zurich Classic and BMW Championship last season to give him eight PGA Tour victories, tied for second in the Shriners Children’s Open, his best result this season. He played in the WM Phoenix Open for the first time last year and posted four scores in the 60s before losing a playoff to Scottie Scheffler.
6. Collin Morikawa, United States – Winless since winning the 149th Open in 2021 at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England, the seventh-ranked Morikawa finished second twice and in the top five seven times last season. In his last two starts, he was solo second in the Sentry TOC and solo third in the Farmers Insurance Open. He tied for 25th in his only start in Phoenix in 2020.
7. Xander Schauffele, United States – The sixth-ranked Schauffele, after three finishes in the top-10 to start this season, tied for 13th in the Farmers Insurance Open after returning from a back injury. He won the Zurich Classic, the Travelers and the Scottish Open last year to give him seven PGA Tour victories. After a tie for second in Phoenix in 2022, he tied for third last year.
8. Matt Fitzpatrick, England – The 2022 U.S. Open champion missed the cut last week at Pebble Beach after tying for 13th in the CJ Cup in South Carolina and tying for seventh in the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii to start the new year. Fitzpatrick teed it up in the WM Phoenix Open for the first time last season and rallied to tie for 10th by closing 68-67-67.
9. Viktor Hovland, Norway – Having slipped to No. 11 in the World Golf Rankings, Hovland is trying to climb back into the top 10 after winning the WGC-World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba and the unofficial Hero World Challenge among six top-10 finishes last season. Hovland missed the cut in his only WM Phoenix Open starts in 2020 and 2022.
10. Hideki Matsuyama, Japan – Playing in the WM Phoenix Open for the 10th time, Matsuyama won the tournament in 2016 and 2017 for two of his eight PGA Tour victories and 17 as a professional. Matsuyama won the Sony Open in Hawaii and the Zozo Championship among seven top-10 finishes last season and last week tied for ninth in the Farmers Insurance Open.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Tom Kim, South Korea; Cameron Young, United States; Jason Day, Australia; Tony Finau, United States; Sungjae Im, South Korea; Jordan Spieth, United States; Sahith Theegala, United States; Tyrrell Hatton, England; Shane Lowry, Ireland; Justin Thomas, United States.
1. Christiaan Bezuidenhout, South Africa – A 10-time winner around the world recently tied for 11th in The American Express, shooting a third-round 62, and tied for 20th in the Shriners.
2. Davis Thompson, United States – Winner of 2022 Rex Hospital Open on the Korn Ferry Tour, Thompson tied for ninth in Fortinet and finished second in The American Express this season.
3. Emiliano Grillo, Argentina – Three-time winner as a pro, including the 2015 Frys.com Open, was fourth in Zozo, fifth in Sanderson Farms. Grillo tied for 22nd in WM Phoenix Open in 2020.
4. Beau Hossler, United States – Coming off a tie for 11th at Pebble Beach, Hossler also tied for 16th in the Zozo, tied for 21st in RSM Classic. Best Phoenix finish was a tie for 17th in 2018.
5. Hayden Buckley, United States – Winner on Korn Ferry and PGA Tour Canada Tours was second at Sony, tied for fifth in Zozo, tied for 19th in Shriners, tied for 20th at Sanderson Farms.
For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html