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    2018 Waste Management Open: TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course (1/30/18)

    By Frank Brank

    "The Greatest Show on Grass" tees off this Thursday at the Waste Management Open at the TPC Scottsdale. The rowdiest fans in golf will pour into the Stadium Course with plenty of beverages to throw back at one of the funnest tournaments on tour all season.

    They will be special attention this week as the field is remarkably stronger than years past with Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, and Justin Thomas all jumping on board. The headliner, though, is none of those guys. Hideki Matsuyama has won the last two years at this tournment and looks to three-peat this week.

    The oddsmakers aren't skeptical of his lack of success since the beginning of last year as Matsuyama has the top odds on the board, along with Jordan Spieth, at 9 to 1. However, our model doesn't give either of those two the best odds to win this week. Jon Rahm, off his hot streak, is the top odds to the trophy at 7.6% chance to win. However, that's not a good enough chance for us to take a shot at just 10 to 1 odds.

    Rickie Fowler has also shown some promise at the Stadium Course in the past, but there's much better options out there this week as he's not been particularly impressive with his tee and approach play recently. He'll always be a great putter, but these slower bermuda greens can shrink his advantage.

    Those who have succeeded in this tournament have driven the ball particularly well and hit enough greens to take a run at birdies on the slower greens. The course will play over 7,000 yards; however, the higher altitudes at this tournament can really shorten the yardage from the tee boxes. There's only three par-5s at TPC Scottsdale, and the length of those par-5s leads to quite a few eagles for the patrons to enjoy.

    Thus, we'll want to take advantage of the plus tee-box players and longer iron players to keep pace at the exciting Waste Management Open.


    Our first pick will somewhat contradict our analysis of the course, but for good reason. Webb Simpson isn't necessarily a great driver of the ball, but he'll certainly keep his head above water at an expected +0.173 strokes gained off the tee. Last season, Simpson hit 66.3% of fairways, good for top-30 on tour.

    Despite not hitting it very far from the tee box, Simpson excels in every other aspect of his game, especially so as of late. He ranks 12th in the field in approach shots, 12th around the green, and 11th in putting. So far in the 2018 season, he's seen +0.593 strokes gained per round on approach shots and +0.789 in putting, good for 33rd and 18th overall, respectively.

    His results are also lining up for a push at the Waste Mangement Open. He finished second here last season to Matsuyama and T14 the previous year. Dating back to last season, Webb has finished in the top-20 in 12 of his last 20 tournament starts including three of his first five of the 2018 season.

    Other Favorites in order of preference: Tony Finau (+3300), Marc Leishman (+2800)

    Long Shots

    Bud Cauley isn't a name one would expect to be climbing the leaderboard on the weekend, but our model gives him a relatively decent chance, and at 80 to 1 odds, he's difficult to pass up. Cauley looks strangely similar to Patrick Cantlay before his success turned into results on the leaderboard.

    So far this season Cauley ranks 26th on tour from the tee, 37th on approach shots, 27th around the green, and 35th putting. Granted, none of those statistics stand out, he's well into being a plus-player in every aspect of his game this season. If we combine that with the fact that he was 9th on tour last year in approach shots at +0.592 strokes gained per round, he should have a better than expected week.

    Overall, Cauley ranks 9th in total strokes gained in the 2018 season, which has translated into a T7, T8, and T14 within his first six tournaments. The longer courses like Nine Bridges and Torrey Pines have proven to be difficult; however, the Stadium Course does not pose that challenge.

    Other Long Shots in order of preference: Francesco Molinari (+6600), Chesson Hadley (+10000)
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    2018 Genesis Open: Riviera Country Club (2/13/18)
    2018 Farmer's Insurance Open: Torrey Pines Golf Course (1/23/18)
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    NFL GameChangers: Divisional Playoff Edition (1/14/18)

    In this edition of GameChangers, we will utilize our Live ScoreCaster technology to review the game-changing plays from 2018 Divisional playoff matchups.

    EXW% = expected win percentage

    The Situation

    What-if Stefon Diggs was tackled at the Saints' 34-yard line with four seconds left?

    The Take

    Unfortunately, New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams won't be remembered for picking off Case Keenum late in the third quarter - a turnover that led to a Saints touchdown - but rather whiffing on a tackle of Diggs, which resulted in the Vikes receiver scoring the game-winning touchdown as time expired.

    However, had Williams made the tackle, Diggs would have been down around the Saints' 34-yard line with four seconds remaining and the Vikings would have burned their final timeout.

    Trailing 24-23, Minnesota would call on Kai Forbath to attempt the game-winning field goal. When we run that scenario through our NFL engine tens of thousands of times, the Saints' EXW% is 48.2%.

    It was a hell of a catch by Diggs. It was a hell of a game by both teams. This one isn't solely on Williams.

    The Situations

    The Steelers' pair of failed 4th-down play calls.

    The Take

    Pittsburgh converted 4-of-6 fourth downs against the Jaguars. However, it was the missing two that really cost them.

    Trailing 14-0 with 1:07 remaining in the first quarter, the Steelers faced 4th-and-1 from the Jaguars 21-yard line. Pittsburgh's EXW% before the fourth-down play call was 31% (assumed field goal attempt), but after they failed to pick up the one yard, it dipped to 23.6% - a win expectancy swing of 7.4%.

    The NFL gurus of Twitter believe Ben Roethlisberger should have used his size to pick up the measly one yard. Had he done that and picked up the first down, Pittsburgh's EXW% would remain 31%.

    Fast forward, Jaguars now lead 28-21 with 12:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Steelers now face 4th-and-1 from Jaguars' 39-yard line. Pittsburgh's EXW% is 24.4% right before Roethlisberger THROWS an incomplete pass *thud* EXW% dips to 16.7%.

    Now, if Ben snuck for the first down at this point in the game, the Steelers' EXW% jumps to 30.4% - a difference of nearly 16%.

    Bonus: a lot of chatter on social media regarding Pittsburgh's decision to onside kick down 42-35 with less than 3 minutes to go in the game. After the onside (and penalty), the Steelers' EXW% was 7.8% versus 8.1% had they kicked off normally.

    The Situation

    With the Patriots pinned back and in punt formation, a questionable neutral zone penalty on Tennessee.

    The Take

    In case you missed it, the penalty was originally a false start against the Patriots, but changed to a Titans' neutral zone infraction. Watch …

    So, to recap, instead of the Patriots leading 14-7 and about to punt from their own end zone, the neutral zone infraction handed New England a first down, which they parlayed into a 16-play, 91-yard touchdown drive to take a 21-7 lead.

    Before the punt, the Titans' EXW% was 16.6%. Had they received the punt – with presumed great field position – their odds improved to 21.8%.

    After the Patriots scored their third touchdown of the first half, Tennessee's EXW% dipped to 5.9% - a swing of 15.9% - and the momentum they enjoyed early on was gone.

    The Situation

    Instant replay reversed a “running into Atlanta's kicker penalty” on Philadelphia before halftime.

    The Take

    To review, with Atlanta leading 10-6 and under a minute remaining in the first half, Falcons' punter Matt Bosher punted the ball to the Eagles. Philadelphia was called for roughing the kicker, which should have resulted in an Atlanta first down, but instant replay indicated that the Eagles got a finger tip on the ball and, thus, no roughing the kicker infraction applied.

    The punt counted and it was 1st-and-10 Eagles from their own 28-yard line and Atlanta's EXW% is 56.7%. Nick Foles and Co. picked up 37 yards in a jiffy and Josh Elliott booted a 53-yard field goal as the 2nd-quarter clock hit triple zeroes. With the Falcons up 10-9 at the break, Atlanta's EXW% fell to 50.5%.

    What-if the roughing the kicker counted and the Falcons picked up a first down at the Eagles 45-yard line with 55 seconds before halftime?

    Their EXW% would have soared 10% to 66.8%.

    Now imagine if the roughing the kicker counted and the Eagles would NOT have kicked the last-second field goal to end the first half. The Falcons would have trailed 13-10, instead of 15-10, on their final drive.

    For as bad as that shovel pass play call to Terron Ward was, if Atlanta had the option to attempt a field goal on 4th-and-2 from the 2-yard line instead of roll Matt Ryan right and try to jam it into Julio Jones for the game-winner, Atlanta's EXW% would have improved by more than 20% (EXW% 46.0% down 13-10 vs. 25.7% down 15-10 on 4th-and-2).

    It's one of those cases where replay did its part, corrected the call on the field and the benefiting team wound up with improved odds before ultimately winning the game.

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