Greetings fellow golf enthusiast and welcome to Waste Management Phoenix Open week in the Fantasy Golf Sommeliers cellar. Or, as you might say, “Wasted” Management Phoenix Open week as this is by far the most raucous and festive tournament stops you will see all year. To that end, I love it, even coming from a more “traditionalist” background of growing up going to the Masters which is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum as far as reverence on a golf course. Having a tournament like the WMO is great for the game in my opinion, it just draws more people to golf in an unconventional way and whenever you can accomplish that, I’m all for it. Now, would I like it to be that way every week? Nope, but it’s fantastic in small doses.
“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”
― Paulo Coelho
I love this quote from Paulo Coelho, most known for his book “The Alchemist” because to me it sort of embodies what this week’s tournament is all about. Sometimes you just have to break the traditional rules, drink the whole damn bottle instead of sipping it, and enjoy life. For some reason thinking about this tournament and wine also got me thinking about screw caps. Yes, screw caps. We all know that for hundreds of years wine bottles have been sealed with cork. It’s just how you do it right? I mean, why mess with something that’s worked for generations. Things change though, we evolve, technology progresses, and from that you often find better and more efficient ways to do things. A couple decades ago, screw caps were introduced into the wine bottling market and wine snobs everywhere were more than likely repulsed. Probably repulsed in a way I would imagine golf traditionalist think about the WMO and a golf tournament that has morphed into a football game like atmosphere. Now, as you all know I am not a real Sommelier, so I’m not going to get into all the details of the true merits of corks vs screw caps on a bottle of wine, but the basics deal with oxygen levels that are allowed to penetrate the bottle and how they affect the “aging process” you might say of the wine. The difference between the two though filters down more to just the common stigma that wine with screw caps are just less sophisticated and thus, less “worthy” in a sense than cork strictly because it’s not the traditional way. The facts are though, that screw caps are arguably every bit as good as cork (if not better) and have since been incorporated into the bottling of some of the best and most expensive wines in the world. The tournament this week is the screw cap of golf. Sure, it’s unconventional and perhaps a little unsophisticated and tacky to the traditionalist, but in the end, breaking the mold has turned the WMO into one of the most popular and well-attended stops on tour. I’d say the screw cap of golf is aging the game quite well.
Now, on to the WMO plays of the week. As always, we are going to use the classic Wine Spectator 100 point scale for the picks (think of it like a confidence factor):
95-100 Classic: a great wine
90-94 Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style
85-89 Very good: a wine with special qualities
80-84 Good: a solid well-made wine
75-79 Mediocre: a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
50-74 Not recommended (or a very shitty wine)
So, here we go, let’s traverse on in to the sommeliers’ cellar of vintage golf plays for the week…
Justin Thomas – $11,000 – 96 Points – JT has had mixed results here in Scottsdale with two 17th place finishes and a couple missed cuts sandwiched in between. I think this year will be different though as sometimes, like picking a good bottle of Rose’, you just happen to miss the right year and get a dud. I’m betting though on this being a good year for Justin as he is coming in as one of the top players in the world and has the perfect game for this course. He’s not always great off the tee, but he’s #1 in the field in Strokes Gained Approach, 5th in Par 5 Scoring (you have to get after the 5’s this week), and 4th in Ball Striking. JT should be a core play in both GPP’s and Cash this week.
Hideki Matsuyama – $10,700 – 96 Points – It’s just not too difficult to look at this field and the tournament this week and see that Hideki is about as close to a sure thing at the WMO as there can be. He’s got ridiculous course history having not finished outside the top 4 in the last 5 years here (late withdrawal last year due to injury) with two straight victories in 2016 and 2017. Throw in great form and checking all the boxes and Hideki is about as money as a bottle of Caymus.
Bubba Watson – $8,900 – 90 Points – I’m going out on a limb this week with Bubba as I know he’s not in great form having missed the cut in his first start of the year at the Sony (which just isn’t an ideal course for him), but he has been very good historically on this course in years past. One of the keys things that I mentioned on the pod is that you want to at least consider him when he’s on a course he loves and historically plays well on (see Augusta National and Riviera where he has multiple victories). Bubba can be aggressive here with his driver as he doesn’t have to be incredibly accurate. That means he’ll eat up the par 5’s and as long as his ball striking is on (top 35 in the field currently in Ball Striking) and he has a good putting week, he’ll be a sneaky good play in GPP’s.
The $10 Wine Special - Priced like a Franzia, plays like a Caymus!
Brendan Steele - $7,400 – 88 Points - Brendan burned a bunch of folks last week (including DB) with a missed cut at the Farmers, but like that trusty bottle of Far Niente’ (google it, great fantastic vino) you can always count on, TPC Scottsdale will sooth the palate this week for Mr. Steele to thrive. The course history here is tremendous, with 5 straight cuts made including two finishes inside the top 6 (3rd last year) and nothing worse than a T26th in 2015 which was the first year after the Weiskopf renovations. He also ranks in the top 20 in the field in Strokes Gained off the Tee which I've already mentioned as one of my favorite stats for the week for this course. Ownership will be low on Steele also coming off the missed cut so lock him in as a solid GPP play for the week. Bome.
Joel Dahmen- $6,800 – 88 Points - Joel is truly the embodiment of the $10 wine special playing like a Caymus with the way his game is right now. He’s been great in pretty much all facets of the game right now including off the tee, approach, ball striking, and scoring. Throw in the great fantastic form and it’s amazing Joel is still priced in the 6K range. Better jump on him now before he hits that pricey top shelf!
Boone’s Farm Vintage Fade of the Week - Boone’s Farm is basically convenience store wine we drank in college and possibly could kill you (not really, but it’s gross).
Xander Schauffele - $10,100 – 74 Points - Fading one of the hottest players on tour is probably equivalent to turning down a free glass of Opus One, but I’m not in love with the price this week for X with so many better options around him to choose from. One of my favorite stats to look at this week (and most weeks on a bombers course) is Strokes Gained off the Tee, and Schauffele just isn’t getting it done in that department ranking 61st in the field over his last 36 rounds.