Every time I've stepped to the first tee of the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale, I've felt two emotions - excitement and trepidation.
The excitement is obvious. Any opportunity to play a PGA Tour venue - especially one as celebrated as the host of the WM Phoenix Open - is a treat. Its finishing stretch inside and around the stadium delivers one of the game's great run of closing holes. Glory or failure awaits every swing from the 15th tee box on.
Getting to the home stretch with your scorecard and sanity still intact? That's where the fear mounts. Like every other tournament-tested track in the TPC Network, this Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish design plays long with gnarly rough, lie-mangling mounds, an overload of deep bunkers and confounding, lightning-fast greens. I've never shot anything close to my handicap in the three times I've played it. It doesn't have the reputation for ferocity that TPC Sawgrass has, but it certainly feels like it at times.
The pros generally chew it up because none of the obstacles that bother us mortals - length, rough, water - bother them...until they get to the back nine on Sunday. That's when things get interesting. Suddenly, Weiskopf is in their heads. Should they go for it in two over the water on 15 or does the leaderboard force them into driving the green on no. 17, even if it's not the percentage play? These moments are tournament golf at its finest.
The 2022 WM Phoenix Open is the first full-field "elevated" event of the new PGA Tour schedule. I'm not sure how you can "elevate" a tournament that already attracts the largest spectator audience in the world of golf - by far - but the field will be stronger and deeper. I'll be watching, even if I have to miss the Super Bowl kickoff.
You can use this guide one of two ways: To better understand what the pros are facing this week or to mentally prepare for the next time you step onto the first tee of TPC Scottsdale.
Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale
Par 71, 7,261 yards
Notable Past Winners: Scottie Scheffler (2022); Brooks Koepka (2015, 2021); Rickie Fowler (2019), Hideki Matsuyama (2016, 2017); Phil Mickelson (1996, 2005, 2013); J.B. Holmes (2006, 2008); Vijay Singh (1995, 2003); Mark Calcavecchia (1989, 1992, 2001)
Par 4, 403 yards
This relatively short par 4 starts things off gently. As long as players miss the fairway bunker up the left side of this gentle bender to the right, they'll have a short iron in hand for the approach to a green that slopes left. It's the only putting surface on the course without a greenside bunker, so misses aren't penalized too badly.
Par 4, 442 yards
A miss right off the tee leaves golfers flirting with trouble in the form of two bunkers threatening anything hit between 280 and 315 yards. Three bunkers ring a chaotic green that breaks in multiple directions depending on pin location.
Par 5, 558 yards
The first of TPC Scottsdale's three par 5s is relatively gettable. With only one bunker in the landing zone (on the left), players can let it rip, trying to set up a chance to go for the green in two. Two other bunkers climb up the left side, protecting a slice of the fairway where everyday golfers might lay up, while the pros will likely be attacking the waste area cutting across the fairway to get near or on the green. A lone bunker protects the right-front of the putting surface.
Par 3, 183 yards
Three bunkers flank one of the smaller greens on the course. As long as they hit the green in reg by avoiding the sand, most players will walk away satisfied with a par.
Par 4, 470 yards
Welcome to the quintessential desert hole at a TPC. It plays long, plain and simple. The fairway bunker up the right side is a slicer's nightmare. A desert wash skirts the front of the green, which is protected by a lone trap.
Par 4, 432 yards
Now that players have had time to warm up, they'll be required to dial in their precision, landing a tee shot in the short grass between five bunkers. With the hole almost 40 yards shorter than the previous par 4, driver is not always necessary. A right-to-left shape will fit the landing area, setting up an approach straight up the throat of the green, again guarded by a bunker on either side. A back-left flag sets up a risky shot to a small window over a bunker.
Par 3, 215 yards
The difficulty of the course's longest par 3 will depend upon the hole location. If it's at the narrow front entrance, then the two bunkers pinching the green are very much a worry.
Par 4, 475 yards
The second-longest par 4 brings the desert more into play as the fairway swings left past a pair of circular bunkers guarding the inside corner of the dogleg. The green tilts from front to back, away from the bunker on the right side.
Par 4, 453 yards
Are you sensing a theme yet? Players need to hit another long, straight tee shot to avoid the bunker up the right side. A greenside bunker front and center might intimidate regular players into a poor second shot, although neither it nor the one right of the green tends to be too daunting for pros. This green is twice as wide (40 yards) as it is deep (20 yards), so misses to the wrong side could leave a long lag attempt. This is where Phil Mickelson agonizingly lipped out in an effort to shoot 59 in 2013.
Par 4, 428 yards
The back nine starts off with the most extreme dogleg on the course: a medium-length par 4 that boomerangs right, tempting players to take on the massive bunker protecting the turn. It's wisest to stay left with a fairway wood or hybrid off the tee, setting up an easy short iron or wedge for a potential birdie.
Par 4, 472 yards
The 11th introduces a more finite form of punishment - a lake running up the entire left side of the hole - instead of desert or bunker sand. Players who bail right will end up in a grove of trees with little escape opportunities. The two greenside bunkers almost do golfers a favor because misses headed in their direction would otherwise end up wet.
Par 3, 192 yards
Misses can end up in the sand of two bunkers on the left or in the water long on the right. I know which place I prefer. With a green that's roughly 40 yards long, club selection depends on whomever cut the cup that day.
Par 5, 558 yards
This winding par 5 where TPC Scottsdale's volatile back nine really kicks into gear. It is also the site of one of the tournament's most noteworthy moments, when fans moved a giant boulder for Tiger Woods, who yanked his tee shot left into the desert here in 1999. With the pond on the right, it's the proper miss off the tee But it becomes a birdie or eagle hole if players hit the fairway. Two greenside bunkers hinder attempts to reach the green in two.
Par 4, 490 yards
At 490 yards, even the pros find this dogleg left a chore. The lone fairway bunker isn't in play, virtually begging players to unleash their best off the tee. Misses end up drowning in thick rough blanketing the 1990s-style mounding. The green is perched above the fairway and angled behind two bunkers, demanding a solid mid- or long-iron to reach it in regulation.
Par 5, 553 yards
Water along the fairway can swallow balls on the tee shot or the approach, making this the most volatile hole during the round. Pros feel pressure to pound it long in order to hit the island green in two for a stress-free birdie. That strategy doesn't always work out, especially with thoughts of the upcoming coliseum buzzing in their minds.
Par 3, 163 yards
Much like the island green at TPC Sawgrass, the 16th at TPC Scottsdale is just a simple wedge. The problem is all those distractions with thousands of eyes staring down from the bleachers. It can feel like the walls are closing in for players who don't embrace the atmosphere. Any shot that ends up in one of the four bunkers will be booed mercilessly.
Par 4, 332 yards
Weiskopf's mastery of the short par 4 comes to life on this fantastic risk-reward hole. Five bunkers littering the landing area don't normally affect the tournament outcome much, but amateurs like you and me end up in them often. It's the water left of the green and the irregular-shaped putting surface that mess with players the most. If pros don't make birdie, they're often walking away feeling like they lost a shot to the field, although on days when the cup is cut on the far-back-left finger of green, par can be a great score.
Par 4, 442 yards
There's a lot going on architecturally on no. 18. It plays like a sort of Cape hole, forcing players to bite off the angle they're most comfortable with to find the fairway. There's a miniature set of 'church pews' in the large bunker just over the water on the left. Errant shots floating right can end up in three fairway bunkers or a gnarly, tricky lie in the mounds. Three bunkers surround an amoeba-shaped green that slopes right to left. It's a strong finisher for a course that separates the mighty from the meek.Scottsdale, ArizonaResort4.6430294118596