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2015 Phoenix Open: Predictions and Equipment Round-Up

Tour Confidential: How Will Tiger Fare in Phoenix?
Tiger Woods makes his 2015 debut this week at the Phoenix Open, a tournament he hasn't played since 2001. How will Tiger play? Our experts debate.

This week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open is one of the most anticipated regular PGA Tour events in recent memory. Among the factors contributing to the excitement are all things Tiger Woods (broken teeth, flu-induced weight loss, first time competing at TPC Scottsdale since 2001), Robert Allenby (we’re still trying to nail down exactly what he got himself into in Hawaii) and the Super Bowl just a few miles away, of course. And that’s all without mentioning the historic shot Woods hit at TPC Scottsdale’s par-3 16th in 1997.

Just a guess, but we think the 16th will be louder this year, whether Tiger hits it in the stands or next to the hole

Winning the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open will be an exercise in concentration and ability to stay focused amongst hundreds of thousands of drunk people. Unfortunately, the PGA Tour’s ShotLink database does not keep stats related to those skills.

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TPC Scottsdale's par-3 16th hole will be the center of attention this week.

Regardless, we were able to use a few stats to help predict who might walk away victorious come Sunday night. Of the last six winners at TPC Scottsdale, three led the field in GIR percentage (Phil Mickelson in ’13, Mark Wilson in ’11 and Hunter Mahan in ’10), two finished T3 or better in that stat (Kyle Stanley in ’12 and Kenny Perry in ’09) and one finished T10 (Kevin Stadler last year). Four of the six finished in the top 10 in approach shot distance to the pin the week they won, with three finishing in the top five.

That said, we’re putting the emphasis on ball-striking stats this week. Here’s a quick look at four guys (and their irons) who we think have a good chance to win this week.

Brendan Steele

Steele finished T2 last week at the Humana Challenge. He finished T6 at TPC Scottsdale in 2013 and 2014; last year he shot a third-round 62, hit 15/18 greens and made nine birdies. Steele’s ball-striking numbers won’t blow anyone away, but he clearly likes TPC Scottsdale (he finished T5 there in 2012, as well) and knows what it takes to go low there (he’s shot 66 or better in the Waste Management five times since 2012).

A recent addition to the Wilson Staff tour team, Steele has been playing the Wilson FG Tour 100 blades in the 5-PW and a Wilson FG Tour V4 4-iron, which he stuck in the bag at the Humana Challenge. Here’s a look at the FG Tour 100s:

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Brendan Steele's Wilson FG Tour 100 irons.

Ryan Palmer

Palmer’s scoring average over his last two events is 67.4. Everyone seems to have forgotten about his second-round 61 at the Humana Challenge, which came a week after a second-round 63 at the Sony Open. Palmer, like Steele, does not put up eye-catching GIR numbers, but he’s one of the longest guys on tour (currently 2nd in driving distance at 312.2 yards), which always helps into greens. Palmer’s length seems to help in that regard; he’s ninth in approach shot proximity from 75-100 yards (7’11”), seventh in that stat from 50-125 yards (12’7”) and 21st from 125-150 yards (18’5”).

The irons Palmer is currently playing are Titleist 714 AP2s with KBS Tour X shafts. Here’s a peek:

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Ryan Palmer's Titleist AP2 irons.

Hunter Mahan

Besides being the 2010 champion (and leading the field in GIR percentage that week), Mahan finished T4 at TPC Scottsdale last year and T16 in 2013. He’s second on tour in GIR percentage in 2014-15 (79.44%) and has finished the season in the top 25 in that stat three times since 2011. He consistently hits a lot of greens and seems to always find a way to play well in big events.

Mahan is currently gaming the Ping S55 irons in his 3-PW. Here’s a look:

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Hunter Mahan's Ping S55 irons.

Ryan Moore

Typically one of the tour’s most consistent ball-strikers, Ryan Moore already has a win under his belt this season (CIMB Classic in November). He finished T6 at TPC Scottsdale in 2014 and fourth in 2013. Moore’s showing at Humana Challenge was less than spectacular—he missed the cut—but his win at the CIMB Classic came only two weeks after a MC at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Moore is known to change irons often. He’s currently playing a prototype version of the PXG 03 irons by Parsons Xtreme Golf, a new golf equipment venture started by GoDaddy.com founder Bob Parsons. Here’s a look at the unique set:

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Ryan Moore's PXG 03 prototype irons.

Harris English

The two-time PGA Tour winner is currently T13 in GIR percentage (75%) so far this season and finished 17th in the stat in 2013-14. English almost always seems to be near the top when he’s in the field and had seven top-10s on tour last year (including a ninth-place finish at TPC Scottsdale).

English is playing an older set of Callaway irons, the Callaway MB 1 irons, which are re-branded RAZR X muscle backs. Here’s a look at English with the irons in play at the Humana Challenge.

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Harris English's Callaway RAZR X muscle back irons.

Check back Monday to see how our picks fared and which club(s) played the biggest role en route to victory.

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