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The WM Phoenix Open has long been one of the most popular, well-attended, and entertaining events on the PGA Tour, undoubtedly in part due to the raucous nature of the famous par-3 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale.

And while the Phoenix Open has typically always had a solid field of players, the game has changed as it’s now one of the PGA Tour’s elevated events, meaning the vast majority of the tour’s greatest golfers will be teeing it up.

In total, 22 of the top 25 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are in the field this week. And two of the three absentees are members of the LIV Golf roster, those being No. 4 Cameron Smith and No. 23 Joaquin Niemann. The only PGA Tour player from the top 25 not at TPC Scottsdale is Will Zalatoris, who is managing his schedule carefully in his return from injury.

As you can imagine, the top three players in the world — No. 1 Rory McIlroy, No. 2 Scottie Scheffler, who’s also the defending champion, and No. 3 Jon Rahm — are big betting favorites at TPC Scottsdale. But have we picked one of those three to win?

Let’s take a look.

2023 Phoenix Open predictions

The 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale during the 2022 WM Phoenix Open
A general view of the 16th hole during the third round of the WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on February 12, 2022 | Tracy Wilcox/PGA Tour via Getty Images

Here are a few predictions for the 2023 WM Phoenix Open from Sportscasting golf experts Luke Norris and Jack Dougherty.

Winner

Luke Norris: Rory McIlroy

Alright, so it’s a giant copout to go with the best player in the world. But how am I supposed to not pick a guy who’s won two of his last three starts and hasn’t finished lower than fourth in his last seven tournaments?

Rory McIlroy has been on an absolute tear, and I don’t see him slowing down at the Phoenix Open. The four-time major champion has never hidden the fact that he feeds off the crowd. And there may be no better crowd on the PGA Tour than at TPC Scottsdale.

Jack Dougherty: Collin Morikawa

How has Collin Morikawa not won a PGA Tour event this season? The world No. 7 has gained at least 1.35 strokes on the field in all five of his recorded starts in 2022-23, and he’s finished sixth or better in three straight events.

If not for a historic blow-up at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in which he blew a six-shot lead in the final round, he would be one of the top five favorites to win the Phoenix Open. At a ballstriker’s paradise, I’ll take the hottest ballstriker on earth to secure a long-overdue victory.

Biggest sleeper

Luke Norris: Rickie Fowler

It’s been four long years since Rickie Fowler last won on the PGA Tour. And where did that victory occur? That would be right here at TPC Scottsdale in 2019.

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Fowler still has plenty of work to do to get back to the level where he was before, but he’s made significant strides over the last few months as he’s finished 11th or better in three of six starts during the 2022-23 campaign.

He obviously knows his way around this golf course (Fowler also once finished solo second here, losing in a playoff), so I’m looking for another solid week from the five-time PGA Tour winner.

Jack Dougherty: K.H. Lee

You might know him as K.H. Lee, but he’s more commonly known in golf betting circles as “TPC Lee.” Not to state the obvious here, but the South Korean has feasted on TPC courses throughout his career. Both of his two career PGA Tour wins came on TPC courses, and he finished runner-up at TPC Scottsdale two seasons ago. Give me TPC Lee to contend again this year.

Most likely bust

Luke Norris: Scottie Scheffler

A year ago at the Phoenix Open, Scottie Scheffler finally broke through and won his first PGA Tour event, defeating Patrick Cantlay in a playoff. And he’s obviously added to his win total since then.

But it’s extremely difficult for most golfers not named Tiger Woods to win a tournament two years in a row. And that’s the only reason I’m picking him here. Do I think he’ll make the cut? Absolutely. But do I see him contending for a second straight title at TPC Scottsdale? I do not.

Jack Dougherty: Rory McIlroy

Let’s go out on a limb here.

After winning the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup last season, McIlroy has made six starts worldwide. The Northern Irishman won two of them and didn’t finish worse than T4 in the other four events. He’s also coming off a win two weeks ago at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic on the DP World Tour.

So, why would I fade the hottest golfer on earth? Well, for one, anything other than a top-five finish would be a disappointment for McIlroy. He also doesn’t have much experience at TPC Scottsdale, as he finished T13 two years ago in his first start at the WM Phoenix Open. I’m not predicting a missed cut from McIlroy, but I don’t think he’ll be able to live up to his sky-high expectations this week.

Make-or-break hole

Luke Norris: No. 18

The 442-yard par-4 closing hole at TPC Scottsdale is the easy call here for me. For one, it’s certainly not the easiest hole on the back nine by any stretch. In fact, taking the 36 combined rounds of the top nine finishers at last year’s Phoenix Open, the 18th only yielded four total birdies.

Well, it was actually five if you include Scheffler’s birdie in the third hole of the playoff, which is the main reason I’m going with this hole in the first place. This tourney has gone to extra holes in five of the last seven years. And given this field, that seems likely again this year. And what hole do they play until a winner is crowned? That would be the 18th.

Jack Dougherty: No. 17

The easy pick here would be the all-day party known as the par-3 16th, but the 17th is a much more important hole to conquer at TPC Scottsdale. A driveable par-4, the 17th is a short but dangerous hole with water guarding the green left and long.

Players will choose to either lay up or go for the green depending on the yardage and pin placement, and they’ll have to make that decision with adrenaline still coursing through their veins from the 16th green. The WM Phoenix Open can be won or lost on this fantastic hole.