It's the start of one of the most exciting three-hole stretches on the course, and a place where final-round charges can often either hit their stride or come undone.
The par-5 15th at TPC Scottsdale has a little bit of everything: eagle potential for two well-placed shots, double bogey (or worse) waiting if you stray too far off line. At 553 yards, it's reachable in two for most players in the field but boasts water down the left side and encircling the green. While it historically rates a little more difficult than the other par-5 on the back nine, No. 13, it's a definite birdie opportunity. During last year's tournament, it played as the 16th most difficult (or third easiest) hole for the week with a scoring average of 4.642.
This week marks the debut of NBC Sports Edge BetCast, a fully betting-centric live second-screen experience airing on Peacock every round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open with live odds powered by PointsBet Sportsbook. Let's take a look at some of the notable numbers and trends behind one of the pivotal holes down the stretch on the Stadium Course.
Aggressive play popular (but not mandatory)
Expect to see plenty of players take a mighty lash with their second shots on No. 15 this week.
Last year 61.71 percent of all players went for the green in two. But of that group, less than a third found the green to set up an eagle putt. It's not exactly an easy decision, and certainly not quite as popular as going for the green off the tee on No. 17. In fact, two years ago laying up was the more popular play: only 42.3 percent of players went for the green and the success rate of those who did was even lower than 2018 or 2020. All told, it's become a bit of a gamble over the last three years to take on a green guarded by sand and water on all sides:
Success rate going for the green
2018: 33.9% (79 of 233)
2019: 23.7% (41 of 173)
2020: 33.1% (81 of 245)
Fortune favors the bold
While going for the green in two doesn't guarantee success, recent trends have shown that the effort, on average, puts players in a better scoring position than a more conservative approach.
When breaking down scoring averages based on second-shot results, it makes sense that players who find the green reap the greatest rewards. Last year the hole played to a 3.99 scoring average for players who reached the green in two, meaning there were more eagles (7) than three-putt pars (6). The numbers looked pretty similar the prior two years: it played to a 4.00 average for that group in 2019 and 4.11 in 2018.
But even when taking into account the players that tried (but failed) to reach the green, the scoring splits show that, on paper, the rewards outweigh the risks:
Scoring splits on No. 15
2020 Went for green: 4.56
2020 Laid up: 4.88
2019 Went for green: 4.75
2019 Laid up: 4.95
2018 Went for green: 4.63
2018 Laid up: 4.98
All told, the numbers back up going for it in two. Part of that is because of the near guarantee of a birdie (at least) for those that find the target, and part is because it's not exactly an easy hole to birdie if taking a more conventional route.
Start of key stretch
If players are hoping to give their round a late jolt or make an 11th-hour climb up the leaderboard, No. 15 is where it needs to start.
Combined with the short 16th and reachable 17th, which we've profiled here and here, this was the only three-hole stretch on the course where all three holes played under par during last year's event. In fact, they played as three of the five easiest holes of the week:
2020 scoring average
No. 15: 4.642 (par 5, third-easiest hole)
No. 16: 2.945 (par 3, fifth-easiest hole)
No. 17: 3.741 (par 4, fourth-easiest hole)
There was no other instance last year of two straight holes playing under par for the week, let alone three in a row. So if players are looking for the vulnerable portion of the course or a stretch where they can reel off a few birdies in a row, they'll look immediately to the pivotal three-hole run that begins on the 15th tee.
Golf Channel Research Unit contributed to this report.
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