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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The juxtaposition between Scottsdale, Arizona, and Scottie Scheffler is stark. One is loud, boisterous and in your face like a puppy yapping for attention. The other is cerebral, going about his business without much emotion. There are similarities, sure -- they both start with the same five letters -- but that serves as the beginning and end of their shared circle in the Venn diagram.

This week, at the 2024 WM Phoenix Open, Scheffler will attempt to become the 10th man in PGA Tour history to successfully three-peat at a tournament. Seven of the nine players to accomplish the feat since World War II find themselves in the World Golf Hall of Fame with names like Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Billy Casper, Johnny Miller and Gene Littler among them. Steve Stricker remains the last player to it off with his run at the John Deere Classic from 2009-11.

Scheffler having a chance to go back-to-back-to-back -- given his current form -- is no surprise. He has been the best player in the world over the last two years and was bound to set up this opportunity. It could have come in Austin, Texas, or Orlando, Florida, had his near-defenses cashed, but it instead comes in Scottsdale where a love affair has emerged between player and course, one that makes much more sense when you inspect it further.

The desert oasis has always had a way of identifying great champions since its move in 1987; that year, Paul Azinger claimed the first Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. The major champions and breakout stars have only continued to hoist the trophy since. Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh dominated the late 1990s and early 2000s with four wins between them.

The last 11 Phoenix Open champions are a who's who of the golf world featuring names like Scheffler, Mickelson, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka, Webb Simpson, Gary Woodland and Rickie Fowler.

The list of players who have performed the best at TPC Scottsdale over the years mirrors a major championship leaderboard. In fact, 12 majors have been won between the eight best strokes-gained players at TPC Scottsdale with numerous runner-up and podium finishes thrown in. 

Most strokes gained at TPC Scottsdale (min. 10 rounds)

GolferStrokes gained

Scottie Scheffler


Louis Oosthuizen


Xander Schauffele


Hideki Matsuyama


Jon Rahm


Brooks Koepka


Justin Thomas


Sungjae Im


TPC Scottsdale rewards two types of golfers: those who can hold their nerve and those who thrive as ball-strikers -- areas heavily tested in major championship environments where Scheffler has separated himself the past two years.

"Ball-striking around this golf course is important. Dealing with the fans is also important," Scheffler said. "It's a little bit different than a lot of the tournaments that we play. That provides some fun stuff but some challenges with the noise and all that. It's just stuff that you've got to deal with out there on the course, but it's definitely, definitely a lot of fun playing in this event.

"It's not as fun getting booed, but it's fun getting the loud cheers out there when you do something good. But you pay the price when you hit a bad shot, too. It's definitely fun being playable to play in front of this many people."

The greens at TPC Scottsdale are large, but the targets are small, favoring iron players who can access protected pins. While the par-3 16th gets all the headlines, that is just one hole in the firework, inducing a finishing stretch that features the risk-reward par-5 15th and ever-dangerous, yet drivable, par-4 17th. That can result in an eagle-birdie-eagle sprint to the finish line (Carlos Ortiz once went 1-2 on 16 and 17), but it can also produce disaster as Sahith Theegala learned in 2022.

This most consequential portion of the golf course is where golfers' nerve and ball-striking are tested in conjunction. They must decide between hitting the golf shot they know they can hit and the golf shot they should hit, all while executing said shot with the well-served Scottsdale faithful breathing down their necks.

For Scheffler, this has not been a problem. Over the last 12 months, he ranks first in total strokes gained, first in strokes gained off the tee and first in strokes gained approach.

The statistics back up his ball-striking bonanza, and while there is no surefire mechanism to measure his decision making, most would argue he ranks first there as well.