5 players to watch at the WMPO

Bubba Watson
USA Today Sports Images
A runner up a year ago, can Bubba Watson improve upon that this time around?
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
Connect with T.J.

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Wednesday, February 03, 2016 | 9:00 a.m.

The biggest party in golf begins anew this week with the Waste Management Phoenix Open at fan-friendly TPC Scottsdale.

The Coliseum-like par-3, 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale is one of a kind. It's the rowdiest hole in golf and one the players have truly come to embrace because of the craziness.

As usual, TPC Scottsdale is a track that is going to require loads and loads of birdies.

For that reason, here are five players who are capable of taking it really deep that you'll want to keep an eye on this week.

RELATED: Waste Management Phoenix Open tee times | This week's pro golf schedule

5. Ryan Moore
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T10 at the Frys.com Open and the CIMB Classic
Reason to watch: After a long layoff, Moore returns this week to a place where he has not finished outside of the top 20 in the last three years. TPC Scottsdale clearly fits his eye. That's a strong recent track record that can't be overlooked.

4. Ryan Palmer
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T13 at the Sony Open in Hawaii
Reason to watch: With as often as he's in contention, it's hard to believe that Palmer hasn't collected a PGA Tour victory since the 2010 Sony Open in Hawaii. Alas, that's life on the PGA Tour. TPC Scottsdale is a place where Palmer has tallied three top-10 finishes -- two of those of the runner-up variety, including a year ago. He seems to feed off the crowd well, which is an absolute must at the frat-party that is the Waste Management Phoenix Open. If the putter can get hot for Palmer, look out.

3. Bubba Watson
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T10 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: In his last four starts at TPC Scottsdale, Watson has finished no worse than a tie for 15th. That includes being the runner up in the last two straight. Over the last 12 months, few players in the game have been as consistently good as Watson. He always seems to be sniffing the first page of the leaderboard no matter where he plays. It's hard to imagine that would be any different this week in Phoenix on a course where he's proven he's exceptionally comfortable.

2. Brooks Koepka
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T3 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Koepka made his first start in the Waste Management Phoenix Open a year ago... and won. As the defending champ and as won of the game's brightest rising stars, it would be silly not to include Koepka as a favorite this week. With the new season, Koepka has also undergone an equipment change. That can be a big deal for a lot of players. But, in his first and only start so far with the new sticks, Koepka had that T3 in Maui, which had to give him a confidence boost. Having not played since then -- nearly an entire month -- one would assume he's had plenty of time to get even more comfortable with the new gear.

1. J.B. Holmes
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T6 at the Farmers Insurance Open
Reason to watch: It's funny what you find sometimes when you go looking at a player's record at a certain venue/tournament. That's the case at TPC Scottsdale in the Waste Management Phoenix Open for Holmes where it has been an absolute feast (he's won twice there) or famine (a few missed cuts and a bunch of T43 or worse finishes). Coming off the heels of his best finish this season at Torrey Pines, I'm going to lean toward a feast for Holmes this week in Phoenix. That T6 last week moved Holmes up to No. 12 on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list and he'd love to get to Hazeltine. In his only Ryder Cup start at Valhalla in 2008, Holmes went 2-0-1. That was the last U.S. victory.

SLEEPER PICK: Jamie Lovemark
Reason to watch:
Once considered to be a future star of the PGA Tour, Lovemark has been derailed by injury. The 28-year-old is showing some of that once serious promise early on this season with three top-10 finishes in his last four starts. Is a win right around the corner? The first-time winner-friendly Waste Management Phoenix Open wouldn't be a bad place to start.

Here's how my five to watch fared at last week's Farmers Insurance Open:

5. Scott Stallings -- T25
4. J.B. Holmes -- T6
3. Rickie Fowler -- Missed cut
2. Phil Mickelson -- Missed cut
1. Jason Day -- Missed cut 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.