5 players to watch at Waste Management Phoenix Open

Phil Mickelson
USA Today Sports Images
Phil Mickelson is a three-time winner of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, making him an easy pick for this week.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 | 9:33 a.m.

The wildest party in golf takes place this week at TPC Scottsdale for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where it's sure to be even rowdier than usual with Tiger Woods making his 2014-15 season debut and playing the event for the first time since 2001.

Oh, and as if that wasn't enough, just down the road in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks square off in Super Bowl 49.

RELATED: WMPO tee times | Tiger Woods in season debuts | Tiger's restored smile

Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar are among the other stars teeing it up at TPC Scottsdale this week too. It's going to be a lot of fun.

With that, here are five players to watch this week.

5. Gary Woodland
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T2, CIMB Classic
Reason to watch: In three starts this season, Woodland has two top-3 finishes. He is most certainly a player to keep an eye on throughout 2015. Woodland is one of the most athletic, raw talents on Tour. He's made some noise in his career, but has been mostly thwarted by injuries. If he remains healthy, look out. Woodland tied for fifth at TPC Scottsdale in 2011 -- his best finish in the event where he has never missed the cut. Woodland will be picking up PGA Tour win soon... why not this week?

4. Rickie Fowler
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T3, World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: There are a few players I can't wait to watch in 2015 and Fowler is right near the top of that list. It's well-documented that he finished in the top 5 of all four majors -- without a win -- in 2014. But, he also had six other top-10 finishes. People have viewed Fowler as a potential star for years now. It looks like that star is finally beginning to shine. Fowler is going to have a big 2015.

3. Jordan Spieth
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T35, World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: That stuff I just said about Fowler? Yeah, it applies to this guy too. After the way he ended 2015 with a win in Australia followed by a win seven days later at the Hero World Challenge in Orlando, Spieth showed what's been missing early in his career -- the ability to not only close but absolutely dominate. This will be Spieth's first start in the Phoenix Open. I have the feeling that a young guy like Spieth is going to enjoy -- and thrive -- on the atmosphere.

2. Bubba Watson
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
Winner, World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: Watson is hard to pick against these days, especially after a monster 2014 in which he won twice (including the Masters for a second time); finished second three times (including the Waste Management Phoenix Open); and third once. Every time he tees it up these days, he's a favorite.

1. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T24, Humana Challenge
Reason to watch: For starters, Mickelson is a three-time winner of this event. He's also coming off a season that save for the runner-up finish at the PGA Championship (his only top 10 last season) was one of the worst of his career. Lefty says he's feeling great and I think he'll get back on track this year. The game is just so much more fun to watch when he's the regular contender we've come to expect. He's loved everywhere, but especially in Phoenix, his former home and college town. 

Here's how my five to watch fared at the Humana Challenge:

5. Phil Mickelson -- T24
4. Pat Perez -- T30
3. Bill Haas -- Won
2. Matt Kuchar -- T2
1. Keegan Bradley -- T48 

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.