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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

RBC Canadian Open - Fantasy

Getting back on track with our RBC Canadian Open coverage, we will lock in our One-and-Done pick and set the starters for the Yahoo! lineup.

Starting with the OAD, I’m a big believer in nabbing one of the elite options this week if you have one available. Brandt Snedeker (and Hunter Mahan) proved that to be a correct theory last season. Since the course rotates and we know very little about course fit for the players this year, I like the NFL Draft analogy of taking the “best available player” and hoping that it works out.

In doing so, I went straight down my power ranking to pick a OAD. I did not have Jim Furyk or Dustin Johnson available, but I was quite happy to see that I had holstered Graeme McDowell up until now. I am plugging him in with confidence and hoping for the best. If I didn't have GMAc laying around, I would have needed to go all the way down to Hunter Mahan in ninth or Jerry Kelly in 10th to find a pick, which would not have thrilled me.

As for the Yahoo!, my first-round starters are predicated a bit on remaining starts. Again, due to the weak field, I didn't feel like guys like Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar could afford to be left off the roster (bonus points). That said, I don’t want to burn my ninth DJ or seventh Kuchar start this week unless I really need to.

Weather looks fairly calm across the board on Thursday, so I’m ignoring tee times and playing the best available player while taking into account starts. That leaves me with Brandt Snedeker, Jerry Kelly, Jim Furyk and Graeme McDowell starting with Kuchar, DJ, Graham DeLaet and Charl Schwartzel on the bench. Really the only tough call was who to start between GMac and Schwartzel.

As always, I’ll update future lineup changes on Twitter.

The O v. Glass challenge took a bad turn in jolly old England, with Glass winning thanks to Rory McIlroy’s efforts. He evened the score 1-1.

My lineup of Snedeker, Kuchar, Furyk, Kelly, DJ, GDL, GMac and Schwartzel will take on his squad of Kuchar, Snedeker, DJ, Furyk, Kelly, David Hearn,  GMac and Schwartel. So essentially we have DeLaet and Hearn going head-to-head. I’ll update the status of that on Twitter as well.

Best of luck to all this week!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

RBC Canadian Open - Power Ranking

The RBC Canadian Open Power Ranking is not a one-size-fits-all affair. Given that Royal Montreal (Blue Course) hasn't hosted  PGA TOUR event since 2001 unless you count the 2007 Presidents Cup, course history is out the window.

I've taken the "safe" route with the Power Ranking this week, favoring class above all else with a tilt towards current form. Most of the elite players in the field are RBC brand ambassadors, meaning they essentially have to play. The other top-tier players on TOUR use this as a week off between The Open Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship. That creates a pretty large gap between the top of the field and the rest.

Here's how it all shakes out:

  1. Jim Furyk - While there have been plenty of can't-miss players at certain events that have missed this season, Furyk lines up as the ultimate "safe" option. Not only did Furyk get a taste of Royal Montreal in 2007, he's in spectacular form entering this week off his fourth-place finish at Hoylake and has three other top-five finishes on the season. With him in your lineup, you have a shot.
  2. Dustin Johnson - Contended all week at The Open Championship before eventually settling into a T12. The biggest question is probably how he comes down from the high of a major championship. As an example, he followed his T4 at the U.S. Open with a T31 at the Travelers. 
  3. Graeme McDowell - When you factor in his form on the European Tour of late, he's on fire. His T9 at The Open Championship last week was tasty, and he was also spared the pressure of any final-group tee times on the weekend. Leads the PGA TOUR in SGP.
  4. Matt Kuchar - While he certainly isn't as hot as he was back in the late Spring, he's among the class of this field and is similar to Furyk in that it's hard to see him striking out this week. It's hard to imagine that his last top 10 was a T7 at the HP Byron Nelson back in May.
  5. Charl Schwartzel - The South African is hard to figure out on a week-to-week basis, but he's in good enough form to crack the top five. He tied for seventh at Hoylake with a pair of 5-under-par 67s. 
  6. Brandt Snedeker - It's always a risk to invest in a defending champion, but that the event is at a different venue adds all sorts of complexities. Will he feel a little bit like he isn't defending since the venue is different? While Sneds hasn't had a great season, he was on a decent run until a disappointing T58 at The Open last week. It seems like his putter is coming around after a rocky run early in the season.
  7. Luke Donald - Tends to play well when "RBC" is in the title of an event, but he isn't in top form. That said, he followed up a missed cut at the Masters with a runner-up in the RBC Heritage confirming that his class demands this level of respect. It is a concern that he's 140th in Par 4 Scoring Average.
  8. Charley Hoffman - He might be a little too low, tying for third at Congressional before a little break and a T67 at Hoylake. Ranks inside the top 10 in GIR, Par Breakers and Par 4 Scoring Average. 
  9. Hunter Mahan - Famously withdrew just before the third round of last year's RBC Canadian to fly home for the birth of his first child. With the lead! His last top 10 on TOUR was a T9 at Doral, and he ranks a mere 68th in the FedExCup standings. Perhaps most alarming, he missed the cut at the Travelers Championship last month in an event he has traditionally owned. Still, he has the potential and the firepower to contend if he plays to his ability.
  10. Jerry Kelly - Coming in off a T3 at the John Deere Classic where he has traditionally been strong over the years. Ranks inside the top 60 in Driving Accuracy, GIR, SGP and Par Breakers, setting him up well for almost any course. 
  11. William McGirt - I get that his T2s in each of the last two RBC Canadian Opens came at different courses, but there's something to be said for this event ranking as a fit. It could be that the field is weaker, the time of year is right, or numerous other reasons. His last three PGA TOUR starts went T31-MC-T23, so his form is good enough to think the third time could be the charm.
  12. Graham DeLaet - This one scares me. Everyone else in the top 12 has their PGA TOUR status for 2014-15 in the bag, as does DeLaet, but none of them are competing in their national championship. That means all of the other top players will play with much less pressure on their shoulders. On paper, he is one of the better players in the field so we won't deny him his due. 
Next 5 (alphabetical): Scott Brown, Tim Clark, Ben Crane, David Hearn and Troy Merritt

Continuing to shake up the schedule this week, we will tackle the one-and-done and the Yahoo! starters on Wednesday. This is not meant to be a permanent schedule, as travel forced the change. 

Best of luck to all!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

RBC Canadian Open - Preview

The RBC Canadian Open returns to Royal Montreal (Blue) for the first time since Scott Verplank's 2001 victory. That in and of itself would suggest that course history can be thrown out the window. Add to that, the course was touched up by Rees Jones in 2004 and 2005. The only action we've seen at Royal Montreal since was the 2007 Presidents Cup.

So what do we know about the course? It's a 7,153 yard par-70 layout with a pair of par 5s and four par 3s. Simple math means there are 12 par 4s, thus heightening the importance of par 4 scoring average. While there are some photos on the course's website from each hole, there is not a flyover tour that I've seen. The greens are Bentgrass, and the rough is Kentucky bluegrass.

In terms of research, my approach is to keep it simple this week. I will focus on standard stats such as Greens In Regulation, Strokes Gained-Putting, Par Breakers and Par 4 Scoring average, but will put the most weight on current form.

An interesting dynamic in play this week, there are many players on TOUR currently on the bubble of the top 125 or well outside of the magic number for full status in 2014-15. Those players are now down to three starts, and in some cases two, to keep a card. That's added pressure on at least half the field this week.

A little change of schedule, this week's Power Ranking will publish on Tuesday evening rather than Monday due to a personal schedule conflict.

Until then, happy research!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Open Championship - Fantasy

The Open Championship is hours away from kicking off and it's time to solidify the Yahoo! starters. It's hard to get a reliable weather forecast, but all signs point to a rather calm opening round. Weather could get a little suspect on Friday morning, so it's possible that the early starters on Thursday will draw the best end of the stick.

While I don't think it's critical for Thursday, I'm going with players in the morning. Henrik Stenson, Angel Cabrera, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia will kick things off, with Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell on the bench.

As for the O v. Glass challenge, we have six of the same players this week. The outliers are all in the B-List, with Glass having Zach Johnson and Rory McIlroy to my Dustin Johnson and Angel Cabrera. Rather than score the entire tournament, I'll update our challenge as it relates to these four players. We share Stenson, Garcia, Scott, Rose, Kaymer and G-Mac.

Best of luck this week, and I can't wait to get up early in the morning to watch some golf!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Open Championship - One-and-done

There are certain weeks where there is an agonizing debate about who to select as the one-and-done, but The Open Championship this week isn't one of them. Some of that is because we've reached the point in the season where options are few.

The real reason is because there are two elite options that are a perfect fit for Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) in the form of Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson. Since only one of them is available, Stenson is the pick.

I happen to be comfortably "in the money" in my OAD, making the selection that much more of a no-brainier. Which brings up a good point. If you are chasing, you may decide to go against the grain.

If you decide to play a riskier game at The Open, consider Angel Cabrera. Everybody knows he's a big-game player, and his form is as good as it has been since his P2 at the Masters in 2013. Rickie Fowler is also a nice idea.

We will return tomorrow to discuss Yahoo! starters. I encourage you to check out Rotoworld for my Yahoo! and Golf Channel lineup, as well as those of Glass, Ned and Rob.

Until then, best of luck to all!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Open Championship - Power Ranking

As we continue our coverage leading up to the Open Championship, it's time to sort out some of the top contenders in this week's Power Ranking. Some of the names atop the list are the usual suspects, while other hot players have faded due to lack of experience or poor past history in links golf. As mentioned in yesterday's preview, event history probably matters as much or more here than it does in any other stop. Simply put, some players just can't handle the variables of links golf. 

Here we go:
  1. Adam Scott - This spot came down to two men, and the Aussie edged out Henrik Stenson. Scott has finished second and third in his last two Open Championships and finished eighth at this week's venue back in 2006. This marks his first start since a T9 at the U.S. Open. He's in complete control of both his game and his schedule. His ability to strike long irons off the tee and into the greens should prove to be a good thing.
  2. Henrik Stenson - The Swede is trendy, with a T7, 5th, T4 (U.S. Open), and T2 in his last four worldwide starts. He's also 7/9 with three top-three finishes in this championship. He finished 48th in the 2006 Open at Hoylake. Like Scott, I love his precision with the irons. 
  3. Justin Rose - While he's won his last two starts (Quicken Loans National and Scottish Open), be careful about going all in with him due to an average record in this event. His only top 10 came when he was an amateur back in 1998, so it's not a given that he will stand atop the leaderboard on Sunday. 
  4. Sergio Garcia - The Open Championship has arguably been Garcia's closest calls in the majors throughout the years, and the 2006 Open at Hoylake went for a fifth-place finish. He's made 13/17 cuts with six top 10s over the years, and tied for second at the Travelers Championship immediately after the U.S. Open. Can he post a high finish here? Absolutely. The problem with Sergio is that the answer is often between the ears. 
  5. Dustin Johnson - He loves links golf, which is half the battle. He's 4/5 with two top 10s including a runner-up in his relatively short Open career, and is entering what would be considered his prime in this event. His T4 at the U.S. Open shows he can focus when it counts.
  6. Martin Kaymer - Has a believable trend after winning the U.S. Open, missing the cut in his "hangover" start before sharing 12th in France. That's a sign that he's going through the proper emotions after the win and preparations leading up to another big one. He has a top 10 in this championship (7th in '10) and has only missed one of six cuts. It's hard to predict that a guy will go back-to-back in the majors, but there is a lot to like.
  7. Jim Furyk - He's 11/18 with four top-five finishes in the Open Championship including a fourth-place finish at Hoylake in 2006. He's been steady all of 2014, including a T12 at the U.S. Open in his last start. 
  8. Phil Mickelson - Anyone's guess, but his T11 at the Scottish Open is a great precursor to his trip to Hoylake as the defending champion. He cracked a top 25 at this venue in 2006 and has missed just four of 20 cuts in the Open. It's extremely likely that he'll be around for the weekend, but how far he goes is a fair question.
  9. Rickie Fowler - He's the answer to the trivia question as to who finished runner-up (T2) to Martin Kaymer at the 2014 U.S. Open, and he also tied for eighth in the Scottish Open last week. Add to that, he's 3/4 in the Open with a top five in 2011. While Fowler has been fairly inconsistent in 2014, he's proving to be a bit of a big-game player.
  10. Rory McIlroy - His only top 10 in the Open came at St. Andrews in 2010, which tends to be a bombers paradise. Seeing that Tiger Woods only hit driver once here when he won in 2006, McIlroy will have to rely on something other than bringing a course to its knees like he did at Congressional in 2010 and Kiawah Island in 2011. He tied for 14th in the Scottish Open and that feels like about where he will finish this week.
  11. Ian Poulter - Tough call, but have to give the nod to Poulter's tenacity in majors. He finished third last year. He pulled his game together for a respectable T17 at the U.S. Open, so he fills a nice value in this slot. That he missed the cut in Hoylake in 2006 complicates matters a bit. 
  12. Matt Kuchar - He's three out of four in this event with two top-15 finishes and tied for 12th at the U.S. Open. Slotting him somewhere between 10 and 15 is about right.
  13. Jordan Spieth - A tough kid to handicap, he has consistently proven that he can play his best golf on some of the biggest stages. He was 44th here last year and tied for 17th at the U.S. Open. Once again played well at TPC Deere Run with a T7 last week. 
  14. Angel Cabrera - I have this vision of him working 3-irons all over this course exactly as he intends and completing the third leg of the grand slam this week. Not only did he win at the Greenbrier in his last start, he preceded that with a pair of top 25s. He has two top 10s in the Open Championship, including a 7th at Hoylake and a T11 last year. Don't sleep on him.
  15. Keegan Bradley - Only played the Open twice, but his T15 last year showed steady progress. Has a couple of fourth-place finishes lately, including at the U.S. Open, and has his eye on making the Ryder Cup team. It shouldn't surprise anyone if he continues to show improvement in links golf.
  16. Brandt Snedeker - Finished 3rd and 11th in his last two Open Championships and seems to be coming back to life on the PGA TOUR with a T9 at the U.S .Open and a couple of other top 25s.
  17. Webb Simpson - Has been a bit feast-or-famine lately, but a couple of top-three finishes offer optimism. He's 2-for-2 in the Open, with a T16 in 2011. 
  18. Hideki Matsuyama - T6 in his Open debut last year and a recent PGA TOUR winner at Memorial.
  19. Ernie Els - He and Tom Watson are the reigning kings of links golf. Despite below-average form, he's a potential steal at 19.
  20. Graeme McDowell - Won in his last start leading up to this in France, but has just one top 10 in the Open.
  21. Zach Johnson - Offers back-to-back top 10s at the Open and snapped a recent dry spell with a runner-up at the John Deere.
  22. Mikko Ilonen - Finished 16th in both the Scottish Open and the 2006 Open at Hoylake, and has missed just one cut in five tries at the Open Championship. Recently won the Irish Open, which can't hurt.
  23. Danny Willett - A really nice dark-horse candidate, Willett is 1/2 with a T15 in last year's Open and enters off a T3-T8-T11 run with the T3 coming in the Irish Open and the T11 at the Scottish last week. 
  24. Luke Donald - Not as strong as one would think in the Open, making just six of 13 cuts, but he owns two top fives. Tied for 16th in the Scottish Open but missed cut at the U.S. Open. Plenty of mixed signals here.
  25. Tiger Woods - You don't need me to lay this one out for you.
We will return tomorrow with a look at one-and-done options.

Best of luck to all!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Open Championship - Preview

The Open Championship returns to Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) for the first time since Tiger Woods captured his third Claret Jug in 2006 over Chris DiMarco, and here is a preview to kick off the week. On a personal note, this is one of the two weeks I most look forward to on the golf calendar each year, with the other being the Masters. Hopefully my passion for the Open will lead to some solid picks later in the week.

As is the case with the Masters, experience matters at the Open Championship. While venues rotate, overall success in links golf is very valuable. It's one of the very few tournaments where course history may actually be more important than current form. 

Hoylake will play to a par of 72, featuring the full bevy of par 5s and par 3s, with 10 par 4s rounding out the scorecard. The yardage is 7,312, which is relatively average by modern standards, but numerous doglegs will force mid and long irons into numerous greens unless a player gets aggressive and tries to fly the doglegs. 

While finding fairways should be a priority for the players, Driving Accuracy as a stat isn't all that useful this week. That's because many players will hit numerous irons and fairway metals off the tee and keep the driver in the bag. If there was a stat that told driving accuracy from 250-270 yards, I would be all over it. Similarly, I would also love some way of understanding from a stat sheet which players are the most successful at working their long irons both directions, but I'll have to rely on past observations. 

My method of breaking down the field to try and determine the contenders will be a little different this week than it is for most tournaments. I will rely heavily on Open Championship history first, and then use current form as a secondary consideration. Rather than rely on specific stats to complete the trifecta, I will take a much more subjective approach when considering course fit. Sort of a question of if a player passes the "eye" or "smell" test. 

We will be back tomorrow to introduce the Power Ranking. Until then, happy research!