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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

CIMB Classic - Power Ranking & One and Done

With the CIMB Classic about 24 hours from teeing off, it is time to put to bed this week's power ranking and one-and-done selection. For more details on Kuala Lumpur G&CC, please refer to yesterday's preview.

Here we go:

  1. Sergio Garcia - In addition to being the class of the field on paper, he posted a solid T11 in this event last season. He ranked second in both strokes gained: tee-to-green and par-4 scoring average last season. Both should be solid predictors of success this week.
  2. Hideki Matsuyama - With a pair of top 10s to start the PGA TOUR season and solid strokes gained: tee-to-green numbers and par 4 scoring stats, he's an obvious choice for the top of any list. I will throw out one big asterisk. There has been some noise that he may experiment with equipment this week. If that proves true, he may not be the best option in formats such as the OAD (one and done).
  3. Charl Schwartzel - He does a high percentage of his heavy lifting when the clock turns to winter in the northern hemisphere. With the field being light at the top, he's an obvious candidate to stand out. He tied for 15th in Perth last week and was eighth in strokes gained: tee-to-green last season.
  4. Lee Westwood - Started his 2014-15 PGA TOUR season by making some noise with a T12 at the Frys.com Open. While 2013-14 was a far cry from his best effort, Kuala Lumpur sets up well for his game. He's traditionally an elite ball-striker and that is what is typically rewarded on this layout.
  5. Ryan Moore - A big tilt towards course history, Moore won this event last year when it called Kuala Lumpur home for the first time. It was a pretty big surprise that he missed the cut in Las Vegas two weeks ago when one considers that he is a past champion there and it was a hometown event.
  6. Kevin Chappell - We've seen Ben Martin and Robert Streb each break through the last two weeks, and Chappell is a name that is near the top of the list of those expected to earn his first win in the near future. Tied for eighth in his last start leading up to this week and ranks high in SG: tee-to-green and par-4 scoring average. Add to that, it's a limited and fairly weak field. Big opportunity for Chappell.
  7. Paul Casey - Tied for ninth in the Volvo World Match Play a few weeks back. Seems close to returning to a top-flight player, and an event like this one provides him with the perfect opportunity. 
  8. Gary Woodland - Last year's runner-up (playoff) is making his 2014-15 debut in Malaysia this week. Was 14th in both SG: tee-to-green and par-4 scoring average last season.
  9. Graham DeLaet - Much like Chappell, he's expected to enter the winner's circle for the first time sooner rather than later. That he tied for seventh here last year, which only heightens expectations. That could be a good or a bad thing.
  10. John Senden - I feel like I'm a broken record, but yet another solid ball-striker who posted a solid T18 at the Shriners two weeks ago. 
  11. Will MacKenzie - His playoff loss in Sea Island last week was reminiscent of the way he played in the first half of the 2013-14 season. This week should serve as a barometer. If last week was a fluke, then taking this week to watch and learn will be the smart play. If he stays hot this week, then you'll likely have several more opportunities to ride his wave at some point this season.
  12. Ryo Ishikawa - While this isn't a home game for him, it's certainly more comfortable for the young Japanese player than for most. He's posted respectable T19s and T28s in his last two PGA TOUR starts and ranked inside the top 15 in SG: tee-to-green and par-4 scoring average.
Next 5: Stewart Cink, Brendon de Jonge, Jason Dufner, Billy Horschel and Marc Leishman.

Yes, I know I left out Patrick Reed. If I went with a "Next 6" instead of "5", he probably would have been the one.

One and Done:

I'll keep it short and sweet. This is the perfect spot for Lee Westwood. There's not another start he will make on the PGA TOUR in a field as weak at the top as this one and where his game is as good of a fit. Maybe he performs and maybe he doesn't, but this is the right play.

Best of luck to all!

Monday, October 27, 2014

CIMB Classic - Preview

The PGA TOUR moves east to Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the CIMB Classic. Better late than never, here is a preview to help out with your research.

Kuala Lumpur G&CC is a measly 6,985 yards and plays as a par 72. To say that is short by PGA TOUR standards is a massive understatement. This is only the second time this has served as the host venue, as The MINES Resort & Golf Club hosted the first three editions.

Ryan Moore (14-under) topped Gary Woodland in a playoff last year in Kuala Lumpur's debut. Of the 78 players in the field, 39 broke par for the week and 17 had at least three sub-par rounds. Those 17 were Ryan Moore, Gary Woodland, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Chris Stroud, Aaron Baddeley, Jimmy Walker, Harris English, Charles Howell III, Graham DeLaet, Stewart Cink, Sergio Garcia, K.J. Choi, Shiv Kapur, Jerry Kelly, Phil Mickelson, Kevin Stadler and Siddikur Rahman.

Several things about that list of 17 players stand out. For starters, Aphibarnrat, Kapur and Rahman tell us not to count out non-PGA TOUR players. There are also numerous players on that list noted for ball-striking over putting. Only Baddeley's putter is noted to far outweigh his tee-to-green game, so perhaps a close look at strokes gained: tee-to-green will be a valuable metric.

We will work to put together a solid power ranking and post it on Tuesday, as well as this week's one-and-done selection.

Until then, happy research!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The McGladrey Classic - One and done

With The McGladrey Classic less than 36 hours from teeing off, it's time to declare this week's one-and-done selection.

Some weeks a guy just jumps off the page for all the right reasons, and this week there were two when it comes to the OAD. Webb Simpson and Scott Brown each offer a different strategic option, and both are smart plays in their own way.

Simpson is a guy that will crack the short list of contenders multiple times in 2014-15. For example, the Wyndham Championship is always a strong place to play him. The thing is...why wait? His course history at the Seaside Course is excellent and he tied for fourth last week. He easily checks both boxes of course history and current form.

Brown improved from a T20 to a T4 in his second trip to McGladrey last year, and enters off back-to-back top-12 finishes to start the new season. Just like Simpson, Brown checks the two major boxes. Another star in his corner is that there isn't an obvious place to play him down the road.

There is one difference.

Simpson is of a different class than Brown.

In addition, I see no reason to save Simpson. It's hard to imagine a time when he enters a tournament with his history as strong as it is on Sea Island and form as solid as a T4 last week.

Let's go Webb!

Monday, October 20, 2014

The McGladrey Classic - Power Ranking

The McGladrey Classic is just around the corner and here is a power ranking to establish the chalk and hopefully identify some value. For more details on the Seaside Course, I'd encourage you to check yesterday's Preview.

Here we go:

  1. Webb Simpson - The theory that he's a horse-for-course player gained additional traction with a T4 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last week, which bodes well for his trip to Sea Island this week. Simpson has gone T12-2-T7 in his first three trips to the Seaside Course, with 11 of his 12 rounds under par. 
  2. Matt Kuchar - Improved steadily in this event, going T25-T20-T7 in his three ventures to Sea Island. Started the new season with a respectable T21 at the Frys.com Open. Essentially, he's about as close to a lock as their is to a top-25 finish with plenty of upside.
  3. Bill Haas - Only played once here, but it went for a solo second in 2010. The Greenville, SC native may be a week too late, as his father, Jay, and neighbor, Ben Martin, both won last week. Considering that Bill didn't have a win in 2013-14, the addition to this event back in schedule could signify that he's determined to rectify that as quickly as possible this season.
  4. Scott Brown - I mentioned in yesterday's preview that players from the Southeast have a great record in this event, and the South Carolinian fits that bill. His two starts on Sea Island have gone T20/T4 and he's hot right now after a T12 in the Frys.com Open and a T10 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Tends to do his best work against weaker fields, and this week would probably qualify.
  5. Chris Kirk - The defending champ kicks off his 2014-15 season at a course where he also tied for 15th in 2010. Ranked well in most of the significant statistical categories last season. 
  6. Harris English - The top five seemed obvious, and I'm letting English carry the banner of the next wave. While he has been very quiet the last few months, he tied for 16th last week in Vegas and has a T15 at the Seaside Course. Oh, and I could totally see a UGA grad winning this week. 
  7. David Toms - A bit of a course history pick here, with Toms owning a pair of top-three finishes in four editions. He's very accurate and measures well in Par-4 metrics. It's hard to see him winning, but he's a great investment if a top 10 or 15 carries value in your format.
  8. Zach Johnson - He's 3/4 with two top 20s, but this pick is more about class in an otherwise weak field. Simply put, there is just no wisdom in dropping him any lower than this.
  9. Russell Knox - Knocked hard on the door last week and eventually settled for a third-place finish. Has a couple of middle-of-the-pack finishes at the Seaside Course, but his form and elevating class make him a much more intriguing option than his course history would suggest. 
  10. Robert Streb - If the David Toms formula of past success is any indicator, Streb's first trip could be quite profitable. He's one of the best par 4 players on the PGA TOUR (6th in 2014 in par-4 scoring average and 3rd through two events this season) and enters off a T10 at TPC Summerlin. 
  11. Ben Martin - Well, he's finished almost DFL and winner in his first two starts of the year, so chances are he'll be somewhere in between. Course history is poor, but he'll have a load of confidence. 
  12. Hudson Swafford - Florida born and UGA trained, Swafford is hot (T8 and T18 this season) and playing in a very comfortable part of the country. Was 139th in SGP last season but has already improved to 33rd this season. If he keeps that going, he will win in 2014-15 and this wouldn't be an unlikely spot for him to breakthrough. 
Instead of just a "next 5" in no particular order, I've continued the rankings through 20. 

They are:
  • 13 - Nick Watney
  • 14 - Charles Howell III
  • 15 - Scott Langley
  • 16 - Brian Harman
  • 17 - Michael Thompson
  • 18 - Martin Laird
  • 19 - Adam Hadwin
  • 20 - Tony Finau

We will return tomorrow with our one-and-done pick. Until then, best of luck to all!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The McGladrey Classic - Preview

The McGladrey Classic returns to Sea Island Golf Club - Seaside Course this week, with Chris Kirk as the defending champion. This is the fifth edition of this tournament, with each of the previous four taking place at the current venue.

The Seaside Course is a par-70 layout, stretching out to a mere 7,005 yards and featuring two par 5s, four par 3s and 12 par 4s. Here is a list of the winners and runners-up.

  • 2010 - Winner - Heath Slocum (14-under 266) over Bill Haas (267)
  • 2011 - Winner - Ben Crane (15-under 265) over Webb Simpson in a playoff
  • 2012 - Winner - Tommy Gainey (16-under 264) over David Toms (265)
  • 2013 - Winner - Chris Kirk (14-under 266) over Briny Baird and Tim Clark (267)
Several things stand out. For starters, any list this short that includes David Toms, Briny Baird, Tim Clark and Heath Slocum suggests that length is irrelevant. This list is full of players that can be streaky with the putter, and those with ties to the Southeast (Berumuda greens). Bill Haas (SC), Webb Simpson (NC), Tommy Gainey (SC), Chris Kirk (GA), Heath Slocum (FL), Briny Baird (FL), David Toms (LA) and Tim Clark (NC ties) suggest that geography might matter. 

From a statistical standpoint, this week is more about what doesn't matter than what does. The leaderboard certainly includes those with solid SGP weeks, but that isn't exclusive. There are cases where GIR and fairways are high and SGP is just average. Someone described the new measure, strokes gained: tee-to-green as a metric of the best putters among the best ball-strikers, and I see where he's coming from on that. It could be that the new metric will have some value this week.

I will take a hard look at current form, course history and par-4 scoring average to be sure. I will also consider SGP, GIR, Proximity, Par 4 birdie or better, as well as SG: tee-to-green. 

We will return tomorrow with this week's power ranking. Until then, happy research!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open - One and done

With the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open representing just the second tournament of the PGA TOUR marathon, the one-and-done selection for the week becomes pretty simple.

The top name on the power ranking this week was Martin Laird. He has the course history, current form and statistical clout to contend this week. Plus, there is absolutely no reason to save him for anywhere down the road.

He will likely be a popular pick this week. If you want to go in another direction, perhaps a guy like Ryan Moore makes a lot of sense.

Best of luck this week!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open - Power Ranking

The 2013-14 FedExCup champion, Billy Horschel, is set for his 2014-15 debut at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and also makes his first appearance of the season in the Power Ranking.

The usual cocktail of current form (when available), course history and relevant statistics have been stirred together in an attempt to accurately assign value to those expected to contend at TPC Summerlin, and here are the results.

This week’s Power Ranking:
  1. Martin Laird – Number one and it wasn't even close. Not only did he tie for third at the Frys.com Open last week, he’s a past champion in this event and also has a P2 (playoff loss). Add to that, he was ninth in strokes gained-putting, 16th in par breakers and seventh in par-4 scoring average last week. Course history is elite, current form is superb and stats are more than respectable.
  2. Billy Horschel – Jimmy Walker proved last week that a monster 2013-14 season doesn’t necessarily carry over to the new year, so we’ll find out quickly how in form Horschel is. That said, it stands to reason he wouldn’t play this week unless he felt like he was ready to jump in and contend. While I’m not sure I would recommend a one-and-done play this week, he should be gold in most formats.
  3. Webb Simpson – If we’ve learned anything about Simpson over the last 12 months, it is that he can be counted on in events where he has been traditional strong. That’s a fancy way of saying he’s a course horse. TPC Summerlin is one of his courses. Not only did he win here last season, he also tied for fourth in 2010, which was his most recent start before the 2013 win.
  4. Ryan Moore – Moore is a Vegas guy (UNLV), so this is a home game. While some people can’t handle that, he’s proven to be quite capable. He makes his 2014-15 debut at a track where he won in 2012 and tied for ninth in his defense last year. If the putter heats up (91st in SGP last year), he’ll be a factor.
  5. Jimmy Walker – I’ll issue him a free pass for his 63rd finish last week at the Frys.com, mainly because that course wasn’t all that forgiving off the tee and Walker’s never been one to hit a bunch of fairways. TPC Summerlin is much more forgiving, and he has back-to-back top-12 finishes in this event.
  6. Retief Goosen – Not only has Goosen secured his last 15 cuts (fifth best on TOUR), he tied for third last week and ranked first in strokes gained-putting. He was also second in par breakers and ninth in par-4 scoring average.  Considering TPC Summerlin is often a birdie fest and a putting contest, that works.
  7. Hideki Matsuyama – Finished third last week at the Frys.com Open and ranked third in GIR. Among the class of the field, if he gets the flat stick working then he has a solid chance at another top-five finish this week. Ranked a very average 61st in SGP last week, so that’s the real concern.
  8. Brooks Koepka – Much like Matsuyama, Koepka’s chances hinge on his ability to get hot with the putter. He threatened to score his first win last week, but just couldn’t mount a charge on Sunday. Missed the cut here last year in his only trip, but that isn’t enough history to write him off on this layout entirely.
  9. Brendan Steele – If you’re looking for consistency, he might be your guy. He tied for 21st last week, and Steele offers a pair of top-16 finishes at TPC Summerlin. In addition to that, he ranked inside the top 25 in GIR, SGP and par-4 scoring average last week. Simply put, he’s a top 25 waiting to happen this week with the upside to crack the top 10.
  10. Charley Hoffman – Sort of limped to the finish line last season, but returns to one of his better stops on TOUR. He tied for fourth at TPC Summerlin last season and has three top-15 finishes in his last six trips. Ranked 12th in par-4 scoring average and 14th in par breakers on the PGA TOUR in 2013-14.
  11. Sang-moon Bae – While it seems highly unlikely that he will back up his win last week with another one, especially since he won without making a putt longer than 15 feet, his current form demands this level of respect.
  12. Hudson Swafford – Last week we found out what can happen if Swafford putts well. It was the flat stick that held him back in his rookie campaign, but he ranked fifth in SGP and par breakers last week on his way to a T8. If he keeps that up, he will be a force to be reckoned with.

Next 5 (alphabetical): Steven Bowditch, Scott Brown, Derek Fathauer, Max Homa and Nick Watney

Wildcard: Jason Bohn – Despite not having the stats or current form (MC last week) to make one feel good about a pick, he’s finished runner-up and T8 in his last two trips to TPC Summerlin.

We will return soon with our one-and-done selection. Until then, happy research and best of luck to all!