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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational - Fantasy

Action is about to ramp up at Firestone Country Club for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and it's time to set the Yahoo! lineup.

Weather looks steady across the board in the first round, so my advice would be to save any starts on the bench that you would like in round one, but if all things are equal play the AM wave.

I'm starting Adam Scott (PM) over Rickie Fowler (PM) in the A-List, Rory McIlroy (AM) and Keegan Bradley (AM) starting over Jim Furyk (PM) and Steve Stricker (PM) in the B-List, and Sergio Garcia (AM) starting over Harris English (AM) in the C-List.

I pulled ahead 2-1 in the O v. Glass (Rotoworld colleague Mike Glasscott) Challenge with a win in the RBC Canadian Open last week. This week Glass has Scott, Henrik Stenson, McIlroy, Bradley, Furyk, Justin Rose, Garcia and Graeme McDowell.

That means we have five matches and the battle is between Rickie Fowler, Steve Stricker and Harris English on Team O vs. Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and G-Mac for Team Glass. Let the games begin!

I will update the O v. Glass and my Yahoo! starters for the last three round via Twitter.

Best of luck to all!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

WGC-Bridgestone Championship - One-and-Done

Before I dive into the WGC-Bridgestone and Barracuda Championship one-and-done picks, I need to first address the topic of research for the Barracuda Championship. While it was my intention to post a Preview and Power Ranking for the Barracuda Championship, it just didn't happen due to my schedule. I encourage all of you to check out Rob Bolton's work on PGATOUR.com and Mike Glasscott's on Rotoworld.com. I know for a fact that both Rob and Glass have put in way more time than I have in regards to that tournament and I'm leaning on their research for my one-and-done this week.

On to the business at hand.

As can be the case this time of year, some of my better options for the WGC-Bridgestone have already been burned. In fact, a quick count revealed that my top 10 are all off the table. Eleventh in the Power Ranking is Angel Cabrera and 12th is Tiger Woods. Both are available.

Cabrera's form and the fact that he has three top-four finishes at Firestone CC are enough for me to pull the trigger.

For the Barracuda Championship, which uses the Modified Stableford scoring system BTW, I'm a big fan of finding a guy who is hot and can roll off some birdies and hopefully an eagle or two. Michael Putnam checks that box for me. He's making tons of cuts and enters off a career-best T4 last week in Canada. Done.

We will return tomorrow with the Yahoo! starters and any final notes.

Best of luck to all!

Monday, July 28, 2014

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational - Power Ranking

As the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational is creeping closer by the minute and it's time to explore this week's Power Ranking.

Feel free to refer back to the Preview published yesterday evening for additional notes on Firestone and the history of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, as well as the statistical categories that should come into play this week.

Perhaps it's a case of writer's block, but I have little else to add. Here we go!

  1. Jim Furyk - There are several guys who could occupy this spot, but I've chosen to take the route of the most consistent player at this given time who also possesses excellent course history at Firestone. He lost out on winning the RBC Canadian Open by a stroke last week and has nine top 10s in 14 starts at this event, including two runners-up and a third-place finish.
  2. Rory McIlroy - If Rory is on with his driver, he has a chance to bring Firestone to its knees much like Tiger has numerous times. What else is there to add?
  3. Keegan Bradley - Limited, but excellent, history here with a win, a T2 and a T15 in his three starts here. Enters off a solid T19 at The Open Championship. At 12th in Total Driving and 24th in Par 4 Scoring Average, it's easy to see why this course is a fit.
  4. Adam Scott - Try this on for size. He's second in Total Driving, third in Par 4 Scoring Average, 13th in GIR and 14th in SGP. Perhaps the only real surprise is that he only has two other top 10s to go with his win in 11 starts. Went T4-T9-T5 in his last three starts. 
  5. Henrik Stenson - A bit of a drop off after the top four, the Swede gets the nod off a T2 here last year and an excellent reputation for ball-striking. Ranks fifth in Total Driving.
  6. Rickie Fowler - Last two starts are T2s and both came in majors. Also happens to own a T2 at Firestone, but no other top 20s in four starts. Throw stats out the window, as he is playing out of his mind right now. It would stand to reason that he could take the next step in his career with a WGC win.
  7. Matt Kuchar - Much like Bo Van Pelt two years ago, there is never an argument to be made about ranking Kuchar seventh anytime or anywhere. He tied for fourth in Canada last week and owns a couple of top 10s at Firestone.
  8. Justin Rose - Has three top fives in this event and is playing world-class golf of late. His win at Congressional should serve as an excellent preview as to what he could do.
  9. Sergio Garcia - From a statistical standpoint, one would think that Firestone is an excellent fit for the Spaniard but it hasn't been. Back-to-back T2s in his last two PGA TOUR starts is enticing, but take notice that he hasn't had a top 20 here since 2005. Perhaps he struggles with an Open Championship hangover?
  10. Steve Stricker - Last five finishes at Firestone went T6-T9-14-T2-13. Tied for 11th at the John Deere Classic in his last start.
  11. Angel Cabrera - The duck is pretty hot right now, on a T11-T24-Win-T19 roll. He's also finished inside the top four three times in 10 starts at Firestone. That's a really good combination. When he's driving the ball with confidence, he's as deadly as anyone not named McIlroy.
  12. Tiger Woods - This IS NOT a bone that I'm throwing. This is absolutely his best chance to make a Ryder Cup statement to Tom Watson and it is essential that he plays well this week if he has any hopes of making the FedExCup Playoffs. Oh, and he's won here EIGHT times. He can play this course in his sleep.
Next 5 (alphabetical): Graham DeLaet, Bill Haas, Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore and Webb Simpson

We will return with more coverage tomorrow. Until then, best of luck to all!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational - Preview

The World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational is set to return to Firestone CC. As history would have it, this has been one of Tiger Woods' personal playgrounds over the years, and he won on the South Course for the eighth time since 1999 last year.

For course history buffs, Firestone CC (South) is a 7400 yard par-70 layout that features just two par 5s, and only one is reachable in two by anyone not named Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson. The South Course has hosted this event without disruption since 2003, and here's how the winners and runners-up look.

  • 2003 - Winner: Darren Clarke (12-under 268) over Jonathan Kaye (272)
  • 2004 - Winner: Stewart Cink (269) over Rory Sabbatini and Tiger Woods (273)
  • 2005 - Winner: Tiger Woods (274) over Chris DiMarco (275)
  • 2006 - Winner: Tiger Woods (270) over Stewart Cink in a playoff
  • 2007 - Winner: Tiger Woods (272) over Justin Rose and Rory Sabbatini (280)
  • 2008 - Winner: Vijay Singh (270) over Stewart Appleby and Lee Westwood (271)
  • 2009 - Winner: Tiger Woods (268) over Robert Allenby and Padraig Harrington (272)
  • 2010 - Winner: Hunter Mahan (268) over Ryan Palmer (270)
  • 2011 - Winner: Adam Scott (263) over Luke Donald and Rickie Fowler (267)
  • 2012 - Winner: Keegan Bradley (267) over Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker (268)
  • 2013 - Winner: Tiger Woods (265) over Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson (272)
So what stands out?

Other than the Tiger Woods show, there are numerous ball-strikers populating this list. It's also interesting that so many players have been able to pull away for their wins. 

Breaking it down further, length is important but not paramount. Since one of the two par 5s is reachable by the entire field and the other isn't reachable, distance off the tee is somewhat marginalized. That said, Total Driving matters in that if a player isn't long, he better find fairways. If he is long, then he can miss a few more. If a player is long and accurate, then that's a real advantage. 

Perhaps more important than off-the-tee metrics is GIR. TW, Scottie, Bradley and Mahan can all light up the greens. The biggest reason for separation likely occurs when the guy that is peppering the greens gets hot with the flat stick, which we've seen. 

As always, current form and course history will play a major factor. Statistically, I plan on deep-diving Total Driving, GIR, SGP, Par 4 Scoring Average and perhaps one or two other categories. 

We will return tomorrow with the Power Ranking for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. On a related item, we will offer a Preview and Power Ranking in a combined post for the Barracuda Championship (formerly Reno-Tahoe Open) later in the week. 

Until then, happy research!

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!