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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

TOUR Championship - One-and-Done

The final event of the 2014-15 PGA TOUR season awaits at East Lake GC. Of course, it is the TOUR Championship. We are going to do things a little bit differently this week.

Rather than throwing up the usual power ranking and sorting out who sits second behind Jason Day, it's time to discuss strategies. Coincidentally, the top five in the current FedExCup standings would all be inside the top 10 of any decent power ranking. Sprinkle in Rory and a few others, and there you go.

About strategy. For all full-season gamers, one of three things is the case for you.

  1. You are either leading or are in a position you would like to maintain. 
  2. You are trailing, but within striking distance if your opponent slips up and you play well.
  3. You are toast.
Playing numerous games, I find myself in each of these three scenarios.

If you are in category 3, none of this matters. Throw in anybody you want. 

If you are in category 1, you need to play it safe. If you've got Jason Day available, he's a must. For games like Yahoo!, load the wagons with Day, Spieth, McIlroy, Stenson, etc, etc, and force your opponent make a mistake. If it's a game like the Golf Channel game, take Jason Day in Group 1 and stay chalky the rest of the way.

If you are in category 2, this is a tough week. You've played well enough to put yourself in the mix, but you now must "zig" where you usually "zag." You have to play the game backwards. You don't take Jason Day, rather you hope McIlroy or Stenson dominate. You take a flier on Daniel Berger staying hot, or a relaxed Bill Haas to take home his second TOUR Championship after nabbing the captain's pick. This is going to feel very uncomfortable, but you have no choice. I can't stress the following enough. YOU HAVE TO DO THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU THINK THE LEADER WILL DO. A push is no good. Roll the dice.

Oh...and I'm taking Rory McIlroy as my one-and-done. Unfortunately, I'm in category 3 in this one. Toast.

It's been a fun 2014-15 season. Keep an eye on for me on Rotoworld for several upcoming articles over the next few weeks.

Best of luck to all!

Monday, September 14, 2015

BMW Championship - Power Ranking and One-and-done

The BMW Championship is inching closer by the minute and here is this week's power ranking and one-and-done to complete our research.

As mentioned in yesterday's preview, the hard look falls on current form and course history this week. One thing that began to stick out during the research process was how irrelevant bombing it off the tee proved to be in 2013 at Conway Farms. It wasn't just that Zach Johnson won. Rather it was that many of the notorious bombers didn't make a lot of noise.

With that in mind, here we go:

  1. Jason Day - His T12 at TPC Boston stopped his winning streak at two, and he returns to the site of a T4 in 2013. His week off came at a good time, as he began to look like he was running on fumes late in the Deutsche Bank.
  2. Jim Furyk - Love his trend (T30-T11-T4 last three) and it matches very well with his third-place finish at this venue in 2013. 
  3. Henrik Stenson - Back-to-back runner-up finishes is extremely impressive and overshadows a T33 here in 2013.
  4. Zach Johnson - Winner in 2013 has enjoyed a great last two months. Nothing should be a surprise this week with ZJ.
  5. Jordan Spieth - Class is permanent. Forget the back-to-back missed cuts. Tied for 16th here in 2013.
  6. Rickie Fowler - Winner at TPC Boston last Monday renders his T39 in 2013 at Conway Farms rather unimportant.
  7. Rory McIlroy - Not embarrassing himself, but not making a bunch of noise since coming back from the ankle injury either. If the putter clicks, the rest could quickly fall into place.
  8. Matt Jones - Another case of form meeting history. Tied for fourth last week and shared eighth in this event back in 2013.
  9. Daniel Summerhays - Two things jump off the page. First is that he's posted back-to-back top 10s. Second is that he is not a bomber, but in great form. As a bonus, he tied for 28th here in 2013.
  10. Kevin Kisner - Might have felt slightly snubbed by not getting a Presidents Cup nod. Enters on a string of back-to-back top 20s.
  11. Russell Knox - A carbon copy of Kisner, with a MC-T20-T12 run entering this week. The only difference is the lack of a snub. Summerhays, Kisner and Knox are all guys that are expected to break through with a PGA TOUR win sooner rather than later.
  12. Matt Kuchar - Two top 10s in his last three starts and a top 25 at Conway Farms in 2013.
  13. Bubba Watson - We'll make it a baker's dozen with the bomber.

I'm taking Daniel Summerhays. There are other options available that might be a bit safer (Matt Jones and Robert Streb jump to mind), but I have one of those dangerous feelings. And by dangerous, I mean a danger to myself. I sort of see him as this year's Morgan Hoffmann. 

Check out Rotoworld's Playing the Tips tomorrow for my Yahoo! and Golf Channel Picks.

Best of luck to all this week!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

BMW Championship - Preview

After a week off, the BMW Championship returns to Conway Farms Golf Club for the third leg of the FedExCup Playoffs. Here is a preview to get you off and running with your research.

The last trip to Conway Farms came in 2013, when Zach Johnson topped Nick Watney for the time. Since there is just one trip to this venue in this event, it should make the course history deep dive not quite so deep.

Conway Farms is a par-71 layout, stretching out to a moderate 7,198 yards and featured three par 5s, four par 3s and 11 par 4s. Each of the par 5s are 575 yards or longer, so length off the tee could be a determining factor for par 5 scoring this week. Of course, with ZJ as the defending champ it's certainly possible that great wedge play will negate any length issues.

As much as I like to rely on stats for a proportional amount of my research, we are reaching the point of the season where current form really starts to separate the field above all others. Perhaps it's because there are only 70 players in the field, so the cream is more likely to rise to the top. Adding to the complexity, we only have four rounds of which to glean valuable statistical information from this course. Knowing that, stats are much less relevant this week.

I will take a very hard look at current form and give the 2013 results a study before releasing my power rankings later this week. Until then, happy research!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Presidents Cup - Reaction to the picks

It's an impossible task. Nick Price and Jay Haas had to select two players out of a pool of highly qualified candidates to round out their respective Presidents Cup teams. No matter the selections, fans and media alike would scrutinize and criticize.

Let's join that parade and take a hard look at the decisions, both on the surface and a little below the crust.

Starting with Price, the man who announced first, I think he nailed it.

Steven Bowditch was so close to earning his spot that it would have been heartbreaking to see him miss out on his first Presidents Cup by such a narrow margin. He was a winner on the PGA TOUR in 2015 and is playing his best golf ever. He's also battled the demons of depression and been a success story for others that do. I'm not sure how that pick could be argued.

Sang-moon Bae, 20th on the points list, was also the right call. This reminds me of Mike Weir when he represented the Internationals when Canada hosted the event. And how did that turn out? Didn't Weir beat Tiger in Singles? Bae's pending military service in a couple of months adds to the story line.

The task Jay Haas faced was a bit taller and more complex.

Before we get into the picks of Bill Haas and Phil Mickelson, let's take a deeper look at Jay Haas.

Several things stand out about Jay.

  • He was and is extremely popular among his peers. Finding a player that has a bad thing to say about Jay is pretty much impossible. It's always been that way. He even had a groundswell of support for being a Ryder Cup captain despite never winning a major. 
  • This is his shot as a captain. Probably his only shot. While this isn't necessarily his legacy, it's part of it. Some of Davis Love III's legacy might be the 2016 Ryder cup, but that's not Jay's problem. That said, picking a young guy would probably benefit DL3 than Haas. 
Now for the picks.

When Haas said the words "Phil Mickelson", I was shocked. I thought Brooks Koepka and Bill Haas should have been the picks. Mickelson was 30th on the points list and hasn't done anything this year. But Jay's decision started to make sense as he explained it. 

It became clear that Haas not only talked to his vice captains, but also most (if not all) the members of the team for input. If the overwhelming answer was "we want Phil", as it seems to have been, then this decision starts to make some sense. If the 10 players already on the team wanted to go to battle with Phil by their side, then what message would the captain have sent to the troops to go against the team's wishes?

Now for Bill.

Ask yourself this. If Fred Couples was the captain this year and Jay Haas wasn't in the mix, would anyone really argue with Couples taking Bill Haas as the 11th man on the points list and with a win this season? A veteran of two Presidents Cups with performances a little better than his record would indicate? Of course not.

Many captains, including Jack Nicklaus on multiple occasions, have made it the standard to take the first man out in the Presidents Cup. It's actually an exception when it doesn't happen for the Yanks. 

That should be enough to close the case. If Bill sat 14th on the list and was selected, then there would be more to this. As it played out, this was not a controversial pick. 

I think Bill made a great point in the 24 hours leading up to the picks. I'm summarizing, but he said it wouldn't be fair to him to be overlooked by his father specifically because his father is the captain. 

I actually found myself in a similar situation once. 

I grew up loving baseball. I would play all day every day if I could. When I got to high school, my father happened to be my high school principal. It also just so happened that the head varsity and J.V. baseball coaches used to coach football with my father before he went into administration. They both had known me since birth. 

Wonder how long vice captains DL3 and Freddie Couples have known Billy Haas?

Back to the story.

One day at lunch, just before tryouts started, the head J.V. coach came and got me and took me outside and we sat down on some stairs. He informed me that my dad just had a meeting with both of the coaches and told them that, if it was close, they were to cut me to avoid the look of impropriety. 

I was immediately crushed, because I knew I would be on the bubble in a best-case scenario. I felt I could hold my own, but at a big school it would be hard for me to stand out. 

To my relief, the coach then told me that the two of them had talked after the meeting with my father and basically said "screw him." 

I was very proud to wear the uniform I'd dreamed of wearing a few weeks later. 

Just like Bill Haas has played golf for years with the guys on this years Presidents Cup roster and has played with many of those that were just left off, I had played with most of the guys I was trying out against and that ended up being my teammates for years as well. I've heard nothing but support for the Bill pick from players that didn't make the team, and I never caught any grief from anyone at my high school either. 

Do some members of the media or some fans not like that the father picked his son? Probably, but who cares. Last time I checked, none of them are hitting any shots in Korea, and those that are are on board with it. Did a parent somewhere feel like I shouldn't have worn a high school baseball uniform and that their son should have? Probably, but I never sensed it from any of the other kids that weren't on the team or those that were. I don't think it cost us any games. 

While my father and I are now fine, I'd be willing to bet that the Haas family vacation is going a little smoother than the remainder of my freshman year of high school went back home. 

Haters will hate and debaters will debate. From my seat, I agree completely with what Nick Price did and can't take issue with the calls of Jay Haas. 

See you next week with a BMW Championship preview!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Deutsche Bank Championship - Power Ranking and One-and-Done

The Deutsche Bank Championship is primed for a Friday start, and here is a power ranking and one-and-done selection to complete our research. Feel free to jump back to the Preview for additional information on the DBC and TPC Boston.

Off we go!

  1. Jason Day - Anytime you win three of your last four starts, you get the top spot.
  2. Jordan Spieth - Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and I think the same principal could apply this week. The last time he missed a cut, he tied for second in his next start (Colonial CC). Has a T4 on his TPC Boston resume in 2013.
  3. Bubba Watson - Two top-three finishes in his last three starts is a nice trend, and he's made seven of his nine cuts at TPC Boston. Banking on his form being a bigger deal than his course history, which does not include a top 10. 
  4. Rory McIlroy - Already a winner at this venue, he's back for the first time since his 17th at the PGA Championship. It's time for him to heat up.
  5. Henrik Stenson - Looked the part in last week's runner-up finish and is a past winner of this event.
  6. Justin Rose - Has two top fives in his last three starts and two top fives at TPC Boston. Good enough for me, given his class.
  7. Dustin Johnson - On a course that favors longer players, he has made all five of his cuts with a pair of T4s. 
  8. Matt Kuchar - Is 9/11 with five top 25s, which is both not surprising and a reason to give him a hard look.
  9. Jim Furyk - Always a trusted hand for a top-10 finish, he's 10/10 with six top 25s and three top 10s at the DBC.
  10. Brooks Koepka - Earns the final spot inside the top 10 due to his recent form. I'm ignoring his week at The Barclays because that course isn't a good fit for him on paper. This one is.
  11. Robert Streb
  12. Louis Oosthuizen
  13. Bill Haas
  14. Webb Simpson
  15. Paul Casey
  16. Brendan Steele
  17. Brandt Snedeker
  18. Billy Horschel
  19. Russell Henley
  20. Phil Mickelson 
  21. Zach Johnson
  22. Jason Bohn
  23. Tony Finau
  24. Justin Thomas 
  25. Ryan Palmer

With the pickings slim, I'm rolling with the course history angle and taking Russell Henley.

Best of luck to all this week!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Deutsche Bank Championship - Preview

The second leg of the FedExCup Playoffs is upon us, and TPC Boston is the stage for the Deutsche Bank Championship. Here is a preview to get you off and running with your research.

The top 100 players in the FedExCup standings have punched their ticket. That includes Chris Kirk, who returns to defend his 2014 title.

TPC Boston is a par-71 layout, topping out at 7,242 yards. The four par 3s, three par 5s, and 11 par 4s meet the expectations of the established par value, so no funky surprises lurk on the card. The fairways and greens are Bentgrass, so Bermuda and Poa Annua experts have no advantage.

Here is a list of winners and runners-up since 2005:

  • 2005 - Winner - Olin Browne (14-under 270) over Jason Bohn (271)
  • 2006 - Winner - Tiger Woods (268) over Vijay Singh (270)
  • 2007 - Winner - Phil Mickelson (268) over Arron Oberholser, Brett Wetterich and Tiger Woods (270)
  • 2008 - Winner - Vijay Singh (262) over Mike Weir (267)
  • 2009 - Winner - Steve Stricker (267) over Jason Dufner and Scott Verplank (268)
  • 2010 - Winner - Charley Hoffman (262) over Jason Day, Luke Donald and Geoff Ogilvy (267)
  • 2011 - Winner - Webb Simpson (269) over Chez Reavie in a playoff
  • 2012 - Winner - Rory McIlroy (264) over Louis Oosthuizen (265) 
  • 2013 - Winner - Henrik Stenson (262) over Steve Stricker (264)
  • 2014 - Winner - Chris Kirk (269) over Russell Henley, Billy Horschel and Geoff Ogilvy (271)

For those preparing a statistical deep dive, it’s wise to factor in par 4 scoring average since there are 11. While exceptions can be found, history says players who are long off the tee have held an advantage versus those who are not. Ball-striking appears to take precedent over the flat stick, so consider strokes gained: tee-to-green over putting.

We will return later in the week with a power ranking and a one-and-done selection. Until then, happy research!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Barclays - Power Ranking and One-and-Done

The Playoffs are set to begin with The Barclays, and here is this week's power ranking and one-and-done to complete our research.

Let's get it started

  1. Jordan Spieth - No course history, but his form has rendered even bad history irrelevant. First outing holding the title of numero uno in the world, so we'll see if that has any impact.
  2. Jason Day - Fresh off his win at the PGA Championship, he returns to Plainfield CC where he tied for 13th in 2011. 
  3. Justin Rose - Cracked the top four in his last three TOUR starts and tied for sixth at this venue in the lone hosting back in 2011.
  4. Matt Kuchar - The runner-up in 2011 has two top 10s in his last three starts. Form meets history.
  5. Dustin Johnson - Brought Plainfield to its knees in 2011, winning at 19-under through a mere 54 holes. Form has been a minor question mark since his U.S. Open collapse. Starting fast of late, but fading on the weekend.
  6. Brooks Koepka - Went T6-T5-T6 in his last three starts. Any questions?
  7. Brandt Snedeker - Gets a hard look in this spot due mainly to his T3 in 2011. Current form is average by his standards, if not a tad below.
  8. Paul Casey - Enters off a T3 at the Wyndham last week, and he makes his first appearance at Plainfield CC.
  9. Bubba Watson - Missed the cut here in 2011, but we all know poor weather isn't exactly Bubba's calling card. 
  10. Webb Simpson - Always known as a course horse, he tied for 10th here in 2011 and enters off a T6 at the Wyndham.
  11. Bill Haas 
  12. Russell Henley
  13. Charl Schwartzel
  14. Rickie Fowler
  15. Scott Piercy
  16. Robert Streb
  17. Jim Furyk
  18. Zach Johnson
  19. Hideki Matsuyama 
  20. Patrick Reed

I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel a bit in the OAD at this point in the season, as I'm not a big believer of saving guys. My selection came down to Russell Henley and Charl Schwartzel. While I have Henley slightly higher, Schwartzel is trending well with a T31, T37 and T3 in his last three starts and must make a move if he wants to keep advancing. 

That's good enough for me! Charl it is!

Best of luck to all!