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Sunday, April 26, 2015

WGC-Cadillac Match Play - Power Ranking

While it may be a bit premature to publish the power rankings for the WGC-Cadillac Match Play before the bracket is released, my schedule this week dictates just that. That said, there are so many variables in play this week that it will take a much larger degree of luck than usual to take a big step forward in most formats.

Here is a breakdown of the dozen players that would seem to have the skills and current from to compete at TPC Harding Park.

  1. Jordan Spieth - He's got a game that is traveling to any course, so why not? Due to format, a OAD play here makes no sense. 
  2. Rory McIlroy - See Spieth on the one-and-done, but clearly he's playing his way into form and should certainly be a factor this week.
  3. Ian Poulter - Ranked 6th in Par 4 Scoring Average coming out of Hilton Head and has been playing very good golf of late. Probably the chalk in the OAD format, and with good reason. He will be a popular play in many formats this week, which should make his draw worth watching.
  4. Jason Day - Disappointed at the Masters, but is on point in New Orleans at the time I'm writing this. He's the defending champ, so we know the format fits his game even if the venue has changes.
  5. Patrick Reed - He lives for this format. Another guy who could be in play for a OAD this week depending on his draw.
  6. Henrik Stenson - Tied for third at Harding Park back in 2005 (stroke play) and was on a serious roll before the flu stalled his momentum at the Masters.
  7. Sergio Garcia - We know what he can do in the Ryder Cup and we also know he tied for third at the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship at Harding Park, just like Stenson.
  8. Matt Kuchar - We know he can excel in this format, due in large part to his ability not to beat himself. Played well at Hilton Head after a rough stretch.
  9. Jimmy Walker - Legit contender, especially after a really steady Ryder Cup debut last year. His record didn't indicate how well he played.
  10. Dustin Johnson - Wish he had a better Par 4 Scoring Average, but his talent and performance this year have been elite.
  11. Paul Casey - A little further down the Official World Golf Ranking compared to his peers on this list, but he's hot and offers plenty of Ryder Cup experience. He's also a past runner-up in this event. Again, watch his draw closely.
  12. Hunter Mahan - Past winner and runner-up at this event coming off a top 10 at the Masters. Easy inclusion. 
I will return later in the week to nail down my OAD pick. My final advice until then is to watch the draw closely to determine where there could be some week brackets. This event is all about identifying the guys who have the easiest path to victory in pool play for a spot in the final 16. 

Best of luck to all!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

WGC-Cadillac Match Play - Preview

The WGC-Cadillac Match Play offers quite the wild card right in the heart of the PGA TOUR schedule, and here is a preview to get you started.

TPC Harding Park is the venue, taking over for the first time in the Match Play. Recent tournaments contested at Harding Park included the 2009 Presidents Cup, won by the Americans, and the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship.

It's hard to glean too much from those tournaments. What we do know is that Tiger Woods went a perfect 5-0-0 in the Presidents Cup and beat John Daly in a playoff to win the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship. Joining Woods and Daly in the top five back in 2005 were Collin Montgomerie,  Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia 

TPC Harding Park is a 7,127 yard par-71 layout featuring three par 5s, including the first and the 18th holes, to go with four par 3s and 11 par 4s. For those wanting to dig into scoring stats, par 4 scoring average could be a big factor since most matches will only include two par 5s. 

The format of this tournament is also a new wrinkle. There will be 16 pods of four players who will compete in a traditional round-robin style. The winner of each pod will advance to the final 16 and play in a bracket format. 

That format is good for some of the stronger players, as they aren't automatically eliminated due to one loss. It's tricky for gamers and punters.

Depending on the format of game(s) that you intend to play this week, strategies will vary. I tend to look at weeks like this as a survival week. I'm OK with not making a big move up a leaderboard in a season-long format, but hope to not give up ground either.

As I will highlight in my power ranking, current form and overall history in match-play formats will trump most everything else.

I will return with a power ranking soon. Until then, happy research and best of luck surviving what could prove to be a crapshoot! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Zurich Classic of New Orleans - Power Ranking & One-and-done

Our research is coming together nicely for what could be a wild week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Before we dive into the power rankings, I want to highlight a point I made in the preview on Sunday. That is, this has been a nice spot for breakthrough winners. While there are several elite options at the top of the power ranking due to their relative value, don't be surprised if a budding star a little further down the list picks up a win.

Here we go:

  1. Dustin Johnson - Statistically, he's as perfect of a fit as you are going to find on any course at any tournament, when it comes to his projection for TPC Louisiana. He's first in strokes gained; tee-to-green, second in approaches from over 200 yards and third in par 5 scoring average. He missed the cut here in 2008, but who really cares about that in 2015. Form is excellent.
  2. Justin Rose - Cracked the top 15 here in each of his last three trips and is fresh off a T2 at the Masters. 
  3. Jason Day - It will be easy to fade him due to his mediocre result at a Masters where much was expected, but don't overlook his class in a weak field when expectations may be tempered a bit.
  4. Harris English - Another stud in terms of the stat sheet this week, English is playing average or slightly above of late and has a T6 to his name at TPC Louisiana. He tends to tease more than he delivers, but this could be his week.
  5. Billy Horschel - Probably not quite hot enough to consider for a one-and-done, but he is a past winner here (2013) and appears to be dangerously close to putting together a run in the near future.
  6. Rickie Fowler - Delivered to the tune of a T12 at the Masters and offers steady course history in this event. 
  7. Keegan Bradley - A T5 and a T22 in his last two starts this season have him quietly trending in a good direction. While he's missed half of his four cuts at this venue, he did have a T8 last year. As with Horschel, it would be idea to wait for a little longer sustained run before a OAD play, but he's valuable in most formats.
  8. Justin Thomas - Fits the category of a budding star due to break through sooner rather than later and enters off a T11 at Harbour Town. That he is fourth in par 5 scoring average should play well at this ballpark.
  9. Morgan Hoffmann - Mediocre history here with a T21 and a T32, but don't miss the fact that six of his eight rounds have been under par. Has a pair of top 10s in his last three starts, which surrounds a solid T28 in his first Masters. I wish the stat line was a little better, but he fits the mold of a potential winner in most other ways.
  10. John Peterson - The LSU product will enjoy this week for many reasons, and his T8 in 2013 could be one of those. He's cracked the top 20 in his last two starts this season and been remarkably steady at making cuts. Not sure he has the firepower to pull off the win this week, but he could very well be in the conversation deep into the weekend.
  11. Lucas Glover 
  12. Daniel Berger
  13. Brendan Steele
  14. Charles Howell III
  15. Kyle Reifers
  16. Sean O'Hair
  17. Steve Stricker
  18. Brendon de Jonge
  19. Nick Watney
  20. Kevin Kisner

I've done a pretty good job of stealing my own thunder in terms of the direction I'm looking for my OAD this week. Justin Thomas would have been in the conversation, but I've already burned him (T17 at WMPO). 

My attention is focused on Harris English, Morgan Hoffmann and maybe John Peterson. Because I said "maybe" John Peterson, that pretty well leaves English and Hoffmann. 

I really want to take Hoffmann this week, so I'm going to. It's not so much a "feel" pick, as I don't believe in those in the purest sense. Rather, it's a combination of "A-" form, "B" history and "C+" stats to go with the trend of first-time winners at this event. He fits that final "trend" to an "A", which is good enough for me. 

I will throw out one final caveat that I will make a check as to the weather about this time tomorrow. There are thunderstorms expected on Thursday, and should I find that Hoffmann is on the obvious bad end of a draw, I might make a swap. I doubt it, but I might.

If I do, I will update here and on Twitter.

Best of luck to all!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Zurich Classic of New Orleans - Preview

The PGA TOUR turns to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans for what is likely the best menu of the season. Seung-yul Noh is set to defend at TPC Louisiana, and here is a preview to get you off and running in your research.

TPC Louisiana has been the host of this event from 2007 until current, with the 2005 edition also occurring at this venue. It is a par-72 layout that stretches out to a formidable 7,425 yards. It features the expected four par 5s, four par 3s and 10 par 4s.

Here is a list of winners and runners-up for those years.

  • 2005:  Winner: Tim Petrovic (13-under 275) over James Driscoll in a playoff
  • 2007:  Winner: Nick Watney (273) over Ken Duke (276)
  • 2008:  Winner: Andres Romero (275) over Peter Lonard (276)
  • 2009:  Winner: Jerry Kelly (274) over Charles Howell III, Rory Sabbatini, Charlie Wi (275)
  • 2010:  Winner: Jason Bohn (270) over Jeff Overton (272)
  • 2011:  Winner: Bubba Watson (273) over Webb Simpson in a playoff
  • 2012:  Winner: Jason Dufner (269) over Ernie Els in a playoff
  • 2013:  Winner: Billy Horschel (268) over D.A. Points (269)
  • 2014:  Winner: Seung-yul Noh (269) over Andrew Svoboda and Robert Streb (271)
The off-the-cuff reaction to that list is that it is very heavy on ball-strikers. That would make strokes gained: tee-to-green a worthy metric to consider. This is also a potential landing spot for first-time winners, so consider taking a flier on a guy who is trending towards a breakthrough. Par 5 scoring is pretty critical, as all four are under 600 yards and offer vital birdie opportunities. 

With that as the backdrop, I will dig deep into the research and emerge with a power ranking later this week.

Until then, happy research!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

RBC Heritage - One-and-done

With the first round of the RBC Heritage just hours away, it's time to wrap up this week's coverage and declare a one-and-done.

I'll keep it short and sweet. The more I looked at this, the more it came down to two players. They are Russell Henley and Charley Hoffman. It was close in all regards. Both offer top 10s in the recent past at Harbour Town. Both offer solid play of late.

I could have almost flipped a coin. The clincher for me is expectations. Both of Russell Henley's wins have come when he entered the week with no expectations. He is now dealing with just the opposite. For one of the first times in his career, people expect him to have a big week.

Hoffman, on the other hand, is more of an afterthought after falling off the front page of the Masters leaderboard. No matter what pressure he faces this week, he won't be playing in the final pairing in the third round of the Masters.

While it doesn't look like much more than a breeze this week, I like Hoffman in wind. While it's true that he isn't much of a winner, I'll gladly take a top 10 and move on this week if Hoffman offers me one.

Charley nudges out Henley as my pick this week, but rest assured that I will be investing in Henley in my DFS lineups.

Monday, April 13, 2015

RBC Heritage - Power Ranking

The RBC Heritage is upon us, and here is this week's power ranking to keep you moving forward in your research. I encourage you to refer back to yesterday's preview for additional information on the history of this tournament and Harbour Town Golf Links.

Without further ado, here we go!

  1. Jordan Spieth - I can't fathom anyone else leading off this power ranking.
  2. Charley Hoffman - Contended at the Masters before snaring a top 10 and hasn't finished worse than a T11 in his last three starts. Offers some nice course history at Harbour Town, going four for five with two top 10s. 
  3. Matt Kuchar - Gets the nod more because of his course history and class than his current form, but so it goes with a relatively weak and small field. He's 10/11 and has two other top 10s to go with last year's win.
  4. Webb Simpson - Remember the rule with Webb. When the course history lines up, that is more important than form with him. He's four for five with three top 15s including a runner-up finish at Harbour Town and managed a steady T28 in the Masters last week. 
  5. Patrick Reed - Course history isn't all that impressive, but there has to be some reason he's returning for the third time. Class and stats rule in this one, as we know what can happen when he sniffs the lead.
  6. Luke Donald - This has everything to do with course history. Try a T2, T3, 2, T37, T3 and 2 in his last six trips to Harbour Town. One has to overlook some messy current form if they are to invest in his direction this week.
  7. Zach Johnson - Ball-striking is a go if the putter will cooperate with two top-10 finishes in his last three starts including a T9 at the Masters. Only has two top 10s/25s at Harbour Town, but his value this week is in his current form.
  8. Russell Henley - Hasn't missed a cut all year and finished 4th and 21st in his last two starts leading up to this one. Has a T6 and a missed cut at Harbour Town, but his current trend is headed more to the former than the latter. 
  9. Jim Furyk - With a T40, T58 and missed cut in his last three starts, there's clearly something not clicking. He's 13/16 with a win, two runners-up and a T7 last year in this event, so he's can't be faded any further than this.
  10. Boo Weekley - Course history is clearly in his favor, as he's 8/8 with five top 25s, three top 10s and two wins. He's right at home on the South Carolina coast.
  11. Ian Poulter
  12. Brandt Snedeker
  13. Brendon Todd
  14. Russell Knox
  15. Pat Perez
  16. Matt Every
  17. Ben Martin
  18. Rory Sabbatini
  19. Jason Kokrak
  20. Charles Howell III
I will return later this week with a OAD selection. 

While I have Jordan Spieth available, it's hard to pull the trigger this week with a hangover possible and the purse small. I've been asked where I may play him, and the two spots that come to mind are THE PLAYERS and the TOUR Championship. 

The names I'm considering the hardest right now are Charley Hoffman, Luke Donald and Russell Henley. Kevin Na would have been on that list had he not withdrawn earlier today.

Once tee times are announced and the weather (wind) examined for the first two rounds, we'll be back to declare this week's OAD.

Until then, best of luck to all!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

RBC Heritage - Preview

With the 2015 Masters winding to an end, the PGA TOUR readies for the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links. While there is no doubt that a trip to Augusta National Golf Links is the equivalent to adult Disney World for golf fans, Harbour Town is more like a trip to a familiar bar with your buddies. It's laid back, nobody freaks out if a cell phone comes out of a pocket, it might not be completely quiet on every shot, and the list goes on. 

Harbour Town is one of the old gems on the PGA TOUR. It's a par 71 that stretches out to a mere 7,101 yards and including three par 5s, four par 3s and 11 par 4s. One of the par 5s is reachable by the entire field and another is essentially a three-shot hole due to the angles of the hole. 

Traditionally, two types of players show up on leaderboards at the Heritage. Excellent ball-strikers and elite putters. Harbour Town is a very tight layout and offers very small greens. That means you either need to find those greens in regulation as often as possible, or you need to be able to putt and scramble. Here is a list of winners and runners-up since 2005.
  • 2005 - Winner: Peter Lonard (7-under 277) over Billy Andrade, Darren Clarke, Jim Furyk and Davis Love III (279)
  • 2006 - Winner: Aaron Baddeley (269) over Jim Furyk (270)
  • 2007 - Winner: Boo Weekley (270) over Ernie Els (271)
  • 2008 - Winner: Boo Weekley (269) over Aaron Baddeley and Anthony Kim (272)
  • 2009 - Winner: Brian Gay (264) over Briny Baird and Luke Donald (274)
  • 2010 - Winner: Jim Furyk (271) over Brian Davis in a playoff
  • 2011 - Winner: Brandt Snedeker (272) over Luke Donald in a playoff
  • 2012 - Winner: Carl Pettersson (270) over Zach Johnson (275)
  • 2013 - Winner: Graeme McDowell (275) over Webb Simpson in a playoff
  • 2014 - Winner: Matt Kuchar (273) over Luke Donald (274)

One other thing that stands out about that list is the quality of players included. 

Because of the two very different types of players that are identified at Harbour Town, a stats breakdown gets tricky. It would seem that strokes gained: tee-to-green would be a big one this week if for no other reason than there aren't that many big putts to be made this week. Scrambling matters because there are so many missed GIR due to the small size of the greens. That also brings proximity into play. While SGP should be less of a factor, converting one putts is a pretty big deal. Because of that, I'll take a look at one-putt percentage. 

We will return later in the week with this week's power ranking and one-and-done. 

Until then, happy research!