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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Zurich Classic of New Orleans - Fantasy

For the opening round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, it appears the weather will likely favor the early tee times. The wind will be low in the morning, but freshening in the afternoon. It's not enough to panic if you want to play a late tee time, but just enough to favor the early wave.

With that in mind, here are my Yahoo! starters:

A-List - Starting Kevin Stadler, with Rickie Fowler on the bench.
B-List - Matt Every and Graham DeLaet starting with Keegan Bradley and Justin Rose on the bench
C-List - Chris Stroud starting with Ryan Palmer on the bench.

Best of luck to all!

As a side note and for those so inclined, say a prayer for my college friend Allen, his wife Courtney and their daughter Zoe. It was discovered this week that Zoe (I believe around three-years-old) has a malignant tumor on her kidney. As a father of two young children, I can't imagine what they are going through.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Zurich Classic of New Orleans - One and Done

Before we dive into the one-and-done for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, I want to remind everyone that my Yahoo! and Golf Channel lineups are posted on Rotoworld in Playing the Tips. Shameless plug, I'm excited that I cracked the top 100 in the Yahoo! game last week (currently 83rd for the season) and am equally excited to have heard from a number of you that are on solid rolls as well. Hopefully we continue that roll!

With Justin Rose already burned with a missed cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and Graham DeLaet used on a T70 I narrowed my focus to Rickie Fowler. He led off my power ranking and I really like his 6/T5 run at the Shell Houston Open and Masters coming into this week, as well as his respectable history in his three trips to TPC Louisiana.

I looked at Rickie from numerous angles, but focuses on his GIR in his previous events here, as well as his trends leading up to those and his GIR stats in his last few starts. The reason I did that is because, at 103rd, his GIR stat is his most concerning. What I found, was that this is one of his best GIR events on the PGA TOUR, so I rest easier.

With that checking out, I decided to look no further and dub Rickie Fowler my OAD this week.

I will return tomorrow with Yahoo! starters and any late lineup changes. Until then, best of luck to all!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Zurich Classic of New Orleans - Power Ranking

At first pass, the field at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans offers slim pickings in terms of a Power Ranking. Two years ago Jason Dufner won his first PGA TOUR event here, and now this has become a stop worth skipping for him. Ditto for past winner, Bubba Watson.

The weaker field has everything to do with the spot in the schedule, falling two weeks after the Masters and two weeks prior to THE PLAYERS.  For an elite player, this is no man’s land. Hilton Head offers a nice come down from the tension of the Masters for those that want to have a little seaside party. Quail Hollow, next week’s venue, has recently been considered one of the favorite stops on TOUR for the game’s A-List until the debacle of the greens last year. While I haven’t heard, I have a feeling the membership at Quail won’t allow for another national embarrassment and will have the putting surfaces as slick as ever.

One thing omitted from yesterday’s preview is the recent history of breakthrough winners of the high-end variety. Dufner did it two years ago and Billy Horschel capped off a hot run with his only PGA TOUR win last year.

With that in mind, here we go:
  1. Rickie Fowler – It’s all coming together for Puma Orange, as he posted a sixth to go with a T5 at the Masters in his last two starts. His three trips to TPC Louisiana have resulted in a run of T26-T10-T32.
  2. Justin Rose – Really the only other option to lead off this list, Rose has tied for 10th and 15th in his last two stops at the Zurich Classic. He also enters off a T8, MC , T14 (Masters).
  3. Graham DeLaet – Keeping with the theme of the recent breakthroughs at TPC Louisiana, he has to be on that very short list of guys overdue for a win. Don’t let his missed cut at the Masters throw you off, as those greens are difficult to navigate for a first-timer. Before that he had posted a T8 and a T19, so his form is just fine. Eight of his 10 rounds have been under par in New Orleans, even managing a T4 in 2012.
  4. Russell Knox – If it’s not going to be GDL, Knox may be the next best option for a breakthrough. You have to love his T43-T26-T9 trend headed into the week, and his only prior start here was a T30 in 2012.
  5. Matt Every – While we didn’t place a big emphasis on SGP this week, it’s worth noting he leads the category. He’s also consistently posting his career-best results at most venues right now. His current best at TPC Louisiana is a T32, but he’s a virtual lock to improve on that.
  6. Ryan Palmer – Had the best splits of all the players I studied this week, ranking 15th in GIR, 15th in driving distance, 16th in total driving, sixth in par 4 scoring average and seventh in par 5 scoring average. Tied for seventh in his most recent PGA TOUR start and had a playoff loss at The Honda Classic three starts ago. He’s made five of his six cuts at TPC Louisiana, but his only top 30 was a T4 in 2012.
  7. Keegan Bradley – Sometimes he’s probably overrated on lists like these, but I’m not sure who to replace him with. He tied for 26th here in 2011 and then missed the cut in each of his last two stops. He also is a T43 and a missed cut at the Masters removed from his runner-up at Bay Hill. I wouldn’t blow a one-and-done on him, but wouldn’t mind having him on my Yahoo! bench just in case.
  8. Patrick Reed – This is as good a spot as any for him to break out of his dry spell since claiming to be a top-five player in the world. His two finishes at TPC Louisiana are a solid T24 and a missed cut. That he ranks 10th in par 5 scoring average should come in handy, as the winner usually plays the par 5s in 10- or 11-under-par for the week.
  9. Nick Watney – His course history deserves better than this, but his current form deserves worse. I guess you could say this is a compromise. Still solid tee-to-green, but isn’t scoring his ball this year all that well.
  10. Kevin Stadler – Backed up a T8 at the Masters with some weekend television coverage at the RBC Heritage before falling into a tie for 38th. He tied for eighth here last year. He ranks 10th in total driving and 20th in GIR, so it will once again all come down to his putting.
  11. Chris Stroud – Similar to GDL and Knox, Stroud has been pining for a win and has finished between T21 and T26 in three of his last four trips to the Bayou. A T31-T12-T48 run in his last three TOUR starts. Despite being challenged for length off the tee, he ranks sixth in par 5 scoring average.
  12. Jonathan Byrd – His last four outings have been his best, rattling off a T12-T32-T19-T31 run in his last four starts and satisfying his Major Medical in the process. Don’t put too much weight on his MC here last year, as it was one of his first starts back from wrist surgery. Before that, his T12 in 2008 stands out as a highlight.

Next 5 (alphabetical): Lucas Glover, Charles Howell III, Jeff Overton, John Senden, Cameron Tringale

Yes, I left Billy Horschel off the list on purpose. His form compared to what it was last year this time is significantly different.

Looking for some wild cards? Consider Hudson Swafford, Stuart Appleby and two guys that made some noise at Harbour Town last weekend in Ben Martin and Nicholas Thompson.

Worth mentioning, Brooks Koepka Monday Qualified for this event with an 8-under 64 after my research for the Power Ranking was completed. He needs just seven FedExCup points for Special Temporary Membership, and very well could be a factor this week. 

We will return tomorrow to look at some games. Until then, best of luck to all!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Zurich Classic of New Orleans - Monday Qualifier

For those interested, the final four spots for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will be contested in an 18-hole open qualifier on Monday. Click here for the link to the main page for the qualifier.

Of note, Brooks Koepka is in the qualifier and doesn't need much more than to make a cut in a PGA TOUR event to secure Special Temporary Membership. It seems that he is going to go the Patrick Reed 2012 route for now.

Zurich Classic of New Orleans - Preview

The Zurich Classic of New Orleans returns to TPC Louisiana for the ninth time in the last ten years, and it's time to kick the week off with a little preview. Of note, the only time since 2005 that TPC Louisiana did not host was 2006 when the tournament returned to English Turn.

TPC Louisiana is a par 72 layout, stretching out to 7,425 yards in each of the last two trips. It offers the full bounty of par 5s and par 3s. Because players need to take it pretty deep to win here, Par 5 and Par 4 scoring average are both of importance this week.

Here is a look at the winners and runners-up since 2005, with the omission of 2006:

  • 2005 - Tim Petrovic (13-under 275) over James Driscoll (275) in a playoff
  • 2007 - Nick Watney (15-under 273) over Ken Duke (276)
  • 2008 - Andres Romero (275) over Peter Lonard (276)
  • 2009 - Jerry Kelly (274) over Charles Howell III, Rory Sabbatini and Charlie Wi (275)
  • 2010 - Jason Bohn (270) over Jeff Overton (272)
  • 2011 - Bubba Watson (273) over Webb Simpson (273) in a playoff
  • 2012 - Jason Dufner (269) over Ernie Els (269) in a playoff
  • 2013 - Billy Horschel (268) over D.A. Points (269)
In my early research, I've noticed that length is generally a good thing, but some of the longest on TOUR haven't fared all that well. That leads me to put an emphasis on total driving with a tilt towards distance, rather than to look only at driving distance. As is the case most weeks, GIR is a significant stat. What I've also noticed is that excellent putting isn't a must, likely because the par 5s offer birdie opportunities by finding the greens in two.

We will also take a look at the usual doses of course history and current form and see what we can come up with. Check back tomorrow and we will crank out our weekly Power Ranking. 

Until then, happy research!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

RBC Heritage - One-and-done & Fantasy

Before we get to the RBC Heritage one-and-done and the Yahoo! starters, let me first apologize for not posting yesterday. When I sat down to pen my blog last night, my laptop decided to no longer recognize any wireless signals. I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but I wasn't able to make other arrangements quickly enough.

After correctly tagging Bubba Watson with the one-and-done last week, the pressure this week is to follow that up with another solid performance to keep the momentum going. Considering how far along we are in the season, I have many premium options available this week.

All that said, I’m letting the weather guide me this week. If you look back to earlier in the week, I mentioned there are two styles that seem to play well at Harbour Town. There is the group of elite tee-to-green players, and the scrambling/putting crew.

The weather is driving my choice this week for a couple of reasons. It’s supposed to be a windy week at Harbour Town. It always is, but this week looks particularly breezy. Rain is also in play on Friday.

If I had Luke Donald, I’d probably play him. I don’t, because I plugged him in for a T4 at the Valspar. I decided not to burn G-Mac because his record wasn't very good here before his win last year and he has the added distraction of defending. Kuchar is hot, but I don’t want to use him on a week where weather could spoil my one shot with him. Same philosophy goes for Spieth.

I narrowed my focus to Jim Furyk and Kevin Na. Both are trending very well and both offer nice form and course history. The way the weather is shaping up, I believe the premium will be on putting/scrambling, as well as scoring (especially par 4). Furyk ranks a solid 34th in scrambling, but is 154th in SGP and 132nd in par 4 scoring average. Na ranks second in scrambling, third in par 4 scoring average and 15th in SGP. That answered my question and is the reason I’m going with Na.

As for the Yahoo! starting lineup, I don’t really see a big tee time advantage. Wind will be steady all day, with the temperatures below seasonal averages. Thursday morning will be cold.

I’m starting Donald (A), Furyk (B), Spieth (B) and Na (C). That leaves Kuchar (A), Every (B), Johnson, Z. (B) and McDowell (C) on the pine.

I will tweet future lineups later in the week @RyanGolfBlogger.

Best of luck to all this week!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Quick Note

There will be no post tonight due to computer issues. I will return with one-and-done and Yahoo! starters tomorrow.
Check out Rotoworld.com for my entire Yahoo! and Golf Channel lineup.