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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open Predictions - Odds

The current odds for the Waste Management Phoenix Open are out and can be viewed here http://www.madduxsports.com/golf-betting-lines.html.  At the time of this post, here are the guys who are 33/1 or better.

  • 14/1 Webb Simpson
  • 20/1 Brandt Snedeker
  • 22/1 Martin Laird
  • 25/1 Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Bill Haas,
  • 28/1 Keegan Bradley
  • 33/1 Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Mark Wilson, Charles Howell III, Ian Poulter, Kevin Na
Coming into this week, I'm really high on Martin Laird for this tournament.  I think it's going to be tough for Mark Wilson to go back to back in both this tournament and to win two starts in a row.  I also think it's going to be tough for Snedeker to win back to back.  While I'm not high on Mickelson, I think 25/1 is actually a good bet because I think there is better than a 1 in 25 chance he wins this week.  I also think there's a better chance that he misses the cut than wins.  Something about Kuchar doesn't feel right.  Fowler and Haas might, but I'm just not sure Haas is putting well and consistently enough to win.  I don't know that I'd be ready to bite on any of the 33/1 group.

Outside this group I find a few things interesting.  First is that Vegas has Kyle Stanley at 50/1.  Even though last week ended poorly, he was at least 100/1 to start the week last week, so he's getting a lot of respect from Vegas.  Jonathan Byrd at 50/1 and Cameron Tringale at 66/1 stick out as well.

In my fake money wagering, I'm down to $600 but I have felt for several weeks leading up to this that Martin Laird might be the guy this week.  The problem is, at 22/1 I could probably get similar odds after seeing how round 1 plays out.  If I was going to bet, I'd take a close look at Simpson, Laird, Fowler and Haas on the favorites and Jonathan Byrd or Cameron Tringale if I was wanting a little bit of a longer shot.

2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open Predictions - Fantasy

Predicting the right fantasy plays for the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open isn't an exact science, as Mark Wilson proved last year at this event.  There are, however, some pretty solid and safe choices based on past history of the event for specific players and player types.  Those types were covered in our preview on Monday.

For the Yahoo fantasy leagues, here are my picks:
  • A-List - There are a lot of really good options on this one.  I have strongly considered Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Kyle Stanley, Camilo Villegas, Matt Kuchar, Robert Garrigus and Phil Mickelson.  Kuch, Garrigus and Mickelson aren't off to the greatest start, but I'm having a hard time picking between Simpson, Bradley, Stanley and Villegas.  I'm starting Webb Simpson and putting Kyle Stanley on the bench.  I feel like Simpson is a really safe pick and I don't know what Stanley's going to do after last week, but 71-1/2 holes into last weeks tournament, I thought Stanley might go back to back, so I don't want to leave him off either.
  • B-List - Here are the contenders, and like the A-list, there are a lot of worthy choices.  You have to consider Brandt Snedeker, D.A. Points, Rickie Fowler, Brendon de Jonge, Mark Wilson, Bubba Watson, Bill Haas and Dustin Johnson.  I'll contradict my comments on the A-list and say it's rare that someone wins back to back, but Snedeker and Wilson have each won in their last starts.  That said, I'll start Haas and Fowler and put the defending champ Mark Wilson and last weeks champ Brandt Snedeker on the bench.
  • C-List - I'm starting Martin Laird who I absolutely love this week and keeping Jonathan Byrd on the bench.  J Byrd has some good history here.  Others to consider would be Aaron Baddeley who's a past champion, Pat Perez and Scott Piercy.
In the Golf Channel Fantasy Line up there are two events to pick from.

In the Qatar Masters, I'll take the following:
  • Group 1 - Sergio Garcia
  • Group 2 - Thomas Bjorn
  • Group 3 - Robert-Jan Derksen
  • Group 4 - Peter Hedblom
In the Waste Management Phoenix Open, I'll take:
  • Group 1 - Bill Haas over Webb Simpson
  • Group 2 - Martin Laird over Rickie Fowler, Jonathan Byrd, Mark Wilson and several others
  • Group 3 - Kyle Stanley over Camilo Villegas, Brendon de Jonge among others.  This isn't a sympathy pick.  I think he comes out with something to prove to more than just himself.
  • Group 4 - Kenny Perry - why not?  He's pretty long and knows how to make birdies.
Bottom line, there are a lot of tough picks this week as there are a lot of players that could come out on top.

Monday, January 30, 2012

2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open Preview

After a thrilling end to the Farmers Insurance Open, the schedule turns to the Waste Management Phoenix Open.  Highly regarded as one of the most exciting Tour stops of the year, the atmosphere on the Par 3 16th is unlike any hole in golf.  The signature hole is entirely surrounded by corporate sky boxes and spectators, and during peak times there can be as many as 100,000 over served fans on that one hole.  It is not uncommon to hear cheers and jeers on almost every tee shot.
We will get into player previews more specifically tomorrow, but the winning formula for the Waste Management Phoenix Open isn’t all that different from the Farmers Insurance Open. 
·    The winner is generally a highly regarded player who is not winning for the first time.  While there aren’t as many Major Champions listed as past winners as last week, there are a high number of Presidents Cup / Ryder Cup participants among the winners.
·    The course is played to a par 71 and the winning score is usually in the high teens, but can occasionally fall to the mid teens, or balloon to a really low score.
·    Often time, players who are very long fare well here.  There are several long par 4’s and length is also important on the Par 5’s.
I would look for the winner to play all four rounds at least under par, but most likely in the 60s and to throw in one pretty low round, like a 64 or 65.
Mark Wilson is the defending champion, but doesn’t really fit the mold of many of the past winners.  It will be interesting to see how he plays this week after having won his last start week before last. 
We said last week that the tournament could come down to a birdie on the par 5 18th, and we didn’t realize how right we were, even when Brandt Snedeker made that birdie.  This week, it may not be the 18th that will play the critical birdie opportunity, but the stretch from 15 to 17.  The par 5 15th is certainly reachable in two for the longer players, assuming they find the fairway.  Coming out of the fairway is important because the approach is to a semi-island green, so there is no bail out.  The par 3 16th isn’t that hard of a hole on the card, but when tens of thousands of fans are waiting to cheer or boo you, I would imagine it could be a nerve racking hole.  The par 4 17th is a hole that is drivable for most of the field, but if you over cook the drive there is water left.  The par 4 18th isn’t an easy hole with water left and bunkers right off the tee and an uphill approach.  You sometimes see birdies on 18, but I’d hate to have to make one to win or force a playoff.
In summary, it’s not out of the question for there to be a pretty wild swing over the final 4 holes of the tournament.
Check back tomorrow for our weekly fantasy preview!

2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open Monday Qualifier Results

Here is a link to the results of the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open Monday Qualifier http://swpga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/swpga12/event/swpga1262/contest/1/leaderboard.htm.  It reads like a fringe PGA Tour / Nationwide Tour leaderboard with all the established names competing.  I hope your favorite pro made it through!

Update!  Here is the final leaderboard.  The top three qualified with Kevin Kisner winning the playoff for the final spot.
Click to view complete leaderboard

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Waste Management Phoenix Open Monday Qualifier Tee Times

Here's a link to the tee times for the Waste Management Phoenix Open Monday Qualifier http://southwest.pga.com/gui/pgasouthwest35102/pageimages/HomePage/WMMondayQPairings.pdf.  Expect several withdrawals due to players earning spots into the tournament through other methods.  As soon as a results page is available, I will pass it along.

Farmers Insurance Open Final Round Thoughts / Kyle Stanley

The 2012 Farmers Insurance Open concluded with Brandt Snedeker as the champion, but that doesn't even begin to tell the story.  To Snedeker's credit, he shot a brilliant final round 67 which included a birdie on 18 that seemed meaningless at the time.  He then went on to birdie 18 in a playoff hole and then par 16 from an impossible situation.  No disrespect to Snedeker, but he's not exactly the story here.

Kyle Stanley led by as many as seven shots around the mid way portion of the round.  To be sure, Stanley looked on edge practically the whole round but always managed to make a putt or hit a clutch shot when he needed to.  He hit a terrible drive on 1, but managed an unlikely birdie.  He almost hit his tee shot O/B on 9, but managed another birdie.  He went through a stretch to start the back 9 where he missed 5 of his first 6 greens, but still played that stretch in only two over par due to some nice putting. 

When Stanley got to 16, he seemed to settle down.  Snedeker was in the process of making a bogey on 17 to give him a 4 shot lead.  Stanley hit his tee shot onto the putting surface and managed a two putt.  He then stood on 17 tee four up with two to play and striped a three wood down the middle and put a short iron 25 feet from the hole and made a stress free two putt.  Snedeker made a kick in birdie at 18, but it was assumed too little to late.

Kyle Stanley stood on the 18th tee needing only a double bogey 7 to win his first PGA Tour event.  Here's the part of the story when you expect to hear something like what happened to Robert Garrigus a few years ago where he yanks a drive a mile left, or you expect to hear about a Jean van de Velde collapse where he would have been better off playing the entire hole with 9 iron.  He didn't.  Stanley striped his best drive of the day down the left hand side of the fairway.

As he stood over his ball, he had the lie and plenty of distance to go at the Par 5 green in two, but he did what you hear every "expert" say you should do with a 3 shot lead.  He laid up.  At the time it seemed like a prudent move.  Leave yourself 75 or 80 yards in the fairway, throw a wedge on and 2 putt for a three shot win.  Two shots into the 18th hole and Stanley had played the hole perfectly. 

Then he hit the third shot.  It was a wedge that carried about 15 feet past the hole, but came in a little low and with a little too much spin.  And it just wouldn't stop rolling back towards the water.  As the ball fell from the green onto the rough and towards the water, CBS commentator David Feherety declared the ball safe.  Too bad for Stanley, the ball didn't listen and kept creeping down the rough until it found the water.

In what had to be a gut shot, Stanley had to drop across the water again and hit another wedge on.  He did, but he hit it about 40 feet above the hole and left himself a treacherous down hill putt.  He left that putt short and had three and a half feet for a double bogey 7 and the win, but missed to the left.

Now let's back up to what looked to be a "smart" decision, but turned out to be "out thinking the room."  Nick Faldo eluded to this after the fact too, but nobody said anything in real time.  After his drive, Stanley had a good lie in the fairway and a distance he could easily cover with a 3-wood and probably a 5-wood.  If he goes at that green in two, there is virtually no way he doesn't make a 7.  Think of the the worst case scenarios:
  • He airmails the green and hits the ball into the sky boxes.  He gets a free drop.  He chips something that lands just short of the putting surface with his third shot.  He chips his fourth shot on.  He proceeds to three putt and walks off with a 7.
  • He hits the approach well right of the green.  He pitches on and three putts for a 6.
  • He hits his approach in a bunker and it plugs.  He leaves his bunker shot on the sand, and it takes two tries to get out.  He then three putts for a 7. 
  • It's highly unlikely, but he hits it in the water.  He drops 3, and hits 4 onto the green and three putts for a 7. 
With a three shot lead, the safe play was going for the green in two.  The only way he could have lost was by laying up. 

In the first playoff hole, Stanley hit a drive that went a similar distance to the one in regulation, went for it in two and was just over the green and made birdie.  Snedeker matched that by laying up.  On the second playoff hole, Stanley hit the green again on 16 and let himself 40 feet, while Snekeder fortunately hit the T.V. tower and avoided the O/B behind the green because of it.  As fate would have it, Stanley three putted and Snedeker got up and down and the rest is history.

I'm not sure what you tell Stanley after that, or where he goes from here.  He seems a little snake bit.  He had basically won the John Deere, or at least got into a playoff, and Steve Stricker hit two 1 in 10, if not 1 in 50 shots to take it from him.  Then today happened.

Hopefully for Stanley, the third time will be a charm, and soon.  If not, he may be the next Rickie Fowler. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Stanley Dominates Round 3 of the Farmers Insurance Open

The tournament that was once dominated by Tiger Woods is now being dominated by a Clemson Tiger.  Kyle Stanley has turned in a Tiger-like performance through three rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open and actually tied Woods' 54 hole record total of -18 par with a stress free 68 on Saturday, giving him a 5 shot lead entering Sunday.  In fact, it could have very easily been a few shots lower, as there were several misses inside of 10 feet including a 5 foot birdie putt on the 18th. 

Tomorrow sets up as the PGA Tour coronation of Kyle Stanley as the newest star "bomber" on Tour.  As we have documented numerous times throughout the week, this is a tournament almost always won by a Major Champion or Ryder Cup / Presidents Cup player.  And maybe this year is no exception.  Assuming Stanley holds on to win tomorrow, he will vault into the top 5 of the U.S. Ryder Cup Standings. 

Here are some thoughts after the third round and leading into the fourth round:
  • Stanley looks completely in control of this tournament.  He only had one bogey today and it prompted Nick Faldo to comment that every shot he hit on that hole was still very good. 
  • The lead after two rounds was -14 and second place was -13.  The lead now is -18 and second place is still -13.  It's going to take someone in the -12 or -13 range shooting something in the 60s to even have a chance at making Stanley uncomfortable tomorrow.
  • Looking at the two players tied for second, I would be shocked if John Huh, in his second PGA Tour start, makes a serious run at the championship.  I would not be shocked if John Rollins was one of a couple of guys who might make a run.
  • Other guys who could do something to make Stanley squirm would be Bill Haas at -12 and Brandt Snedeker at -11.  Snedeker had a very uncharacteristic over par round Saturday, but I find it unlikely that he wouldn't shoot under par on Sunday.  Haas also has some nice history on this course, so something in the 68 to 70 range for either of those guys wouldn't surprise me.
  • In the end, the only guy that can beat Stanley is himself.
  • I was shocked to see Hunter Mahan shoot a 74 and Nick Watney shoot a 75 on Saturday.
It will be interesting to see if Stanley can run away with this thing tomorrow, or if it gets close.  If he wins by 5 or more, watch out.  If he holds on to win, it could still be the start of a great year.  But, if he blows this lead it could take some time to recover from this.

Tiger Surges to the front at Abu Dhabi

A day that is now several years in the making could happen Sunday.  After a third round 66, Tiger Woods shares the lead with Robert Rock.  If he could close the deal on Sunday, expect the expectations for his 2012 season to go crazy.  This would be his first full field tournament win anywhere in the world since he won in Australia in 2009; weeks before the infamous car wreck that led to the Tiger train wreck.

Follow all the action here http://www.golfchannel.com/tours/european-tour/2012/abu-dhabi-hsbc-golf-championship/

Tiger 2008 would win this event in this situation eight times out of ten.  Let's see how Tiger 2012 handles tomorrow.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Kyle Stanley leads the Farmers Insurance Open after the Second Round

With a two course rotation, it takes two days to really see the leaderboard come into focus.  Now that it has, Clemson University product Kyle Stanley proved his first round 62 at the North Course wasn't a fluke with a Friday 68 on the more difficult South Course at Torrey Pines. 

Here are some thoughts at the half way point of the tournament:
  • Kyle Stanley looks like a legitimate threat to win this week.  He's plenty long, as he showed by hitting a 2 iron from 275 yards on the par 5 9th.  He's also putted well enough this week and he's only played 3 holes over par this week.
  • There is some serious pedigree chasing Stanley with Brandt Snedeker, Hunter Mahan and Bill Haas all in the top 5 and Nick Watney lurking along side Keegan Bradley tied for 12th.  All of those names except Haas have shot both rounds in the 60's this week, so Stanley better not plan on backing up over the weekend.
  • It's time to pay attention to Sang-Moon Bae.  He's a Q School grad who I predicted in my Q-School prediction post back in December to finish the year inside the top 125 on the money list.  He's also ranked 34th in the official world golf rankings.  That's one ahead of Rickie Fowler and , oddly enough, one behind Brandt Snedeker.
  • Three former Ryder Cup players who have seemingly fallen off the map are having really good weeks.  That's Chris Riley, Boo Weekely and Chris DiMarco.  All three of these guys are currently in the Top 20.
  • Jhonattan Vegas shot his 6th straight round in the 60's at this event.  That's impressive.
  • Last years winning total was -16.  With Stanley already at -14 and Snedeker one behind that, it will be interesting to see if the winning score drops all the way to -20, or if the weekend levels the scores out a bit and stays in the high teens.
We've also held off betting our fake money for a little while, but we've still got $700 in fake money in our pocket.  The current odds have Brandt Snedeker as the betting favorite at 5 to 2 with Kyle Stanley at 3 to 1.  I'm going to trust my formula for the winner at put $50 on Hunter Mahan at 7 to 1, $25 on Bill Haas at 8 to 1 and $25 on Nick Watney at 22 to 1.  That drops us down to $600.

Let's see what happens the rest of the way.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

2012 Farmers Insurance Open First Round Leaderboard and Notes

The 2012 Farmers Insurance Open has completed one round with scores going low early.  Check out the entire leaderboard http://www.pgatour.com/r/leaderboard/

As I noted in my fantasy preview, the first two rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open are played on two courses.  The host course is the South Course, and is known to be the more difficult of the two.  The North Course is only played once during the tournament by each competitor and it tends to play a good bit easier.  This proved to be the case on Thursday as no golfers on the South Course found their way into the top 10 and only 3 golfers who played the South Course are in the Top 25. 

Looking ahead, that means is this an incomplete leaderboard until 36 holes have been completed.  For instance, the lead is at -10, shared by Kyle Stanley and Spencer Levin, but who's to say the lead isn't really Marc Turnesa who shot a -6 on the much more difficult South Course.  Much like a Q School leaderboard, we really won't know until everyone has played the two course rotation.

Here are some thoughts after the first round:
  • Last year at this tournament, Bubba Watson won after shooting a first round 71.  I would think anyone who shot a first round 71 on the South Course is feeling a lot of pressure to go low tomorrow on the North Course, as they currently sit 9 shots back.
  • Even with the South Course being difficult, the winner and the close chasers will still probably need to play it under par on a daily basis.  Last year, each of the top 4 shot every round under par, and two of the four shot all four rounds in the 60's.
  • A great first round doesn't necessarily mean much in this tournament.  Last year, Sunghoon Kang held the 18 hole lead with a 64 and Rickie Fowler and Alex Prugh were a shot back with 65's.  Kang finished T51, Fowler T20 and Prugh T73.
  • Bill Haas may be dangerous as he has a great history at this tournament.  My concerns early in the week were his poor (by his standards) showing last week, but that doesn't seem to be an indictment on the state of his game.  He said in his post round interview the difference was putting, not ball striking.
  • My predicted winner, Nick Watney, and contender, Hunter Mahan, are each in very good shape after shooting 69s on the South Course.  If one of them can shoot a 65 or 66 tomorrow, that may be good enough for a Saturday final group tee time. 
  • I don't think Spencer Levin's game sets up well for the South Course, but Kyle Stanley's game might.  If Stanley were to go on and win, he's a legitimate Ryder Cup candidate.  He can get to the par 5 18th in two on the South Course and that could be important on Sunday.
  • If I were over par after playing the North Course, I would be very worried right now.  Heck, if I was even -2, I might be worried about the cut. 
  • A few players stood out that I haven't already mentioned.  Camilo Villegas has popped up on the early  leaderboards two tournaments in a row with a 64 in round one.  Vijay Singh shot a 64 out of nowhere.  Dustin Johnson seems okay after a 66.  Colt Knost is quietly off to a solid start to the season and continued it with a 66, as is Pat Perez.  A lot of people liked Brandt Snedeker before the week started and he shot a 67 on the South Course.  He could very easily go low tomorrow and be in the lead. 
  • Glad I stayed away from the Mickelson bandwagon this week, as he came within a shot of shooting his worst round ever at the South Course with a 77.  With the cut looking to be in the -2 to -3 range, he'll need to shoot a 64 or 65 tomorrow just to make the cut.
Here's a final thought headed into round 2.  Following Levin and Stanley's 62s and Haas' 63 on the North Course, I texted a friend who played in this tournament several years ago and asked him what his strategy would be in the second round if he opened with a 62 or 63 on the North.  Would it be to try and be aggressive and take it lower on the South, or be conservative and try and shoot a -1 or -2 and be happy?  To paraphrase, his response was that you can't be aggressive on the South or it will eat your lunch.  So, our current top 3 will probably be best served to be patient and try and make a bunch of pars and, if the course allows it, the occasional birdie and avoid the big score.

Who knows what the leaderboard will look like tomorrow evening.....

NGA Winter Tour Final Leaderboards

The Bridgestone Winter Tour and the Carolina Winter Series weekly tournaments wrapped up earlier this afternoon. 

On the Bridgestone Winter Tour, Ken Looper shot a final round 68 to win by two over Jeff Corr and Daniel Mazziotta.  Here is the final leaderboard with a link below.

Diamond Back GC
Jan 24 - Jan 26 2012

1Ken Looper-13
T2Jeff Corr-11
T2Daniel Mazziotta-11
4Danny Ellis-10
T5John Peterson-9
T5Tyrrell Hatton-9
T5Danny Evelyn-9
T5Andy Pope-9
9Rob Oppenheim -8
10John Duthie-7
Full Leaderboard

On the Carolina Winter Series, Brock Elder shot a final round 67 to win by one over Mark Silvers and Yoshio Yamamoto.  Here is the final leaderboard with link.

Long Bay GC
Jan 24 - Jan 26 2012

1Brock Elder-9207
T2Mark Silvers-8208
T2Yoshio Yamamoto-8208
4David Sanchez-7209
5Cameron Yancey-6210
T6Chesson Hadley-5211
T6Jonas Enander-Hedin-5211
8Patrick Lundy-4212
T9Ryan Chitwood-3213
T9TJ Howe-3213
Full Leaderboard

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Farmers Insurance Open Predictions

Given the history of this tournament, it seems like there are only certain players that stand a chance at winning.  I've decided to list players who could potentially fit the profile as potential winners based on the preview earlier in the week. 

Those guys are: Robert Allenby, Stephen Ames, Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley, Keegan Bradley, Stewart Cink, Ben Crane, Chris DiMarco, David Duval, Ernie Els, Rickie Fowler, Bill Haas, J.J. Henry, J.B. Holmes, Charles Howell III, Trevor Immelman, Ryo Ishikawa, Dustin Johnson, Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan, Steve Marino, Rocco Mediate, Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore, Geoff Ogilvy, Vijay Singh, Brandt Snedeker, Vaughn Taylor, Camilo Villegas, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson, Boo Weekley and Y.E. Yang.

By my count that's 33 guys.  If 15 years of history is any indication at all, the winner is listed above.  Now to narrow that down.

Here are guys I will eliminate due to recent poor form.  To keep this as objective as possible, I will eliminate those not currently in the top 125 in the official world golf ranking:  Stephen Ames, Stewart Appleby, Stewart Cink, David Duval, Chris DiMarco, J.J. Henry, Trevor Immelman, Rocco Mediate, Vaughn Taylor and Boo Weekley.

That gets us down to 23.  Now we will eliminate those who did not finish 2011 in the top 100 in the "total putting" stat.  They are: Robert Allenby, Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els, Ryo Ishikawa, Dustin Johnson, Steve Marino, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Camilo Villegas, Bubba Watson

Now we have 13 remaining.  Of those, we will eliminate those not in the top 75 in driving distance.  They are: Ben Crane, Hunter Mahan, Ryan Moore, Geoff Oglivy, Brandt Snedeker, Y.E. Yang.

That leaves us with 7 who can win.  They are Aaron Baddeley, Rickie Fowler, Bill Haas, J.B. Holmes, Charles Howell III, Anthony Kim and Nick Watney.

Going into this exercise, I had in my mind Nick Watney, Hunter Mahan and Keegan Bradley as guys I like this week.  Of those, Watney is the only one that made it to the end but Mahan just barely missed on driving distance and Bradley just barely missed on putting.

All that said, here's my final picks for Winner, Contender and Sleeper.

For a Winner, I will take Nick Watney.  It's just too solid and safe a pick to pass up.  My head's said Watney all week and my gut's wanted to lean Mahan.  This feels a little like taking Bill Haas last week, in that everything pointed that way and you just couldn't not take him. 

My contender is Hunter Mahan.  I've just had a gut feeling about him all week.  If Rickie Fowler wasn't changing equipment, I would seriously consider him.  I also really like Keegan Bradley here.

My sleeper is Will McGirt.  He just keeps making cuts, and I don't know what else you can say about him other than he's always around. 

We'll see where they stand tomorrow.  If someone goes low at the South Course, watch out!

Hooters Winter Tour Updated Results

There are several Winter Tour events in progress on the NGA Tours this week.  The Bridgestone Winter Series is taking place at Diamondback GC in Florida and the Carolina Winter Series is in Myrtle Beach.  Both tournaments have just completed the second of three rounds. 

Once again, Danny Ellis is continuing his hot play and mini tour mainstay Jeff Corr is having a nice week at the Bridgestone Winter Series.  A little further down the leaderboard is current Nationwide Tour player Rob Oppenheim. Here is the leaderboard.

Diamond Back GC
Jan 24 - Jan 26 2012

1Daniel Mazziotta-10134
T2Andy Pope-9135
T2Ken Looper-9135
T4Robin Wingardh-8136
T4Danny Ellis-8136
T6Jeff Corr-7137
T6Danny Evelyn-7137
T6Sam Beach-7137
T6Marc France-7137
T10John Duthie-6138
Full Leaderboard

Here is the top 10 on the Carolina Winter Series.  Former Nationwide Tour player Stephen Poole sits in second and is looking for another strong finish on the Carolina Winter Series.

Long Bay GC
Jan 24 - Jan 26 2012

1Yoshio Yamamoto-7137
2Stephen Poole-6138
3Jeremy Pope-5139
T4Brock Elder-4140
T4Nemanja Savic-4140
T6Mark Silvers-3141
T6TJ Howe-3141
T6Jonas Enander-Hedin-3141
T9Chesson Hadley-1143
T9Kevin Mclister-1143
Full Leaderboard

For more information, check out http://www.ngatour.com/.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Farmers Insurance Open Fantasy Line Up

When setting my line up for the Farmers Insurance Open, I took in an element of strategy that goes a little beyond who I think the best players are in each slot for the Yahoo League.  The tournament is played on two courses.  The North Course plays significantly easier than the South Course.  Knowing that, I have evenly balanced my A, B and C groups with equal numbers of players for each course.  For the first two rounds, I will only start the players on the North Course.

Below is my team for Yahoo:
  • A List - Keegan Bradley starting Thursday and Nick Watney starting Friday.  Others to consider are Phil Mickelson and maybe Camilo Villegas and Charles Howell III.  I really think the picks are between Bradley, Watney and Mickelson.
  • B List - Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler starting Thursday and Hunter Mahan and Brendon de Jonge starting Friday.  Others worth considering are D.A. Points, Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker and Gary Woodland.  All would be good picks to be honest.  This is a very deep group.
  • C List - Ben Crane on Thursday and D.J. Trahan on Friday.  Others to consider are guys like a Brendan Todd and Will McGirt, but other than Crane I really don't like this group this week.
As for the Golf Channel Roster:
  • Group 1 - This group's loaded and I'm taking Nick Watney over guys like Mickelson, Mahan and Bradley among others. 
  • Group 2 - I'm taking Ben Crane over a group including Snedeker, Geoff Oglivy and Aaron Baddeley
  • Group 3 - Brendon de Jonge
  • Group 4 - Will McGirt because he seems to be making cuts with ease right now.

Farmers Insurance Open Odds

Taking a look at the Farmers Insurance Open odds, it appears Vegas tends to agree with our preview that the winner is likely to be someone with a solid background in big events.  As of the time of this article, here is the list off all players with odds 33/1 or better.

Phil Mickelson14/1  
Nick Watney14/1  
Hunter Mahan18/1  
Brandt Snedeker20/1  
Ben Crane25/1  
Rickie Fowler28/1  
Bubba Watson28/1  
Ernie Els33/1  
Charles Howell III33/1  
Geoff Ogilvy33/1  
Keegan Bradley33/1  
Dustin Johnson28/1  
Bill Haas33/1  
Justin Rose33/1  
Camilo Villegas33/1  
Gary Woodland33/1  

To view the complete and current list click here.

My reaction to the odds would be as follows:
  • Phil's pretty impossible to predict.  I could see a scenario where he wins, but I'm not all that optimistic he wins more than once this year and he didn't do enough last week to make me think this is the week.
  • I don't mind Watney as a co-favorite at 14/1.  I'm not sure there's a better option out there as a pre-tournament favorite.  He's won here before, he's plenty long enough and he fits the mold of having international experience.
  • Mahan at 18/1 makes sense and might be a solid bet.  He won at Firestone recently and that's a course that has some similarities to Torrey Pines South.
  • Brandt Snedeker comes in next at 20/1 and I think this might be a little high for him.  He's a great putter and can scramble for par, but I don't know that I love him on this layout.
  • I like Ben Crane at 25/1.  He's a past champion and had some nice rounds last week and is in good form.  This could be a good value bet.
  • Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson all come in at 28/1.  If Fowler wasn't messing around with new equipment, I might actually like him this week.  I don't trust Johnson after W/D last week, even though he's the perfect mold for this course.  Bubba's won before and makes sense here.
  • There are a ton of guys at 33/1.  A guy I really like there is Keegan Bradley,  Guys I don't trust there are Charles Howell III, Camilo Villegas and Gary Woodland.  Woodland mainly because of a recent coaching change.  Guys I'm pretty neutral on are Ernie Els, Bill Haas, Geoff Oglivy and Justin Rose.
If I were laying down money, I would probably give the most consideration to Watney, Mahan, Crane and Bradley.

Monday, January 23, 2012

2012 Farmers Insurance Open Preview

The Farmers Insurance Open returns to Torrey Pines again in 2012 bringing with it a history of producing strong champions. 

The names of every winner since 1996 are listed below and read as a "who's who" of Major Championships and International teams.
  • Davis Love III
  • Mark O'Meara
  • Scott Simpson
  • Tiger Woods (6 times in this event plus 1 U.S. Open here in 2008)
  • Phil Mickelson (2 times)
  • Jose Maria Olazabal
  • John Daly
  • Nick Watney
  • Ben Crane
  • Bubba Watson
Given the above list of champions, the key is to recognize it for what it is and not over analyze it as it pertains to who could potentially win the 2012 Farmers Insurance Open.  If history is any indicator, here's what to be on the lookout for as you begin to think about your fantasy options and possible winning picks.
  1. Look for guys are likely to be in the conversation for contenders in Major Championships and also in the Ryder Cup discussion.  Of the above list, only Ben Crane hasn't won a Major or played on an international team. 
  2. Look for guys with an ability to scramble and make par saves.  Tiger was known as the best putter in the world for at least a 10 year stretch.  John Daly is known for bombing, but has incredibly soft hands around the green and a nice stroke with the putter when focused.  Phil Mickelson is well known as a magician around the green and until recently a very streaky solid putter.
  3. The South Course has some very long par 4's and par 5's, so length is important.
All that said, I would warn one to stay away from "flavors of the week" and young guns this week and err on the side of guys who are in their prime and have some sort of international team experience and a track record for showing up on the leaderboards of Major Championships.

Tomorrow I will have my fantasy picks and later in the week we will pick a winner, a contender and a sleeper.

Farmers Insurance Monday Qualifier Results

Check out this link http://scpga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/scpga12/event/scpga1213/contest/1/leaderboard.htm for results for the Farmers Insurance Monday Qualifier.  There are some highly recognizable names on this list including Jason Gore, Lee Janzen, Rich Beem, Bob May and Tim Petrovic among others.


The Top 4 and ties advance.

 Pos PlayerScoring To ParTotal
T1Add Contestantexpand Paul Imondi-6F *66
T1Add Contestantexpand Matthew Giles-6F66
T3Add Contestantexpand Cody Slover-5F *67
T3Add Contestantexpand Bio Kim-5F67
T3Add Contestantexpand Jeff Quinney-5F67
  • Paul Imondi and Matthew Giles tied for the lead at -6 and advanced.
  • There was a three way tie for third place between Cody Slover, Bio Kim and Jeff Quinney.  There will be a playoff two determine which two advance.

2012 Ryder Cup Power Rankings

On December 21st we did a pre-season Ryder Cup Power Ranking.  While we are only three weeks into the season, things are starting to take shape a little bit.  I will emphasise several things.  Some of the top players in the world, and thus the top guys expected to make the team, haven't teed it up yet in 2012, or may have just teed it up once.  Also, the Majors are double points, so someone getting a win, or even a top five in a Major could cause a dramatic shift in Ryder Cup points.

The format calls for the top 8 in points to automatically qualify with captain Davis Love III holding 4 captain's picks to make up the 12 man team.  A good guess for where the top 8 will cut off is about 3,500 points.  Knowing that, here are my projections along with their current points standing. 

Eight automatic qualifiers in no particular order:
  • Steve Stricker - currently first with 1,683 points.  The one asterisks is as long as his back holds up.
  • Keegan Bradley - currently second with 1,647 points.  Hard to bet against him with this many points already.
  • Johnson Wagner - currently third with 1,590 points.  My head says no, but he's playing really well right now and has about half the points he'll need.
  • Dustin Johnson - currently seventh with 802 points, but he'll need to get healthy.
  • Webb Simpson - currently 11th with 610 points.  Looked good in Kapalua and no reason to think he won't be in this for the long haul.
  • Tiger Woods - currently 28th with 330 points.  Major wild card, but we should know by the end of The Masters if he's legit or not.  With tournaments like Doral and Bay Hill ahead of Augusta, his form should be known.
  • Matt Kuchar - currently 31st with 321 points.  He's a top 10 machine and should rack up points throughout the year.  For Kuch, it will probably come down to needed a couple of those top 10's to be in Majors.
  • Nick Watney - currently 34th with 289 points.  The last spot came down to Watney and Mahan and this was basically a coin flip.
Automatic Qualifier that dropped off the pre-season projection:  Hunter Mahan
New to the Automatic Qualifier list:  Johnson Wagner
Next 2 in:  Hunter Mahan and Mark Wilson

Captains Picks:
  • Hunter Mahan - May sneak in on points but he's been a solid member of U.S. international competitions.
  • Phil Mickelson - I don't see him getting there on points, but I don't see Davis leaving him off the team.
  • Jim Furyk - Similar to Mickelson, it's hard to see DLIII leaving him off the team.
  • Jonathan Byrd - Replaces Lucas Glover on my final pick hunch of a Sea Island guy.
Captain's Picks that dropped off:  Bubba Watson & Lucas Glover
Captain's Picks added:  Jonathan Byrd and Hunter Mahan

Watch List:
  • Mark Wilson - Watch him closely as the defending champion in two weeks at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and in March at The Honda Classic.  If he doesnt' do much there, he probably doesn't make the team, but if he finishes high in those, he will be worth watching.
  • Bubba Watson
  • Lucas Glover
  • Zach Johnson
  • Anthony Kim
  • Rickie Fowler
  • David Toms
  • Sean O'Hair - Nice start to the year.
  • Robert Garrigus - a new add to the list
I also still like my original four dark horse candidates:
  • Chris Kirk
  • Kyle Stanley
  • Bud Cauley
  • Harris English
One thing I really like about the Ryder Cup system is that virtually all of the emphasis is on the calendar year of the Ryder Cup, so the list is so fluid.  There are a lot of really good players that won't make the team and one or two above average players that will make the team (think Jeff Overton).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Humana Challenge Final Round Recap

Is Mark Wilson the new Phil Mickelson?  It sounds absurd, and it probably is, but Phil has been known throughout his career for winning at a high clip on the West Coast and Wilson's victory at the Humana Challenge marks his third win in the last two seasons on the West Coast Swing. 

Here are some thoughts on the final round.
  • What a final threesome.  I have no particular rooting interest in Zach Johnson, Robert Garrigus and Mark Wilson, but they are all guys that are really easy to find yourself pulling for.  Garrigus is an awesome story that includes overcoming some pretty serious drug related demons, and Wilson and Johnson are known on Tour as some of the nicest guys out there.
  • I remember years ago that Mark Wilson had lost his card and had to go back to Q School.  This was the year before he won his first tournament in Florida at The Honda.  A story came out that Wilson had made a financial pledge to some sort of charity, maybe faith based, and decided to honor that pledge with a pretty significant financial contribution even though he had no job security for the next year.  As fate, or something else, would have it, he got his card, won his first tournament in March, and five wins later look at where he his.
  • What got in to Johnson Wagner?  He wins last week and goes low in the final round the week to T2.  Seriously guys; it's time to grow a mustache. 
  • This has been a tournament for first time winners and even rookie success, but there are no rookies in the top 13 this week.  The only Q School grad was Bobby Gates T8 and he barely counts as he finished last season 126 on the money list.
  • As for the formula to win in our Humana Preview early in the week, we said the winner would likely need four rounds in the 60's (check), one really low round (62 in second round....check), play the par 5's in -14 to -16 (-15...check) and be hot with the putter.  Wilson was 4th in strokes gained putting, 7th in putts per GIR and T8 in putts per round.  While we didn't correctly predict the winner, we were dead on with the formula.  As a side note, Robert Garrigus played the Par 5's at -12 including two, three putt pars in the final round.  If he two putts those he's -14 under on the Par 5's and in a playoff.
  • Martin Laird has been sneaky solid to start the year and had four rounds in the 60's this week.  If he's not on the European Ryder Cup radar, he ought to be.  Especially because he plays a PGA Tour schedule and the Ryder Cup is in America this year.
  • Speaking of Ryder Cup, the next time I do a Ryder Cup Power Ranking, I would have to guess Johnson Wagner and Mark Wilson get some respect.  Maybe Garrigus too because I'm not real sure what the difference is between Bubba Watson and Robert Garrigus.  In fact, I might have just talked myself into doing one sooner rather than later.
Tomorrow we will have our Farmers Insurance Open preview.  Here's a little teaser.  The first three names on the leaderboard from last year are Bubba Watson (winner), Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.  You think length might matter a little?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Humana Challenge Round 2 Wrap Up

The second round of the Humana Challenge was an all out assault on PGA West as the lead ballooned to a three way tie at -16 and Ryan Moore blitzed the Nicklaus course for a 61.  At the half way point, here are some of my thoughts on the tournament.
  • The leaderboard looks more like the leaderboard of last week's Sony Open should have looked in name, but the low scores are consistent with what was expected this week.  David Toms, Ben Crane and Mark Wilson share the lead at -16.
  • The group tied for 4th are three shots back and include two young guns who I think could have big years in Harris English and Chris Kirk.  I wouldn't be as much of a long shot as one might think for one of these guys to make the Ryder Cup. 
  • Speaking of English and Kirk, another one of their Georgia Bulldog alumnus, Brendon Todd, is quietly off to a solid start to the year after a disastrous first stint on Tour a couple of years ago.
  • Three guys shot double digit under par.  Has that ever happened in the same round before?
  • Even though someone could go really low at any time, I think the eventual winner is at least at -12 at this point.  The three guys in the lead aren't exactly Matt Every in the experience category and at least one of them is going to be able to get this thing to -24 with no problem, and probably a couple lower than that. 
  • I still expect to see the 54 hole cut come in either at -7 or -8.  There are 90 guys who are already at -5 or better, so if you really pressed me I'd say you better get to -8 to be safe.
  • Phil Mickelson and Bill Haas each had better days on Friday shooting 69's, but Phil is a long shot to make the cut and Bill will need a very solid round to do so. 
  • Dustin Johnson had to W/D.  I would imagine it's a combination of his place on the leaderboard and not being 100% healthy.
One thing I'll keep an eye on tomorrow is the guys playing the Nicklaus course.  That course feels like it's yielding some really low numbers, so I'll keep a close eye on Bobby Gates, Zach Jonson and Brendon Todd.  After all, with all those Sony Open type names atop the leaderboard, it could be Zach's turn to join the group at the top.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Humana Challenge Round 1 Notebook

In expected fashion, the leaders went low in the first round of the Humana Challenge.  Camilo Villegas and David Toms opened with matching 63's in a day where par had very little value.  Here are some thoughts on the first round, including comments on some of our pre tournament coverage and predictions.
  • It seems like everyone expected David Toms to do something in Hawaii and he was a non factor.  He gets to the main land and he's and afterthought, but shoots a first round 63.  I'm sure somewhere a golf mental coach is having a field day with this.
  • Bill Haas shot a 71.  Really????
  • My dark horse for the week, Ted Potter Jr., is a shot off the lead with an opening 64.  Thanks for making me look smart Ted.  I needed that after picking Haas to win.
  •  A 65 for Brendon de Jonge wasn't unexpected with his tendency to make a lot of birdies, coupled with easy courses.  He's also proven to be a good fantasy pick this week.
  • Bud Cauley is lingering at -6; as is Martin Laird.
  • Nice to see Eric Compton shoot a 67.  I just hope the Golf Channel covers him for golf this week, if they choose to cover him.
  • I'm not shocked that Dustin Johnson shot E in his first competitive round after an injury, but keep in mind, even par here is like a 2 or 3 over most places.  He did 4 putt the 17th.
  • T134 +2 for Mickelson.  That's almost as shocking as Haas only shooting 71, but not quite. 
Going into the second round, I think a few things have been established.
  • If you hope to contend for a win here, you better not have a round higher than about a 68 and you better figure a way to either shoot a 64 or a couple of 65s along the way.
  • Par is set at 72 on these courses, but it's really about 69 or 70.
  • The winning score will probably be around -24 and I would expect the cut line to be around -7 or-8. 
I'll leave my fantasy roster alone for another day, but Potter is looking to replace Haas if he can't get it going and Laird is waiting to replace Gay if the tides don't begin to turn during Friday's round.      

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mini Tour Update

This week on the NGA Bridgestone Winter Tour, rookie T.J. Bordeaux won in a two hole playoff over PGA Tour veteran Danny Ellis and Nationwide Tour player Rob Oppenheim.  Read the wrap up here.

*Red Tail GC
Jan 16 - Jan 18 2012
1TJ Bordeaux-14
T2Danny Ellis-14
T2Rob Oppenheim -14
4Jeff Corr-13
5Jim Renner-12
T6Christopher Ross-11
T6David Johnson-11
T8Zachery Sobel-10
T8Scott Langley-10
T8Matt Hoffman-10

Humana Challenge Final Picks

This time tomorrow, the first round of the Humana Challenge will be in the books.  That said, it's time to pick the winner, contender and dark horse.

For a winner, I'll take Bill Haas.  Though it's unlikely he would essentially finish at the winning score three years in a row; who else are you going to take here?

As a contender I like Brian Gay.  He can roll the rock and has a decent track record here.  He also seems to be in decent enough form.

For a dark horse I like Ted Potter Jr.  As I've said earlier in the week, he's a birdie machine and that's a plus on this course.

But wouldn't it be fun if I was completely wrong and Greg Norman won?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Humana Challenge Fantasy Picks / Odds

As we covered yesterday, there are several different formulas that produce winners in this tournament, but no matter how you look at it, a lot of birdies have to be made.  When looking at fantasy options, I paid attention to guys with some early momentum, guys who have a tendency to shoot some low numbers when the putter gets hot and guys who should take the par 5's low.  Oh yeah, and Bill Haas has a first and a playoff loss in the last two years so that automatically puts him in.

Here is my Yahoo Fantasy Lineup:
  • A List - Kyle Stanley starting with Phil Mickelson on the bench.  I really struggled on this one because Stanley stats for shots lost putting last week were horrible, but he also was driving the ball very long and straight and hitting a ton of greens.  He should be hitting irons into almost all the par 5's this week and should be able to play the 16 par 5's somewhere in the -14 range.  If his putter is breaking even on the putts gained / lost this week he'll get a top 15 and if he's gaining strokes the sky's the limit.  I have Phil on the bench because it's hard to know what to make of him.  Historically he plays the West Coast Swing very well and has two wins in this event, with the last in 2004.  I want Phil on the bench because he will make the cut and I could slip him in later in the week if it looks like he's got a real shot to win.  Others you should consider are Rory Sabbatini, Charles Howell III, Kevin Na, and Matt Kuchar.  You never know with Rory and Na week to week, but they certainly could take it low.  I think Howell's value is over inflated because of the Sony; a tournament he always contends in.  Kuchar is a lot like Mickelson.  You think he'll do well, but you just don't know.
  • B List - Bill Haas and Brendon de Jonge starting with Ted Potter Jr and Chad Campbell on the bench.  Haas is a no brainer.  Brendon de Jonge is a guy who will probably rack up points, especially early in the week as he makes a bunch of birdies.  I love Potter Jr as a dark horse this week.  After following him on the NGA Tour and the Nationwide Tour, I've seen this guy make birdies by the bunches.  His downfall is the bogies that come with them.  With the courses so easy, he may be this year's Jhonny Vegas.  Chad Campbell's always a solid guy to have lurking on the bench just in case.  The other guy I really considered was Harrison Frazar.  What a start he's had!  I'm enacting the "buy low sell high" philosophy and I think he's a little "high" right now to be buying, but he might keep riding the wave.  Dustin Johnson is worth considering, but he's coming off an injury.  I think Anthony Kim is fools gold, but who knows with him.
  • C List - I've got Brian Gay starting and Martin Laird on the bench.  This may have been the easiest of the lists to pick the players, but the hardest to pick the starters.  Different styles, but both should play well this week.  Also consider Johnson Wagner (fear the 'stache), and past champs D.J. Trahan and super dark horse David Duval.
Here is my Golf Channel Fanatasy Line Up:
  • Group 1: The pick is Bill Haas.  Others to consider are Mickelson, Laird and Kuchar, but I don't know how you go against a win and a playoff lost in the last two tournaments.
  • Group 2:  I don't love it, but give me Rory Sabbatini.  Also consider Charles Howell III and Zach Johnson.
  • Group 3:  I'll take Kyle Stanley barely over Brendon de Jonge with Ted Potter Jr getting consideration.
  • Group 4:  I'll take Russell Knox over an interesting consolidation of players.
As for the betting odds this week, check them out here.  My advice this week is don't bet it early.  Consider a bet after 36 or 54 holes if it's offered, but this is a go low where the hot guy wins.  The odds are the highest they've been all year to reflect this.

Pre tournament favorite is Matt Kuchar at 14/1.  He hasn't even played this year.  Mickelson and Dustin Johnson are 16/1 and haven't played yet either.  Haas is also 16/1. 

Best of luck!

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 Humana Challenge Preview

The Humana Challenge, better known as the former Bob Hope, will be contested this week in LaQuinta, California.  Former president Bill Clinton will serve as tournament host and his involvement has strengthened the field.  Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman, among others, will be competing this week.

Tomorrow we will take a look at fantasy options and Wednesday we will give our final predictions for the week, but this is traditionally a hard tournament to pick.  Tournament winners span a wide spectrum.  The last three winners were first time winners, but Bill Haas parlayed his first win in 2010 to the 2011 FedEx Cup championship.  Looking further back, other winners include David Duval, Phil Mickelson and Justin Leonard. 

What's clear is the winner will have to go low.  Of the three courses on the tournament rotation, two of the courses were rated in the three easiest courses on Tour in 2011.  Past winners generally have one of two characteristics. 
  1. They are extremely good putters.
  2. They are great ball strikers that get hot with the putter.
On top of that, the winner will probably need to play the par 5's in around -14 to -16 under for the week.  A good formula for winning also generally includes all rounds in the 60's and one of the round being a really low round.  David Duval shot a 59 the final round in the year he won.  It's also pretty frequent to see the winner throw in something 64 or lower. 

As I consider fantasy options, as well as winner/contender/dark horse, I will give strong consideration to players that have shown the ability to take it low, players who are consistently strong in this event and players who are hot to start the year after the Hawaiian stops.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sony Open Final Wrap Up

The Sony Open produced a winner in Johnson Wagner that fit the prototype.  This isn't a tournament for first time winners and lenght isn't all that important.  This wasn't Wagner's first win, he finished the week 68th in driving distance, but T10 in greens in regulation and third in strokes gained putting with over a shot and a half a round gained over the field.  At the end of the day, Wagner fits the mold and has the trophy to prove it.

Other final round thoughts and observations:
  • At one point early in the final round there were 13 guys within one shot of the lead. 
  • Only one guy in the top 12 was a Nationwide Tour grad (Matt Every) and no one was a Q School grad. 
  • Stricker and Choi surprised me this week.  It looked like they just ran out of gas.
  • A couple of rookies that made nice early impressions were Ted Potter Jr. (T13) off the Nationwide Tour and Will Claxton (T23) from Q School.  Potter might take off from here.  Watch him next week.
  • Matt Every will probably need to get his first win in come from behind fashion.  Nick Faldo did a great job on Saturday breaking down the issues with his footwork and the concerns he had with him under pressure. 
  • I wonder if 5 years from now history will show that Rickie Fowler is still the top guy of his generation or if someone like Kyle Stanley or Bud Cauley will have won more.  Today, Rickie Fowler looks a lot like his generation's Charles Howell III.  A lot of expectations and second place finishes, but very few wins.  Funny that Howell III just added another T2 to his resume.
  • Michael Thompson and David Hearn each had nice starts to their sophomore campaign.  I also find it very noteworthy that Brendan Todd had a top 15 finish.  His rookie year on Tour did not go well at all, so some early momentum could be huge.
Two tournaments into the year, I'm not sure that anything has happened to really shape the season.  Stricker's good, and we knew that.  Wagner won on a course where length isn't important, but that won't help him on 80% of the courses he plays.  Stricker will probably easily qualify for the Ryder Cup unless his back/neck issues slow him down and Wagner probably won't anyway.

We will see if the Sony Open leads to something big as the year progresses.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sony Open Round 3 Wrap Up

Moving day happened at the Sony Open on Saturday.  Matt Every started the day with a two shot lead, but a 64 posted by Jeff Maggert about an hour before Every finished up vaulted Maggert to the top of the leaderboard and it took Every until 18 to get a share back.

Going into the final round, there are 18 players within 4 shots of the lead.  To put that into perspective, Maggert was 4 shots out of the lead when the third round started.  Here are some names to watch that are within 4 going into Sunday.
  • Obviously Maggert and Every at -12
  • Charles Howell III at -10 has a really good track record at this event and Virginia Tech golfers Johnson Wagner and Brendon de Jounge are also at -10
  • How about Duffy Waldorf at -9????
  • Ted Potter Jr at -8 can take it low and, don't look now, but Steve Stricker is lurking at -8 along with Keegan Bradley.
Suffice to say, who knows what will happen on Sunday, but here are three things I expect in the final round.
  1. Someone starting the day in the -6 to -8 range will post a number early and make the leaders look at it for most of the back 9.
  2. Someone will have a birdie putt on 18 to either force a playoff or win outright in the last few groups.  My gut is there will be a playoff and will consist of guys with very different Tour resumes.
  3. If you forced me to pick a winner, I'd go with Charles Howell III.  This year he's been a very consistent 67,67,66 and another 66 or 67 might just be good enough.

Matt Every and Tim Tebow......Maybe More Alike Than You Think

After Matt Every took the second round lead at the Sony Open, he was questioned by Kelly Tilghman regarding an arrest and a suspension from the PGA Tour in 2010.  You can see a recap of the interview and Doug Ferguson's story here.

The highlights are that Every was busted in a hotel room that reeked of marijuana and was arrested for the incident; although the charges were eventually dropped.  He had to serve a 90 day PGA Tour suspension for it and it ended up keeping him from retaining his card his rookie year.  Every maintains he was not doing drugs, but his friends were and he stands behind his friends and still hangs out with them today.

So how does Tim Tebow enter a story with Matt Every and marijuana?  Well, for starters they were both star athletes at the University of Florida.  Tebow won a Heisman trophy and two national championships, Every won the Ben Hogan award and was a 4 time All American.

Digging a little deeper, neither are afraid to say what they mean and mean what they say.  Tebow is America's media darling right now for his clean cut, wholesome image.  Every is headed down the path of PGA Tour villain and isn't winning any role model awards for his comments.  The funny thing is, they're not all that different. 
  • They don't take stances that are politically correct.
  • They open themselves up to criticism.
  • I doubt Tebow would bail on any of his friends if they smoked marijuana because that would be pretty hypocritical of the message he preaches.......wait a minute, he's in the NFL.  Of course he has friends and probably teammates that smoke.
  • Tebow's playing in the second round of the playoffs tonight and Every is leading a PGA Tour event after two rounds. 
  • Tebow is a sophmore in the NFL who didn't start much his rookie year, and Every is a sophmore on the PGA Tour and missed starts his rookie year.
In a way, they are both refreshing.  I would argue that if you respect Tebow; you have to respect Every for the same reasons. 

.......And oh by the way......Tim Tebow may be competing in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro AM.  You think a Tiger / Tebow paring would get some ratings?  A better question might be, would the television even cover another shot than just what those two are doing.

Sony Open Round 3 Preview

As the Sony Open heads into moving day, the big story will be if the traditional formula of a solid veteran player winning the tournament holds true, or if a young star in the making busts onto the scene. 

Earlier in the week, The Golf Channel had a list of the top 25 golfers under 25.  Two of the members that cracked the top 10 on that list were Bud Cauley and Kyle Stanley, who are 4 back of the lead tied at -6.  If one of these two guys could win, they would springboard towards the top of that Top 10 list and become a name to watch for Davis Love III's Ryder Cup team.

Conversely, there are some established golfers that fit the profile of the eventual champion that are well within reach of the lead.  Carl Petterson, Charles Howell III and Sean O'Hair all sit in the Top 10.  John Senden, Steve Stricker and Chris DiMarco are all five shots back as well.

5 Things I expect tomorrow:
  1. Saturday will be crazy and the leaderboard will look a lot different after the third round than it did the after the second.
  2. Bud Cauley or Kyle Stanley will be within 2 of the lead going into Sunday
  3. Steve Stricker, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley all played well last week and will not go away this week either.
  4. The winner will be at -10 or better after round 3.
  5. There will be a different leader after 54 holes than there was after 36 holes.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sony Open Round 2 Wrap Up

The Sony Open has now reached the half way point and there is a lot more uncertainty regarding the outcome this week at the Sony Open than there was after 36 holes last week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Here are some thoughts after the second round.
  • The winning score of the Sony Open is usually in the -15 to -16 range, and I see no reason to think that isn't about where it will fall this year.  At the half way point of the tournament, odds are the winner is at -5 or better right now.  Oh, by the way.....Stricker is -5.
  • Moving day could be pretty wild.  The leader is a solid golfer, but not of the Steve Stricker caliber. 
  • There is a steady mix of young talent, guys who've played this course well in the past and top end players within 5 shots of the lead.  It will be very hard to predict the outcome until the final round tee times are set. 
  • It's nice to see a Monday Qualifier like Doug LaBelle II playing so well.  When he was a rookie on tour several years ago, he started his year with a top 10 in this event. 
  • Speaking of a guy who feels at home on this course; Tadd Fujikawa is right in the mix at -5. 
  • My dark horse prediction, Tommy Biershenk, shot a 66 today to make the cut and finds himself at -3.  A realistic goal for him would be to shoot two rounds under par on the weekend and finish in the top 25.  For any PGA Tour rookie, that would qualify as a successful first tournament.
  • Watch out for Keegan Bradley sneaking up the leaderboard.
  • What happend to K.J. Choi?  A great first round, but lost his momentum in the second round.
  • Very surprised to see David Toms and defending champion Mark Wilson miss the cut.

Jason Gore Twitter's His Way into a Tournament and Sergio Competes in a Poker Tournament

I came across a couple of interesting stories over the last couple of days.

During Q School, I said I would really like to see some of the past winners who competed in the final stage of Q School like Jason Gore or Rich Beem get some sponsors exemptions over guys like John Daly who didn't.  A simple tweet made by Gore erupted into an all out Twitter campaign by his fans to get him into the tournament coming up in a few weeks in Riviera.  Good for Gore!  A good guy who's worked hard deserves this.  Read more about it here.

Sergio Garcia has caught the high stakes poker bug and entered a $10k buy in no limit event, and actually placed in the money.  Check out the story here.  Apparently it's all part of his work / life balance.  It seems to be working as he finished 2011 hot on the European Tour.  I'm very interested to see how he plays in his first few PGA Tour events this year.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sony Open Round 1 Wrap Up

With the first round of the Sony Open in the books, here were some thoughts that hit me looking back at the round.
  • I don't know how many names I would have picked before guessing Graham DeLaet would be the first round leader at -7, but it probably would have been over 100.  It's rare a player with Major Medical Status take this kind of advantage of a start.
  • Bud Cauley.  The two people that came to mind watching him were Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.  While it's hard to imagine him having the kind of career that McIlroy is currently on track to have, I think he could make us forget about Fowler if Fowler doesn't start converting some wins quickly.
  • Pretty surprised to see guys like David Toms and defending champion Mark Wilson at +3.
  • Not surprised to see my pre tournament favorite K.J. Choi shoot a -5 (T2).  That fake $100 at 16 to 1 is looking smart.  My other fake bets posted earlier in the week were Steve Stricker (-4) $100 at 7 to 1, Webb Simpson (-4) $50 at 10 to 1, David Toms aforementioned $25 at 33 to 1 and $25 on Rory Sabbatini (-3) at 33 to 1.  I like where we stand on that right now.
  • Steve Stricker can get more out of a bad round than anyone I can think of.  He had no business shooting a -4.
  • Sometimes you see a guy go from Q School to Ryder Cup in the same year.  If it happens this year, Harris English is a solid choice.  I keep waiting for him to level off, but he keeps playing very well with a -3 today.
  • I really like Erik Compton's story of his double heart transplant and making the PGA Tour, but I hope the Golf Channel gets it out of their system and concentrates on him as a golfer.  He's earned the right to be "one of the guys."  It's not over done.....yet.  I would hate for this to still be a story after the West Coast swing.
  • Cut line should probably fall at E or -1 if the weather is similar.

Mini Tour Wrap Up

The Carolina Winter Series and Bridgestone Winter Series Tournaments finished up on Thursday.  On the Carolina Series, Stephen Poole finished solo 3rd, 1 shot out of a playoff and Darron Stiles finished solo 7th.  Check out the full leaderboard.

The Bridgestone Winter Series saw Jim Renner tie for 2nd, Danny Ellis T12 and Kevin Hall T36.  See the final leaderboard here.

We will preview several more players next week and track and see how they do.

Tommy Biershenk Article

There is a really good article on our dark horse candidate of the week, Tommy Biershenk, here.  It's a local look at his journey to the PGA Tour.  Check it out!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2012 Sony Open Predictions

With the Sony Open set to tee off, it's time for the final predictions.

For a dark horse candidate I've considered several options but I've decided to go off the board with a true dark horse.  ESPN's Michael Collins actually mentioned this guy's name this week too.  Last week's dark horse was Martin Laird and he finished the week in second place.  This week I'm going with Q School qualifier and PGA Tour rookie Tommy Biershenk.  Biershenk is a very good ball striker and had a nice year with the putter on the Nationwide Tour.  The test for Biershenk will be how he handles seeing his name on a leaderboard for the first time; this week or whenever that may be.  While I don't expect Biershenk to finish in second place, I could see his name popping up on a leaderboard and finishing the week with a top 15 finish.

For my contender, I'm going with last week's winner Steve Stricker.  It's really hard to win two weeks in a row.  Essentially that would mean he'd have to have 8 really good rounds in a row.  I do think he'll have a really good tournament, but at some point I see him having one rough round or fatigue setting in.  At some point it will probably look like he will win, and I'd expect him to get a top 10, if not a top 5, but I'm not sure he can go back to back.  The last time that happened in Hawaii was 2003 with Ernie Els.

And the winner is........K.J. Choi.  Choi won here in 2008 and had a great final day last week.  He's in good form and he's the kind of guy that fits this course well.  Vegas also likes him as the 4th best option at 16 to 1.

It will be fun to see how the first full field event takes shape and what new names may show up.

Mini Tour Updates

The Carolina Winter Series has completed 2 out of 3 rounds and going into the week we previewed former Nationwide Tour player Stephen Poole and current Nationwide Tour player Darron Stiles.  With one round to go, Poole sits tied for second at -7 and two off the lead, and Stiles is tied for seventh at -4.  To view the entire leaderboard, click here.

The Bridgestone Winter Series didn't quite finish the second round today, but the current leaderboard can be viewed here.  The three players we previewed have only posted one round at this point, but Danny Ellis is -4, Jim Renner is -1 and Kevin Hall is +1.

The Gateway Winter Tour finished its second and final round today.  Going into the tournament, we previewed Chris Baryla, Benoit Beisser and Brian Vranesh.  Beisser finished one shot out of a playoff in third place, Vranesh tied for seventh and Baryla followed up a first round -4 with an 80 to finish tied for 27th.  Darren Angel, who played on the Nationwide Tour in 2011 won the event in a playoff.  See the full results here.