I can also be found at Rotoworld.com and on Twitter @RyanGolfBlogger.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

King Louis in charge at Shell Houston Open

Louis Oosthuizen charged to the front of the leaderboard and holds the 54-hole lead at the Shell Houston Open at 17-under-par. He will be going for his first win since the 2010 Open Championship.

Here are a few other notes from the third round:
  • Hunter Mahan is in second place and two off the lead as he vies for his second win of 2012.
  • Brian Davis is three back and going for his first win on the PGA TOUR.
  • After openining with a 65, Mickelson has cooled off with matching 70's. As could be assumed, this is due largely to his putter.
  • 90 players made the cut, but only 70 will tee it up on Sunday. The playing cut came at 1-under.

Check back tomorrow to see who's crowned the champion. Also, feel free to jump on and follow me on Rotoworld.com tomorrow, as I will be updating the blurbs in real time.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Shell Houston Open Friday Wrap Up

Half of the field has the second round of the Shell Houston Open, with the other half still on the course. The good news is, Saturday should end with a 54-hole leader as the weather should be good enough to get the tournament back on track for a regular Sunday finish.

Here are some notes from Friday:
  • Brian Davis and Louis Oosthuizen share the lead and are both in the clubhouse at 11-under.
  • Tommy Gainey has done little all year, but finished 36 holes at 9-under.
  • Phil Mickelson looks Masters ready with a 65-70 Friday putting him at 9-under and currently tied for fourth.
  • First round co-leaders Angel Cabrera and Carl Pettersson and 8-under and 7-under respectively and still on the course.
  • The cut should fall at either two or three under. Two under is currently safe but it's conceivable, if not likely, that it will move to three.
Check back tomorrow to see who's sleeping on the third-round lead.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Round 1 of Shell Houston Open delayed

The first round of the Shell Houston Open saw most of the morning wave post a score, but a number of players will have to play 36 holes on Friday and the cut will not happen until Saturday.

Here are some notes from the partial first round.
  • Welcome to the game Angel Cabrera. Largely silent for most of the season, the 2009 Masters champ seems to be finding his form just in time for the 2012 edition. He opened with a 7-under 65 and is tied with Carl Petterson for the clubhouse lead.
  • While the lead is 7-under, the argument could be made the lead is really hanging around the -4 to -5 range where Keegan Bradley (-5), Lee Westwood (-4), Steve Stricker (-4), Johnson Wagner (-4) and Rickie Fowler (-4) all find themselves resting tonight.
  • Afternoon group favorites such as Phil Mickelson, Kyle Stanley, Charl Schwartzel and Fred Couples are all -1 under through a few holes.
There is a threat of scattered thunderstorms on Friday, but with no further delays the first round and a little over half of the second round will likely conclude Friday evening. Saturday should see the second round conclude in the morning, and with a little luck and split-tee threesomes possibly the conclusion of the third round.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Shell Houston Open – Final Predictions

The Shell Houston Open is loaded with top-end talent this week, as many of golf’s elite are making their final preparations for the Masters. As is the case any week, anyone can have a solid ball-striking week and a hot week putting and capture the title. Chris Kirk almost pulled it off last season. I’m afraid to tell you that my picks this week may be a little boring.
Dark Horse: It’s a little hard to qualify who is a dark horse this week with the field being as deep as it is, but I’m going to settle on Ryan Moore. His ball-striking has been good in 2012 and he’s coming off of his best week of the year (T4 at API). I considered Bud Cauley, as he’s finishing higher and higher every week. I also considered Rickie Fowler, as it might make sense that he would break through in a week where there are a lot of other guys grabbing the spotlight.
Contender: My contender this week is Steve Stricker. He’s crazy steady and I would be surprised if he didn’t grab a top-10, and may contend. You could go with about 15 good names here: Keegan Bradley, Johnson Wagner, Phil Mickelson………
Winner: My winner is Lee Westwood. He’s been a steady hand in this tournament and he’s in fine form in 2012. His game should be peaking headed to Augusta.
Check back tomorrow for a first round wrap up.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Shell Houston Open - Examining the Odds

I'll have to admit I was a little surprised when I saw my first spot on yesterday's power rankings, Lee Westwood, also opened as the betting favorite. The first time I looked at this week's line was about two minutes before I started writing this. Per usual, I will hit on everyone 50/1 and better as well as anyone down the list that strikes me as potentially a good value. Here is the site I'm pulling the odds from http://www.madduxsports.com/golf-betting-lines.html.

Here we go:
  • 10/1 - Lee Westwood - The betting favorite has won the last two week. Donald was 10/1 and won the Transitions and Woods was 7/1 and won Bay Hill. I think Westwood is a little less likely than the other two, but still not a bad value at 10/1.
  • 12/1 - Phil Mickelson - My gut is that Phil either wins or doesn't crack the top 15. He's kind of followed that model most of the season. Since he played at Bay Hill last week he's in some type of rhythm. Seeing that he's won here before (last year), he obviously knows how to play the course. I'm not sure Phil's my pick to win, but he's a good value at 12/1. He's sort of the anti Matt Kuchar or Webb Simpson pick.
  • 16/1 - Steve Stricker - This feels like a good value pick. Strick will likely contend here and has a top-five finish in his bag here. There's always a little concern about rust with his light schedule, but he seems to have it figured out.
  • 18/1 - Charl Schwartzel - I get why this is a sexy pick and, as I said yesterday, had he not bombed out at the Transitions I would have likely had him atop that power ranking. He has a T3 finish here, which can't be ignored. I wonder more where his mind is with his Masters defense coming up.
  • 20/1 - Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan - I'm not sold on Bradley to the extent a lot of people are. I think he's a really good golfer who will make tons of money and probably win a dozen times on TOUR and maybe pick off one more major. He's too twitchy for my liking. Mahan's coming off of his first finish outside of the top 25 all year, so I'm not sure about him either. If I were to put $100 down, I'd feel better about any of the four above, even with a smaller gain.
  • 22/1 - Graeme McDowell - McDowell at 22/1 seems better than either of the guys at 20/1. He's going to win soon.
  • 28/1 - Ernie Els - See last week. He's not putting well enough to win on the PGA TOUR right now. For him to win, he'd have to have about a five shot lead headed into Sunday and hit the ball well. His ball-striking stats on Sunday don't appear to be any different from the first 54 holes; it's all on the putter.
  • 33/1 - Aaron Baddeley - He's a decent bet to win. T4 here last year and 7/7 in cuts made.
  • 40/1 - Johnson Wagner, Henrik Stenson, John Senden, Kyle Stanley, Peter Hanson, Rickie Fowler, Ryan Moore - This is quite the eclectic group. I like Wagner at 40/1. Stenson's been sniffing contention the last month, but if he couldn't close the deal in a weak field in Puerto Rico when he had the chance I doubt he will this week either. Senden was primed to win at the Transitions and couldn't even top 10. Stanley's becoming hard to predict. Hanson is a thought. I've said before, I wouldn't put a dollar on Fowler until he actually wins. Ryan Moore.....isn't he Rickie Fowler from about six years ago? I actually like Moore to have a good week, but I don't know about winning.
  • 50/1 - Bud Cauley, Bryce Molder, Louis Oosthuizen, Padriag Harrington, Robert Allenby and Sean O'Hair - Cauley's charging hard right now. Molder's been racking up a lot of top 20s, but only one top 10. Louis' a wild card, but there are better options. Harrington could be a good pick here. Robert Allenby = John Senden with the putter. O'Hair seems to be in a decent spot.
  • Kevin Stadler at 80/1 is intriguing. I'm not sure I'd put money on it, but he's been playing well this year and is worth a look.
  • Chris Kirk at 100/1 is an interesting thought. He just had his first child a few weeks ago and this is his first tournament back. He also finished T2 here last year, so several contradictory factors here.
  • I kind of like Vaughn Taylor at 100/1. If Robert Allenby is 50/1 and John Senden is 40/1, then Taylor is sort of the opposite of them; strong putter / questionable ball-striker. I wonder if it's more likely a poor putter catches a hot week with the putter or a poor ball-striker catches a hot week with the irons? Vegas seems to think it's twice as likely a putter gets hot.
There's a lot of strength at the top of this list. If I was a betting man, I'd likely either be sitting this one out, or spreading some money out amongst a number of the favorites. I would think hard about dividing an equal amount down on Westwood, Mickelson, Stricker and McDowell and hope for the best.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Shell Houston Open Fantasy Guide

In what marks a final Masters tune-up for many and a last chance to qualify via a win for all others, the Shell Houston Open is next up on the schedule. For this week’s fantasy guide, I’ve decided to add a “dandy dozen” power ranking. As always, we will hit the preview for the Yahoo! and Golf Channel game as well.
When coming up with this for the first time, what I noticed was my first six and second six are largely interchangeable, so there’s very little difference between first and sixth and seventh and twelfth if that makes sense.
Shell Houston Open “Dandy Dozen”
1.   Lee Westwood – Donald, McIlroy, Woods and Mickelson will all enter the Masters with a win to their credit in 2012 and this is a solid chance for Westwood to join them.  He’s three for thee in cuts made in 2012 and his last three starts in Houston have resulted in T30, T8 and T11 finishes.
2.   Graeme McDowell – Obviously finished second to Tiger at Bay Hill, but is also four for four in cuts made including three top 25s. He does not have much history in this event.
3.   Steve Stricker – He’s kept the schedule light to pace himself, but when he’s played he’s been good. He’s four for four on cashing with three top 10s. He’s T4, CUT and T11 in his last three starts in Houston, but skipped the 2010 edition.
4.   Johnson Wagner – He’s first in the FedExCup standings and won here in 2008. His track record since that win has been spotty (T36,71,CUT), but his play this year is much better than those seasons as he’s eight for nine in cuts made with six top 25s and four top 10s including a first and second.
5.   Charl Schwartzel – May have been number one on this list had it not been for an inexplicable missed cut at the Transitions. Other than that, he’s made his other three cuts this year and posted two top 10’s. His two finishes in this event are T30 and T3.
6.   Phil Mickelson – This might feel like it’s too far down the list for him, but I still think he’s trying not to peak too soon for Augusta. That said, he’s the defending champion and his last four finishes here read (win, T35, CUT, T23). He’s six for seven on cuts this year with his two top 10s being a win and a playoff second.
7.   Ernie Els – I feel bad for Els having to continually answer awkward questions about the Masters. I also don’t trust his putter on Sunday, but it’s hard to ignore back to back top-five finishes. His last three finishes here are T55, T44 and T14.
8.   Aaron Baddeley – Badds finished tied for fourth here last year and has made the cut in all seven attempts in 2012. I hope this doesn’t turn into my last week’s Pat Perez.
9.   Padraig Harrington – The Irishman’s quietly made all four of his cuts this year with two top 25s and a top 10. He finished T8 here in 2011 and T40 and T26 the two years prior to that.
10.  Keegan Bradley – He’s been a machine making all eight of his cuts, but despite the hype has only turned in two top 10s. He finished T51 here last year.
11. Hunter Mahan – He burned me last week, but has made all six of his cuts and five top 25’s. Finished a feast or famine T8, CUT, T6 in his last three trips to Houston.
12. Bud Cauley – He’s trending up lately, although he hasn’t played this event before. He’s seven for nine in cuts with a T4 at Bay Hill last week and two other top 25s.
Here were my next 4 out in no particular order: Ryan Moore, Rickie Fowler, Sean O’Hair and Ben Crane.
Here's how we are playing the Yahoo! game this week.
  • A-List - I'm starting Stricker and holding Mickelson on the bench. I also considered Bradley, O'Hair and J.B. Holmes.
  • B-List - I'm starting Lee Westwood and Ernie Els and keeping Hunter Mahan and Ryan Moore warm on the bench. I also considered Rickie Fowler.
  • C-List - I'm starting Graeme McDowell and holding Johnson Wagner on the bench. In a loaded group, I kept Charl Schwartzel and Aaron Baddeley out of the lineup this week, all though either would have made my B-List if they were an option.
The Golf Channel game will look like this for us.
  • Group 1 - It's absolutely loaded but I'll take Westwood over a host of strong options.
  • Group 2 - I took J.B. Holmes over some guys like Jimmy Walker and Chris Kirk. Kirk's tempting due to his runner-up finish last year, but he's coming off of a layoff from the birth of his first child so I'm going to be a little cautious with him.
  • Group 3 - I'm riding Bud Cauley again this week. He came through last week and is playing better and better every week right now.
  • Group 4 - Vaughn Taylor looks like a good option here. He's played this tournament well and seems to be in good form coming off the Florida Swing.
Check back tomorrow to see how the odds strike us!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wittenberg runs away with Chitimacha Louisiana Open

Casey Wittenberg posted a final round -6 to end the week at 24-under par and an eight shot victory in the Chitimacha Louisiana Open. It is his first career Nationwide Tour victory and ninth top-10 finish in 85 starts.

Wittenberg finished the week with two eagles, two bogeys and 22 birdies and was tied for third in the field in GIR with 83.3 percent. He also played the par 5s in 12-under for the week.

The Nationwide Tour takes a week off before heading to California for two weeks. Check back Wednesday after next for a preview!

Tiger takes home win at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Tiger Woods got the monkey off his back in familiar fashion on Sunday at Bay Hill by winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational by five strokes over Graeme McDowell. The Woods golf fans witnessed on Sunday was very reminiscent of the Tiger of old. He tied for the lead in GIR for the week and played the par 5's at 12-under-par for the week en route to his first victory since 2009.

What may be the most interesting thing about Sunday was how the rest of the field reacted to Wood holding the lead. Nobody was able to mount a real challenge. Even when Tiger struggled and McDowell had a chance to apply pressure and close the gap he continued to shoot himself in the foot.

Tiger's 2-under 70 was the third lowest score of the day, trailing only J.B. Holmes and Brian Harman who posted 68's much earlier in the day. He was also the only player in the last eight groups to play the final round under par.

As a footnote, Ernie Els had a chance to punch his coveted ticket to Augusta National with a win or second place finish, but ended up in a tie for fourth. He is in the field at the Shell Houston Open and will have to win to advance to the Masters unless Augusta National awards him with a special exemption.

Shell Houston Open Monday Qualifier

The Shell Houston Open Monday Qualifier will be held on Monday, March 26th at the Cypresswood Golf Club. Below are the links to the tee times and leaderboard. Check back throughout the day Monday to see the leaderboard as it updates.

Tee times: http://stpga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/stpga12/event/stpga127/pairings.htm?r=bcf10f2b-058d-4294-883c-87598691fcc6

Leaderboard: http://stpga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/stpga12/event/stpga127/contest/1/leaderboard.htm

Best of luck to your favorite player!

*******Update********
Here are the four that advanced.
Tag Ridings @ -6
Jeff Curl @ -6
Shawn Stefani @ -6
Jim Herman @ -5 (in a 5 for 1 spot playoff)

Now these four guys will compete in a 72 hole "Masters' qualifier," AKA the Shell Houston Open, with one spot available to the winner.

Shell Houston Open Preview

The Shell Houston Open will once again serve as the final warm-up for the Masters, as well as the final chance for someone to win and gain entry into the field at Augusta National. Defending champion, Phil Mickelson, is among those using this week as a final tune-up. With so many story lines, it becomes a little difficult to predict who is actually in this tournament to win it and who is using it as a final opportunity to hone their skills for the Masters.

Below are the winners and runners up since 2000.

Year                   Winner                             Runner Up
2000                  Robert Allenby                  Craig Stadler
2001                  Hal Sutton                         Joe Durant, Lee Janzen
2002                  Vijay Singh                        Darren Clarke
2003                  Fred Couples                    Stuart Appleby, Mark Calcavecchia, Hank Kuehne
2004                  Vijay Singh                        Scott Hoch
2005                  Vijay Singh                        John Daly
2006                  Stuart Appleby                  Bob Estes
2007                  Adam Scott                       Stuart Appleby, Bubba Watson
2008                  Johnson Wagner                Geoff Ogilvy, Chris Campbell
2009                  Paul Casey (Playoff)          J.B. Holmes
2010                  Anthony Kim                     Vaughn Taylor
2011                  Phil Mickelson                   Chris Kirk, Scott Verplank

Without trying to over-analyze this list, what jumps off the page to me is that almost every name listed above is a major champion/Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup type player. There isn't one style of player either. You have bombers like Bubba Watson, John Daly and J.B. Holmes showing up as runner-ups. You also see the Johnson Wagner, Vaughn Taylor and Scott Verplank types.

At first glance of the field, here are the guys that strike me as worthy of consideration and I'm sure many of these names will pop up in my fantasy preview on Monday: Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Aaron Baddeley, Keegan Bradley, Chad Campbell, Paul Casey, Bud Cauley, Fred Couples, Ben Crane, Ernie Els, Rickie Fowler, Lucas Glover, Anders Hansen, Peter Hanson, Padraig Harrington, J.B. Holmes, Anthony Kim, Chris Kirk, Hunter Mahan, Graeme McDowell, Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore, Sean O'Hair, John Rollins, Charl Schwartzel, Kyle Stanley, Henrik Stenson, Steve Stricker, Vaughn Taylor, Scott Verplank, Johnson Wagner, Lee Westwood and Y.E. Yang.

Check back tomorow to see how all this works itself out in our fantasy guide.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Arnold Palmer Invitational third round wrap up

Tiger Woods finds himself in familiar territory entering the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. He is 11-under-par and leads by one over 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. Tiger is looking to win for the first time on the PGA TOUR since the 2009 BMW Championship.  Here are some notes from the final round.
  • Ernie Els put himself in position to bounce back from the Travelers Championship final three-hole collapse after a 5-under round puts him at 8-under and three back of Woods. If he could somehow win, he would exorcise the demons of both the Travelers and Woods.
  • Tiger's got a tough playing partner in the final round, as McDowell only has three bogeys to his name all week.
  • Ian Poulter's done nothing all year, but also can be found three back of the lead and tied with Els. If one of them could shoot a 67 or 68 that could make things interesting.
  • While he's probably too far back to win, Bud Cauley has snuck his way up the leaderboard.
There's not a whole lot of point to take it past these notes. The entire golf world will be watching to see if Tiger can close the deal. If he can, then a showdown of Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy await at Augusta in two weeks. If he can't, then the questions will start as to when and if he will win again.

I think he wins tomorrow. The biggest reason is because he's 10-under on the par 5s and hitting a very high percentage of GIR and that's the old winning formula for Woods. Now let's wait and see how Sunday plays out.

David May wins Egolf Irish Creek Classic

Clemson University product David May won the Irish Creek Classic for his first Egolf Professional Tour championship with a total score of 18-under-par to win by two over Mitchell Krywulycz.  He finished 10th last week at the Pine Needles and his previous career high was a six place finish in August of 2011 at Rock Barn.

Here's the final leaderboard.

Click to view complete leaderboard

Friday, March 23, 2012

Chitimacha Louisiana Open 2nd round wrap up

The Chitimacha Louisiana Open has reached the half-way point with Camilo Benedetti (13-under) holding a one shot lead over Brendan Pappas. The cut fell at 4-under-par.

Woods shares lead at Bay Hill

Tiger Woods will go to bed in a familiar position tonight. He's in the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. This is shaping up to be a weekend where Woods puts a number of doubts to rest. Of course, anything short of a victory could also add fuel to the fire that burns in the anti-Woods camp.

Here are some notes from the second round:
  • Woods isn't the only one in the lead. He shares it at 10-under with first round co-leader Charlie Wi.
  • One shot off the lead is Jason Dufner and Graeme McDowell. McDowell put up a 9-under 63 on Friday which is the lowest of the week.
  • Justin Rose sits in fifth place, but you have to go all the way down to 6-under to find him.
  • Other popular names within chasing distance include Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh and Webb Simpson in a group at 5-under. Defending champ Martin Larid is 4-under.
  • Surprising, at least to me, was Robert Garrigus and Pat Perez failing to see the weekend. Garrigus had to take a two-shot penalty and it resulted in him missing the cut by a single shot.
  • From a fantasy standpoint, we'll obviously be plugging in Martin Laird into the starting slot in the Yahoo! C group as Perez missed the cut. I strongly considered leaving Hunter Mahan alone since he'll be going out early in the Saturday round and could see better conditions, but I opted to move Justin Rose into the starting spot.
  • In the Golf Channel game, Woods, Laird and Bud Cauley all made the cut, and only Garrigus in group 3 missed the cut.
Tomorrow I will be blurbing for Rotoworld, so check in there to see updates as they happen and we'll catch back up here tomorrow night.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Baseball's Freddie Couples

Join me in raising a glass to Atlanta Braves' third baseman Chipper Jones who announced that the 2012 season will be his last. It's extremely rare that I deviate from the topic of golf, so I'll tie it together with a comparison. As the title suggests, Jones is the golf equivalent of Freddie Couples.
  • Miguel Angel Jiminez excluded, there's nobody cooler in golf than Freddie Couples. He's got the look, the swagger, the long driver and the Masters' titles to back it up. He doesn't need anyone else to tell him who or what he is because he knows it, and so do we. Ask any teammate or respected competitor and they'll tell you Chipper's baseball cool. Besides the plug of tobacco, batting glove hanging out of the back pocket and perfectly subtle bat flip; David Wright of the Mets and Derek Jeter of the Yanks basically both went on record today calling him the ultimate baseball player.
  • Chippers teammates love him and he teared up talking about them. Captain Freddie was pretty good at that team thing too.
  • Freddie made Augusta National his personal playground and Chipper did the same with the old Shea Staduim; playing foil to the Mets his entire career.
  • Freddie will never be called the best golfer that ever played the game and Chipper won't be rememberd that way either, but anyone who watched Freddie stroll the fairways or Chipper hit a hanging slider won't forget them.
  • Freddie has constant back problems and Chipper's had knee problems and strained obliques. Freddie would have won more and Chipper would have hit 500 homers if not for injury.
  • Would anybody really be shocked if Freddie won the Masters one last time? If Chipper stole another batting title or World Series ring? Sure it isn't likely, but stranger things have and will happen.
Chipper Jones might be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. In an era of steroids and other PED's, he's never been linked to any of it. There isn't a discussion on the best third basemen or best switch hitters of all time that does't include Jones in the first three to five on the list.

Here's to Chipper!

Arnold Palmer Invitatinal First Round Wrap Up

With 18 holes in the books at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, here are some first round thoughts and notes.
  • Charlie Wi and Jason Dufner tied for the lead at the API may not be the most stable front-runners, but it's not shocking to see them on an early leaderboard. Wi's got five runner-ups to Dufner's three, but neither have closed the deal.
  • Nick Watney's showing some signs of life at 4-under and in third place.
  • "Momma there go that man again" Tiger Woods is 3-under and in a fourth place tie with the likes of Justin Rose and Bubba Watson. That's not the shocker. The real surprise is that Anthony Kim is also in that tie. Raise your hand if you saw that coming and your last name isn't Kim. I didn't think so.
  • Almost as surprising, Spencer Levin fired an 81. It was not uncommon to see his name mentioned in some other fantasy articles around the web.......thankfully not this one.
  • Speaking of fantasy, all of our picks for the Yahoo! and Golf Channel games this week, including our bench players on Yahoo!, are currently sitting in T38 place or higher.
  • Ernie Els was 3-under through four but the reason why he won't win this week, or any other in the foreseeable future, showed up on the 18th as he closed his round by missing a four foot birdie putt.
  • Sean O'Hair was the darling of the Tavistock Cup and is tied for fourth at 3-under.
Check back tomorrow and see how "cut day" goes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Arnold Palmer Invitational Final Predictions

The previews have been cast and the first tee goes in the ground at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in a matter of hours. Without wasting any time, here are the final predictions.

  • Dark Horse- This came down to Robert Garrigus and Pat Perez. I'm going with Garrigus because when Martin Laird won last year he led the field in par-5 scoring and went for every par-5 in two. Garrigus is long enough and he's hitting GIR at a high clip.
  • Contender - It's an educated hunch, but I like Hunter Mahan this week. He makes a lot of birdies and this is a course that, should he be able to stockpile some birdies, he could walk away with a win.
  • Winner - I can't not take Tiger Woods. Here's the biggest reason. His ball striking seems to be back. The greens at Bay Hill do not yield a very high putting average which should/could balance out the really good putters because they just aren't going to be holing those 25-foot putts. I don't consider Tiger an elite putter right now, but I think he's still good enough to lag it inside 3 feet and make tap-ins and that could be enough.

Nationwide Tour Chitimach Louisiana Open Preview

The Nationwide Tour makes the first U.S. stop down in the Bayou at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open in Broussard, Louisiana. A couple of interesting facts; this tournament is played on a course with five par-5's and five par-3's. That means a steady balance of par-5 and par-3 scoring is helpful. Also, a handful of the past winners are very long. Brett Wetterich is the defending champion and a two time winner, and the former Ryder Cupper is known to be a bomber. Same with Ryan Hietala who won beat out Sean O'Hair in 2005 and Jimmy Walker in 2004.

With that in mind, here are my top 5 Power Rankings:
  1. Brett Wetterich - How can I not take him first. Defending champion and two-time winner.
  2. Troy Merritt - He's made 13 consecutive cuts and a steady T20, T25 and T17 in order of appearances in 2012.
  3. Matt Hendrix - Plenty long and this soggy course should favor the bombers. Had a shot to get a top 5 in Panama before a rough final round. He's birdied half of his par 5's this season.
  4. Brian Smock - Hard to argue against his finishes (T11, T2,T28 in order).
  5. David Lingmerth - He's made every cut this season and is T34 in par-3 birdie average and has birdied 45% of his par-5's this year.
****UPDATE*****
On PGATOUR.com's tournament page for this event under the "course" section it lists the 14th hole as a par-5, but it is actually playing as a par-4 this week. Thus, there are four par-5's and par is 71.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bo Van Pelt W/D and resulting fantasy change

A quick note, Bo Van Pelt has W/D from the API. I have now moved Hunter Mahan into a starting spot in the Yahoo! B Group and Brandt Snedeker onto the bench. In the Golf Channel Group 2, I've plugged in Martin Laird. I also looked at Charles Howell III and Jim Furyk.

Arnold Palmer Invitational - Examining the Odds

At the Transitions Championship, we saw Luke Donald win a s 10/1 favorite. This week's favorite is Tiger Woods at 7/1. I think it makes sense to see Woods as the favorite, but Donald at 10/1 last week felt like a little better bet than Woods at 7/1 this week.

Below will be everyone listed as 50/1 or better at the time of this posting using the lines on Maddox Sports page. Here's the link http://www.madduxsports.com/golf-betting-lines.html. I will also look at a few people that stand out a little further down the list as some possible value bets. I'll throw my disclaimer out that I don't bet on golf and do this peek at the odds purely for fun.

  • 7/1 - Tiger Woods - He's won here six times and this is probably as good a spot as any to break the streak. I'm not all that worried about his form, as he wouldn't have played the Tavistock Cup if he had concerns about the leg. That said, I don't know that I like him at 7/1. Eight of his 11 rounds on TOUR this year have been in the 60's, but he hasn't shot four rounds under par in any tournament. He shot three-in-a-row at the Cadillac, but was trending over par before he w/d in the final round. He's first in the TOUR's all-around ranking. I think he has a real shot at winning this week, but I don't know that the return on investment is high enough at 7/1.
  • 14/1 - Phil Mickelson - You never know with Phil. I don't love him when he hasn't played the week before. It seems like it takes him a few competitive rounds before he gets dialed in, which is why he often plays the week before a major. I don't know that he's necessarily trying to win this week as much as he's starting his Masters build up.
  • 16/1 - Justin Rose and Webb Simpson - Rose my be a prudent play. He had the expected winning hangover last week, but I though it was really impressive that after he shot himself out of the tournament on Saturday with a 75 he had the focus to come back on Sunday and shoot a 66. Simpson's record here isn't great with back-to-back missed cuts, but he did have a T11 here in 2009. I don't think he's as sharp as last year, so while I have him in my fantasy line-up and think he'll have a good week I don't know that I trust him to win.
  • 22/1 - Hunter Mahan and Sergio Garcia - I like both of these guys here. Both of them can make some birdies and both of them can play hard courses well. Garcia scares me from a betting standpoint, but I think it's at least as likely if not more that one of these two win as any of those above them.
  • 28/1 - Bubba Watson, Bo Van Pelt and Nick Watney - Van Pelt's hot, but he's won one time in 301 events. How much do you like his chances to pull this one off? I think he has a really good week, but there's a reason a guy as good as he is has only won once in 301 starts. Watson might be good here. He should be able to take advantage of the par-5's and the wider fairways could favor him. Watney's 7/7 in cuts made, but doesn't have a stroke-play top 10.
  • 33/1 - Jim Furyk, Graeme McDowell, Bill Haas - McDowell and Haas don't have good enough history here to excite me. Furyk does, but I wonder if the grinder will have enough left in the tank after last week's contention. I don't know that I'd like any of these three here.
  • 40/1 - Brandt Snedeker / Ernie Els - It would be nothing short of a miracle if Els won this week. He's got all kinds of demons in his head after the Transitions. This isn't a Kyle Stanley kind of story, as Els has been battling a balky putter for two  years. Snedeker hasn't had a top 15 in a stroke-play event since his win in Janurary. Last three times here were MC, T30 and T17. Not really a winning formula.
  • 50/1 - Jason Dufner, Gary Woodland, Charles Howell III, Fredrik Jacobson, David Toms, Jeff Overton, Zach Johnson, Martin Laird, Spencer Levin, K.J. Choi - A lot of guys here, so I'm going to give a phrase on each. Dufner - maybe if he came from behind late. Woodland - I tried to like him this week when I was doing my fantasy preview, but couldn't. Howell III - entirely possible, but I'd like him if he were coming from behind as well. Jacobson - Tough greens to putt and he's a good putter, so if he gets hot...maybe, but a big maybe. Toms - Wider fairways make an accurate guy like Toms less appealing because it cancels out his main advantage. Overton - When he wins for the first time it will be because he shoos a final round 65 and posts an hour before the leaders....it's anyone's guess as to when but doesn't have great history here. Johnson - similar to Toms. Laird - Hard to defend and he almost lost it down the stretch last year, but hung on. Levin - boy oh boy.....see Overton. Choi - He didn't play well in an event that he owns last week, so why expect a lot this wee?
  • 80/1 - I like Robert Garrigus hanging out here.
  • 125/1 - Pat Perez has made every cut this year and he's made the cut every year in this event since 2005 including a T4 finish. Frankly, I feel like I'm missing something because he seems every bit as good a bet as the 40/1 or 50/1's.
This would not be a tournament I would bet. There's a major variable at the top with Woods, as he probably should be the favorite, but I don't know about 7/1. Guys like Mahan and Garcia at 22/1 seem almost as likely to win it as anyone above them. There's also some value deep with guys like Garrigus and Perez. If I had to bet this one, I'd take Mahan at 22/1 because I think he's almost as likely as Woods to win and the return is better. I might also throw a few on Garrigus and Perez.

Be sure to write in and make fun of me next week when Ernie Els wins!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Arnold Palmer Invitational Fantasy Guide

The Transitions Championship is in the books and, as good as a week as it was for us, it's time to turn our attention to the Arnold Palmer Invitational. I'm not going to lie, this was a hard week for me to pick in the Yahoo! format, but not too difficult in the Golf Channel.

As I went about my picks, here are some things I considered. I down-played driving accuracy and put a higher premium on GIR. Wider fairways allow for some of those drives that usually trickle into the intermediate or even the rough to find the short grass this week. I also took a look at par-5 and par-3 performance, as I think it's critical to pick up some birdies on the par-5's and try and avoid bogeys on the difficult par-3's. As always, I factored in past experience and success at Bay Hill as well as current form and a little gut instinct.

Here's the Yahoo! lineup:
  • A Group - I'm starting Webb Simpson and having Robert Garrigus standing by on the bench. Simpson's always a safe play and he's trending well. He shot four rounds in the 60's last week and nabbed his third top-10 of the year. The major pause for concern is that he has missed the cut here the last two years, but finished T11 in 2009. He's also 10th in GIR and ranks in the top 50 in par 3, 4 and 5 performance. Garrigus is part feel and part riding the hot hand. He really should have an advantage here much like Martin Laird did last year with his length. He also blitzed the field in the final round of the Transitions Championship to force his way into a playoff where he stuck his approach to under seven feet before missing with his new belly putter to hand Luke Donald the title. He's second in driving distance, seventh in GIR and 141st in driving accuracy, but as I said earlier I discount that one a little bit here. He's also a terrible 182nd in total putting, but putting averages tend to be higher this week anyway, so he might could get away with it. Logically, it's hard to pass on Furyk (P2 last week as well as T9 and T11 his last two API starts) but my gut says no. I also liked Sergio Garcia and Charles Howell III better than Nick Watney and Phil Mickelson. Mickelson's on his Masters build up right now, so I'd be a little surprised if he allowed himself to peak this week.
  • B Group - I'm starting Tiger Woods and Bo Van Pelt while having Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan on the bench. A side note, Rose or Mahan either one would have started in my A or C group. I tried to talk myself out of Woods and couldn't. He's won here 137 times (actually six) and his stats are incredible this year. Probably a reason why Woods' won here so many times is because he can get away with a bad drive (or four) and more fairways mean more approaches from the fairways equal more birdies for TW. He wouldn't be playing the Tavistock Cup if his health was of any concern, so I'm going to trust that he's fine. Van Pelt has been on fire with top 10's in four of his last five starts. He's fourth in all-around ranking and has a decent history here. He's also played the par-3's at even for the year and is in the top 20 in par-5 performance. I don't have a good answer as to why I don't have Rose or Mahan starting as they each have played really well here before and make a bunch of birdies. My advice would be to keep an eye on the "hot hand" as the week unfolds and possibly consider starting Rose or Mahan if they have a morning tee time on a day when Van Pelt plays in the afternoon. The other player I really considered here was Brandt Snedeker, but when I dug into it he didn't make as much sense as the other four.
  • C Group - I've tried to talk myself out of this and can't. I'm starting Pat Perez and putting Martin Laird, the defending champion, on the bench. I thought about Johnson Wagner and Graeme McDowell and Ben Crane and Sang-moon Bae and Harris English and Jeff Overton; but none of them made as much sense to me as Perez and Laird. Perez is 7/7 in cuts made this year and has made every cut at Bay Hill from 2005-2011 including a T4 in 2009. He's also second in par-5 performance, 40th in ball striking and 14th in total putting. Laird has seemed to show up when I didn't expect him to this year and be a non-factor when I did, so I'm a little gun shy on him. He's third in GIR, but way down the list in putting.
Golf Channel fantasy lineup:
  • Group 1 - This kind of felt like the Donald pick last week, but I'm taking Woods this week. Just like I said above, I'm trying to talk my way out of it but can't. Webb Simpson, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose got a lot of consideration from me in no particular order.
  • Group 2 - Bo Van Pelt basically over Martin Laird. The only thing that scares me a little about Van Pelt is that he likes to fly under the radar and he's starting to get some attention. Sort of like a Lucas Glover.
  • Group 3 - Robert Garrigus. I really like him this week. He's getting in the hunt more and more often and seems really comfortable in his own skin. This would be a really big tournament for him to win, but he has the skill set.
  • Group 4 - I took Bud Cauley here, but found myself giving Henrik Stenson a good look. In the end, Stenson's past record here wasn't all that good and Cauley is in good form off a T16 last week. If you want to be really brave, pick Arnie's grandson Sam Saunders. The quick breakdown on Saunders is he plays at Bay Hill all the time and can make some birdies. Don't be surprised to see him make the cut either. In the end, he'll rack up too many bogeys and doubles.
One final note; I had a Twitter follower ask me a good question today regarding if it could be argued that Sang-moon Bae has accomplished more on the PGA TOUR than Ryo Ishikawa. I replied back briefly that I think the two are very comprable, each having runner-up finishes (ironically in back-to-back weeks), but there are a lot of dynamics to that question. Bae's won 11 times across the globe, but has largely flown under the radar. He's quietly 27th in the world golf rankings. He's also 8 for 8 in cuts made this year and 9 for 12 for his PGA TOUR career. Ishikawa has the Japanese media with him everywhere he goes. He's like Ichiro from the Seattle Mariners meets Michelle Wie. He hasn't been under the radar since he was 16. Currently Ishikawa is 50th in the world and has made 4/6 cuts this year, but is barely over 50 percent for his career at 17/32. It's probably a little too early to draw any real conclusions, but the short answer is yes, you can make an argument either way.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @RyanGolfBlogger and ask questions any time.

Check back tomorrow for the weekly odds examination.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Transitions Championship final wrap up

The Transitions Championship ended with Luke Donald winning a four-man playoff to retake the world No. 1 ranking from Rory McIlory that he relinquished just two weeks ago. Leading up to the tournament, we devoted a good bit of time to Donald on this site and had him starting in our Yahoo! A group and Golf Channel group 1; so if you heeded the advice of the previews I trust you had a nice week in fantasy land.

Here are some notes from the final round:
  • The Big Easy had this tournament won. He played so well for 16-1/2 holes and had a birdie attempt just under five feet on the 16th hole to go up two strokes and seemingly ice the tournament, but balky putter that's held him back for the last several years. He putted well in the intermediate range, but let short ones get away. Add to that the pressure of trying to punch a Masters ticket and it just didn't end up being Els day. But he played really well; vintage well for 16-1/2 holes.
  • Scott Piercy looks like the kind of guy that's going to shoot some random low numbers and contend every once in a while. I don't know that he can be counted on with regularity, but he reminds me a little of a Joe Durant type. If the putter get's hot, then something big could happen.
  • Luke Donald can be a shark when he really wants to be. I'd like to see Donald free-wheel it a little more often and go flag hunting. I wonder if the reason he does well in match-play and the reason he won in Disney and this week was because he felt like it was all or nothing. That was my theory when I picked him in virtually every format this week and it worked out.
  • Sang-moon Bae looks like the kind of guy that will acclimate to the PGA TOUR quickly enough. Sort of reminds me of Ryo Ishikawa in that he's won so much in Japan and his game seems to travel. Funny since Ishikawa finished second last week too.
  • Robert Garrigus is going to be dangerous at Bay Hill. It's hard not to pull for him, isn't it?
  • I'll be interested to see what's next for Furyk.
  • Jeff Overton will win sooner or later, and it will be in come-from-behind fashion.
Check back tomorrow for our Arnold Palmer Invitational fantasy preview and we'll see if we can pick a winner for a second week in a row!

Arnold Palmer Invitational Preview

The Arnold Palmer Invitational will be contested this week at Bay Hill as Martin Laird looks to defend his title. Laird's 8-under 280 was good for a one shot lead over Steve Marino, as he survived a final-round 75 to close the deal. Several other notables who finished the 2011 API in the top 10 that are currently in good form include Justin Rose (T3), Sergio Garcia (8) and Jim Furyk (T9).

Over the years, there have been a wide variety of winners and a wide range of winning scores. One thing that has been consistent has been Tiger Woods. Woods has six wins at Bay Hill with his last coming in 2009. He will compete again this week, but his form is a little questionable after his withdrawal during the final round at Doral.

When putting together my fantasy preview I will spend some time looking at par-5 scoring. It's important to make some birdies at Bay Hill and there are opportunities to do so on the par-5's. For years on TOUR, Tiger was known as a guy that could (and would) light the par 5's up and with that in mind I don't think it's a coincidence that he won here six times.

At first glance, here are some guys that catch my eye: Sang-moon Bae, Ben Crane, Brendon de Jonge, Jason Dufner, Ken Duke, Ernie Els, Harris English, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, Robert Garrigus, Bill Haas, J.B. Holmes, Martin Laird, Spencer Levin, Hunter Mahan, Steve Marino, Phil Mickelson, Kevin Na, Sean O'Hair, Jeff Overton, Scott Piercy, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, David Toms, Bo Van Pelt, Nick Watney and Tiger Woods.

Check back tomorrow for our fantasy preview.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Goosen and Furyk take lead into final round of Transitions Championship

It feels like anyone's tournament headed into the final round of the Transitions Championship. Even with men of the pedigree of Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk leading the way, there are currently 20 players within four shots of the lead.  Here are some third round notes and final round thoughts.
  • The final pairing of Jason Dufner and Padraig Harrington shot a combined 1-over-par. The pairing just ahead of them of William McGirt and Chris Couch shot a combined 4-over-par. If the final two pairings do that on Sunday there are literally 30 guys who could win on Sunday.
  • There are a lot of players that are considered to be "past their prime" major champions high up the leaderboard including Goosen and Furyk in the lead, Ernie Els (T7), Shaun Micheel (T10), David Toms (T10) and Padriag Harrington (T10). It feels like an early 2000's U.S. Open broke out at the Copperhead course.
  • When I'm searching for storylines with players for the final round, the thing I keep coming back to is that Sunday could be a really wild and unpredictable finish. It has the feel of a tournament where someone who starts the day tied for 29th shoots a 7-under early in the day and the leaders struggle to get there. I would not be at all surprised if someone has to wait around for several hours in the clubhouse to see if a score they posts holds up.
Like Saturday, check in on Rotoworld tomorrow as I will be posting player updates live during the final round.

Egolf Tour Pine Needles Classic crowns Foley Champion

Kevin Foley earned his first Egolf Tour victory on Saturday with a final-round 4-under to end the week at 16-under-par and one shot ahead of Bruce McDonald.

Check out the final round wrap up here http://www.egolfprofessionaltour.com/foley-grabs-first-egolf-tour-title-with-dramatic-72nd-hole-birdie-putt-at-the-pine-needles-lassic.

Click on the leaderboard below for the full field final scores and results.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chitimacha Louisiana Open Monday Qualifier Info

The Nationwide Tour Chitimacha Louisiana Open qualifier will be held on Monday, March 19th. For information including the field, tee times and leaderboards follow the link below.

http://gulfpga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/gulfpga12/event/gulfpga126/index.htm

Hope your favorite golfer makes it through!

Egolf Tour Pine Needles Classic

The Egolf Tour Pine Needles Classic is 18 holes from coming to an end and Chesson Hadley is sleeping on the 54-hole lead. The past winners of this event have gone on to even more success at the higher levels of the professional ranks.

Here is the championship list Hadley is trying to join.
  • 2009 - Tom Gillis
  • 2009 - Matt Davidson (Tour Championship)
  • 2010 & 2011 - Jason Kokrak
Click below for the full leaderboard.

Click to view complete leaderboard

Transitions Championship Round 2 Wrap Up

At the half-way point of the Transitions Championship, the lead remains 10-under, but is now held by Jason Dufner. The second round played a little tougher than the first, and the cut fell at 1-under. Here are some thoughts from the second round.
  • Dufner holds the lead at 10-under, but it sort of feels like the true lead is something like Luke Donald at 7-under. Dufner feels like the break-away rider at the Tour de France with the pelliton about to swallow him up. After what I saw at Atlanta Athletic Club, I don't like him trying to close out a tournament on the Snake Trap.
  • It was predictable that Padraig Harrington would have a hard time following up his scorching first-round 61, but I think most people would have thought he'd have at least shot even par. His putting didn't look good, but if he can shoot a 68 tomorrow he'll be right there on Sunday.
  • Harrington's tied with William McGirt trying to garner his first PGA TOUR top 10. It will be very interesting to see how McGirt handles the pressure of being in the thick of contention on a Saturday. It's probably a blessing in disguise that he made a late bogey to drop out of the final pairing an into a much less heralded pairing with Chris Couch, who is tied for fourth at 7-under.
  • Speaking of Couch, I mentioned I liked him at 150/1 in my odds breakdown earlier this week and I'm loving him in my Golf Channel group 4 slot this week.
  • And then there's Luke Donald. I love him lurking here. He's three back of the lead, but only has three players ahead of him. He was 10/1 to start the week, and if he's still that; buy.
  • Four guys are tied for ninth at 6-under and they are John Senden, who we've been talking about all week, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia and Kenny Perry. Would it surprise anyone if the winner of this tournament is currently one of those four? Wouldn't me.
  • I'll be interested to see how the course plays over the weekend. It began to play tougher in the afternoon wave of the second round. If that keeps up, I could see a winning score in the 13 to 14-under area.
Check back tomorrow to see who's sleeping on the 54-hole lead. Also, check in on Rotoworld.com where I will be posting blurbs during third-round play.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Transitions Championship Round 1 Wrap Up

Irish eyes were smiling at the Transitions Championship in the first round as Padraig Harrington birdied his final three holes to shoot a course record 10-under 61. Someone must have forgot to tell Harrington that St. Patrick's Day isn't until Saturday.

Here are some comments from the opening round:
  • We've already mentioned Harrington, but rookie Will Claxton shot the lowest round of his PGA TOUR career with a 7-under 64 to stand alone in second.
  • John Senden lived up to our hype with a 5-under 66. If you look back, Senden is our "contender" pick for the week as well as Golf Channel group two starter and Yahoo! C group backup. Needless to say, he's now the starter in the C group for tomorrow after Charl Schwartzel tanked the first round.
  • Jim Furyk is tied for third at 5-under. It appears the familiar confines of the Copperhead course are suiting Furyk well.
  • Chris Couch came through as our Golf Channel group four starter with a 4-under and T10 start. Luke Donald (Yahoo! A starter and Golf Channel group 1 stater, as well as "winner" pick) had a solid 4-under in the afternoon wave, as did Justin Rose (Yahoo! B group starter).
  • Defending champ Gary Woodland shot a respectable 3-under to be sitting T20.
  • Our other Yahoo! B group starter Brandt Snedeker is at 2-under an tied for 32nd.
  • Go figure, John Daly shot a 2-under in the afternoon wave.
  • Golf Channel group 3 starter John Rollins is hanging around the cut line with an even par 71.
  • Only five people shot higher first rounds that Charl Scwhartzel, who was a popular pre-tournament favorite. He'll likely need a 64 or 65 on Friday to make the cut.
Check back tomorrow and see who sticks around for the weekend!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Transitions Open Final Predictions

With all of the previews in the books, it's time for me to cast my final predictions for the 2012 Transitions Championship.
  • Dark Horse - It's hard to define what a "dark horse" is from week to week, but I'll try to go a little off the board on this one. I'll take Lucas Glover as a dark horse to surprise some people. I've said several times that he plays the best when the expectations are the lowest. Couple that with a course where he's had some modest success and who knows what will happen.
  • Contender - It's not really fair to put Charl Schwartzel in a contender category, so I'll go with John Senden. It's sort of unlikely the Aussie actually wins, as he tends to have trouble closing the deal, but I do exepct him to have a big week.
  • Winner - Luke Donald. In my fantasy preview I had him high on every list and Vegas has him as the favorite. I really do like him to play hard to try and wrestle the No. 1 ranking back from Rory McIlroy.
Best of luck to your favorite golfer!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Transitions Championship - Examining the Odds

Now that we've posted our Transitions Championship preview and our fantasy guide, it's time to dig into the odds. Since I know we've picked up some new followers over the past few weeks, I'll quickly throw out my disclaimer that I look at the odds for enjoyment only, and I don't bet them. If my take on them is helpful to you, then great. If it costs you money, then sorry. Golf's a game with more variables than any other sport, so I don't really think there is such a thing as a safe bet in golf. My hope is that it will be enjoyable, first and foremost, and maybe a tad thought provoking.

The site I get my odds off of for no particular reason is Maddux Sports Betting. Here is the link to the current odds http://www.madduxsports.com/golf-betting-lines.html. The odds listed below are at the time of my writing this and obviously subject to change.

The first thing that jumped out at me this week is the number of golfers 50/1 or better. I counted 22. Also, the betting favorite is Luke Donald, currently at 10/1 which is a fairly modest line.  Below are the golfers at each line that's 50/1 or better, as well as a few below that I found interesting.
  • 10/1 - Luke Donald - I think he's as good a favorite as any. He's trending well and I've got him as my Yahoo! A group starter and he's in my Golf Channel Fantasy line up this week, so I guess theoretically I would agree with this.
  • 14/1 - Charl Schwartzel - Again, hard to argue. He's starting in my Yahoo! and in the same category as Donald in my Golf Channel game or I would have started him there too.
  • 16/1 - Justin Rose - I don't like this bet, and here's why. Virtually nobody goes back-to-back on TOUR any more. Look at McIlroy last week. He is the best golfer in the world (and actually world No. 1 too) and even he had a first round hangover. I like Rose to have a good week, but I wouldn't take him to win because I don't like the odds of a back-to-back winner.
  • 18/1 - Webb Simpson - I've been a little chilly on Simpson this week, but I get where this is coming from. He almost won this event last year and "horses for courses" seem relevant at the Copperhead. It seems to me like something's missing a little bit, but I'm not sure what.
  • 20/1 - Matt Kuchar - Fair or not, Kuchar and Simpson seem to me like the same golfer. Kuch had a top 10 last week and is good on hard courses. If I were betting on who would make a top 10, he'd be a good bet, but I don't know that he hoists the trophy.
  • 22/1 - Nick Watney - He could win any given week, as could a couple of dozen guys on TOUR. I don't know that I see it right now, but I wouldn't be surprised if he won any week.
  • 33/1 - Sergio Garcia, Jason Day and Peter Hanson - Day is over-valued because of how well he did in the majors last year. He does play hard courses well, but he's 188th in driving accuracy and 185th in GIR this year with zero top 10's. That won't cut it. Garcia is going to win something soon, but good luck predicting when. Hanson is playing really well and I think he slides in well at these odds.
  • 40/1 - John Senden, Martin Laird, Bo Van Pelt, Zach Johnson and K.J. Choi - Guess who's first on TOUR in ball striking? John Senden. I love him this week and he's trending well. His whole year has led up to this event, as he has two runner-up finishes here and already had three top 10's this season. Choi's a two-time winner and a runner up here. Laird's length and Van Pelt's overall ball striking and all-around stats make them both intriguing. I don't think Johnson's long enough for this course, but then again the same could have been said at Augusta and he wedged the place to death.
  • 50/1 - Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Robert Allenby, Retief Goosen, Mark Wilson, Ryo Ishikawa and Jonathan Byrd - Furyk isn't playing well, but could show up at a tough course. I don't get why more people aren't on Snedeker this week. Allenby can't putt consistently, but Calcavecchia couldn't either and he won here. Goosen's done well here in the past, but I don't see signs of him winning. Why would Zach Johnson be ahead of Mark Wilson? Ishikawa had a weight lifted off of him with his second place finish last week in Puerto Rico, Byrd probably plays consistently well here more than he does any other course on TOUR.
  • Lucas Glover's 80/1 in his 2012 debut. It seems like a shot in the dark, but I tend to agree with this. He's a ball striker who isn't a bad putter and he's got a good history here. I don't think he gets any play if he's 50/1, but he becomes too good of a bargain at 100/1.
  • John Rollins is way too good of a ball striker to be 80/1.
  • Anthony Kim at 80/1? Really? He's 1 for 5 in cuts this year and ranks 164th in ball striking. Either this is the dumbest line I've seen or they know something nobody else does.
  • Boo Weekley at 80/1 is an overreaction to a third place finish in an off-field event last week.
  • Chris Couch at 150/1 is a better bet than Kim or Weekley.
If I did play with my money, I'd probably play Donald or Schwartzel. As far as value bets, I love Senden (40/1), Snedeker (50/1) and Rollins (80/1).

We'll throw out our final predictions tomorrow.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Transitions Championship Fantasy Guide

As previewed yesterday, this week the PGA TOUR stops at Innisbrook Resort's Copperhead course for the Transitions Championship. While it's little wonder one of the longest hitters on TOUR, Gary Woodland, took home the trophy on the 7,340 par 71 layout, all roads to success lead back to ball striking. Several average putters including Mark Calcavecchia have  won at Innisbrook, but with trouble lurking on many holes a competitor can't fake his way around this course. One other note; don't underestimate course familiarity and past success here.

Without further ado, here are my weekly fantasy picks as well as others I strongly considered for each slot.

Yahoo! League:
  • A Group - This group is rich with options. I'm starting Luke Donald and keeping K.J. Choi warm on the bench. Donald seems to be heating up, as evidence by his top 10 last week at the WGC-Cadillac and he's got a good enough history here to have some confidence in him. What I'm banking on is that killer instinct the Englishman showed at the end of 2011 when he ripped the money title away from Webb Simpson carrying over in his effort to take back the top spot in the world rankings. As for Choi, he's won here twice and notched a second place finish. He's also five-for-five this year in cuts made, so there's no reason to question his form entering the week. It was really hard to pass on last year's runner up Webb Simpson, as well as Matt Kuchar. A dark horse in this group is the gritty Jim Furyk.
  • B Group - The "B" group makes picking the starters easy. Justin Rose and Brandt Snedeker are slam-dunk starters. I'll qualify that by saying I don't expect Rose to go back-to-back, but the positives to picking him should be obvious. As for Snedeker, he's six-for-six in cuts including a win and three top 10's. On the bench I've got John Rollins and Bo Van Pelt. Rollins is four-of-six in the cut department, but three of those four have resulted in top-10 finishes. He's also sixth in ball striking and 11th in all-around ranking.  Van Pelt also has three top 10's in 6 six starts and ranks fifth in all-around ranking and 12th in ball striking. The noticeable omission from the line-up is defending champion Gary Woodland. Consider him if you'd like, but I don't trust his game right now. Mark Wilson, Retief Goosen, Robert Allenby and Brendon de Jonge all deserve a look. A dark horse in this group is Lucas Glover making his first start of the year. It may sound dumb on the surface, but he's got a good record on this course and tends to play his best when the expectations are the lowest.
  • C Group - Charl Schwartzel starting is a given in my book. We rode him to a great week at the WGC-Cadillac and it ain't broke, so I'm not fixing it. He plays hard courses well, he's in good form; end of story. On the bench I'm going with John Senden. He's a two-time runner up and he's playing brilliant golf right now. He is known as maybe the best pure ball striker on TOUR and might be playing the best golf of his career right now.  If he was a B group option he would be starting. Solid choices on the bench are Jonathan Byrd, Peter Hanson, Carl Petterson and Harris English. A dark horse in this category is Ryo Ishikawa. He's free from having to worry about counting his remaining sponsors exemptions after his second place finish in Puerto Rico.
Here are my Golf Channel Picks:
  • Group 1 - This is a hard pick, but I'm taking Donald. Schwartzel's in this group, as is Choi, Rose, Snedeker and a host of other really good choices. I don't think you can screw this one up too badly.
  • Group 2 - I'm really feeling John Senden this week, and I'll take him here. Hanson, Van Pelt and Byrd also make a lot of sense. In fact, if you're just wanting to nab a safe cut, J-Byrd's your guy as he's a top-20 machine on this course.
  • Group 3 - I'm taking John Rollins, mainly over past champion Carl Pettersson. This is one of those tournaments where you look back at the end of the week and see Rollins cashing a ho-hum top five or 10.
  • Group 4 - I'm taking Chris Couch. He's a risk/reward kind of pick but had a really nice year here last year. I also don't mind erring on the side of a long golfer on this course.
Check back tomorrow and we'll examine the odds.

Final thoughts from WGC-Cadillac / Puerto Rico / Chile Classic

Sorry for not posting this until Monday, but a full day covering two tournaments at Rotoworld drained me, thus delaying my weekly wrap-up.
The final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship turned into a game of “hot potato,” with the leaders tossing the lead away every time it came their way. Bubba Watson looked about as comfortable Sunday as a (insert favorite joke here). It shouldn’t be a surprise though, and it’s not just a Bubba thing. The 54-hole lead on the 2012 PGA TOUR is turning into somewhat of a cursed position. By the time the final pairing hit the back nine, you kind of got the feeling that about half-a-dozen players had a shot to win. Heck, if new world No. 1 Rory McIlroy would have somehow birdied the 18th, he’d have been in a playoff.
Here are few more final round nuggets:
·    As bad as Bubba’s day was, it could have been a whole lot worse. He snaked in a long par putt on two and an unlikely bogey putt on three. By the time he posted his third consecutive bogey on the fifth hole, all I could think about was his final round at Oakmont. It doesn’t feel like it, but he actually played his last 13 holes in even-par.
·    Keegan Bradley stormed his way into contention, but just as quickly retreated with a 34 front / 41 back split including a double-bogey on the 18th that he basically played from the first fairway.
·    There were times when watching Bubba and Keegan felt relateable. I’ve played rounds of golf where I’ve only hit four fairways like Bubba (just subtract about 100 yards) and I’ve played holes from the wrong fairway on occasion. I guess the difference is I didn’t break 90 in those rounds!
·    Rory at the WGC felt a little like Tiger at The Honda. You just got the feeling that he might steal one. Truth be told, when Justin Rose went for the green on 18 after a bad tee shot, he brought a seven into play that would be what McIlroy would have needed for a playoff.
·    Charl Schwartzel and Peter Hanson are legit; period.
·    Luke Donald, Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker rack up ho-hum top 10’s.
·    Tiger’s W/D is troubling on a few levels. No doubt his left leg is the most covered (maybe over-covered) appendage in golf, but I can’t recall a player still in his 30’s having this much trouble with an injury. You have some guys with chronic back problems like Fred Couples, but there are a whole lot of golfers that play a lot more rounds per year than Woods who don’t have the kind of issues Woods’ having. Supposedly this is an Achilles injury, and not a knee, but who knows with Tiger. I’m just glad this is golf and not baseball or we’d likely be having an entirely different discussion.
The Puerto Rico Open crowned George McNeill the victor on Sunday as he closed out Ryo Ishikawa’s bid for a PGA TOUR win by making birdie on each of his final three holes.  The win is McNeill’s second, with the first coming in 2007.
Final round thoughts:
·    Ishikawa went a long way to gaining full-time PGA TOUR playing privileges and now has Special Temporary Status that will allow him unlimited sponsor’s exemptions. It now seems like a formality that he will earn enough money to gain a full-status playing card at some point in 2012.
·    Boo Weekley and Henrik Stenson tied for third; snapping long PGA TOUR dry spells.
·    36-hole leader Matt Jones managed a fifth place tie after playing the weekend in 1-under. Joining him in a fifth place tie was rookie Scott Brown, who made his first cut of the season.
·    Due to the strength of the field, it’s probably not worth overanalyzing what happened in Puerto Rico other than to say this tournament could be a springboard to better things for some of the players that had nice finishes.
The Nationwide Tour Chile Classic crowned Paul Haley II as the inaugural champion in the Chile Classic. Haley’s four-day-total of 22-under 266 was good for a three shot win over Joseph Bramlett.
·    Haley II won in his third career Nationwide Tour start. I remember Jonathan Byrd winning in his second start, and that worked out okay for him in the long run.
·    Joseph Bramlett, a PGA TOUR rookie in 2011, had a career-high second place finish.
·    Paul Claxton finished third, marking the fourth time in his Nationwide Tour career he has finished in that spot.  He also has two wins and six second-place finishes in his career.
Next week will be a little less hectic with the Nationwide Tour taking the week off and the PGA TOUR back down to one event.
Check in later this evening for the Transitions Championship fantasy preview.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Transitions Championship Preview

The Florida swing will continue with the Transitions Championship at the Innisbrook Resort Copperhead Course. This tournament boasts a respectable list of past champions, shown below.
  • 2000 - John Huston
  • 2002 & 2006 - K.J. Choi - also runner up in 2010
  • 2003 & 2009 - Retief Goosen
  • 2004 - Vijay Singh - also runner up in 2003
  • 2005 - Carl Pettersson
  • 2007 - Mark Calcavecchia
  • 2008 - Sean O'Hair
  • 2010 - Jim Furyk
  • 2011 - Gary Woodland
One additional side note, John Senden is a two-time runner up.

While there are a number of factors that could determine where the winning score will fall, it's pretty likely the winner will need to shoot something in the 12 to 15 under range; although Sean O'Hair won with a 4-under 280 in 2008.

In 2011, Gary Woodland won with a 15-under 269, one clear of Webb Simpson. Brandt Snedeker (4th), Justin Rose (T5), Martin Laird (T5) and Brendon de Jonge (T5) are all having nice 2012's and should be strongly considered.

The past winners suggest the Copperhead course puts a premium on ball-striking. When looking ahead for my fantasy picks, odds breakdowns and final predictions, I will be looking hard at golfers who have a history of playing well on difficult golf courses and hit a lot of fairways and greens.

In looking at the current field, here are the players that grab my attention in alphabetical order: Robert Allenby, Jonathan Byrd, Chad Campbell, Paul Casey, K.J. Choi, Jason Day, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, Lucas Glover, Retief Goosen, Peter Hanson, Charles Howell III, Ryo Ishikawa, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Martin Laird, Troy Matteson, George McNeill, Ryan Moore, Kevin Na, Sean O'Hair, Geoff Ogilvy, Pat Perez, Kenny Perry, Carl Pettersson, John Rollins, Justin Rose, Rory Sabbatini, John Senden, Webb Simpson, Vijay Singh, Brandt Snedeker, Nick Watney, Mark Wilson and Gary Woodland.

Check back tomorrow for our weekley fantasy preview.

Transitions Championship Monday Qualifier Tee Times & Leaderboard

The Transitions Championship Monday qualifier will be held on March 12th at the Southern Hills Plantation Club.  The tee times and leaderboard links are available below.

Transitions MQ tee times - http://nflapga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/nflapga12/event/nflapga1233/pairings.htm?r=8c930e60-91d2-436a-b727-be0dcfa69e7b

Leaderboard - http://nflapga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/nflapga12/event/nflapga1233/contest/1/leaderboard.htm

As always, best of luck to your favorite golfer!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

WGC-Cadillac / Puerto Rico Open / Chile Classic Third Round Wrap Ups

The WGC-Cadillac Championship third round felt like what almost was, rather than what actually was. Rory McIlroy was 9-under through 12 hole, but faded to a 7-under finish. Tiger started off birdie-birdie-birdie and finished with a birdie on the difficult 18th, but played everything in between at even-par en route to a 4-under 68.  When the dust settled, Bubba Watson was still standing.

Here are some third round observations and final round thoughts on the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
  • Bubba Watson overpowered the TPC Blue Monster for the second consecutive day to amass a three stroke lead. It's rare someone follows up a round like Watson had in the second round (62) with a third round 65.
  • The low round of the day was shot by Branden Grace of South Africa. His 8-under 64 stalled on the back nine and ended with seven consecutive pars. Similarly, the second lowest round of the day belonged to Rory McIlroy who was 9-under through 12, but played the last 6 holes at 2-over-par.
  • Keegan Bradley just doesn't go away, does he? He's tied for second, three off the lead, and playing in the final group with Bubba Watson.
  • McIlroy and Woods are both eight shots off the lead and would probably need Watson to back up in order to have a chance to win. Realistically, anyone within 5 shots of the lead could have a realistic chance. When I look at the golfers in that category all of them could shoot a 64 or 65 and put pressure on Watson.
Here's my final thought/observation on the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Bubba Watson hit a wayward tee shot on the par-5 10th hole. Rather than lay up, he hit an aggressive shot that took on water, and some would say unnecessarily so. He didn't birdie the hole, but that's not the point. The point is, he wasn't afraid to be aggressive and try and add to that lead. If he does that in the final round, he's more likely to win than if he tries and plays it safe.

In Puerto Rico, Matt Jones failed to walk out of the third round with the lead but he's still within shouting distance. The lead now belongs to George McNeill, who is going for his first win since the 2007 Frys.com Championship. Here are some thought and observations leading up to the final round.
  • Expect George McNeill to have a hard time holding onto the lead in the final round, but not an impossible time. He's leading the field in greens in regulation.
  • For an off-field event, the storylines at the top of the leaderboard are incredibly strong. Will Henrik Stenson get his first win since the 2009 Players Championship? Will Ryu Ishikawa win, and earn his PGA TOUR card? Will Kevin Stadler top of a strong last month on TOUR with a win? Can Matt Jones come back and win? Will Scott Brown win in his first made cut on the PGA TOUR?
  • Stenson looks like a golfer that's close to regaining his world-class mojo. If I had to put money on it, he'd be my pick to win tomorrow.
  • Ishikawa winning would be an international story that could come close to rivaling the WGC finish depending on how that tournament ends up.
  • The final round will also serve as a quasi Monday qualifier for the Transitions Championship.
The Nationwide Tour Chile Classic has the feel of a runaway with Paul Haley II holding a six-shot lead. The only problem is Haley's making his third career start on the Nationwide Tour. Bottom line, if Haley II shoots anything under par on Sunday he should win.

Check back tomorrow and let's see how all of this shakes out.

Also, follow rotoworld.com's golf site tomorrow, as I will be posting the golfing blurbs throughout the day in real time.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cut comes in Puerto Rico & Chile, but not at Doral

The WGC-Cadillac Championship, Puerto Rico Open and the Nationwide Tour's Chile Classic have all reached the 36 hole mark.  It was cut day in the latter two tournament, but the WGC event does not have a cut.  Here are some notes on each tournament.

WGC-Cadillac Championship:
  • It's Bubba-time at the TPC Blue Monster as he posted his PGA TOUR tying low round of 62. His round included nine birdies and one eagle to a single bogey. He will be paired for the third day in a row with Justin Rose who crafted an 8-under 64 alongside Watson; good for second place alone.
  • First round co-leader Adam Scott struggled early but had a strong back nine to reach the half-way point at 10-under. He's two behind Watson.
  • Tiger Woods came alive with a 5-under 67. Couple that with an even-par 72 in round one and he's sitting seven off the lead and tied for 15th.
  • Lee Westwood rebounded from a horrible first round to shoot a 5-under 67 and sneak back into red numbers by a stroke for the week. That's good for a tie 34th with other pre-tournament favorites Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.
  • Six players have played both rounds in the 60's. They are Justin Rose (2), Adam Scott (3), Thomas Bjorn (T5), Keegan Bradley (T5), Charl Schwartzel (T7) and Kyle Stanley (T10).
Puerto Rico Open:
  • Matt Jones has looked brilliant through 36 holes and is 11-under par; three clear of his first round co-leader George McNeill. Jones has held the 36 hole lead twice, but has not even scratched a top-10 finish either time he's led at the half-way point.
  • Ryo Ishikawa has vaulted into contention at 7-under and tied for third.
  • Todd Hamilton (T3) and Boo Weekley (T5) are each in great shape. Both are playing out of the difficult Past Champions Status, but a win this week would change that and leave them fully exempt for the remainder of 2012 and all of 2013 and 2014.
  • Kevin Stadler is creeping along at 6-under at tied for fifth. So is Kevin Kisner looking for his first career top-10.
  • My pre-tournament favorite Vaughn Taylor is 4-under and tied for 16th. The smooth putter isn't too far back to make a move, but he'll need a nice round on moving day for winning to become a possibility.
  • The cut line came at 1-over par and saw 73 players advance to the weekend.
Chile Classic:
  • Paul Haley II leads by two over Christopher Deforest. This is Haley's third career Nationwide Tour start and second made cut. Deforest is only slightly more experienced with five events played and two made cuts. This could lead to a volatile leaderboard over the weekend. It could also lead to a new star being born in Chile.
  • The cut fell at 3-under par; far and away the lowest cut line relative to par of the 2012 season.
Check back tomorrow to see who makes the big moves on moving day.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thursday Wrap Ups

First things first, as you may already know news broke today that Jarrod Lyle had a leukemia relapse and will begin chemotherapy. Lyle is also scheduled to be a new father any moment. I've always found him to be a fun golfer to watch as he usually seems to have a smile on his face and is easy to root for. Here's hoping for a quick recovery and a healthy and happy baby.

There are tournaments going on everywhere this week, and we've previewed many of them. Rather than pen about four different blogs, I'm going to compile them all into one post.

Here are some thoughts on the first round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship:
  • We had Adam Scott starting in our "A" group in the Yahoo! league and that was rewarded with a 6-under 66 and a share of the lead with Jason Dufner. It was Scott's putter that led the way. He was tied for ninth in total putting and first in Strokes Gained-Putting.
  • Charl Schwartzel, our "C" group starter, continued his consistent play and currently sleeps in a third-place tie, two back of the leaders.
  • Keep an eye on Kyle Stanley. In his last two stroke-play events he has basically shot himself out of contention in the first round, but that's not the case this week. As he gets more comfortable at Doral, he could hang around the top of the leaderboard the remainder of the week and maintain or improve his current fifth place tie.
  • And then there's that Keegan Bradley guy again. Another ho-hum tie for fifth after the first round.
  • All eyes were on Tiger Woods today and it looked like he might put on a show with an opening tap in for eagle. He played his last 17 holes at two-over-par to finish the day even and in a tie for 25th.
  • Rory McIlroy looked to be suffering from a Honda hangover with an opening 1-over 73. At no point in his round was he under par.
  • Dustin Johnson's 3-over 75 was a head-scratcher due to his recent form and history at this event.
The third round is widely known as "moving day", but expect the Friday round at Doral to feel a little like moving day. Guys like McIlroy and Woods will need to shoot something in the 60's to position themselves for a weekend run.

The first round of the Puerto Rico Open seemed to see the cream rise.  Here are some thoughts:
  • The first round lead is shared by Matt Jones and George McNeill at 6-under-par. Both are regular PGA TOUR competitors and McNeill even owns a victory.
  • A shot back and in solo third is former Open Champion Ben Curtis. Curtis is playing on past champions status, but wouldn't need to worry about that any longer if he could win this week. Certainly don't count him out.
  • Another Open Champion, Todd Hamilton, is in a tie for fourth. I guess they went to Puerto Rico and Scotland broke out.
  • Three other Major Champions are tied for eighth at 3-under including two-time U.S. Open champ Lee Janzen, Masters and U.S. Open winner Angel Cabrera, and Shaun Micheel who owns a PGA Championship trophy.
  • Kevin Stadler continues his strong recent play as he is part of the log jam at 3-under.
We'll watch the second round to see if the trend of players with solid resumes continues or if someone like a Kevin Kisner (T4) or Scott Brown (T8) can hang around and have a career-changing week of the Puerto Rico Open.

The Nationwide Tour is playing in Chile this week in a new tournament. Here are a few observations from the first round:
  • James Nitties finished last year one money-list spot away from a PGA TOUR card, but rather than mope around he's tied for the lead in Chile at 7-under par with Scott Parel. Parel is going after his first career Nationwide Tour win.
  • Georgia rookie Hudson Swofford posted the lowest round of his Nationwide career with a 6-under 66 and is tied for third.
  • All in all, 81 players broke par on the opening day of the inaugural Chile Classic and the current cut line rests at 1-under. If conditions are similar tomorrow, expect the lead to be in the 10 to 12-under range and the cut to fall in the 2-under range;  maybe jumping to 3-under.
  • Skip Kendall won the opening event of the season, but finds himself alone in 141st place this week.
Lastly, the NGA Hooters Tour found tough scoring conditions on Thursday at the Golden Hills Golf & Turf Club.  The lead is held at 4-under by Brandon Brown. Former PGA TOUR player Danny Ellis finds himself in a tie for seventh at 2-under par.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nationwide Tour Chile Classic Preview

I'm in a little bit of uncharted territory here, as this is the first time I've tried to preview a brand-new event. I'm going to have to rely heavily on players current form and trust my gut. From what I can tell, this is a very short course, even by Nationwide Tour standards, so I wouldn't be surprised to see scores hit the 20-under or lower mark. 

One other thing, in tournaments with a lot of unknowns I tend to be a little more comfortable with veterans than younger players.

Here are my top-5 power rankings:

  1. Brian Smock - Smock finished tied for second in Panama and tied for 11th the week before, so it's hard to find someone more consistent after two tournaments.
  2. Kevin Johnson - A tie for sixth and a tie for 19th put Johnson off to a good start and there aren't too many people that have played more Nationwide Tour events than Johnson. He's historically a very streaky player and I like him on a short course.
  3. Charles Warren - Other than a rough final round in Panama, he's off to a really good start this year and he may use his length to completely overpower this golf course.
  4. Darron Stiles - You can almost "ditto" Johnson's comments here. He's got a top 10 already, so form shouldn't be a problem.
  5. Carlos Franco - Why not, right?
We'll all watch and learn together as to how this tournament will play and who will find the course to suit their eye.