When Jason Dufner brought home his first PGA TOUR trophy at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, he did so with a trend at TPC Louisiana that fantasy gamers dream about. He improved steadily from a T9 in ’09, to a T7 in ’10, then was T3 in ’11 and finally got the “W” in ’12. Simply put, if you weren't on Dufner last year in this event you were not paying attention.
This year, what we do with Dufner becomes very complicated. This will be our first look at Dufner defending an event, and he does so without a top 10 on the resume this season. To be fair, his only top 10 before last year’s win was a T8 in Phoenix, and he didn't have one in 2010 before his T7. This week is different because there is more pressure. If any of you are season-long Dufner owners, you likely feel this is a week he MUST perform to be worth the investment you made in him. I have to think he feels the same.
He’s a must in your Yahoo! lineup this week, but what you do with him in the Golf Channel game and one-and-done formats becomes complex.
Here is how this week’s power rankings shake out:
- Justin Rose – Arguably the best player in the field this week, he spun a T10 last year but has missed the cut twice in five tries at TPC Louisiana. His ball-striking at Augusta National was nearly flawless, but the putter held him back mightily. Elite players have emerged in NOLA the last two trips (B. Watson and Dufner), and Rose fits that mold. He’s a “must” have in your Yahoo! lineup and deserves serious one-and-done consideration.
- Billy Horschel – One of the problems I've faced when considering going heavy on Horschel is finding a track where he has some success. Even though he missed the cut at TPC Louisiana last year, he managed a 69 in the second round. He also tied for 26th here in 2011. Given his run of three consecutive top 10s, this may be the week to invest heavily in Horschel. That includes Yahoo! and quite possibly one-and-done. Another trend that TPC Louisiana has become known for in its short history is first-time winners. That Nick Watney and Jason Dufner each picked up their first wins here demonstrates some high-class talent can get over the hurdle in New Orleans. Horschel fits that bill.
- Jason Dufner – I laid out the case for Dufner above. How you use him largely depends on your situation. Yahoo is a must. Golf Channel, one-and-done and other games largely depend on your position. If you are near the top, he’s a pretty safe play. I’m probably going to shy away from him in the one-and-done because there are several other good spots to burn him if he shows me his form is on this week.
- Bubba Watson – After some early results that weren't all that impressive at TPC Louisiana, he picked up a win in 2011 and tied for 18th last year. He didn't have that good of a week at Augusta National, but that shouldn't have shocked you. I would feel really good about him picking up a top 20, but his focus will determine if it’s better than that.
- Rickie Fowler – He makes his third start at TPC Louisiana with an impressive trend working. He tied for 26th here in 2010 and tied for 10th here last year before heading to Quail Hollow and capturing his first win. Simply put, I won’t talk you out of Fowler this week in any format.
- Cameron Tringale – Don’t forget about this young gun this week. His trend at TPC Louisiana is eerily similar to Dufner’s last season. The Georgia Tech star has gone T28, T18 and T7 in his last three trips. He finished third in Tampa Bay a little over a month ago, but missed the cut at TPC San Antonio the last time he teed it up. If you are trailing in a league and want to go against the likely grain, he could be your guy.
- Jeff Overton – He has three top 20s here in his last four seasons, highlighted by a runner-up in 2010. He tied for seventh in his last start at the Valero Texas Open before taking the Masters and the Heritage off. He will likely be overshadowed by all of the options above, so he’s another way to go against the grain if you need to try and play catch up.
- Charley Hoffman – His last three TOUR starts are T20, T3 and T6. He was in control of the Heritage until a very windy final round. In particular, a poor tee shot on the par-3 14th into the water doomed him. He’s made 5/6 cuts at TPC Louisiana, but owns just one top 25. My gut tells me the window on his current run probably closed at the Heritage but his current form demands his inclusion at this spot.
- Brendon de Jonge – This is a good course for him to pick up his first win. I’m not saying it will happen this week, but a course with four par 5s and a winning score generally in the teens fits him. His perfect scenario will be posting a number a few groups back. He’s trending up, with a T26 here in ’11 and a T18 last year. Eight of his 11 final rounds on TOUR have been under par, with the exceptions being an even-par 72 at Pebble Beach and over par rounds at The Honda and the Heritage. Has improved his final round scoring average from 81st on TOUR last year to 21st this year.
- Jimmy Walker – Another non-winner not to be ignored, he hasn't missed a cut all year and has been in contention several times. He tied for 18th here last year and has made two of his three cuts at TPC Louisiana.
- Thorbjorn Olesen – His T6 at the Masters earned him Special Temporary Membership allowing him unlimited sponsor exemptions. As a result, here he is in New Orleans. We don’t have enough to go on in terms of investing too heavily, but he needs to be on your radar.
- Jordan Spieth – Another ho-hum top 10 at the Heritage last week. He looks like a guy that could break through at any time on any course.
Next 5: Chris Kirk, Charles Howell III, Keegan Bradley, Graham DeLaet, Jerry Kelly
I expect this to be a week of movement in many fantasy formats, and we will dive into our games tomorrow. Until then, best of luck with your research.