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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WGC-HSBC Champions - One-and-done

With the WGC-HSBC Champions now becoming a PGA TOUR sanctioned event, offering official earnings and FedExCup points, one-and-done players and other gamers have to treat this event with the same respect at the other WGCs. The purse is huge, there isn't a cut, and most of the game’s elite are represented.

As we highlighted in yesterday’s preview, International players have enjoyed plenty of success in this event. One reason we didn't explore in depth, but very well could be a factor, is that this is traditionally a time where Americans have slipped into Silly Season mode with the Euros are racing to Dubai. Perhaps the Fall Series’ increased prominence and the CIMB Classic will bring the Americans more into the picture.

I could see two potential schools of thought for the one-and-done. The first is to burn a Euro that you know likely won’t be used later. The immediate two that fit that profile are Francesco Molinari and Martin Kaymer. I’m not going to try and talk anyone out of that, and if I had correctly pegged a winner earlier in the year that may have been my lean.

With an $8.5 million pot and just over $1.5 million to the winner, I see this as a tournament to burn a stud. Go big. I narrowed my focus to Keegan Bradley, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy. I could make a very strong case for all three, and would sleep just fine tonight turning any of the three in to my commish.
  • Bradley looked like the winner at the half-way point last week, but faded on the weekend. It has to be a plus that he played some good golf in Malaysia. He also has a nice history in no-cut events and WGCs in general. 
  • Garcia is intriguing because he’s a blend of the two philosophies. There isn't a place that is a “must use” for Garcia, so there likely wouldn't be any real regret associated with burning him. He tied for 11th last week but, similar to Bradley, cooled after opening with a 66. Again, form seems steady and his ball-striking should play out well at Sheshan.
  • McIlroy is a huge wildcard, and will be until he wins. The common thought is that he seems “close.” His problem late in the 2013 season was his inability to piece four rounds together. I like that he topped Tiger in an exhibition on Monday, and it was reported that he played very well. The takeaway from his last couple of tournaments leading up to this week is that he’s driving and striking the ball very well. Rory’s long game has always been what’s distanced him from the field in big events, so that’s a trend I prefer with him over putting. Throw in that he’s never finished outside the top five in three tries at this stop, and he’s my one-and-done this week.

Perhaps from a strategy standpoint, this is a risky move, but I’m ready to take a little bit of a chance where the reward is high. Bryce Molder, Nick Watney and Hideki Matsuyama have done little more than cash checks for us, and it’s time to go for the jugular.

Not many people played Tiger at Doral last year, but those that did took a leg up on their competition. That’s another reason I’m going Rory. I’d like to draw some early blood and catch my competition waiting to save him for a Quail Hollow or a time when his trend suggests a play.

Let’s go, Rors!

Oh, and for my Golf Channel picks, check out my man Glass’ article at Rotoworld http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/gol/44948/297/shanghai-phil.

Best of luck!

Monday, October 28, 2013

WGC-HSBC Champions - Preview and Power Ranking

With Ryan Moore’s win at the CIMB Classic in the rear-view mirror, let’s turn our full attention to the WGC-HSBC Champions for a combined preview and power ranking.

My apologies for not posting the preview separately last night, but I played in a Ryder Cup tournament (we call it the Silver Club) at my club all weekend and it just wasn't happening. I now have a sore shoulder, elbow and knee to go along with a lot more respect for the pros that play 90 to 108 holes per week along with practicing in between.

Enough about me.

The WGC-HSBC Champions returns to Sheshan International Golf Club (West) after a one-year sabbatical to Mission Hills. For course history buffs, make sure you note the venue lapse in 2012. The course is expected to play as a par 72 at 7,266 yards with a full slate of par 5s and par 3s (four each).

Given that there isn't the ShotLink data available for this tournament that we usually enjoy in tournaments in the U.S., we must glean what we can from what we know of the players at the top of the list.

In the three previous trips to Sheshan International, Martin Kaymer (’11), Francesco Molinari (’10) and Phil Mickelson (’09) hoisted the hardware, while Freddie Jacobson (’11), Lee Westwood (’10) and Ernie Els (’09) played second fiddle. With only those six names, we can begin to draw conclusions. Here are some observations.
  • Five of those six are non-Americans. Typically, the greens on the U.S. PGA TOUR are faster and more difficult to navigate than those on the European Tour. That alone could point to a decreased emphasis on traditional putting stats.
  • Lee Westwood and Ernie Els are well known as some of the best ball-strikers in the world, though in the twilight of their prime. They are also known for being more than a little shaky over short putts. 
  • Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari are Euro Tour players with tons of success, neither one particularly known for putting. Jacobson is the Junkman, and the ultimate wild card. Mickelson is a world class player, so his success anywhere can’t be ruled out.
  • The prototype I’m looking for in sizing up this tournament is a player who is known as a very good to excellent ball-striker, with experience across the globe. If there is ever a week to pay attention to a top-tier player whose Achilles heel is putting; then this is it.

With that as the backdrop, here we go with the power rankings.
  1. Sergio Garcia – Hasn't finished outside the top 20 since The Barclays and looked the part of a contender during stretches of the CIMB Classic last week. Ball-striker? Check. Putter? Better than his reputation. Tied for 23rd here in his only trip back in ’09, but had to overcome an opening 75 to do so. Final three rounds were all sub-par and each round was better than the one before.
  2. Keegan Bradley – At the half-way point of the CIMB Classic, Bradley looked like a safe bet to win the tournament. He faltered over the weekend, but should be well worth your attention this week. He has a knack for showing up in WGCs and other no-cut events, so anything is possible. He tied for 16th here in 2011 after starting strong, but fading on the weekend, very similar to last week.
  3. Justin Rose – When you talk about pure ball-strikers who can be just average with the flat stick, Rosie has to jump to mind immediately.  He’s only played this venue one time, but tied for seventh in 2011 with all four rounds at 2-under or lower. Has not popped up since finishing sixth at the TOUR Championship, which should eliminate him from one-and-done consideration.
  4. Francesco Molinari – It’s doubtful he topped many people’s power rankings when he won here in 2010, but he fits the mold. He surrounded that win with a T10 in ’09 and a T23 in ’11. He headed to the BMW Masters last week on the heels of a couple of top 20s and promptly tied for second. Given his form and course history, he’s certainly worth consideration in plenty of formats.
  5. Rory McIlroy – This could be as likely a spot as any for him to break out of his 2013 winless drought. He’s finished no worse than fifth in any of his three starts at Sheshan International, so clearly the course fits his eye. He tied for second at the Korean Open two weeks ago before sharing 27th last week at the BMW Masters. 
  6. Lee Westwood – For the most part, he’s done a nice job in peaking in and around the major season the last few years, but he has a record that can’t be ignored in this specific event and on this course. He has a T8, a 2nd and a T13 in three starts at Sheshan to go with a T6 at Mission Hills last season. Worthy of one-and-done consideration.
  7. Jason Dufner – Let me be clear that he isn't on this list because he tied for second at Mission Hills last year, rather because he is an excellent ball-striker with a somewhat shaky putter and that plays well at Sheshan International.  So what has Duf done for us lately? Nothing, really. He hasn't played since the Presidents Cup.
  8. Phil Mickelson – Was vocally upset about his ball-striking at the CIMB Classic, yet still managed to finish T19. Always just one successful experiment away from success, Lefty has the aforementioned win at this event and should not be overlooked. If anything, his realization that his swing is struggling could lead to him working harder to find it faster. Remember….identifying the problem is the first step!
  9. Ryan Moore – Already fulfilling the potential of the big year I predicted in my Rotoworld season preview with a win last week, he turns his attention to Sheshan International where he finished third in his only start in this tournament back in 2009. Normally, I don’t advocate plugging in a winner the very next week, but I could make an exception this week because playing in Asia has to be so far outside of his normal routine that all bets are off.
  10. Martin Kaymer – Won here in 2011, so he’s the defending champion for the venue. He tied for sixth back in ’09, but slumped to T30 in ’10 before his win.  He’s broken 70 in eight of his 12 rounds, so it’s all about avoiding that one poor round for the German. Tied for 13th at last week’s BMW Masters and has cracked the top 15 in his last three worldwide starts.
  11. Ian Poulter – It’s easy to toss him out as the defending champion at the other venue, but when you dig deeper it becomes clear that he’s had moderate success in this event no matter the course. He tied for 13th in 2010 and 2011 at Sheshan International. The only possible knock is that he’s never fired lower than 68 in 12 rounds at this venue.
  12. Ernie Els – Course history buffs should be all over the Big Easy. Remember that his T2 last year was at a different venue, but he has a second and a T6 at Sheshan International  to go with a T33 in ’11. At this point in his career, he is a risk week-to-week, but offers some known value to gamers in a no-cut event where his record speaks for itself.

Next 5: Aphibarnrat, Casey, Haas, Uihlein and Walker

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

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CIMB Classic - Fantasy

With the start of the CIMB Classic fast approaching, lets put a bow on the final fantasy selections. Keep in mind, the tournament is being played in Malaysia, so for those in the U.S. this basically starts Wednesday night.

As always, my Golf Channel picks can be found in the weekly Rotoworld preview http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/gol/44803/297/the-out-of-towners?pg=3.

The other big question for the week is the one-and-done. My focus is narrowed to Sergio Garcia, Charley Hoffman and Hideki Matsuyama. Here are the pros and cons associated with each.

  • Garcia - Very consistent 2013, securing every cut and contending in some events late in the 2013 season. Seems to be a nice fit for Kualu Lumpur G&CC. The only real concern is the layoff. Most of his tournaments in the U.S. are in stacked fields where many of the top 50 tee it up, so saving him for one of those events isn't necessarily a factor.
  • Hoffman - Coming off a fourth-place finish last week, we know the form is there. Perhaps the read drawback is the "gut" test. Is Hoffman the kind of player that can throw up back-to-back top fives? Nothing suggests that it's anywhere close to a sure thing. 
  • Matsuyama - This one is hard to put into words, but we'll give it a try. The event is in Asia, and that's his neck of the woods. His play across the globe has been very solid the last few months, and it could be a blessing in disguise that he pulled out of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. The extra rest couldn't have hurt. Plus, where else are you going to use him?
I kind of get the feeling that one of these three are going to be a hit it big, one of them will finish in the middle of the pack and one of them will disappoint. 

With all that said, it's time to plug in Matsuyama and hope for the first win. 

Whatever your final decision, best of luck!

Monday, October 21, 2013

CIMB Classic - Power Rankings

With little to go on in terms of course history, here comes our best crack at the CIMB Classic power rankings.

As mentioned in yesterday's preview, there are likely numerous formulas for winning at Kualu Lumpur Golf & Country Club, but the one I find myself gravitating towards are players with Par 5 prowess and solid long-iron games.

A struggle has been how to handle players that competed at TPC Summerlin yesterday, then had over 24 hours of travel time to reach their final destination. While a fade seems in order, I've seen several players tweet about just arriving who didn't compete last week; the most recent being Rickie Fowler. In the end, I have to trust that these guys know how to manage their schedule.

With fingers crossed, here we go:

  1. Keegan Bradley - A young guy, who should bounce back from any travel woes, ranked inside the top 30 in Par 5 Birdie or Better, Par Breakers and GIR from 200+ in 2013 and played most recently in the Presidents Cup. Claims the top spot because there isn't any apparent drawback. For one-and-done players, it's too risky to burn him here.
  2. Phil Mickelson - Why not, right? He is the true class of the field and could easily find himself in contention on Sunday.If you're looking for a statistical reason, he was first in Par Breakers and sixth in Par 5 Birdie or Better in 2013. Like Bradley, don't even think about burning an OAD here.
  3. Sergio Garcia - This is a little bit of a gut feel, which is generally dangerous in fantasy golf, but I could certainly see it working out in this case. This is a no-cut event, but its worth noting that he went 17 for 17 on the PGA TOUR in 2013. That's true consistency. Finished inside the top 20 in each of his last three TOUR starts. Solid in the splits I considered this week, and worthy of a OAD look.
  4. Charley Hoffman - I'm drooling over some of his numbers as it may relate to this course. His 2013 PGA TOUR season rankings were eighth in Par Breakers, ninth in Par 5 Birdie or Better and and 15th in GIR 200+. He's the highest ranked guy who played last week and finished fourth, which bodes well for form. Could be a really solid OAD option, but I could see the scenario where it doesn't go well early and he tanks it. 
  5. Jimmy Walker - Well, he's got a win and a T12 to start 2013-14, so the question isn't form as much as stamina. I don't have a great feel on how important it is to find fairways at this week's course, but that's been a big struggle to start the year. He's ranked outside the top 70 in driving accuracy in those tournaments.
  6. Bill Haas - He's turning into the type of player you can throw in any top 10 without much of an argument. Not saying he's Matt Kuchar yet, but a strong Presidents Cup and the ability to play many different types of courses make him a prudent play.
  7. Charles Howell III - Solid start to the season with a T33 at the Frys.com and a T5 at the Shriners, he's a good par 5 player and can be counted on for birdies.This is a case of having a decent idea of what you're getting. 
  8. Hideki Matsuyama - He continues to exceed expectation of late, gaining a sponsors invite into this event. Had to pull out of the Shirners, but could mean he's better rested than over half the field.
  9. Bubba Watson - A little bit of a bag of Skittles, but I like the feel (scary word) of Watson when the expectations are lower. I doubt he gets much buzz this week. His length should make three of the par 5s reachable with irons, and the lengthy par 3s shouldn't bother him. 
  10. Marc Leishman - Missed the cut at the Frys.com Open immediately after his first Presidents Cup, but had a week off to recover. The Aussie should feel more at home that some in the current time zone. No doubt a risk, but aren't they all this week?
  11. Rickie Fowler - Believe it or not, Fowler makes for an interesting OAD option. Has a little of the Bubba Watson vibe going, and could benefit from flying in under the radar. Other than a top 10 at The Barclays, didn't play especially well in his other two Playoff starts but has had ample time to recover and recharge. 
  12. Kiradech Aphibarnrat - I had to throw him in, and not just because I love his last name. He was the winner of the 2013 Maybank Malaysian Open at this week's venue, which has to count for something. Don't bite too hard on course history alone, considering the overall weakness of the field that week in comparison to this week, but if you are dead set on not using a OAD on someone you may want later he could be the risky choice.
No next five this week.

Since the tournament kicks off on Wednesday night on the East Coast of the U.S., I'll close out the coverage with tomorrow night's post.

Best of luck, as this week may require a little more luck than most!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

CIMB Classic - Preview

For numerous reasons, the CIMB Classic is an easy week to take an eye off the ball for gamers, but in this week's Preview hopefully you'll see some value in keeping your head in the game. Especially for one-and-done players. After all, the purse is a big $7,000,000 with $1.2 million to the winner.

Nick Watney is the defending champion, having posted 22-under at The MINES Resort and Golf Club to win the third edition of this tournament in 2012. Problem number one; the tournament has changed venues. It will now take place at Kuala Lumpur G&CC, so all bets on course history are off.

Still noteworthy, despite an obvious attempt at a global fields with a few players even I've never heard of (Siddikur Rahman and Shaaban Hussin last year anyone?), all of the winners and runners-up in the first three editions of the Malaysian event have been PGA TOUR regulars, and all but one are American. Your winners are Nick Watney, Bo Van Pelt and Ben Crane. Robert Garrigus, Bo Van Pelt, Jeff Overton and Brian Davis have played bridesmaid.

The LPGA Tour plays an event at this course , but not sure it's wise to read anything into Lexi Thompson's win there a few weeks ago. Lexi is noted as long for a woman, but it would be reckless on my part to assume that length is necessarily rewarded over putting, GIR, scrambling, etc.

***(Correction: the LPGA event was at the same site, but played the East Course rather than the West. Good thing we put zero credence into Lexi's success)***

What is worth peeking back at, is the Malaysian Open on the European Tour. Kuala Lumpur hosted the 2006 and 2010-2013 editions of that event.

So what do we know, or think we know, about Kuala Lumpur? The West Course is listed as a 6,951 par 72, for starters. Three of the four par 5s are under 540 yards, with the par-5 18th stretching out to 634 yards. I don't have to tell anyone that the first three par 5s will be reachable by most players with long irons unless there is elevation I'm unaware of or a significant head wind. Somewhat surprising given the overall yardage, three of the four par 3s are 199 yards or longer.

Only two of the par 4s are listed as over 450 yards, with four of them under 400 yards and two of them under 340 yards.

I see at least two potential ways to have success on this course. Bombers should enjoy the par 5s and have an advantage with club selection on the long par 3s. A noted long player who is good on approaches of the 175-225 range should score well on these holes. Conversely, strong wedge players and smooth putters will find themselves with numerous green lights on the relatively short par 4s.

One doesn't have to look back any further to March and the 2013 Malaysian Open to see this play out. The winner, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, was second in par-3 scoring and fourth in par-5 scoring while reaching the putting surface in two shots on three occasions (2nd in the field). Eduardo Molinari finishes a stroke behind him and was third in par-4 scoring and fourth in GIR. He was still -.42 on the par 5s and -.08 on the par 3s, but not in the top 10 in either.

A couple of other notes related to the Maybank Malaysian Open at Kuala Lumpur:

  • Charl Schwartzel finished 4th in the 2013 Maybank Malaysian Open and 6th in 2012 and was 11th in 2011. 
  • Louis Oosthuizen won the 2012 Maybank Malaysian Open 
  • Martin Kaymer has several top 10s at this course. 
  • Seung-yul Noh won the 2010 Maybank, with K.J. Choi the runner-up.
  • Oh, and Charlie Wi won the 2006 edition.

The cream has risen to the top of the weak fields. 

We'll be back tomorrow to try and make some sense of the field and offer some power rankings. Until then, best of luck and happy research.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open - One-and-done

The verdict is in, and I'm taking Nick Watney with my one-and-done for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. It essentially came down to Watney and Graham DeLaet, and when I compared them head-to-head, Watney won out.

I went back to 2010, and in each of his three trips Watney gained strokes with the putter, while DeLaet lost with his in his only start. Both were outstanding with GIR.

Tough call, but I will likely go with DeLaet when ball-striking is a little more demanding and the winning score needs to be in the mid teens, and not deeper than 20.

Best of luck to all!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open - Fantasy

As we turn our attention to the games for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, I will point out that I still don't see anything in regards to the Yahoo! format.

For Golf Channel picks, check out Mike's weekly article at Rotoworld http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/gol/44723/297/splitting-aces?pg=3.

That means, for now, we'll focus the majority of our attention on the one-and-done format. The short list essentially comes down to Graham DeLaet, Nick Watney, Hideki Matsuyama and Scott Piercy (Saving Zach Johnson for later). To go any deeper than that is digging too deep when solid options are readily available. Here are the breakdowns:

Graham DeLaet

  • Why you should take him - Much like Jimmy Walker last week, DeLaet is on a very short list of non-winners primed to breakthrough. Fresh off a strong personal performance in the Presidents Cup, he also tied for 18th in his only trip to TPC Summerlin in 2010. His game has progressed and been refined a good bit in the last four years, so there's no reason to think this won't improve. He broke par in each of his three rounds here.
  • Why you shouldn't take him - He is an elite ball-striker, so there are other courses where he could distinguish himself tee-to-green more than this one. This event can come down to a putting contest, but GIR are still very important.
  • Chance I'll burn him this week: 40%
Nick Watney
  • Why you should take him - A Vegas guy with a T2 and three other top 10s, he's among the true class of the field and offers the upside of a victory. While there are other spots on the schedule where he is a nice fit, he's not a "must use" at any other stop.
  • Why you shouldn't take him - He's been on the sidelines for a few weeks, so there's the question of rust. Much like DeLaet, his big strengths are driving and ball-striking, and TPC Summerlin isn't among the most demanding. May not have a hot enough putter to run the tables and make the necessary amount of birdies.
  • Chance I'll burn him this week: 22.5%
Hideki Matsuyama
  • Why you should take him - Why not? Playing well everywhere he tees it up and form is excellent.
  • Why you shouldn't take him - Biggest two reasons are no course history and concern that he may be on the downward arc of a peak.
  • Chance I'll burn him this week: 22.5%
Scott Piercy 
  • Why you should take him - Top 10s in his last two trips to a familiar TPC Summerlin and a penchant for throwing low numbers on easier courses require a serious look. 
  • Why you shouldn't take him - Similar to Watney, we don't have a read on form. He's also the most likely of the four to miss the cut.
  • Chance I'll burn him this week - 15%
We'll be back tomorrow to firm everything up!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Shriners Hopsitals for Children Open - Power Ranking

The Shriners Hospitals for Children Open boasts a number of intriguing options, and a relatively strong field, for this week’s power ranking. Before originally digging into the details, I envisioned this to be a week where guys like John Peterson and Ben Martin would be worthy fliers. As it turns out, the field contains quite a bit of class, and some local Las Vegas products that carry some solid course history.

More than most weeks, I find this tournament especially hard to delineate between first and sixth and seventh to 14th. That is to say, the player I have fifth could just as easily be first and the player who would have been 14th, if I went that far, could have been as high as seventh.

Looking ahead to posts later in the week, there are a handful of good one-and-done options and I expect that this is a week where picking the right guy could pay dividends. That is, there are enough semi-obvious choices and at least one of them should crack a top five, if not win.

Let’s break it down:
  1. Graham DeLaet – Much like Jimmy Walker leading into last week (who was second on the power ranking), DeLaet is on a very short list of players almost guaranteed to break through and win in 2013-14. He garnered plenty of attention at the Presidents Cup, becoming more of a household name than before, and also offers nice splits and good (although limited) course history at TPC Summerlin. He tied for 18th in his only trip back in 2010, but each of his four rounds were under par.
  2. Zach Johnson – This is a nod to his class and his form, as he has been a top-10 machine the last few months. He’s only played here one time, but it went for a T10 back in 2008. This course is as much about scoring on the par 4s as it is the 5s, which fits in nicely to his game. Probably the only member of the top five that isn’t a wise one-and-done option this week due to much better spots later in the schedule. (That’s almost verbatim what I said about Walker in this exact spot last week, and we know how that turned out.)
  3. Nick Watney – Speaking of Vegas guys, Watney lives in Sin City and has the track record and class to boot. He tied for second here and has three other top 10s in eight starts. Finished off 2013 with a solid run in the FedExCup. I’m not going to try and talk anyone out of a Watney OAD this week.
  4. Hideki Matsuyama – Showed up in a big way at CordeValle last week despite no course history, so his lack of familiarity at TPC Summerlin can’t be taken too seriously.
  5. Scott Piercy – Another Vegas guy, he’s six out of seven with top 10s in his last two trips to TPC Summerlin. As his class has elevated over the last couple of years, so has his performance at this course.  Joins DeLaet and Watney on the OAD short list.
  6. Jimmy Walker – Missed the cut here in his first three trips before tying for 10th last year. Hard to know what to expect, as his celebration for his first TOUR victory was a long time coming. It doesn't  seem wise to use him in certain formats, but his form and class elevation demands your attention.
  7. Webb Simpson – Hasn't played here since 2010, but tied for fourth in that trip. It’s a little hard to figure out his motivation for putting this back on the schedule. Could be that he’s in solid golfing condition after the Presidents Cup and is using this as a way to try and bag some FedExCup (and Ryder Cup) points before the holidays. Ranked inside the top 45 in Par Breakers, GIR and SGP last season.
  8. Kevin Na – Classic example of form meets course history, Na tied for third at the Frys.com Open last week and won this event in 2011. He’s 6/6 here when you back out a DQ after having made the cut, and has five top 25s. All systems appear to be a go.
  9. Brendon de Jonge – I found it ironic that he was a major player in the first two days of the Presidents Cup for the International Team, but faded on the weekend. That’s been the story of his PGA TOUR career, but he did finish T2 at this event last year.  We know the deal. He’ll play well on Thursday and Friday this week, landing plenty of GIR, but the major question will come on Saturday and Sunday.
  10. Robert Garrigus – A legitimate option in many formats, Garrigus has never missed a cut here in seven tries and owns three top 25s and a top 10. He enters off a T12 at the Frys.com Open. How well he fares this week will absolutely come down to his putter.
  11. George McNeill – Much like Na, history meets form in a big way this week. The only scary thing is his lack of class; on the golf course that is. He’s 6/6 with four top 25s, a runner-up and a win at TPC Summerlin. He also tied for seventh at the Frys.com last week. Something about this course has him licking his chops, so feel free to take run with him.
  12. Martin Laird – Similar to McNeill, Laird has a win and a playoff loss to Jonathan Byrd here. He’s made each of his four cuts in this event, but form is more questionable that McNeill. If you are interested in a course horse, he could be your guy.

Next 5 (alphabetical): David Hearn, Spencer Levin, Ben Martin, Ryan Moore and John Peterson

Feeling Risky?
  • Charley Hoffman – A true feast-or-famine guy, he’s made half of his eight cuts, went to UNLV, lives in Las Vegas, and has three top 25s and two top 10s in the four cuts he made. Who knows his form to start the year and what distractions he faces this week, but a worthy flier if available. Just don’t reach for him.
  • Jonathan Byrd – Another guy who could grab a top 10, but is more likely to miss the cut, Byrd is trying to wrap up his status with 10 remaining starts on a medical. His 2013 resume has been plagued by missed cuts, but a couple of very high finishes. He was the winner with a walk-off playoff hole-in-one in 2010.
  • Kyle Stanley – Kid can’t putt to save his life, but if he happened to get hot with the flat stick, then watch out. In his eight rounds here, he has every round in the 60s and tied for 10th in 2011. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open - Preview

Ryan Moore returns to Las Vegas to defend his Shriners Hospitals for Children Open title this week. Moore fired a 24-under at TPC Summerlin to pick up his second PGA TOUR victory by a stroke over Brendon de Jonge.

This event is known for the birdies, as TPC Summerlin's 7,243 yard, par-71 layout routinely offers forgiveness off the tees and ample opportunities for red numbers. If you're digging into stats this week, look for guys that make lots of birdies. The mention of BdJ should have been your first clue. Also a strong combination is a guy who's hitting plenty of greens and is hot with the putter. That would seem obvious for most tournaments, but three of the top five in GIR and the top two in SGP all finished inside the top five in 2012.

Perhaps one of the most vivid memories at this tournament came when Jonathan Byrd recorded a hole-in-one in a playoff to best Cameron Percy and Martin Laird as darkness fell. Byrd couldn't even see the ball go in the hole.

Several guys jump off the page as having excellent credentials at this week's venue, with Laird at the top of the list. Perhaps more interesting, George McNeill won here in 2007 and was runner-up in 2009 and enters off a T7 at the Frys.com Open. Oh, and Jimmy Walker. He tied for 10th here last year and obviously is in good form.

Don't ignore the guys fresh off the Web.com Tour who had nice showing at CordeValle last week. Will MacKenzie, Billy Hurley III, Ben Martin and John Peterson all qualify under those criteria. It can't be overlooked that the Web.com Tour puts an emphasis on hitting greens and getting hot with the putter; not to mention very low scores. When a shootout breaks out, those guys will feel very comfortable.

We will return tomorrow with the power rankings. Until then, happy research!

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open - Monday Qualifier

The last four spots of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open will be determined by a Monday Qualifier at Coyote Springs Golf Club. While I don't see a link to a leaderboard, here are the starting times and pairings http://southwest.pga.com/gui/southwest34/userpages/arizonasenioropenpairings/Shriners%20Monday%20Qualifier%20Pairings%20(1).pdf. Included in this qualifier are 20 players who earned a PGA TOUR card via Web.com Tour season top 25 and/or the Web.com Tour Finals, further proving that status alone isn't always good enough for a tee time in a tournament.

Best of luck to all!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Frys.com Open - One-and-done

As I've now settled on a one-and-done selection for the Frys.com Open, this presents a good time to explain the significance of power rankings as it relates to game strategy.

It could seem logical to some that I would just go with Billy Horschel since he's first on my rankings and available to me, but there's a little more strategy to it than that. Plenty of factors come into play in the one-and-done including purse size, opportunity cost of not having a player available for another tournament where he may be an even better fit and risk versus reward.

I'll go down the line in explaining why I didn't take each player in order of my ranking, and then why I did settle on Bryce Molder.

  • Billy Horschel - It's just not the right time. I'll wait until he heats up and ride a wave with him. While he's a seemingly very good fit, it's too risky to use him in an event with a light purse and not coming off an immediate top 10.
  • Jimmy Walker - His T4 last year included two eagles, which is hard to expect this time around. The bigger reason is that he should be a really good fit at Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines. Add to that, he missed a bunch of cuts in the back half of 2013 despite some strong results mixed in. A very good option, but I'm waiting to see if he trends into either the Farmers or AT&T Pebble Beach.
  • Gary Woodland - He was the second choice. When I really studied his best season (2011), he tends to put together top 10s and top 25s in bunches. He also has a great history at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the Memorial, so I'm going to wait and see if I catch him trending into one of those.
  • Charles Howell III - A great option for the Sony Open.
  • Jason Kokrak - Like Walker, he had two eagles here last year in his trek to a T2, but unlike Walker his were both on the par-4 17th. While that hole is reachable with a 3-wood for a player as long as Kokrak, I can't count on that again.
  • Bryce Molder - This week's OAD pick, Molder won in 2011 and shared 11th in 2012. What stood out, is that he has just 12 bogeys (and nothing worse) in his 144 holes during that span and only one 3-putt in that same run. He also gained more than two strokes with the putter in each of those two weeks. I get that he isn't flashy and several of the guys above offer a better chance at a win, but he feels like a very save top 15 with the possibility of a top five. He also had two top 25s in his last four starts on TOUR and at least seven in each of his last four PGA TOUR seasons.
Simply put, if Molder can give me a top 15 or 20 and allow me to save the top four names on the list above him for tournaments where the fit is better, then I'll count that as a "par" and move on with a comfortable smile to start the season. If he can give me a top 10, then it's a "birdie." A top five or better.....you get the picture.

Whatever your strategy, best of luck!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Frys.com Open - Fantasy

As most of you have probably noticed, it doesn't appear that the Yahoo! game is ready to roll for the Frys.com Open and the start of the PGA TOUR season. Not sure if that was a strategic break, or something that fell through the cracks. I have no insider knowledge on that subject, but would bet that all of their focus right now is on football and kicking off basketball.

As always, feel free to check out my GolfChannel picks at Rotoworld in Glass' weekly article http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/gol/44659/297/turn-and-burn?pg=3.

I'm not ready to nab a one-and-done quite yet, but I'll give you my short list and the reasoning behind them.
  • Gary Woodland - Probably the clubhouse leader at this point, as there isn't a better spot to use him that jumps to mind and his history and form seem to be in check. I need to dive deeper into his putting before I'm ready to pull the trigger.
  • Jimmy Walker - I would consider him to be on the higher side of class in a weak field, and his T4 and final-round 62 here last year are reason to pay attention. Long off the tee and a solid putter.
  • Chesson Hadley - It's hard to know if and where to plug a rookie in, but his length (17th on Web.com in driving distance) and putting ability (4th in putting average) make this an intriguing fit. 
  • Jason Kokrak - Distance has been rewarded here, which is his calling card, and his T2 last year at this tournament makes him an intriguing option.
  • Hideki Matsuyama - Could be a trendy pick this week, but there's not much evidence to support course fit or how he'll rebound from a Presidents Cup loss where he was decent, but not great.
  • Jamie Lovemark - A legit dark horse, and one I've almost talked myself into already this week, he ranked inside the top 10 in both distance and putting on the Web.com last year and tied for 30th here in 2010. 
I'm not convinced that Billy Horschel isn't the favorite to win this week, but he's shown to be a safer call coming off a top 10 the immediate week before. His only win came after a T9 the week prior and tied for fourth at the U.S. Open after a T9 in Memphis and tied for third at the Valero Texas Open after a T2 at the Shell Houston Open. In short, I'll wait and buy until he posts a top 10 and then I'll jump on the bandwagon quickly. 

John Peterson is very hot as well, but he's been hot for a while on the Web.com Tour. That tells me two things. First, he will likely have a stretch of two or three consecutive top 10s sometime this year so I'll wait and buy the week after a top 10 much like Horschel. Second, it's possible that he may have already peaked and could head back to earth this week. 

Either way, I'll let you know the verdict tomorrow.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Frys.com Open - Power Rankings

The Frys.com Open Power Rankings feature a number of players with past success at CordeValle Golf Club, as well as some fresh faces off the Web.com Tour. In some ways, the Web.com Finals offer us the best glimpse at a player’s current form. It will be interesting to see if there is some immediate carryover to the Fall Series for the newly minted card holders.

As we touched on yesterday, driving accuracy seems to take a back seat in order of importance. That brings the bombers more into play, since wayward drives don’t appear to be punished proportionally to most TOUR stops. Putting is also a very good skill to have a CordeValle.

Let’s take our first crack at the 2013-14 season!
  1. Billy Horschel – Seemed to snap out of a very small funk in the Playoffs, improving from T70 to T18 and then T7 in his last three starts of the 2013 season. In two previous starts at this venue, he has a T7 in 2011 and a T29 in 2012. Ranked 42nd in driving distance and 28th in SGP in 2013, so seems to be a fit on all three (form, history, stats) fronts. A win this week wouldn't change his life, which could make the task easier for him than others.
  2. Jimmy Walker – Could have just as easily led off with him, having tied for fourth last year, but didn't due to a conscious effort not to over-value course history. His T11 at the BMW Championship to end his 2013 season snapped a lengthy slump, and 20th in driving distance and 46th in SGP in ’13 solidifies why he was such a good fit here in 2012. Not a bad spot for a breakthrough win.
  3. Gary Woodland – I always cringe a tad when I rank Woodland this high, but he can’t be ignored. He was hot through the Playoffs, beginning with a T2 at The Barclays, and also tied for ninth here last year. He’s a noted bomber, and managed to be in the middle of the pack with the flat stick. If the putter cooperates, he will be in the thick of things.
  4. Charles Howell III – Howell always seems to play well early in the season, so we’ll find out if that’s the case with a new start date, or if the West Coast Swing (especially the Sony Open) are just a good course lineup for him. Could be that he just hasn't placed his personal expectations too high early in the year, but they build as his finishes roll in. Either way, he made some cuts late last season and tied for 11th here last year. Ranked 37th in distance and 17th in SGP last season.
  5. Jason Kokrak – In his third season on TOUR, he seems primed for a breakthrough win at some point in 2013-14. This is actually a logical spot, as he tied for second last year and ranked sixth in driving distance. He also made the cut in three Playoff events.
  6. Bryce Molder – A winner in 2011, he put up a T11 in his title defense to demonstrate he’s a serious course horse. Was surprised that he was 176th in distance last year, but his 10th in SGP is in line with the eye test. Notched a couple of top 25s late in 2013.
  7. John Peterson – I don’t care that he missed the cut here last year, he’s arguably the hottest player coming of the Web.com Tour. He doesn't lack for confidence, either. He was just above average in distance and putting on the Web.com Tour, meaning CordeValle may not be his ideal statistical fit, but much like Horschel last Spring; he should be considered very dangerous until he proves he’s cooled off.
  8. Jamie Lovemark – Lost this event in a playoff on a sponsor exemption in 2009 at the previous venue, then tied for 30th a year later when the tournament moved to CordeValle. He’s been a bit feast or famine on the Web.com, but has a win and four top 10s in his last nine starts. Also ranked third in driving distance and ninth in putting average on the junior circuit last season, so it’s quite possible this course will really fit his game.
  9. Chesson Hadley – If Peterson isn't the hottest player coming of the Web.com Tour, Hadley is. He tied for fourth in the next-to-last event of the season, then picked up his second win at the Web.com Tour Championship. Two wins in his first full season on that Tour tells me to expect his adjustment period to be rather small. He was 17th in distance and fourth in putting average on the Web in 2013.
  10. David Hearn – Was a steady player from his P2 at the John Deere Classic through the end of the season, ranking 15th in SGP despite lacking length off the tee. He shared seventh here in 2011, then missed the cut last year. It’s easy to like that he enters the week a little under the radar, with plenty of eyes on the fresh faces on TOUR.
  11. Hideki Matsuyama – One trend from 2013 was that International players seemed to underwhelm as PGA TOUR rookies / first-time members. The Japanese star is fresh off a decent showing at the Presidents Cup, and will look to make a big splash at CordeValle this week. Our sample size is pretty small on trying to guess how he will handle moving past a premiere global event and into a Fall Series tournament. This week could set the expectations for the rest of his season, as silly as that may sound.
  12. Morgan Hoffmann – The sophomore had a nice run of four consecutive top 25s deep in the 2013 season, but faded a bit late. The fade could have to do with any number of factors, but if fatigue was one of them, that should likely be solved. He’s trending as a sexy pick to notch a win in 2013-14, but must be careful to avoid the pratfalls that Bud Cauley and Seung-yul Noh fell into last season. Ranked 32nd in distance and a respectable 58th in SGP.

The Next 5: Jonas Blixt, Marc Leishman, Ben Martin, Seung-yul Noh and Patrick Reed

Feeling risky? (To clarify, these aren't necessarily meant to be the next three players in line after the "next 5," rather a way identify guys that may be off other radars that could be a nice fit for certain games.)
  • Russell Knox – Perhaps this one isn't so much a risk as it is a way to turn some attention his way. He split time between the PGA TOUR and the Web.com in 2013, finishing inside the top 20 in his last two TOUR starts and regaining full status via the Web.com Finals last month. He tied for ninth here last year.
  • Spencer Levin – Making his first TOUR start since 2012, but played well in spurts while rehabbing an injury on the Web.com Tour. Strategically didn't play any in ’13 so as to have a full slate of medical starts. Tied for seventh here in 2011.
  • Rory Sabbatini – Ended 2013 on fire, with top 20s in six of his last seven events, but has missed the cut in all three of his trips to CordeValle. Form meets history.

As always, best of luck to all!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Frys.com Open - Preview

Before we kick off the preview of the Frys.com Open, let me first say that this was an incredibly short off season for full-season gamers with leagues starting this week, but nothing out of the ordinary for weekly players.

I will say that I'm having a little bit of a Billy Bob from Varsity Blues feeling. You know. Early in the movie when the party's going strong and Billy Bob tosses his cookies, then grabs another cold one and yells "puke and rally!" That is to say, I'm looking forward to the traditional down time in November and December, but hopefully have enough of a second wind to push through the Fall Series.

This will be the fourth time the Frys.com Open has been contested at CordeValle Golf Club. The previous winners and runners-up are as follows:

  • 2010 - Winner: Rocco Mediate (-15); Runner-up: Bo Van Pelt and Alex Prugh (-14)
  • 2011 - Winner: Bryce Molder (-17); Runner-up: Briny Baird (-17 playoff)
  • 2012 - Winner: Jonas Blixt (-16); Runner-up: Jason Kokrak and Tim Petrovic (-15)
That makes for a very confusing list of eight names. You have veterans like Mediate, Van Pelt, Baird and Petrovic, but inexperienced TOUR pros like Prugh, Blixt and Kokrak. Only Molder is somewhere in between. I consider Molder and Blixt to be very good putters

So let's look at CoredeValle.

Each of the last three years it has played as a 7,368-yard par-71, and it is a Robert Trent Jones design. It features three par 5s, all over 550 yards with one stretching over 600, but the par-4 17th is a short one with a history of fireworks. It can be driven, and at times with a 3-wood. Three of the four par 3s are over 210 yards, with two over 230. 

The stats tell us that driving accuracy means very little. It also suggests that putting is rewarded, distance is generally good and GIR never hurt. My read is that distance is rewarded because missing the fairway isn't punished. 

Ironically, what I described above is not all that different from a typical Web.com Tour event. I will take a hard look at guys fresh of the Web.com Tour Finals with any past history of relative success at this track. One thing that is different is the spot on the schedule. Instead of being in the heart of the Fall Series, this year it kicks of the Fall. Form will be tough to identify. 

We will be back with power rankings tomorrow. Until then, happy research!

Frys.com Open - Monday Qualifier

It's hard to believe the start of the 2013-14 PGA TOUR season is upon us, and the Frys.com Monday Qualifier is sort of the kick off. If you are interested in following who earns the final spots in the field, here's the link to the leaderboard http://ncpga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/ncpga13/event/ncpga1323/contest/1/leaderboard.htm.

Best of luck to all!