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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Waste Management Phoenix Open - One-and-done

To conclude my rather spotty coverage of this week's Phoenix Open, let's put a bow on the one-and-done. I'm going with a trusted and steady dose of form and course history all mixed into one, and selecting Ryan Palmer.

Best of luck to all!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Waste Management Phoenix Open - Fantasy

As the Waste Management Phoenix Open creeps closer here's a quick look at the Yahoo! format. I will be back to post a one-and-done tomorrow. 

As always, if you are interested in my Golf Channel picks, they can be found in Glass' weekly article on rotoworld.com.

While I seriously doubt the AM/PM tee time split this week will be nearly as crucial as getting the North vs South course strait at Torrey Pines, I've decided to allow myself the option to plug in AM guys on both days if it seems advantageous.

  • A-List - Currently have Ryan Moore starting and Gary Woodland on the bench.
  • B-List - Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson starting, with Graham DeLaet and Chris Kirk on the pine.
  • C-list - Ryan Palmer starting with Kevin Na ready on the bench.
As always, best of luck to all!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Waste Management Phoenix Open - Power Rankings

With the Farmers Insurance Open mercifully behind us, let's dive into the Waste Management Phoenix Open power rankings.

As I mentioned last week in the Wednesday one-and-done post, several of the posts this week will be written ahead of time and set to post in their normal time slot due to travel. This post is actually being written Saturday night. If there are any big changes, I will post an update at the bottom of this post.

The usual metrics of course history, form and statistical significance have been weighed. 

Before the power rankings, I want to point out three players in the field at the time I'm writing this. Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker and J.B. Holmes. 
  • Mickelson is the defending champion and a three-time winner of this event, but his back injury and subsequent withdrawl after making the cut at Torrey Pines is a reason to be concerned. In terms of fantasy value this week, he has much less than normal.
  • Snedeker raised plenty of eyebrows with his 77 on Torrey Pines North last week, but bounced back with a 72 on the South course, still missing the cut by a mile. That 77 has me spooked. There are too many places gamers can plug him in going forward to where sitting him out this week to monitor his form seems like a good idea. Essentially, hitting the pause button for a week.
  • J.B. Holmes is a two-time winner here and sits T27 in the Farmers Insurance Open headed into the final round. The Farmers was his first action in quite some time.

Now for the rankings:
  1. Ryan Palmer - Finished eight at the Sony Open and second at the Humana Challenge Add to that, he's five for seven at the WMPO including a pair of top-five finishes.
  2. Gary Woodland - As I write this, he's leading the Farmers Insurance Open by a stroke through 54 holes. A recent trend suggests that runner-up finishers at the Farmers fare well at the WMPO. He's 4/4 here with a T5 in 2011. He certainly has the power to take advantage of the par 5s at TPC Scottsdale. 
  3. Webb Simpson - As mentioned in the preview, class is rewarded a little better here than it was in the Humana Challenge. All systems are still a go with Simpson.
  4. Matt Every - A dangerous player, he's finished inside the top 15 in his last two starts, while also owning top 10s in both of his starts in this event.
  5. Bill Haas - A T6 at the Humana Challenge and a decent week (through 54 holes) at the Farmers Insurance Open, coupled with a couple of top 10s and a T6 at TPC Scottsdale last year make him too good to pass up.
  6. Kevin Na - It scares me to rank him this high, but I can't avoid it. He's finished inside the top five here on four occasions, and his T8 at the Sony Open suggests his form is fine.
  7. Billy Horschel - I was loving him before his third-round 77 at the Farmers, but the U.S. Open conditions that prevailed that day won't be anything like TPC Scottsdale. Let's just hope he isn't too scarred. Tied for 11th here last year.
  8. Ryan Moore - A good desert player and a guy with sold form (10th at HTOC) and course history (4th last year) really designate him as a great value here.
  9. Harris English - Everyone knows he's a hot commodity right now. His two starts in this event yielded a T15 in '12 and a T57 last year.
  10. Chris Kirk - Much like English, Kirk is streaking in here off a runner-up at Sony. He's 2/3 here, with a T24 last year serving as the best.
  11. Brian Stuard - I've held him out of here long enough, I just hope I'm not jumping on the bandwagon too late. He was T13 through 54 at the Farmers, which was much better than I ever envisioned. His only start here resulted in a T70, but that was in 2010 when he was a totally different player.
  12. Charley Hoffman - A streaky player, this is the right type of course for him when he gets hot as evident by his runner-up in 2009. He's also had some misses here.
Next 5: Keegan Bradley, Nicolas Colsaerts, Charles Howell III, Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson

I'll return tomorrow with a real-time update for the Yahoo! format. My Golf Channel picks will be in the weekly Rotoworld article. 

Best of luck to all!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Waste Management Phoenix Open - Preview

While every stop on the West Coast Swing offers a unique trait that makes each tournament stand out, the Waste Management Phoenix Open has a way of shining a little brighter than the rest by offering a taste of what makes several of the other tournaments great.

Nothing can replicate the history and scenery that Pebble Beach offers. Along with Pebble, Riviera and Torrey Pines South have each hosted major championships. 

While I doubt anyone would want to see another birdie fest to the degree of the Humana Challenge, the Waste Management Phoenix Open offers birdies and eagles, as well as a desert setting somewhat similar to PGA West. 

It offers a memorable course (TPC Scottsdale), or at least a recognizable final four holes. The par-5 15th is a true risk/reward par 5 that features water in play on ever shot. The par-3 16th is unlike any other atmosphere in golf. The par-4 17th is reachable off the tee, and the par-4 18th is a challenging final hole unless you have the length of a Kyle Stanley or J.B. Holmes to take all the danger out of play with a bomb off the tee.

Not that it matters, but it's turning into my favorite stop on the West Coast Swing. Not my favorite course, as that is reserved for Riviera, but the mixture of excitement, course, scoring and a traditionally strong leaderboard are hard to beat.

TPC Scottsdale is a par-71 of 7,216 yards. That would be considered average length by TOUR standards for a par-71 layout. While it features just three par 5s, the par-4 17th essentially makes up for it as a fourth easy birdie opportunity. 

I want to stress that this is not just a regular birdie fest along the lines of a Humana. There are four of what I would consider strong par 4s, and the par 3s are also challenging enough to keep the field honest. That's probably the biggest reason why the past champions of this event aren't viewed as one-hit wonders or guys that just caught lightening in a bottle. They are solid players, and sometimes stars.

So what does it take to contend at TPC Scottsdale?
  • A player has to score on the easy holes. Par 5 scoring is critical, as the three par 5s essentially hand a player plenty of easy birdies. Playing the par 5s in 8- to 10-under is a big deal.
  • Survive the par 3s. They aren't unfair or overly daunting, but playing the par 3s at even for the week would be a worthy goal. There are enough par 4s and 5s to score on, just don't trip up on the par 3s. 
  • Be patient and stick to the green lights on the par 4s. This is the reason I think TPC Scottsdale gets a nice leaderboard. With the exception of the par 5s and the par-4 17th, a player needs to exercise patience and wait on what the course gives. 
  • Long is good. When you have recent winners like Mickelson, Stanley, Mahan and Holmes, that counts for a trend. The advantage comes on the most difficult par 4s, as well as making the par 5s even easier. The par-4 eighth, ninth and 18th holes all benefit from long and accurate drives. 
  • Form is important, Looking back at everyone who has finished inside the top 10 since 2011 (33 players) only three hadn't made a PGA TOUR cut prior to their start at the WMPO. Padraig Harrington (T9 in 2013) was making his first start of 2013, D.J. Trahan (4th in 2012) had missed two cuts and Tommy Gainey (T8 in 2011) had missed three cuts. Further, 74 percent of those earning a top five in that span (14 of 19 players) had at least picked up a top 25 earlier that year. Seven of those 14 had a top 10. The short version is, if a player didn't get a top 25 at the Sony Open, Humana Challenge or Farmers Insurance Open, go ahead and lay off, with few exceptions.
  • If you are looking for additional stats, GIR and proximity tend to stick out. 

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


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Waste Management Phoenix Open - Monday Qualifier

The final four spots for the Waste Management Phoenix Open will be battled out in a Monday Qualifier. Attached is the current leaderboard with all of the players in the open qualifier listed http://swpga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/swpga14/event/swpga1440/contest/1/leaderboard.htm (you may have to copy and paste the link into your browser).

Should you have trouble pulling up that link, check out the main section page for the PGA Southwest www.southwestpga.com and follow the prompts to the Monday qualifier page.

Best of luck to all!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Farmers Insurance Open - One-and-done

About the only thing left to finish off our Farmers Insurance Open prep is the one-and-done. What became very obvious to me early in the process, is that the guys on the short list for the Farmers will also be on the short list for each of the next three tournaments (Waste Management Phoenix Open, AT&T Pebble Beach and Northern Trust Open). While the players are somewhat interchangeable, I've roughly mapped out my next four OADs.

As I said earlier, the first question to deal with this week is Tiger. I gave him a very hard look, but decided to hold off. If I want to put him on a course he dominates later in the year, there’s always Bay Hill. Or Firestone CC. Or, maybe even Augusta National.

This week is reserved for the other big name. I’m taking Phil Mickelson as my OAD. His history at Torrey Pines is second only to Tiger. He’s entering off a T2 in Abu Dhabi. He’s found a new toy (driver) to play with and keep him interested. He always seems to win somewhere on the West Coast Swing, and he’s sort of due for a win here.

The biggest reason I didn't take Snedeker was because I’d like to put him on a little better trend in terms of form. My guess is that he still manages a top 10 this week, and if he does I’ll likely slot him in at the WMPO.

I held off Jimmy Walker because I’m not comfortable with his Tiger Woods pairing in the first two rounds. I don’t know how he’ll react. The idea is likely to burn him at Pebble Beach. That gives him a little time to come down from his win at Sony and is on a course where he boasts a great history.

Making a late charge was Bill Haas, but I see Riviera as the perfect target spot to burn him given his recent history. That said, if I hadn't chosen Mickelson, I probably would have taken Billy.

Mind you, I’m not committing to anything past Phil this week. If Snedeker wins or ties for 50th this week, I’ll absolutely reconsider him for the WMPO. If Haas posts a top 10 this week and Snedeker struggles, maybe Haas is the play in the desert. I could always go with Walker at Riviera. You get the picture.

*********************************************************************************

One final piece of housekeeping…I will have an irregular schedule next week and will be pre-writing some of my articles and scheduling them to post around the time they normally do on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I will do the majority of my WMPO research before the Farmers Insurance Open concludes. I will indicate in the top portion of the article if it was pre-written and also indicate if I've gone in and updated something after a post is published.

My guess is that the Preview and Power Rankings will be pre-written, and then a shorter-than-usual fantasy post for Yahoo! gamers will be published Tuesday after I've had a chance to glance at tee times, followed by a very brief OAD post on Wednesday. That’s also why I've gone into so much OAD detail this week, as many of the same cast will be considered next week.

So, if I have Brandt Snedeker in a power ranking that publishes at 7pm ET on Monday night and he W/D at 4:30, that’s why.

I’ll do my best on emails and will be active on Twitter.

For next week especially, I strongly encourage you to also check out my Rotoworld colleagues' work on their various platforms. As always, Glass will have his preview up at Rotoworld sometime on Tuesday. Rob will have his articles at their normal times throughout the week on PGATOUR.com. There’s also the Rotoworld chat on Wednesday at noon that Rob and Glass will co-host for last minute questions. Check Ned out on Twitter, as well as yahoo.com for his picks (all of our Twitter handles are on the Rotoworld.com golf site).  


Best of luck to all!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Farmers Insurance Open - Fantasy

As the Farmers Insurance Open draws nearer, it’s time to take our first look at various gaming formats. One thing to note in daily formats is the two-course rotation between Torrey Pines North and South. The North is significantly easier, so I’m a big proponent of spacing out your teams accordingly.

Yahoo!

This is obviously the format where matching the right player with the right course is most prevalent, and I’ve spaced my teams out with four players on each course each day. Further, I fully intend to play only North Course players in the first two rounds.
Here’s how the first round will look (flip them for round two barring something goofy.)
  • A-List – Phil Mickelson starting with Tiger Woods on the bench.
  • B-List – Hunter Mahan and Jason Day starting, with Bill Haas and Ian Poulter on the bench. (Poulter is the only guy I felt like I reached on just to have an even split on courses. I would have preferred DeLaet, but he is on the same rota as Mahan and Day.)
  • C-List – Nick Watney starting and Jimmy Walker on the bench.

The only scenario I could envision not starting Woods, Haas, Poulter and Walker in round two would be if Woods had a terrible first round and was in serious danger of not making the cut. Even if the other three post 76s in the first round, it’s still probably worth the burn if even just for round two.

As for the Golf Channel picks, check out the weekly article by Glass at Rotoworld for my picks http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/gol/46064/297/big-game-preserve . As you will see, I sit last of the four staffers and need a nice bounce. While I’m certain to catch a little “homer” flack for my Glover pick, it’s hard to pass on a guy in Group 4 who is in his mid 30s and owns a pair of top-four finishes at a tournament where putting isn’t at a premium.  But yeah, it’s also pulling for the home team a bit.

One-and-done primer

While I’m not ready to peg a one-and-done pick just yet, here’s a little something to serve as a primer. Before the tee times came out, my short list was the top four or five of my power rankings (Woods, Mickelson, Snedeker, Walker and Haas).

My advice would be to deal with the elephant in the room first. That is, do you want to burn your Woods start here, or wait. I could make a strong case for either. Actually, I may as well go ahead and make both.

There are really two reasons I can think not to burn Woods. First, he hasn’t played publically since his tournament back in December, so form is a question to a degree. The second is that this is one of the smaller purses he contends for every year. The reasons to play him are numerous. He has eight wins (7 FIO and 1 US Open) at Torrey Pines. He won here last year after missing the cut at Abu Dhabi, proving that even bad form didn’t slow him down in 2013. The field this week is also weaker than any major or WGC, where the purses are higher.

If you have decided to play Woods, then you can stop reading now and there’s really no point in coming back tomorrow. Best of luck to you, and see you back for the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

When considering Mickelson, his T2 in Abu Dhabi is kind of a good thing. I say kind of because his form rarely matters. He’s won at Torrey coming off a missed cut and he’s won at Torrey coming off a T3. You can almost bank on him winning on the West Coast Swing, whether it be Torrey, WMPO, Pebble or Riviera, but good luck figuring out which one. He could absolutely win this week, but don’t say I didn’t warn you if he finishes 42nd.

Snedeker isn’t in great form relative to his last couple of trips trending into this event, but it’s not red-flag territory either. At best, it’s a pale yellow flag. If you want to burn Sneds this week, I’d be fine with that. If you want to wait and see if he posts a top 10 and then plug him in at the WMPO next week; cool also. The biggest reason not to play Snedeker this week is that he tends to hold onto a trend for a few weeks. Meaning, if he ties for fourth this week, he’s still a good or better play next week. Short of him winning this event, a top-10 finish is a great reason for a WMPO burn.

Here’s the problem with Walker. There are two, actually. The first is how he will respond in his first start after winning Sony. Judging by how he responded to his Frys.com Open win (a T12 at Shriners and a 6th at CIMB), this may not be an issue at all. What is much more pressing, and harder to decipher, is how he will handle being grouped with Tiger Woods the first two rounds. There is a real chance that he will be a bit starry-eyed.  Sort of an “I’ve arrived” moment in the premier Thursday/Friday spot. On the plus side, his form is incredible and his trend at Torrey is perfect. It all comes down to intangibles.

There was a guy in my one-and-done league last year that played Haas at Congressional when he won. I went back and read our commissioners email to the league that week, as the comment stood out to me in regards to Haas and I wanted to re-read it. The player that picked him said, “if not now, when?”  He’s coming in off a top 10 and has been a top-10 machine at Torrey Pines of late. Riviera makes sense. Maybe Quail Hollow. Probably a couple of others when the trends match. But, “if not now, when?”


While I’m not yet sure where I’ll head with my one-and-done pick, I’ll have it figured out by this time tomorrow. Until then, best of luck to all!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Farmers Insurance Open - Power Rankings

Sometimes a power ranking comes together in a nice and neat fashion, and that was the case for the Farmers Insurance Open. It helps that Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker all own sterling records at Torrey Pines. Perhaps the only real question this week will be the form of several of the top 12, as this is the first we've seen of some of them in 2014.

One other thing to note, I leaned on course history a little harder than form this week for a couple of reasons. This field is very top heavy, whereas the events in the Fall of 2013 and the first three events of 2014 really weren't. Also, Torrey Pines (South) will be the most difficult course to be played on the 2013-14 season to date, so don’t expect a birdie binge over the weekend like we've seen in virtually every other tournament this year. There won’t be a bunch of 8-under-par rounds in the finale.

That is why you won’t see Brian Stuard in my power ranking this week. I realize he’s finished inside the top 6 in his last three tournaments dating back to the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in 2013, but the South Course is about 500 yards longer than any course he played over that stretch and hosted a U.S. Open in 2008. 

Form on short courses like Waialae Country Club and the PGA West facilities doesn't really convert as well for a shorter player at Torrey.

Here we go:
  1. Tiger Woods – The clear number one, he’s played here 13 times and owns 12 top 10s to go with seven wins (eight if you count the 2008 U.S. Open). Anytime a player’s played a course 13 times and won more than half, he’s the clear number one. He won here last year after missing the cut in Abu Dhabi, so form doesn't matter when he steps onto the first (or 10th) tee at Torrey Pines. This is his first action of 2014.
  2. Phil Mickelson – This spot is essentially 2 and 2a between Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker, but Lefty’s play in Abu Dhabi last week (T2) gives him the edge. He’s made the cut here in 19/24 occasions, owns six top-three finishes and three wins. And let’s not forget, Phil always seems to pick off a win on the West Coast swing.
  3. Brandt Snedeker – Another guy with an excellent record here, and a noted poa annua green player, Sneds is 6/7 with a win to go with three other top threes at Torrey. If you’re counting at home, that means he’s finished inside the top three on over half (4) of his total (7) starts.
  4. Jimmy Walker – I can’t decide if he belongs in the bottom of the elite group of three or the top of the strong group that makes up the rest of the top 12. Either way, he’s the clear number four. He’s trending in this tournament with a T29, T8 and T4 in his last three trips to Torrey Pines. This will be his first start after winning Sony, so he’ll go for his third win of 2013-14 (and of his career) this week. If you still have a Walker one-and-done start, use it here or Pebble or Riviera.
  5. Bill Haas – Picked up a top 10 at the Humana Challenge last week and touts top-10 finishes in this event in each of the last three years. He’s only missed the cut here once in nine tries. Given his penchant for winning on strong courses of late (Riviera and Congressional), he would be a solid choice in any format.
  6. Hunter Mahan – Making his 2013-14 PGA TOUR debut, Mahan has finished inside the top 15 at Torrey in each of his last three trips. He’s a high-class player with solid history. The only other thing one could ask for would be some form to go off, but otherwise a solid pick.
  7. Nick Watney – Messed around with three middle-of-the-pack finishes in the Fall of 2013, but this is his first action of 2014. He’s a past winner at Torrey and has the game off the tee to contend. Overall, he has five top 10s in nine trips to just two missed cuts, so a relatively safe investment in most formats.
  8. Bubba Watson – Raise your hand if you were burned by Bubba’s late W/D here last year. Mine’s up. The 2013 season was a bit unremarkable by Bubba’s heightened standards, but a history that includes a win and three top 10s in seven starts here should kick his 2014 off to a steady start.
  9. Jason Day – While his T9 last year was his only top 30 in four starts at Torrey Pines, his game should line up well for Torrey. He’s long off the tee, shows up well in the all-around category and typically putts well. Don’t be surprised if he posts a career-best finish in this event this season.
  10. Graham DeLaet – His stats fit Torrey Pines to a tee. Just as encouraging, after missing the cut here in each of his first two stops, he converted on his potential with a T9 last year. The Canuck is on everyone’s short list to break through as a first-time TOUR winner this season. If this is the week, it would be against an elite field.
  11. Charles Howell III – Typical to every January stop, Chucky owns an impressive record at Torrey Pines. He’s made each of his 11 cuts, with seven top 25s, five top 10s and a pair of runners-up. It’s eerily similar to his Sony Open ledger. Dragging him down to this spot was a less-than-inspiring performance at Humana last week.
  12. Rickie Fowler – He’s played here four times and never finished outside the top 20. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he just isn’t passing the eye test in terms of form. If there is a place for him to get healthy, it stands to reason that this could be it.

Next 5: Keegan Bradley, Marc Leishman, Ian Poulter, John Rollins and Lee Westwood


We will return tomorrow with a look at the various games. Until then, best of luck!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Farmers Insurance Open - Preview

With the birdie binge of the Humana Challenge behind us, let's begin our deep dive into the Farmers Insurance Open with our weekly preview.

While the last two tournaments have reeked of a crapshoot, the return to Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open offers the comfort of a strong field where elite outcomes have become the norm. The "chalk" is clear, and it includes names like Woods, Mickelson, Snedeker and now Walker. In fact, going back to 2005, the winners are Tiger Woods (five times), Nick Watney, Ben Crane, Bubba Watson and Brandt Snedeker.

A list of winners that strong speaks directly to the quality of the course. As most of you will remember, Torrey Pines (South) hosted the infamous 2008 U.S. Open. You know...the one where Tiger won his most recent major on one leg over Rocco Mediate.

So let's look at the course. Actually, courses.

The first two rounds will be spread across two courses. Torrey Pines North and Torrey Pines South. Yahoo! gamers will want to make note that Torrey Pines North is much shorter and much easier. The final two rounds are played on the South Course. Essentially, splitting the first two rounds over two courses is the only way a full field can get two rounds in in two days due to daylight.

  • Torrey Pines (South) is a 7,698 par-72 layout featuring four par 5s and four par 3s. 
  • Torrey Pines (North) is a 7,052 par-72 layout featuring four par 5s and four par 3s. 
One other note, the greens are poa annua. It's a grass that tends to putt very bumpy and worsens as the day goes on. It's a frustrating grass to putt, and nothing outside of about 24 inches is a gimmie. There are few guys that putt that grass well, with Brandt Snedeker leading the charge in a big way. That Woods guy has been known to be an elite putter, too. Jimmy Walker seems to show up on poa annua courses as well. Because those four footers aren't "good," lag putting to stone dead is a premium. That said, if you want to make an eight-foot birdie putt, you better give it enough speed not to bump off the line. See why it's maddening?

So, what do the stats say?
  • It could be inferred, given the length of the South Course, but long is better than short, and it's also better than straight to a degree.
  • There are two ways to look at putting. One is that everyone not named Brandt Snedeker is going to suck on the greens this week, so bad putters get a little bit of a hall pass. The other is that it takes a highly skilled putter to leave lags in the correct spots, while still being aggressive enough to make birdies.
  • The recipe should probably involve a gander at proximity, as it's easier to one and two putt from close range than it is from far. 
  • This is also a good tournament to look at the all-around ranking. Maybe total driving with a tilt towards distance over accuracy as well.
We'll begin working on our magic formula (the one that didn't include Patrick Reed last week) and return with power rankings tomorrow.

Until then, happy research!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Humana Challenge - One-and-done

It’s time to tie up all of our loose ends regarding the Humana Challenge, including the selection of a one-and-done and the cementing of our Yahoo! starters.

Putting the first round of the Yahoo! game to bed, I went back and considered the scoring averages on each of the three courses for all eight of the players dating back to 2009. As suggested by the scoring averages of the courses last year, Nicklaus Private is generally the easiest by a slim margin over Palmer Private, with La Quinta playing a decent amount tougher than the other two.

Here’s how round one looks:

Starting Charles Howell III (66.75 average on Nicklaus), Webb Simpson (68.71 average on Palmer), Robert Garrigus (a sick 65.5 on La Quinta) and Palmer (68.22 on Palmer), with Gary Woodland (68.25 on Palmer), Horschel (69 on Palmer), Jason Kokrak (shockingly a 73.5 on Nicklaus) and English (68 on La Quinta) on the bench.

My one-and-done eventually narrowed to two players. Robert Garrigus and Harris English. I could make a compelling argument for each, and a less convincing argument against both. Let me stop and say that Webb Simpson and Charles Howell III would have also been in the conversation if I hadn’t used them already.

I ultimately went with English, partially to play defense. While I’m going to be sick if Garrigus goes on to post a top five, I would probably be even sicker (and further behind in the standings) if English went on to post a top five, or win. English is a bit more of a “chalk” pick, and this early in the season that’s probably not a bad strategy anyway.  Essentially, this comes down to taking current form over course history.


Sit back, relax and enjoy the birdie show this weekend!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Humana Challenge - Fantasy

The start of the Humana Challenge is creeping closer, so let's take a look at some games!

We'll spend the majority of our time on Yahoo!, where I want to point out one thing worth watching that tends to only pop up this time of year. That is, this tournament is played on three different courses. Familiarization with which courses play the easiest is, at the very least, notable in terms of the Yahoo! format.

In 2013, the scoring averages were as follows:
  • La Quinta CC - 69.487
  • PGA West (Palmer) - 68.924
  • PGA West (Nicklaus) - 68.00
While the difference in scoring average between La Quinta and Palmer are negligible, there is a distinct advantage to those playing the Nicklaus course. In a situation like this, I like to spread my options as equally as possible across the course rotation. 

Here is my lineup, as well as first round starters:
  • A-List - Starting Charles Howell III, with Gary Woodland on the bench.
  • B-List - Starting Jason Kokrak and Billy Horschel, with Robert Garrigus and Webb Simpson on the bench.
  • C-List - Starting Ryan Palmer, with Harris English on the bench. English is only on the bench because he plays La Quinta in round one. 
For those that play the Golf Channel game, check out my picks and all of the Rotoworld staffers in Mike's weekly article http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/gol/45997/297/free-fallin.

I'm still weighing one-and-done options, and will return tomorrow with a final call in that format. Harris English, Billy Horschel, Robert Garrigus and Gary Woodland all occupy the short list at this time.

Until then, best of luck to all!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Humana Challenge - Power Rankings

With our research well underway, it's time to delve into the Humana Challenge Power Rankings. As mentioned in yesterday's post, this is one of the more challenging events to zero in on statistically significant patters. It also tends to spiral into a shootout, not unlike the final round of the Sony Open.

Here's our best shot:

  1. Webb Simpson - Took a week off after a T3 in the HTOC, so enters the tournament fresh. He won earlier in the 2013-14 season in the desert of Las Vegas on a course (TPC Summerlin) that also requires deep numbers (-24). Though he missed the cut here last season, he tied for 13th in 2011. 
  2. Harris English - By now you know it will take a lot of birdies this week at PGA West, and he might be just the man for the job. In six starts this season, he already has 114 birdies and was tied for second with 23 at Waialae last week. He's T19 and T65 in two previous starts in the Humana Challenge.
  3. Zach Johnson - The argument could be made for him to occupy the top spot, but hedging on the side that he's running on fumes after winning the HTOC and contending with a T8 at last week's Sony Open. Form is excellent and history includes a T8 in 2012 and a T23 last year.
  4. Charles Howell III - Rebounded from a rocky first round to tie for eighth last week and heads to a course where he tied for second a year ago. Notorious for his quick starts during multiple PGA TOUR seasons, so continue to invest while the iron is hot.
  5. Keegan Bradley - He's only played here one time before, tying for seventh in 2011, but he has the skill set to dominate the easy par 5s. Like most of the elite, it he gets hot he will be dangerous. This is our first look at him in 2014.
  6. Robert Garrigus - An interesting one-and-done option, the bomber has feasted at PGA West over the years including a T2 in 2012 and a T16 last year. More so than most players, this week hinges on his ability to putt.
  7. Brandt Snedeker - Eased back into action with a T11 at the HTOC, then skipped the Sony. While it's very likely he's using this event as a method to peak for one of his favorite stops next week (Farmers), he offers plenty of value this week as well. His record the last two years is identical to Zach Johnson (T8/T23 last two). One-and-done gamers are wise to watch him closely to determine if he's the pick next week.
  8. Billy Horschel - He tied for 10th here last year and shared sixth at the HTOC, so form seems to be meeting history. Class is also undeniable, so he should be a solid pick in almost any format.
  9. Gary Woodland - Lost in a playoff here in 2011 and possesses the power to run over this golf course much like Garrigus. If the putter is working for him, he'll be a force.
  10. Brian Gay - Defending champ enters in solid form off a T13 and a T32 in the Hawaiian events.Tied for fifth here in 2011, so the win isn't the only bright spot at PGA West. . 
  11. Jason Kokrak - See Garrigus and Woodland, but also note his T20 at Sony last week and a T8 in this event last year.
  12. Charley Hoffman - His win here in 2007 was over 90 holes, but he added a T10 last year as well. He's known for length and feasting on par 5s, but also is a threat for breaking par on almost any hole. 
Next 5: Matt Every, Rickie Fowler, Jeff Overton, Brian Stuard, Brendon Todd

We will return tomorrow with our Fantasy preview. Until then, best of luck to all!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Humana Challenge - Preview

With the Sony Open winding down and the attention of the PGA TOUR for the coming weeks focused on the West Coast of the United States, let's begin to dig into the Humana Challenge with our preview.

There are several tournaments every year that can be best labeled as a crapshoot, and this one may be the biggest. Consider the variables. That is, some of the variables.

  • The tournament is being played on a three-course rotation over the course of four rounds with amateurs playing alongside them. It used to be a four-course, 90-hole tournament. The courses have also changed some over the years. That means you have to be very careful when you look at course history to make sure you are evaluating courses apples-to-apples.
  • It's still very early in the season, with many players in the field making their 2014 debut. It's hard to gauge form if a player hasn't played since Mayakoba.
  • The winner is going to essentially have to average seven birdies per round. That means a bomber/ball-striker is going to have to putt out of his mind or an elite putter is going to have to have one of his best ball-striking tournaments.
  • If we look back at the last four competitions, played largely on the current venues, the type of players with success are completely across the board.
So, about the courses...
  • Palmer Private (PGA West) is the host. It plays to a par of 72 at 6,930. (Are you kidding me?)
  • La Quinta Country Club is a par 72 at 7,060. That's like Sony with two of the par 4s becoming par 5s.
  • Nicklaus Private at PGA West. Par 72....6,951. These are like the tees I play from. And by that, I mean not the championship tees at my home course.

There are three types of players I like this week; not necessarily in a particular order. Okay, four.
  1. Players who are excellent putters but lack length off the tee. Remember, there are par 5s that will be in play in two this week that normally aren't. If they have a solid par-4 birdie or better and a solid wedge game to boot, then they should be a good fit.
  2. Players who can absolutely dominate par 5s. You're going to need to shoot around 25-under to win. A player will see 18 par 5s (Palmer Private has five; they play it twice). So, if a player plays the par 5s in 15-under, they need to play the rest of the course in 10-under.
  3. Players in good form coming out of Sony. Look specifically at players making a lot of birdies. A guy shooting 3-under with six birdies and three bogeys is more appealing than a guy with four birdies and one bogey because you have to try to make bogeys at PGA West.
  4. A guy who's been knocking on the door a lot lately. Chris Stroud, Brendon de Jonge, Kevin Chappell, etc, etc, etc. 
In addition to those four, don't be afraid to give a hard look at a guy that typically plays resort-style courses well. Scott Stallings is an excellent example. Perhaps a Web.com grad who dominated on mini tours before that?

I might run two different statistical metrics this week. One to fit a bomber / par 5 killer and another to fit a shorter player with a strong putter. While I'm not a huge proponent of blind faith and gut instinct, absent other metrics, this is a week that I would consider a possible exception. 

Welcome to the desert. Shake your lucky dice. Blow on them. Take a long swig and a deep breath and let it ride!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Sony Open - One-and-done

Putting a bow on our prep work for the Sony Open, here is a look at the one-and-done and an update on the Yahoo! format roster.

In Yahoo!, the names and faces on the team stay the same, but I have adjusted some of the players to ensure three AM tee times for the first round. CH3, Z Johnson, Kirk and English start with Kuchar, Dufner, Spieth and Clark on the bench. In all likelihood, Clark and Spieth sub in for English and Kirk in round two with a possibility of a Kuchar for CH3 swap as well.

As for the one-and-done, there are several schools of thought in play. I essentially would have narrowed my list to Charles Howell III, Tim Clark, Zach Johnson and Jordan Spieth…maybe Matt Kuchar. I say “would have” because I’ve already used Clark at Mayakoba. With him out, there’s a choice to make, and it involves saving or using starts.

I’m using Charles Howell III this week because he is, first and foremost, an excellent option with seven top fives in this tournament, but also because there isn’t an obvious spot to use him the rest of the way. Spieth has me tempted because of his stats and form, but I’m laying off since he’s never seen the course. I can’t stress enough how close I came to pulling the trigger on the kid.

As for ZJ, two things. First, it’s extremely hard to win in back-to-back weeks. He might be able to do it, and I do like him for a top 10. For some players, a top 10 would be worth it. BUT. He’s an excellent play for Colonial and a really good play for THE PLAYERS and the John Deere Classic. I’m holding off.

Similar case with Kuchar. Having back-to-back top 5s in his last two starts here, he’s easy to endorse for a top 10. That said, I’m holding off and saving him for a rainy day.

This event has also turned into a little bit of a shootout, with recent winners including stable players like Mark Wilson, Johnson Wagner and Harris English, but not including some of the bigger stars on TOUR like it did 10 years ago. That’s another reason to use a really good player (CH3), but not an elite one (ZJ, Kooch).


Best of luck this week!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sony Open - Power Rankings

With a strong finish to the HTOC in the past, let’s look ahead at the Sony Open with our weekly power rankings.  Feel free to back and take a peek at the Preview from Sunday if you need a light refresher on Waialae Country Club and some notes on the event.

Two players in particular will be the wildcards to try and reconcile. It’s rare for a player to win in back-to-back starts in B2B weeks, but that’s what Zach Johnson will try and accomplish this week. He’s actually going for three consecutive wins if you count the unofficial Northwestern Mutual World Challenge (AKA Tiger and friends).

The other big mystery is Jordan Spieth. After finishing second in the HTOC in his first look, he comes to Waialae as a course rookie but white hot. As I’ll mention again below, when I ran my breakdown of relevant statistical categories, he finished first by a mile.

Here’s my best shot

1.       Zach Johnson – A winner here in 2009, it was also the only time he played the Sony coming off a top 10 in the HTOC. That alone could translate into a big week. His game is seemingly much better suited for the tighter confines and short track at Waialae than it is the rolling hills of Kapalua, so his form indicates he is at his very peak in value and could win anywhere at any time. In formats other than a one-and-done, he is an absolute must. He must be strongly considered in the OAD.
2.       Charles Howell III – Chucky’s eyes light up when he steps onto Waialae. In 12 tries, he’s never missed a cut and has enjoyed seven top 5s. Add to that, he had three top 10s in five starts back in the fall, so with what we have to go on, he’s in good form. A must in virtually every format, he’s probably the guy to tab if you don’t go ZJ in OAD.
3.       Tim Clark – Clark’s lack of pop off the tee turns him into an assassin on certain courses and a terrible option on others. This is one of those green lights. He’s only played here four times, but they’ve all gone for top 25s and include two runners-up. How does he do it? He hit’s a ton of fairways and has excellent proximity numbers.
4.       Jordan Spieth – Momma, there goes that man again! Looking back at last year’s stats, he ranked inside the top 10 in par 4 scoring (1), par breakers (8) and proximity (7). That is a lethal combination at this week’s par-70 layout. Top 10s last year at the RBC Heritage and Colonial (also Zach Johnson hot spots), make a compelling case for a Spieth play despite never having seen the course.
5.       Jason Dufner – If he makes putts in Kapalua last week, he probably wins. There are others with better records in the Sony Open (2 top 25s in six starts), but his irons seem dialed in and that’s important this week. The concern would be his ability to convert enough birdies. Last year’s edition featured Russell Henley making everything, and I’m not sure Duff Daddy could keep up if it turns into a putting contest again.
6.       Matt Kuchar – If there’s ever a poster child for stats not mattering, it’s Kuchar. He’s posted top fives in his last two trips to the Sony Open and is coming off a T6 at Kapalua. Form meets history in a solid way.
7.       Harris English – This tight course seems like the kind of ballpark English could grow to love, and he’s trending in the right direction. After a T69 as a rookie in 2011, he returned to share ninth last year. That’s comforting coming off a T11 in his first trip to Kapalua. My guess is that he’ll be just below some people’s radar, so he could be a prudent buy in any format.
8.       Chris Kirk – He faded after opening strong last week, but offers the right skills to contend at Waialae. Namely, incredible par 4 and proximity number to go with a great putter. Much like English, his returns are steady getting better as he is 3/3 with a T5 last year in this event.
9.       Adam Scott – Relative to his ability, Scott drug his feet last week and still managed a tie for sixth that could have been a lot better had the fate of two or three holes changed slightly. I think back to his bogeys on the short par-4 16th in the first two rounds, a bogey on the par-5 15th in the third and a bogey on the par-5 18th in the finale, all from the fairway, and wonder what might have been. Not sure I saw enough out of his putter last week to believe he runs the tables and wins this week, but a solid option none the less.
10.   Briny Baird – I went there. He almost won The McGladrey Classic in the fall, and there are traits of that course that remind me of Waialae. I’m not suggesting it’s a carbon copy. He’s also 9/11 with three top 10s and five top 25s in the event.  When I broke down the relevant stats, he finished fourth on my spreadsheet.
11.   Matt Every – Led this tournament (I believe the 54-hole leader) in 2011 but faded on Sunday. Somewhat similar to last year’s winner (Henley), Every is the streaky player that can get hot with the putter and run the tables on par 4s. Similar to Baird, he tied for seventh at The McGladrey Classic.
12.   Rory Sabbatini – Good wind player should it start to blow and owns a pair of runners-up in this event. Ended the 2013 stretch of the 2013-14 season with a T3 in Mayakoba. Certainly some risk, but there always is; right?

Next 5: Ryo Ishikawa, Brendon de Jonge, Russell Henley, Jimmy Walker and Mark Wilson

We are also going to do a bit of cramming, and hit on the Yahoo! game in this feature. Here’s what I’m going with:

A-List – Charles Howell III starting and Matt Kuchar on the bench.
B-List – Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson starting with Chris Kirk and Jason Dufner on the bench.
C-List – Tim Clark starting with Harris English on the bench.

I have not yet factored in weather or tee times to the Yahoo! lineup, so I will update tomorrow if changes are made.

I will also return with a deep dive into the one-and-done format as well. 


Until then, best of luck to all!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sony Open - Preview

It's rare that I pen a preview for a golf tournament before the third round of the previous tournament is in the books (or underway, for that matter), but such is the case for the Sony Open preview.

As I type this, Zach Johnson is waking up at Kapalua with a 36-hole lead in the HTOC. While I'm not surprised to see him with a 36-hole lead in Hawaii, I would have found it much more likely that would have come at the Sony Open on Waialae Country Club rather than the Plantation Course.

So, what's the story with Waialae CC? The course itself is short, to the tune of a 7,044 par 70 with just two par 5s. Both of those par 5s are under 550 yards, so reachable by virtually everyone with a drive placed in the fairway. It's viewed as a pretty tight course, where length off the tee is secondary to accuracy and scoring opportunities await aggressive approaches.

Historically, Waialae has been a haven for veteran players. That changed last year when Russell Henley won in the first start of his rookie year and another rookie, Scott Langley, was in the hunt all week. This week will serve as a bit of a learning experience in determining if 2013 was an aberration or a trending new norm.

Here's a quick glance at the winners in this event dating back ten years: Henley (2013), Johnson Wagner (2012), Mark Wilson (2011), Ryan Palmer (2010), Zach Johnson (2009), K.J. Choi (2008), Paul Goydos (2007), David Toms (2006), Vijay Singh (2005), Ernie Els (2004). The runners-up over that span are Tim Clark (2013 & 2011), Charles Howell III (2012 & 2007), Carl Pettersson (2012), Sean O'Hair (2012), Harrison Frazar (2012 & 2004), Steve Marino (2011), Robert Allenby (2010), David Toms (2009), Adam Scott (2009), Rory Sabbatini (2008 & 2006), Luke Donald (2007), Chad Campbell (2006) and Ernie Els (2005).

Several things stick out when looking at that list:

  • There are several course horses over that span with a combination of multiple wins / runner-up finishes. Included are Ernie Els (1 win, 1 runner-up), David Toms (1 win, 1 runner-up), Tim Clark (2 runners-up), Charles Howell III (2 runners-up), Harrison Frazar (2 runners-up) and Rory Sabbatini (2 runners-up).
  • That list includes many guys who would have been among the field's elite in the year they placed 1st or second. 
  • There is some crossover with success in this event and the RBC Heritage. Possibly not so coincidentally, there are also some noted wind players in the group. 
  • While putting is always important, the list above suggests ball-striking and proximity may be an even bigger premium. 
Depending on how the next 36 hours play out, I may be back with a power ranking on Monday evening or it could be Tuesday. With the HTOC set to end around 8pm (ET) Monday night, it may be too quick of a turnaround for an update tomorrow, but we'll see.

Until then, happy research!

Sony Open - Monday Qualifier

The first Monday Qualifier of 2014 kicks off tomorrow for the Sony Open at Turtle Bay with a surprisingly deep field of names that many of you will recognize. Here's a link to the leaderboard for those that would like to follow along http://alohapga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/alohapga14/event/alohapga142/contest/1/leaderboard.htm

Best of luck to all!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hyundai Tournament of Champions - One-and-Done

The 30-man field of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions offers several elite options, but provided to be quite the challenge in terms of inking a one-and-done pick.

My final four came down to Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk and Martin Laird.

Laird is the course horse of the group, with a pair of top-four finishes, but his form is abysmal. Still, it was harder than I thought to turn away.

Johnson pulled out of the pro-am with a stiff neck. While I fully expect him to play in the tournament, it does add a question mark not previously in the cards. He seems to show up the strongest in odd-ball events, with limited fields and weather problems. Last year's HTOC provided both, but the weather this week is much more benign. Also worth mentioning, he successfully defended his first AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am and then almost won the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble.

Chris Kirk grew on me late with a stat sheet that is too good to ignore. He's essentially trying to win in back-to-back starts, having claimed The McGladrey Classic before skipping the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.

Adam Scott is Adam Scott. Second-ranked player in the world and coming off a hot run in Australia and returning to a venue where he has a runner-up finish. If he putts, he wins.

I've settled on Adam Scott. Part of the reason is the obvious. He's the best player in a limited field. The other stems from a lesson learned last season in the OAD. It seemed like every time I found myself in this spot, I leaned on course history over form and was often disappointed. That's probably another reason Kirk made the late run up my personal list.

So....let's go Aussie!

Best of luck to all!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Hyundai Tournament of Champions - Fantasy

Before we dive into the fantasy games of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, I'd like to wish everyone a safe and happy 2014! Hopefully 2013 was a good one for you and the coming year will be even better.

Now for the games.

Yahoo!

We start with a clean slate, as the fantasy giant decided to sit out the fall of 2013 and begin fresh with 2014. With this week being a 30-man limited-field event and with Yahoo! allowing you eight slots for players, it's critical to identify the winner and those inside the top three this week for bonus points. From a strategic standpoint, it may make sense not to switch up your roster between the first and second rounds since their shouldn't be a tee time advantage. In essence, don't burn someone you don't have to. Here we go:

  • A-List - Starting Adam Scott and sitting Matt Kuchar on the bench. I will only play Kuchar if I feel he will earn bonus points with a top-three finish, but I can't risk not having him available on the bench.
  • B-List - Starting Dustin Johnson and Chris Kirk, with Webb Simpson and Jason Dufner on the bench. Same deal as the A-List, my hope is to ride DJ and Kirk without needing to burn Simpson or Dufner.
  • C-List - At the moment, I have Harris English starting with Jimmy Walker on the bench, but this could flip before the tournament. I'm a little less concerned with starts between these two.

Golf Channel

As always, check out my Golf Channel picks in Glass' weekly Rotoworld article http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/gol/45880/297/paradise-found

One-and-done

This will be a highly strategic week for the OAD format. Because there are only 30 in the field, returns are somewhat relative. Do you save a start for guys like Scott and DJ and take chance on Martin Laird knowing he has to finish no worse than 30th, or do you roll the dice with a big dog? If you go the route of Scott or DJ, you really need them to produce a top-3 or top-5 finish. Otherwise, you may have done just as well over the long term by burning a lesser player and getting a top-15. 

If I had to make a choice today (which I don't), I would probably go DJ. That said, I haven't ruled out Scott, Laird or even another out-of-the box idea. 

Hopefully this gets your gears in motion and I hope your Yahoo! season gets off to a solid start, and your OAD continues to go well. 

We'll be back tomorrow with final thoughts and a final OAD pick.

Until then, best of luck to all!