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

Monday, March 31, 2014

Shell Houston Open - Power Ranking

The Shell Houston Open power ranking is a who's who of the biggest names in golf. We have the best players in the world doing their best to peak just in time for the season's first major. Chances are, a couple of them will peak a week early.

As always, I encourage you to refer back to yesterday's preview for any additional information.

Without wasting time, here we go:

  1. Dustin Johnson - When I ran statistical splits for this tournament, his lead over second place was about as big as the gap between Tiger Woods and second place in the OWGR when Woods held his biggest leads. Add to that, DJ tied for fourth in this event last year and tied for fourth in his last PGA TOUR start. Fair warning, he will rank inside my top three for the Masters next week and may rank first again.
  2. Keegan Bradley - Bradley can run hot in spurts, so he should immediately be on your radar after his runner-up finish at Bay Hill in his last start. He's finished inside the top 10 in his last two trips to the Shell Houston Open, so all systems are a go. 
  3. Henrik Stenson - I held off the Swede's bandwagon long enough, and now it's time to hop on. He followed up his T16 at Doral with a strong T5 at the Arnold Palmer. He also has two top-three finishes on this course since 2009, including a T2 last year. 
  4. Matt Kuchar - Not only do the stats check out, he has back-to-back T8s in this event and a T4 at the VTO last week. 
  5. Rory McIlroy - While Rory isn't on fire, he followed up his P2 at the Honda with a T25 at Doral. His best finish here was a T19 in 2009, so there's certainly reason to hold off in some formats.
  6. Graham DeLaet - The Canuck has a T3 here and enters off a T8 at the Valspar. Ranked fifth in my statistical breakdown, so he passes the form/course history/stats test with flying colors.
  7. Jordan Spieth - His history here is limited to a T50 last year, but his form is trending perfectly. He's improved from a T34 (Doral) to a T20 (Valspar) and a 10th (VTO) over his last three starts. Perhaps most impressive, last week's top 10 came after he was 6-over through seven holes. 
  8. Bill Haas - While he hasn't been hogging the spotlight, his play of late has been slowly trending in the right direction. Each of his last three starts went for top 20s, including a T6 at Doral. He tied for 10th at the SHO last year.
  9. Charl Schwartzel - Went T3-T30-MC in his last three trips here beginning in 2010, but skipped last year. He tied for ninth at Doral in his last start. There is a gap between he and Haas in the rankings. 
  10. Sergio Garcia - The Spaniard tied for 77th here in his only trip back in 2009, but I don't lean too heavily on that. A T8 at the Honda and a T16 at Doral in his last two starts more than erase that. Seems to be in a good place right now.
  11. Charley Hoffman - Performed well last week (T11) with expectations set high, so he's earned another week in the power ranking. He's 7/7 at the SHO with four top 25s and a top 10. Stats are a nice match as well.
  12. Charles Howell III - A T19 and T10 in his last two starts at the SHO is a solid trend. His results lately are mixed, but ranked second to Dustin Johnson in my stats breakdown earning him a mention in the 12th spot. 
Next 5: Matteo Manassero, Louis Oosthuizen, Webb Simpson, Daniel Summerhays and Jimmy Walker

Worth a mention:
Three players were worthy of heavy power ranking consideration, but recent developments forced me to hit the pause button. Hunter Mahan withdrew from the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a back injury, Phil Mickelson pulled out of the VTO in the third round with a strained oblique and Ryan Palmer probably should have pulled out of the final round of the VTO with a hip injury, but fought it out to the tune of an 82. 

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

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Shell Houston Open - Preview

The Shell Houston Open returns to a familiar venue with a different name this week, as Redstone GC is now the Golf Club of Houston (Tournament). This tournament dates back to 1946, when some guy named Byron Nelson picked up the trophy. D.A. Points is the defending champion this time around.

As to the course, the Golf Club of Houston is a par 72, stretching out 7,441 yards. The four par 5s are all over 550 yards, and two of the four par 3s top 216 yards. Three of the par 4s top 480 yards, with the remainder fairly moderate in length with the exception of the 338-yard 12th.

When looking at past results, look no further back than 2006. That's when Redstone GC Tournament Course took over as the host venue. Here's a peek at the winners and runners-up since then.

  • 2006 - Stuart Appleby (269) over Bob Estes (275)
  • 2007 - Adam Scott (271) over Stuart Appleby and Bubba Watson (274)
  • 2008 - Johnson Wagner (272) over Chad Campbell and Geoff Ogilvy (274)
  • 2009 - Paul Casey (277) over J.B. Holmes (277 Playoff)
  • 2010 - Anthony Kim (276) over Vaughn Taylor (276 Playoff)
  • 2011 - Phil Mickelson (268) over Chris Kirk and Scott Verplank (271)
  • 2012 - Hunter Mahan (272) over Carl Pettersson (273)
  • 2013 - D.A. Points (272) over Billy Horschel and Henrik Stenson (273)
When looking at the list above, it tends to be one of class. While we may not think of Appleby as an elite player now, he was in 2006 and 2007. Same for Chad Campbell in 2008 and so on. International players also have a good track record here, so don't shy away from a Euro, South African or Aussie. 

In terms of stats, trends are tough to identify. What does seem to stand out is GIR and strokes gained-putting. I'll also likely lean on Par 4 and Par 5 scoring average, and may take a look at some "boutique" stats that will play well for long par 3s and above average par 5s. 

We will return tomorrow with a look at our power rankings.

Until then, happy research!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Valero Texas Open - One-and-Done

As hinted in our Valero Texas Open power ranking, there are many of what I would consider to be above average options this week, but really no elite choices. Of course, last week popular picks like Bubba Watson and Justin Rose didn't exactly come through for anyone, so maybe that's not such a bad thing.

For the one-and-done game, I focused hard on trends. The five names I kept coming back to were Charley Hoffman, Jim Furyk, Freddie Jacobson, Brendan Steele and Jason Kokrak. Obviously in narrowing this down to one player, I’m going to point out things I don’t like about the other four, but I could happily live with any of these five as being the pick.
  • This may sound crazy, but Kokrak was my first cut. The biggest reason is that he’s never posted three consecutive top-15 finishes, which is what he’ll try and do this week. He contended until the bitter end at Bay Hill last weekend, and there isn't a lot to suggest how quickly he will move on from that. The closest thing I have to go on is his T3 at AT&T National last year was followed up with a T41 at The Greenbrier Classic the next week. Because of his current form and T15 in this event last year, I get the feeling he will be a popular pick this week. I’m OK rolling the dice and going against the grain this time.
  • Furyk was my second cut. He tied for third here last year in his only trip to TPC San Antonio, but he did so riding better form than he currently offers. He isn’t playing bad in 2013-14, but he hasn’t finished higher than 20th either. If you told me the goal this week was to find someone capable of a top 25, and that’s all that mattered, he’d be my guy. But I want a top 10 or better.
  • Charley Hoffman took the next cut, but it wasn’t about anything he’s done wrong. As highlighted in the power ranking, his course history here is excellent and his form is very good. I just liked Jacobson and Steele a tad better.
  • Freddie Jac came out the bridesmaid, but rest assured I have invested in him in other formats where some cash is up for grabs. He’s never finished outside the top 20 here and he’s posted three consecutive top 20s leading into this week. His form is essentially better right now than it was before any of the top 20s of the past four trips to TPC San Antonio.
  • That leaves the 2011 champion, Brendan Steele, as my pick. Looking back at his win in ’11, T4 in ’12 and T46 in ’13, he essentially put together those finishes without offering much in the way of current form. Something about this course really fits his eye, and this time he heads to TPC San Antonio having made five of his last six cuts with two top 10s and a third top 20. My guess is that last year’s T46 will have taken a few eyes off him, and I like that he’s played well enough to rack up some high finishes of late but not so well that he’s been in the spotlight.

As for the Yahoo! format, the weather for the opening round appears to include a chance of morning thunderstorms with moderate wind in the afternoon (some forecasts call for light wind). That makes correctly guessing a wave very difficult. If there isn't a weather delay in the AM, then that wave probably has a slight advantage. If there is a delay, then the AM wave will very likely have to finish play in the afternoon and the PM wave will have perfect conditions on Friday morning to finish the first round.  There is also the chance that preferred lies will be in place, which must remain for the entire round (even if it carries into Friday).

I’m rolling the dice and taking three afternoon tee times and one morning tee time. While I estimate that no weather delay would give a slight edge to the AM wave, I’m taking the chance that a weather delay would lead to a bigger advantage to the PM wave.

Starters are Matt Kuchar (A), Jason Kokrak (B), Billy Horschel (B) and Charley Hoffman (C), with Phil Mickelson (A), Freddie Jacobson (B), Jim Furyk (B) and Ryan Palmer (C) on the bench.

You may have noticed that my OAD pick (Steele) isn't on my Yahoo! roster. What can I say, I’m a hedger at heart!

Best of luck this week, and check Twitter (@RyanGolfBlogger) for Yahoo! starting lineups the rest of the way.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Valero Texas Open - Fantasy

With the Valero Texas Open inching closer by the minute, it's time to ready ourselves for the normal slate of fantasy games. As was the case last week, my Yahoo! and Golf Channel picks are located in the weekly feature "Playing the Tips" at Rotoworld

Our first week was a success in that space, with three of us having Matt Every in both our Yahoo! and Golf Channel lineups. The foursome of "experts" includes myself, Rob Bolton, Ned Brown and Mike Glasscott. 

Last week I used the remainder of this space to discuss Tiger Woods and give an opinion on sponsor exemptions. This week I'll tackle my Yahoo! strategy to this point.

I've been on a roll in the Yahoo! format lately, currently ranked 439th and in the 99th percentile. While the daily lineup of Yahoo! is a bit like throwing darts, there are three things I've consciously done that have worked well over this span.
  1. For the most part, I've staggered tee times. I haven't done so exclusively unless the weather report has demanded it, but I always like to have at least three (of four) roster options available for each tee time wave on Thursday and Friday to account for a last minute weather situation. 
  2. It may sound obvious, but I've tried to included as many elite players as possible for the purpose of bonus points. The 20, 10 and five bonus points for a win, second and third are a big deal. That's a big reason why I stay fairly chalky. 
  3. At some point during the week I try to settle on some guys and ride them out. For example, I was happy enough with Matt Every's first round last week that I left him in all four rounds. "Chasing" guys can lead to missing out on good rounds about as often as just leaving a guy in for a few rounds and letting it play out. 
As always, I tweet my daily lineup changes out @RyanGolfBlogger, so there are no secrets. 

I'll return tomorrow with the one-and-done breakdown and decide on my Yahoo! starters for round one.

Best of luck!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Valero Texas Open - Power Ranking

With many of the top contenders pulling out of the Valero Texas Open after the commitment deadline, the power rankings have taken on a completely different form than expected at first pass on Sunday evening. Most notably, last week’s winner, Matt Every, led the way with a W/D.

Joining Every as notable late scratches are Chris Stroud, Charles Howell III, Ryan Moore and Patrick Reed. Each of those five would have warranted heavy consideration for the Dandy Dozen and next 5.

Typically when I run statistical splits for a tournament, the resulting spreadsheet tends to mirror a combination of course history and current form. That isn't the case for this week’s trip to TPC San Antonio, as there were past winners like Ben Curtis and Martin Laird much further down the spreadsheet than I would have liked. That led me to question the statistical significance of this week’s splits, forcing me to rely more heavily on course history and current form.

I also get the feeling (dangerous word) that TPC San Antonio is the type of course that just doesn't fit some players’ eyes regardless of what the stats say. Kevin Na is a perfect example. His current form is excellent and he came in second to Zach Johnson in my statistical breakdown, but just breaking 80 has been a chore for him here. That’s why you won’t see him below.

Here is this week’s Dandy Dozen:
  1. Charley Hoffman – I’m a little concerned about his driving accuracy and, believe it or not with him, par 5 scoring average, but his history is excellent and his form is solid. His four previous trips to TPC San Antonio have resulted in a T13-T2-T13-T3 beginning with 2010 and running through last year. He’s also finished inside the top 25 in his most recent two starts this season.  Hey, we have to start somewhere.
  2. Freddie Jacobson – Leaning on converging trends here as well, with top 20s in his last three TOUR starts including a T10 at Bay Hill last week to go with a 2-T5-T18-T15 run in his four stops at TPC San Antonio. He’s seventh in strokes gained-putting, which never hurts.
  3. Brendan Steele – The horse course is trending well, with a T10, T33 and T20 in his last three TOUR starts. Steele won here as a rookie in 2011, then posted a T4 in ’12 and a T46 last year.  Also ranked a solid fifth on my statistical breakdown, so this one is a go.
  4. Jim Furyk – This is about 70% based on his T3 in this event last year, 20% based on him being among the class of the field and 10% based on how accurate he is off the tee. Enters off a T20 at the Valspar. Most weeks those factors would have him on the bubble for top 12 versus next 5 consideration, but this week it’s good for fourth.
  5. Matt Kuchar – He’s kind of stuck in that 11-25 range both here and this season. His last two PGA TOUR starts have gone for a T13 and a T22 with his three starts at this week’s venue resulting in a 9-T13-T38 run. In both cases, he’s trending in the wrong direction. But, he’s Kooch, so who knows?
  6. Ryan Palmer – I love taking him in Texas and he enters off a P2 in The Honda Classic. He’s got a T9-MC-T32-T15 in his four starts at TPC San Antonio. He’s 19th in GIR, fourth in par 5 scoring average and 10th in par 4 scoring average. I could EASILY make a case for him to be first on this power ranking.
  7. Jason Kokrak – The bomber has been a top-15 machine in 2013-14 and finished fourth last week at Bay Hill. He missed the cut here his first time, but tied for 15th last year. Considering he’s been boom or bust this season, chances are that he’s in line for another top 15 or better. The only reason I don't have him higher is a poor scoring average in the final round. 
  8. Billy Horschel – Billy Ho flirted with the lead here all week in 2013, eventually tying for third. It doesn’t feel like he’s in nearly as good of from right now as he was at this point last season, but feel isn’t real. Leaving Bay Hill in 2013, he ranked 56th in the FedExCup standings. He’s currently 53rd in the FEC this year. Last year, this event was played after his T2 in the Shell Houston Open, so it’s not exactly apples to apples, but you get the point.
  9. Jimmy Walker – Speaking of the FEC standings, he still leads. His history here is a bit checkered (T3-MC-MC-T31) and I would guess that’s because driving accuracy isn’t really his forte. He’s posted top 25 in his last two starts (WGCs), but really hasn’t been in contention. His T17 at the Match Play = losing in the second round.
  10. Jordan Spieth – He’s played here twice, with a T41 and a MC to show for his troubles. His form isn’t exactly sparkling either. It’s fine, but not outstanding. So why is he here? Did I mention who all withdrew this morning?
  11. Zach Johnson – This feels like a Masters tune up. The last time he played here was in 2010, and he missed the cut in his only start at this venue. In my statistical breakdown he blew the field away, but I’m not convinced. I also don’t really care for his form, T33, T16 and T43 in his last three starts. If you want to find a spot for him in your Yahoo! lineup, that’s fine by me, but don’t go blowing any one-and-done picks on him unless you are really looking for a Hail Mary.
  12. Martin Laird – He’s got a win and a T9 here. His form isn’t good, but it wasn’t before he won last year either. Two things stand out that are hallmarks of his career. He ranks very high in GIR (22nd) and par 5 scoring average (7th). If you look back at his full body of work (career), he tends to be a guy that just plays certain courses well over the years. Off the top of my head, TPC Summerlin and Kapalua come to mind.

Next 5 (alphabetical): Aaron Baddeley, Kevin Chappell, Brian Harman, Phil Mickelson and John Senden

Worth mentioning:
  • Chesson Hadley isn't included above because I’m worried he finally ran out of gas in the final round at Bay Hill. He essentially had a chance to earn a Masters berth and gave out. This will be his fourth consecutive tournament and he is essentially playing for a Masters spot.
  • I’ve mentioned Na in the comments preceding the ranking, but Russell Knox and Will MacKenzie fall into similar categories. Both are playing really well and deserve a mention, but course history has me worried that TPC San Antonio might not fit their eye.
  • Daniel Summerhays is trending well in this event, going MC-T29-T7 in his three starts. He’s worth a buy if that value is good.
  • Keep a close eye on Brooks Koepka as he tries to lock up his Special Temporary Membership. I’m laying off him because of that pressure this week.

We will return tomorrow to dissect the fantasy games. Until then, best of luck to all!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Valero Texas Open - Preview

Following Matt Every's breakthrough win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, it's now time to turn our full attention to the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. The origins of this event date back to 1922, but TPC San Antonio has only served as the host venue since 2010. For that reason, it's going to be rather pointless to research anything prior to 2010.

TPC San Antonio plays to a par of 72 at 7,435 yards, featuring four par 5s and four par 3s. Here is a peek at the winners and runners-up since 2010.

  • 2010 - Adam Scott (274) over Freddie Jacobson (275)
  • 2011 - Brendan Steele (280) over Kevin Chappell and Charley Hoffman (281)
  • 2012 - Ben Curtis (279) over Matt Every and John Huh (281)
  • 2013 - Martin Laird (274) over Rory McIlroy (276)
Several types of players show up on this list. Adam Scott, Charley Hoffman, Martin Laird and Rory McIlroy are all long players that tend to play par 5s well. Ben Curtis and John Huh are very accurate, and at times can putt well. Freddie Jacobson is known at the Junkman for his ability to get up-and-down from weird spots better than anyone not named Seve or Victor Dubuisson. Matt Every and Brendan Steele have elements off each of the above in their game. 

The course tends to play pretty tight off the tee and features deep bunkers and plenty of native area. Just ask Kevin Na. The statistical categories that seem relevant are some of the more popular, including driving accuracy, GIR, SGP, Par 5 Scoring average and Proximity. In a way, it seems like the stats suggest two paths to victory. One is to hit it straight off the tee, find the green and putt well. The other is to dominate the par 5s and try to keep it in play as well as possible on the other holes. 

We will dig into the details over the next 24 hours and return to offer our look at the power rankings tomorrow evening. 

Until then, happy research!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Arnold Palmer Invitational - One-and-done

The Arnold Palmer Invitational is less than 12 hours from teeing off and it's time to put our finishing touches on the fantasy games.

The one-and-done essentially came down to Justin Rose, Bubba Watson and Graeme McDowell in my mind. I eliminated Kevin Na because he seems to fall back when expectations heighten, and given his form and course history there are a lot of eyes on him this week.

I would like GMac a little better if the weather wasn't so perfect. He would be more apt to emerge as others fall if the winds blew and the conditions turned nasty. I still love him this week, but he came in third.

Watson and Rose are close to a toss up, with Rose offering slightly better course history and Watson touting impeccable form, but even that is splitting hairs. It's going to be hard for Watson to continue his streak of three consecutive top-two finishes in stroke play events. There's nowhere to go but down. Rose is trending very nicely into this tournament and has two top threes in the past three trips. He's the selection this week.

As for Yahoo!, I hope you found the Rotoworld article enjoyable.

Weather looks to be perfect tomorrow, so it doesn't seem essential to start one wave of tee times over the other. Here's my lineup.

  • A-List - Starting Bubba Watson with Adam Scott on the bench.
  • B-List - Starting Matt Every and Justin Rose with Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson on the bench.
  • C-List - Starting Kevin Na with Graeme McDowell on the bench. 
Current stats are: 1,739 points, 650 ranking and 99th percentile. 

Best of luck to all!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Arnold Palmer Invitational - Fantasy

The Arnold Palmer Invitational ushers in a different spin on our coverage of the popular fantasy formats. Due to the growth of the Rotoworld golf website, there is a new feature that will appear every Tuesday entitled "Playing The Tips" that details the Yahoo! and Golf Channel picks from the Rotoworld staffers. There you will find not only my Yahoo! and Golf Channel picks, but also those of Rob Bolton, Ned Brown and Mike Glasscott (listed alphabetically...not playing favorites).

Click here for the link to this week's feature.

What you will likely find is a general consensus on most picks, with several areas of "debate" mixed in. An observation would be that if none of the four of us have a guy in a certain format and you are considering going with him, realize that you are probably going against the grain.

In my Wednesday blog, I will list my starters and any lineup changes to the Yahoo! format. Those likely will not be reflected in the Rotoworld features. I will also tweet changes on @RyanGolfBlogger. The one-and-done will go down on Wednesday per usual.

I'm debating about how to fill this space on Tuesdays, and it will probably take a little time to nail down. For today, I'm going to offer a couple of opinions on topics I would normally stay away from.

Tiger Woods:

Woods pulling out of the API is a big deal. He's a creature of habit, especially as it relates to preparation for the majors. Plus, he could have used a shot of confidence that a nice finish would have offered. Now he's faced with trying to figure out another spot to warm up for August National, possibly the Shell Houston Open, or going into the Masters cold. Both have their risks.

I'll go as far as to say that his season is in serious jeopardy at this point. Consider that he left Bay Hill last year with his third win of the season, but has yet to crack a top 10 this season.

In the chase for Mount Nicklaus, Tiger can't afford another "lost" season in the majors, and that's how this is starting to set up.

Sponsor Exemptions:

John Daly sparked the debate as to the usage of sponsor exemptions when he posted a second-round 90 to miss the cut badly. Tom Gillis was vocal on Twitter today about how Arnold Palmer handed out his invites.

While I see both sides of the argument, I fall quite squarely on one side of the fence.

I'll first say that I'm as big of fan as any of the journeymen on TOUR, and think the reshuffle system is a tough one to navigate. There is a ton of pressure for players to play well, and do so early. I love following the mini tours, the Web.com Tour and the overall journey of professional golf. I personally know players that have conditional status (126-150) on the PGA TOUR this year, Web.com Tour players and players on the PGA TOUR subject to the Web.com Tour reshuffle, and I would be happy for any of them to read this opinion.

So what's my take? Play better.

Russell Henley won the Sony Open in 2013 and didn't have to worry about sponsor invites. Scott Brown won the 2013 Puerto Rico Open out of the 126-150 category and set his season. Woody Austin took advantage of limited status to win in Mississippi last year. They took care of their destiny.

When tournament sponsors pay the amount of money they do to allow for well over one hundred players to compete for (most weeks) over a million dollars, they can put whoever they want in the tournament within the confines of their unlimited sponsor exemptions. If they want to trot John Daly out there, then great! If Arnie wants to send his grandson out on the course, the King's earned that right. When a Web.com Tour event put Jerry Rice in the field, awesome! (Anybody could have tried to Monday qualify for that tournament BTW.) If the Wells Fargo Championship wants to put Ric Flair in the tournament, then I say WHOOOHH!

If John Daly is relevant in the sponsor's eye, then that's all that matters. If a TOUR player, full status or limited, doesn't like it, then he can play better.

And to Tom Gillis (and I have nothing against Tom Gillis), the purses you play for on a weekly basis are directly tied to the efforts of Arnold Palmer decades ago to make the game as popular as it is now. Rather than gripe at who did or didn't get a sponsor exemption, how about show some respect for the King. Maybe offer to carry his grandson's bag?

We'll be back tomorrow with any Yahoo! updates and the one-and-done.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Arnold Palmer Invitational - Power Rankings

Our power rankings for the Arnold Palmer Invitational include several faces that are often reserved for sleeper status, as well as plenty of familiar names. The biggest question this week will, no doubt, center on what to do with Tiger Woods. From a power ranking standpoint, he’s an easy inclusion. His presence in a one-and-done lineup is very murky.

For the statistical purposes of player evaluations, I went with less over more this week. My scrutiny was limited to par 5 scoring average, SGP and Par Breakers. The normal doses of course history and current from were also sprinkled in.

Here we go:
  1. Bubba Watson – Earned high marks across the board, entering the week fresh off his runner-up at Doral and with a win at the Northern Trust Open in the very recent past. He’s finished inside the top 25 in his last three stops at Bay Hill, including a T4 in that span. Ranks inside the top 20 in all three of the aforementioned statistical categories.
  2. Justin Rose – Last year’s runner-up in the API, Rose had a realistic chance to close out a win at the Valspar last week until he couldn't make four-foot putts down the stretch. It isn’t just the runner-up at Bay Hill last year, it’s also the T15 and T3 preceding it. Shoulder concerns seem to be fading.
  3. Tiger Woods – I found it interesting that he has eight wins in 17 stops here, but just one other top 10. He’s truly been a feast-or-famine player by his standards at this event. The way Yahoo! breaks out this week, he stands to be an excellent compliment to Bubba Watson. His back issues are a yellow flag, but my guess is that his back will hurt in proportion to his position on the leaderboard. If he’s out of contention on the weekend at any time, he could burn you in a OAD due to a potential WD. If he’s in the hunt, he’s going to want to tough it out 2008 U.S. Open style.
  4. Graeme McDowell – Now an Orlando guy, GMac has twice finished runner-up here in his six starts. His T46 at Honda gave way to a T9 at Doral, so form appears steady at the very least. Should putting prove to be the decisive factor, he ranks sixth in SGP. For what it's worth, he was very optimistic on Twitter today in regards to his form. Of course, David Duval has been optimistic over the past few years as well and we see how that's turned out.
  5. Zach Johnson – Current form is a little cooler than we would like to see, but it isn't bad. He’s only missed the cut once in 10 tries, thrice cracking the top 10 and finishing as high as third in 2009. Not known for his length, he still ranks 12th in par 5 scoring average and fourth in Park Breakers.
  6. Kevin Na – Converging trends are way too strong to ignore, finishing T11, T2, T30 and T4 in his last four APIs and entering off T4 / MC / 2 run in his last three PGA TOUR starts. Ranks inside the top 25 in par 5 scoring average, SGP and Par Breakers. He lacks the class of his peers this high on this list in terms of pedigree, but any of the other top 10 would have been number one with those splits and trends.
  7. Adam Scott – See what I mean? Na is sandwiched between Masters champs and is the only non-major winner in the top seven.  Back to Scott. He hasn’t been incredibly loyal to this event over the years, but has made four of six cuts including a T3 in 2004. He’s trying to begin his climb to peak form for his Augusta defense.
  8. Patrick Reed – He may be top five in his own mind, but comes in eighth in our rankings for his second API after a missed cut in 2013. Since I’ve been quiet on the topic thus far, I’ll say that any player with three PGA TOUR wins including a WGC in a seven-month span is probably playing like one of the five or ten best players in the world. His last six PGA TOUR starts have gone for a Win, T19, T13, T17, T24 and Win. Not surprisingly when considering those finishes, he ranks inside the top 25 in each of the three statistical categories we studied this week.
  9. Hunter Mahan – It’s not too complicated. Mahan’s finished T9 in his last two starts (the WGCs), so why not put him ninth this week? He’s 8/10 here, with just one top 10 but four top 25s. I was surprised to see that he ranked fourth in strokes gained-putting.
  10. Matt Every – In some ways, he deserves to be ranked higher than this. The one thing holding him back is course history, as he is three out of four with a T24 the best effort. He enters off a T6/T24/T8 run and ranks third, seventh and 11th in par 5 scoring average, strokes gained-putting and Par Breakers. He led the statistical segment of my research this week.
  11. Keegan Bradley – He has a missed cut in 2011 and a T3 last year, so the possibilities are seemingly endless. He’s been good this year, but doesn’t seemed to have hit his highest gear quite yet. Of all of those in the top 12 and the next 5, he has the worst statistical breakdown.
  12. Will MacKenzie – Dude is on fire. Had a T6 at Honda and a T4 at Valspar last week. He’s only one for three here, with a T44 the only paycheck, but everything else is a green light. He ranks inside the top 15 in each of our three stat categories.

Next 5: Chesson Hadley, Chris Kirk, George McNeill, Ryan Moore and John Senden

Other notes:
  • Yes. I may have slighted Jamie Donaldson, but there just wasn't enough information to go on. His grade isn’t an “A” or a “D” but and “I” Incomplete.
  • I did slight Henrik Stenson, but I've been very slow to warm up to him in 2014.
  • Another guy that deserves an endorsement is Freddie Jacobson. He has three top 15s in six starts here and enters off back-to-back top 20s. His stats didn’t line up well, but his game has never been on paper.
  • If you are looking for a deep sleeper, check out Arnie’s grandson. Sam Saunders sits 10th on the Web.com Tour money list after three starts and has finished as high as T30 in this event in the past.
  • One housekeeping note, I’m not quite sure what tomorrow’s blog will look like. Along with my Golf Channel picks, my Yahoo! picks will now be published in a Rotoworld article alongside Rob Bolton, Ned Brown and Mike Glasscott. Because of the timing of when those picks must be submitted, I will be updating any changes on this space and Twitter, as late as Wednesday afternoon.

Best of luck to all!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Arnold Palmer Invitational - Preview

Next up on the PGA TOUR schedule is the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which returns to Bay Hill Club and Lodge as it has every year since 1979. The major story this week will be Tiger Woods, as he attempts to win this event for the ninth time. Thus, this tournament is also jokingly known as the Tiger Woods Invitational.

Bay Hill is expected to play as a 7,419 par 72, featuring the full bevy of four par 5s. Woods feasted on the par 5s last year, playing them in 14-under (13-under was his winning total).

Here are the champs and runners-up since 2005. Note that the course played as a par 70 from 2007 to 2009.

  • 2005 - Winner: Kenny Perry (12-under), with Graeme McDowell and Vijay Singh at (-10)
  • 2006 - Winner: Rod Pampling (-14), with Greg Owen (-13)
  • 2007 - Winner: Vijay Singh (-8), with Rocco Mediate (-6)
  • 2008 - Winner: Tiger Woods (-10), with Bart Bryant (-9)
  • 2009 - Winner: Tiger Woods (-5), with Sean O'Hair (-4)
  • 2010 - Winner: Ernie Els (-11), with Eduardo Molinari and Kevin Na (-9)
  • 2011 - Winner: Martin Laird (-8), with Steve Marino (-7)
  • 2012 - Winner: Tiger Woods (-13), with GMac (-8)
  • 2013 - Winner: Tiger Woods (-13), with Justin Rose (-11)
With very few exceptions, this list screams elite ball-strikers with above-average length. Given the Woods formula of par 5 scoring, that is probably where the length is showing up on the scorecard. 

Looking back, there isn't a clear statistical formula for showing up near the top of this leaderboard. Smooth putting is certainly a plus, and some guys use GIR as clincher. Driving accuracy doesn't seem to really matter. 

I'm going to lean on current form, since we are now entering our fourth event in Florida, as well as par 5 scoring. As always course history will be a factor, perhaps this week more than others. 

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Valspar Championship - One-and-done

In addition to addressing the one-and-done format for the Valspar Championship, I will go back and revisit the Yahoo! format. There is a good bit of wind and cold weather predicted for Thursday, and rather than the wind strengthening as the day unfolds it is expected to the opposite.

I based my original lineup on the incorrect assumption that the morning wave would benefit, but in reality the afternoon wave will get warmer temperatures and less wind. It’s still unclear to me if the AM or PM wave will be better on Friday, but I’m now not willing to start Thursday AM tee times and don’t mind if I don’t have my team split equally among waves.

New Yahoo! roster and first-round starters are as follows:
  • A-List – Matt Kuchar starting, Luke Donald on the bench (swapping spots)
  • B-List – Jim Furyk and Jason Dufner starting, with Webb Simpson and Jordan Spieth on the bench (Dufner in for Graham DeLaet (also starting in his place) while Furyk subs in for Spieth.) I’ve decided to keep Simpson on the bench in round one in the event that he has a really bad opening round. That way I wouldn’t have blown one of my last six starts on him if he lays an egg. I will reiterate that he MUST be on your roster.
  • C-List – Pat Perez starting with Harris English on the bench (swapping spots).

As for the one-and-done, I have several solid options already off the table. Harris English and Webb Simpson are out for that reason. I narrowed my focus to Luke Donald, Jim Furyk and Jordan Spieth. Donald’s recent form is the best of the bunch, with a T8 at The Honda classic and a T25 at a windy Doral. His course history is also very strong, so I’m plugging him in as my OAD.

Best of luck to all this week!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Valspar Championship - Fantasy

As the Valspar Championship blows into Innisbrook Resort, it's time to make our weekly fantasy selections. While this course is a little more protected from the Florida wind by trees, wind will be a factor. The first round should be a little on the chilly side, with winds gusting up to 30 MPH. 


After another nice week at Doral, our Yahoo! point total has increased to 1,567, ranking 879th and in the 98th percentile. 

Anytime I see cool temperatures and wind, I like to have my options covered in AM/PM tee times in the Yahoo! format. It required a little more maneuvering than I would have liked in the B and C Lists, but it could prove worth the sacrifice. 

I will check the weather closely Wednesday afternoon to ensure that I have put my best guess as to the advantageous tee times, but here is my current lineup. (I will tweet out any changes @RyanGolfBlogger.)
  • A-List - Luke Donald starting with Matt Kuchar on the bench.
  • B-List - Jordan Spieth and Graham DeLaet starting with Webb Simpson and Jim Furyk on the bench.
  • C-List - Harris English starting with Pat Perez on the bench.
The four starters are all in the Thursday AM wave. The only way I see that changing is if the hourly forecast calls for equally strong winds all day with significantly cooler temperatures in the AM, or stronger wind in the AM than in the PM. 

Golf Channel game:

As always, check out Mike's weekly Rotoworld article for all of our staff picks. I believe Ned now ranks inside the top 30 for the entire Golf Channel game, which is just ridiculously good. While I'm in second, I'd need Ned to take a few weeks off to catch him. 

Most weeks, the four of us generally offer a consensus with our picks. If not, we are often split two and two. This week we are absolutely all over the place, with the exception of Harris English in Group 2, which reinforces to me that this tournament doesn't have many true favorites.

Check back tomorrow for our one-and-done pick. I still don't have it narrowed down any further than a top five. 

Best of luck to all!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Valspar Championship - Power Rankings

Some weeks the power rankings jump off the page, while others they emerge from the fray. This week the Valspar Championship is more of the latter, with plenty of depth but not much bursting out at the top.

Perhaps part of the reason is because the Copperhead course doesn't necessarily favor players of a certain length, strong putters over ball-strikers, etc. In my humble opinion, that's what makes this a tournament with some character. It's not like half the field is categorically eliminated as is the case some weeks.

That said, this week's rankings are a bit vanilla for my taste. Perhaps safe. To make up for that, I went a little deeper with a few that just missed out and a couple of sleepers.

Here we go:

  1. Harris English - He's probably the only player that I'm really excited to watch this week. This course requires moving the ball both directions off the tee, and he can do that. He's been a top-15 machine this year, and ranks inside the top 10 in GIR, GIR from other than the fairway, Par 3 and Par 4 scoring average. That's pretty solid. Add to that, he tied for seventh here last year after missing the cut the year before. 
  2. Luke Donald - Solid form with a T8 at The Honda Classic and a T25 at the WGC-Cadillac meshes well with a stellar course history. He's tied for sixth, won and tied for fourth in his last three trips.
  3. Jim Furyk - Similar to Donald, Furyk has a win, a T13, a T2 and a T7 in his last four starts here. Form hasn't been quite as good as those mentioned above him, but it's going to be hard not to plug him in most formats this week.
  4. Matt Kuchar - Kuchar is steady, but not spectacular here of late. His last three trips to Innisbrook have seen a high of a T10 and a low of a T14. That's also pretty much in line with his current trend. 
  5. Jordan Spieth - Secured his Special Temporary Status here last season with a T7, meaning we finally get some course history on the kid. It's probably worth overlooking his T34 at the Cadillac last week due to the wind.
  6. Bill Haas - Had a really good week with the flat stick last week and his trending high, with his last three starts going for a T23, T17 and T6. Hasn't played here since 2011, but has experienced marginal success. 
  7. Webb Simpson - This could be an incorrect perception, but he feels a tad off lately. Still, he's four out of five here, with all four going for top 20s and finishing second in 2011. 
  8. Jason Dufner - Struck it well most of the week at Doral, but putter really let him down on the weekend. That's the hardest, and most important, part of his game to try and correctly predict. He tied for ninth in both of the WGCs in 2014.
  9. Justin Rose - There's still the question of health to a degree, but he continues to post modest finishes of late. He's made each of his seven cuts at Copperhead, with a T5 in 2010 standing as the only top 10.
  10. David Toms - Impressively tied for fourth in Puerto Rico last week, leading the field in driving accuracy. He's six for nine in this event, with three top 25s and one top 10. This could be a slight overreaction to his week in Puerto Rico, but he has tangible value this week regardless.
  11. Gary Woodland - Kind of funny to go from Toms to Woodland, which is a nod to the diversity this course produces. He (Woodland) was a winner here, then tied for 29th and missed teh cut in his subsequent visits. Form remains steady, but also just under the radar.
  12. Ben Martin - After his solo third in Puerto Rico, he improved from an alternate to a competitor this week. Mentioned in his post-round interview that he was excited to be back in the South playing courses that were more native to his eye. Growing up in South Carolina, he's no stranger to Bermuda greens.
Next 5: Graham DeLaet, Brian Harman, Russell Knox, Will MacKenzie and Cameron Tringale

These three were snubs for no good reason: Charley Hoffman, George McNeill and Bryce Molder

And here are what I would consider to be dark horses: Boo Weekely (actually, probably not exactly a DH), Jerry Kelly and Stewart Cink.

We will return next week with a hard look at the various gaming formats. Until then, best of luck to all!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Valspar Championship - Monday Qualifier

As is often the case, the final four spots for the Valspar Championship will be decided in a Monday Qualifier. Here is the link to the leaderboard.

Best of luck to all!

Valspar Championship - Preview

Kevin Streelman returns to the Innisbrook Resort Copperhead course to try and defend his title in this week's Valspar Championship, and here is a little preview to get you off and running with your research.

The Copperhead Course will play to a par 71, stretching out to 7,340. Like the other courses on the Florida Swing, there is a fair amount of water to negotiate but nothing to the degree of Doral. Perhaps it is just perception, but the course seems to have a tighter feel off the tee and requires the ability to work the ball off the tee. While The Honda Classic had "The Bear Trap" and Doral has the "Blue Monster," prepare yourself to be bombarded by talk of the "Snake Pit at Copperhead this week. It is in reference to the 16th, 17th and 18th holes where birdies are truly rare.

While putting always matters, it seems to matter less on this course than it does on most. The premium is on ball-striking with a tilt towards driving accuracy and GIR. GIR from other than the fairway also serves as a fair stat to consider. Since the par 3s and par 4s are demanding, a look at the scoring averages on those holes are certainly fair game.

Here are the winners and runners-up since 2005:

  • 2005 - Winner: Carl Pettersson (275); Runner-up: Chad Campbell (276)
  • 2006 - Winner: K.J. Choi (271); Runners-up: Paul Goydos and Brett Wetterich (275)
  • 2007 - Winner: Mark Calcavecchia (274); Runners-up: John Senden and Heath Slocum (275)
  • 2008 - Winner: Sean O'Hair (280); Runners-up: Stewart Cink, Ryuji Imada, Troy Matteson, Billy Mayfair, George McNeill and John Senden (282)
  • 2009 - Winner: Retief Goosen (276); Runners-up: Charles Howell III and Brett Quigley (277)
  • 2010 - Winner: Jim Furyk (271); Runner-up: K.J. Choi (272)
  • 2011 - Winner: Gary Woodland (269); Runner-up: Webb Simpson (270)
  • 2012 - Winner: Luke Donald (271); Runners-up (P): Sang-Moon Bae, Jim Furyk and Robert Garrigus (271)
  • 2013 - Winner: Kevin Streelman (274); Runner-up: Boo Weekley (276)
Again, plenty of solid ball-strikers on that list, but fewer great putters. 

We will return tomorrow with a look at the power rankings. Until then, happy research. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

WGC-Cadillac Championship & Puerto Rico Open - One and done

To put a bow on our WGC-Cadillac Championship and Puerto Rico Open coverage, we'll go over our one-and-done selections and throw some darts at Yahoo! starters.

For the WGC-Cadillac, form and class were two things I couldn't shake. I burned Rory at the WGC-HSBC, so he's off the table. Same with Dustin Johnson at the Match Play. I found myself debating Sergio Garcia, Keegan Bradley and Hunter Mahan. Three Ryder Cup players in solid form who are long enough to attack the "new" Doral and are aggressive.

Bradley missed a golden opportunity to steal a win at the Honda last week, and Mahan has posted his share of top 10s lately. Ultimately, I decided on Garcia. His worldwide trend is just too solid to pass up, and the opportunities to select him are somewhat limited. Bradley will remain on my short list for the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA unless another opportunity presents itself, and Mahan will be debated numerous times as well.

For the Puerto Rico Open, I narrowed it down to Chris Stroud and David Hearn. Both nearly picked off their first wins in 2013 and are coming off solid finishes at the Honda. I selected Stroud, but could have just as easily gone with Hearn.

Since all of the players at the WGC-Cadillac are going off in the same late morning/early afternoon wave, there isn't a tee time advantage for the Yahoo! game. We also don't know for sure how Doral will play following the redesign. That makes Yahoo! even more of a dart throw than usual. I'm not going to put too much thought into who to start and who to sit, so here goes.

Starters are Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia. Bench is Adam Scott, Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley and Harris English.

Best of luck to all!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

WGC-Cadillac Championship - Fantasy

In our continuing coverage of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship we'll take a look at some games.


As can happen both good and bad, we are on a nice roll in the Yahoo! format. Current point total is 1,403, ranking 1,450 overall and in the 98th percentile.

It's a personal preference, but last week I hit the jackpot in the first round and stuck with the same four all week. It's nice in that it saves starts while still racking up solid points.

The strategy this week is to try and have the winner on the roster for bonus points. Because there isn't a cut and everyone plays in the same time wave on Thursday and Friday, you have the option of putting a guy who may be running low on starts on the bench and keeping him there unless he is in position to get a top three.

I haven't completely decided on my starters, but here is the lineup.

  • A-List - Bubba Watson and Adam Scott (by leaving Tiger off the bench, it certainly means my confidence in him is low.)
  • B-List - Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan and Keegan Bradley
  • C-List - Sergio Garcia and Harris English
As for the Golf Channel format, check out Mike's weekly Rotoworld article for my picks in both this tournament and the Puerto Rico Open.

I will return tomorrow with a one-and-done. Between now and then, I will try and dig up as much in the form of player feedback as I can. 

Until then, best of luck!

Puerto Rico Open - Power Rankings

I realize that many fantasy formats don't include the Puerto Rico Open in their lineup, but because there are some that do I've prepared a power ranking for the opposite-field event. For additional thoughts and information, please refer back to Sunday's preview.

Here we go:
  1. Chris Stroud - A guy that's due for a breakthrough win, he enters off a pair of top-20 finishes and has steadily improved in Puerto Rico, sharing 18th in his last trip.
  2. David Hearn - Converging trends look great, tying for sixth at The Honda Classic last week and sharing 14th in Puerto Rico in 2011 and eighth last year. 
  3. William McGirt - Contended into the weekend in each of his last two starts. Perhaps an opposite-field event is the proper landing spot for his breakthrough win. He tied for 14th here in his only trip back in 2012 and ranks 46th in GIR and 39th in SGP. 
  4. George McNeill - Could be a very shrewd investment. Finished fifth in 2011 and won here in 2012, then slipped to a T57 in his title defense last  year. He's in excellent form with a T6 and a T12 in his last two starts this season.
  5. Brian Stuard - Tied for fourth in Puerto Rico last year and enters off a solid T24 at The Honda Classic. Ranks inside the top 75 in GIR and SGP, which is never bad.
  6. Andres Romero - Another case of converging trends, going T20 and T6 in his last two trips to Puerto Rico and surprising many with a T12 last week. 
  7. Seung-yul Noh - He's making a ton of cuts this year and tied for 25th here in 2012. You know he'll be around for the weekend. Yep...I might have jinxed him.
  8. Scott Brown - A carbon copy in McNeill, tying for fifth in 2012 before winning last year. Let's hope he does a little better that GMac in his defense.
  9. Michael Thompson - Missed the cut in his Honda title defense, but posted back-to-back T19s before that. Tied for 14th here back in 2011.
  10. Chesson Hadley - The rookie has two top-25 finishes in his last three starts.
  11. Brooks Koepka - Working hard to earn full status in 2014-15 via non-member starts in 2013-14, he could be this year's Jordan Spieth.
  12. Ryo Ishikawa - The Bashful Prince was runner-up in '12 and T39 LY, but enters off three consecutive missed cuts.
Next 5: Morgan Hoffmann, Matt Jones, Jerry Kelly, Hudson Swafford and Jhonny Vegas

I will declare a one-and-done in tomorrows post. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

WGC-Cadillac Championship - Power Rankings

With Rory McIlroy’s collapse / Russell Henley’s win at The Honda Classic behind us, it’s time to try and solve the puzzle of the WGC-Cadillac Championship and the new Doral. Feel free to refer back to yesterday’s preview for a refresher if needed.

Typically when compiling the power rankings, I try and keep things as scientific as possible. I weigh course history, form and statistical metrics and try and let the numbers / data lead where it chooses. That’s not so much the case this week. I tried to let previous course history at what remains of the Blue Monster have a say in developing the short list, and I took a stab at what should be a relevant concoction of stats, but in the end I ranked the field based on good ole gut instinct and current form.

Here’s hoping the drink served up rises to the occasion!
  1. Dustin Johnson – We all know he’s long, but at third in ball-striking and 17th in Proximity he jumps off the page statistically. That he has two recent runner-up finishes is a huge check mark. His finishes at Doral have been all over the board, but with one of those a runner-up he is a sound leadoff hitter.
  2. Sergio Garcia – Dude’s been solid. His last seven worldwide finishes (oldest to newest) are 4, T2, 1, T19, 1, T9, T8. Given everyone is starting from a fresh slate at Doral, he has an excellent chance to rise to the top.
  3. Rory McIlroy – I’m not too worried about his Honda collapse. One way to look at it is that he’s right on track. The 2013 season was an off year by all standards, so he’s gone from showing “signs” in one round to dominating for 54 holes. Arguably 68 holes. If he finds his lines off the tee and shows up confident, I may have him too low.
  4. Bubba Watson – Bubba is first in driving distance, ball-striking and Proximity. He won at Riviera, tied for second at the WMPO and tied for ninth at the Match Play. He also has a runner-up at Doral. Gamers can’t ask for much more…..well other than for him to fulfill his potential this week.
  5. Hunter Mahan – I have one of those dangerous “feelings” about Mahan. He’s flirted with some big weeks lately, with three top 10s in his last four starts. His best finish in six starts at the old Doral was a ninth, so perhaps the redesign is just what he needs. He’s the least logical inclusion at this point, but why not scratch the itch of a gut feel in a week like this?
  6. Adam Scott – In his three 2014 starts, he’s T6, T8 and T12. And he’s Adam Scott.
  7. Keegan Bradley – Missed a golden opportunity to shoot a decent final round from far enough back to steal a win last week, but has been a top-20 machine this year. He’s close and he’s due.
  8. Jason Day – He hasn’t been a fit at Doral in the past, but with a runner-up and a Match Play win in his last three starts there’s no reason to let him fall past this point.
  9. Jordan Spieth – Two top-five finishes in his last three starts, including a T5 in the WGC two weeks ago, has the kid ready for the spotlight of another WGC.
  10. Matt Kuchar – Missed the cut at Riviera after a lengthy holiday and then tied for ninth in his Match Play title defense (losing to Spieth, if memory serves), hints that his form is back in line. Had two top fives in four past starts at Doral pre-redesign, so we’ll see if the fresh coat of paint suits his eye.
  11. Harris English – Hasn’t finished higher than ninth or lower than 10th in his last three starts. A Doral rookie, but if ever that doesn’t matter it’s this week.
  12. Webb Simpson – Won the battle for the 12th spot due to his consistency over the past few months. Was beginning to trend at Doral, so we’ll see if he can maintain the positive vibes.

Next 5: Luke Donald, Jim Furyk, Graeme McDowell, Jimmy Walker and Tiger Woods

The eclectic field at Doral means there are several other people that have earned a hard look, but I couldn’t find room for them above. I realize that my top 12 / next five are all regular PGA TOUR players, so consider that to be an admission that I’m leaning towards familiarity with U.S. courses. Perhaps even a bias.

Either way, take a good look at these three:
  • George Coetzee – T4, T5, 1, T9. Those are his last four finishes across the globe, with the T9 coming at Dove Mountain.
  • Matteo Manassero – Young Italian playing like a stallion, with a T17 at the Match Play and a T12 at The Honda Classic. Only played once at Doral, but acquainted himself well with a T23.
  • Francesco Molinari – He was well on his way to figuring Doral out before the redesign, with three top 15s and a T3 in four trips. A T40 at the Northern Trust Open and a first-round loss at the Match Play are a reason to pause for concern. 

We will return tomorrow with a look at the fantasy formats.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Puerto Rico Open - Preview

The Puerto Rico Open once again sits opposite the WGC-Cadillac Championship, and we’ll kick of the coverage in Puerto Rico with a little preview to whet your appetite.

Trump International Golf Club Puerto Rico serves as the host venue, stretching out to 7,506 yards at a par of 72. It features the expected slate of four par 5s and four par 3s, with two of those par 5s stretching out to over 600 yards.

This event dates back to 2008, and while the list of winners is about as weak as you will find in any event, this tournament was the catalyst for the phenomenon that is Jordan Spieth. Spieth’s 19-under 269 in 2013 put him a shot off the winning mark of Scott Brown, and essentially paved the way for his Special Temporary Membership which led to his 2013 John Deere Classic win.

While we’re on the topic, here’s a list of winners and bridesmaids dating back to 2008.
  • 2008 – Winner: Greg Kraft (-14) over Jerry Kelly and Bo Van Pelt (-13)
  • 2009 – Winner: Michael Bradley (-14) over Jason Day and Brett Quigley (-13)
  • 2010 – Winner: Derek Lamely (-19) over Kris Blanks (-17)
  • 2011 – Winner: Michael Bradley (-16) over Troy Matteson (-16 playoff)
  • 2012 – Winner: George McNeill (-16) over Ryo Ishikawa (-14)
  • 2013 – Winner: Scott Brown (-20) over Jordan Spieth and Fabian Gomez (-19)

Perhaps we would view this tournament a bit differently if Bo Van Pelt, Jason Day, Ryo Ishikawa and Jordan Spieth would have traded places with the champions, but so it goes.

While it’s gotten a little less cut-and-dry in the last year or two, GIR have traditionally been a major indicator of success in this event. Since ShotLink doesn't make the trip to Puerto Rico, we don’t have the advantage of certain stats like strokes gained-putting, driving distance and proximity that we usually enjoy.

I will also point out that this is one of the few tournaments that features paspalym greens. It is used mainly on courses that take on high amounts of water and are situated on the coast, and this strand of grass garnered attention at the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.

My lean in an event like this would be to rely more heavily on players in solid form, while looking for some sign of decent course history. Because all of the premier players will be at Doral, this is a great opportunity for a trending player to break through.

We will return either tomorrow or Tuesday with a power ranking.

WGC-Cadillac Championship

The WGC-Cadilliac Championship returns to the Blue Monster…sort of. Since Tiger Woods took down last year’s elite field, Gil Hanse has completely redesigned the course, with reports stating that it is barely a shell of what it was 12 months ago. Now, we have Blue Monster, Trump National Doral.

Last year the course played as a 7,334 par 72, but it now stretches out to 7,481 yards. One of the biggest yardage differences will be noticed right off the bat as the par-5 first has been lengthened by roughly 80 yards. So, what was essentially a long par 4 last year will now be a par 5 that only a portion of the field can reach.

Water is also expected to be even more present than it was before, with the par-3 15th perhaps serving as the biggest benefactor of that change.

While reviews of the new course design are very sparse, what seems to be a common theme is the importance of length and accuracy, especially off the tee.

The nightmare for gamers and punters is how to treat past course history at Doral. This event has been contested at Doral since 2007, so we have seven years of returns from which to pull. Let’s hit the pause button and look at the winners and runners-up since 2007.

  • 2007 – Winner: Tiger Woods (-10); Runner-Up: Brett Wetterich (-8)
  • 2008 – Winner: Geoff Ogilvy (-17); Runner-up: Jim Furyk, Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh (-16)
  • 2009 – Winner: Phil Mickelson (-19); Runner-up: Nick Watney (-18)
  • 2010 – Winner: Ernie Els (-18); Runner-up: Charl Schwartzel (-14)
  • 2011 – Winner: Nick Watney (-16); Runner-up: Dustin Johnson (-14)
  • 2012 – Winner: Justin Rose (-16); Runner-up: Bubba Watson (-15)
  • 2013- Winner: Tiger Woods (-19); Runner-up: Steve Stricker (-17)

Many of the names listed above are long, and some are excellent in total driving (factoring in accuracy). With the exception of maybe a Jim Furyk and Retief Goosen, I would generally classify all of these guys as at least average in length, with many well above average.  The reality is, that probably isn't going to change.

My approach will include a look at past success, but I won’t rely on someone just because they are a course horse. I could see any number of scenarios playing out, but all of them include length and some degree of putting prowess. Rory McIlroy, anyone?

Rather than just recklessly throwing any more names out, we will return tomorrow with a power ranking. Until then, happy research!