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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wells Fargo Championship - Fantasy

The final thing to shore up before the opening round of the Wells Fargo Championship is the Yahoo! starting lineups. I prefer morning tee times when it works out on Thursday, as the greens will be a little more moist and the winds will be a little lighter.

Here we go:

A-List - Starting Rickie Fowler (AM) with Lee Westwood (PM) on the bench.
B-List - Starting Rory McIlroy (AM) and Justin Rose (PM) with Jim Furyk (PM) and Webb Simpson (PM) on the pine.
C-List - Starting Jimmy Walker (AM) with J.B. Holmes (AM) on the bench.

Further lineup changes will be tweeted out. Best of luck this week!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Wells Fargo Championship - One-and-done

As the Wells Fargo Championship inches closer, it's time to hammer down our one-and-done. Since the Bubba Watson win at the Masters, we've been on an 0-for-2 run, missing the cut in Hilton Head with Kevin Na and again with Rickie Fowler in New Orleans. We'll try and do better this week!

I found myself quickly narrowing my focus to Lee Westwood and Jim Furyk.

As I mentioned yesterday in the Power Ranking, Westy kind of scares me because of how perfect he's trending in both course history and current form. His best two PGA TOUR finishes of 2014 were his last two, tying for 17th in Houston and finishing alone in seventh at the Masters (also winning in Malaysia last week). He also went T5 and T4 in his last two trips to Quail Hollow. In fact, every trip has been an improvement at Quail, going MC, T61, T38, T5 and T4 in that order. BUT. He barely made the cut in 2012, then had a hot weekend to steal a backdoor top five. He then tied for fourth on horrible greens that equalized putting.

Furyk has been a steady hand at the wheel all year, making each of his eight cuts and amassing six top 25s and three top 10s in the process. Two of those top 10s have fallen in his last three starts, with a T14 at the Masters interrupting a T6 at the Valero Texas Open and a T7 at Harbour Town. After missing the cut in his first trip to Quail Hollow back in 2003, he's made seven of his eight cuts including a win and a T2. His most recent returns were a T7 in 2010, and T24 in 2011 and a T26 in 2012.

I've made, at least in my mind, a strong case for both of these players. That means my pick comes down to personal preference. My gut tells me that Westwood could flame out much like Fowler did last week in NOLA, while Furyk is going to make the cut, probably going to score a top 25 and will very likely be in the mix for a top 10. Considering I'm trying to stop the bleeding from back-to-back missed cuts, I want Furyk.

As always, check in on my Golf Channel and Yahoo! lineups in Glass' weekly Rotoworld article at rotoworld.com.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Wells Fargo Championship - Power Rankings

With most people suffering fantasy disasters at last week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans, let’s work on our bounce back and try and get it right with this week’s Wells Fargo Championship Power Ranking. Feel free to refer to yesterday’s preview for a glimpse at our thoughts on Quail Hollow and the Wells Fargo.

One thing to point out that was still a bit of a question mark yesterday was the condition of the greens at Quail Hollow. By all early accounts I can find via Twitter and otherwise, the players are absolutely raving at the condition of Quail Hollow (including the greens). Rain could be a factor leading up to the start of the tournament, so fingers crossed it doesn't play a big role.

Here we go:
  1. Rory McIlroy – This one is a no-brainer. His record at Quail includes a win, a T2, a T10 and a missed cut and he enters off back-to-back PGA TOUR top 10s including a T8 at the Masters. There’s no point in digging any deeper into the stats than this.
  2. Jimmy Walker – Could have gone in a number of directions here, but Walker was very impressive in his T8 at Augusta National and has improved of late at Quail Hollow. His last three starts in Charlotte saw him progress from T68 to T48 to T22. I like those trends.
  3. Jim Furyk – After a week of turmoil for most gamers in NOLA, Furyk is a consistent choice. He’s seven for nine at Quail Hollow, with four top 10s including a win and a runner-up. Last three starts are T6, T14 and T7. It’s hard to imagine him not finishing inside the top 20 this week.
  4. Justin Rose – His record here isn’t all that good, but his last trip here (T28 in 2011) was his best. If you refer back to the trend of U.S. Open winners performing well here, he fits the bill. It’s also easy to get on board with his T8-MC-T14 trend considering his T14 was in last week’s bloodbath for the elite at Zurich. While I wish his driving splits were a little better, he ranks inside the top 25 in Par Breakers and Par 5 Scoring Average.
  5. Lee Westwood – He’ll likely be here or higher on most lists when considering his trends. His last two starts were his best of 2013-14 and went for a T17, then a seventh at the Masters. His last two trips to Charlotte resulted in a T5 and a T4. He’ll be a tempting one-and-done, but could almost be trending too well like Rickie Fowler in NOLA last week.
  6. Phil Mickelson – He did the unthinkable when he missed the cut at Augusta National, but his T9 in Houston the week prior shows the form isn't far off. He’s a solid play at Quail Hollow, going 10/10 with seven top 10s.
  7. Rickie Fowler – Last week’s missed cut could have him on the cheap this week. Toss out his T73 on terrible greens last year and he’s gone sixth, T16 and winner in his other three. I like his chances for a bounce back at Quail Hollow.
  8. J. B. Holmes – I can’t ignore him anymore. A T12-T18-T11 run in his last three starts has him primed for even bigger things. Decent record at Quail includes 4/6, with a T9 in 2011. Perhaps the biggest surprise, given his length, is that he’s 155th in Par 5 Scoring Average.  Imagine if he corrects that this week.
  9. Seung-yul Noh – Of course he isn’t going to go back-to-back, but don’t ignore that many first-time winners who play the very next week still ride that momentum to a top 10/20 finish. His swing looked so powerful and perfect last week, and if he continues to putt that well he’s earned this spot. This isn't a complete shot in the dark, as he tied for ninth here in 2012.
  10. Webb Simpson – His current form is a red flag. There’s no way around that. He’s gone MC-T61-MC in his last three starts. He’s a Charlotte guy that plays out of Quail Hollow frequently, nearly winning in 2012 before settling for a T4. Of all the players in this power ranking, his stats are the best for this course. That said, it’s obvious the heavy lifting for that came earlier in the season.
  11. Hunter Mahan – He’s made his last six cuts here with three going for top 20s. That’s sort of where I see him this week. Maybe not contending, but sneaking around for a back-door top 10 or an easy top 20. A T31-T26-MC run in his last three TOUR starts keep the optimism somewhat limited to a low top 10.
  12. Bill Haas – His W/D from Hilton Head with a wrist injury prevents him from being a play in most leagues, as does his five missed cuts in 10 tries at Quail Hollow. Like Simpson, he frequently makes the drive up Interstate 85 from Greenville to Charlotte to play Quail Hollow and has twice finished fourth here in what has been a feast-or-famine history.

Next 5: Zach Johnson, Ben Martin, Ryan Moore, Bo Van Pelt and Nick Watney

I’m frequently asked about players I might “like” that aren’t on my list. Here is a list of players that garnered attention but didn’t crack the list above: Charles Howell III, Matt Jones, Kevin Na, George McNeill, Pat Perez, Danny Lee, Jonathan Byrd, Jonas Blixt, Stewart Cink, Rory Sabbatini and Retief Goosen. I could easily make a case for any of these to be included in my “next 5”.

We will turn our attention towards the games tomorrow. Until then, best of luck to all!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wells Fargo Championship - Preview

The PGA TOUR returns to Quail Hollow for the Wells Fargo Championship. While the story last year at Quail Hollow was the desperate shape of the greens, they have since been torn up and rebuilt. Sometimes new greens can be very firm and less receptive than greens with some age to them, so we'll see if that's the case this week.

Quail Hollow is a 7,442-yard par 72, featuring four par 5s and four par 3s. The closing three-hole stretch is known as "The Green Mile" with two lengthy par 4s and a long and watery par 3 in between.

As you will see when we list the winners and runners-up below, there are several trends that stand out. First is the correlation between major championship winners, especially U.S. Open champs, and those that have won at Quail Hollow. Second is the emergence of young stars winning at Quail.

Here's a look back since 2005:

  • 2005 - Vijay Singh (276) over Jim Furyk (276) and Sergio Garcia (276) in a playoff.
  • 2006 - Jim Furyk (276) over Trevor Immelman (276)
  • 2007 - Tiger Woods (275) over Steve Stricker (277)
  • 2008 - Anthony Kim (272) over Ben Curtis (277)
  • 2009 - Sean O'Hair (277) over Lucas Glover (278) and Bubba Watson (278)
  • 2010 - Rory McIlroy (273) over Phil Mickelson (277)
  • 2011 - Lucas Glover (273) over Jonathan Byrd (273) in a playoff
  • 2012 - Rickie Fowler (274) over D.A. Points (274) and Rory McIlroy (274) in a playoff
  • 2013 - Derek Ernst (280) over David Lynn (280) in a playoff
Since the greens were as bad as they were in 2013, I'm basically tossing out the '13 results in my research. Derek Ernst's lack of success in every other PGA TOUR event before and after that further support that decision. 

So, between 2005 and 2012, 16 different players finished first or second. Of those, eight are major champions and four of those are U.S. Open winners and five have won Masters. Also of interest, Woods and Glover each won at Bethpage Black, which puts a premium on being long and accurate off the tee, while McIlroy won on a long and wet Congressional. So, success at long U.S. Open venues and Masters winners anyone?

As for the stats, I'm focusing on Driving Distance, Total Driving, Par 4 Scoring Pverage, Par 5 Scoring Average and I'm tossing in Par Breakers and Scrambling. 

I will return tomorrow night with a power ranking. Until then, happy research!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Zurich Classic of New Orleans - Fantasy

For the opening round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, it appears the weather will likely favor the early tee times. The wind will be low in the morning, but freshening in the afternoon. It's not enough to panic if you want to play a late tee time, but just enough to favor the early wave.

With that in mind, here are my Yahoo! starters:

A-List - Starting Kevin Stadler, with Rickie Fowler on the bench.
B-List - Matt Every and Graham DeLaet starting with Keegan Bradley and Justin Rose on the bench
C-List - Chris Stroud starting with Ryan Palmer on the bench.

Best of luck to all!

As a side note and for those so inclined, say a prayer for my college friend Allen, his wife Courtney and their daughter Zoe. It was discovered this week that Zoe (I believe around three-years-old) has a malignant tumor on her kidney. As a father of two young children, I can't imagine what they are going through.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Zurich Classic of New Orleans - One and Done

Before we dive into the one-and-done for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, I want to remind everyone that my Yahoo! and Golf Channel lineups are posted on Rotoworld in Playing the Tips. Shameless plug, I'm excited that I cracked the top 100 in the Yahoo! game last week (currently 83rd for the season) and am equally excited to have heard from a number of you that are on solid rolls as well. Hopefully we continue that roll!

With Justin Rose already burned with a missed cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and Graham DeLaet used on a T70 I narrowed my focus to Rickie Fowler. He led off my power ranking and I really like his 6/T5 run at the Shell Houston Open and Masters coming into this week, as well as his respectable history in his three trips to TPC Louisiana.

I looked at Rickie from numerous angles, but focuses on his GIR in his previous events here, as well as his trends leading up to those and his GIR stats in his last few starts. The reason I did that is because, at 103rd, his GIR stat is his most concerning. What I found, was that this is one of his best GIR events on the PGA TOUR, so I rest easier.

With that checking out, I decided to look no further and dub Rickie Fowler my OAD this week.

I will return tomorrow with Yahoo! starters and any late lineup changes. Until then, best of luck to all!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Zurich Classic of New Orleans - Power Ranking

At first pass, the field at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans offers slim pickings in terms of a Power Ranking. Two years ago Jason Dufner won his first PGA TOUR event here, and now this has become a stop worth skipping for him. Ditto for past winner, Bubba Watson.

The weaker field has everything to do with the spot in the schedule, falling two weeks after the Masters and two weeks prior to THE PLAYERS.  For an elite player, this is no man’s land. Hilton Head offers a nice come down from the tension of the Masters for those that want to have a little seaside party. Quail Hollow, next week’s venue, has recently been considered one of the favorite stops on TOUR for the game’s A-List until the debacle of the greens last year. While I haven’t heard, I have a feeling the membership at Quail won’t allow for another national embarrassment and will have the putting surfaces as slick as ever.

One thing omitted from yesterday’s preview is the recent history of breakthrough winners of the high-end variety. Dufner did it two years ago and Billy Horschel capped off a hot run with his only PGA TOUR win last year.

With that in mind, here we go:
  1. Rickie Fowler – It’s all coming together for Puma Orange, as he posted a sixth to go with a T5 at the Masters in his last two starts. His three trips to TPC Louisiana have resulted in a run of T26-T10-T32.
  2. Justin Rose – Really the only other option to lead off this list, Rose has tied for 10th and 15th in his last two stops at the Zurich Classic. He also enters off a T8, MC , T14 (Masters).
  3. Graham DeLaet – Keeping with the theme of the recent breakthroughs at TPC Louisiana, he has to be on that very short list of guys overdue for a win. Don’t let his missed cut at the Masters throw you off, as those greens are difficult to navigate for a first-timer. Before that he had posted a T8 and a T19, so his form is just fine. Eight of his 10 rounds have been under par in New Orleans, even managing a T4 in 2012.
  4. Russell Knox – If it’s not going to be GDL, Knox may be the next best option for a breakthrough. You have to love his T43-T26-T9 trend headed into the week, and his only prior start here was a T30 in 2012.
  5. Matt Every – While we didn’t place a big emphasis on SGP this week, it’s worth noting he leads the category. He’s also consistently posting his career-best results at most venues right now. His current best at TPC Louisiana is a T32, but he’s a virtual lock to improve on that.
  6. Ryan Palmer – Had the best splits of all the players I studied this week, ranking 15th in GIR, 15th in driving distance, 16th in total driving, sixth in par 4 scoring average and seventh in par 5 scoring average. Tied for seventh in his most recent PGA TOUR start and had a playoff loss at The Honda Classic three starts ago. He’s made five of his six cuts at TPC Louisiana, but his only top 30 was a T4 in 2012.
  7. Keegan Bradley – Sometimes he’s probably overrated on lists like these, but I’m not sure who to replace him with. He tied for 26th here in 2011 and then missed the cut in each of his last two stops. He also is a T43 and a missed cut at the Masters removed from his runner-up at Bay Hill. I wouldn’t blow a one-and-done on him, but wouldn’t mind having him on my Yahoo! bench just in case.
  8. Patrick Reed – This is as good a spot as any for him to break out of his dry spell since claiming to be a top-five player in the world. His two finishes at TPC Louisiana are a solid T24 and a missed cut. That he ranks 10th in par 5 scoring average should come in handy, as the winner usually plays the par 5s in 10- or 11-under-par for the week.
  9. Nick Watney – His course history deserves better than this, but his current form deserves worse. I guess you could say this is a compromise. Still solid tee-to-green, but isn’t scoring his ball this year all that well.
  10. Kevin Stadler – Backed up a T8 at the Masters with some weekend television coverage at the RBC Heritage before falling into a tie for 38th. He tied for eighth here last year. He ranks 10th in total driving and 20th in GIR, so it will once again all come down to his putting.
  11. Chris Stroud – Similar to GDL and Knox, Stroud has been pining for a win and has finished between T21 and T26 in three of his last four trips to the Bayou. A T31-T12-T48 run in his last three TOUR starts. Despite being challenged for length off the tee, he ranks sixth in par 5 scoring average.
  12. Jonathan Byrd – His last four outings have been his best, rattling off a T12-T32-T19-T31 run in his last four starts and satisfying his Major Medical in the process. Don’t put too much weight on his MC here last year, as it was one of his first starts back from wrist surgery. Before that, his T12 in 2008 stands out as a highlight.

Next 5 (alphabetical): Lucas Glover, Charles Howell III, Jeff Overton, John Senden, Cameron Tringale

Yes, I left Billy Horschel off the list on purpose. His form compared to what it was last year this time is significantly different.

Looking for some wild cards? Consider Hudson Swafford, Stuart Appleby and two guys that made some noise at Harbour Town last weekend in Ben Martin and Nicholas Thompson.

Worth mentioning, Brooks Koepka Monday Qualified for this event with an 8-under 64 after my research for the Power Ranking was completed. He needs just seven FedExCup points for Special Temporary Membership, and very well could be a factor this week. 

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

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Zurich Classic of New Orleans - Monday Qualifier

For those interested, the final four spots for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will be contested in an 18-hole open qualifier on Monday. Click here for the link to the main page for the qualifier.

Of note, Brooks Koepka is in the qualifier and doesn't need much more than to make a cut in a PGA TOUR event to secure Special Temporary Membership. It seems that he is going to go the Patrick Reed 2012 route for now.

Zurich Classic of New Orleans - Preview

The Zurich Classic of New Orleans returns to TPC Louisiana for the ninth time in the last ten years, and it's time to kick the week off with a little preview. Of note, the only time since 2005 that TPC Louisiana did not host was 2006 when the tournament returned to English Turn.

TPC Louisiana is a par 72 layout, stretching out to 7,425 yards in each of the last two trips. It offers the full bounty of par 5s and par 3s. Because players need to take it pretty deep to win here, Par 5 and Par 4 scoring average are both of importance this week.

Here is a look at the winners and runners-up since 2005, with the omission of 2006:

  • 2005 - Tim Petrovic (13-under 275) over James Driscoll (275) in a playoff
  • 2007 - Nick Watney (15-under 273) over Ken Duke (276)
  • 2008 - Andres Romero (275) over Peter Lonard (276)
  • 2009 - Jerry Kelly (274) over Charles Howell III, Rory Sabbatini and Charlie Wi (275)
  • 2010 - Jason Bohn (270) over Jeff Overton (272)
  • 2011 - Bubba Watson (273) over Webb Simpson (273) in a playoff
  • 2012 - Jason Dufner (269) over Ernie Els (269) in a playoff
  • 2013 - Billy Horschel (268) over D.A. Points (269)
In my early research, I've noticed that length is generally a good thing, but some of the longest on TOUR haven't fared all that well. That leads me to put an emphasis on total driving with a tilt towards distance, rather than to look only at driving distance. As is the case most weeks, GIR is a significant stat. What I've also noticed is that excellent putting isn't a must, likely because the par 5s offer birdie opportunities by finding the greens in two.

We will also take a look at the usual doses of course history and current form and see what we can come up with. Check back tomorrow and we will crank out our weekly Power Ranking. 

Until then, happy research!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

RBC Heritage - One-and-done & Fantasy

Before we get to the RBC Heritage one-and-done and the Yahoo! starters, let me first apologize for not posting yesterday. When I sat down to pen my blog last night, my laptop decided to no longer recognize any wireless signals. I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but I wasn't able to make other arrangements quickly enough.

After correctly tagging Bubba Watson with the one-and-done last week, the pressure this week is to follow that up with another solid performance to keep the momentum going. Considering how far along we are in the season, I have many premium options available this week.

All that said, I’m letting the weather guide me this week. If you look back to earlier in the week, I mentioned there are two styles that seem to play well at Harbour Town. There is the group of elite tee-to-green players, and the scrambling/putting crew.

The weather is driving my choice this week for a couple of reasons. It’s supposed to be a windy week at Harbour Town. It always is, but this week looks particularly breezy. Rain is also in play on Friday.

If I had Luke Donald, I’d probably play him. I don’t, because I plugged him in for a T4 at the Valspar. I decided not to burn G-Mac because his record wasn't very good here before his win last year and he has the added distraction of defending. Kuchar is hot, but I don’t want to use him on a week where weather could spoil my one shot with him. Same philosophy goes for Spieth.

I narrowed my focus to Jim Furyk and Kevin Na. Both are trending very well and both offer nice form and course history. The way the weather is shaping up, I believe the premium will be on putting/scrambling, as well as scoring (especially par 4). Furyk ranks a solid 34th in scrambling, but is 154th in SGP and 132nd in par 4 scoring average. Na ranks second in scrambling, third in par 4 scoring average and 15th in SGP. That answered my question and is the reason I’m going with Na.

As for the Yahoo! starting lineup, I don’t really see a big tee time advantage. Wind will be steady all day, with the temperatures below seasonal averages. Thursday morning will be cold.

I’m starting Donald (A), Furyk (B), Spieth (B) and Na (C). That leaves Kuchar (A), Every (B), Johnson, Z. (B) and McDowell (C) on the pine.

I will tweet future lineups later in the week @RyanGolfBlogger.

Best of luck to all this week!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Quick Note

There will be no post tonight due to computer issues. I will return with one-and-done and Yahoo! starters tomorrow.
Check out Rotoworld.com for my entire Yahoo! and Golf Channel lineup.

Monday, April 14, 2014

RBC Heritage - Power Rankings

As the RBC Heritage research continued and the Power Rankings formed, it became abundantly clear that it’s rare to find a player that offers the total package for Harbour Town Golf Links. As we mentioned yesterday, the fairways are tight and the greens small.

Unlike many courses on the PGA TOUR, I've had the chance to walk Harbour Town several times over the years as a spectator. I began to play each hole on the course backwards in my head. What I noticed wasn't necessarily new, but the approach is a little different than I've taken.

Already knowing all of the greens are minuscule by TOUR standards, players have two options if they want to be successful in Hilton Head. The first is to figure out a way to hit the greens, and the second is to figure out the proper miss and scramble / putt the lights out to save pars. It’s very rare on TOUR to find a guy who is an incredible ball-striker, and also an elite scrambler / putter.

Walking backwards from the greens towards the tees, the players will notice that there isn't really a straight shot on the course; either off the tee or on approach. Tee shots are being constantly worked right-to-left and left-to-right, as are the approaches. While the course is situated on the coast, the first 16-1/2 holes are shielded from wind by trees. So a guy that can flight it low and accurately work the ball in both directions stands to hold an advantage.

The par 3s aren't easy, but it isn't so much due to their length. There are only three par 5s, but one of them is really just a long par 4 (second hole). Of the other two, virtually no one will attack the 15th in two. The sixth is reachable in two with two solid shots.

So, we need to find the guys that are accurate off the tee, while working the ball both directions with ease and flighting it down, who also hit it tight on any sized greens and have an uncanny ability to get up-and-down and hole putts from anywhere in the event they miss the greens. 

Got it.

Let’s do this:
  1. Matt Kuchar – He’s finished inside the top five in each of his last three starts (VTO, SHO, Masters), and has only missed one of his 10 cuts in Hilton Head. Included in that is a pair of top 10s and four top 25s. Typically his stats paint a gloomy picture most weeks, but that isn't the case this week. Ranks third in par 4 scoring average and 15th in scrambling, while ranking inside the top 50 in driving accuracy and SGP. I’ll take it!
  2. Jordan Spieth – Everyone reading this knows he led the Masters by two strokes with 11 holes to play, eventually sharing second place. He’s constantly threatening regardless of the course, but it is nice to know he tied for ninth here last year. Ranks 33rd in both SGP and scrambling and is 14th in par 4 scoring average. If he can keep it between the trees, he has a real shot. Still seemed hungry in his Masters interview, but a hangover isn't out of the question.
  3. Zach Johnson – He’s the man on paper, ranking inside the top 15 in driving accuracy, scrambling, proximity and par 4 scoring average to go with a solid 52nd in SGP. Of concern, he’s only finished inside the top 25 here on two occasions, but both were also top 10s including a runner-up in 2012. His T6 at the Valero leads me to dismiss his MC at the Masters.
  4. Jim Furyk – He’s been steady all year and enters off a T14 at the Masters. He’s also 12/15, with a win and two runners-up at Harbour Town. At 19th in driving accuracy and 34th in scrambling, he shows promise. Perhaps more important, this is a grinder's kind of course, and that’s exactly in his wheelhouse.
  5. Graeme McDowell – He won last year after never cracking the top 60 in his first three trips, but his stats are a remarkable fit. He's second only to ZJ across the board. He’s first in SGP, 14th in par 4 scoring and 17th in driving accuracy. He just needs to decide whether he will hit it close or scramble well. A missed cut at the Masters was preceded by back-to-back top 10s.
  6. Luke Donald – All you really need to know is he’s finished inside the top three in four of his last trips to Hilton Head. If you demand more than that, he’s third in scrambling and seventh in SGP. Expect him to miss his share of GIR, but routinely save pars.
  7. Kevin Na – Enters Harbour Town with top 10s in his last two appearances there (‘11/’12), and having secured seven of nine cuts over the years. When you combine that with a 2-T14-T11 run in his last three PGA TOUR starts and stats that include second in scrambling, third in par 4 scoring average and 15th in SGP, you have a potentially lethal formula. The only yellow flag is his driver (shocker). He is 97th in driving accuracy.
  8. Harris English – While it doesn't play out in all of the statistical categories quite like I had hoped, he is a guy that can work the ball off the tee and keep it low. He is also first in par 4 scoring average and 25th in proximity, but ranks outside the top 85 in scrambling, driving accuracy and SGP. He was T8 here in 2012 before missing the cut last year. His form is also a bit on the chilly side compared to the winter.
  9. Matt Every – He’s been all over the place here, including a T8, a T83 (MDF) and a MC. Before his Masters missed cut, he had a win and a T8. At fourth in SGP, 12th in proximity and 29th in par 4 scoring average, he offers more good than bad.
  10. Chris Stroud – Snapped a streak of three missed cuts in this event with his T6 last year, which is in line with his recent form. He’s gone T9, T31 and T12 in his last three starts, with the T9 coming in Puerto Rico. I kind of like the Puerto Rico Open and the Sony Open as favorable comps for this week anyway. He’s fourth in scrambling, 14th in par 4 scoring average and 45th in driving accuracy.
  11. Charley Hoffman – Some of his stats (driving accuracy) scare me to death, but his track record is too good to pass up. His last two starts at Hilton Head have resulted in a T8 and a T6, while his last four on TOUR are T12-T25-T11-T37. Odds are, he’s going to figure out a way to post at least a top 25.
  12. Boo Weekley – What’s a power ranking for Hilton Head Island that doesn’t include Boo? He’s 7/7 here with two wins and five top-15 finishes. He is the ultimate course horse.

Next 5: Stewart Cink, Robert Garrigus, Jerry Kelly, Carl Pettersson and Kevin Streelman

Want a few dark horses? Check out Brendon Todd, Justin Hicks and Justin Leonard.

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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

RBC Heritage - Preview

With the pressure of the Masters behind us, it's time to preview a relaxing week in Hilton Head, South Carolina at the RBC Heritage.

The setting is the familiar track of Harbour Town Golf Links, which will play to a par of 71 and likely stretch out to a mere 7,101 yards. It's as tight of a course as can be found on the PGA TOUR, with tiny greens and an ocean breeze.

Typically, there are two types of winners at Harbour Town. Those that are excellent scramblers and putters, and those that are elite ball-strikers with a penchant for hitting it close. Here's the list dating back to 2005:

  • 2005 - Peter Lonard (277) over Billy Andrade, Darren Clarke, Jim Furyk and Davis Love III (279).
  • 2006 - Aaron Baddeley (269) over Jim Furyk (270)
  • 2007 - Boo Weekley (270) over Ernie Els (271)
  • 2008 - Boo Weekley (269) over Aaron Baddeley and Anthony Kim (272)
  • 2009 - Brian Gay (264) over Luke Donald and Briny Baird (274)
  • 2010 - Jim Furyk (271) over Brian Davis (271 Playoff)
  • 2011 - Brandt Snedeker (272) over Luke Donald (272 Playoff)
  • 2012 - Carl Pettersson (270) over Zach Johnson (275)
  • 2013 - Graeme McDowell (275) over Webb Simpson (275 Playoff)

Statistics that are relevant this week are driving accuracy, SGP, Scrambling, Proximity, Par 4 Scoring Average. As demonstrated by the multiple times names are repeated in the list above, course history matters. For those that haven't been to this tournament, it's a very laid back venue with a party atmosphere immediately off the course. Some guys thrive in that loose setting. The wind also can be a factor, as can tee time waves.

We will return tomorrow with a look at our Power Ranking for this week. Until then, best of luck to all!

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Wednesday at the Masters

This post is not for everyone. If you aren't interested in my personal account of my Wednesday trip to the Masters, stop reading now. No harm, no foul. We will be back Sunday evening with a preview for the RBC Heritage. Truthfully, I’m writing this for the dual purpose of also being able to go back and read this myself down the road.

It was a day of firsts, as it was the first time I’d been down on a Wednesday for the Par 3 tournament and the first time my wife and five-year-old daughter had been at all. My job, as assigned by myself, was to make sure they had a great time and got to see everything they wanted to see.

In my daughter’s bedroom, among the expected children’s books, are the tournament guides from the 2012 and 2013 Masters. The ones they give all patrons (for free) when they walk in the gates. For a while, she was obsessed with the Past Champions. I would read them to her and quiz her on them most nights before bed and she could name practically every winner dating back well into the 70s (not necessarily in order) when she was four. She could tell you Horton Smith won the first Masters. We've moved on from that and she’s forgotten most of them by now. Now she likes looking at the large course map in the center of the booklet and I have to read the key to here and point out where everything is.

I bring that up because there is a little section on the map labeled “JR” section. It’s adjacent to the driving range and lines the walk the players make towards the main course. Come to find out Wednesday, it’s a gated off area just for kids under 16 to stand and try and get autographs.

So when we walked through the gates, we immediately waited in easily the longest line I've ever seen just to get into the pro shop to buy a flag for autographing and an extra chair. After that, we dropped off our chairs at a great spot right by the walkway at the eighth hole on the par 3 course and went searching for autographs.

In my mind, we would hang out on the range for about 30 minutes and let her get a few and move on. And that’s what happened. Her first autograph was Kevin Stadler, followed by Chris Kirk, Jim Furyk and Kevin Streelman. She was sad when she narrowly missed out on Ernie Els, but that would have a happy ending eventually. Stadler and Kirk signed more than their fair share of autographs for the kids, but I was really impressed by Streelman and Furyk signing for every kid, even though Furyk couldn’t manage to crack a smile. More on that later.

My wife really wanted to see Adam Scott and Luke Donald on the main course. Go figure. So, we walked the back nine backwards in order to catch as many players as possible. I enjoyed watching players skip balls across the water, with Zach Johnson hitting a beauty while we were there. We caught a few holes on the front, including the amazing walk down the roadway separating the par-5 second from the par-5 eighth. I know nothing about flowers, but it has to be the most colorful part of the course, which scored major points with the wife.

Then the real fun started. We returned to the seats we left at the eighth hole for the par 3 contest and players would sometimes stop to sign on the way down the walkway where we were stationed. That meant a second chance for my daughter to add to the names on her flag. I would tell her the names of the players walking down the hill her way and she would start to try and call out, though rather shyly. In general, she would usually get about one in three for each threesome. She picked up players like Ryan Moore, Stewart Cink, Steven Bowditch, Justin Rose and Ernie Els that way. (She was happy to check Ernie off her list.)

My favorite story from that was how she landed Jonas Blixt. The Swede didn’t see her and had just passed, signing for someone a few spots down. In what I could only describe as a half-whine / half-moan five-year-old voice, she said “Jooonaaass.” He turned back, smiled and said, “Well that got my attention.” Then as he signed, he looked up and me and joked, “Does she usually get what she wants?” He has no idea.

Not long after, the groups stopped signing. I caught eye contact with Bill Haas as he was walking down our way and asked if he would sign for my daughter. He politely (and in detail) explained as he was walking that they had been instructed on the eighth tee that they couldn't stop to sign because the tee box was backed up, but they would sign for kids after the ninth green.

So off to the ninth green we go. Once again, I had to send her in on her own to a 16-and-under area. It’s hard for a dad to watch his five-year-old daughter not realize that she is being out-jockeyed for critical autograph position and be powerless to it, but such is life. In the end, she still racked up and many of the players were amazing to the kids.

While she may forget, I will absolutely never forget Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player teeing off on nine and walking our way. She recognizes all their names (remember the Masters memorization from earlier?), so I explained who they were before they got there. Arnie hit his shot in the water on nine, and I noticed as he made the long walk towards the green that he didn’t look so good. He didn’t even make it to the green and left the course. I genuinely hope he’s OK, because that’s not like the King. Gary Player signed a ton of autographs for kids, but she was unfortunately missed. But Jack. He stood there and signed for every single kid. He signed her Masters flag right in the center.

  • Guys who aren't considered the “A-List” of golfing celebrity were especially cool to the kids. Boo Weekley, D.A. Points and Jimmy Walker (yeah, I didn’t call him A-List and he leads the FEC points) stand out as being really good and patient with the kids. 
  • Rory signed a ton of autographs, but my daughter just missed him. She did get Dustin Johnson in the same threesome, who also took his time and signed for every kid. I get the sense from readers that DJ is often vilified, and he's never been my personal favorite, but my opinion changed for the better in that regard on Wednesday.
  • K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang signed for everyone. Matt Jones did the same thing with a sometimes-screaming toddler in his arms that refused to go to his wife. 
  • Jose Maria Olazabal and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano hit all the kids, but Miguel Angel Jimenez only signed a few. As you would expect, he had an attractive blonde on his arm and the kids weren't offering wine or cigars.
  • Ken Duke’s daughters made green and yellow bracelets and handed them out to the younger girls, which my daughter proudly put on her write immediately.
  • Furyk came through and I told my daughter that she already has his from earlier in the day, and didn't need to get it a second time. When he got to her, she pulled her flag back and he recognized that she already had the signature. He said in a very tender voice, “Want me to sign it again?” She looked at him and looked back at me. I think he took that as a “no,” rather than that she was confused, and he started laughing. It was the first time he broke away from the Jim Furyk serious face. 
  • Gary Woodland’s wife (caddie) handed my daughter a ball while the guys were still down the line signing and she almost didn’t understand that she was supposed to take it. Luckily she did.
  • The last signature she got came from a player in the very last group. Matt Kuchar. As easy as it would have been for him to write his name down as quickly as possible for the remaining 10 or 15 kids and head on down the road with his own kids, he took his time and joked around with the remaining children. Some of the older kids were asking for balls and gloves, so he handed them out based on some simple trivia questions, like where he went to college. 

You hear the slogan on the PGA TOUR that “These guys are good.” I can tell you that so many of them were yesterday, and I don’t mean on the golf course.

Final autograph list reading from the flag in no particular order: Y.E. Yang, Matt Every, GFC, Craig Stadler, Jason Day, Victor Dubuisson, Steven Bowditch, Justin Rose, Derek Ernst, Dustin Johnson, Ernie Els, Graham DeLaet, Stewart Cink, Wayne Grady, Ken Duke, Kevin Streelman, Gary Woodland, Boo Weekley, Mike McCoy, Peter Hanson, JACK FREKIN NICKLAUS, Jose Maria Olazabal, Joost Luiten, Jim Furyk, Mike Weir, Jimmy Walker, Matt Kuchar, D.A. Points, Jonas Blixt, Jamie Donaldson, K.J. Choi, Ryan Moore, Jordan Neibrugge, Kevin Stadler, Chris Kirk, Matt Jones, Marc Leishman, Ian Woosnam, Steve Melnyk, Nathaniel Crosby, Hunter Mahan, Lucas Glover and Brendon de Jonge.

What an amazing day. Normally when I attend an event I’m watching everything I can from the players in an effort to learn something not found on a stat sheet. Wednesday was different, and I bet I didn't watch 15 shots all day. I was too busy watching my wife and daughter soak it all in. For a day, it was great just being a fan and a dad!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Masters - Fantasy

With the first tee times for the opening round of the Masters just hours away, here is my final lineup for the Yahoo! format.

Starting: Adam Scott (A), Rory McIlroy (B), Zach Johnson (B), Charl Schwartzel (C)
Bench: Bubba Watson (A), Dustin Johnson (B), Jason Day (B), Sergio Garcia

I like this start/bench rota for two reasons. First, is that all of my starters have tee times in the first half of the day, but not too early. The chill will have melted, but the winds should be almost non-existent. Second, my starters also happen to be my most stable players. Watson and D. Johnson each WD fromt their most recent starts after failing to break 80 in their opening rounds. I feel pretty certain that they are ready to go, but just in case it's nice to have them on the bench. Day is recovering from an injury, so we'll get a look at him before playing. Garcia is Garcia.

I will be tweeting any lineup changed (@RyanGolfBlogger) from this point on. Until then, best of luck to all.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Masters - One-and-done

In 48 hours, the 18-hole leader of the Masters will have been identified. While the top name on Thursday evening is of little consequence, it is time to do our best to uncover the correct one-and-done pick.

When I compared my OAD options to my power rankings, I found four players in my top 11 that are still available to me. Those are Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson and Jason Day. As I mentioned yesterday, Bubba moved to the top of my list for Augusta National when he tied for second at Doral (strong correlation between Doral success and Masters success in the same year), but his WD at Bay Hill due to allergies is a minor concern. I love Kuchar's stability, but I don't like how much time he's spent in contention the last two weeks. I'm saving ZJ for THE PLAYERS, Colonial or John Deere, so he's out. Then there's Jason Day, who hasn't played competitively since his win at the WGC-Accenture Match Play.

In my mind, this one comes down to Watson and Day. Maybe that wouldn't be the case if I had guys like McIlroy and Mickelson and Garcia available, but it is what it is.

My hesitation with Watson is that he would be a great burn for the Travelers Championship, but I'm not sure that is enough of a reason to hold him out. The Day question mark (thumb) seems to carry a little more weight.

For that reason, I'm taking Bubba Watson over Jason Day.

For Yahoo! and Golf Channel lineups, I encourage you to check out our weekly Rotoworld article http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/gol/46825/393/our-picks-the-78th-masters for my picks, as well as Mike's, Ned's and Rob's.

Best of luck to all!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Masters - Power Ranking

In prepping for the Masters power ranking, I essentially stuck to the same research method I have for every tournament this season. I added a little bit of extra detail, but not much. When the numbers were crunched and the stat sheet sorted for the first time (numeric values are plugged in for form and course history), two of the top three names were Bubba Watson and Adam Scott.

Considering Watson and Scott won the last two Masters, it would seem that the formula is directionally correct for this week's tournament. Problem is, when the name sitting immediately ahead of them is Sergio Garcia, I cringe a little bit.

I can think of plenty of reasons to remove Sergio from the top of my power ranking. His interview at Carnoustie stands out, as does his declaration that he just wasn't cut out to win the Masters a few years ago. Not even specific to Garcia, often the guy who looks the best on paper on any given week fails to live up to the lofty expectations. Look no further than Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson a week ago.

The biggest reason I've decided to stick with Garcia atop the power ranking is consistency in my process. Identifying him as number one on the power ranking doesn't necessarily mean he's my pick to win the tournament or a shoe in for every fantasy format, but it does mean that a strong amount of consideration needs to be directed his way.

As an added bonus, I've ranked the entire field. (R) = Masters Rookie

Here we go....hold on tight:

  1. Sergio Garcia - Form is undeniable off a T8-T16-3 run at The Honda Classic, Doral and Shell Houston Open. Masters record includes three top 10s, with a T8 last year. His stats really set him apart, ranking first in the all-important par 4 scoring, eighth in 3-putt avoidance and inside the top 35 in SGP, driving distance, proximity and approaches from over 200 yards. 
  2. Bubba Watson - I started drooling over him when he tied for second at Doral, and I'm not letting his inability to break 80 and subsequent WD at Bay Hill spook me. First in driving distance, fifth in 3-putt avoidance and ninth in par 4 scoring average. Obviously he knows his way around Augusta National as the 2012 winner.
  3. Adam Scott - His last four starts in the Masters have gone T18-T2-T8-Win, so what's not to like? As a contender at Bay Hill, we know the defending champ's form is fine. 
  4. Matt Kuchar - If you paid attention to me on Twitter yesterday, you know I'm not wild about his chances to win after spending his last 144 holes in contention and failing to close the deal in back-to-back starts. Still, he is a machine in terms of consistency and has posted top 10s in his last two Masters. Fifth in par 4 scoring average and 13th in 3-putt avoidance. 
  5. Rory McIlroy - I can't overstate how much I liked his final-round 65 at the Shell Houston Open as a springboard. It was tied for the lowest round of the week and snuck him inside the top 10 for the second time in his last three PGA TOUR starts. It also felt like he figured the driver out at times last week. Has three top 25s in five Masters starts.
  6. Dustin Johnson - Like with Bubba, I started salivating with DJ's T4 at Doral. I don't like his first round at the SHO last week, but I doubt it carries over. His T13 last year represents his only top 25 here, which is his biggest yellow flag. He ranks first in par 5 scoring, second in par 4 scoring, second in driving distance and is tied for 13th with Matt Kuchar in 3-putt avoidance. Yes, please.
  7. Zach Johnson - If you take away his win in unseasonably cold (borderline brutal) conditions at a Masters where 1-over-par won, his record here isn't great. The stat sheet looks solid, and his form is fine. 
  8. Jason Day - It would be ideal if he had played since his win at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, but we'll have to trust him when he says he's healthy and ready to go. You probably already know he has two top-three finishes in his three starts here. 
  9. Harris English (R) - After he popped up here, I heard a stat that something like 10 of the last 13 or 14 winners ranked inside the top four in GIR in the season of their win. Well, he's leading the PGA TOUR in GIR, thus further solidifying his lofty ranking as a rookie. Ranks third in par 4 and fourth in par 5 scoring, also tying for 16th at Doral.
  10. Phil Mickelson - I think he's ready to go. The two most important metrics for Phil in terms of form as it relates to the Masters is Doral and his last start before the Masters. In this case, the SHO. Those happen to be his best to finishes of 2014. It may have been a roller coaster up until this point, but he looks to be peaking at the right time.
  11. Charl Schwartzel - Past winner tied for ninth at Doral.
  12. Graeme McDowell - Like Schwartzel, T9 at Doral. Also third in par 4 scoring and eighth in 3-putt avoidance.
  13. Hideki Matsuyama - Stats are juicy and hasn't missed a cut here in two tries.
  14. Graham DeLaet (R) - Solid stats and good form.
  15. Henrik Stenson - Form a little hard to nail down right now.
  16. Luke Donald - Four top 25s in nine trips, and form suggests a fifth.
  17. Patrick Reed (R) - Sorry dude...you're a top five rookie but not overall.
  18. Keegan Bradley - Ranked a little lower than some might like because he still doesn't have a top 25 here.
  19. Justin Rose - Only two top 10s in eight trips here and was a distant T34 at Doral.
  20. Ryan Moore - Never missed a cut here in five tries and owns two top 15s.
  21. Jason Dufner - In three previous trips, Duff Daddy has never finished better than 20th or worse than 30th.
  22. Matt Every (R) - Second in par 5 scoring and that matters a lot around ANGC.
  23. Jim Furyk - A top-25 machine around these parts, but only four top 10s in 17 trips.
  24. Angel Cabrera - Form be damned, he's 11/14 with nine top 25s, six top 10s, 1 win and 1 playoff loss.
  25. Fred Couples - He's finished inside the top 15 in each of his last four trips. This may be too low.
  26. Jordan Spieth (R)
  27. Rickie Fowler
  28. Jimmy Walker (R)
  29. Stewart Cink
  30. Kevin Stadler (R)
  31. Hunter Mahan
  32. Brandt Snedeker
  33. Bill Haas
  34. Lee Westwood
  35. Marc Leishman
  36. Gary Woodland
  37. The Mechanic / Most Interesting Golfer in the World / MAJ
  38. Louis Oozthuizen
  39. John Senden
  40. Steve Stricker
  41. Ian Poulter
  42. K.J. Choi
  43. Nick Watney
  44. Chris Kirk (R)
  45. Jonas Blixt (R)
  46. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
  47. Jamie Donaldson
  48. Victor Dubuisson (R)
  49. Peter Hanson
  50. Francesco Molinari
  51. Ernie Els
  52. Thorbjorn Olesen
  53. Webb Simpson
  54. Matteo Manassero
  55. Thomas Bjorn
  56. Lucas Glover
  57. Scott Stallings
  58. Steven Gallacher (R)
  59. Martin Kaymer
  60. Matt Jones (R)
  61. John Huh
  62. Trevor Immelman
  63. Branden Grace
  64. Joost Luiten (R)
  65. Billy Horschel (R)
  66. Tim Clark
  67. Ken Duke
  68. Boo Weekley
  69. Sang-moon Bae
  70. Vijay Singh
  71. Russell Henley
  72. Kevin Streelman
  73. David Lynn
  74. Steven Bowditch (R)
  75. Brendon de Jonge (R)
  76. Y.E. Yang
  77. Roberto Castro (R)
  78. D.A. Points
  79. Tom Watson
  80. Darren Clarke
  81. Matthew Fitzpatrick (R)
  82. Bernhard Langer
  83. Derek Ernst (R)
  84. Thongchai Jaidee
  85. JM Olazabal
  86. Mike Weir
  87. Oliver Goss (R)
  88. Jordan Niebrugge (R)
  89. Mark O'Meara
  90. Craig Stadler
  91. Ben Crenshaw
  92. Sandy Lyle
  93. Larry Mize
  94. Ian Woosnam
  95. Michael McCoy (R)
  96. Chang-woo Lee (R)
  97. Garrick Porteous (R)

That's probably enough to chew on for tonight, but we will return tomorrow to go over some fantasy options.

Until then, best of luck to all!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Masters - Preview

With the Shell Houston Open in the books, it's time to get down to Masters business. If you're like me, you know the essentials by heart. Augusta National is a par 72, featuring the full lineup of par 3s and par 5s, and stretching out to 7,435 yards.

Here are the champs and bridesmaids since 2005:

  • 2005 - Tiger Woods (276) over Chris DiMarco (276 Playoff)
  • 2006 - Phil Mickelson (281) over Tim Clark (283)
  • 2007 - Zach Johnson (289) over Retief Goosen, Rory Sabbatini and Tiger Woods (291)
  • 2008 - Trevor Immelman (280) over Tiger Woods (283)
  • 2009 - Angel Cabrera (276) over Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry (276 Playoff)
  • 2010 - Phil Mickelson (272) over Lee Westwood (275)
  • 2011 - Charl Schwartzel (274) over Jason Day and Adam Scott (276)
  • 2012 - Bubba Watson (278) over Louis Oosthuizen (278 Playoff)
  • 2013 - Adam Scott (279) over Angel Cabrera (279 Playoff)
So what's important to know about Augusta National?
  • Length is important. Look at the winners (Woods, Cabrera, Mickelson, Schwartzel and Scott) on that list when the score dips below 280. They are all long and have the ability to dominate the par 5s. 
  • Putting is very important in terms of 3-putt avoidance, but the kings of SGP don't necessarily show up here. If you want to dive into putting stance, I might place the premium on 3-putt avoidance and putting average. 
  • Driving accuracy is somewhat important in that you don't want to be in the trees (unless your name is Bubba), but the rough isn't all that penal, so I wouldn't rely on that stat for much. Total driving with a tilt towards distance isn't a bad metric. 
  • Traditionally, performance at Doral at the WGC-Cadillac has been an incredibly good indicator of success at the Masters. That could be up for debate this year after the redesign at Doral, but it's worth a peek. 
  • Three of the four par 3s will be played with a shorter iron, but the par-3 fourth is an absolute beast. at 240 yards. 
  • Several of the par 4s are really long and very difficult. The par-4 first is a slap in the face to wake you up, and will rival the par-4 11th (the start of Amen Corner) as the toughest on the course. The par-4 seventh is deceptively tight and the par-4 ninth and 10th holes are no picnic. The third and 14th holes offer birdie opportunities should a short iron find the right part of the green. 
  • Speaking of greens, they are technically relatively large in size, but in reality most of the greens are like two or three different greens in one. Solid irons will help with 3-putt avoidance because there are certainly parts of many greens where a two putt will be nearly impossible from the wrong level. 
  • The par 5s are mostly reachable by the entire field with a good drive, with the uphill eighth being the possible exception. Scoring on the par 5s is essential. 
While course history is normally "part" of the equation, this week it takes on added value. To be sure, form and history trump any stat. 

We will return tomorrow with our normal power ranking. Until then, happy research!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Masters - Let the fun begin

It’s here. Cue the music, CBS. The opening shot of the 2014 Masters is less than a week away and it’s time to ease into our coverage of the season’s first major.

Each major represents something different in my mind and, growing up roughly 2-1/2 hours from the pearly gates of Augusta National, the Masters ranks as my personal favorite. I've had the incredible fortune to attend four tournament rounds and a practice round, and will make my sixth trip on Wednesday of this week for my first look at the par 3 tournament.

We took our kids to Disney World in January, and the feeling I get when I walk past the golf shop/souvenir shop and onto the course at Augusta National is probably the same feeling my kids get when the gates open at the Magic Kingdom and they walk onto Main Street USA.

It’s something I hope all of you experience at some point.

One of the things I did in last year’s coverage that I found both fun and ultimately useful was to look back at historical similarities between Masters winners currently still active to try and identify players that are primed for a victory. Here is a look at that post http://thegolfaficionado.blogspot.com/2013/04/masters-preview.html.

The Cliff’s Notes version is that I used process of elimination to rule out guys that would be outside the norm of recent Masters champs. After my final cut, I was left with 29 players. Included in that group were Adam Scott, and his playoff partner Angel Cabrera.

Here is how that same formula plays out for 2014. Please note, this would not include anyone that would qualify by winning the Shell Houston Open later this weekend.

Begin with 95 players. Eliminate all players who are Masters rookies and those in their second trip. (Note, Schwartzel won in his second trip but is an exception to the rule.)

Say goodbye to Bae, Blixt, Bowditch, Castro, de Jonge, DeLaet, Donaldson, Dubuisson, Duke, English, Ernst, Every, Fitzpatrick, Gallacher, Goss, Grace, Henley, Horschel, Huh, Kirk, Lee, Luiten, Lynn, McCoy, Niebrugge, Olesen, Porteous, Reed, Spieth, Stadler, K., Stallings and FedExCup leader, Jimmy Walker.

That eliminates 32 players, or 1/3 of the field, leaving us with 63 (last year at this point we had 64).

Next, we eliminated any player that didn't make the cut in the 2013 Masters. You have to go back to Tiger Woods in 1997 to find a winner who missed the cut in the previous year’s Masters.

Adios to Clarke, Crenshaw, Jaidee, Jiminez, Mahan, Manassero, Matsuyama, McDowell, Mize, Molinari, O’Meara, Oosthuizen, Poulter, Simpson, Stadler, C., Streelman, Watson, T., Weekley, Weir, Woodland, Woosnam, Yang.

That cuts 22 more, leaving us with 41 (last year at this point we had 39).

Eliminate all of those with more than 14 starts under their belt without a win. I call that the Mark O’Meara rule, as he won his first (and only) Masters in his 15th start.

Out the door are Cink, Els, Furyk and Garcia, leaving us with 37 (36 this time last year).

Of all the former Masters winners in the field, none of them have ever missed more cuts than they've made at Augusta National before recording their first win.

Those snared by that net are Kaymer, Senden and Stricker. With those three out, we have 34 (31 this time last year).

I'm eliminating one thing from last year. That is the the exclusion for top 10s from last year's Masters. That spares Day, Kuchar, Leishman, Snedeker and Westwood.

There aren't any Masters winners in the field that have gone back-to-back, since Woods is out due to injury, so say goodbye to Adam Scott. Now we have 33 (28 this time last year).

The oldest major winner is Julius Boros at 48 years, eight months and 14 days. That means father time has run out for Couples, Langer, Lyle, Olazabal and Singh.

That’s our final cut. We have identified 28 players that could win the Masters without breaking the mold. (Last year’s final list was 26.)

History tells us that one of these 28 players will likely slip on the green jacket. They are Keegan Bradley, Angel Cabrera, K.J. Choi, Tim Clark, Jason Day, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Rickie Fowler, Lucas Glover, Bill Haas, Peter Hanson, Trevor Immelman, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Marc Leishman, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore, D.A. Points, Justin Rose, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson and Lee Westwood. 

Obviously guys like Glover and Points won’t come close to cracking our power ranking for this tournament, but it’s not hard to imagine a Bradley, Dufner, Haas, DJ, McIlroy, Mickelson, Rose, Schwartzel or Watson winning the season’s first major.

We will return with a more traditional preview on Sunday. Until then, happy research!

The Masters - Mark 15

I mentioned a little over a month ago that there is a fantasy game specifically for the Masters called the Mark 15. It's operated at fantasygolfteam.com, which is a site that is devoted to several different fantasy golf games.

For a direct link to the game, click here.

You are essentially given 15 different groups of players from which to choose, and each group contains four players.

Best of luck!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Shell Houston Open - Fantasy

After studying the weather for the Shell Houston Open, it appears wind will be a constant and rain a looming threat throughout the week. There is a 50% chance of rain on Thursday afternoon, with wind constant throughout the day.

In the Yahoo! game, I'm favoring the AM tee times when available if for no other reason than they will have an uninterrupted round.

A-List - Henrik Stenson starts over Matt Kuchar. Both have AM tee times
B-List - Keegan Bradley (AM) and Dustin Johnson (PM) starting over Rory McIlroy (PM) and Graham DeLaet (PM)
C-List - Sergio Garcia (PM) over Charl Schwartzel (PM)

I will tweet out lineup changes (@RyanGolfBlogger) throughout the week.

One additional note, I will begin my Masters coverage earlier than most tournaments. I suspect I will have something up by Friday night to kick off the thought process for the season's first major.

Until then, best of luck to all!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Shell Houston Open - One-and-done

Switching up the formula a little bit, we are going to lead with our one-and-done selection for the Shell Houston Open. This may become the norm, with Wednesday's blog dedicated to eleventh-hour Yahoo! roster moves and starting lineups. 

I couldn't shake three names this week. Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson have been surrounded with flashing red lights since the first moments of my research. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) for me, only two of those are still available. 

I made the mistake of burning DJ at the Match Play, which happens to be about the only place he didn't perform well in the first three months of 2014. Had I not, I would have either used him this week or next. 

Bradley and Stenson are a virtual coin flip. Both have top-five finishes in this event within the last two years and both are entering off top-five finishes at Bay Hill. 

I'm taking Bradley. The biggest reason is that I trust him when he gets hot, and his runner-up at Bay Hill has him smoking. 

Check out Rotoworld for my Yahoo! and Golf Channel lineups.

Best of luck to all!