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Friday, September 26, 2014

Ryder Cup - Day One Wrap Up

With two sessions of the 2014 Ryder Cup in the books, let’s take a look back and a look ahead. There isn't much of a reason to spend time on the Euros, as everything seems to be going relatively according to plan. There is much to debate regarding Team USA.

Webb Simpson

There is plenty of chatter regarding the inclusion of Simpson on the Ryder Cup team as the final captain’s pick by Tom Watson, especially when it came out that he was lobbying hard into the wee hours of the morning the night before the picks were made. I don’t have a problem with the pick for several reasons, and I don’t mind Simpson trying to talk his way onto the squad.

For starters, he was on the very short list of candidates anyway. The other names being considered were guys like Bill Haas and Brendon Todd. Notice I didn’t say Billy Horschel. Horschel was fresh off hitting a fat approach into the water at the par-5 18th at TPC Boston, choking away his chance to win the Deutsche Bank Championship hours before the picks were due. Watson had no way of knowing that he would catch fire and win the next two tournaments, as well as the FedExCup.  

The other reason I support the pick was due to his past record while partnered with Bubba Watson.

All that said, with his performance on Friday morning being as poor as it was, Tom Watson should keep him on the bench all day Saturday.

Spieth / Reed

This was exactly what the U.S. team needed. The veterans on the team are quite experienced at losing Ryder Cups, but Spieth and Reed are not. When they went out and won 5&4 in the morning fourball, Tom Watson had one job. Stay the hell out of their way. In his interview following the second session, Watson would not elaborate as to why he benched them. Perhaps it’s because he figured out (a little too late) that there really isn’t an acceptable answer.

Spieth and Reed may have very well gone out and lost 5&4 in the afternoon foursomes, but you have to give them that chance and live with the result.

New blood

Piggybacking on the Spieth / Reed comments, Ryder Cup rookie, Jimmy Walker, and emerged star, Rickie Fowler, battled as hard as any twosome on either team for two very important halves.

When I looked at the scoreboard as the foursomes matches were coming to an end, I couldn’t help but shake my head. Ryder Cup veterans Jim Furyk (don’t get me started), Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan had lost the first two matches, while Fowler and Walker were battling their butts off and Mickelson and Bradley were in the process of dropping their first points as a team.


Looking ahead

I absolutely hate what I see from Team USA for Saturday morning. Jim Furyk is 1-8-1 in fourball. WHY IS HE IN THE LINEUP?!?!?! He and Mahan have already lost to Donaldson and Westwood and they haven’t even been announced on the first tee yet.  Terrible call. Even if they somehow win or halve the match, it's still the wrong call given Furyk's body of work.

I don’t mind the Bubba Watson / Matt Kuchar pairing, but I would have preferred for Keegan Bradley to have taken Furyk’s place with some combination of Watson, Kuchar, Mahan and Bradley in the fourball. Mickelson is clearly gassed.

I would have lost my mind if Spieth / Reed and Walker / Fowler weren’t heading out in the morning.
I prefer to see Mickelson sit out the whole day and be ready to try and win a point in singles.  Simpson needs to stay on the bench as well, and I’m always a proponent for benching Furyk and his lousy record in any Ryder Cup formant. (He is 5-15-3 in Ryder Cup team formats and 9-18-4 overall.)

Anybody that looks like they are about to win a point before Tom Watson hands in the lineup card for Saturday afternoon should be on the course in foursomes in the fourth session.  Of the players on the bench Saturday morning (ZJ, Mickelson, Bradley and Simpson), only ZJ and Bradley need to be on the course in the afternoon. Actually, “need” might be too strong of a word.

If Tom Watson isn't comfortable with Spieth and Reed as a foursomes tandem, then he could still split them up while keeping them in the lineup tomorrow afternoon. I would prefer Spieth playing with Kuchar and Reed playing with ZJ or Mahan as opposed to having them both on the bench.

Before we go, here’s a look at the fourball matches set for Saturday morning.
  • Justin Rose / Henrik Stenson v. Matt Kuchar / Bubba Watson (Advantage Europe)
  • Jamie Donaldson / Lee Westwood v. Jim Furyk / Hunter Mahan (Advantage Europe)
  • Thomas Bjorn / Martin Kaymer v. Patrick Reed / Jordan Spieth (push)
  • Rory McIlroy / Ian Poulter v. Rickie Fowler / Jimmy Walker (It will all come down to which Poulter shows up)

I don’t see a likely scenario where the U.S. does any better than a 2-2 tie in the morning. In fact, I could easily see a 3-1 or 3-1/2-1/2 blowout in play for the Euros.

As an American, this does not look good on paper or feel good in my gut.

I hope I’m wrong!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

TOUR Championship - Fantasy

The TOUR Championship is upon us, and it's time to tie up the remaining loose end of the Yahoo! game. I'll keep it short and sweet. I'm starting Adam Scott (A), Bill Haas (B), Jordan Spieth (B) and Sergio Garcia (C), with Rickie Fowler (A), Billy Horschel (B), Webb Simpson (B) and Jimmy Walker (C) on the bench.

I want to point out that I am out of starts for both Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy, or both would be in my B-List.

Best of luck this week, and I'll update future lineup changes via Twitter.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

TOUR Championship - One and done

With the TOUR Championship edging closer, it's time to put the finishing touches on our final one-and-done pick. This week it's all about the situation. Are you in the money, or out? Do you need a win, or a top 10 to accomplish your goal?

The way my game plays out, I'm about $800k outside of the money. I need a win, and it would help if it would come from a player that is not one of the more popular plays this week. I have 10 (of 29) players available. They are: Billy Horschel, Morgan Hoffmann, Hunter Mahan, Chris Kirk, Patrick Reed, John Senden, Cameron Tringale, Russell Henley, Geoff Ogilvy and Gary Woodland.

If you'll remember, Hunter Mahan was my last cut at The Barclays and Billy Horschel was the final cut at the BMW last week. If I'd have gotten just one of those right.....

Maybe that means I should change my mind after the pick and go with my alternate?

Here we go.

  • I'm eliminating Billy Horschel. While Rory McIlroy can go back-to-back, Billy Ho cannot. If I needed a top 10, he's my guy.
  • I love Hoffmann's 62-63 finish last week. He's still alive.
  • Mahan has not played well since the win at The Barclays and the added pressure of a win clinching the FEC title doesn't help. I'll pass.
  • Kirk surrounded his win with very average tournaments on both sides, so I'll let him go even though I do like his putter.
  • As I said yesterday. Reed could finish first or last. This week, if I ain't first, I'm last. Reed's alive.
  • Senden has fairly poor history and his two wins are spread across the board. I'll pass.
  • Tringale is an interesting thought, but I don't know that I like him as much as Reed or Hoffmann. He just misses the first cut.
  • Henley fits the mold. He can get really hot with the putter and has been a decent closer in his short career. He makes the short list.
  • Ogilvy is playing some of his best golf in years, but I'm not feeling it. Course history doesn't suggest anything better than a low top 10.
  • I can't trust Woodland's putter enough this week.
That leaves me with a short list of Hoffmann, Reed and Henley. My first elimination is Patrick Reed. I can't make sense of his third-round 82 at TPC Boston and his opening-round 77 at Cherry Hills in his last two starts. I can't afford a round like that. 

With it coming down to Russell Henley and Morgan Hoffmann, I'm rolling with Henley. Both are aggressive players and really good putters. Both have finished inside the top three in the last two weeks. 

So what's the tiebreaker? Two things.
  1. It would be really hard to think Hoffmann could close the door on his first PGA TOUR win at the TOUR Championship with the FEC title potentially on the line.
  2. This is the bigger one. Look at Henley's history. He's a Georgia boy, born and bred. He won The Honda Classic in the state of Florida. He tied for sixth in the 2013 RBC Heritage in South Carolina. He won the Winn Dixie Jacksonville Open on the Web.com Tour in 2012 (Florida). He won the 2011 Stadion Classic at UGA in Athens, GA. BERMUDA ANYONE?!?!?! 
Henley is at home in the Southeast, and he's the pick. Let's go!!!

Monday, September 8, 2014

TOUR Championship - Preview and Power Ranking

The 2013-14 PGA TOUR season comes to a climactic end at the TOUR Championship. The field of 29 players turn their attention to East Lake GC with the FedExCup title at stake.

East Lake is a par 70 that can stretch out to 7,307 yards. It featured a pair of par 5s, four par 3s and a dozen par 4s. Beginning in 2005, the winners of the TOUR Championship are Bart Bryant ('05), Adam Scott ('06), Tiger Woods ('07), Camilo Villegas ('08), Phil Mickelson ('09), Jim Furyk ('10), Bill Haas ('11), Brandt Snedeker ('12) and Henrik Stenson.

That list of champions is primarily comprised of elite ball-strikers, with Snedeker the glaring exception. Conventional wisdom would say that, typically, a great ball-striker having a hot week with the putter is the type of player that will come out on top.

With such a small field, I've diverted from my regular research methods and have placed a higher emphasis on my gut instinct as it relates to a player's current form and course history. Billy Horschel's win last week is a great example as to why I've done this. While he did not rank high statistically last week, I reached to include him in the Power Ranking and it paid off.

Here is a ranking of the entire field:

  1. Billy Horschel - He's hot, with a T2 and a win in his last two starts, and that works at a course like East Lake. He's only played here once, and that resulted in a T7 last year. He's clearly found something with the putter of late.
  2. Rory McIlroy - Only prior TOUR Championship went for a T10 in 2012. It's not hard to envision him winning the tournament and the FedExCup title this week. 
  3. Jim Furyk - Not only is he one of the elder statesmen in this event, but his history is excellent. He has a win to go with three other top-three finishes and nine top 10s in 15 tries. Tied for fourth last week at the BMW.
  4. Sergio Garcia - His season has been full of close calls, with the latest coming in the form of a T4 last week. He has four top 10s in eight tries at East Lake. 
  5. Rickie Fowler - A lot has changed for the better since his T23 in 2012, and he enters this week off a T4 at the BMW.
  6. Adam Scott - Past Champion. Elite ball-striker. Enters off a T8. Class player. Next.
  7. Bill Haas - Has been the king of above-average finishes without contending this season. Famously won the playoff over Hunter Mahan back in 2011 to win the FEC.
  8. Jordan Spieth - Converging trends, with a T2 at last year's TOUR Championship meeting T8 at last week's BMW.
  9. Bubba Watson - Was floundering late in the season until a runner-up at the BMW has put the train back on the tracks. Owns a T5 at East Lake back in 2012.
  10. Matt Kuchar - While he's almost always a safe play, East Lake hasn't been his sweet spot. His best finish in four starts was a T10 in 2012. Trending in the wrong direction (T5-T29-T46 in last three starts).
  11. Morgan Hoffmann - Similar to Billy Horschel last week, Hoffmann is on fire at the right time. While he's never won on the PGA TOUR or played in the TOUR Championship, a 62-63 weekend at Cherry Hills has to have been a big boost for his confidence.
  12. Justin Rose - His form is not the best considering his class, but he's never finished outside of the top 20 in this event including a runner-up finish.
  13. Webb Simpson - He's been extremely good on courses where his history is strong this season, which bodes well for East Lake. His last two trips have gone T5 and 4. A bit feast or famine this year, which is why he isn't higher.
  14. Jimmy Walker - No history at East Lake. Has the game and form to contend.
  15. Hunter Mahan - Fallen off the map since his Barclays win, but has a P2 here back in 2011.
  16. Chris Kirk - Predictably experienced a fall off (T36) last week after his win at TPC Boston. Hard to imagine him contending this week with the additional pressure of winning the entire FEC.
  17. Zach Johnson - A value at this spot with three top 10s in seven East Lake visits. The big finishes have dwindled as the season closed.
  18. Ryan Palmer - His 28th (out of 30) in 2012 was too hard to ignore even with his nice performance at Cherry Hills last week.
  19. Martin Kaymer - Seems to have found his form of late with a T7 and a T16 in his last two starts. No history at East Lake.
  20. Patrick Reed - One of two or three guys that I could see finishing first or last this week. 
  21. Jason Day - Would be inside the top five if not for his back injury and WD last week. Hard to know what to make of that.
  22. John Senden - Has experienced a great year on TOUR this season, but two finishes of 25th or worst in three starts at East Lake are alarming.
  23. Russell Henley - See Patrick Reed. Henley has a knack for par-70 and par-71 layouts and is known as a good putter. 
  24. Cameron Tringale - First trip to East Lake. 
  25. Hideki Matsuyama - His T20 last week was nice, but hardly noteworthy for the East Lake first-timer.
  26. Geoff Ogilvy - Hasn't finished worse than 19th or better than 11th in five TOUR Championships. There isn't much value for anything other than top 10s this week.
  27. Gary Woodland - Decent form. Decent course history. Yawn.
  28. Brendon Todd - Has fallen off of late. 
  29. Kevin Na - Well, he finished 30th in one of his two trips here, and someone has to be last in the ranking.
We will return tomorrow to talk one-and-done. Until then, best of luck to all!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

BMW Championship - One-and-done

With the BMW Championship drawing closer by the minute, it's time to cement our one-and-done selection and name the Yahoo! starters.

While I should have probably called his number last week, I still have Jason Day available in the OAD. I considered riding Billy Horschel and hoping he stayed hot for 72 more holes, which is very possible, but Day's class is too much to ignore. I'm going with Day this week, and likely Hunter Mahan at East Lake next week.

As for the Yahoo! starters, tee times are irrelevant this week since there is only one wave. I"m going Stenson (A), Zach Johnson (B), Jason Day (B) and Sergio Garcia (C) as the starters and Adam Scott (A), Rory McIlroy (B), Bill Haas (B) and Jimmy Walker (C) as the backups. 

I am down to my last starts for Scott and McIlroy. I will monitor their play in the first round and make a decision on Thursday night in terms of how to proceed. I certainly wouldn't mind having them available for East Lake next week, where I would have the possibility of their bonus points in a field of 30, but won't leave them out this week if it looks promising for them early.

The O v. Glass Challenge is over, with me securing a 5-2 win with just two starts remaining. In the spirit of the Ryder Cup, I won 3&2. 

I will update my Yahoo! roster the rest of the week on Twitter. Best of luck to all! 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

BMW Championship - Power Rankings

With the BMW Championship closing in on us, let's take a look at the Power Ranking. Since course history is out the window and statistical trends are a guess at best, I relied heavily on current form and class. After all, class is permanent.

Forgive me if this comes off as a bit chalky, but better safe than sorry.

Here we go:

  1. Rory McIlroy - I know it's getting old, but let's be serious.
  2. Adam Scott - A nod to class and elite ball-striking (seventh), par 4 scoring average (third) and all-around ranking (first). Form is a string of top-15 finishes, so he's a safe play in almost any format.
  3. Jason Day - He's on fire of late, with a T2 and a T7 in his two Playoff starts. He's trending towards picking up a win on one of the last two events. Why not here?
  4. Jim Furyk - He's been so consistent and his ball-striking has been a big reason as to why. Ranks second in proximity and fifth in par 4 scoring average.
  5. Bill Haas - Could make Tom Watson regret his decision to leave him off the Ryder Cup team. Last three starts went T2-T15-T9 and it's hard to find a true weakness in his game.
  6. Sergio Garcia - Interesting call this week after taking last week off to rest up for the Ryder Cup. He's been excellent this year, so no reason to believe he won't be a factor this week. 
  7. Henrik Stenson - Needs to make a move if he is to defend his title at East Lake next week, so expect the top-ranked ball-striker on the PGA TOUR to come out firing. 
  8. Rickie Fowler - While he's cooled a bit with a T23 at TPC Boston, he's still long overdue for a win and it could happen this week.
  9. Billy Horschel - Billy Ho runs hot, and his T2 last week could have him primed for a big week in Colorado. Kept his cool down the stretch at TPC Boston last week better than in the past.
  10. Keegan Bradley - Throw everything else out the window. Now that he's received the call and is on the Ryder Cup team, he can free himself up to play some great golf the next two weeks.
  11. Zach Johnson - This has nothing to do with him being the defending champion. He's quietly gone T22 and T16 in his last two starts and has a solid makeup for most courses when he's on. Ranks inside the top 25 in the all-around ranking, proximity and par 4 scoring average, which are all relevant this week.
  12. Jimmy Walker - With top-10 finishes in two of his last three outings, it would be borderline reckless to leave him out. 
Next 5 (alphabetical): Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Graeme McDowell, Phil Mickelson and John Senden

We will return tomorrow to name the Yahoo! starters and the one-and-done.  Until then, best of luck to all!

Monday, September 1, 2014

BMW Championship - Preview

The third leg of the FedExCup Championship is set to go down at Cherry Hills Country Club, and here is a preview of the BMW Championship to get you off and running.While Cherry Hills isn't a known commodity on the PGA TOUR, it does have a long history of hosting USGA events.

Cherry Hills CC was the site of Arnold Palmer's only U.S. Open title back in 1960. Phil Mickelson won the 1990 U.S. Amateur at this venue and Jack Nicklaus claimed the 1993 Senior U.S. Open title. That's a lot of class.

I would encourage you to take a tour of Cherry Hills on their website (chcc.com) to get a feel for the layout. The scorecard lists it as a par 70, stretching out to 7,352 yards. Keep in mind that this venue is in Colorado, so altitude will dictate that it plays shorter than the yardage. The tour seems to favor accuracy and precise approaches over length, but the list of winners includes some long and aggressive players. Ultimately, this course seems to dictate that the cream rises to the top, so perhaps a combination of class and form should trump everything else.

I will return tomorrow with a Power Ranking. Until then, happy research!