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

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Waste Management Phoenix Open - Power Ranking and One-and-Done

The stars are turning out for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and here is a Power Ranking and One-and-Done preview to aid in your research.

Before we go any further, I encourage you to check out Rob Bolton’s special preview including some local knowledge of TPC Scottsdale http://www.pgatour.com/news/2015/01/26/tpc-scottsdale-changes.html. The interpretation is that TPC Scottsdale has been modified to try and reduce the bomb-and-gauge mentality. In a Twitter exchange I had with Rob yesterday evening, he likened it to more of a target golf course at this point. I still see length as still being important, so I’m looking at Total Driving in 2015 as opposed to Driving Distance in 2014. Check out Rob’s article and draw your own conclusion!

Here we go!
  1. Bubba Watson – Bubba isn't just a bomber any more. He can easily reach each of the three par 5s and could possibly reach the par-4 17th with less than a driver. If he avoids any big numbers and putts reasonably well, he’s the guy to beat. He’s finished inside the top five here in two of his last three trips.
  2. Matt Kuchar – Doesn’t have the course history that others offer, but if this truly is a target golf course now then who else would you rather have? Finished T3 at the Sony Open and T2 in the Humana Challenge. You know what that trend means for this week, right?
  3. Patrick Reed – It’s easy to forget about him a bit after a T24 in his Humana defense, but get real. He tied for 19th here in his first trip (2014), and it’s entirely possible that he builds off that relative success nicely.
  4. Justin Thomas – Let’s take a look at his trends. Shared the 36-hole lead in the Sony Open. Shared the 54-hole lead in the Humana Challenge. Were it not for an untimely double bogey on the par-4 16th hole in the final round at Palmer Private, he may have picked up his first win last week. Hey…anybody remember when Kyle Stanley almost won a golf tournament but hit his ball in the water on the 72nd hole and lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines? What he do the next week? Win the Waste Management Phoenix Open? Yep.
  5. Jordan Spieth – Makes his 2015 debut at TPC Scottsdale in his first WMPO. It’s well known that he won his last two starts of 2014 at the Emirates Australia Open and the Hero World Challenge.
  6. Hideki Matsuyama – His T3 at Kapalua was followed by a T78 in the Sony Open. That’s not all bad when you consider that he missed his first three cuts in the Sony Open. Tied for fourth in this event last year.
  7. Phil Mickelson – He worked his way into playing shape nicely in the Humana Challenge last week, tying for 24th. The key this week will be eliminating the bogeys. He’s a three-time winner of this event.
  8. Brooks Koepka – Sort of a “feel” pick, but not completely off the radar by any stretch. This is his first time playing this event, but his game should be a natural fit. Among his recent success was a T4 in the Frys.com Open to begin the 2014-15 season and a win in Turkey on the European Tour.
  9. Francesco Molinari – Every week a run a stats breakdown and he was the clear winner for this tournament. It helps that he tied for 10th in the Humana last week. No course history is the only knock.
  10. Brendan Steele – He’s a dangerous play this week. When you look at his form (T2 last week) and course history (T5, T6, T6 last three), he screams PLAY ME!!! Sometimes when a guy is too obvious or too good to be true, especially considering his stature on TOUR, the pressure is too much to handle. We’ll see.
  11. Ryan Palmer
  12. Scott Piercy
  13. Charley Hoffman
  14. Hunter Mahan
  15. Bill Haas
  16. Robert Streb
  17. Gary Woodland
  18. Rickie Fowler
  19. Tony Finau
  20. Harris English


I could easily make a case for 10 different players this week. There are three guys outside of my top 10 that are worthy of serious consideration (Palmer, Piercy and Hoffman).

This week’s decision comes down to strategy. If you’ll remember, I strongly considered playing Justin Thomas last week before ultimately benching him for Bill Haas. Turned out, that was a good call. It was actually a good call being on Thomas as well, as he was in position to win until he made a double bogey on the 70th hole while playing beside Haas.

With Haas winning last week, I'd like to keep the momentum going with a solid performance. A top 10 would be the goal, with anything better being gravy. 

I've chosen not to over complicate things. I’m riding the hot hand of Thomas, with my last cut being Matsuyama.

Best of luck to all!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Waste Management Phoenix Open - Preview

Tiger Woods returns to action on the PGA TOUR at this week's Waste Management Phoenix Open, and here is a preview to get you off and running with your research.

It would be a mistake to go any further in this preview without mentioning that TPC Scottsdale went through a renovation following last year's edition. While that doesn't throw course history completely out the window, it would allow for pause if you were considering someone solely off past results. To read the details of the renovation, I encourage you to go to http://www.tpc.com/scottsdale-stadium-course-renovation.

TPC Scottsdale is a par-71 layout, stretching out to 7,266 yards on the scorecard. In addition to three par 5s, all measuring between 550 and 560 yards, there is also the par-4 17th that can be reached off the tee by the longest players. The par 3s are all of moderate length by PGA TOUR standards.

We can't completely ignore course history.The lessons learned from the winners and runners-up still carry enormous value, so here they are dating back to 2005.

  • 2005 - Winner: Phil Mickelson (17-under 267) over Scott McCarron and Kevin Na (272)
  • 2006 - Winner: J.B. Holmes (263) over J.J. Henry,Steve Lowery, Ryan Palmer,Scott Verplank andCamilo Villegas (270) 
  • 2007 - Winner: Aaron Baddeley (263) over John Rollins (264)
  • 2008 - Winner: J.B. Holmes (270) over Phil Mickelson in a playoff
  • 2009 - Winner: Kenny Perry (270) over Charley Hoffman in a playoff
  • 2010 - Winner: Hunter Mahan (268) over Rickie Fowler (269)
  • 2011 - Winner: Mark Wilson (266) over Jason Dufner in a playoff
  • 2012 - Winner: Kyle Stanley (269) over Ben Crane (270)
  • 2013 - Winner: Phil Mickelson (256) over Brandt Snedeker (260)
  • 2014 - Winner: Kevin Stadler (268) over Graham DeLaet and Bubba Watson (269)
So what stands out from that cast of characters? The first thing that jumps off the page is that Kevin Stadler and Kyle Stanley won two out of the last three. It can't be overstated that they are two of the worst putters on the PGA TOUR. That points to the fact that this course can be overpowered and solid ball-striking can trump great putting. J.B. Holmes, Phil Mickelson, Kenny Perry, Charley Hoffman, Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler, Graham DeLaet and Bubba Watson are all guys that can bomb the ball. 

With numbers typically going pretty deep, Par Breakers should matter. It also feels like current form will come into play this week. Justin Thomas just tweeted that he received a sponsor exemption into the event, and he sounds like a pretty good fit based on form / length / birdies.

We will put together our weekly power ranking and additional fantasy info and have it posted no later than Tuesday. 

Until then, happy research!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Humana Challenge - Power Ranking and One-and-Done

The Humana Challenge is getting closer by the minute, and here is a power ranking and some additional fantasy information to aid in your research. Please refer back to Sunday’s preview for additional information on this tournament.

If you enjoy numbers deep into the red and tons of birdies, this tournament is for you. If you are a fan of carnage events like the U.S. Open annually produce, you’re going to hate this tournament. Shield your eyes. You've been warned.

So who are we hitching our wagon too? Here we go.
  1. Patrick Reed – Look no further than what Jimmy Walker did at the Sony Open last week as to why Reed is ranked first. Walker (who was first on last week’s Power Ranking / shameless plug) lost to Reed in a playoff at Kapalua before successfully defending his title at the Sony Open six days later. Like Walker, Reed has been playing on a much higher level than almost anyone not named Rory over the last 18 months, so the question becomes “why can’t he” defend? The biggest reason is that this is a birdie binge for 72 holes, and a player can’t have an off round, so there is some degree of luck involved this week.
  2. Bill Haas – Returns to the site of his first PGA TOUR win (2010), and he also had a P2 in 2011 and a T6 last year. He’s played 46 rounds in this tournament, with 43 being under par (31 consecutive) and only one being over par. While Haas traditionally plays tough courses well, this oasis is a proven hot spot.
  3. Webb Simpson – Tough call in regards of who to slot into third place this week, but Simpson edges out three other worthy candidates. The story last week was his switch to a standard putter for the first time in PGA TOUR action. He lit up Waialae CC for 36 holes before fading to a T13 on the weekend. He should be able to learn quickly from that fade. He also took the top spot in my statistical analysis of this tournament by a comfortable margin.
  4. Matt Kuchar – While catching Jimmy Walker would have been nearly impossible in the Sony finale, the man that entered the week in second place should have easily coasted to a solo second. Instead, he shot a 1-over-par 71 with ZERO birdies and fell into a tie for third. Did eight rounds of competitive golf in 10 days cause him to run out of gas? Can’t take the foot off the accelerator at PGA West or the field will slingshot by quickly.
  5. Ryan Palmer -  His T17 at the Sony Open last week was a little below expectations, but he wasn’t exactly chopped liver. His course history in this event is among the best, with a T6 in 2013 serving as a warning for his runner-up finish in 2014. Odds are he regresses from 2014, but a top 10 for him is as likely as it is for any player.
  6. Scott Piercy – Coming off a solo second in the Sony Open, I was surprised to see that Piercy did not possess very good course history at the PGA West rota. His three missed cuts are only interrupted by a T19. This is one of those situations to where I’m not going to let course history talk me out of what his current form and skills as they relate to a layout argue.
  7. Justin Thomas – If guys like Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka are teaching us anything, it is to realize when a prodigy is growing up before our eyes and don’t be afraid to invest. Thomas scuffed around his first few PGA TOUR starts in 2014-15, but rebounded with a T4 in the Sanderson Farms Championship, a T23 in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and contended deep into the weekend before settling for a T6 at the Sony Open. I expect him to be a quick study in terms of learning from his disappointment of not converting the 36-hole co-lead. With his power and ability to hole putts, I would not be at all surprised if he won this week. He missed the cut here in his first trip, but so did Patrick Reed, who won in his second trip.
  8. Jason Dufner – Looked good overseas late in 2014, and has the game to produce a nice finish in his first start of 2015 if the putter cooperates at all. He’s 5/5 here with two top 20s.
  9. Keegan Bradley – He’s beginning to be overshadowed by some of the new blood on TOUR, so he should be motivated to make a splash early in the year. He’s played here twice before, tying for seventh in 2011 and sharing 18th last year.
  10. Chris Kirk – Admitted on Twitter following his hot finale in the Sony Open that he has been nothing if not inconsistent to start the year. Really struggled badly with the putter in Round 3 last week. He can’t afford an off round at PGA West if he is to contend for a top 10, or maybe even a top 25. Conversely, if he puts together three of the hot rounds like he did in three of his last five, he could win the tournament if his bad round is a 69.
  11. Phil Mickelson – Two-time winner here. It will come down to his putter. We’ve seen it plenty of times over the last few seasons on the West Coast Swing. The putter can be a mystery, both good and bad, early in the season.
  12. Zach Johnson – His course history here is excellent, but his T64 at Waialae CC last week is a pause for concern.
  13. Harris English
  14. Brandt Snedeker
  15. Charley Hoffman
  16. Jerry Kelly
  17. Brendon Todd
  18. Jason Kokrak
  19. Tim Clark – (Concerned about his elbow after flinching a few times in Sunday’s finale, or would be higher.)
  20. Rory Sabbatini

As always, I urge you to check Playing the Tips at Rotoworld for my Yahoo! and Golf Channel selections, as well as those of Rob Bolton, Ned Brown, Josh Culp, Mike Glasscott, and Dave Tindall. I will update my Yahoo! lineup on Twitter (@RyanGolfBlogger)


I’ll be first to admit that I’m snake bit in this format right now. In fact, the best advice I can give you is to take the last guy I cut. Since The Barclays, I believe I’m correct in saying that the last guy I’ve publically cut on my blog has won three times. Tim Clark threatened to do the same last week before a poor finish.
There are four guys I’m considering for this week’s one and done. They are Patrick Reed, Bill Haas, Scott Piercy and Justin Thomas.

Reed did a respectable job in his first title defense in the 2014 Wyndham Championship, posting a T24 with his last three rounds in the 60s. The knock on Reed is that he hasn’t been quite as solid on his first start following a win. He backed up his 2013 Wyndham win with a missed cut in The Barclays. His 2014 Humana win was followed up with a T19 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and his 2014 WGC-Cadillac win was followed by a T52 two weeks later at Bay Hill. Worth noting, he didn’t take a week off between the Wyndham and The Barclays, but did take a week off following his other two wins. He did not play the Sony Open last week.  I do really like Reed this week, but this tournament is a bit of a crapshoot to try and follow up a win by another big finish, while coming off a win.

Haas nearly did what Reed is trying to do. Haas’ 2010 win was followed by a playoff loss to Jhonny Vegas in 2011. I mentioned above his 43 of 46 rounds being par or better. I can’t think of any reason not to take Haas this week, unless there is someone you love more.

Piercy’s history (1/4 with a T19) is probably enough of a reason not to burn him in a OAD format. Maybe it isn’t the course that messes with him, but the pro-am format? As nice as it is to take a guy coming off a solo second, he’s too big of a reach when Haas is available.

I’m trying to fall in love with Thomas this week, and I’m doing a pretty good job of it. He’s confident. He’s figuring it out. He’s trending well. He reminds me a lot of Reed at this point last year. Remember that Thomas won a Web.com Tour Finals event in the Fall, much like Reed won the Wyndham in the Fall before his win last year. Reed can make a lot of birdies and eagles, and so can Thomas.

Now for the strategy. I’m pretty far down the standings in my OAD league (started at the Frys) at this point. That said, it’s still waaaayyyyy too early for me to take a guy just to go against the grain. My pick comes down to Thomas and Haas. As much as I really want to take Thomas, I can’t ignore 31 consecutive rounds under par in a tournament and 43 of 46. I’m taking Bill Haas. With that, let’s all congratulate Justin Thomas on his breakthrough PGA TOUR win!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Humana Challenge - Preview

The Humana Challenge is next up on the PGA TOUR schedule, and here is a little preview to get you off and running in your research.

One important note to remember is that this tournament is a pro-am format. Meaning, amateurs will be playing alongside the professionals in each of the first three rounds. Think Pebble Beach, but with fewer celebrities. Obviously some professionals respond better to that than others. Along with the added distraction of double-digit handicaps, there are the lengthy rounds that come with the format.

That also means the first three rounds of the tournament are spread across three venues. Arnold Palmer Private Course at PGA West serves as the host course, and also hosts the finale, with Jack Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club rounding out the rotation.

As a general rule, the courses are very short by PGA TOUR standards, the weather is generally perfect and there are plenty of par 5s that are essentially par 4s for the TOUR pros. That means, expect the scoring to go deep. With amateurs in the field the first three days, pins are generally set up on the easy side by TOUR standards.

The current three courses have all been in the rotations since 2010. Actually, in 2010 and 2011, Silver Rock was also in the rotation because it was a 90-hole tournament with four venues. Palmer, Nicklaus and La Quinta have all switched in and out of the rotation over the years, but if you see that a guy really lit it up in 2009, it's worth investigating which courses he performed well on.

Because of that, here are the winners and runners-up since 2010.

  • 2010 - Winner: Bill Haas (-30 / 330) over Tim Clark, Matt Kuchar and Bubba Watson (329)
  • 2011 - Winner: Jhonattan Vegas (-27 / 327) over Bill Haas and Gary Woodland (playoff)
  • 2012 - Winner: Mark Wilson (-24 / 264) over Robert Garrigus, John Mallinger and Johnson Wagner (-22 / 262)
  • 2013 - Winner: Brian Gay (-25 / 263) over Charles Howell III and David Lingmerth (playoff)
  • 2014 - Winner: Patrick Reed (-28 / 260) over Ryan Palmer (-26 / 262)
Several things stand out from that short list of players.
  • For starters, success in the Sony Open seems to carry over. Palmer went T8 Sony / 2 Humana in '14. CH3 went T3 Sony / P2 Humana in '13. While Mark Wilson missed the cut in 2012 Sony before his Humana win, he is a past champ at Sony in 2011 Johnson Wagner won the 2012 Sony before his T2 at Humana. 
  • I think there are several reasons for the Sony / Humana correlation.
    • For starters, both require a fairly low score on pretty short courses to win.
    • Players entering the Humana are both fresh and in form at the same time. Many are making just their second start of the season, so they successfully knocked the rust off in Hawaii but are still fresh.
  • Needless to say, you could do a lot worse than to take those with top 10s at Sony and just roll with it. 
  • Looking at the list above, the class of those players is probably a little better than what you would expect from a tournament that is a "go low" and a bit of a crapshoot. 
  • In terms of stats, it's important to understand that these guys will see 18 par 5s (Palmer Private has 5 and they play that course twice). Of those 18, 14 measure under 550 yards. That means almost everyone can reach them in two. 
  • That's probably a big reason as to why the list above is also a mix of long and short players. The par 5s are so short that the short players can actually reach them, but the long players are playing irons into half of them and hitting them close. 
  • The birdies are going to happen, so avoiding bogeys would seem to be a good thing this week. 
  • The winner will probably be an above-average ball-striker who has a hot week with the putter. Good luck and guessing that one.
We will return on Tuesday with a look at the power ranking and various other fantasy information. Until then, happy research!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sony Open - Power Ranking and One-and-Done

There is nothing like the timeline of a short week between PGA TOUR events, but we've managed to put together a power ranking and one-and-done guide for the Sony Open. Feel free to refer to the Preview posted yesterday for additional information on Waialae Country Club and the history of this event.

Let’s jump right in.
  1. Jimmy Walker – This is incredibly chalky. The defending champion nearly produced the Hawaii slam in Kapalua yesterday, eventually falling to Patrick Reed in a playoff. It’s rare to see a title successfully defended, but not impossible. Ryan Moore did that in the CIMB Classic already this season.
  2. Chris Kirk – He is a much easier play this week following his final-round 62 in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Monday. Considering he began the final round in last place, he was about to be a form-versus-history debate. He’s solid in this event, never posting a round above par in any of his 16 rounds and finishing alone in second last season.
  3. Tim Clark – Twice a runner-up in the Sony Open, I wouldn't be surprised if his T25 in the Hyundai has him riding a bit under the radar this week. He’s been money at Waialae CC when healthy, and Kapalua is such a different course. Knowing that his health is in check, play him. He isn’t far removed from a runner-up in the WGC-HSBC Champions and a T7 in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
  4. Russell Henley – The 2013 winner of this event is trending into this edition nicely with a T3 in the Sony Open. Consider his T51 last year to be a result of the pressured of defending his first TOUR title. He is now a much more seasoned and confident player. Still has seven of his eight rounds under par.
  5. Marc Leishman – He’s proving to be a horse for Waiala Country Club. Last two finishes went for a T9 and a 5th, and he finished 9th and T11 in his last two worldwide starts. Should be on everyone’s short list in most formats.
  6. Zach Johnson – Picked up a top 10 in his HTOC defense last week and turns his attention to a place where he is a past winner.
  7. Charles Howell III – Easily the player in the field with the strongest history without a win, CH3 is 13/13 with two runners-up, two thirds, two fourths and a fifth. He disappointed gamers with a T8 last year. By ranking him this low, I’m essentially going a bit against the grain and selling off a little of my CH3 stock.
  8. Webb Simpson – Looks like a great fit statistically, and may prove to be just that. Made each of his five cuts here, including one top 10.  As we’ve learned with him over time, course history trumps current form.
  9. Ryan Palmer – Overall, his history in this event is mixed, but the highlights are strong. He won here in 2010 and tied for eighth a year ago. The 2013-14 season was a big one by his standards, and he lightened his schedule late in 2014. Form is the real question here.
  10. Sang-moon Bae – Has developed into a very consistent player over the last few months. Had a real chance to win the HTOC last week, eventually settling for a sixth-place finish. Made three of four cuts in this event, but has yet to crack the top 25. That said, he’s a better overall player now than he was in those starts.
  11. Matt Kuchar – Middle-of-the-pack finish in the HTOC is worthy of an eyebrow raise. Went T5-T5-T8 in his last three Sony stops, but his regression at Kapalua last week makes it appear likely that he will take a step back here as well.
  12. Jason Day – Similar to Kirk, Day’s final-round 62 and subsequent T3 from out of nowhere changes his outlook for this week to the better. Played here three times, with a T20 in 2011 the best. While he is among the class of the field, he isn't necessarily the best option on paper.
  13. Hideki Matsuyama
  14. Robert Streb
  15. Kevin Na
  16. Harris English
  17. Luke Donald
  18. Rory Sabbatini
  19. Scott Piercy
  20. Jerry Kelly


This week is one of those where there are plenty of solid options that don’t bear “saving” for a future tournament. The standard has been to plug in Charles Howell III and trust a top 10, and probably a top five, is about to fall into your lap. As I mentioned above, I’m beginning to feel like it may be time to sell some CH3 stock. He had his window to close the deal and didn’t.  I hope I don’t eat those words.

I see the best options as Tim Clark, Russell Henley, Marc Leishman and Chris Kirk. I wouldn’t try to talk anyone out of any of those four. If things go the way the usually do, one of these guys will have an excellent week, one of them will bomb out and the other two will post top-10 or top-15 finishes. The trick is picking the right name out of the concentrated hat.

The weather looks perfect and the winds minimal. Leishman can really feast in windy conditions, so I’m tempted to keep him on the bench because there won’t be the wind needed to eliminate some of his competition. Henley enters with some expectations off his T3 last week and win in 2013, so I’ll hold off on him. That leaves Clark and Kirk.

It’s such a tough call between those two, but I’m going with Kirk. The biggest difference for me is that Kirk’s week at the HTOC was skewed badly thanks to two triple bogeys. If those two triples are pars, he finishes the week two off the lead. So, he was closer than he looked. That’s a factor that I like.

As always, check out Rotoworld.com for Playing the Tips to see my Yahoo! and Golf Channel picks, as well as those of the other staffers.

Best of luck this week!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sony Open - Preview

The PGA TOUR returns to Waialae Country Club for the Sony Open, and here is a preview to get you off and running with your research.  For years, this event was the first full-field event of the new season.  While that isn't the case any longer, it is still the first opportunity for most of the PGA TOUR to knock the holiday rust off and pick up the torch in the 2014-15 season.

Waialae Country Club is a relatively short par-70 layout, maxing out at a mere 7,044 yards. It offers just two par 5s, to go with the normal set of four par 3s and a hefty 12 par 4s. A solid outing in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions isn't necessarily a good indicator of success in the Sony Open, as Waialae is much tighter and flatter than the wide and hilly layout in Kapalua.

While Waialae has hosted since 1965, we will focus our research on the returns since 2005. Here is a list of winners / runners-up, as well as scores since that time.

2005 – Vijay Singh (-11 / 269) over Ernie Els (270)
2006 – David Toms (261) over Chad Campbell / Rory Sabbatini (266)
2007 – Paul Goydos (266) over Charles Howell III and Luke Donald (267)
2008 – K.J. Choi (266) over Rory Sabbatini (269)
2009 – Zach Johnson (265) over Adam Scott and David Toms (267)
2010 – Ryan Palmer (265) over Robert Allenby (266)
2011 – Mark Wilson (264) over Tim Clark and Steve Marino (266)
2012 – Johnson Wagner (267) over Charles Howell III, Harrison Frazar, Sean O’Hair and Carl Pettersson (269)
2013 – Russell Henley (256) over Tim Clark (259)
2014 – Jimmy Walker (263) over Chris Kirk (264)

Here are several observations from that list of players:
  • With the exception of Steve Marino (2011 runner-up), everyone on that list is a PGA TOUR winner. 
  • There are five different major winners represented (Singh, Els, Toms, Johnson and Scott). It’s easy to think of this event as one where the rookies and lower-tier players get their feet wet, the truth is that the elite tend to rise to the top. 
  • I also notice that there are both long and short players populating this list. The takeaway from that is that a player either needs to be short and accurate, or very good at finding the GIR from other than the fairway. 
  • While there are several very good putters above, the list is populated by guys who are very average with the flat stick on a good day, and below average on occasion. I would take a hard look at the new strokes gained: tee-to-green metric for this tournament. 
  • Several noted wind players show up on this list, with Chad Campbell, Rory Sabbatini, Robert Allenby and Ryan Palmer jumping off the page in that regard. Sort of a Texas feel, in that regard.
  • We always like a guy with a solid par-4 scoring average, but that may be even more the case this week with 12 par 4s in play.

We will sort this all out and return tomorrow with a Power Ranking. Until then, happy research and enjoy the final round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sony Open - Schedule

Due to the Monday finish at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, I will post my Sony Open Preview sometime on Monday and have my power ranking on Tuesday.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Hyundai Tournament of Champions - Power Ranking

There are 34 players set to tackle The Plantation Course at Kapalua in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and here is a power ranking to break down the field.

Since the field has enjoyed a few weeks off, and some much longer, I leaned less on the form at the end of 2014 and more on course history relative to my normal mix. Adding to that, the various wind conditions and elevation changes lend themselves well to those with experience.

Rather than the Dandy Dozen and the Next 5, we’ll go ahead and rank everyone!

Here we go:
  1. Matt Kuchar – While there are never any guarantees in golf, it’s hard to think of a bigger lock for a top-10 finish that Kuchar. The field isn't that strong after the first few names, and he’s cracked the top 10 in each of his last four visits to Maui. He finished third here in 2010. His last start leading up to this event went for a T8 in the Hero World Challenge after a couple of top 25s to begin the 2014-15 season.
  2. Bubba Watson – Trendy in terms of finishes at Kapalua, with a T25-T18-T4 run in his three trips, the bomber also logged a win in the WGC-HSBC Challenge before messing around in some events outside of the PGA TOUR.
  3. Jason Day – Aussies have a strong history in this event through the years, and Day tied for ninth here in 2011 in his only visit. He tied for fifth in the Hero World Challenge leading up to this and should stand a nice chance at hoisting the hardware.
  4. Patrick Reed – The HTOC is typically an event that requires tons of birdies, and Reed is a candidate to go on a big birdie binge. He posted a middle-of-the-pack T16 here last year, which isn’t all that bad for a rookie in this event. It stands to reason that he could follow a formula similar to Bubba, where he improves incrementally each trip. Also, T3 in the Hero.
  5. Zach Johnson – The defending champ gets a vote of confidence, in part because the field is missing several of the classier players who qualified with a win. His T8 at the Hero World Challenge was his first top 10 since a runner-up at the John Deere Classic.
  6. Billy Horschel – Much like Reed, I like the thought of a player like Horschel getting hot and posting some deep numbers. The caution is that he clearly spent more time celebrating his 2013-14 FEC title as opposed to pulling himself together for the start of 2014-15, but this is a good place for him to snap out of it. He tied for sixth here last year, with all four of his rounds under par.
  7. Ryan Moore – Sliding Moore into the latter half of most top-10 lists is never a bad idea, and his history here solidifies that this week. He has two top 10s in three previous trips. He showed that he can be a course horse when he won the CIMB Classic for the second consecutive year.
  8. Hideki Matsuyama – He’s the first rookie to crack this list and with good reason. He has secured top-25 finishes in seven of his last eight starts, including a win in the Dunlop Phoenix. He was 10th in Par Breakers on the PGA TOUR last year, which should come in handy this week.
  9. Jimmy Walker – Looks like a great fit on paper, but his T21 last year is worth a pause. When one considers he won the Sony Open a week later, it can be inferred that his game was in good shape at Kapalua and he still couldn’t crack the top 20 in a field of 30. On the flip side, the experience could only have helped him.
  10. Hunter Mahan – The expectant father has a T3 on his record in the 2014-15 PGA TOUR season and a T5 on his ledger in this event. The problem is, his more recent returns in both the season and this event have not been as good.
  11. Chris Kirk
  12. Kevin Streelman
  13. Charley Hoffman
  14. Robert Streb
  15. Sang-moon Bae
  16. Geoff Ogilvy
  17. John Senden
  18. Angel Cabrera
  19. Russell Henley
  20. Tim Clark
  21. Scott Stallings
  22. J.B. Holmes
  23. Brendon Todd
  24. Ben Martin
  25. Camilo Villegas
  26. Brian Harman
  27. Matt Every
  28. Steven Bowditch
  29. Ben Crane
  30. Chesson Hadley
  31. Seung-yul Noh
  32. Matt Jones
  33. Nick Taylor
  34. Kevin Stadler

Let the games begin!

My Yahoo! and Golf Channel picks are listed in Playing the Tips on Rotoworld. I encourage you to check it out, along with my Rotoworld colleagues.

As for the one-and-done, I’ve always felt that this is a week to draw a big gun. Limited field + lots of first timers = a good chance for a classy veteran to win.

I narrowed my focus to Matt Kuchar, Patrick Reed and Billy Horschel. My gut wanted to go with Reed, but my head says it’s the right week to go with Kuchar. He has as good of a chance to win this week if any, maybe better, and he’s a top 10 machine.

Best of luck to all!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hyundai Tournament of Champions - Preview

The Hyundai Tournament of Champions is set to take place on The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort beginning Friday of this week, kicking off the 2015 portion of the 2014-15 PGA TOUR season.

The Plantation Course is a par-73 layout, stretching out to 7,452 yards. A common misconception is that this course sets up best for the bombers, but that isn't necessarily the case. Because there are just three par 3s, the course plays shorter that the yardage. Adding to that, the final hole is a 663-yard par 5 that plays dramatically down hill, thus playing much shorter than the yardage would suggest. Digging deeper, players of moderate length can generally reach the other 3 par 5s if tee shots find the fairway.

So what matters at Kapalua? Smooth putting, for one. Winners and those who are contenders are generally pretty solid from inside of 10 feet. There are plenty of birdie looks out there, so converting as many as possible is a key. Since there are 11 par 4s, par-4 scoring average is as important as ever.

Below is a list of winners and runners-up since 2005:

  • 2005 - Stuart Appleby (-21) over Jonathan Kaye (-20)
  • 2006 - Stuart Appleby (-8) over Vijay Singh (-8) in a playoff
  • 2007 - Vijay Singh (-14) over Adam Scott (-12)
  • 2008 - Daniel Chopra (-18) over Steve Stricker in a playoff
  • 2009 - Geoff Ogilvy (-24) over Anthony Kim and Davis Love III (-18)
  • 2010 - Geoff Ogilvy (-22) over Rory Sabbatini (-21)
  • 2011 - Jonathan Byrd (-24) over Robert Garrigus (-24) in a playoff
  • 2012 - Steve Stricker (-23) over Martin Laird (-20)
  • 2013 - Dustin Johnson (-16) over Steve Stricker (-12) (54 holes)
  • 2014 - Zach Johnson (-19) over Jordan Spieth (-18)
One other thing that jumps off the page in regards to this list, is that these guys aren't exactly the most accurate drivers on the planet. The Plantation Course offers generous fairways and relatively benign rough, so a player of average length with a little trouble finding the fairway stands a chance to get away with more than a few sins. 

I will return on Wednesday with a look at the power rankings and various fantasy formats. Until then, happy research!

Kicking off 2015

It's hard to believe that is has been almost two months since my last post. It is, by far, the longest layoff in the three-year journey of this space. There are several things I would like to draw your attention to as the calendar has turned to 2015 and the 2014-15 PGA TOUR season is preparing for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

While I've been quiet on this blog, I've published several articles on Rotoworld.com. I encourage gamers about to begin full-season games to check out my latest top 125 for some additional research. I also participated in a Rotoworld series called "King for a Day", where each of the Rotoworld staffers took a look at a big issue in golf they would tackle if they were in charge for one day. Because I'm passionate about pace of play as it relates to my own golfing rounds, I tackled that topic here.

For those of you who missed out on various games that kicked off with the Frys.com Open to begin the 2014-15 season, I'm aware of several games that have continued to run from the Hyundai Tournament of Champions through the TOUR Championship that I would encourage you to consider.

A salary cap game that I have played in the past is hosted on https://www.fantasygolfteam.com/ and called Therese's League. It's run very well and generally updated within 12-24 hours of the conclusion of a tournament. You pick your team at the beginning of the year and sit back and reap the rewards. My latest top 125 should be a nice tool when selecting this team.

The other is a one-and-done format hosted by my good friends at Golfmanna. As you will likely remember, I publish my one-and-done pick on a weekly basis in this space, so I'll be around to lay out some advice and provide a thought process throughout the season for this game.

One final, but important, item of business involves the schedule of the blog this season. In the past, I've been very diligent about providing something to consume for Sunday - Wednesday leading up to the tournament. This year, I intend to scale that down to one or two posts per week, while still providing the same amount of information. I will continue to provide my Preview on the Sunday night prior to a tournament, and follow that up with power rankings, fantasy picks, etc roughly 36 hours before a tournament tees off. That means this week, with a Friday start, I will likely post Wednesday night. Most other tournaments will be Tuesday night.

Check back later tonight for a preview of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and let's make it a great year!