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Fantasy Golf Strategy: Themes to Consider for 2012

David Ferris

David Ferris

Ferris covers the PGA Tour for RotoWire. He is an award-winning sports writer and a veteran fantasy columnist. He also is a scratch golfer.

Today we'll discuss a few player values I like and don't like for the 2012 season, and the reasons behind them. You might not agree with the names I choose, but maybe the logic behind them will point you to similar options. Forget abou the results here; focus on the process.

RECOMMENDED THEMES

A Consistent Contender Who Didn't Win Last Year:
Matt Kuchar was a Top-10 machine in 2011, bagging nine in 24 starts. And he wasn't sneaking into those checks with late runs that never sniffed contention; he had a pair of seconds and a third-place finish. The idea is to chase the regular contender, knowing that if he wins in the following season, his money haul is sure to see a spike.

I only like applying this to someone who's already won as a pro, someone who's already over the mental hurdle of getting the job done. No problem with Kuchar, he's done that. Basically we're chasing the golf equivalent of a low-BABIP, someone who is probably owed a victory.

A Proven Golfer Off A Bad Year:
Jim Furyk has been a very constant fantasy investment for just about his entire career. Consider where he ranked on the money list from 2005 to 2010: 4th, 2nd, 7th, 12th, 7th, 2nd.

With that in mind, we shouldn't overreact to last year's 53rd-place finish. There's too much consistent history built up. And keep in mind when Furyk last bottomed out (his lost season of 2004), he followed up with a $4.25 million season. He's a great guy to get in 2012.

A Prodigious Driver Who Isn't Pricy Yet:
You're not going to get a lot of consistency with the biggest hitters on tour, but when they're on their game, the birdies and eagles tend to come in bunches. If your league is top heavy toward players who win, don't be afraid to take a stab at a long-hitting longshot. Robert Garrigus is one of my preferred 2012 plays; it seems like he's found happiness and stability in his personal life, and he was fourth on the distance list last season.

Greens in Regulation, a Portable Profile:
The best iron players have a game that can win anywhere; I always feel better when I land a couple of iron-aces for my roster. Chad Campbell and John Senden both wound up on my teams this year; they were Top 10 GIR men in 2011.

Working Class Heroes:
The best players on tour tend to play a limited schedule; once you reach a certain level of expectation, there's no reason to chase every potential check out there. But sometimes you can find proven players who still make a heavy amount of starts. Bo Van Pelt is a solid play in this motif: he made 27 starts in 2011 (en route to the No. 29 slot on the money list) and in 2010 it was 28 starts, No. 13 on the money list.

THEMES TO AVOID

Players Who Are Constantly Hurt:
There's no denying the talent of an Arron Oberholser, say, but how many injuries do you have to see before you write him off for good? Even at the minimum cost, he's not getting my roster spot. Golf is a misunderstood sport when it comes to injuries. There are a lot of physical problems that come into play with these guys, no matter that they're not getting tackled to the ground or thrown up against the glass. Don't make excuses for the guy who can't stay on the course.

And remember that timing takes a while to rebuild once someone returns to play; you don't step on the bent grass and start striping it right away. Tiger Woods is a perfect example of this.

Last Year's Overachiever:
Tommy Gainey is a great story, with the two gloves and the expressive personality and the Big Break resume. But he missed the cut in five of his last seven starts of 2011, and we have to be skeptical about anyone who can't establish himself on the tour until his age 36 season. I would not be surprised if Gainey finished this season outside the Top 100.

Golfers Boosted By A Second-Rate Win:
Bryce Molder pushed into the Top 40 last year, sparked by a tournament victory. Alas, it was the Frys.com Open, an October event that drew a mediocre field. Anytime you can spotlight a player who's earnings were spiked by a second-tier win, bet on a monetary adjustment the following season.

Older Guys Who Can't Putt:
Everyone who plays this game at any level meets the yips now and again, but when you start missing putts into your 40s, you might be signing up for a life-long problem. Ernie Els, sadly, makes his way into this category: he was 182nd in putts per round last year, pushing his earnings under the $1 million mark. He missed the cut in the final three majors, after a forgettable T47 at The Masters. I'm a life-long fan, but into 2012, I'm queasy for the Big Easy.

Anyone Who's Last Name Rhymes With "Singh":
Look, fantasy sports are supposed to be fun as much as anything else. Rooting for Vijay Singh on a weekly basis will never be fun for me.

You want something more logical? Stay with me. Singh jumped 38 spots on the money list last year at age 48, and you don't want to chase that sort of thing from any player that late in the game. You'll see big years here and there from players in their late 40s, but they have to be taken with a grain of salt, as mirages, as events unlikely to repeat.