Fantasy Golf Blog Fantasy Golf

Stenson’d at Bay Hill

Photo Credit: Neil Parker

It didn’t take long for one-and-done fantasy golf to become a favorite. It’s a nice spinoff of NFL survivor pools and typically provides a weekly viewing interest. Unfortunately, Henrik Stenson missing this week’s cut denied me of watching my selection take a run at the win during Sunday’s trip to Bay Hill.

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US Ryder Cup Roster: Sifting the Grizzlies and the Teddy Bears

Here’s one man’s quick reaction to the qualifiers for the United States Ryder Cup team.

Already clinched a spot in the locker room:

9. Zach Johnson – A lot of USA fans are quietly heaving a sigh of relief that Johnson qualified on points. He’s a great battler, a grinder who can beat an adversary in match play even when he isn’t playing his best. As Tiger Woods learned at Thousand Oaks in December, Johnson has a wonderful wedge game. If he hadn’t made it on points, he would have been well worth a captain’s pick, based on experience and guts.

8. Patrick Reed – He staked a claim to a position on the team with two early-2014 wins, and then limped along in the points standings to hang on to a top-nine position. Those wins seem like a long time ago now; a T4 at the WGC Bridgestone is the only thing separating him from a thoroughly pedestrian spring and summer. But more fundamentally, who will agree to play with him in foursomes and four-balls? After his brash comments in the winter series, he isn’t likely to make the Tour’s Top Five in peer popularity.

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Questions and Answers at the PGA Tour’s Halfway Mark

Halfway? Already? Didn’t we just get over the Masters buzz? Well, it’s true; with the shift in the PGA Tour’s schedule this season, there are only 38 weekly events (leaving out things like the midweek Tavistock Cup and The Presidents Cup at the end of the season), and The Players was No. 19. As usual, there are lots of questions, some of which even have definitive answers. For the rest of them, we’ll attempt to scry through the trusty crystal ball.
Who’s stepped up so far? This one’s easy. Tiger Woods has won four times already; no other player has won more than once. He’s comfortably ahead in the Official World Golf Rankings and in FedEx Cup points. Last year, golf experts were asking in not-so-hushed tones whether Tiger would ever win another major, or would be able to regain his form enough to challenge Sam Snead’s record of 82 wins. The Players is the 78th win of Woods’ career; and as for talk of the next three majors, who else would you name as the favorite at this point? Woods has already banked almost $6 million, and we haven’t reached the middle of May yet. It’s too early to award the Player of the Year, but if they had a Player of the Half-Year, there wouldn’t be another serious contender.
Okay; who other than the obvious answer? Brandt Snedeker absolutely rocked the early-season events (a win, two seconds, and a third in five starts) until a rib injury sidelined him for six weeks. He missed his first two cuts after returning, but then posted solid results at The Masters (T6) and The Players (T8). He’s only entered 10 events this year, but leads the Tour in Top-10 finishes with six.
Does that portend a solid second half by Snedeker? Maybe; but there are precedents for a midseason fold by players who dominated the early going. In 2009, Geoff Ogivly won twice in his first five events and posted a T6 the week before the Masters. He was miles ahead on the money list, and looked for all the world like he was about to enjoy a massive season. Instead, he went away and hid; his best finish after that was a 7th at the Deutsche Bank in September. Snedeker has the skills, of course – everyone at this level does – but if he falters, he won’t be the first to do so.
Who stepped in it? Has there been a Jason Dufner sighting lately? After a breakout performance in 2012, he’s faltered noticeably this season. Oh, he’s making cuts – eight of the 10 stroke-play events he’s entered thus far – but when they hand out paychecks at the end, most of his have been in the low-five-figure range. He’s only had two finishes better than 20th place, and one of those was a T18 at the reduced-field Hyundai Tournament of Champions (only 30 entries). At last weekend’s Players, he was actually in the hunt at the beginning of the final round. But he closed with an 80 that dropped him from T13 all the way to T62. He’s No. 83 on the money list and has a ton of work to do if he wants to approach his $4.8 million in winnings from last year.
Who’s likeliest to break through and win a first career major the rest of this year? Let’s break this into US players and international players. For the US, Steve Stricker is worth considering, because of the layout at Merion for the US Open. It’ll be a far shorter course (under 7,000 yards, and on some days, maybe close to 6,800) than the tracks the pros are facing weekly these days. Stricker is one of the best wedge players anywhere. If he’s driving the ball even reasonably well, he might get to use that wedge seven, eight, maybe nine times a round on par-4 approaches. He announced at the beginning of the season that he would play a reduced schedule, but you can’t tell it from his bank account; he’s six-for-six in cuts made and has posted four Top-25 finishes, including three Top-10s. Yes, he would be among the oldest major winners, but that maturity will only help him under Open pressure. You can probably get good betting odds on Rickie Fowler and Bill Haas, too.
For the international set, I’d say pick one of three Brits: Luke Donald is vastly overdue; Lee Westwood has a dramatically improved short game; and Justin Rose is scary-good on those days when he can find the fairways. If you like backing longer shots, look at Carl Pettersson and Nicolas Colsaerts; Thorbjorn Oleson has tremendous ability but probably isn’t ready yet.
Who’s likeliest to pad a resume that already includes a major? You mean other than Woods? Tiger may or may not win another major this year, but if you absolutely must back only one player only for any given week, Woods is the only pick for any event he enters. Louis Oosthuizen deserves serious consideration, as does Graeme McDowell.
You left out Rory McIlroy. Why, yes, I did! Here’s why: When he crushed the field at Congressional in 2011 at age 22, pundits broke plenty of ulnas trying to elbow each other aside to proclaim him The Next Tiger. Guess what? He didn’t win an event the rest of that season. He repeated the dominant performance in the 2012 season, winning the PGA and two FedEx Cup playoff events on the way to Player-of-the-Year honors, but after taking some time off, he started the 2013 season seemingly unable to find any level of comfort on the course. To his credit, he’s played fairly well recently (three Top-10s in his last four starts), but with only one exception – a solo second at the Valero Texas Open – his weekend play has taken him out of contention. It might be the new swooshed sticks; it might be something else; but he hasn’t shown anything like the consistency it takes to be on a list of likeliest major winners this year.
How about Adam Scott? Is there a chance for a Grand Slam? Next question . . .
Will Sergio Garcia recover from his monumental collapse at The Players? In order to be a successful pro, you have to have a dependable reservoir of Golfer’s Amnesia. Yes, it will bother him to think about it. But when it counts, when he’s standing over a 187-yard approach shot from light rough on the back nine on Sunday at Muirfield or Oak Hill, he isn’t going to be thinking about Sawgrass. He’ll be okay.
But don’t expect him to win any majors.

He Did WHAT?! McIlroy Withdraws From Honda Classic

As Friday’s second round of the Honda Classic began, defending champion Rory McIlroy had reason for optimism. Despite struggling in his first two events of the season, he looked forward to one of his favorite events of the year: “I really felt like I was rounding a corner” on an uninspiring start to the 2013 campaign. A first-round 70 (E) left him several strokes behind the leaders, but still well within striking range at such an early point.
Six holes into his second round, he stood three over par, having carded a bogey and a double bogey. He proceeded to post a triple-bogey 7, followed by a bogey 4, on the next two holes. Now he’s seven over par and can’t see the cut line with a telescope. On his ninth hole, a par 5, he plopped his second shot into a water hazard. At this point, with further pursuit of weekend play rendered meaningless, he shook hands with his fellow competitors and walked off the course.
A mid-round withdrawal is nothing new; injured players do it in order to prevent career-threatening aggravation of serious conditions. But when members of the press followed him to his car and asked if there was anything physically wrong, he repeatedly said no, adding, “I’m just in a bad place mentally."
An hour later, his handlers had a different spin on the astonishing turn of events, claiming in a prepared statement that McIlroy was suffering from a painful wisdom tooth that hampered his concentration. The statement didn’t come clipped to a note from his dentist.
Fantasy owners now join the rest of the golf world in posing plenty of unanswered questions:
  • If the tooth was an issue, why didn’t he tell the reporters that? Waiting until later makes it look like prepared spin by handlers, based on plausible deniability.
  • Is McIlroy fully comfortable with his new Nike clubs? The Swoosh gave him 200 million reasons to be happy, but his game doesn’t reflect that.
  • When will the prodigy return? The Masters is less than six weeks away, and McIlroy hasn’t answered the alarm clock yet.
  • Absent a real, urgent medical problem (as contrasted with just playing awfully), is there any good excuse for quitting a round after eight holes? There are plenty of 15-handicappers who can answer that question, at least.
Through three events, McIlroy has completed four rounds plus eight holes. He posted back-to-back 75s in Abu Dhabi to finish +6 and miss the cut. Last week at the WGC Accenture Match Play, he played the #64 seed, Shane Lowry, who managed to squeeze into the event because Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker didn’t enter. McIlroy lost to the lowest-ranked player in the event, posting a round that could charitably be called another 75 (he picked up on the crucial 15th hole, conceding it to Lowry to go 2-down). And this week, he managed to post an even-par round Thursday, before Friday’s self-immolation.
Thus, after 4½ rounds this season, McIlroy has yet to break par; he’s 16-over for the year. We don’t have a meaningful sample to consider his performance stats. And obviously, he isn’t anywhere near the leaders in FedEx Cup points, the Race to Dubai, or money lists on either side of the pond.
I’m not about to marginalize the effect of a sore wisdom tooth; if that was really bothering him, it can be a real distraction. That circumstance isn’t likely to affect him in the long-term, assuming he gets it treated as he says he will. The switch of clubs is more problematic, although he insists that it’s his swing, not the sticks. As noted above, he has 200 million reasons to state publicly that his golf clubs are fine – great, even – regardless of how he really feels about them. If they become a real problem, he might find a way to ditch them, as he did with the Nike putter, which lasted only one round in Abu Dhabi before he switched back to another manufacturer’s flat stick.
The greatest danger, as Steve Blass could tell him, is in the six inches between his ears. Most likely, McIlroy will snap out of this and return to being a serious threat to win any event he enters. He’ll try again next week at the WGC Cadillac at Doral. 
At least for now, I advise skepticism. Let’s see him make a cut before you go investing in his success over the course of this season.

Going Tapioca at the Accenture, Final Day

Final Day of the Accenture. Currently looking at a modest win, but we’re not done with the picks yet. Three more matches to go; start counting the jelly beans. (Selections for entertainment purposes only.)

9-7, +165 (1.65 units)

Semifinal Selections
— Jason Day over Matt Kuchar, 100 to win 125
— Hunter Mahan over Ian Poulter, 60 to win 72

I will try to post a pick on the championship match, assuming there’s time to do so.

Past Results

Pettersson beats Fowler, +115
Woods loses to Howell, -240
Siem loses to Donald, -100

Garrigus beats Oosthuizen, +120
Sterne loses to Mahan, -100
Poulter beats Van Pelt, +100
Fernandez-Castano beats Howell, +120
Hanson loses to Simpson, -100

McDowell beats Lowry, +100
Jacobson loses to Garrigus, -100
Kaymer loses to Mahan, -100
Poulter beats Clark, +100
Fernandez-Castano loses to Simpson, -50

Poulter beats Stricker, +100
Mahan beats Simpson, +100
Day beats McDowell, +100

Going Tapioca at the Accenture, Round 3

Had a winning Round 2, but still have overall work to be done. Here are the Round 3 selections. All selections are in jelly beans; for entertainment purposes only.

— McDowell over Lowry, 130 to win 100
— Jacobson over Garrigus, 100 to win 105
— Kaymer over Mayhan, 110 to win 100
— Poulter over Clark, 160 to win 100
— Fernandez-Castano over Simpson, 50 to win 60

Previous results:

Pettersson beats Fowler, +115
Woods loses to Howell, -240
Siem loses to Donald, -100
Garrigus over Oosthuizen, +120
Sterne loses to Mahan, -100
Poulter over Van Pelt, +100
Fernandez-Castano over Howell, +120
Hanson loses to Simpson, -100

4-4, -.85 unit

Tapioca at the Accenture Match Play – Day 2

Day 1 was bloody (1-2), though at least Carl Pettersson closed his match out this morning. We trudge forward. All units are in jelly beans – for entertainment purposes only.

>> Garrigus over Oosthuizen, 100 to win 120

Fearless player, mad bomber, dangerous in this format.

>> Sterne over Mahan, 100 to win 130

Check Sterne’s European results, he’s healthy and confident again.

>> Poulter over Van Pelt, 135 to win 100

The best match-play golfer in the world at this reasonable price? Yes, please.

>> Round 1 Advancer over Charles Howell, 100-base play

I dare Howell to putt that well for two days in a row. Satisfaction and a letdown might come after the Tiger upset.

>> Hanson over Simpson, 100 to win 125

Enjoy, and good luck,.