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PGA Tour Stats Review: Entering the Shriners Open

Jeremy Schilling

Schilling covers golf for RotoWire, focusing on young and up-and-coming players. He was a finalist for the FSWA's Golf Writer of the Year award. He also contributes to PGA Magazine and hosts the popular podcast "Teeing It Up" on BlogTalkRadio.

This week the PGA Tour's fall start to the 2013-2014 season moves to Las Vegas for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. One of the most interesting things about both last week's Open and this week is how strong the fields have been. In fact, 20 of the 50 Reshuffle List players are in the Monday qualifier to get into this week's event. What does that mean? A lot of golfers are enticed to play this fall portion of the schedule, giving the new cardholders limited playing opportunities. From a fantasy perspective, there are some interesting choices. Let's dive in.

History Lesson

The defending champion of this event is Ryan Moore. Recent winners include Kevin Na, Jonathan Byrd, Martin Laird and Marc Turnesa.

All of those players are in the field this week. Our best recommendation is Na, who, after an awful 2013, tied for third last week at the Open. He was second in strokes gained-putting, averaging a gain of more than two strokes per round. Additionally, he tied for third in birdies for the week.

Who to Know

In terms of notable names, Zach Johnson - one of the hottest golfers on the planet with his run through the FedEx Cup playoffs and Presidents Cup that included a win at the BMW Championship - leads the field along with other top-flight performers, including Webb Simpson, Vegas resident Nick Watney, last week's winner Jimmy Walker and third-place finisher Brooks Koepka.

Besides Johnson, keep an eye out for the latter three names on that list. Watney has looked good in the early stages of a swing change and lives in Vegas. He finished second here in 2011.

Walker is obviously coming in off a major high and has a ton of momentum. He was strong in these two categories last week: birdies - 24 (first in field), and strokes gained-putting - 3.073 (first in the field).

While Koepka had his problems down the stretch at CordeValle and limped home, he did have a super strong week and showed that he has a ton of game on this side of the Atlantic. He also had 24 birdies, was 11th in driving distance at more than 307 yards per pop, was first in sand saves and fifth in strokes gained-putting. If he can get past the disappointment of Sunday, he's certainly someone to watch this week.

Sunday Surgers

With the season being so young, our All-Around Ranking segment is going on hiatus. So for the time being, we'll look at those who surged up the leaderboard Sunday and are in the field this week. Playing without pressure can sometimes lead to breakthroughs, so fantasy owners may want to play these players who showed fine form on Sunday.

Kevin Na
(20 spots) - This makes Na an even better pick as his game rounded into form Sunday and led to a strong finish.

Scott Brown
(20) - Brown is a good pick not only because of a final-round surge but also because his 2012 win was in an opposite-field event, which didn't get him to The Masters like regular victories do. So he's looking for that second win to secure a ticket to Augusta.

Brendon Todd
(26) - Todd just got his card back via the Tour Finals and put on a dazzling performance Sunday, shooting a 66 that got him off to a great start for his 2013-2014 season.

Camilo Villegas
(34) - Villegas played 2013 under pressure, not having full status on the PGA Tour. He does for this year, however, and is presumably playing with a freedom that he didn't have last year. He shot a final-round 65 that gave him a T26 performance to open the new campaign.