The Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation is the first of three tournaments during the FedExCup portion of the schedule that utilizes more than one golf course. All three events occur in a four-week period beginning this week. This quirk influences strategy in the Yahoo! format since it allows modifications to lineups for every round.
While courses at PGA West are pushovers, there is enough of a variance between them to earn your attention. For example, in its three years in the rotation, Nicklaus Private has checked in with actual scoring averages of 66.98 (2009), 68.99 (2010) and 69.21 (2011).
Compare the most recent two years to La Quinta (not played in 2009), which averaged 69.97 in 2010 and 70.02 in 2011. That's 0.98 strokes more than Nicklaus Private in 2010 and 0.81 in 2011. The lesson is clear: invest in Nicklaus Private over La Quinta.
Yahoo! gamers have a reasonable alternative in Palmer Private during the first three rounds, which is to say that La Quinta should be avoided entirely if possible.
Looking at the last three years, the host course has averaged 68.81 (2009), 69.23 (2010) and 69.09 (2011). With regards to its split as a singular site for the final (fifth) round during that period, the only anomaly occurred in 2009 when it averaged 70.35. However, winds gusted from 15-30 mph that afternoon.
I will add my picks for the Matchups game on Facebook once it begins during the West Coast Swing. The first event is still TBD.
Power Rankings Distribution for Yahoo! (rank)
Sleepers Distribution for Yahoo! (rank)
Group A ... Camilo Villegas
On a Roll (Yahoo! Group)
Bryce Molder (B) ... Hasn't finished worse than T11 in his last four starts dating back to the JT Shriners. Best known as a superb putter, he proved at the Frys.com Open that he doesn't have to hit greens in regulation to win, ranking T43 in GIR en route to victory. Ranked third in Strokes Gained-Putting in 2011 and 34th in birdie average.
David Hearn (C) ... Canada's top-rated golfer (220th in the Official World Golf Ranking) has three top 10s and a T20 in his last five starts dating back to the JT Shriners. This includes a T10 at last week's Sony Open where he led the field in Strokes Gained-Putting. He's a first-timer at PGA West.
Ted Potter Jr. (B) ... It seems illogical that a guy making his second career PGA TOUR start would qualify for this category but we might as well hop on his back sooner than later. In his debut at Waialae last week, he scored par or better in every round including a bogey-free 66 on Saturday. Also ranked T10 in greens hit and 19th in Strokes Gained-Putting. Last year on the Nationwide Tour, the lefty finished third in greens, fifth in birdie average and second on actual scoring average.
John Rollins (B) ... Ideally surnamed for this group. He finished second here in 2007 but hasn't placed inside the top 50 in five other starts. Rather, I'm focused on the fact that he's posted top 10s in three of his last four starts dating back to the Frys.com Open. Played his last 35 holes at Waialae last week in bogey-free 10-under.
Horses for Courses (Yahoo! Group)
Chris Kirk (B) ... Tied for seventh in his first appearance at PGA West last year. Ranked 58th on TOUR in greens hit in 2011 and 27th in birdie average.
|Rob's Yahoo! lineup|
Robert Garrigus (A) ... First appearance here since 2009 when he started the final round tied for third (seven strokes back). He closed with a 73 to finish T14, good for his second top 20 here in three starts. Has ranked inside the top 25 on TOUR in birdie average in each of the last two years. Also worth noting per his Twitter page: "It feels like I am a rookie again. It's been so long since my last round and I lost 15 lbs. since Disney and am ready to go this year!!"
Derek Lamely (C) ... Top 20s in both of his starts at this event, including a T13 last year when he led the field in putting. Also had a field-high six eagles on the week including three in his fourth round (64) at La Quinta.
John Merrick (C) ... His solo second here in 2009 remains his best finish in 139 career PGA TOUR starts. Also has a T16 (2008) and T26 (2010) to complement it. Didn't qualify on merit for last year's field.
Leaking Oil (Yahoo! Group)
David Toms (B) ... Finished second-to-last at Kapalua and missed the cut on the number at Waialae.
Ricky Barnes (C) ... Placed 19th at the CIMB Asia Pacific Malaysia and T3 at the Dunlop Phoenix to end 2011 with some momentum, but has zero top 35s in his last 11 PGA TOUR starts, including a missed cut last week at Sony.
Heath Slocum (C) ... After concluding the Fall Series with a pair of top 20s, he finished last of 144 in the field at Waialae last week. He's played in the last 10 editions of this event but has managed just one top 30 (T4, 2007).
Arjun Atwal (C) ... Missed the cut by two strokes at the Sony Open. Over his last 15 starts (dating back to last year's Memorial), he has just two top 40s with eight missed cuts.
Matt Bettencourt (C) ... Has made just eight cuts in his last 23 starts, many impacted by injuries.
Danger (Yahoo! Group)
Jhonattan Vegas (A) ... So much for the angle that leaning on him when greens in regulation and birdie average are premiums. I loved how he matched up with Kapalua before he finished last of 27 in the field. That he placed T46 at short, tight Waialae last week is insignificant, but the defending champion might need more feel-good emotion upon returning to the site of his lone PGA TOUR victory than one would have expected not long ago.
Chris Couch (B) ... Over the last two years, he's ranked third (2010) and 25th (2011) in birdie average. Also shared seventh place here last year to begin a consecutive cuts made streak of 12 but tailed considerably late in the year in part due to a back injury.
Medic! (Yahoo! Group)
Dustin Johnson (B) ... First start anywhere since having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Nov. 29. First appearance at PGA West since 2009. He finished T12 here in his debut in 2008 but his career has advanced so far so fast that results like those are distant and largely irrelevant. Instead, as is often the case with guys returning from surgery and a couple of months away from feeling competitive juices and jitters, I'll sit tight on him until he logs at least this one start. Rust is forever a concern in situations like his.
Brandt Snedeker (B) ... First start since having surgery to repair the labrum in his right hip on Nov. 1. Following similar surgery on his left hip at the end of 2010, he returned at PGA West and missed the cut. However, if in 2012 he matches the season he enjoyed after last year's Humana, you'll have many opportunities to insert him into your lineup.
Stuart Appleby (C) ... Out since withdrawing before his second round of the JBWere Masters in Australia a month ago. He had been dealing with a recurring back injury that boiled over that week. Managed just one top 25 over his last 17 starts on the PGA TOUR last year. Hasn't competed at PGA West since 2002.
Ryan Moore (B) ... Making his return to competition since withdrawing from the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic in October with a shoulder injury. He withdrew from this event last year due to the flu. Also has two top 10s and two missed cuts in five career starts at PGA West. Like the others in this category, you should restrict this week to observation only.
Kevin Sutherland (C) ... Although he shared sixth at the Callaway Pebble Beach Invitational in November, he returns to official action for the first time since missing the cut at THE PLAYERS last May. He was given 15 starts on a medical extension due to injuries sustained in a fall at the Valero Texas Open a few weeks prior. He's made the cut in all of the last 13 editions of this tournament but has cracked the top 40 just once since 2004 (T15, 2010). Now 47 years of age, his most useful fantasy days are over anyway.
Notable WDs (Yahoo! Group)
Fredrik Jacobson (B) ... Given that he's been out since the WGC-HSBC Champions with torn ligaments in his left thumb, that he was included in the published field this week was a bit of a surprise. He's verbally committed to the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Feb. 2-5 but as you know nothing is guaranteed.