As Yahoo! gamers tangle with the first phase of the FedExCup Playoffs at The Barclays, strategies must inject the wrinkle of survive and advance. Naturally, you don't want to be empty-handed at East Lake for the finale, so if you're rationing starts on studs, consider plugging in one or two guys on the bubble that are currently trending upwards.
Since FedExCup points consist of an aggregate accrual, golfers that have sat out due to non-injury-related reasons are relative sleepers. The short list consists of Jonathan Byrd, Jason Day, Chris Kirk and Matt Every, all of whom took time off before, during or after their wives gave birth. While you must still evaluate each as it relates to his fit at Bethpage, don't immediately dismiss based on FedExCup ranking alone. Same goes for international members that play a limited schedule.
Meanwhile, last week in PGA TOUR Matchups on Facebook, I went 3-2-0 to bring my overall record to 74-63-3 for 157 points. Leader Austin Frank slapped a 5-0-0 slate on the board to establish a commanding six-point margin over Chris Stolle (4-1-0), 187-181. Michael Flanagan and Steve Zamborsky both went 3-2-0 and share third place overall with 179 points.
My picks for The Barclays:
• Rory McIlroy over Tiger Woods • Dustin Johnson over Matt Kuchar • Adam Scott over Sergio Garcia • Ernie Els over Phil Mickelson • Fredrik Jacobson over Jason Day
Power Rankings Distribution for Yahoo! (rank)
Group A ... Keegan Bradley (3); Steve Stricker (8); Matt Kuchar (9); Sergio Garcia (10); Luke Donald (11); Adam Scott (12)
Group B ... Rory McIlroy (1); Bubba Watson (2); Tiger Woods (4); Justin Rose (5); Dustin Johnson (7); Bo Van Pelt (13); Tim Clark (14); Hunter Mahan (15)
Group C ... Graeme McDowell (6)
Sleepers Distribution for Yahoo! (rank)
Group A ... none
Group B ... none
Group C ... Graham DeLaet; John Senden; Daniel Summerhays; Cameron Tringale; Boo Weekley
On a Roll (Yahoo! Group; FedExCup ranking)
Carl Pettersson (C; 7th) ... Overcame hiccups early in his final round at Sedgefield to lasso a T4, and that was on the heels of a T3 at the PGA Championship. Given his propensity to play often, fatigue is less likely of a factor for a fade than course matchup. Alas, he doesn't fit Bethpage as well, and would need to lean a bit more on his world-class short game. But frankly, I'm splitting hairs. Few are as dialed in as the Swede right now.
Bill Haas (B; 21st) ... With a T7 at last week's Wyndham Championship, he finally ended his drought without a top 15 that extended back to his playoff win at Riviera in February. Should wear out Bethpage tee to green, but he'll need some of his short-game mojo to contend.
Bud Cauley (C; 35th) ... He's made just 32 career starts on the PGA TOUR, but he's logged a top-four finish in six of them, including last week's solo third at Sedgefield. It was his third top four in his last four starts. The rookie ranks 33rd in greens in regulation and 27th in GIR from lies off the fairway. Also 51st in adjusted scoring.
Seung-yul Noh (C; 40th) ... He's survived 14 consecutive cuts, a streak that's featured eight top 25s, including a T21 in his last start at the PGA Championship. He went the first three rounds as I projected -- sluggishly -- but then found a second wind and recorded a field-low 65 in the finale. Now refreshed after a week off, the rookie looks good again. Currently 36th on TOUR in total driving, 28th in greens hit and 31st in adjusted scoring.
Ian Poulter (B; 55th) ... Performing exceptionally better than his splits indicate, with four top 10s in 12 starts this season, including a T3 at the PGA Championship. Shared 18th in the U.S. Open in 2009 at Bethpage.
|Rob's Yahoo! lineup|
Vijay Singh (C; 57th) ... Faded to finish T36 at the PGA Championship with a closing 77, but he had posted top 10s in his previous two starts. Sits 43rd on TOUR in total driving, 79th in greens in regulation and 20th in GIR from lies off the fairway. Tied for 27th at Bethpage in the 2009 U.S. Open.
Padraig Harrington (C; 62nd) ... Seven top 20s in his last eight starts. Not a super Yahoo! investment given that game's format unless you ride him all week.
Aaron Baddeley (C; 65th) ... Recently discovered that he was making incorrect adjustments during rounds. With that sorted out, his confidence has to grow, but only results can fulfill expectations. His best finish of late is a T8 at Firestone where he posted 66s in the second and fourth rounds. Despite his cachet, he's a sleeper to advance to East Lake for the second straight year.
Geoff Ogilvy (B; 68th) ... Eclipsed seven figures in earnings with a T11 at the PGA Championship, and achieved that figure with just one top 10 all year; he's posted nine top 25s overall. Sits outside the top 100 in both total driving and greens in regulation, but his greenside game is too strong for gamers to rely on a fade at Bethpage.
Chris Kirk (B; 80th) ... Shared 22nd place at Sedgefield. Riding an active streak of 12 consecutive rounds in the 60s in stroke-play events. Ranks 23rd on TOUR in greens hit and third in birdies or better on par 4s.
John Merrick (C; 81st) ... Top 15s in his last two starts, including a T10 at Sedgefield where he co-led the field in greens hit and played his last 23 holes in bogey-free 6-under. Currently 18th on TOUR in total driving and 14th in greens in regulation.
Harris English (C; 87th) ... Snapped out of his funk with a T10 at the Wyndham to rise seven spots in the FedExCup standings. The timing was terrific, too, as he's 22nd in total driving and 37th in greens hit, the kinds of splits that blend with Bethpage.
Horses for Courses (Yahoo! Group; FedExCup ranking)
Zach Johnson (A; 4th) ... Supplants the idle Jason Dufner (2nd in FedExCup points) in the grouping at Bethpage featuring the top dogs in points (Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, who rank 1st and 3rd, respectively). ZJ's success leans heavily on hitting greens, but even though he's 102nd on TOUR in GIR, he's 14th in adjusted scoring thanks primarily to a 0.739 clip in Strokes Gained-Putting, good for third-best.
Jim Furyk (A; 17th) ... It would be a challenge to find a track where he couldn't contend but if there's one out there, it'll have some length to it. However, he got it around the quagmire that was Bethpage in the 2009 U.S. Open well enough to finish T33. With four top fives on the year, he's still hungry for that victory that has slipped through his fingers. Currently fifth on TOUR in fairways hit, 43rd in greens and fifth in adjusted scoring.
Robert Garrigus (A; 24th) ... Anytime a golfer speaks candidly about his confidence, gamers both love and fear it. For all intents and purposes, after his co-runner-up in Canada where the bomber said that no one was striping it better than he, he backdoored a top 25 at the PGA Championship thanks to a closing 67. It's certainly better than the alternative and it was also a major, so he somewhat fulfilled the swagger. Bethpage plays right into his game. As I've stated in other features, the small greens will also help hide deficiencies in putting.
Louis Oosthuizen (A; 34th) ... The South African with the swing kids are encouraged to try at home is overlooked as a long hitter, but he can move it. His position as 29th on the PGA TOUR in distance boosts his rank in total driving to 31st. He's also 41st in greens hit and 17th in adjusted scoring. He sandwiched a solo fourth at Firestone with top 25s in the last two majors. If you're saving starts elsewhere, give him a look.
Leaking Oil (Yahoo! Group; FedExCup ranking)
Rickie Fowler (B; 18th) ... Since a T5 at Colonial, he's survived four of five cuts but hasn't posted a top 30. Expressed disappointment with his putting recently; to wit, he's 144th in Stroked Gained-Putting. However, he's 13th in total driving and owns the kind of firepower to spring out of his slump in a hurry.
D.A. Points (B; 50th) ... No top 35s among two cuts made in his last eight starts.
Charley Hoffman (B; 67th) ... Since withdrawing prior to his final round of the John Deere Classic due to a bad back, he's missed the cut in each of three starts.
Rory Sabbatini (A; 73rd) ... Since a T19 at the John Deere Classic, he's missed three straight cuts. Currently 145th on TOUR in total driving and 168th in greens hit.
Bryce Molder (B; 96th) ... His only top 30 in his last 12 starts is a T24 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Chris Stroud (B; 99th) ... Hasn't posted a top 50 in his last seven starts.
Brian Gay (C; 110th) ... Only one top 40 (T28, RBC Canadian Open) in his last 13 starts.
Robert Allenby (B; 112th) ... In his last seven starts, his only cut made was a solo 69th at the no-cut Bridgestone Invitational
James Driscoll (C; 115th) ... After three straight missed cuts culminating at the British Open, he took three weeks off only to return to another missed cut at the Wyndham Championship.
Colt Knost (C; 120th) ... His only cut made in his last 13 starts resulted in a T48 at the RBC Canadian Open.
Harrison Frazar (B; 121st) ... Zero top 70s among two cuts made in his last eight starts. No top 45s in his last 15.
Danger (Yahoo! Group; FedExCup ranking)
Phil Mickelson (A; 14th) ... Continues to remain positive despite no top 35s in his last six starts. At this point, gamers wouldn't mind holding their collective breath for him to get a shot at East Lake. Any success prior to that is gravy.
Lee Westwood (B; 51st) ... Grinding through splits with his temporary caddie -- injured Billy Foster is scheduled to resume in early 2013 -- and long-time coach, Pete Cowen. There's value in swift changes, and his poor results support the decisions, but let's give him a week of live action before we hop back on the bandwagon.
Charles Howell III (A; 59th) ... Zero top 25s in his last 13 starts, a span that covers three months and includes six missed cuts.
Jason Day (B; 113th) ... Arguably best known among gamers as a guy to avoid when ball-striking is critical. To wit, he ranks a respective 190th and 180th in fairways and greens hit. Despite three top 10s and another three top 25s, he didn't gather momentum at any time all season, and ultimately missed only four weeks due to the birth of his first child.
Medic! (Yahoo! Group; FedExCup ranking)
Kevin Na (A; 38th) ... Walked off Kiawah Island after 13 holes of his second round of the PGA Championship due to a shoulder injury.
Ben Crane (C; 39th) ... Out with a back injury since withdrawing during his third round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational on Aug. 4.
Sean O'Hair (A; 63rd) ... Withdrew during his second round of the PGA Championship with a wrist injury.
Tom Gillis (C; 92nd) ... An illness bumped him from the Wyndham Championship before his third round.
Henrik Stenson (C; 117th) ... Forced out before his second round at Sedgefield last week due to a "bad stomach." Six top 25s in 12 starts.
Notable WDs (Yahoo! Group; FedExCup ranking)
Jason Dufner (C; 2nd) ... Rose to second in FedExCup points with a T7 at the Wyndham Championship, but has opted to rest this week for the final three tournaments.
Spencer Levin (A; 45th) ... Withdrew following the sudden death of his brother.