By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist
The winners of the first two events of the PGA TOUR season were inside the top 10 of my Power Rankings the same week -- Jimmy Walker (10th; Frys.com Open); Webb Simpson (ninth; Shriners Hospitals for Children Open) -- but neither cracked my four choices for the fantasy game at PGATOUR.com. That's a tough pill to swallow.
All gamers experience this at some point, but to open the new season with back-to-back close calls is frustrating. So, the timing of consecutive no-cut tournaments is welcome. Both this week's CIMB Classic and next week's World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions will feature 78-man fields, so expect quite a bit of chalk to be flying around the room.
If you're front-running, it's early enough in the season that you can sit one or two otherwise obvious investments in favor of a second-tier talent playing well. The decision may come in handy when you want one or two starts later in the U.S.-based portion of the schedule. After this fortnight, five no-cut events remain (capped by the back half of the FedExCup Playoffs), so it's a strategy that we'll revisit.
Look for my choices for PGATOUR.com's fantasy game in Expert Picks. My one-and-done selection, analysis and season totals will appear in The TOUR Report on Wednesday.
On a Roll
Brendon de Jonge ... I know that there are gamers that are thrilled that he didn't crack my Power Rankings because it likely means that fewer of their opponents will be on board as they will be. He missed the cut in Vegas, but you have to dust off the history books to find the last time he went MC-MC (March of 2012). It's an impossibility this week and he manufactures birdies.
Gary Woodland ... While his missed cut at CordeValle came as a shock, it's not enough to warrant sidestepping him in this field with no cut. Remember that he's vastly underrated as a putter.
Charles Howell III ... Found his stroke at TPC Summerlin where he ranked third in strokes gained-putting and went 61-for-65 inside 10 feet.
Matt Jones ... Taking the 10,000-foot perspective here. In his last 11 starts, he's logged five top 10s. No top 30s in the other six. Guaranteed to place this week and solid throughout his bag.
Sang-moon Bae ... Won the 29th edition of the Shinhan Donghae Open at the end of September. It was his first top 30 anywhere since his breakthrough victory on the PGA TOUR at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
Prayad Marksaeng ... Arrives with four consecutive top 15s in tow. Two wins in this neck of the world this year. A splendid putter and leads the Asian Tour in scrambling.
Seuk-hyun Baek ... Turned 23 years of age just two weeks ago. Top 10s in five of his last six starts on the Asian Tour where he ranks third in putting and 12th in scoring average.
Horses for Courses
Bubba Watson ... Truly about as safe it gets given his propensity to collect top 25s. Experienced a relative regression throughout 2013, so he's a solid option in any format this week; that is, he's just enough off the radar in a week when there are no negatives.
Scott Stallings ... While he's gone virtually dormant since a torrid stretch late spring, his aggressive style plays right into the model for success in this format. Worthy of a roster spot if you're buying three off the top shelf in PGATOUR.COM's game.
Kevin Stadler ... Ranked eighth in greens in regulation and 15th in par breakers during the 2013 season. Never bashful about taking it deep.
Russell Henley ... Ignore the recent results. He can putt lights out and won't have to be concerned with a cut.
Not So Fast
Graham DeLaet ... Fair to say that the jury is still out on when and where gamers should invest in the Canadian, but when you lead the PGA TOUR in total driving and rank third in greens in regulation, as he did in 2013, it's a game that works anywhere. But it's also the kind of profile that can get lapped in birdie-fests.
Bo Van Pelt ... Won this event at The Mines in 2011, but struggled for most of 2013, relatively speaking. Tied for 18th in Perth last week, so he's already acclimated. He's not making it easy to secure an endorsement, but this will play out as a terrific test for us in the long-term. The question is how much longer do gamers wait.
Billy Horschel ... It's not that he can't contend anywhere, it's that I'd like a more challenging layout since he's admitted that he prefers tougher tracks.
Boo Weekley ... He'll never win a putting contest, which is how this tournament may evolve. Stick with the tracks where he's had success.
Chris Stroud ... Flashed unprecedented confidence this summer but hasn't delivered since. No top 30s in seven consecutive starts.
Tim Clark ... He set up for a horse-for-a-course emergence at CordeValle but missed the cut to extend his drought without a top 25 to 10 starts.
Josh Teater ... Classic case of failing to put four rounds together. Makes a ton of cuts but hasn't contended since sharing seventh place at Colonial.
Brian Gay ... He's gone 22 consecutive starts without a top 25.
Martin Laird ... Tough call here because he can be a dynamic investment, especially in a small field guaranteed 72 holes, but has hasn't cracked a top 40 since sharing fifth place at the Scottish Open the week before The Open Championship (T44).
Cameron Tringale ... He's my Breakout of the Year candidate, but he hasn't logged a top 40 in his six consecutive starts. Stick with the long-term ownership position.
David Lingmerth ... His withdrawal at The Barclays looks like a red flag but he was bogey-free during his second round and withdrew during the weather delay, thus preventing a return trip the next morning only to miss the cut anyway. However, that WD is sandwiched by four missed cuts, which are concerning even for a then-rookie. If he hadn't put up a pair of runner-up finishes, the slump would appear normal and he wouldn't have qualified for this week's field.
Lucas Glover ... He's riding an 0-for-6 skid that includes a withdrawal at The Barclays due to a wrist injury.
Kyle Stanley ... Missed seven of his last 10 cuts. Only top 30 of the other three was a T12 in Canada in July.
John Rollins ... Totaled 11 top 25s during the 2013 season, but closed with missed cuts in five of his last six starts. Already on the board in 2013-14, but a T46 at the Frys.com Open is uninspiring for our purposes.
Ryan Palmer ... Zero top 30s among five cuts made in his last eight starts.
Back in the Saddle
Patrick Reed ... Walked off TPC Summerlin on his ninth hole of the second round with a wrist injury. Since his breakthrough at the Wyndham Championship, he's 2-for-5 with no better than a T59 (at the 70-man BMW Championship).