The new fantasy game at PGATOUR.COM has one week under its belt. I'm happy to report that I scored 571 points on the strength of Brandt Snedeker's victory and Bryce Molder's backdoor T12. However, that pales in comparison to overall leaders Smiley Friends and The Ward, both earning early honors at the top with 956 points. I'm tied for 1,453rd place.
When forming a plan of attack in a deep field like the 144-man gathering at the Northern Trust Open, it's wise not to get too cute. As I stated in my primer last week, chalk has value. The secondary initiative is to lean on guys with strong course success that are also playing well currently. You'll see a blend of this in my lineup in the Experts Picks feature.
Meanwhile, look for my one-and-done selection, analysis and season totals in The TOUR Report on Wednesday. Also located there will be separate breakdown ("The Stats Suggest") of what recent winners of the tournament have in common.
On a Roll
James Hahn ... Piled on with a T3 at Pebble Beach where he shared the 54-hole lead with eventual champion Brandt Snedeker. Hahn's only weakness has been accuracy off the tee but it hasn't been enough to prevent a dream-like opening to the season. Just keep in mind that rookies tend not to fare well at Riviera where experience matters and the depth of the field can offer a reality check.
Chris Kirk ... Something will give at Riviera where he's 0-for-2. His runner-up at Pebble Beach was his second top five on the early season.
Bryce Molder ... Just missed cracking the Power Rankings in this field. Three top 25s on the year with a season-best T12 at Pebble Beach where he closed with a field-low, bogey-free 64 on Sunday. Currently 12th on TOUR in fairways hit and third in strokes gained-putting. Placed a career-best T17 in his fourth appearance at Riviera last year.
Matt Kuchar ... He's 7-for-7 at Riviera, but the only reason he wasn't included in the Power Rankings is because he's yet to record a top 10. (His best finish is a T14 in 2008.) High expectations accompany the world's elite, but he remains a force across the fantasy landscape. After a pair of top 10s on the Aloha Swing, he tied for 16th at the Humana Challenge.
Hunter Mahan ... Mixed success at Riviera takes a backseat to steady recent play. In his last three starts, he's posted a T15 and a pair of T16s. Ranks 30th in greens hit and 15th in strokes gained-putting.
Fredrik Jacobson ... His T7 at last week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was his earliest top 10 in nine seasons. Tied for 13th last year at Riviera, ranking ninth in greens in regulation and 11th in scrambling. Although he's logged only six rounds in 2013, he's fourth on TOUR in strokes gained-putting and 11th in adjusted scoring.
Peter Hanson ... The first-timer at Riviera is making his PGA TOUR rookie debut. Hasn't finished outside a top 25 in his last seven starts worldwide, six of which featured full fields.
Horses for Courses
K.J. Choi ... Sterling 12-for-12 record at Riviera that features six top 25s including in five of the last six years. Tied for ninth at Torrey Pines three weeks ago.
Charlie Wi ... Safe, reliable option this week. Enters having posted a season-best T16 at Pebble Beach, his fifth cut made in as many starts in 2013. Hasn't missed a cut since September. Two top 20s among four cuts made in five appearances at Riviera.
J.B. Holmes ... Just 1-for-3 on the season with a T50 at Pebble Beach, but he has a love affair with Riviera. He's survived the cut in all six starts, five of which went for a top 15; four were top 10s. After the WM Phoenix Open where he's recorded both of his PGA TOUR victories, he's earned more money in his career at the Northern Trust Open than any other tournament.
Kevin Na ... After missing the cut in his first three appearances here, he's survived six straight, a streak that includes a pair of top 10s and a T25. Turned in a T22 at Pebble Beach last week. Ranks sixth on TOUR in strokes gained-putting and 40th in adjusted scoring.
Tim Clark ... Despite last week's underwhelming T46 at Pebble Beach where he was upended by an opening 76 at Spyglass Hill, Riviera offers another opportunity to pounce. He's posted three top 15s in eight appearances, albeit the most recent was a T13 in 2009.
Andres Romero, Ryo Ishikawa and Brian Davis ... All have started the season 0-for-3.
Tommy Gainey and Charlie Beljan ... Each have missed his last four cuts.
Geoff Ogilvy, Mark Wilson, D.A. Points and Ricky Barnes ... Each has missed his last three cuts.
Not So Fast
Charles Howell III ... After a torrid start to the year, he settled for a T36 at the WM Phoenix Open (despite four rounds in the 60s) before taking last week off. In five return trips to Riviera since winning the Northern Trust Open in 2007, he hasn't finished better than T55. If you invest, you're hoping that recent form trumps recent course history for a guy that's still battling to reach that next level.
Brian Gay ... He's dialed in, so it wouldn't be wise to play against him, but his game hasn't translated well at Riviera. After missing his third consecutive cut in 2009, he didn't return until this week.
Padraig Harrington ... After an inspiring T9 in Scottsdale, last week's 72-71-72 effort en route to a missed cut was disappointing. No top 40s among two cuts made in his last four starts at Riviera.
Graeme McDowell ... Hasn't competed since winning the World Challenge in December. He deserves whatever value your format demanded for the season, but he hasn't played Riviera since 2009 when he tied for 41st.
Scott Piercy ... This is a conservative judgment call given he's only 1-for-3 with a T45 at Riviera. However, because he's elevated to a new level and has been able to sustain it, I'd fully endorse plugging him in as an aggressive flier to complement three otherwise obvious investments. Three top 15s on the season with a solo third at the WM Phoenix Open where he raced home with a 61.
Carl Pettersson ... Hasn't missed this tournament since finishing T37 in his rookie year of 2003. However, his slate of 11 starts has yielded only two top 15s, the more recent of which in 2007 (T13). Finished outside the top 40 in his last three starts this season.
James Driscoll ... Coming off a T9 at Pebble Beach, ending his drought without a top 15 in 18 starts. He played his last 62 holes last week in 14-under with only three bogeys. That was great news for gamers on board for the entire season, but he's always been hit and miss week-to-week. Only one cut made in four starts at Riviera (T47, 2005).
John Merrick ... The Long Beach native and resident tied for 16th last week at Pebble Beach, but he's a mere 2-for-5 at Riviera with no top 50s.
Chris Stroud ... He's proven year after year that he finds a groove, it's just that it's unlikely to begin at Riviera where he hasn't survived a cut in four attempts.
Back in the Saddle
Robert Allenby ... The 2001 champion of this event hasn't played since withdrawing during his second round of the Farmers Insurance Open (Jan. 25) with an injured left hip. Since his victory at Riviera, he's tacked on four top 10s and another pair of top 20s. His form of late doesn't warrant an investment for gamers, but don't hedge against him either.
Arron Oberholser ... First start in nearly a year due to ongoing discomfort in his left hand. Still has 12 starts on a Major Medical Extension.
Jhonattan Vegas ... He's missed the cut in all three of his starts this year.
Hank Kuehne and Joey Snyder III ... Both have status on the PGA TOUR via a Major Medical Extension. Kuehne has four starts remaining; Snyder III has 15.