Fantasy Insider: WGC-Cadillac Championship, Puerto Rico OpenMarch 05, 2013
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM fantasy columnist
Every time a deep field like the one to which we're treated at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship comes along, critics of my Power Rankings surface. The likes of Michael Thompson, Geoff Ogilvy, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner, Nick Watney, Charles Howell III and Dustin Johnson populate emails and tweets.
What's interesting -- and telling -- is that none of the complaints about who was missing suggested who shouldn't have cracked the feature. This speaks to the depth and parity, and in turn the health, of golf at the highest level.
The WGC-Cadillac Championship is the second of five tournaments on the PGA TOUR that does not include a cut. The exclusive Hyundai Tournament of Champions was the first. The third won't occur until the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational on the first four days of August. The final two close out the FedExCup Playoffs. Therefore, most of the 65 in this week's field can play fearlessly. From our standpoint, it opens the door to plug in notables that may not be on form.
My one-and-done selection, analysis and season totals will appear in The TOUR Report on Wednesday. Also located there will be separate breakdown ("The Stats Suggest") of what all six previous champions at TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral have in common.
On a Roll
Michael Thompson ... First appearance in a World Golf Championship. Resoundingly confident with a putter in hand, he ranked an uncharacteristic T9 in fairways hit and T5 in greens in regulation en route to his breakthrough at last week's Honda Classic. That he placed fifth in strokes gained-putting wasn't a surprise; it merely underscores his self-belief.
Geoff Ogilvy ... If one week constitutes a "roll," then he's in the right place. Not so long from now, he may look back on his solo second at PGA National as the turning point of his mid-30s. Now 35 years of age, it had been over 17 months since his last top five on the PGA TOUR. If he had a better recent track record at Trump Doral, he'd have elbowed his way into my Power Rankings, but his best finish since his title in 2008 is a T40 the following year.
Ian Poulter ... A sneaky option this week given he's posted only two top 35s in six appearances and none since a T13 in 2009. Five top 10s worldwide in his last seven starts, including a victory at the last WGC stroke-play event in China. Went 4-2 at the WGC-Match Play.
Fredrik Jacobson ... After three consecutive top 10s, he tied for 25th at The Honda Classic thanks to another strong week of putting.
Russell Henley ... Seemingly possesses the kind of moxie that gamers love in these kinds of tournaments. Already a winner on the PGA TOUR, the rookie is setting the world on fire with his splits across the board. He's 16th in total driving, 24th in greens in regulation and ninth in both strokes gained-putting and adjusted scoring. Maintained those gaudy numbers in finishing T13 at The Honda Classic, a tournament that always serves as a litmus test for gamers.
Horses for Courses
Phil Mickelson ... Truth be told, he could win anywhere, but he settles in this feature here due to a victory in 2009 and another trio of top 25s. If he's off the radar in your format, it's all the more reason to give him a go.
Ernie Els ... TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral is a comfort zone for The Big Easy. Sandwiched his 2010 title with three top 20s in five appearances. Because he hasn't logged a top 10 anywhere since November, he's a relative sleeper in fantasy games this week.
Nick Watney ... Famously slammed the door on Dustin Johnson with a 72nd-hole birdie in 2011. Also finished solo second, one stroke adrift of Phil Mickelson in 2009. Watney didn't crack my Power Rankings because his only cut made in his last two stroke-play starts this season resulted in a T43 at the WM Phoenix Open over a month ago. Hey, it's a tough field.
Francesco Molinari ... No worse than a T14 (2010) in what was his first of three appearances here.
John Huh ... Making his debut in a World Golf Championship. Barring a withdrawal or disqualification, he'll end an 0-for-3 skid that dates back to the WM Phoenix Open.
Not So Fast
Dustin Johnson ... His T46 signified a baby step in the right direction but the lanky resident of Jupiter, Fla. takes big strides. The takeaway value from his week at PGA National is that he ranked second in proximity to the hole from 100-125 yards. It's been a problem area on which he's worked the last couple of years.
Jason Dufner ... This is likely to be the week that lays the foundation for a fruitful season still devoid of a top 50 in a stroke-play event in the U.S., but we still might as well wait until he executes before plugging him in.
Brian Gay ... While I love his renewed initiative, he tends to disappear in deep fields on bigger tracks.
Padraig Harrington ... Something will give this week. He's posted top 20s in all four appearances at TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral, the last two of which going for a top 10, but in his most recent three starts this season, he's missed two cuts and went 0-1 at the WGC-Match Play.
Zach Johnson ... In a word, scuffling. One top 25 in his last four full-field stroke-play events (T23, Humana Challenge).
John Merrick ... The Northern Trust Open champion is a first-timer at TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral and he hasn't posted a top 25 on the Florida Swing since the Puerto Rico Open in 2011. His last top 25 in the state of Florida occurred in November of 2010.
Back in the Saddle
Rory McIlroy ... Say what you will about what happened at PGA National last Friday but that he's acknowledged that his decision to withdraw during his second round was a mistake speaks volumes for his ability to swiftly turn the page. As it relates to our world this week, don't hedge against him in this limited, no-cut event.
Brian Davis ... In the field in Puerto Rico. Withdrew from The Honda Classic before his second round. He opened with a 78 and failed to convert a birdie. An explanation for his decision wasn't released. He withdrew twice earlier this year (Farmers; WM Phoenix Open) after the commitment deadline but before his tee time.
Alistair Presnell ... Scheduled to tee it up in Puerto Rico. The Australian rookie had to withdraw after just nine holes at PGA National last week due to a back injury prompted by the flu, according to an entry on his Twitter page.
Cameron Beckman ... Back in action in Puerto Rico. After open qualifying for the Northern Trust Open, he withdrew after a first-round 80. No explanation was released. The three-time PGA TOUR winner is playing on Past Champion status this season.
Briny Baird ... Hoping to compete in the Web.com Tour's Chile Classic. Withdrew midway through his second round of the Colombia Championship last week due to a shoulder injury. He was sidelined for several months last year after having surgery on both shoulders.
Brandt Snedeker ... Withdrew prior to the commitment deadline to extend his recovery period for a rib injury.
Hiroyuki Fujita, Peter Senior and Toru Taniguchi ... Each qualified but elected not to compete.
William McGirt and Cameron Tringale ... Both withdrew from the Puerto Rico Open.