Like THE PLAYERS Championship, which reserves an additional spot in its field for the reigning champion of the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS, the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial invites all winners before 2000 to compete without exhausting spots in its field of 132. Four golfers scheduled to play this week are in on that exemption. Corey Pavin (1985 and 1996 champ), Keith Clearwater (1987), Tom Lehman (1995) and David Frost (1997) balloon the field to 136. If any withdraw, he is not replaced.
The Crowne Plaza Invitational is sixth of seven tournaments this season to experience an increase in its field to accommodate the compressed schedule. It usually hosts 120 golfers plus the pre-2000 winners. The last event that expands to 132 is next month's AT&T National.
Keen observers of how each field this season has been filled will have noticed that, in almost all instances, tournament organizers have filled the last four sponsor exemptions with graduates from the reshuffle. On the whole, this is a deviation from previous years, but it's also in response to the transitional phase in the evolution of the PGA TOUR's schedule.
Officials indicated late in 2012 that they'd do everything they could to make room for golfers in this category. Halfway into the season, the cutoff for all of the events has fallen relatively close to where it has in the past. Many other factors also influence who plays when, but fantasy gamers invested in the depths of the Priority Rankings haven't been disappointed in expected playing time.
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
Ricky Barnes ... Since my Sleepers feature is limited to five golfers, he was the last to fall to the cutting-room floor. After opening the season with a pair of top 20s, he went nine starts with no better than a solo 69th among two cuts made. Then, without any suggestion that it was coming, he held the 18-hole lead in New Orleans en route to a roller-coaster T42. After two more forgettable efforts, he posted a season-best T12 last week at TPC Four Seasons where he ranked T13 in ball-striking and T5 in par breakers.
Kyle Stanley ... Since the two-week whirlwind that featured a playoff loss and breakthrough win early last season, he hadn't connected positive splits in strokes gained-putting until his last two starts entering this week. In fact, of his last 31 measured performances, only five have resulted in a figure north of 0.000. Even if the current trend continues, it will take some time to improve his overall average, but this is exactly the kind of execution that may signify that he's figured out what's been troubling him on the greens. In terms of recent leaderboards, he's posted a solo third in New Orleans and a T6 in Charlotte.
John Huh ... Finds himself in the crosshairs of converging trends. Recorded a season-best T8 at the HP Byron Nelson Championship where he ranked T4 in fairways hit and T3 in greens in regulation, thus fulfilling his reputation as a ball-striker. And in his debut at Colonial a year ago, he tied for fifth. The 2012 Rookie of the Year co-led last year's field in driving accuracy and placed T8 in GIR.
Ryan Palmer ... Kept his rally rolling early at last week's HP Byron Nelson Championship, but closed with a pair of 73s to settle for a T33. Had placed T5 the week prior at TPC Sawgrass. In nine visits to Colonial, he's survived seven cuts topped by a T5 in last year's edition.
Scott Piercy ... Stormed back into our consciousness with a T5 at TPC Four Seasons. It ended a 1-for-5 slide. He ranked second last week in both total driving and greens in regulation.
David Lingmerth ... First start since a captivating co-runner-up at THE PLAYERS two weeks ago. The rookie ranked T12 in ball-striking at TPC Sawgrass; also sixth in proximity to the hole, T8 in scrambling and converted all 52 putts over which he stood from five feet and in.
Brendon de Jonge ... In a fantasy world that can match the frustration and inconsistency of the real thing inside the ropes, he's a rock. Last competed at THE PLAYERS where he tied for 15th. He's now 13-for-16 on the season with three top 10s and another four top 25s. Hasn't finished inside the top 40 at Colonial in three tries, but hasn't missed a cut either. Also remember the commonality from my Power Rankings; that is, those that succeed at Colonial often require a few looks first.
Robert Karlsson ... Not holding a second-round 78 at TPC Four Seasons against him. He opened with a 64 and tied for fourth at Quail Hollow two weeks prior. He also successfully navigated International Final Qualifying for the Open Championship on Monday. In his only previous appearance at Colonial, he tied for fifth in 2011.
Morgan Hoffmann ... His share of fifth place at TPC Four Seasons is a career-best finish on the PGA TOUR. It was his first appearance in the HP Byron Nelson Championship. The rookie is now poised for his debut at Colonial.
Josh Teater ... Hasn't cracked the top 25 in his last eight starts but he's missed just three of 14 cuts all year. His splits are sound across the board and he shared 16th place at Colonial in 2011. Also medaled at International Final Qualifying in Dallas on Monday to earn an exemption into the Open Championship.
Horses for Courses
Hunter Mahan ... The local has just one top 25 in nine appearances (T10, 2011) at Colonial, but his ball-striking is too strong of a factor in his game to dismiss his chances. What's more, he's coming off a T19 at THE PLAYERS to end a four-event spurt absent a top 70.
Boo Weekley ... A missed cut at TPC Four Seasons ended his consecutive cuts made streak at a career-high-tying 12. Colonial is a superb site for him to start a new one. He's survived each of the last three cuts, a run that includes a solo ninth in 2010.
Charlie Wi ... Giving the benefit of the doubt to the veteran who's survived all five of his cuts at Colonial. His record includes a runner-up in 2011 and two more top 15s. The concern is that he's yet to log a top 15 among nine cuts made in 2013, but gamers must respect his well-documented predictability.
Jonathan Byrd ... If you can accept that his 2-for-6 start (with no top 65s) in 2013 is akin to extended spring training for injured baseball players, then the stars may finally be aligning for the man whose swing has been compared often to Ben Hogan's over the years. Byrd tied for 10th at Colonial last year in what was his eight appearance. He ranked 13th in ball-striking for the week and co-led the field in par-5 scoring average.
Not So Fast
Jason Dufner ... A relative fade. Led after 36 and 54 holes here last year before a final-round 74 left him settling for runner-up honors. He's 10-for-12 this season but top 10s remain elusive as he's yet to record one since a pair of T9s on the European Tour's Desert Swing in January.
Derek Ernst ... Only time will help determine if the results of the Wells Fargo Championship should be considered an anomaly given the conditions of the greens at Quail Hollow. His value will remain inflated as the champion since he's fully exempt through 2014-15, but the rookie has no top 45s among just two more cuts made in eight starts.
John Rollins ... It would be just as easy to circle him as a sleeper given he's posted top 25s in eight of his 10 cuts made this season, but he's just 7-for-10 at Colonial with one top-45 finish (T24, 2007). A great week to abstain.
Robert Streb ... He's missed five straight cuts during which time he's fallen 39 spots to 119th in FedExCup points.
Y.E. Yang, Scott Stallings, Troy Matteson, Cameron Tringale, Nicholas Thompson and Ben Kohles ... Each has missed the cut in his last four starts.
Bryce Molder, J.J. Henry, Johnson Wagner and Ken Duke ... Each arrives on an 0-for-3 skid.
Back in the Saddle
Bob Estes ... A stomach ailment forced him to withdraw prior to his opening round of THE PLAYERS two weeks ago. And after hoping to compete, he elected not to give International Final Qualifying for the Open Championship on Monday a try.
Retief Goosen ... In the field at the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour. Hasn't played since withdrawing during his opening round at TPC Sawgrass two weeks ago with a back injury.
Chris Perry ... Scheduled to compete in the Senior PGA Championship. He hasn't competed in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event since 2006 due to a myriad of injuries in the elbow, wrist and hand on his left arm. He withdrew from last year's Senior PGA in what would have been his debut on the Champions Tour.
Louis Oosthuizen ... A neck injury knocked him out of last week's Byron Nelson before the final round. Had planned four straight starts ending with next week's Memorial.
D.A. Points ... A T12 at the Byron Nelson is the latest in a litany of impressive recent finishes. Hadn't teed it up at Colonial since 2010 and hasn't made a cut in three tries in the tournament.
Brian Harman ... Taking a break after five straight starts. Comfortably positioned at 75th in FedExCup points.
James Driscoll ... Shared 33rd at TPC Four Seasons. Ranks 84th in the FedExCup standings.