Because all 64 golfers at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship are featured in my Power Rankings, this is an abridged version of the Fantasy Insider. The full-field feature that published on Monday includes fantasy-relevant information such as the returns of Steve Stricker and Boo Weekley. It also nods toward great putters and those that have a reputation of finding a zone. But even in a world in which brilliant minds are paid to think with skeptic slants, there are no right or wrong answers in preparing for match play.
Oh, there are trends, but there are always exceptions. For example, would it be wise to avoid circling one of the 19 first-time participants as the champion? Only two of the 15 winners of the tournament qualify for that club. Jeff Maggert was the automatic charter member in the inaugural edition in 1999; Geoff Ogilvy joined him in 2006. Certainly, first-timers currently playing well include Jordan Spieth, Harris English, Chris Kirk, Kevin Stadler, Graham DeLaet, Marc Leishman and Billy Horschel. Each thinks there's room for another breakthrough.
What about age? Of the 15 champs, including Tiger Woods thrice and Ogilvy twice, the average age is exactly 32 years old. Woods was the youngest at 27 in 2003; David Toms holds the rope on the other end of the line having emerged at age 38 in 2005. I have Rory McIlroy winning. He's 24, so clearly I'm not subscribing to any theory.
Toss out the success angle. Defending champion Matt Kuchar is the only winner in tournament history not to lose in the first round at least once in another appearance.
A potentially helpful trend, actually, is that all of the last 11 winners (dating back to Woods in 2003) won the first match in their first appearance. For example, Toms (2005 winner), Henrik Stenson (2007), Hunter Mahan (2012) and Kuchar (2013) didn't win the tournament in their first try, but each went 1-1 in their first appearance. All of the others in that time frame advanced deeper in their debuts. Three different golf courses have been used since 2005, but a first-round win as a rookie in the tournament is a common thread nonetheless. This didn't influence my decision for McIlroy, but his 3-1 record at his first Match Play in 2009 doesn't hurt.
Meanwhile, because of the vagaries -- there's that word, but it cannot be sidestepped this week -- many brackets are toast by Thursday. So, like last year, I'm again suggesting a wrinkle that will help you have more fun with the outcomes as the tournament progresses. If you're in a private game, submit your predictions after each round, not all at once beforehand. Set up a simple, escalating points structure and track. It'll keep just about everyone in the running through at least Saturday. Following the model of the NCAA men's basketball tournament is flawed. It's arguably necessary for online games, but you can adjust in manual formats.
As for what we need to know in the long-term, just qualifying for this tournament is a mammoth perk that can springboard eligibility toward other tournaments and a PGA TOUR card. While current PGA TOUR members will accrue official FedExCup points and earnings, all others will collect non-member FedExCup points and earnings that will be applied to respective totals. FedExCup points contribute toward the minimum to achieve Special Temporary Membership while both measurements take aim at PGA TOUR membership in 2014-15 via the non-member conduit (top 125 in either). Most of all, guaranteed Official World Golf Ranking points will be distributed. While big moves are possible with a beefier allocation due to the fact that most of the world's best players comprise the field, a separation will occur on the bubble of entry.
One-and-Done: Ian Poulter
Veteran gamers know why that paragraph speaks for itself. Even if you're new to fantasy golf, you're probably aware of his dominance in match play. Poulter himself has acknowledged that he's more emotionally connected in this format. Match play provides immediate knowledge of success or failure whereas stroke-play competition is the marathon with a finish line or a story with a climax. It's not mano-a-mano. Match play is a dogfight and everything relevant is within an eyeshot. I want the guy that admits to being engaged with that most often.
As for other options, no matter how confident you are in anyone else, it doesn't matter. He could shoot 64 and lose or 75 and win. We aren't catering to a cut line and the golfers aren't playing the course as much as they are making decisions based on what each situation demands against his opponent.
If you're conservative, holster every name you think you may want to burn later. If you ignore this advice, then be prepared for a first-round loss. That's the worst you get from everyone else not on your list anyway.
Northern Trust Open: Jimmy Walker; T20; $80,846.66; 50.000 FedExCup points
Overall Record: 12-for-13
FedExCup points: 624.796
Top 5s: 1
Top 10s: 4
Top 25s: 7
Missed Cuts: 1