In my first Fantasy Insider column of 2013, I shared which of the seven tournaments had increased fields by 12 to help compensate for the one-time compressed season. For 2013-14, all but one of those (the 156-man Humana Challenge) reverted back to their 2012 totals, but another experienced a drop from its allotment of tee times in both 2012 and 2013 -- this week's Valero Texas Open.
Now hosting just 144 golfers perhaps since it's being contested earlier in the spring than any of the five previous editions since its move from fall in 2009, the VTO follows the Valspar Championship (144) and Arnold Palmer Invitational (120) as reduction sites. The remaining four are the Shell Houston Open (144), RBC Heritage (132), Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial (120) and Quicken Loans National (120). (The last three are invitationals.) The moral of the story is that guys in the Web.com Tour reshuffle category have been under fire to perform, thereby reinforcing the value of those that have.
Meanwhile, it's never too soon to begin keeping tabs on the Web.com Tour. Remember, the top 25 on the money list at the conclusion of the regular season are guaranteed 2014-15 PGA TOUR cards. Andrew Svoboda finished 25th with $140,540 in 2013. Just like last year, this season's schedule consists of 21 events, but the overall prize money has risen by $200,000. So, it would be fair to assume that it could take approximately $150,000 to feel safe. Three golfers are already inside that bubble through four events -- PGA TOUR Veteran Member Alex Cejka ($235,150) and would-be PGA TOUR rookies Carlos Ortiz ($171,500) and Jon Curran ($161,100).
You can find my selections for PGATOUR.COM's fantasy game in Expert Picks.
Power Rankings Wild Card
Kevin Na ... There are so many reasons to subscribe to his approach across the board. First, you can't think of him as it relates to TPC San Antonio and not replay the 16 he carded on the par-4 ninth hole in the opening round in 2011. Surely, you'll also remember that he came home in bogey-free 33 for one of the best 80s in non-major history. More recently, he's back in the spotlight for slow-play issues, but the facts support his defense. Even better, especially for us, that distraction isn't influencing his scoring in a negative way. He's 12th in FedExCup points with three top fives and another three top 20s.
Martin Laird ... This endorsement doesn't come without some hesitation in the context that I'm not usually relying entirely on course history for a guy that's misfiring, particularly one that shouldn't be. The defending champion also has a T9 in his other appearance here (2011). That he's survived his last seven cuts is helpful, but he's just 117th in FedExCup points. For the kicker, after opening only five of his 21 starts last year with a red number, all eight of his opening rounds this season have been under par. He's 15th on TOUR in first-round scoring average but outside the top 150 in third- and fourth-round scoring.
Ryan Palmer ... By all accounts and according to the loud response in social media, he deserved an elevated position in the Power Rankings. The reasons are numerous and supportive. He lost in a playoff in his last start (Honda Classic), which was his second second-place finish in his last four. He has a pair of top 15s in four appearances at TPC San Antonio, including a T15 last year. He's a Texan. His stats are spectacular, including sitting 19th in adjusted scoring, third in the all-around and first in going-for-the-green percentage (which reflects aggressive strategy). So, while he's in the proper category in this feature, I'm concerned about his putting on this track and absence of competition for three weeks. His strokes gained-putting split has plummeted in his last three starts and he ranked no better than 49th (Honda) in any and registered a clip of no better than -0.115 (also Honda). Had he played more recently, as he did prior to each of his first four trips here, he'd probably have cracked the Power Rankings. Make no mistake, he was the toughest cut, but the clamor for his omission demanded a detailed explanation.
Chesson Hadley ... Hemorrhaged away another strong finish with two bogeys and two doubles on his last five holes at Bay Hill, missing the green in regulation on each, to settle into a share of 26th place after a 79. The rookie had squared just five bogeys on his first 67 holes and entered the final inside the top five on the leaderboard. This is his fifth consecutive week on the road, easily his longest trip, but he's motivated to qualify for the Masters via the Official World Golf Ranking in the absence of another victory. Currently 56th, the top 50 at the conclusion of the weekend earn berths into the season's first major.
Will MacKenzie ... As reliable as any investment right now. A T43 at Bay Hill will likely prove to be just another blip. Zero weaknesses at the moment. Four top 10s, two of which on the Florida Swing, and another four top 15s on the season.
Seung-yul Noh ... A valuable asset for weekly salary games given his active 10 consecutive cuts made. Also just $10,730 shy of matching last year's earnings but in less than half the starts thus far. He's 2-for-2 at TPC San Antonio with a T13 in 2012.
Brian Harman ... Top 25s in both appearances (2012, 2013). He's made noise on multiple occasions already this year en route to a trio of top 10s. Ranks 25th in adjusted scoring, ninth in greens in regulation while going for the green and fifth in proximity.
Aaron Baddeley ... Horse for a course with a T3 here in 2010 and a T15 in his return trip last year. Still uninspiring tee to green, but slots fourth in strokes gained-putting and T25 in par-5 scoring.
Tyrone Van Aswegen ... Here's your flier of the week. The rookie is 109th in FedExCup points thanks to an 8-for-10 season. If he could play TPC San Antonio on paper, he may have something to say. Offers an intriguing blend statistically. Currently 46th in greens hit and first in birdies or better when going for the green. Also T5 in par-3 scoring.
Erik Compton ... Comes off a T5 at Bay Hill in Florida, a state where he's enjoyed the lion's share of his success, but he's never cracked a top 30 in Texas.
Brendon Todd ... Zero top 30s among four cuts made in his last six starts. Fallen 48 spots to 60th in green in regulation during the spell.
Nicolas Colsaerts ... Has yet to unlock the door to consistent success on U.S. soil. Ranks 14th in strokes gained-putting but 126th in adjusted scoring and 165th in FedExCup points. No better than 73 in any of his last five rounds, a drought that will be trouble ending due to the fact that he's getting his first competitive look at TPC San Antonio.
Bo Van Pelt ... Missed his last five cuts after missing five in all of 2013. That's also his longest skid since ending the 2002 season 0-for-5 to lose his card.
John Rollins ... He's 6-for-12 on the season and has recorded only one top 30 (T19, WM Phoenix Open). Hasn't survived a cut in three appearances at TPC San Antonio.
Mark Wilson ... First appearance since missing the cut in the inaugural edition at TPC San Antonio in 2010. He's missed six of nine cuts this season and hasn't finished inside the top 45 since early August (Reno-Tahoe).
J.J. Henry ... Buoyed by three top 25s in the fall, he's 107th in the FedExCup standings, but arrives on a 1-for-8 slide. Zero top 40s among two cuts made in four tries at TPC San Antonio.
Tommy Gainey ... He's 0-for-3 at TPC San Antonio with no rounds under par. Only top 40 among three cuts made in 13 starts this season occurred in November (Mayakoba, T23).
Kyle Stanley ... He's missed three straight cuts and five of his last six. No better than a T55 (McGladrey) in his last eight starts. Solo 79th/MDF here last year is his only cut made in two tries.
Keep an Eye On
Billy Horschel ... How quickly we forget that he held a two-stroke lead after both 36 and 54 holes here last year before drifting into a share of third place. A victory in New Orleans three weeks later demanded that we turn that page. Hasn't picked off a top 40 in four consecutive stroke-play starts upon arrival this week at TPC San Antonio where he may settle into a comfort zone. Just don't hedge for it.
Brian Davis ... It's time again to take notice of the notoriously streaky Englishman in the wake of a T20 at Bay Hill where he shared last place in greens in regulation but led the field in scrambling. Tied for 29th at TPC San Antonio last year.
Carl Pettersson ... With a T4 in Puerto Rico and a T20 at Copperhead, he's connected top 20s for the first time in August of 2012. Inside the top 40 in both par-4 and par-5 scoring.
David Lingmerth ... Serviceable not spectacular sophomore season what with just one top 25, but that was a T8 at The Honda Classic. He authored a pair of runner-up finishes among six top 25s last year. Arrives in San Antonio having survived seven consecutive cuts during which he's shaved 1.755 strokes off his adjusted scoring average, not unusual early in the season but better than the alternative.
Brooks Koepka ... His fate for the remainder of the PGA TOUR season may rest in his result this week since the non-member is exhausting the last of seven allotted sponsor exemptions. To secure Special Temporary Membership [STM], he needs 39 (non-member) FedExCup points. To achieve it, he needs to finish no worse than solo 32nd. If he doesn't, he can still attempt to open qualify for events (and play a maximum of 12 plus THE PLAYERS without STM), but he's not exempt into any of the majors, THE PLAYERS or World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational. Currently 75th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Returning to Competition
Jeff Overton ... Withdrew during his second round at Bay Hill with a wrist injury. Tweeted on Tuesday: "My wrist is feeling much better this week." Scheduling both stops in Texas.
Dudley Hart ... Third start of the season and first at TPC San Antonio. Hasn't played since Pebble Beach (T35) due to a back injury that forced him to withdraw early from The Honda Classic.
Scott Verplank ... Would be his first start since withdrawing during the Northern Trust Open with a back injury. Just 1-for-7 on the season with a T72/MDF at Waialae.
Matt Every ... Understandable decision following his breakthrough at Bay Hill. As a result, he earned his first exemptions into the Masters and World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. Also climbed to 44th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Patrick Reed ... Tied for 52nd at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the wake of his WGC breakthrough at Doral.
Ryan Moore ... Disappointing decision for gamers that had already been holding their breath since a T8 in his only appearance at TPC San Antonio in 2012. Sits 10th in the FedExCup standings.
Charles Howell III ... Peeled off on Sunday at Bay Hill with a 76 to finish T35. Has missed just one cut in 13 starts this season while piling up five top 10s.
Chris Stroud ... Finally finished outside a top 20 for the first time in seven cuts made with a T31 at Bay Hill. Currently 30th in FedExCup points.
In response to the backlash of Ryan Palmer's omission from the Power Rankings, which, by the way, I love since it matches my enthusiasm even if in dissent, I considered riding your support here and acquiescing to the masses. However, Jordan Spieth is burning a hole in my pocket. As much as I sign off on every endorsement this week, he's been so consistently strong that I got giddy when I saw that he had committed to play. If there's such a thing as investing in the guy with the least baggage, then this is it.
Of the other one-and-done-caliber options, there are going to be more lucrative and arguably better spots to lean on the likes of Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker and Matt Kuchar. (Reminder: I'm probably saving Phil Mickelson for the U.S. Open.) Spieth still carries a bit of wildcard value because he's so young, but it's exactly what I want in this field on this golf course.
Two-man formats should look no further than Ryo Ishikawa, Charley Hoffman, Freddie Jacobson and, yes, Palmer!
Arnold Palmer Invitational: Justin Rose; MC; $0.00; 0.000 FedExCup points
Overall Record: 16-for-19
FedExCup points: 845.129
Top 5s: 2
Top 10s: 3
Top 25s: 10
Missed Cuts: 3