While Derek Ernst surprised most golf fans and fantasy gamers at last year's Wells Fargo Championship, the final leaderboard of this year's edition may leave you with a similar takeaway, at least as it relates to course history. Because all of the greens have been replaced with ultradwarf Bermuda, golfers with a combination of experience and confidence putting on them may dominate regardless of track record at Quail Hollow
Of all of the major modifications made to all of the courses on the schedule, this one probably won't get as much run, but it should. You could even state a valid argument that relevant course history begins this week. Keep this in mind as the tournament progresses. At the same time, understand that the greens are coming up on their first birthday, so they will continue to mature. A true measure of experience is still another year or two away.
Switching gears, loyal readers have seen me label a golfer as a "trap" on occasion. It's happened five times in 2014. Traps are typically notable golfers with at least one strong factor supporting investment in a given week, but something I uncover demands the fade. Sometimes it's obvious like an injury, but other times it's nuance related to current form or personal issue that warrants concern.
I rarely look back at how my draws and fades perform if for no other reason than time, but I thought it's helpful to share that four of the traps were realized. Brandt Snedeker placed T61 at the WM Phoenix Open. Freddie Jacobson missed the cut at the Northern Trust Open, as did Louis Oosthuizen at the Shell Houston Open. And Francesco Molinari finished 50th at the Masters. The one guy that avoided the pitfall was Sang-moon Bae at the Valspar Championship. He shared 14th place.
You can find my selections for PGATOUR.COM's fantasy game in Expert Picks.
Power Rankings Wild Card
Bo Van Pelt ... With a trio of top-six finishes at Quail Hollow, including a T6 in 2013, his only top 10 of the season, he's clearly comfortable on the track. A T25 in New Orleans last week featured a career-low-tying 63 in the second round. He's not the consistent scorer that he once was, but perhaps success and a glimpse of vintage form can react for something special yet again.
Seung-yul Noh ... The first-time winner in New Orleans has won on other major circuits before, so I won't buy into a major letdown. In fact, that he accomplished what he did in the wake of a wrist injury trumps any concern over his character. It also doesn't hurt that he tied for ninth at Quail Hollow in 2012.
Robert Streb ... He was one of my Sleepers for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and fulfilled the projection with steadfast play. He finished eighth in total driving and second in greens hit. Also led the field in the all-around ranking. He's perfect in seven starts on the season with another two top 20s. The only concern long-term is his status. As conditionally exempt for placing 126th in FedExCup points last season, he may need top 10s (like his entry into this week) or sponsor exemptions to secure playing time.
Jonas Blixt ... Just far enough off the radar but probably shouldn't be. How quickly we can forget about a co-runner-up at the Masters just because two weeks have passed. But this phenomenon happens just about every week since guys don't (and can't) compete in every tournament. He's emerged as a big-stage performer time and again, too. On that list of impressive showings is a T9 in his debut at Quail Hollow in 2012.
Gary Woodland ... Long hitters on a bruising course like Quail Hollow have an advantage. With his recent play, smart course management should run tandem with his big stick. He's riding a consecutive cuts made streak of 10 that features six top 20s. Critics will cite terrible putting on paper, but he's not a chronically poor putter. Despite sitting 178th in strokes gained-putting, he's 18th in greens hit and 25th in bogey avoidance. This suggests that he's an extremist (read: streaky) on the greens. Worth adding for this week that he's T27 in par-4 scoring and T29 in par-5 scoring.
Chris Kirk ... Of the 156 in the field, he ranks first with 16 consecutive cuts made. He's cooled a bit with only two top 25s in his last nine starts, but his repeated knack for getting to the weekend carries potentially tremendous value.
Retief Goosen ... Fell outside the top 10 with a closing 74 at TPC Louisiana, but still managed a T21. With a T7 in his previous start in Houston, it's the first time since June of 2011 that he's linked top 25s on the PGA TOUR. Currently 17th in strokes gained-putting. Also has a T10 (2006) and T11 (2009) at Quail Hollow.
Pat Perez ... He's been out-and-out ballin' it this season. Descended on Charlotte with 12 consecutive cuts made with top 20s in his last two. Ranks 11th in strokes gained-putting and 38th in adjusted scoring. His spotty slate at Quail Hollow is highlighted by a T6 in 2011.
Charles Howell III ... Just keeps chugging along. Simply a perfect fit for weekly salary games for all of the reasons you're rewarded. He's 10th on TOUR in greens hit and 38th in par breakers. Only two missed cuts in 16 starts this season. Tied for 10th at Quail Hollow last year.
Chesson Hadley ... It's not normal for a rookie to warrant an endorsement in weekly salary formats, but ever since he publicly called himself out on Twitter on Feb. 6, he's been reliable, even picking up his snap-worthy breakthrough title in Puerto Rico. If you don't recall what he tweeted, here you go (in a series of three posts): "New attitude coming out on the golf course today. I have been arrogant and lost that sense of thankfulness just to be out here... From now on I am just thankful to be on the PGA Tour. I don't deserve to be here but God has blessed me with this amazing opportunity... Humble confidence is what I am going to try and demonstrate from now on." He had arrived at Pebble Beach with five consecutive missed cuts, he then tied for 10th three days later.
Ben Martin ... Truth be told, he enjoyed a sparkling six-round run before fading to T15 at TPC Louisiana with post-cut scores of 73 and 75, respectively, after holding a three-shot lead at the midpoint.
Ángel Cabrera ... After missing the cut at the Masters, I fully expected news to surface that he was going to shut it down and have his left shoulder treated until healed. However, he flew home to Argentina and finished second in a PGA TOUR Latinoamérica NEC Series event. All bets are off moving forward, but he's also just 2-for-9 on the PGA TOUR this season with no top 40s.
Kevin Streelman ... He's having a bad season only as it compares to last year's career effort. His wife delivered the couple's first child in late 2013, so he gets a pass in the context of balancing the life experience, but we play a results-based game. He's signed for a red number after just four of his last 18 rounds.
Hideki Matsuyama ... Since suffering a wrist injury, which may have been an aggravation from the same earlier in 2014, he's posted a T34 at no-cut Doral and missed two cuts. Four of his last seven scores have been 74 or higher.
Nicolas Colsaerts ... You probably don't need me for this one, but the Belgian enjoyed a (distant) co-runner-up in Malaysia two weeks ago. The problem is that he has no other top 25s in his last eight starts worldwide, including last week in China where he missed the cut by eight strokes.
Tommy Gainey ... From a fan's perspective, he's one of my favorites, so it's been disappointing to monitor his lack of progress this season. The drought ended in New Orleans with a T8. He didn't miss on 63 attempts from six feet and in (including 16 outside three feet), but Quail Hollow has always given him fits, so it's time to lay off again. Better finish among two cuts made is a T40 in 2012.
Keep an Eye On
Andrew Svoboda ... With a T2 in New Orleans, he's all but set for status through 2014-15, so he's unlikely to bounce back to the Web.com Tour where he's played three times this year. With two wins in a five-start sprint spanning both tours late last summer, he proved that he's a closer. It's the long-term consistency that stunts our excitement. So, if he's still a free agent in your format and you need a spark, don't think twice. Just be prepared to let him marinate for a while.
Bill Haas ... We gamers are always skittish about top talents coming off injuries. On one hand, the concern is obvious, but often the "beware the injured golfer" mantra rewards the risk-takers. He ended his week at Harbour Town with a wrist injury. This past Monday, he hosted an inaugural pro-am fundraiser in Greenville, S.C. There were no reports of a setback, so consider it a green light if you pounce on the absence of a negative. He has a pair of fourth-place finishes at Quail Hollow, the latter in 2011, but it's more impressive that he had survived 14 consecutive cuts prior to his WD two weeks ago.
Jeff Overton ... That he finally broke free of the nuisance of a wrist injury over the last few months for a solo fourth in New Orleans is a relief, but he has zero top 30s among three cuts made in six appearances at Quail Hollow, and he's scored under par in seven of his last eight rounds on the track.
Hunter Mahan ... It was at this point of the season last year when he failed to log a top 70 in four straight starts, so his current set of four without a top 25 isn't terribly concerning. However, since withdrawing at Bay Hill during his final round with what was deemed to be a complex injury to his hip and back, his scores have yet to rule out that it's no longer an issue.
Will MacKenzie ... So what are we supposed to do now that he's missed consecutive cuts? He missed by only one at TPC Louisiana, but the mojo isn't there at the moment. Just remain patient as it's not like he's suddenly forgotten how to succeed after stacking five top 10s and another four top 25s this season.
Peter Hanson ... Coming off a T11 in New Orleans, his best finish on the PGA TOUR in 13 months. Gamers would love to wrap their arms around the former top 20-ranked golfer in the world (he's currently 72nd), but it was his only top 30 in his last seven stroke-play starts worldwide. He's also a first-timer at Quail Hollow. The variable that enhances his value is the Bermuda grass on the greens.
Returning to Competition
Gary Christian ... Slated to resume competition at the Web.com Tour's South Georgia Classic. He's been out of action for more than nine months after surgery to repair the ACL in his right knee following a fluke accident on an "after dinner walk" (per his Twitter page when it happened). Given three starts on a Non-exempt Medical Extension on the PGA TOUR to earn $520,151 or 317 FedExCup points and a promotion to the Major Medical category.
Fred Funk ... Scheduled to compete in the Insperity Invitational on the Champions Tour beginning on Friday. Withdrew on the Wednesday prior to last week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans with a knee injury.
Briny Baird ... Four consecutive cuts made following an 0-for-6 skid, but that streak is devoid of a top 45. Currently 75th in FedExCup points on the strength of a co-runner-up at The McGladrey Classic.
The way that Lee Westwood is playing again, and with Billy Foster back on the bag, the stars are aligned. I'd normally leave Westwood, who sits No. 2 in my Power Rankings, on my short list for the U.S. Open, but Phil Mickelson (No. 3) is already plugged in at Pinehurst. Rory McIlroy tops my Power Rankings, but I burned him at Doral.
I toyed with holstering Westwood for next week's PLAYERS since ball-striking is such a predicator of success at TPC Sawgrass. This decision would keep the door open for Robert Karlsson at Quail Hollow, so two-man formats should consider this quinella. J.B. Holmes is also heating up and worth a look.
Zurich Classic of New Orleans: Rickie Fowler; MC; $0.00; 0.000 FedExCup points
Overall Record: 19-for-24
FedExCup points: 967.629
Top 5s: 2
Top 10s: 7
Top 25s: 11
Missed Cuts: 5