I've always said that if you've ever wanted a crash course on learning a sport, join a fantasy league. It's really no different than joining any other club for which you have interest. But golf can be overwhelming because it's niche. You have a smaller pool of mainstream reporters than in other sports not to mention that its individual nature caters to the business of the elite. There are about 30 golfers, give or take, about whom most casual fans at least know a little. To know the rest quickly, play fantasy golf.
Since my first day as a fantasy columnist at Rotoworld in 2008, I've stood by the mantra that Tiger Woods is just one golfer, and all golfers are equal. In our world, they are stocks with constantly changing value. It doesn't matter who it is, if he can guide you to a league championship, you won't care. It's hard enough to win, much less win investing only in familiar names.
Ten events remain before the FedExCup Playoffs. The jostling to qualify and retain fully exempt status for 2014-15 figures to be captivating as it always is. While the focus is elevated at the Wyndham Championship since it's the final stop for entry, every week guys move in and out of the bubble. Gamers monitor this line of demarcation like hawks. Placement determines membership status for most, and that affects keeper value in carryover formats. The bubble boys are also the most likely to play the most events until virtually safe.
As we enter the summer, Joe Fan will be watching leaderboards. In addition, we'll be digesting how this week's quintet of newly minted pros fare. (See the capsule for Patrick Rodgers below.) Fan will be awaiting Woods' return. We're anticipating the same, but we have no choice to but to continue to attempt to manufacture success in his absence. Gamers don't care about ratings and we don't play the game for one golfer. It's a brilliant time to bone up on value deeper on the board, and therefore, become more familiar with guys you'll see on leaderboards in the future.
You can find my selections for PGATOUR.COM's fantasy game in Expert Picks.
Power Rankings Wild Card
Zach Johnson ... Almost every week, there's a guy that reminds us that form is temporary and class is permanent. He rolls in very much like how Webb Simpson arrived in Memphis (where Simpson tied for third). ZJ's only missed cut of the season occurred at the Masters, but he's gone four straight without a top 25. He goes as his putter goes, and it's been inconsistent. He's probably overpriced in DFS, but he's worth a spot in smaller lineups because it's not a matter of if he'll snap out of his slump, it's when. And a cut made is a virtual certainty at TPC River Highlands where he's 7-for-8 with four top 25s.
Brendon de Jonge ... Part of the conversation early at the U.S. Open, but settled for a share of 28th place. It's his fourth consecutive top 30, but gamers don't invest in him for leaderboard crashing. He can be one of the deadliest best-ball, par-breaking machines on TOUR. Both top 10s in six starts at the Travelers yielded 11-under 269s.
Marc Leishman ... Took home his only PGA TOUR trophy with a closing 62 at the 2012 edition of this event. More recently, tied for third at Las Colinas and chased it with a T21 at Colonial. Always seems to shine when the wind blows, which it might a tad through Friday.
Brian Harman ... He's knocked on the door so many times that it seems only a matter of time before it opens. Still a non-winner on the PGA TOUR, he's racked up five top 10s, including in his last start at the St. Jude (T6). Usually gets off to a fast start, evidenced by ranking 12th in first-round scoring (69.76). Under par in 15 of 21 openers.
Russell Knox ... Oh, the shock and the awe of arriving on his first 0-for-2 skid since June of 2012. Don't be the gamer that walks away based on this. He's in the midst of a career year and sits 38th in FedExCup points. Still nails throughout his bag, ranking T13 in greens hit, first in proximity to the hole, 25th in scrambling and 27th in adjusted scoring. Also put four rounds together en route to a T13 here last year.
Aaron Baddeley ... A mild endorsement for DFSers. Leads the PGA TOUR in strokes gained-putting, so he's fulfilling that reputation. It's a skill set that can go a long way in a shootout if one develops. Twelve of his last 14 rounds at TPC River Highlands are sub-70s, but he has nothing more than a T24 in 2011 to show for it. Coming off a T23 at the U.S. Open, easily his best finish in a major since a T17 at the 2009 Masters.
Scott Brown ... Worth a flier in DFS because he's very good with the flat stick. Had the week off following a T13 at the Memorial. It's one of six top 25s this season, three of which are top 10s.
Jerry Kelly ... Probably worth the plunge in DFS given the University of Hartford product has opened each of the last seven editions of the tournament with a red number. He survived six of those cuts, including a T24 last year. Three top 10s this season, but hasn't cracked a top 30 in his last five starts, so you're more likely to be flying solo on a sentimental fit.
Brendan Steele ... With a pair of T13s in three starts and kind of coming out of nowhere, he's dipped his toe into the horse-for-course category. Would love to see one more as he's gone seven consecutive starts this season without a top 25, so consider him a tiebreaker in DFS.
Ken Duke ... His breakthrough victory here last year was one of the feel-good stories of 2013, but the game has beaten him up pretty good lately. Zero top 45s among seven cuts made in his last 13 starts.
Ben Crane ... Didn't qualify for the U.S. Open after going wire-to-wire in Memphis where he closed with a birdie-free 73. It's the only top-30 finish in his last 13 starts. Nothing better than a T59 (2011) in three tries at TPC River Highlands.
Patrick Reed ... Yes, I see the T18 he hung up here last year, but he's yet to shed the doubt that it was his form that was troubling him the last three months and not the distraction of the birth of his first child in late May. Since his win at Doral, he's 3-for-7 with nothing better than a T35 at the U.S. Open. Just one red number in his last 17 rounds.
Jonas Blixt ... Sometimes the most underappreciated values are the most frustrating. Failed to fulfill his projection at the U.S. Open. While impressive, a co-runner-up at the Masters is his only top-70 finish in his last six starts.
Seung-yul Noh ... A T52 at the U.S. Open is his best result among two cuts made in five starts since winning in New Orleans. He's gone nine consecutive rounds without a red number.
Nick Watney ... The lost season trudges forward. He's missed only five of 16 cuts, but four of his last five, and remains stuck on nothing better than a T24 at The Honda Classic. He's enjoyed three top 15s in his last four trips to TPC River Highlands, but the comfort-zone angle could have applied to many a stop throughout this season.
Kevin Streelman ... Suffering a similarly strange slump as last summer. After sharing 14th place at Quail Hollow, he's missed four straight cuts. Flashback 13 months when after a torrid run from March through May capped by a co-runner-up at THE PLAYERS, he hit the wall with four consecutive MCs. It took him three months post-PLAYERS to find another top 40.
James Driscoll ... With a solo fifth here in 2011 and a T18 in 2012, the native New Englander hasn't minded the home crowd, but he enters on a 1-for-7 slide with a T64 at the Byron Nelson. Clinging to 125th in the FedExCup standings.
John Rollins ... Virtually invisible all season despite 21 starts. He's survived 11 cuts, but nine resulted in a finish outside the top 45. He's gone 13 consecutive starts without one. Top fives here in 2011 and 2012 were prefaced with some semblance of form.
Keep an Eye On
Harris English ... Remains in a funk with seven consecutive starts sans a top 25, but he proved early in the season that he doesn't mind going low early and often. Still fourth in greens in regulation, 11th in par breakers and inside the top 20 in par-3, -4 and -5 scoring.
Louis Oosthuizen ... Just his second appearance (T47, 2012). Arrives having connected three cuts made for the first time since he was saddled with injuries over the past year. The run started with a T11 at Las Colinas and concluded with a 3-under 67 at Pinehurst where his only blemish was a three-putt bogey at the par-4 18th. Gamers would love for him to hit the gas a bit as you're likely near full capacity of starts available.
Brian Stuard ... He's missed four consecutive cuts since a T17 at THE PLAYERS. The knock on him among gamers was that he needs a shootout to thrive. For most intents and purposes, the results support the theory. So, if you subscribe and you're a DFSer, go ahead and put the theory to the test.
Kevin Chappell ... Unlikely to win many putting contests, which is how a shootout tends to play out, but his tee-to-green game is so solid that he could lead the field in opportunities to break par. That's valuable because it's arguably easier to get hot with the putter than it is for great putters to suddenly zone in on their irons. The only problem with that, however, is that he hasn't ranked inside the top 20 in strokes gained-putting in a tournament since the 2013 Shell Houston Open.
Patrick Rodgers ... Making his professional debut. Swept the individual collegiate awards this past year and has a full allotment of sponsor exemptions lined up this summer as a result. Leaves his previous world behind as the No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Other former standouts entering the play-for-pay ranks this week include his teammate at Stanford and NCAA Men's individual champion Cameron Wilson; 2013 U.S. Amateur runner-up Oliver Goss (featured in Tuesday's Global Glance); and Bobby Wyatt, member of the two-time NCAA defending champions from the University of Alabama. Joey Garber received the last sponsor exemption into the Travelers. The former Bulldog at the University of Georgia made his pro debut in last week's Michigan Open where he took runner-up honors.
Returning to Competition
Kris Blanks ... Tried to give it a go in Memphis but pulled out after one round due to his injured left shoulder. To say that it's been a bugaboo would be a significant understatement. Since it began bothering him through surgery early in 2013 and deep into this season, his career has been revolving around it. Still continues to grind out status either via medical extensions or success on the Web.com Tour where he won earlier this year.
David Duval ... Gained entry as an alternate. Given what he wrote on Twitter on June 7 when he withdrew during his second round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic, he hadn't expected to return from an elbow injury until perhaps the John Deere Classic in three weeks, but that he didn't withdraw at any point this week is a good sign.
Cameron Beckman ... Played 27 holes in Memphis two weeks ago before walking off TPC Southwind. An explanation wasn't released.
Paul Casey ... Set to compete in the Irish Open on the European Tour. Although his shift back to Europe isn't unexpected, it's still disappointing given his resurgence on the PGA TOUR this season. If for whatever reason he's a free agent in your keeper league, go get him.
David Toms ... Currently 116th in FedExCup points and 112th in earnings.
Not unlike Phil Mickelson chasing the career grand slam at Pinehurst No. 2 last week, I've had fellow lefty, Bubba Watson, penciled in for the Travelers Championship. All signs point to the Masters champ at TPC River Highlands where he's second in career earnings and a former winner (2010).
If he's off your board or you're holstering for later, Hunter Mahan was the previous automatic investment here. As the all-time money leader at the tournament thanks to a win in 2007 and nothing worse than a T4 in a four-year stretch ending in 2009, he's almost always been able to rely on finding form in central Connecticut. Form, however, has eluded him of late, so he now fits the profile of a guy that you'd start if you're trailing and need to force the action. One-and-done front-runners are not advised to do the same.
Ryan Moore and Freddie Jacobson stack up as the other primary choices based on success at TPC River Highlands, but Charley Hoffman is the dynamic option that you should consider perhaps most of all. Hoffman led after 18 holes last year with a career-low 61 before settling for a T7. He tied for second in 2012 after closing double bogey-bogey, so he probably still has a chip on his shoulder.
Two-man games needs to consider last year's playoff loser Chris Stroud, who remains in pursuit of his first win on TOUR. Erik Compton and Brooks Koepka round out the short list. And just to emphasize Compton's value, he spoke on numerous occasions last week of the heat at Pinehurst, but overcame as he is wont to do. If he didn't talk about it, you wouldn't have noticed or cared.
U.S. Open: Phil Mickelson; T28; $59,588.00; 40.000 FedExCup points
Overall Record: 25-for-31
FedExCup points: 1,157.069
Top 5s: 2
Top 10s: 7
Top 25s: 13
Missed Cuts: 6