- By PGATOUR.COM
Welcome back and happy new year, gamers!
While the Hyundai Tournament of Champions sits eighth in the lineup of 47 tournaments this season, the restart following the holiday break offers the best time to examine and update my schedule. If you’re familiar with my work, everything as you know it continues. The Power Rankings lead off on Mondays. The Fantasy Insider runs on Tuesdays along with Expert Picks and Sleepers (which returns for next week’s Sony Open in Hawaii).
The One-and-Done column will publish on Wednesdays when you can also listen to me review my Power Rankings on “Talk of the TOUR,” which streams live and for free at PGATOUR.COM/LiveAudio at 11:00 a.m. ET.
In addition to those mainstays, I’m taking over the Comfort Zone. It will appear on Wednesdays. If you never read a previous edition, it highlights golfers who have either exhibited success in a particular tournament or may have another reason to generate a good week. Then, during each opening round, I’ll be compiling the list of the top-10 most-owned golfers in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf driven by Avis.
For all of my content, click on MENU at the top. Then click on Fantasy. Among the options are Major Qualifiers, Rookie Rankings, Reshuffle and Medical Extensions. I maintain all four weekly or when necessary. And you never know when we might add something new to the mix, but if it happens, I’ll alert you here.
Shifting our focus to the here and now, this week’s 32-man field at Kapalua gets the full treatment in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf driven by Avis. It’s the third of four tournaments during Segment 1 that utilizes all four categories to measure performance. Meanwhile, as the seventh of 10 events in the segment, feel free to burn anyone if you’ll have at least two starts remaining. As noted in Expert Picks, I’m down to one each for Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed, so I may holster it for either unless one contends for the title on Maui.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf driven by AVIS
You'll find my lineup in Expert Picks, but here are others to consider for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER
NOTE: I've limited this section to golfers who I'm endorsing in the Power Rankings.
Scoring: Kevin Kisner; Graeme McDowell; Justin Thomas
Driving: Emiliano Grillo; Kevin Kisner; Brooks Koepka; Justin Thomas
Approach: Emiliano Grillo; Zach Johnson; Kevin Kisner; Brooks Koepka; Graeme McDowell; Scott Piercy; Justin Thomas
Short: Kevin Kisner; Graeme McDowell; Justin Thomas; Jimmy Walker
With only 32 golfers in the field at Kapalua, I’ve ranked the 17 who weren’t featured in the Power Rankings on Monday.
16. Russell Knox … If Chris Kirk (hand) or Jimmy Walker (form) were also first-timers, it’s probable that the Scot slides into the Power Rankings, but experience matters. Knox is the lone first-timer among the three, so even though he closed out the fall with a breakthrough title in China and a playoff loss at Mayakoba, there’s valid reason to enter this week with caution. He also placed an erratic 24th at the 30-man Nedbank Golf Challenge in his last start. Therefore, his role this week will be as the tiebreaker if you’re stuck.
17. Alex Cejka … Opened 2015-16 really strong, par or better in all 14 rounds played and sits 12th in the FedExCup standings. But at 45 years of age, he’s the oldest first-timer in the field.
18. Brandt Snedeker … A sore hip slowed him down late last summer, and he opened what would be a short week at the Australian PGA Championship with an 84, but the 35-year-old quieted some skeptics when he partnered with Jason Dufner to win the Franklin Templeton Shootout in December. It’s tough to valuate that success given the varied dynamics compared to this week’s objective, but he knows how to get around Kapalua. A respectable slate includes a solo third here in 2013.
19. Danny Lee … Unlike 2015 when he needed every stroke saved to automatically qualify for The Presidents Cup, the 25-year-old won’t be grinding as hard to represent New Zealand in the Olympics. Not that he won’t want to build for a run at the gold medal, but he can go ahead and book his travel if he hasn’t already. The first-timer at Kapalua doesn’t warrant the kind of confidence that we had last summer, but if he can hit the ground running, that narrative will swiftly change.
20. J.J. Henry … Say this of the 40-year-old: he’s an opportunist. Facing a second consecutive trip to the Web.com Tour Finals, he emerged in a playoff in Reno last August to extend his fully exempt status through 2016-17. Naturally, it was his only top 10 in 30 starts last season. So, faced with the prospect of making hay at Kapalua, it comes as no surprise that he’s placed T8 (2007) and T13 (2013) in his two previous appearances. Don’t dismiss veteran moxie on Maui.
21. David Lingmerth … Seriously cooled after ripping off a stretch that included his first trophy presentation (at Muirfield Village), a T6 at Firestone and a T12 at Whistling Straits. At least he walked off 2015 with a T9 at the Australian PGA Championship a month ago, which trailed a T14 at the CIMB Classic a month prior, but that sporadic success is his norm, not the exception. Quite fine for full-season games, though.
22. Peter Malnati … Satiated the faithful, who lean on the value of victory on the Web.com Tour (2015 Brasil Classic), when he lit the world on fire with his putting en route to his breakthrough at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Answered with a T10 at Mayakoba before running out of steam at Seaside. He’s prepared to play in every event for which he’s eligible, and he’s very much in control of understanding who he is inside the ropes. That unquantifiable asset for a relative unknown is the kind of nugget gamers seek.
23. Bill Haas … While the past doesn’t foretell the future, he’s hemorrhaged equity with progressively worse results every time he returns, which says something for a guy who rarely lets us down. His left the island after his last appearance with but a T24 in 2014.
24. J.B. Holmes … The Plantation Course didn’t treat him as well in his last two appearances (2009, 2015) as it did in his debut when he tied for fourth in 2007. That concern is mitigated, at least for gamers, by the fact that there’s no cut and only 32 golfers in the field. What’s more, he’s fresh off a career year that included a strong finish. Still, the leading motivator for plugging him anywhere is to ration starts elsewhere.
25. Smylie Kaufman … After taking the Shriners with a closing 61, he failed to log a top 30 in three starts. That’s more in line with the kind of expectations gamers have for rookies week in and week out. However, the Alabama native exhibited a similar proclivity for the dramatic during his only season the Web.com Tour. So, for the time being, rest easy with him locked into only full-season lineups.
26. Davis Love III … Sixth trip to Kapalua and first since a co-runner-up in 2009. It has to be a treat for the 51-year-old who qualified with an uplifting victory at Sedgefield in August, and he’s a gamer, but patient full-season owners are happy to record whatever he collects.
27. Steven Bowditch … Every year it seems, there’s one guy who capitalizes on the plethora of opportunities to play everywhere late in the year, and then, in retrospect, may wonder why. The Aussie was all over the world after reaching the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola for the first time, but made little noise. However, he was just as busy in the last quarter of 2014 and found mild success. So, we should continue to expect that he’ll embrace his profession regardless of where it takes him, not indict him on the perception that more is less. Rested for a month now and always a threat on the greens, he’ll be looking to improve on a T22 in his debut here last year.
28. James Hahn … It’s too bad that this tournament wasn’t held the week after he placed sixth at the CIMB Classic over two months ago. His ball-striking was on point in Malaysia, guiding him to T2 in fairways hit and first in greens in regulation. He missed only eight GIR all week! Alas, there isn’t enough consistency on the books to endorse him in any format in his first look at Kapalua.
29. Troy Merritt … Great experience and opportunity for the 30-year-old first-timer this week, but he hasn’t built a résumé that gamers deem worthy of value in the short-term just yet.
30. Fabian Gomez … All but disappeared after emerging with the title in Memphis, but opened 2015-16 with a pair of top 20s, and then picked off his third consecutive win at the Personal Classic in his native Argentina. Returned to the U.S. to polish off 2015 with a T44 at Seaside. Allow him to go it alone this week.
31. Padraig Harrington … Finally making his debut on the fourth try and the only in the field who didn’t record a breakthrough title in 2014-15. Now, when he navigates the Bermudagrass on Thursday, he’ll be only six weeks removed from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. He proclaimed on Twitter that he could play if necessary only four days after the procedure. Gamers love the confidence and it’s what we expect, but he’s 44 years old and the elevation changes on the Plantation Course will test his leg more than any other track on the schedule. All of this also doesn’t say anything of the fact that he managed only one top 30 in 22 starts after winning The Honda Classic in a playoff to qualify this week. Assuming he’s able, he’ll be at Waialae for the first time next week.
32. Matt Every … Besieged by injury and illness throughout the second half of 2015, so he’s thankful to qualify as he arrives on a 2-for-14 skid, both paydays courtesy of no-cut tournaments in which he didn’t crack the top 70.
Returning to Competition
George Coetzee ... Scheduled to compete in the BMW South Africa Open. Had surgery for a broken left ankle four months ago and hasn’t played since. However, for finishing atop the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit in 2015, the 29-year-old from Pretoria, South Africa, collected exemptions into the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship and The Open Championship.
Justin Rose … Despite being eligible to compete six times, the Englishman has showed only once at Kapalua (T12, 2011). Hasn’t announced when he’s going to play again, but said back in November that he might appear more on the West Coast Swing and not as much in Florida (due in part to allergies). As you already know, all dual-tour talents are facing a challenge with scheduling this year what with the prospect of qualifying for the Olympics.
Rory McIlroy … Underwent laser eye surgery on Dec. 9. Plans to get back inside the ropes in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 21-24.
Jim Furyk … After qualifying for the 13th appearance, this is the first time that he’s decided not to play. The RBC Heritage champ sat out the last three months of 2015 with a bone contusion in his left wrist. Hopes to make his usual season debut at Pebble Beach on Feb. 11-14, and then play the Northern Trust Open the following week.
Shane Lowry … The first-time qualifier is off until the Farmers Insurance Open at the end of January.
Power Rankings Recap – The RSM Classic
Rank Player Finish 1 Russell Henley T6 2 Kevin Kisner Win 3 Graeme McDowell 3rd 4 Justin Thomas T58 5 Patton Kizzire MC 6 Brendon de Jonge T33 7 Patrick Rodgers T44 8 Charles Howell III T9 9 Matt Kuchar T25 10 Peter Malnati T75/MDF 11 Zach Johnson T75/MDF 12 Roberto Castro T52 13 Spencer Levin MC 14 Bill Haas T33 15 Robert Streb T25
Birthdays among active golfers on the PGA TOUR
January 1 … none
January 2 … none
January 3 … Charlie Wi (44)
January 4 … David Toms (49)
January 5 … Shaun Micheel (47)
January 6 … Tyrone Van Aswegen (34)
January 7 … Camilo Villegas (34)
January 8 … Kent Jones (49)
January 9 … Sergio Garcia (36)
January 10 … Ian Poulter (40)
January 11 … none