Fantasy Insider: Analysis for the Valero Texas OpenApril 12, 2011
Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist
A week ago, all signs pointed to Phil Mickelson as the 2011 Masters champion. I even broke protocol and tweeted that he'd sit atop the Power Rankings moments after he clinched the Shell Houston Open on Sunday. There was no reason he didn't deserve that perch. That he didn't post one round in the 60s at Augusta National, much less the fact that he didn't even contend, was troubling. However, it was yet another reminder of the fickle nature of this sport. The dynamics changes too quickly to quantify. Congrats if you were on board with Charl Schwartzel. As my Yahoo! stats below indicate, I was not. There was no reason to be, a week ago.
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Inside the Course
Forging forward, one of the most underrated aspects of this week's Valero Texas Open is that its host -- AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio -- is still very new. Over one-half of the field has never played it in competition. That means that the final leaderboard should have a couple of surprises on it.
Furthermore, it continues to mature. It was open for only three months prior to last year's VTO, and that was in May. Moved up a month to fill the extra week between the Masters and THE PLAYERS, Richard Oliver of the San Antonio Express-News offered his insight as to the influence of the course's growth. "The tournament did overseed the course," Oliver told PGATOUR.COM's John Swantek for "Talk of the TOUR," which can be heard here. "That does change things a little bit. It's going to be a little shaggier in spots. I think that there are certain holes that are going to play a lot different than they did before."
In last year's edition, 14 of the top 16 on the final leaderboard ranked inside the top 25 in greens in regulation; 10 sat inside the top 10 and ties in the category. As the touring pros bone up on new tracks, the value of hitting greens is elevated. And with windy conditions on tap, patience will be rewarded as well.
Power Rankings Plus
11. Angel Cabrera ... I'm always leery of circling El Pato in short-term situations, but he put on quite the tee-to-green display en route to a solo seventh at Augusta National last week, missing just eight (of 56) fairways and hitting 75 percent of his greens. He's a first-timer here.
12. J.B. Holmes ... Returns after a potentially stinging week off. He failed to qualify for the Masters after finishing 31st in FedExCup Points last year. The top 30 are exempt into the first three majors, and he remains on the outside looking in for the U.S. and British Opens. He was the 54-hole leader here last year before fading to finish with a share of 13th place. For the week, he ranked T2 in greens hit and birdies, and played the back nine in 13 under, with an eagle and three birdies on the 18th hole alone.
13. Charles Howell III ... First-timer at TPC San Antonio ranks 17th on TOUR in greens hit, T12 in par-5 scoring average and 19th in the all-around. He has five top 25s this year, including a T19 at his last start in Houston, where he converted eight birdies in his final round.
14. Chris Kirk ... Coming off a clutch co-runner-up payday in Houston, where he carded four rounds in the 60s. He also led the field in greens hit, ranked 16th in putting and T2 in birdies. The rookie sits 33rd in the all-around, 29th in greens, 39th in adjusted scoring average and moved to the top of the reshuffle following the SHO.
15. Fredrik Jacobson ... Returns following an uncharacteristically sloppy 77 in his second round in Houston, where he missed the cut. The Swede finished solo second here last year, one stroke too high. He played his final 39 holes in bogey-free 9 under. Had just three holes over par all week.
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Power Rankings Distribution for Yahoo! (rank)
Dark Horse (Yahoo! Group)
Brandt Snedeker (C) ... Shared 15th place at the Masters, which exempts him into next year's edition if the spiff awarded to top 16 and ties is renewed. It's been an all-or-nothing year, as all four of his paydays (in nine starts) are top 15s. Gets his first taste of TPC San Antonio, which will lap up his short game. Ranks a surprisingly high T29 in par-5 scoring average on top of it.
Brandt Jobe (C) ... Two top 10s in his last four starts, including a T8 in Houston where he ranked third in greens hit and had a hole-in-one in his final round. Ranks 11th on TOUR in total driving and 27th in greens. Also T39 in par-5 scoring average.
Tommy Gainey (C) ... Proved his wares in the winds at The Honda Classic, where he finished fifth, also validating his T8 earlier in the year at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Ranks 28th in total driving and 39th in greens hit.
Kyle Stanley (C) ... The rookie has cashed in all but one of 10 starts thus far. Although he posted a T60 in Houston two weeks ago, he finished inside the top 25 in greens in regulation and putting. Currently 24th on TOUR in GIR, 15th in the all-around and T20 in par-5 scoring average.
Brian Gay (A) ... Has cashed in seven of eight starts this year, including his last four. Leads the TOUR in fairways hit, scrambling and sand saves. Sits third in scoring average. For what he lacks in distance off the tee, he's sneaky given his ability to keep his ball in play. Ranks T34 in par-5 scoring average, too.
Danger (Yahoo! Group)
Yahoo! lineup Starters: Group A: Marc Leishman Group B: Angel Cabrera, Bo Van Pelt Group C: Ryan Palmer Bench: Group A: Geoff Ogilvy Group B: J.J. Henry, Spencer Levin Group C: Adam Scott Yahoo! stats: 2,096 points (5,078th) ... SPRING: 200 points (67,195th) One and done: Ryan Palmer 2011 earnings: $1,782,333.00 Duffer: Joe Affrunti 2011 earnings: $765,555.00
Scott Verplank (C) ... Appeared to run out of gas in Houston, where he was bogey-free 6 under through 13 holes of his final round before swallowing two bogeys over his final five, settling for a share of second place. He led the field in putting that week -- and he'd lead the TOUR in putting for the year if he qualified (has logged just 14 rounds) -- but putting isn't a statistical priority this week, and his wrist is always cause for concern.
Stewart Cink (C) ... Missed the cut at the Masters before committing late here. Returns to San Antonio for the first time since 2003. Despite having nearly $400K in earnings this year, he's still after his first top 10. Statistically, he's close, but many others deserve a nod.
Kevin Na (B) ... Just another valuable reminder to temper your expectations in the short-term. Both of his top fives this year were on the West Coast. While he hasn't posted a top 25 in his last four starts, he's certainly capable of stapling one on the board this week, but he's 189th in total driving and 169th in greens hit.
Bryce Molder (B) ... Has missed his last four cuts, and hasn't broken 71 in his last nine rounds.
Cameron Beckman (C) ... Despite living locally, he's never posted a top 10 at this event, and he had just two top 25s at LaCantera. Started this year with four top 25s in his first six starts, but has tailed off just slightly, too.
Medic! (Yahoo! Group)
Pat Perez (B) ... Had to call it quits during his second round of the Shell Houston Open due to a migraine headache. Finished T22 at last year's VTO, ranking second in putting (T61 in GIR).
Garrett Willis (C) ... Inexplicably withdrew from the Shell Houston Open after carding a quadruple-bogey 8 on his ninth hole of the second round. No information was released explaining his decision. If he's healthy, he could be a sleeper this week after last year's T13 here (T9 in greens).
Joe Affrunti (C) ... Dealing with a nagging shoulder injury that forced him to withdraw from a Nationwide Tour event in late March.
Tag Ridings (C) ... Withdrew following his opening-round 78 in Houston. No information has been released offering a reason. Has cashed in just three of nine starts this year.
Sunghoon Kang (C) ... First start since missing the cut by 11 strokes at The Honda Classic. He hasn't committed to any event since.
Kenny Perry (B) ... Making his season debut on the Champions Tour at this week's Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am. It'll be his first start anywhere since withdrawing from the Arnold Palmer Invitational due to hip and knee injuries.
Notable WDs (Yahoo! Group)
Matt Bettencourt (C) ... Withdrew on Tuesday, which happened to be his 36th birthday. While he missed the cut in Houston two weeks ago, he had to pull out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational after one round due to tendinitis in his right elbow.
Tom Gillis (B) ... Withdrew on Monday. Also withdrew from the Shell Houston Open prior to that event.
Jamie Lovemark (C) ... Withdrew on Monday. Called it quits after one round in Houston due to his lingering back injury.
Michael Allen (C) ... Would have gained entry as an alternate in San Antonio, but has elected to tee it up near Tampa for the Champions Tour's Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am.