Viva la Hideki!
As I sat in the space reserved for the media in the basement of the clubhouse at TPC Scottsdale on Sunday, I couldn’t help but imagine that the roars outside were for Hideki Matsuyama’s birdie conversions at 18, both to end regulation and to extend the playoff on the second extra hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. However, in a fact not lost on the eventual champ himself who playfully estimated that “99 percent of the gallery were cheering hard for Rickie [Fowler],” those roars were, indeed, for the popular American who matched clutch conversions before running out of steam on the fourth playoff hole. Alas, those eruptions were not one-and-doners invested in the 23-year-old from Japan. Dare to daydream.
Of course, all that really matters is that the win counts no matter the crowd reaction. And as if that alone wasn’t enough fun, a filthy sense of success washed over me knowing that Sean:
1) Is Matsuyama’s No. 1 fan; and
2) Had Matsuyama available him; and
3) Didn’t burn Matsuyama; and
4) Had already missed the cut (with Jamie Lovemark)
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The bad news is that My Favorite Martin had an insurmountable lead entering the tournament thanks to Brandt Snedeker’s 500-point windfall at the Farmers Insurance Open the week prior. Nothing like offsetting victories in consecutive weeks early in the season in this format. It’s as good as an aggressive third round of a prize fight that goes the distance.
Just like a great bout, there’s a pace to our season, too. As tempting as it might be to try to go back-to-back, it’s a foolhardy endeavor that would require overcoming ridiculous odds to validate it. In other words, I’m still saving Jordan Spieth and Jason Day for later, and probably the Playoffs during which both will be defending titles (Day twice) and points are quadrupled.
Frankly, the play at Pebble Beach is pretty simple. Jimmy Walker deserves the call at some point during a 47-event season and time is not on our side as it concerns opportunities on the West Coast Swing where he thrives. It doesn’t bother me to get stymied by Sean at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am because, in turn, I’m playing the push. Walker isn’t just a former winner on the Monterey Peninsula (2014), his game is also peaking again.
So many elite golfers are here this week that you really can’t go wrong with your selection, but you always need to think ahead. Walker makes even more sense in that context where other notables like Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and J.B. Holmes carry stronger staying power. Brandt Snedeker defends, so I immediately ruled him out given our provision. That doesn’t mean that I’d talk you out of him. He picked up the trophy in 2013 as well.
The only golfer who tempted me from swaying from Walker was Phil Mickelson. He loves where his game is at the moment, the results confirm the rhetoric and he’s a four-time champ here. Given that he’s 45 years of age, you’re advised to file away prior expectations if you hadn’t already, but he can still summon a haymaker.
Two-man games must consider James Hahn, who last week singled out the AT&T as the most likely place (other than Riviera where he defends next week) where he’d pick off his second PGA TOUR title.
Rank Panelist Pick Comment 1 Sean
I expect the Prince of Poa Annua to strike again. 2 Rob
Jimmy Walker While I won’t gain ground on Sean, I can keep pace while also separating from the others who aren’t on Walker. 3 D.J.
Danny Lee He was gobbled up by Sunday nerves last week, but his game is in great shape. 4 Mark
Shane Lowry I wanted to go with Jimmy Walker but, even though it is early in the season, I have to make in-roads on Sean's lead. A little Luck o' the Irish if you please Shane. You're playing well and the conditions are like back home.
This is lame. Had Kevin Na, who I love this week, penciled in before realizing I burned him at the HSBC. That leaves me with Walker, the obvious/safe/lazy/many-other-adjectives pick at Pebble Beach.
Jimmy Walker Sorry, Sean.
1. Each makes one pick for each PGA TOUR event. After selecting a player, he may not be picked again.
2. To count as a pick, the selected player must at least start a tournament.
3. Competitors earn points based on the number of FedExCup points his pick earns in each event.
4. Each panelist may select just one defending champion over the course of the 2015-16 PGA TOUR Season.
Alter* Bolton Dunham Immelman* Martin Piehowski WM Phoenix Holmes, T6 Matsuyama, Won Mickelson, T11 Watson, T14 Lovemark, MC Palmer, T24 Overall record 8-for-12 11-for-12 10-for-12 10-for-12 11-for-12 9-for-12 Earnings $814,585.09 $3,387,285.34 $2,184,037.80 $2,520,046.40 $3,527,998.99 $2,966,486.67 FedExCup points 396.000 1579.290 1019.790 1134.000 1651.630 1408.560 Wins 0 2 1 1 2 2 Top 5s 1 4 3 3 4 4 Top 10s 2 4 3 3 4 5 Top 25s 3 8 7 4 7 7 Missed cuts 4 0 2 2 1 3 Withdrawals 0 1 0 0 0 0 Disqualifications 0 0 0 0 0 0 * = Panelist has used his one defending champion for 2015-16. Tom selected Charley Hoffman at the OHL Classic while Mark went with Patrick Reed at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
THIS SEASON'S PICKS
Here's a look at who our panelists have selected thus far during the 2015-16 season:
Alter Bolton Dunham Immelman Martin Piehowski Points 396 1579.29 1019.79 1140.5 1645.13 1408.56 Jason Bohn 154.16 16 245 Steven Bowditch 0 Alex Cejka 49 Brendon de Jonge 33 Jason Dufner 500 Harris English 0 0 Tony Finau 35 Sergio Garcia 46 Branden Grace 52.5 Emiliano Grillo 500 Brian Harman 0 J.B. Holmes 86 Charley Hoffman 0 Charles Howell III 54.5 51.13 Smylie Kaufman 33 Martin Kaymer 39 Kevin Kisner 500 500 Patton Kizzire 11 62 0 62 Russell Knox 31.5 Brooks Koepka 27 27 Matt Kuchar 51.13 51.13 19 Anirban Lahiri 49 Danny Lee 34 ATT PEBBLE Jamie Lovemark 0 Shane Lowry ATT PEBBLE Hideki Matsuyama 500 Graeme McDowell 0 41.5 William McGirt 135 Phil Mickelson 0 65 0 Ryan Moore 25 Kevin Na 14 162.5 14 162.5 154.16 Ryan Palmer 51 43 Scott Piercy 46 Ian Poulter 39 Patrick Reed 12.5 12.5 300 12.5 Patrick Rodgers 57.66 Adam Scott 1 1 Webb Simpson 12.5 Brandt Snedeker 162.5 500 500 500 Scott Stallings 23 Brendan Steele 0 D. Summerhays 56 Justin Thomas 145 Jimmy Walker ATT PEBBLE ATT PEBBLE ATT PEBBLE ATT PEBBLE Bubba Watson 56 65.4 Will Wilcox 0 0
ROB BOLTON'S WRITING SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM's Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week's event. Look for the following features later this week:
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One-and-Done, Comfort Zone
THURSDAY: Most-picked players