With the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational on tap this week, we have officially arrived at the home stretch. The final seven tournaments of the FedExCup portion of the season include the Bridgestone, the PGA Championship, the Wyndham Championship and four FedExCup Playoff events. The Bridgestone Invitational and the final two feature limited fields and no cut.
Rob, with only three plays left for Tiger, I am trying to decide when to use them. Do you know which tournaments he plans on playing with only seven to go? I know he is playing Bridgestone and the PGA. Do you have a guess on which of the remaining five? Despite him being the favorite at Bridgestone, I am thinking of not playing him this week. Thanks for your insight. -- Don
The short answer is that even if you had just one start remaining, this is the week to burn it. That you have three is a luxury. There is no reason to believe that he won't tee it up in all of the remaining events minus the Wyndham, an event he's never played. Save one for THE TOUR Championship for sure. Of the other four, only the Deutsche Bank Championship is contested at the same track as last year, and Woods won there in 2006. Of course, he won the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, site of this year's Barclays, so that site has merit as well. (Woods was also the high finisher out of the wrong side of the draw at the weather-beaten U.S. Open at Bethpage in 2009.)
I only have three more tournaments left for my one-and-done pool. Who should I pick for Firestone out of Adam Scott, Jason Dufner, Louis Oosthuizen, Bubba Watson, Nick Watney, Keegan Bradley and Jason Day. I am saving Dustin Johnson for next week's PGA championship. Regards, Steve
Since you're apparently allowed to plug in the defending champion, Scott is the best option based on both course history and recent form. It was clear in his presser today that he's turned the page since the late fade at the British Open. I'm exhausting Watson this week since he's excelled just about everywhere all year. You can ignore the lefty's mini-slump that resulted in missed cuts at the Memorial and U.S. Open.
We have two weeks left. Most free agents available are not that great. Right now I am considering Simon Dyson or Paul Lawrie. Which one do you think will make more money the final two weeks? Also, besides Nicolas Colsaerts, who was picked up -- he was on my radar all year and I missed the boat -- who else from across the big lake may be a better pick than Dyson or Lawrie? Thanks! -- Tom
Indeed, there are formats like Tom's salary game that call it a season with the final major. If his only question was to suggest the best international non-member other than Colsaerts, Lawrie would be the choice. While he's enjoyed a renaissance over the last 16 months and I could easily cite that as Exhibit A, there are intangibles that clinch it. He's currently inside the bubble for a return to the Ryder Cup and he's spoken with the kind of swagger and confidence you love to hear. Francesco Molinari ranks second on my short list.
Which of these two would you keep for the playoffs -- Carl Pettersson or Scott Piercy? Thanks for the help. -- Gary
Pettersson has more experience in the Playoffs, having reached the third leg four of five times. He advanced to THE TOUR Championship in 2008. Piercy's first visit to the BMW Championship didn't occur until last year, and he didn't qualify for the 30-man field at East Lake. The argument boils down to a known commodity versus an upward arrow.
Pettersson arrived at Firestone this week ranked eighth in the FedExCup standings, and Piercy is 13th, so each figures to roll into the postseason with little stress. (Pettersson is also one of the four champions of the Wyndham at its current home, Sedgefield Country Club.) If the rest of your team is solid, give Piercy a look. However, if you're riding along with a question mark or two, Pettersson's predictable value rises. If you can, await the conclusion of the Wyndham to decide.
By Rob Bolton, Fantasy Insider
Rapid-fire format for an expectedly busy week ...
Rob, I hope that all is well. Rose, Harrington, or McDowell this week? -- Les
Rose is No. 1 in my Power Rankings.
Rob, I think I've narrowed it down to McDowell, Els, and Dustin Johnson this week for my one-and-done, although I also have Sergio and Padraig available as well. I'm leaning McDowell a little, but what do you think? Thoughts? Thanks. -- Mike
You've essentially copied my short list. First, there's considerable reason to save DJ for the PGA Championship, and Els might come in handy during the FedExCup Playoffs. Now, the British is an event where you save the studs. I'm burning Garcia but I won't pretend to talk you out of McDowell or Harrington. If you toss in the dynamic of whom your competition might start, it's likely that Garcia and Harrington will lead the tote board as both are trending similarly. Obviously, Harrington is a two-time champ of this event, so perhaps that breaks your tie. When I strategize on one-and-dones, I aim for top 10s. Wins are bonuses.
Hey Rob, I have a lot of players qualified for the Open,
so I could use your help. My current thinking:
Definite: Dufner and Rose
Possible: Watson, Watney, Schwartzel, Els
I need 4 starters from the above. -- Erik
In order: Rose, Els, (Bubba) Watson and Schwartzel.
Question for you this week: I have not seen anyone pick Louis Oosthuizen for the Open. As a close second to Bubba at the Masters and an Open winner not that long ago is he hurt or is there something I am missing? Thank you. -- David
Not injured to my knowledge. Just a little off right now. Do not rule him out given his reputation as a ball-striker and his fearlessness in the biggest events.
Rob, there are legitimate and interesting storylines for 20-25 golfers to win the Open Championship. I need a winner excluding Woods, Westwood, Rose, Donald and McDowell). I was leaning towards Harrington but he seems too obvious. Now I’m committed to Mickelson but I’m thinking Hunter Mahan (similarly about Matt Kuchar) will make his personal statement in Europe and win his first Major. So the question Mickelson or Mahan, for me? Cheers. -- Chris
Can you rewind to Harrington? If not, Mahan's ball-striking over Mickelson's recent inconsistency sells me. However, expecting a win is unfair. Certainly, any of those guys could emerge with the Claret Jug, but it takes just one round on the wrong side of the draw to eliminate one's chances.
Hey Rob, I have Kuchar, Scott, Senden as my three guys going into the stretch run at the big four events coming up (Open, PGA and the two WGC events). Any guys from the other side of the pond that I may want to consider picking up? I think Lawrie, Dyson, Quiros are all available. -- TB
Paul Lawrie is on the bubble for a Ryder Cup berth. He's flashed quite a bit of swagger, which gamers love. Also logged six top 10s this year, including a win. He's eligible for four of those events, and has already stated that he'll play in the first three.
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy columnist
FANTASY PREVIEW: John Deere Classic | Sign up for fantasy
Full-season gamers are scouting for the postseason.
Is there anyone that you would consider picking up to replace Sergio Garcia, Kyle Stanley, David Toms, or Bud Cauley for the remainder of the season? We get points for top-15 finishes.
Some of the players that are available include Tim Clark, John Huh, Marc Leishman, Charlie Wi, Ken Duke, Brian Davis, Seung-yul Noh and Daniel Summerhays. We get to make five moves during the season; we've made two so far.
The other strategy is to make the moves closer to the Playoffs when you know which golfers will qualify for the most playoff events. Thanks! -- Craig
Let's face it, you could make arguments for all of the guys that Craig has in his crosshairs. That's a nice problem to have. It means that he can be patient on a scuffling Stanley since he's currently 16th in the FedExCup points standings. Cauley (67th) hit a skid and could be expendable as a rookie. Toms (68th) is a keeper unless there's an obvious choice nearer the postseason. And I'd give Garcia (96th) at least through next week's British Open given the Spaniard's success in that major.
As far as the octet of options Craig tosses out, Huh (15th) is an absolute no-brainer. He continues to exhibit consistency beyond his 22 years. Duke (37th) also has to find room on Craig's roster. The 43-year-old is enjoying a renaissance season and reached THE TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in 2008.
At 24th in FedExCup points, Leishman definitely deserves to sit on the short list. He reached East Lake as a rookie in 2009 and advanced to the BMW Championship the last two years. However, I'd like to see how the Aussie fares now that he's a PGA TOUR winner. Will he step on the pedal or will he regress? In two starts since his breakthrough at the Travelers Championship, Leishman has finished T32 (AT&T National) and T73 (Greenbrier).
Clark (130th) is emerging and I like him at this week's John Deere Classic. Once he cracks the top 100, it's time to buy.
Wi is a curious case. He's never played THE TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola but he's already established a career-high in earnings this season and sits 28th in FedExCup points. He's consistently making cuts but he's still very much a horse for courses. Perhaps if he climbs even higher prior to the Playoffs, he's worth the investment, but I wouldn't miss the 40-year-old.
Davis' postseason run has ended at the BMW Championship in each of the last four years. He's currently 43rd in FedExCup points but he's logged just two top-30 finishes among 14 starts in the Playoffs. Always reliable long-term value but hasn't showcased enough dynamic form when it's most desired.
Noh is a rookie and sits 44th in the FedExCup points standings. He's riding the crest of a wave at the moment having survived 10 consecutive cuts. I've hedged in his favor ever since he earned his card but I prefer experience in the postseason.
Finally, with four top 10s including three top fives, it seems impossible that Summerhays is only 61st in FedExCup points; he was 82nd before the solo fifth at The Greenbrier Classic. Yet, as much as I love his direction, he's never qualified for the Playoffs, which means he doesn't crack my short list of guys into which to invest now. Perhaps later.
One variable to Craig's success is what he can't control. If he's in a league with owners that like to stay busy, it forces the issue on some decisions. Only Craig knows how the vagaries of his format influence league standings. It's a dynamic about which I don't write much only because it's unique to you and there's no end to the permutations.
If I were to offer a broad stroke of advice, it is to ride veterans in their prime. That doesn't narrow it down as much as you'd think, which is why each of Craig's possibilities deserve the analysis above.
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy columnist
FANTASY PREVIEW: AT&T National | Sign up for fantasy
With his victory at last week's Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open on the Web.com Tour, Casey Wittenberg became the first multiple winner on the circuit this season. Should he ring up a third title and an automatic promotion to the PGA TOUR, we'll dig into his fantasy value at that time.
Meanwhile, keeper leagues that are already hedging for 2013 should know that there is considerable value for all winners of three Web.com Tour events in a single season, and it has nothing to do with the automatic promotion.
Three-time champs are exempt from the reshuffle the following year even if they don't finish first in earnings. They share status with the leading money winner of the Web.com Tour. Wittenberg is current second on the money list with $240,019 and he's a virtual lock to earn a 2013 PGA TOUR card, but he would boost already growing fantasy value with a third trophy this year because of what it would mean in status.
Shifting focus to this week's AT&T National, below is an email from a reader in a pick-two one-and-done league.
I am thinking Martin Laird along with one of these four: John Huh, Boo Weekley, Ben Curtis or Rory Sabbatini. What preference to you have? I still have Nick Watney but I want to save him for later. -- Don
Arguably the most fun dynamic of a one-and-done is that you're usually investing in studs every week. It's a great game for casual fans that don't have broader knowledge of the touring pros, but those that do are usually rewarded.
The added wrinkle of an additional pick in Don's game increases strategy. Normally, I wouldn't be thinking about guys like Huh, Weekley and Curtis, but given that Don may be forced to burn as many as 82 golfers if his format extends through THE TOUR Championship -- and another eight if he includes the Fall Series -- they belong in the conversation.
That said, Sabbatini has come flying around a corner following months of working on his swing with Rick Smith. After four straight 71s at Colonial to establish some consistency, Sabbatini shared second place at the Memorial, and then chased it with a T18 at the Travelers Championship where he ranked T46 in greens in regulation (48 of 72). Yet, he managed an eagle (hole-in-one in the final round) and 20 birdies (tied for eighth-most all week).
While the AT&T National is set near our nation's capitol, I fully endorse the merits of a Scot and a South African at Congressional Country Club this week.
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy columnist
Sometimes, one emailer covers all the bases. Chris, a loyal reader, chimed in with the following set on Monday night.
Rob -- How do you think Lee Westwood spanning so many time zones to get to San Francisco will affect him?
Westwood won the European Tour's Nordea Masters in Stockholm, Sweden, by five strokes last week. The tournament ended on Saturday to give those en route to the U.S. Open an extra day to travel. He arrived in San Francisco early on Sunday afternoon, but gained eight hours on the clock. As of his presser on Tuesday, he was still feeling the effects of jet lag, but dismissed it moving forward, saying, "It doesn't take long, two or three days to get over it. By Thursday, you know, it will be fine. Certainly finishing on Saturday last week was a big advantage."
If he's not concerned, neither am I. Moreover, I'll always give the benefit of the doubt to the global golfers that travel west. And frankly, if you ever needed an extreme example that rebukes the theory that jet lag is too great of a challenge, consider Louis Oosthuizen's victory in Malaysia the week after losing in a playoff at the Masters. He admitted that he was on fumes, but he was the only golfer that carded four rounds in the 60s that week in Kuala Lumpur, winning by three shots.
You have Donald at the top of your Power Rankings but his U.S. Open track record isn't a good one. You now think he will overcome that? Why?
There's no disputing that Donald is one of the most consistent of the elite in the world right now. He's won twice in his last seven starts and has done enough in the last couple of years to prove that he can play anywhere. In its figurative sense, "track record" translates into tournament history. Obviously, the U.S. Open moves around so there isn't any course history on which to rely, but that's the case for the entire field. Even since guys like Colt Knost and Michael Thompson, who competed in the finale of the 2007 U.S. Amateur at Olympic Club -- the last notable competition on the course -- the grass on the greens has been changed from poa annua to bent, so those two are playing a different track in that sense, which in turn neutralizes their experience a bit.
To cite just two examples of why tournament history is largely irrelevant, Lucas Glover survived his first cut in four tries at the U.S. Open when he won in 2009, and Graeme McDowell recorded one top 25 in advance of his victory in 2010. Donald said his presser on Tuesday that he's not thinking of the past. Neither should we.
You use bogey avoidance a lot in your rankings. Why is that a stat you are putting a lot of weight on?
I've loved bogey avoidance ever since I discovered it. While scrambling measures only pars when golfers miss greens in regulation, bogey avoidance implies all scores of par and better. In conjunction with adjusted scoring, bogey avoidance can reveal who's getting the most out his round.
Unlike boutique stats like three-putt avoidance and sand saves, bogey avoidance not only serves as an all-encompassing snapshot of one's form but it also boasts a who's who on TOUR year after year. If you think about how the game's best are valued against each other, we usually lean on world ranking, FedExCup points, earnings, adjusted scoring and the all-around. Bogey avoidance features the same crowd, but with a specific angle at why they rank highly elsewhere.
At a U.S. Open, pars are embraced. Even par would have won four of the last seven editions. Bogey avoidance can assist in our analysis of who projects to keep his head above water when scoring is difficult.
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy columnist
FANTASY PREVIEW: FedEx St. Jude Classic | Sign up for fantasy
With the bevy of U.S. Open sectional qualifiers commanding our attention at the start of the week, it's only natural that gamers worry that a seemingly shrewd investment at the FedEx St. Jude Classic should be eliminated as an option if he attempted to qualify for the major, what with the 36-hole grind and emotional roller coaster that many ride.
Five guys that qualified for the major withdrew from the field at TPC Southwind on Tuesday -- Blake Adams, Alex Cejka, Steve Marino, Rod Pampling and D.A. Points. Obviously, they are no longer options. But what about the guys that didn't earn an exemption and remain committed to the PGA TOUR stop in Memphis? How much should a 36-hole sectional qualifier weigh in your decision process?
Take note of this email that arrived on Tuesday night:
After a grueling Memorial with a heartbreaking final nine, Spencer Levin then had to go out and play 36 holes to qualify for the U.S. Open. He HAS to be exhausted. Did you factor this into your fantasy picks? Is Robert Garrigus maybe a smarter choice for the spot [opposite Zach Johnson] in Yahoo!'s Group A? -- Jim
To clarify, Levin fell short at the sectional qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, finishing T51 at a site where 16 exemptions were distributed. He's No. 6 in my Power Rankings and I stand by that despite his failure to secure a U.S. Open bid.
In fact, there's an argument to be made that he can freewheel it now given he knows he has next week off. Furthermore, there's no reason to cite exhaustion as Levin is still a few days shy of his 28th birthday (i.e. he's young) and the weather in central Ohio on Monday was quite tolerable. Therefore, while a debate remains to be waged against Garrigus, the premise of taking a pass on Levin is unwarranted.
Meanwhile, Garrigus is already in the U.S. Open. He earned his right to tee it up at Olympic Club with a share of third place at Congressional last year. (The top 10 and ties are exempt the following year.) He's known this for some time and still committed to Memphis this week, so you can also throw out the age-old theory that he's looking ahead and not focused on the matter at hand.
I'm afraid this discussion simply boils down to the usual dynamics. I like both guys at TPC Southwind for different reasons, and you're unlikely to burn through 10 starts on either. Garrigus has enjoyed a solid year. He's inside the top 30 in FedExCup points on the strength of a pair of runner-up finishes. I don't presume to sell everyone on every angle, but I won't rule out Garrigus.
In terms of how to handle guys that competed in the U.S. Open sectionals, consider the case of St. Jude defending champion, Harrison Frazar. He was one of four to escape the sectional qualifier in Dallas last year before parlaying that form into his only victory on the PGA TOUR. We also can't overlook the fact that he had just two starts remaining on a Major Medical Extension at the time, and he hadn't even secured conditional status as a safety net either.
Frazar shall forever serve as the benchmark for refuting the concern broached in Jim's email.
FANTASY PREVIEW: the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide | Fantasy home
In the March 14 installment of the Fantasy Mailbag, I pulled the fantasy equivalent of signing for an incorrect scorecard. First, here's the link: Seeking temp work.
It focuses on how Special Temporary Membership influences fantasy value.
Now, the excerpt with the gaffe: "... guys with Special Temporary Membership are still restricted to 12 starts just like all non-members."
In addition to the removal of the restriction of seven sponsor exemptions for non-members, golfers with Special Temporary Membership are also allowed an unlimited number of starts instead of the usual 12 plus THE PLAYERS plus starts via special invitations into any of the four majors. The provision for unlimited starts falls in line with everyone else higher in the Priority Rankings (except for the limitations on guys with medical extensions that would lose their TOUR cards if they fail to meet the terms of the medical).
Therefore, the difference between golfers with Special Temporary Membership and everyone else higher in the Priority Rankings is that golfers with Special Temporary Membership do not accrue FedExCup Points and official earnings.
The distinction that I overlooked doesn't enter into our consciousness often, which helps explain my error. Thank Ryo Ishikawa for forcing the issue.
The Bashful Prince is scheduled to compete in this week's Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance. It will be his tenth start of the season. He was given a special invitation for the Masters, so for the sake of this example, he's made eight starts that would have otherwise counted against his maximum of 12 before he accepted Special Temporary Membership.
Ishikawa is committed to next week's FedEx St. Jude Classic and he's already eligible for the U.S. and British Opens as well as the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. He'll also eventually qualify for the PGA Championship. With the Memorial and those five events adding to his total of eight starts (minus the Masters), and he'd get to 14.
Readers did the math, thus prompting this Mailbag entry.
Peter Hanson is the only other golfer with Special Temporary Membership right now. I'd offer a similar analysis of his schedule to date in 2012, but as you know now, it doesn't matter. What's relevant to fantasy gamers is that he's going to play in the remaining three majors and eventually qualify for the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. He's currently 25th in the Official World Golf Ranking. The top 50 on both July 23 and July 30 are exempt.