By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy columnist
With two World Golf Championships in the books, it's that time of year when the phrase "Special Temporary Membership" [STM] begins to appear in print and on websites. Talking heads on television and radio also refer to it when relevant.
But what does it mean really? This week's Mailbag dissects STM and its relative irrelevance to fantasy gamers.
We'll begin with our first multiple contributor via my email in-box. Ruth's first inquiry was included in the Jan. 18 entry. (You can find all reader contributions in the page for the Fantasy Mailbag.)
I see that Ryo Ishikawa has made more than last year's 150th player. Does that mean he now has special temporary membership and has unlimited sponsor exemptions? -- Ruth
Well, he doesn't "have" it inasmuch as he's eligible to apply for it. It's akin to registering for a golf tournament in which one is eligible to compete.
To be eligible for STM, one must be a non-member; that is, ineligible to receive FedExCup points. Once approved and eligible, those with STM are slotted in the overall pecking order behind all members. However, like the Nationwide Tour and q-school reshuffle, members outside the top 150 on the money list the previous year (including similarly qualified members that earned $0) are also reshuffled with golfers with STM (in the "Beyond 150" reshuffle). Additionally, should a golfer with STM fail to crack the top 125 in non-member earnings but would otherwise rank 126-150 on the money list, he'd receive an exemption into the final stage of q-school.
Despite those bonuses and perks, guys with STM are still restricted to 12 starts just like all non-members. Therefore, Ishikawa and Peter Hanson may not even need to accept STM.
Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press reported that Hanson, who is in the field at this week's Transitions Championship, is already scheduled to compete in the Shell Houston Open, RBC Heritage and the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance on top of his full slate of majors. (Hanson is also projected to qualify for THE PLAYERS and World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational via the Official World Golf Ranking.) That's 12 events if he plays in all.
Meanwhile, Ishikawa made 10 starts on the PGA TOUR in both 2010 and 2011. Should he flirt with the maximum of 12 this year, the Masters will not count against his total. This is due to the fact that he was given a special invitation which does not count against his allotment.
Regardless of what Hanson and Ishikawa choose, their fantasy values will not change unless they win a tournament. But even non-members that have recorded official PGA TOUR victories in the last two years -- Martin Kaymer, Francesco Molinari and Darren Clarke -- have declined membership since.
STM has a place and a purpose, but it must be valued on an individual-case basis when assessing fantasy value. The examples are far and few between.
Rory McIlroy's ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking makes for great headlines in the mainstream, and his current form supports investments throughout the fantasy world, but there is no relevance as it relates to his already lofty value.
As loyal readers are aware, I trumpet focus on the bubble at No. 50 in the OWGR because it's used to help fill the fields of this week's World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the Masters and the British Open. For the first time, the top 60 (on May 21 and June 11) will gain entry into the U.S. Open. And the PGA Championship traditionally invites the top 100. Needless to say, those sitting first, fifth, 10th, etc. are already entrenched on our rosters; therefore, turn your attention to the top-50 bubble to discover potential goldmines.
This perspective applies to the FedExCup standings as well. Although only five are guaranteed to finish first if they win THE TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, all 30 receive carte blanche priority as it relates to their schedules the following year, including invitations to this week's WGC as well as the first three majors. But when you're researching eligibility, be sure you're reviewing the proper list.
I received the following email on Tuesday:
As I can see on the stats of 2011 final FedExCup Points
list, the following players are not in the field [of the
27th: D.A. Points
29th: Spencer Levin
30th: Tommy Gainey
I wondered when I read "100% participation [in the tournament]" how these players are not included. Thank you. – Kay
All three finished the regular season inside the top 30 in FedExCup points but none advanced to THE TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. Points finished 56th, Levin 47th and Gainey 62nd. Rory Sabbatini also started the Playoffs inside the top 30 at No. 23 but sat 35th at the conclusion of the BMW Championship. These are the only four golfers that didn't qualify for this week's stop at TPC Blue Monster at Doral that started last year's Playoffs inside the bubble.
Martin Laird (31st), Charl Schwartzel (32nd) and Rickie Fowler (43rd) also failed to qualify for the Playoffs finale last year despite starting the postseason inside the bubble, but they gained entry into this week's field through another qualifying criterion.
To stay on top of all qualifiers for the majors, WGCs and THE PLAYERS, bookmark my feature and refer to it frequently as a tool to eliminate all confusion as you manage your way through the fantasy season.
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy columnist
I've been waiting for this email. It finally arrived on Tuesday morning.
In your Power Rankings , you state that Rory McIlroy has two wins and eight top-three finishes in his last 11 starts. In actuality, he has seven top-three finishes, and only ONE win: the very weak-fielded Hong Kong Open. Get your facts straight and stop giving Rory credit for wins he doesn't have. -- Anonymous
First, for the record, McIlroy's other win was at the unofficial Shanghai Masters in late October. It was a star-studded field that featured the likes of Anthony Kim, who McIlroy defeated in a playoff. WGC-Match Play champ Hunter Mahan shared third place. Lee Westwood took fifth. Ian Poulter was sixth. K.J. Choi and Retief Goosen tied for seventh, and so on.
Unlike the Chevron World Challenge, which is also unofficial, the Shanghai Masters didn't award world-ranking points, so it's easy to miss when researching results. Since its conclusion, I've been tacitly including the results of the tournament for those that played in it in my work. Therein lies the benefit of my position. You don't have to do that homework. This is the essence of why I write, really.
Sure, I'll make mistakes and I welcome the heads-up if they publish prior to the fix, but I'll never create data. That would be egregious, unethical and cause for termination.
Most readers will give the benefit of the doubt in the event of an error, and there's nothing I can do about a singular accusation, but it's still a valuable checkpoint for me to ensure that I'm not slacking. I don't think I need reminders, but I'm not above them either.
Riding shotgun with this is that I'm fully aware of the ubiquitous skepticism as it relates to the theory that statistics can say whatever you want. Because I respect that notion to which many subscribe, I go to the lengths that I do to make sense of the stats that best connect courses, players and other relevant factors. I don't merely cite impressive numbers, trends and the like just to fill the space.
At the end of the day, it wouldn't matter if McIlroy had one fewer win and top-three finish as he absolutely deserves his spot in the Power Rankings. Argue that he should sit somewhere else than No. 2, but I'm not fabricating information to support his inclusion.
This is the final week of the first phase of the reshuffle among Nationwide Tour and q-school graduates. Once the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship and the Mayakoba Golf Classic are in the books, the golfers in Priority Ranking No. 25 will be reordered based on earnings.
For many, this week is arguably the most important of the year for the guys slotted 21st and lower if the reshuffle occurred after the Northern Trust Open. I explain why below.
First, for season-long formats that dig into this group, owners are required to pay attention. For some, the results of the first reshuffle can prove valuable. Here is an excerpt of an email thread dating back to Feb. 1 when a gamer began fine-tuning his draft strategy:
Our season runs from the Honda through the PGA. It's getting down to the wire for my picks and I'm worrying myself over the last few. Can you tell me what the likelihood of Category 25ers who finish with a high ranking on the first reshuffle (top 10 or close to it) will be to play in any regular TOUR event? I am looking at bargain picks like Jarrod Lyle and Harris English. -- Shane
Let's make the simple yet accurate assumption that guys near the top will play more often. Next, my advice is to focus only on the top 20 following this weekend. Here are some facts as it relates to the reshuffle category over a four-year span starting in 2008:
- There have been 13 winners. At the time of their victories, six were inside the top 10. Another six were inside the top 20. The only golfer outside the top 20 was Richard S. Johnson, who won in Milwaukee in July 2008 from the 37th position. (Greg Kraft was on Past Champion status won he won in Puerto Rico in 2008.)
- In addition to the 13 winners, 52 more finished inside the top 125 in earnings in their respective seasons. Of the 52, 19 were ranked inside the top 10 of the first reshuffle of the year. That's nearly half of the 40 in the sample size (top-10 rankings over four years). Sixteen (or 40 percent) were slotted 11-20. Therefore, two-thirds (35 of 52) of the golfers that finished inside the top 125 sat somewhere in the top 20 after the first reshuffle.
Now, quite a bit of golf remains and four more reshuffles will occur, so the guys in the top 20 still must take advantage of the springboard that was a hot start to 2012. In the last four years, six that ranked inside the top 10 of the first reshuffle failed to finish inside the top 150 on the money list.
This includes Jarrod Lyle twice (2009, 2011). And sure enough, he'd sit fourth in this year's reshuffle if there are no changes this weekend. (He's scheduled to compete in Mexico.) English would sit ninth in the reshuffle with no changes. He didn't commit to Mayakoba.
Of the guys that sat 11-20 in the first reshuffle over the last four years, 13 failed to finish the season inside the top 150 in earnings.
Fantasy golf is often as much about hedging as it is about investing properly. If this dynamic impacts your game, be sure to visit the reshuffle that I update weekly.
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy columnist
I opened last week's mailbag with an acknowledgement that space forces me to draw the line somewhere in sharing relevant facts and data that contribute to my analysis and opinion. This is implied, even subconsciously, when you read anything, but there is a contingent of fantasy gamers that wants every angle no matter the length. (I fully understand this. It's one of the reasons I make myself available privately via email and Twitter, so that we can apply the insight to your unique set of variables.)
However, sometimes a writer rides a slippery slope when a broad-scale component is unwittingly attached to a specific angle without some benefit of the doubt due to space restrictions.
For example, a long-time reader emailed this after my Power Rankings for the Northern Trust Open was published on Monday afternoon.
Agree with most picks except Choi, who isn't in form. And as you said, you don't find it at this course if you don't come in with it. -- Cary
Indeed, while one could perceive this is as a nitpicky "gotcha," my comment deserves an explanation for which the space in the Power Rankings isn't designed.
I slotted K.J. Choi at No. 10. I'm leaning on his track record at Riviera -- 11-for-11 with four top 10s -- and his seven consecutive top 20s worldwide before his recent three-event tailspin. Clearly, he knows how to play Riviera, so his pursuit of returning to form can actually rely on his experience there versus a fellow touring pro also on a slide but with little or no past success at the host venue.
In situations like this, course history usually trumps current form. Deciding factors are weighed on an individual-case basis. Choi's pedigree and track record overshadow what I expect to be a blip in the long-term.
To cite a pair of examples, think of how Angel Cabrera and Phil Mickelson played prior to their victories at the Masters in 2009 and 2010, respectively. In different degrees, neither would have appeared to be an in-form threat, but both had measured success at Augusta National. Choi sets up as a similar investment this week.
Remember, analysts can always err on the side of caution by fading a guy since approximately 14 out of every 15 golfers finish outside the top 10 in most tournaments. That I'm endorsing Choi underscores my level of confidence in him at Riviera.
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy columnist
There are weeks when I just don't have the space to focus on a specific dynamic as it relates to a PGA TOUR event. This is one of them, but the mailbag allows for the opportunity to peel back the layers.
In Monday's Power Rankings for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, I cast broad strokes on actual scoring averages of all three tracks in play this week -- Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Club and Monterey Peninsula Country Club. Pebble and Spyglass are traditional par 72s while Monterey plays to a par of 34-36=70.
Despite another brief nod to Yahoo! gamers in my fantasy preview on Tuesday -- Yahoo! awards points based on scores in relation to par, not aggregates -- confusion continues over how to attack this tournament.
Here are a pair of queries sent my way on Twitter:
"Fair to say favor MPCC, then Pebble in daily leagues. Avoid Spy? At least that's how I recall them." -- @G_Turcotte
"In terms of toughness for courses this week, does it go MPCC (easiest), Pebble (medium), Spyglass (hardest)? -- @cccgolfer08
And one email that arrived today:
"Do you feel it is best to use the players who are on the Monterey Course rather than those who are playing Pebble and Spyglass? My understanding is that Spyglass plays the hardest and it may be best to leave any of your players on the bench for the Spyglass round? Do you agree?" -- Joe
Frankly, I'm glad for the persistence to confirm. It has forced me to dig a little deeper. What I discovered was surprising.
First, it's important to know that I went back just two years since Monterey Peninsula rejoined the rotation. Next, I threw out the final-round scoring averages at Pebble Beach. This was a significant step. It eliminated splits in relation to par of +1.217 in 2010 and +1.225 in 2011, easily the two highest of all of the individual rounds since 2010.
So, below are the scoring averages in relation to par through three rounds only (encompassing 54 holes at each course). They are ranked from easiest to hardest.
-0.160 Monterey Peninsula
-0.006 Pebble Beach
-1.167 Pebble Beach
-1.052 Monterey Peninsula
Other nuggets worth noting:
● Comparing individual-round scoring averages over the first three rounds -- three per course per year for a total of 18 splits -- Monterey Peninsula's +0.712 in the first round in 2011 is highest. (Pebble checked in at +0.462 that day. Spyglass averaged +0.442, the only time of the six rounds it ranked as the easiest in any of the six rounds.)
● Monterey Peninsula ranked as the easiest in the second and third rounds in 2011 with respective splits of (-0.712) and (-0.481).
● In 2010, Pebble Beach was the easiest in the first round at (-1.115). Its (-1.308) average in the third round is the lowest in relation to par of all 18 rounds included in the comparison.
● Monterey Peninsula's (-1.250) was easiest in the second round of 2010. Pebble averaged (-1.077) the same day.
Therefore, while we already knew that Yahoo! gamers need to lean on Monterey Peninsula, sidestepping Pebble Beach is unnecessary if not discouraged.
Start guys with confidence on either course in any of the first three rounds. And as @G_Turcotte accurately surmised, avoid Spy.
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy columnist
To steal a portion of a line from "The Shawshank Redemption," I've learned one immutable, universal truth about fantasy golf since I first connected with it four years ago: There is no such thing as a finite number of formats for our game.
As most that play fantasy golf already know, Yahoo!, which partners with PGATOUR.COM, offers what is arguably the most popular option. In its free online game, points are awarded based on scoring per round and top-three finishes at the conclusion of the tournament. While the list of golfers available isn't comprehensive -- five of the 132 in the field of this week's Waste Management Phoenix Open are not included in any of the three groups -- the PGA TOUR status (or lack thereof) of all of the golfers is irrelevant. You plug in anyone you want up to 10 times per season.
Other formats like my 19-year-old home league use a battled-tested points breakdown per finish. Victories are assigned the highest value. Playoff losses come next, then top fives, top-10s, top-25s and cuts made. Variations apply tournament to tournament and league to league, but like Yahoo!'s game, PGA TOUR status does not influence the scoring system.
Salary games are self-explanatory but they've been known to cause some confusion as professional non-members are not included on the PGA TOUR money list. Furthermore, earnings in World Golf Championships are excluded from the non-member money list. This is why I always advise using the money list for both members and non-members with earnings in the WGCs included . All league disputes can be settled there.
While Yahoo!'s formula, homegrown points systems and actual earnings are three of the trackable measurements used across our landscape, a new option was introduced just six years ago, and it has a pitfall unless you provision for it. I'm referring to FedExCup Points.
Since 2007, PGA TOUR members have been chasing the FedExCup and its riches. In addition to earnings for making a cut, members receive FedExCup Points. They are accrued in 37 tournaments over the course of 33 weeks. The top 125 qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs beginning with The Barclays, this year scheduled for Aug. 23-26 at Bethpage State Park's Black Course.
The pitfall you ask? Take a read of this brief email that arrived in my in-box on Monday:
Just curious why Ryo Ishikawa did not get any FedExCup points for the Farmers? Thanks. -- Brent
Well, as I alluded to above, the hook to being eligible for the FedExCup is that golfers must be members of the PGA TOUR. Ishikawa is not a member. While he's credited for a T13 and $96,666.66 in non-member earnings, he does not receive FedExCup points.
If you're in a similar format that uses FedExCup points as a value indicator, I encourage you to simply assign the value awarded to those with whom your golfer tied. In Ishikawa's case, it's 54.22 ( see here ). If a non-member finishes alone in a position, refer to the FedExCup points distribution chart .
If you're in one of these games and your ownership denies the option to assign matching FedExCup point values to non-members, it's important to remember that non-members that win PGA TOUR events have 60 days thereafter to accept membership. If accepted, he will then become eligible for FedExCup points, but they are not awarded retroactively.
After Graeme McDowell won the U.S. Open in 2010, he accepted TOUR membership with the intent to attempt to qualify for the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup. He went 2-for-3 in his starts as a member and finished a distant 198th in the ranking. He's a good example of a guy that earned midseason value in a fantasy format for which he was ineligible at the start of the year.
Indeed, salvation lies within, or at least it can.
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy columnist
Strategies vary but there is a contingent of readers that likes to know who I'm starting in the opening round. This week's dynamic is especially unusual. While I've reminded readers to lean on Torrey Pines North in the first two rounds when possible, the picks I filed -- even without "Start" and "Bench" -- don't match up with that advice.
I included a disclaimer in the opener of my fantasy preview , but a few readers have asked what I'm going to do about the conflict. To wit:
You have Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney lined up in Group A. However, both play Torrey North in the second round. You're contradicting yourself. What gives? -- Jesse
Here's my original lineup:
Group A: *Phil Mickelson; *Nick Watney
Group B: *Ernie Els; *Hunter Mahan; *Brandt Snedeker; Gary Woodland
Group C: Ben Crane; Vijay Singh
* Indicates they are playing Torrey North in the second round. Therefore, I'm stuck making adjustments in all three groups.
Group A ... Since Mickelson is a three-time winner and Torrey Pines is one of the seven must-starts, Watney gets bumped. (For Mickelson's remaining six must-start sites, please see my Fantasy Outlook .) Enter Mickelson's buddy and reigning PGA champion, Keegan Bradley, who gets the start on Torrey North on Thursday. I love the potential implications of Bradley's ball flight this week.
Group B ... I'll keep Woodland on Torrey North for the opening round. I like the potent combination of Mahan and Snedeker on the same course on Friday and Els traveled from halfway around the world, so The Big Easy is scratched. Enter Bill Haas, who is one of the three bonus picks in my Power Rankings . He's due for a good week. With four top-20s in seven appearances at this event, he's a fine option to join Woodland as a starter on Thursday.
Group C ... Crane gets the nod thanks to his hot start. Singh is one of my Sleepers but I'll turn to him later in the season. Crane plays Torrey North on Thursday, opening the door for Matt Every on Friday. I debated plugging in Bobby Gates here because he's arguably a better fit for the entire tournament, but Every does have a T15 in the bank at this tournament in 2010. He's also already slept on the lead twice this year -- after 36 and 54 holes at Waialae -- before finishing with a share of sixth-places at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
So, my final lineup is as follows:
Group A: Keegan Bradley
Group B: Bill Haas, Gary Woodland
Group C: Ben Crane
Group A: Phil Mickelson
Group B: Hunter Mahan, Brandt Snedeker
Group C: Matt Every
Barring an injury or other unforeseen concern, this is one of those week's that I plan to burn one of 10 starts on all eight guys. All of my starters play Torrey North on Thursday. All four on my bench play Torrey North on Friday.
Like any other hobby that strengthens its initial bond with "inside baseball" on the subject matter, there is a faction among fantasy golf enthusiasts that owns a yearn for the why and the how of field formation. These fans aren't content with merely accepting who's competing, they want to know what avenue each golfer took to qualify.
Naturally, one of my job requirements is to possess a constantly updated working knowledge of such material. It helps that I share in this thirst for what casual golf fans might classify as irrelevant information, but there is significance as it relates to short- and long-term investment in fantasy formats.
For example, you've likely read or heard about the reshuffle among Nationwide Tour and q-school grads. I maintain a published version of it here. It's a game within the game. Just under half of this year's crop didn't crack the field at this week's Humana Challenge because the demarcation line for entry was drawn in the heart of their Priority Ranking (No. 25).
This is not uncommon during the first four and a half months of the season. Guys that start the year at the bottom could be limited to three starts on the West Coast Swing, which comprises the first phase of the reshuffle (although all were eligible at last week's Sony Open, so the minimum attendance might balloon to four starts this year). When you're latching onto fully exempt PGA TOUR members with this kind of status, understanding the characteristics of the reshuffle is invaluable.
Another occasionally mentioned route of entry into tournaments is the top-10 exemption, but it doesn't come without caveats and confusion. This from two emailers after Matt Every -- first alternate at the Humana as of midday Wednesday -- shared sixth place at Waialae on Sunday:
He finished T6th in Hawaii, is listed as an alternate for the Hope. Why isn't he in the field?" -- Ruth
Why is Matt Every not in the Humana after posting a top 10?" -- Dave
The Humana Challenge isn't an open event, so the top-10 exemption doesn't apply. (Only the winner is exempt from the restriction.) There are 24 open events on the PGA TOUR schedule and can be viewed here. These events hold open qualifiers on Sunday (St. Jude Classic) or Monday (all others) of tournament week. They are commonly known as Monday qualifiers or four-spotters (since four golfers earn berths into the tournament proper; the Waste Management Phoenix Open limits access to three qualifiers).
So, since next week's Farmers Insurance Open is an open event, all golfers finishing inside the top 10 at this week's Humana are eligible for the top-10 exemption into the Farmers. Every's top 10 at the Sony would also apply if he needs it. (He was the only golfer in the top 10 last week that's playing from the reshuffle category or lower.)
Golfers must commit to the open event to be eligible for the exemption. They are not obligated to accept the exemption but it is forfeited if not used for the immediately ensuing open event.
Top 10s at World Golf Championships events are excluded.
The Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic is an exception. It's the final event of the year and does not host an open qualifier but top 10s at the penultimate McGladrey Classic are granted entry into the finale. Top 10s at Disney are awarded spots at the first open event of 2013.
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy columnist
For 24 of the 26 PGA TOUR rookies, this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii is their first Opening Day in the big leagues. While they'll try to go about their business following the old credo that it's just another golf tournament, it's anything but.
By the same token, while fantasy gamers are itching to ride the likes of Bud Cauley, Harris English, J.J. Killeen, Jason Kokrak, Seung-yul Noh, Sang-moon Bae and Ted Potter Jr., my advice is to sit on your hands for at least one week. Consider these numbers taking into account the last three editions of the Sony:
> 27 of 53 rookies have made the cut at Waialae since 2009 for a cuts-made split of only 50.9 percent.
> Of the 27 who have made the cut, 12 settled for an MDF finish (meaning they completed only 54 holes).
> Of the 27 who have made the cut, the average finish is just outside the top 50.
> The only top 10 by a rookie since 2009 was Matt Weibring's T8 in 2009.
One rookie I didn't include above is 21-year-old Danny Lee. He was the youngest champion at the time he won both the U.S. Amateur in 2008 and Johnnie Walker Classic on the European Tour in 2009. He also competed for New Zealand in the World Cup in 2010. And in 2011, he led the Nationwide Tour in birdie average, scoring average, birdies or better on par 4s and the bounce-back stat. Yet, as my stance was for all rookies, I opted not to put Lee in my Power Rankings this week. That drew this e-mail:
Quite surprised that Danny Lee was not amongst your picks for Sony. Given his versatility of playing in the wide geographical and seasonal climates of the European tour last season combined with the Nationwide Tour, I would have thought he is one of the few that would adapt easily to the Pacific island location [Hawaii]. Furthermore, he qualified for both the PGA and the European Tours this year. Given his strong scrambling record in 2011 (seventh on the Nationwide Tour) and not forgetting his 9 top 10s (in 18 starts), I would have thought he would be in your top 10 pick. Must not forget that he also took time off for a wrist injury in the middle of the season. Am I being unreasonable in my estimation of his ability and ranking? -- ARK
Not at all, ARK. (And nice research!) It's because of his success -- never mind his age -- that he checked in at 75th in my full-membership fantasy projections. Only Bae (35th) and English (59th) were slotted higher. Lee will most certainly emerge in the Power Rankings, but in due time. The data on rookies at Waialae over the last three years is simply too significant to dismiss.
NOTE: My first version of the Rookie Rankings will publish on Monday. It will be updated weekly and serve as a subjective peek at how all 26 are performing relative to their peers.