By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy columnist
While the brightest lights of the year thus far are locked in on the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, the Masters is very much just another golf tournament in the comebacks of the healing. Certainly, Woods has spent time on the disabled list already, but others in this week's field haven't fulfilled the kind of success he experienced in the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard two weeks ago.
Tim Clark (right elbow), Scott Verplank (left wrist), Mike Weir (right elbow), Paul Casey (right shoulder), Lucas Glover (right knee) and Scott Stallings (ribs) are a combined 4-for-21 with one top-45 finish (Stallings' T22 at the 27-man Hyundai Tournament of Champions). All entered 2012 with some form of fantasy value but the outlook for each remains very much for the long-term. All are in the field at the Masters.
A regular emailer hit me earlier this week with the following quandary:
Hey Rob. So, we decided to be patient with Paul Casey. We have Y.E. Yang as well, who is not playing well. Jimmy Walker, Bud Cauley, Harris English, Ryo Ishikawa, John Huh, Trevor Immelman, Charlie Wi and Scott Piercy are some of the players available. Would you cut either Casey or Yang for any of these players? -- Craig
Note: It's important to know that Craig participates in an eight-team league of 10 golfers per. Top-15 finishes determine value and he's limited to five moves for the season. His current roster consists of Casey, Yang, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, Justin Rose, Zach Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, David Toms and Kyle Stanley.
Inquiries such as this are common in my email in-box. Formats like Craig's require a balanced attack. You don't want to load up on guys that are going to face the deepest fields of the year as it makes it more difficult to crack the top 15. However, Kuchar and Rose are cornerstones; Furyk and Els are coming on strong; Johnson is a great fit for certain courses; and Toms will get his as he usually does.
In addition to the objective, with only 10 golfers in play, one must be frugal. Stanley is a stud, so I don't mind him occupying a maximum one slot on the roster invested in potential.
Garcia is a tasty option but he doesn't play enough or at a high-enough level with consistency. That said, there are plenty of starts to go around on a good team so the Spaniard can hide a bit. He's a keeper.
That brings us back to Casey and Yang. The Englishman is rapidly burning his bridge with fantasy gamers. He's plummeting in the Official World Golf Ranking (currently 38th), which qualifies him as a bubble boy for the U.S. Open. (He's already eligible for the British Open and should have no problem getting into the PGA Championship.) That he's on conditional status doesn't concern me as much as his play since returning to competition from his mishap on the snowboard. If I owned him, the Masters would serve as his final audition.
Yang is in a different situation. He, too, was bothered by a sore shoulder in December, but he's played a full schedule and has made the weekend in each of his last three strokes-play starts that had a cut. The problem is, he's not posting top 25s in those starts, much less top 15s. He's already eligible for the limited-field World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, but is that enough to warrant his inclusion moving forward?
At this point, we need to eliminate free agents. Ishikawa is a non-member and will play less than Garcia. Wi will find his spots but he doesn't pack the same kind of week-in, week-out punch as other options. Cauley and English are rookies with incredible cachet but I struggle in spending even one roster spot on a 10-man club on first-time PGA TOUR members. Huh is also a rookie but he's illustrated an uncanny knack for wedging his way onto leaderboards as evidenced by his win in Mexico and three other top 15s. Tough call there, but he's still a rookie.
Walker continues to serve as great value across the board but he's played his best golf on the West Coast the last couple of years when he's been healthy. That sets him up as a bit of a trap. Immelman still fights with his nagging wrist, which is not what you want on a short squad.
That leaves Piercy, who I love. He's aggressive. He plays a ton. He's fully exempt through 2013. I'd plug in Piercy for Casey after the Masters and let Yang marinate a little longer. Moreover, the dynamics shift so quickly week to week that Craig's strategy just might sort itself out.
If you play a similar format, consider these angles. Use tournaments are tests and lines in the sand to create conviction. It's within that quantifiable decision-making where confidence and clear thinking originates.