With the last two World Golf Championships behind us, we're in a quiet pattern as it relates to qualifying for the biggest events of the season. Outside of the usual exemptions reserved for winners, the next hurdle arrives at the end of the month when the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking (on March 31) qualify for the Masters.
For the current list of all qualifiers into the four majors, THE PLAYERS Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, navigate to the FANTASY page via the menu at the top. Click on the navicon (three horizontal lines) and select FANTASY. Scroll down and you'll find all of my features grouped together. The Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions and Rookie Ranking are updated on Mondays, and the features are sorted chronologically on that page.
Power Rankings Wild Card
Graham DeLaet ... After being omitted from the Power Rankings for the WGC-Cadillac Championship, readers handed it to me in the discussion thread below the feature. He placed T34. Setting aside the anomaly of the Match Play where he was out after one round, he posted a T70 at Riviera in his previous stroke-play start. Excluding anyone from the Power Rankings doesn't mean that I'm not endorsing, but the results need to be there. He's now five weeks removed from consecutive co-runner-up finishes. Ranks 14th in total driving and ninth in greens hit. Finished T17 at Copperhead last year. I'm on board!
K.J. Choi ... Cited by a couple in the discussion thread below my Power Rankings as a no-brainer this week. Indeed. He's the all-time earnings leader of the tournament thanks to two wins (2002, 2006), a solo second (2010) and a T6 (2007). He also has four top 15s this season, including a T2 at Torrey Pines and a T12 two weeks ago at PGA National. Currently 17th in adjusted scoring and T15 bogey avoidance.
Pat Perez ... Stumbled to the finish line on the West Coast Swing with a solo 75th at Riviera, but picked off four top 11s to start 2014, so it's time to re-board the bandwagon. Tied for seventh at Copperhead last year, ranking T2 in fairways hit, T3 in GIR, 12th in strokes gained-putting and T2 in scrambling.
Jonas Blixt ... A 66 on Sunday at Trump National Doral was the day's lowest (by two strokes). It vaulted him into a share of 16th place for his fourth top 25 on the season. Strong greenside games like his emerge when par is a fair goal.
Brian Harman ... A mild endorsement given his inconsistency, but he shared 14th place here last year. Three top 10s this season but outside the top 30 in all of the other seven starts. Twentieth in strokes gained-putting and 29th in adjusted scoring.
Cameron Tringale ... After three straight top 15s, tailed to a T41 at PGA National with a closing 75. However, he's scored under par in 18 of his last 25 rounds and took solo third at Copperhead last year.
Paul Casey ... Rolls in having survived each of his last eight cuts worldwide, six of which went for a top 20. Tied for 12th at the Honda. Exempt on TOUR only as a Past Champion, so he is not required to make the membership minimum of 15 starts.
Justin Leonard ... Through thick and thin over the years, he's remained consistent at Copperhead. In fact, last year's T4 is a personal-best of eight cuts made, six of which going for a top 25. Two top 10s this season already matches the most of any season since he totaled six in 2009. Currently 25th in fairways hit, 18th in strokes gained-putting, 30th in adjusted scoring, second in scrambling and T6 in bogey avoidance. Also co-leads the TOUR in par-3 scoring (2.90).
Kevin Na ... Could come cheap in weekly salary games where you shouldn't hesitate. Hasn't missed a cut in his last four visits and has three top 10s this season. Sits 30th on TOUR in both greens in regulation and strokes gained-putting. Also 18th in adjusted scoring, T9 in par-4 scoring and T11 in par-5 scoring.
Stuart Appleby ... I'm dismissing his recent record at Copperhead where he's no better than T57 (2011) in last four starts. With two top 10s in 10 starts this season, he's already equaled his total in 73 starts from 2011-2013. Coming off a T8 at The Honda Classic. Outside the top 100 on TOUR in distance off the tee, fairways hit and greens in regulation, but 19th in strokes gained-putting and 33rd in adjusted scoring. That inverse ratio is forever better than the opposite.
David Hearn ... Since the conclusion of the West Coast Swing, he's 2-for-2 with a T6 at the Honda and a T24 in Puerto Rico, easily his best two results of the last 10 on TOUR. Not a prolific scorer but piles up the chances and ranks 59th in strokes gained-putting. Also 37th in bogey avoidance.
Richard H. Lee ... He's come on strong after a very slow start. Tied for 10th at Pebble Beach and later added a T4 in Puerto Rico. His strengths are keeping the ball in play off the tee and working the ball into the hole around the green. Copperhead is the kind of course that rewards both more than most.
Greg Chalmers ... This is a nod to weekly salary gamers looking for inexpensive potential to round out their lineups. Ranks second in strokes gained-putting and tied for fourth here last year. It was his third top 30 in his last four appearances.
Eric Axley ... Open qualified after sharing 24th place in Puerto Rico and an imperfect night of travel just to make the four-spotter. Sat two strokes off the 36-hole lead last week. Hasn't had status on the PGA TOUR since 2009, which is also the last year he's competed at Copperhead (T59). His best finish in four appearances is a T19 in 2007.
Brendon Todd ... Cooled since bracketing the holidays with four top 20s. No better than a T35 (Northern Trust) in his last four starts. A missed cut at The Honda Classic ended a consecutive cuts made streak at 12.
Marc Leishman ... Gone quiet since his close call at Torrey Pines. Hasn't competed since a first-round loss at the Match Play. Nothing better than a T38 (2013) in four cracks at Copperhead.
Ryo Ishikawa ... Ended an 0-for-3 slide with a T19 in Puerto Rico, but has missed four straight cuts at Copperhead and hasn't broken par in his last 11 rounds on the course. It's a crude assessment in that he's amidst a career year, but it's wiser to let him go it alone until he solves the track.
Matt Jones ... Scuffling, and Copperhead hasn't been kind. Best finish of two cuts made in his last four starts is a T45 at Pebble Beach. The Aussie is 2-for-5 on this week's track with no better than a T59 in his first look in 2008.
Stewart Cink ... Superb record at Copperhead with five top 20s, including in two of the last three editions, but has struggled in putting four rounds together since a T20 at Waialae two months ago. Because of his cachet, I'm open to the benefit of the doubt, but you're unlikely to find yourself in a position where he's on your short list.
Sang-moon Bae ... Trap. While I see potentially converging trends in a P2 at Copperhead in 2012 and a T12 in his last start at the Northern Trust Open, he hasn't connected top 30s on the PGA TOUR since weeks before losing in that playoff here two years ago.
Padraig Harrington ... In his last appearance, he opened with a course-record 61 and tied for 20th. Also finished T8 in 2010. However, he's survived just one of his last five cuts worldwide (T27, Pebble Beach).
Lucas Glover ... Arrives having missed six consecutive cuts. Simply isn't putting the ball in the hole despite an above-average number of opportunities. Ranks T9 in total driving and 61st in greens hit, but 174th in strokes gained-putting and, therefore, 156th in adjusted scoring.
Geoff Ogilvy ... Hasn't missed a cut in his last five starts at Copperhead, but he's missed four of this last six this season. No top 25s in his last 21 PGA TOUR starts, a drought that now extends longer than one year.
Briny Baird ... A missed cut at The Honda Classic dropped him to 0-for-6 since the co-runner-up at The McGladrey Classic. (His withdrawal at Pebble Beach was due to food poisoning. While unpleasant, it's better than a golf-hampering injury.)
Tim Clark ... Hasn't found a groove since returning from six weeks off following an elbow injury. Missed the cut in his last two looks at Copperhead (2009, 2012).
Kyle Stanley ... Ranks 177th in strokes gained-putting and T158 in the all-around. Only cut made in his last five starts was a T61 at Pebble Beach.
D.A. Points ... Survived seven cuts this season, but still ranks just 158th in FedExCup points due to securing only one top 50, and that was a T28 at the 30-man Hyundai Tournament of Champions. No top 25s in four starts at Copperhead.
Justin Hicks ... He's a gem on paper -- it's one of the reasons why he's been one of the most frequent among my Sleepers over the last two seasons -- but the results just aren't there on a consistent basis. Hasn't broken par in nine rounds.
Keep an Eye On
Brandt Snedeker ... Not that you needed this reminder. Still hasn't quite convinced gamers that he's either not completely healthy or didn't develop bad habits in the wake of his freak knee injury in China. He's experienced mixed success at Copperhead where his only top 25s are top 10s.
Matt Every ... Because he's worn the collar at Copperhead with three missed cut in as many tries, course history buffs will automatically dismiss him. Not so fast. He's posted career-best results in three of his last five starts, including the last two. Currently 48th in greens hit, 14th in strokes gained-putting and ninth in adjusted scoring. Sets up as a difference-maker across the board.
Jeff Overton ... Piecing together an odd schedule in that he's withdrawn early from three commitments already in 2014, but has also made four starts. If he plays the Valspar, it will be just his second competition of the last six weeks (T67, Honda).
Retief Goosen ... While he's a two-time champion here (2003), 2009) and has a solo fifth (2010), this is a nod for the long-term. He has four starts remaining on his Major Medical Extension, but if he finishes no worse than a two-way T14, he'll fulfill its terms (via earnings) and retain status for the remainder of the year.
Returning to Competition
Brian Gay ... First start on the Florida Swing. Withdrew early from the Honda and Puerto Rico due to neck soreness. Played in every edition of the tournament at Copperhead, but hasn't cracked a top 35 since 2007 (T4).
Tommy Gainey ... Made it only 16 holes into the Puerto Rico Open before calling it quits due to an injury to his right elbow. On Twitter on Tuesday, wrote, "My elbow feels the best it has in a long time." However, he hasn't survived a cut in seven consecutive starts.
D.H. Lee ... Withdrew on his 10th hole of the second round at PGA National. An explanation was not released. Just 2-for-8 on the season with no top 55s.
Jhonattan Vegas ... After making noise at The Honda Classic (T12), he finished third-from-last among the 71 golfers that completed 72 holes in Puerto Rico. Still has 12 starts remaining on his Major Medical Extension.
Steve Marino ... The tournament's Twitter page acknowledged that he withdrew due to injury. He hasn't played since missing the cut at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and has seven starts remaining on his Major Medical Extension.
As we continue into the second third of the season, many have reached the point of remorse. You go reaching for a top-shelf talent only to realize that he's no longer on your board. Even if you succeeded with whomever, you want him again. Front-runners are not immune to this phenomenon, either, as there's no such thing as too much or too soon.
After the pouting, there is the reality of making your decision. I wanted Harris English, who I burned at The McGladrey Classic where he finished a respectable T27, but it's his third-worst finish of the season! While I collected FedExCup points and earnings that week, it reminded me of when I plugged in Luke Donald for the 2011 Northern Trust Open. He went on to lead the TOUR in earnings that year, but after a first-round 68 at Riviera, he blew up for a 79 and slammed his trunk. Donald hadn't scored higher in a non-major until the wind-aided second-round at Trump National Doral last week where he shot 82.
I'm returning to the Donald. Oh, sorry, that was last week's cheese. He -- Luke, that is -- is my selection for the Valspar Championship. And my opening statement about being a bit hamstrung is exaggerated. I still have Matt Kuchar, Jason Dufner, Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk and others in my Power Rankings still available.
The two-man games are probably already well into their chess games. Complementing an elite pick isn't as easy, but K.J. Choi is probably the finest option. Give Paul Casey a look, too. We don't know how much we'll see him this year, and he's in solid form.
World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship: Rory McIlroy; T25; $76,000.00; 42.000 FedExCup points
Puerto Rico Open: Chris Stroud; T9; $94,500.00; 40.833 FedExCup points
Overall Record: 15-for-17
FedExCup points: 730.129
Top 5s: 1
Top 10s: 5
Top 25s: 9
Missed Cuts: 2