Golf junkies are in for a treat over the next several days. Not only is the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance on tap, but sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open will consume our attention on Monday and probably a bit on Tuesday as weather usually suspends at least one sectional. Ten sites across the country will distribute coveted berths into the season's second major. The strongest field is usually in Columbus, Ohio, since many from the Memorial are already in town. The second-deepest set of hopefuls typically convenes in Memphis since next week's FedEx St. Jude Classic is on deck.
But there's another qualifier unrelated to the U.S. Open that will likely go overlooked -- the four-spotter for the St. Jude. It's the only of 23 open qualifiers on the PGA TOUR to be contested on a Sunday. This helps avoid potential conflict for those in that field teeing it up in one of the U.S. Open sectional qualifiers the following day.
Open qualifiers don't get much attention most of the time anyway, but they can be fertile ground for gamer education. Arjun Atwal is the most recent to parlay his successful bid at open qualifying into victory (2010 Wyndham Championship). Consider that his feat led to an adjustment in the bylaws that allows all winners to claim previously earned non-member FedExCup points as current upon acceptance of TOUR membership. Without that provision, Jordan Spieth, for example, doesn't qualify for the 2013 FedExCup Playoffs.
The open qualifiers early in the season host the most notable golfers since the tournaments for which they are held have smaller fields and many in the Web.com Tour reshuffle category enter. All but one OQ reserve four spots into the tournament that week. The exception is the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which saves just three.
And we cannot ignore the pre-qualifiers for the open qualifiers. Spieth crashes this conversation, too. He medaled at one of the four pre-quals for the 2013 Farmers Insurance Open before falling short in the OQ. As fortune would have it, he wound up in the field anyway on a sponsor exemption, which is a topic for another day.
You can find my selections for PGATOUR.COM's fantasy game in Expert Picks.
Power Rankings Wild Card
Bo Van Pelt ... Because he was a cornerstone for so long, it didn't take but last week's T14 to get gamers enthused again. Not only was it his best finish in any stroke-play event since last year's Wells Fargo Championship (over 12 months ago), but it sets up the potential for more success at Muirfield Village where he's finished no worse than T21 in the last four editions. Indeed, when confidence meets comfort zone, it's time to pounce. It's worth adding that he led the field at Colonial in proximity to the hole.
Bill Haas ... Ten top 25s this season, but only two are top 10s. This kind of slate retains his value across the board, but prevents visibility in the Power Rankings. Last year's T4 at Muirfield Village was his first top 25 in eight appearances.
Brendon Todd ... So much for a letdown following his breakthrough title at Las Colinas. Tied for fifth at Colonial with four sub-70s and another display of a confident greenside game. He ranked T51 in greens in regulation but T2 in scrambling. Making his debut at Muirfield Village.
Steve Stricker ... A must-start in every format. Won this tournament in 2011 before he settled into life as a part-time touring pro. Last competed at TPC Sawgrass where he placed T13 with four red numbers.
Chris Kirk ... Just keeps on keepin' on. Rolls into town with 19 consecutive cuts made, including top 15s in his last two. Just 1-for-3 at Muirfield Village with a T25 in 2012, but go ahead and let that be a deterrent for course history buffs.
Charles Howell III ... Honestly, this category could often be called "CH3 and Other Draws" given his consistency and reliability. Rookie gamers mistakenly believe that league championships are won with guys inside the top 20 or so of the Official World Golf Ranking, but it's actually machines like this guy that win the battles in the trenches. Top 25s in his last two tries at Muirfield Village and coming off a T3 at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
Ryan Moore ... I'm never asked if I have a favorite golfer on the PGA TOUR, but I'd have trouble dismissing this guy as the answer. He's always beat his own drum in quiet fashion. However, I fear that my inherent expectation for success unfairly influences my confidence when the ball isn't bouncing his way. At 16th in the FedExCup standings with four top 10s and another four top 25s, he could be featured in the Power Rankings more often, but he didn't crack a top 15 in his last eight starts. It's a drought that should end this week as he's 7-for-8 at Muirfield Village with three top 10s and a T13 last year.
Rickie Fowler ... Only in the right formats. I'm probably leaning too much on his track record at Muirfield Village where he's 4-for-4 with a solo second in 2010, but it's better than the alternative and I find value in the absence of a negative. Thing is, he's been all over the place as he retools his swing. Last week's missed cut at Colonial was rooted in flu-like symptoms (read: the kind of physical malady that gamers can accept), so consider the Memorial as an opportunity to get back on board.
Hideki Matsuyama ... Making his debut at Muirfield Village. Since he emerged time and again during his first looks throughout 2013, this endorsement is due to a T10 at Colonial where he shared the 54-hole lead. He got the job done primarily with a third-round 64, so exert some caution as one round doesn't make for a comeback, but that the overall effort comes on the heels of a T23 at TPC Sawgrass is worth our respect.
Matt Jones ... Last year's steady T6 in his fourth appearance clinches this. In his last 10 starts, the Aussie has traded seven finishes outside the top 40 (including four missed cuts) with his breakthrough victory and two other top 20s. Consider for DFS purposes.
Charley Hoffman ... Didn't necessarily pile on with a T51 at Colonial, but it's hardly a regression. Now 15-for-16 on the season and 33rd in FedExCup points, he's trending toward a career-best result at Muirfield Village. While he's missed only one cut in seven trips, he's yet to pick off a top 40.
David Hearn ... Ideal for DFS gamers given he's grinded out a pair of top 25s at Muirfield Village and arrives with two consecutive in tow. Golf fans everywhere, especially in Canada, are waiting for Graham DeLaet to break through for his first PGA TOUR victory, but his fellow Canuck just might beat him to it.
Tim Clark ... That he was in the mix through three rounds at Colonial was surprising in the context that he hadn't made noise since sharing runner-up honors at The McGladrey Classic pre-elbow injury. However, the South African has always played well in Fort Worth. To wit, his T21 matches his second-worst effort in his last nine appearances. He's 5-for-5 at Muirfield Village, but hasn't competed since 2010. In short, I'd like to see him back up last week's success on a track suited for his game better than this week's.
David Lingmerth ... Finally paid dividends (again) for those on board at Colonial where he tied for fifth, but he's carved a reputation as a guy that seems not to mind rising up without a moment's notice. Consider that both of his top 25s this season are top 10s. That equates to marginal value only in full-season formats.
Kevin Na ... Never mind last week's missed cut on the number. His spot here is due more to his on again-off again commitment to this week's tournament. Only four starts since his debut in 2005 and no top 30s.
Chris Stroud ... Tip of the cap for his T14 at Colonial where he's flashed solid form before. However, it's his only top-45 finish in his last five starts and he's just 1-for-3 at Muirfield Village with a T53 last year.
Nicolas Colsaerts ... The globetrotter has only one top 70 in his last eight starts worldwide. Granted, it was a T2 in Malaysia, but he didn't survive six of the cuts in that span, either. Arrived at Muirfield Village last year with considerably better form and opened with 80.
Keep an Eye On
Bubba Watson ... Admittedly loves Muirfield Village, but has finished no better than T23 twice (2007, 2010). So, he's a perfect flier given he's won twice and finished second twice in his last seven starts.
Keegan Bradley ... While he leveled with some consistency round to round in his last two starts, neither yielded a top 25 (MC, PLAYERS; T29, Nelson). Moving targets with as much cachet as he possesses are always more frustrating for the weekly gamers. And even though he's just 1-for-3 at Muirfield Village with a T50 last year means little for as dynamic as he's proven to be. It's simplistic, but it's relevant to remind you that he's still just 27 years of age in his fourth year on TOUR. If he deserves anything from us, it's patience.
Hunter Mahan ... Sat one stroke off the 18-hole lead at Colonial, but faded to a T60 to extend his drought without a top 25 to seven starts. And that coincides with a hip/back injury that I'd love to stop mentioning. Perhaps Muirfield Village will offer the springboard we've (and he's) long awaited. He's posted top 20s in four of his last five trips, including in each of the last three.
Pat Perez ... He sets up as the classic something-will-give exercise at Muirfield Village. After opening his career 0-for-5, he's strung together five cuts made with nothing worse than a T30 in 2011. Meanwhile, after this season's recommitment to his craft, his consecutive cuts made streak ended at 14 last week, but that was preceded by a pair of finishes outside the top 40. Since recent form almost always trumps course history, he's a relative risk.
Freddie Jacobson ... A T3 at Colonial was the latest in a litany of leaderboard-crashing performances, but this week's concern is how he fares after not seeing Muirfield Village since 2010 when he shared 52nd place to end an 0-for-2 skid.
Returning to Competition
Jason Day ... Covered him in Global Glance, but wanted to single him out here, too. He's a member of Muirfield Village, but that hasn't translated into success just yet. More importantly is that he's on yet another comeback trail, this time from an injured left thumb.
Patrick Reed ... Third consecutive early withdrawal from a commitment. His wife delivered the couple's first child on May 22.
Graham DeLaet ... Poised for his first appearance in the U.S. Open, so he'll be featuring at least one new start this summer. This kind of achievement occasionally results in some scheduling changes.
Jeff Overton ... Fifth early withdrawal of 2014, but he played five consecutive weeks through Colonial.
Davis Love III ... Received a sponsor exemption, but he's dealing with an injured toe.
If there's such a thing as the opposite of the Midas Touch, I've monopolized it. No matter how strong a guy has projected over the last two months, I can't even catch a break. Of course, seeing as I'm not easily dissuaded, I'll treat this as an opportunity, so keep the fork to yourself.
Dustin Johnson (No. 2 in my Power Rankings) and Jim Furyk (No. 5) are still available to me, but I'm plugging in Gary Woodland (No. 8). He's as sure as any investment I've made in terms of being dialed in upon arrival. He's also finished sixth (2011) and T16 (2013) in three appearances. In fact, last year's served as a turning point after months of swing modifications and he hasn't looked back.
The deep field also presents an opportunity for you to make a move if you're trailing. The front-runners will have more trouble trying to pile on and stymie than those in pursuit. Two-man games wishing for a second-tier tandem versus a 1-2 punch should consider Brian Davis (No. 15) almost unanimously.
Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial: Zach Johnson; 73rd; $12,416.00; 0.940 FedExCup points
Overall Record: 22-for-28
FedExCup points: 1,059.569
Top 5s: 2
Top 10s: 7
Top 25s: 12
Missed Cuts: 6