Since the Web.com Tour Finals serves as the new conduit to a PGA TOUR card, it has changed how we analyze prospective members. The benefit to gamers is huge. Instead of having only a couple of weeks to analyze a field and digest six rounds of golf, we can sit back and let the chips fall over a much longer period of time before allowing 16 rounds segregate the field.
If the season ended at the conclusion of the Travelers Championship, it would require 63.320 FedExCup points to qualify for the Web.com Tour Finals. That total belongs to Joe Durant, who ranks 200th. Those ranked 126-200 through the Wyndham Championship qualify for the four-event series and vie for 25 PGA TOUR cards for the 2014-15 season. (The other 25 cards are reserved for the guys ranked 1-25 in Web.com Tour earnings.)
In last year's compressed season that included 36 contributing events, Kevin Na pulled in at 200th with 91.500 FedExCup points. This season, with 41 tournaments contributing, the baseline is likely to rise, but it never drops. This gives the bubble boys a reasonable target on which to focus.
The Web.com Tour Finals will also include golfers that didn't qualify via FedExCup points or via the Web.com Tour (from which the top 75 are exempt). Guys that missed time due to injury or personal matters may be granted entry, but gamers should keep their eyes on non-members that would otherwise qualify inside the aforementioned 126-200 range.
As of right now, 23 non-members would qualify. A handful at the top will not need to play in the Finals as they will be fully exempt for finishing inside the top 125 in non-member FedExCup points or earnings, and a number of others are unlikely to appear due to commitments on their home circuits. But we'll probably see guys like Jason Allred (236 points) and Robert Karlsson (183) give it a go as former PGA TOUR members. Max Homa (136) and Justin Thomas (95) are also comfortably inside the bubble, but they'll qualify via the Web.com Tour anyway.
Guys outside the bubble with potential fantasy value, not in the hunt on the Web.com Tour and most likely to accept the opportunity to play the Web.com Tour Finals if qualified include Peter Uihlein (56) and Patrick Rodgers (23), the latter poised for numerous starts on the PGA TOUR via sponsor exemptions this summer.
You can find my selections for PGATOUR.COM's fantasy game in Expert Picks.
Power Rankings Wild Card
Nick Watney ... Won this tournament in 2011, but that was at Aronimink in Pennsylvania. Still, he's 4-for-4 at Congressional with a solo 10th in 2012. He's also fresh off a season-best T11 at TPC River Highlands where he ranked third in fairways hit and 12th in strokes gained-putting. His tee ball is his best weapon right now (eighth in total driving) and he's T7 in proximity to the hole on approach, so if his putting travels, expect an extension of form.
Charley Hoffman ... As automatic a cornerstone in all formats as they come right now. Ten consecutive cuts made and under par in 14 of his last 20 rounds. Also 6-for-6 at Congressional with a T45 at the 2011 U.S. Open and T22 the following year in the Quicken Loans National.
Freddie Jacobson ... Despite four red numbers at TPC River Highlands, he settled for a T31, but it's better than the alternative and it was his 11th cut made in 12 starts. Doesn't mind tough tracks, especially Congressional where he tied for 14th place at the 2011 U.S. Open.
Ryan Palmer ... Good record and great fit for Congressional. T21 at the 2011 U.S. Open and 2-for-2 in this event since with a T15 in 2012. Currently 21st in greens in regulation, 20th in adjusted scoring and ninth in par breakers. Five top 10s this year.
Retief Goosen ... Last look at Congressional came in the 2011 U.S. Open when he tied for 23rd. Riding a consecutive cuts made streak of eight, his longest intra-season since capping off 2010 with 16 in a row. Ranks 23rd in strokes gained-putting, eighth in conversion percentage inside 10 feet and 40th in scrambling. Will set a personal high with his 21st start in a single season.
Brian Davis ... Ideal for DFSers unsure whether to lean on a veteran or youngster. The English is 5-for-5 at Congressional with a personal-best T8 last year.
Bo Van Pelt ... A very mild endorsement in the right situation, meaning expect to get face value in salary games. He chased top 20s in the last two invitationals (Colonial, Memorial) before finishing outside the top 60 in the last two weeks. Tied for 14th at the 2011 U.S. Open and finished second here in 2012, but missed last year's cut.
Jason Dufner ... While his forgettable track record at Congressional already dissuades course history buffs, there's simply no rhyme or reason to explain his bursts of greatness in and amid weeks when he doesn't make any noise. What we do know is that below-average putting doesn't necessarily rule him out. Probably only worth the plunge if on sale in DFS formats.
Hunter Mahan ... Still mired in a slump. Missed the cut at the Travelers Championship where he's the all-time earnings leader. It's his fourth MC in his last seven starts. To put that into perspective, consider that he missed only three in each of the last three seasons.
Matt Every ... Suffice it to say that he's evolved into a valuable long-term own capable of contending on a whim evidence by a T12 (RBC Heritage) and T3 (St. Jude) since his breakthrough victory at Bay Hill. However, he failed to survive the cut in his other six starts. He missed the cut in his Congressional debut last year, but that's irrelevant anyway given his recent inconsistency.
Patrick Reed ... Missed the cut at TPC River Highlands by two and extended his streak without a red number to 13 consecutive rounds. Missed four of his last five cuts and five of his last seven.
Russell Henley ... Continues to fall prey to at least one bad round per start. Yes, most touring pros don't put four rounds together with regularity, but he's 177th (of 191 ranked) in bogey avoidance.
Tim Wilkinson ... A fair complement to round out a DFS lineup given his 13-for-19 slate this season with top 25s in two of his last four starts, but he's not the kind of value in whom you'd normally invest in a big ballpark.
Keep an Eye On
Tiger Woods ... Not that you needed this advice. Only he'll know (and in real time) to what degree he'll be able to open the throttle. As a result, even though he's a two-time winner at Congressional, including in his last two appearances (2009, 2012), we're compelled to adopt the micro-viewpoint given he's returning less than three months since having back surgery. And on Tuesday he admitted that he might not play if his foundation didn't benefit from the tournament, honesty that gamers appreciate. Even in formats like PGATOUR.COM's that allows 10 starts, it's not necessary to burn through all.
J.B. Holmes ... Finally regained some form at the U.S. Open with a steady T17. He had gone 1-for-3 with a T75 (Memorial) post-victory at Quail Hollow. It's correct to question his motivation after he reached the pinnacle of emotion in Charlotte, but it's also fair to give him time to celebrate it while continuing to honor his commitments. Other than his length off the tee, there's little around which to rally at Congressional where he's never experienced any success.
Scott Langley ... Still learning how to close, but it means that he's putting himself in position to have the opportunity. Led the Travelers at the midpoint and faded to a T11 after failing to break par in both weekend rounds. Already competed in four U.S. Opens since 2010, but the DNP occurred in 2011 when it was held at Congressional, so last year's missed cut in this event is his only relevant course history.
Returning to Competition
Robert Garrigus ... First action since getting knocked out of the FedEx St. Jude Classic after one round with a wrist injury. Sets up well for Congressional where he's 6-for-6 with a T3 at the 2011 U.S. Open and T4 in the 2012 edition of the Quicken Loans National. It bears reiterating that both are post-grass redo from Poa annua to bentgrass.
D.H. Lee ... Hasn't competed since a shoulder injury forced him to withdraw 20 holes into THE PLAYERS. He picked a terrific spot to return given a career-best T3 at last year's Quicken Loans National. However, since a T9 the following week at Greenbrier, he's gone 18 PGA TOUR starts without a top 55.
Thomas Björn ... Scheduled to play the BMW International Open in Germany. Elected to sit out the U.S. Open with neck and shoulder injuries. Placed T3 and T15 in his previous two starts.
Peter Uihlein ... Returns at the BMW International Open after a month off resting a back injury that bumped him out of the BMW PGA Championship after just three holes. Hasn't made a cut anywhere in his last eight starts.
Ben Crane ... In his first start since going wire-to-wire in Memphis, finished solo 74th at the Travelers Championship with a field-high 79 on Sunday.
Matt Jones ... Just 3-for-7 with one top 40 since breaking through in Houston in early April.
If you're like me, although actually enjoying some success this season, you're already at the point that your weekly short list is perhaps only two guys deep. It's expected, but you can't help but feel like you're the captain of the dodgeball team and all of the ringers have been drafted. Well, for as much as I endorse devotion to the elite throughout the season, there are a few grins out there after having guys like Ben Crane (St. Jude) and Kevin Streelman (Travelers) in play. Neither projected for a good week, much less a win. The moral of the story is the age-old adage that there are still a lot of good players still on the board.
As for me, six of the top eight in my Power Rankings are unavailable. This leaves Brendon Todd (No. 2) and Billy Horschel (No. 6). On course history alone, Horschel is eliminated. I’m burning Todd, but I would have anyway even if he was seeing Congressional for the first time. First-time winners can go in many different directions immediately after the trophy is kissed -- Steven Bowditch, Matt Jones and Seung-yul Noh are recently examples of guys that have floundered after breaking through -- but Todd is quite comfortable at his new altitude since winning at Las Colinas six weeks ago.
Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker set up as the most obvious choices at Congressional. Jordan Spieth's game is built for this track, so it's a prime time to plug him in.
Two-man games may be a bit strapped this deep into the season, so it's a good week to employ the 1-1a philosophy as Day and Sneds are likely to be available due to their various concerns that seems to be in the rearview mirror.
Travelers Championship: Bubba Watson; T31; $32,296.36; 35.000 FedExCup points
Overall Record: 26-for-32
FedExCup points: 1,192.069
Top 5s: 2
Top 10s: 7
Top 25s: 13
Missed Cuts: 6