If you play PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO, you're either enthused or dismayed at the fact that the Waste Management Phoenix Open is a full-scoring event. That's right. ShotLink is back. At least for one week. We'll return to the recently familiar alternative scoring at next week's annual stop at Pebble Beach.
The most vocal gamers always enjoy debating theory, and I dig it, too, but what's most important is understanding how to succeed under either scoring system in play.
See, when ShotLink is measuring every stroke for fantasy purposes, fantasy scoring is magnified. Contrarily, because bonus points at the conclusion of the tournament are equal to only one-tenth of the FedExCup points earned for final-round starters instead of one-half in non-ShotLink events, lining up the winner or even multiple contenders isn't necessary to have a fantastic week.
The field at TPC Scottsdale is loaded. As usual, long hitters are going to be rewarded, but you still need to get four past the cut so you're not posting any zeroes on the weekend. Put it all together and lineups that are heavy on the chalk (raising my hand) are not as likely to contend for the weekly title as gamers who blend surprise contenders with strong games off the tee.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO
My roster for the Waste Management Phoenix Open (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Zach Johnson; Marc Leishman; Phil Mickelson; Alex Noren; Cameron Smith; Brendan Steele; Justin Thomas
Driving: Keegan Bradley; Emiliano Grillo; Alex Noren; Ryan Palmer; Brendan Steele; Justin Thomas; Gary Woodland
Approach: Keegan Bradley; Zach Johnson; Patton Kizzire; Matt Kuchar; Alex Noren; Ryan Palmer; Brian Stuard
Short: Harris English; Adam Hadwin; J.B. Holmes; Zach Johnson; Patton Kizzire; Phil Mickelson; Patrick Reed; Gary Woodland
Power Rankings Wild Card
Harris English … He's poised to pay off draft leaguers invested in the rebound. After manufacturing only one top 20 since last year's Farmers, the 28-year-old has emerged of late with a T11 at the CareerBuilder and a T8 at this year's Farmers. He takes that newly found confidence into TPC Scottsdale where he gets to pile on a 6-for-6 record that features top-15s finishes in each of the last three even-numbered years. His scoring average in 24 rounds is 69.08. A DFS special.
Phil Mickelson … The native son has done it all in this tournament. From the 59-and-a-half to open the 2013 edition to his three titles to sitting atop its all-time money list, he's the king of the Valley of the Sun. With top 20s in the last two years and the adoration of the hundreds of thousands in attendance, he gives us everything we want. Let his slow start to 2018 scare your opponents.
Patton Kizzire … As much as we can admire that he remained committed to the CareerBuilder Challenge (T24) after prevailing at Waialae, we love even more the fact that he took last week off. To give you a sense of how far he's come in a short period of time, the FedExCup points leader has two wins and another two top 10s in a 7-for-7 slate to open the season, and he's still outside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. At 56th, he's still chasing exemptions into the next two WGCs, the U.S. Open and The Open Championship. With a couple of years of experience at TPC Scottsdale under his belt, keep the pedal down.
Austin Cook … Flashing slump-proof form all season. Currently 16th on TOUR in the all-around and 18th in both scrambling and adjusted scoring. A keeper leaguer's dream.
Patrick Reed … Tempered expectations coming off a T23 at Torrey Pines and looking to build on a 3-for-3 slate at TPC Scottsdale, including two starts post-redesign. As attractive as he is in the short-term, his value for full-season gamers remains exponentially greater. You get a lot of hit with a bit too much miss. This and his busy schedule help explain why he's rarely among the leaders in ownership percentages in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO.
Cameron Smith … Don't forget about this guy. Continue to ignore any lackluster course history and remember that he's still a budding 24-year-old learning the ropes. After lighting the world on fire to conclude 2017, he's opened the new year T17-T28-T20. Oh, and that course history at TPC Scottsdale (MC-T42) is still valuable experience.
Keegan Bradley … All four of his cuts made in six appearances went for a top 25. His best two results occurred in years in which his beloved New England Patriots were in the Super Bowl (2012, 2015), the latter of which just down Loop 101 in Glendale, Arizona. So, as much concern as there might be with respect to a Sunday distraction, the evidence supports the opposite. With that quelled, he's gunning to improve on last week's fifth-place showing at Torrey Pines.
Bubba Watson … Despite his criticism for TPC Scottsdale, he's all but mastered the redesign with a T2 in 2015 and a T14 in 2016. Gamers have to be willing to all but write off 2017 due to his ball switch, but he's back to familiar equipment in 2018. On an aside, had the announcement of his return to the Titleist ball been made before my full-membership fantasy ranking published before the season started, he wouldn't have been as low at 71st. The lefty probably would have landed somewhere in the 40s.
Brendan Steele … Perfect in seven consecutive appearances with five top 20s, including in each of the last two editions. Also 5-for-5 this season. As he continues to hum along in his prime, you already know that he's one of my favorites in every format. He's giving no reason why we shouldn't remain on board.
Brandt Snedeker … So many of you are itching to get him back into any lineup. I've been hesitant to sign off on it as he regains comfort post-injury and with a new caddie, but this is a proper time to endorse, if but with a paused nod. His record at TPC Scottsdale is impressive, albeit not as glowing as the same at Torrey Pines where he placed T45 last week. Bottom line, the key is investing in his upswing. As he competes for the third straight week and on a track he knows well, it's now.
Gary Woodland … The contrarian's delight presents similarly as Ryan Palmer last week. I faded the Texan at Torrey Pines, but with this caveat: "The thing is, as proficient as he can be tee to green, this is exactly the kind of test he could ace and surprise no one." Palmer hadn't made any noise on that course in the past. Woodland hasn't factored in earnest at TPC Scottsdale since a T5 in 2011. He finished outside the top 30 in each of the last four editions. His twist from our standpoint is that he strides in having hung up a T7 at the Sony and a T12 at the Farmers.
Ryan Moore … Like clockwork, he's back at TPC Scottsdale for his usual return to competition post-holidays (when not eligible for the Sentry TOC). With a sparkling record here and inspiring form to polish off 2017, you have the green light in all formats.
James Hahn (DFS)
Anirban Lahiri (DFS)
Kyle Stanley (DFS)
Kevin Chappell … Surprised at the CareerBuilder with a T6. That doesn't align with his profile as one to shy away from shootouts. So, for the moment, it's a bonus. The WMPO isn't necessarily in the same category, but he's signed for too many big numbers at TPC Scottsdale to expect a continuation of the blistering 19-under aggregate two weeks ago.
Chez Reavie … If there's going to come a time when you're going to lay off in DFS, it's this week. He's missed the cut in all three tries on the redesign and has no better than a T41 (2011) in just three paydays in nine appearances.
Scott Piercy … He'll be a popular selection due to recent form with a T25 at the Sony and a T6 at the CareerBuilder, and as much as we know he loves himself desert golf, the Las Vegas native and resident hasn't taken to the redesign at TPC Scottsdale. In his 10 rounds, he's authored a pair of 6-under 65, but didn't break par in another round. The sample size settles in stark contrast against a phenomenal record through 2014. At least you understand the origin of this risk.
Hunter Mahan … Not quite yet. Surely, you've taken notice by now that he's churning. He's just not closing. Opting for Past Champions status this season (instead of burning a career earnings exemption in his mid-30s), the 2010 WMPO champ is 97th in the FedExCup standings, but he ranks a respective T131 and T181 in third- and fourth-round scoring average. At best, he's a flier in DFS.
Kevin Na … The slide continues. He's 4-for-5 on the season, but hasn't finished inside the top 35 since the Dell Technologies Championship on Labor Day. If he's going to find his game, you wouldn't rule it occurring at TPC Scottsdale where he's perfect in his last six trips, but we could've waged a similar narrative prior to other recent commitments. Just wait until he rights the ship with his putter.
Steve Stricker … Making his season debut. Remember, he's fully exempt but required to make only 12 starts to meet the membership minimum since he's at least 45 years of age with at least 150 career cuts made. He's one month from turning 51 and has cashed 361 times, but let's face it, he's ageless. It's just that his game hasn't translated at TPC Scottsdale where he's gone MC-T42 in two tries on the redesign.
Returning to Competition
Charles Howell III … One of the more surprising early withdrawals in recent memory given he competed in 15 consecutive WM Phoenix Opens through 2016, but it's a repeat of last year's decision. Hey, even workhorses need a breather.
J.J. Henry … After making headlines by eclipsing 500 career PGA TOUR starts, the placed T23 alongside another 42-year-old, Tiger Woods, at the Farmers Insurance Open. Henry is fully exempt this season by virtue of the last spot via the FedExCup points list in 2016-17. He's been a fixture at TPC Scottsdale but hasn't cracked the top 40 since 2009.
Power Rankings Recap – Farmers Insurance Open
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Jon Rahm T29
2 Justin Rose T8
3 Tony Finau T6
4 Rickie Fowler MC
5 Marc Leishman T8
6 Hideki Matsuyama T12
7 Jason Day Win
8 Gary Woodland T12
9 Francesco Molinari T45
10 Brian Harman MC
11 Shane Lowry MC
12 Cameron Smith T20
13 Patrick Cantlay T51
14 Charles Howell III T6
15 Kyle Stanley T51
Wild Card Tiger Woods T23
Sleepers – Farmers Insurance Open
Corey Conners T29
Harris English T8
Ollie Schniederjans MC
Julian Suri T63
Michael Thompson MC
Birthdays among active golfers on the PGA TOUR
January 30 … none
January 31 … none
February 1 … none
February 2 … Bob Estes (52)
February 3 … Retief Goosen (49); Heath Slocum (44); Chris Stroud (36); Roberto Díaz (31)
February 4 … none
February 5 … Kevin Stadler (38)