Welcome back and happy new year!
Along with my partner, Mike Glasscott, it continues to be our sincere pleasure to serve as your resource and sounding board for PGA TOUR fantasy coverage.
This marks my 10th year as the Fantasy Insider for PGATOUR.COM. It barely resembles how it appeared in my rookie campaign of 2010, but that's the point. It means that something is working. Without your loyalty and feedback, this profession isn't possible. Thank you for participating in various ways and for demanding a superior product and service in the fantasy world. Forever raising my glass to you.
This week's Sentry Tournament of Champions not only resumes the 2018-19 season, it also opens Segment 2 of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO. Only it and the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship (Feb. 21-24) do not have cuts, while the Desert Classic (Jan. 17-20), Farmers Insurance Open (Jan. 24-27) and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (Feb. 7-10) do not use ShotLink for the purposes of fantasy scoring because only the host courses for those multiple-track events are lasered.
If you sat out the fall, I encourage you to read the opening of my Fantasy Insider column for the Safeway Open. Because the fantasy game underwent significant changes prior to the 2018-19 season, you'll want to bone up on how to succeed within the modified structure of its scoring. In short, cuts made carries as high a value as they ever have, while tournament finish is baked into how actual scoring is measured.
One of the bonuses in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO awards one point for drives of 300 yards and longer that count as a fairway hit. When you think of the possibilities at Kapalua, it comes as no surprise that it ranks inside the top quarter of highest percentages of drives of 300-plus yards year after year. Using the 2018 edition as an example, 815 of the 2,040 drives measured at least 300 yards for a clip of 39.95 percent. That was 10th-highest of 38 courses rated. Combine that with an average of 9.85 (of 15) fairways hit per golfer per round and we're poised to experience elevated fantasy scoring.
While the field averaged 300.4 yards in distance of all drives in 2018 – fifth-highest of all courses – the driving distance on the measured holes only (Nos. 3 and 15), which constitutes the traditional driving-distance statistic, landed at just 274.5 yards, shortest of all courses. It's an annual difference in analytical extremes that shouldn't deter you from leaning on length.
Another quirk about the tournament itself is that the last eight champions are American, while each of the previous nine were not. As a prognosticator, I don't know what to make of that, if anything. I don't "see" nationality unless we're referencing value in the wind (Australians) or with the short game (Spain, Sweden), to segregate two categories for the sake of perspective. Indeed, it's likely just a freaky anomaly because there has to be one somewhere.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO
My roster for Sentry Tournament of Champions (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Keegan Bradley; Bryson DeChambeau; Brooks Koepka; Matt Kuchar; Xander Schauffele; Justin Thomas; Gary Woodland
Driving: Cameron Champ; Bryson DeChambeau; Brooks Koepka; Rory McIlroy; Justin Thomas; Kevin Tway; Bubba Watson; Aaron Wise; Gary Woodland
Power Rankings Wild Card
16. Brooks Koepka … Well, I goofed. I was careless. He should have been positioned prominently in the Power Rankings. Sparing the long story, I prep differently for this tournament than all others, so his omission emphasizes the efficiency and value of my process in all others. As someone as detail-oriented as I am, it stings and I'm sorry. This isn't how I wanted to usher in the new year, but I'm nothing if not transparent. Until further notice, there's unlikely to be reason why he shouldn't appear in the Power Rankings the next time he commits, but if he isn't, his absence will be on purpose.
Rest of the Field
17. Paul Casey … The top-20 machine returns after eight years of failing to qualify. It's the only reason why he didn't appear in the Power Rankings. My man-crush remains strong. Invest with confidence.
18. Billy Horschel … Uncharacteristically sustained terrific form for the majority of the second half of 2018. If this is his new norm, we're gonna love it. No worse than a trio of 1-under 72s in 12 rounds at Kapalua. Tied for 11th last year. Simply a terrific fit if you're saving starts elsewhere … or just because.
19. Ian Poulter … The less-is-more philosophy almost always works when the level of commitment to one's craft doesn't vary. In his case, it wasn't playing time that was reduced in 2018, it was the distraction of business outside the ropes that needed to be addressed. As a result, his sharpened focus paid dividends quickly and handsomely. He hasn't appeared at Kapalua in six years, but he's terrific in the wind and among the best in his generation in no-cut competitions.
20. Keegan Bradley … Polished off official competition in 2018 with a T19 in Malaysia, a solo sixth in China and a T17 in Australia. Those results, combined with his long-awaited return to the winner's circle (at the BMW Championship) in the last four months will have staying power, but he's connected 12 consecutive cuts made dating back to June, so the 32-year-old already was riding a wave. Placed T4 in his last appearance at Kapalua in what was the crazy, wind-impacted, 54-hole edition of 2013.
21. Charles Howell III … How sweet it is! Making his third appearance at Kapalua but first in 11 years. Capped what was sizing up to be a mildly disappointing fall – for his standards and our expectations – with victory at Sea Island. While that's a distinctively different test, the correlation between the two tracks is how each set of Bermudagrass greens are governed due to the potential for high winds. However, full-season gamers embrace this week as a bonus, while the weekly crowd awaits his annual contributions on the West Coast later this month.
22. Patton Kizzire … Although both of his victories occurred during the 2017-18 season, because they bracketed the Sentry Tournament of Champions, he's making his second appearance in the tournament. It an oddity that the wraparound schedule makes possible. After a rough go of it post-victory at Waialae, he found some form to open this season. Given that he placed T15 as a first-timer here last year and our primal instinct to want to attach to the earliest segment of the upward swing, give him a strong look in every format.
23. Kevin Tway … Among the nine debutants not named Rory McIlroy, he might present the best punch of the bunch. The breakthrough victory at the Safeway Open served not only as a coronation but as a continuation of emergent confidence and form. The TOUR's statistical database doesn't offer partial breakdowns, but he'd likely have sparkled in second-half metrics. He's cashed in 12 straight starts and 16 of his last 17.
24. Cameron Champ … As I referenced in his capsule of our Top 30 series in December, Davis Love III's TOUR-record 476-yard drive on the 18th hole of Kapalua in 2004 is at risk of getting broken by the only rookie in the field. It's going to be so much fun to see Champ on the tee this week, and he's rendering the learning curve preposterous right now, but I'm here to remind you to invest with you head, not your heart. Oh, what the heck, dive in. There's no cut and it's the new year! If you're not having fun, you're violating my first rule of playing fantasy golf.
25. Scott Piercy … If the Sentry TOC would have been held in November, there'd be a case to slot him in the top five of the Power Rankings. The streaky 40-year-old walked off the fall by going T5-T10-T6. As much as we'd love to buy into that form, he's shedding the rust like everyone else, so we begin anew with what we know. His profile as a scorer can be paid off at Kapalua, but his putting always is in question. In 11 rounds spanning three appearances here, he's averaged 70.82 and recorded two top 15s. That's not great, but it's good enough to inject him into every roster-based format.
26. Aaron Wise … The 2017-18 Rookie of the Year is following a similar trajectory as 2016-17 Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Both have sustained consistently strong form since their breakthrough victories. Both hold their own with the longest off the tee and both are balanced throughout their bags. Schauffele is in the Power Rankings, but Wise is a first-timer who needs to experience the ringer of Kapalua before he cracks that group here.
27. Troy Merritt … He opened 2018-19 by going 4-for-4 and entered the holiday hiatus inside the top 50 of the FedExCup standings. For a career grinder, that's exactly the kind of start that he'd want. Now tackling Kapalua for the second time (T18, 2016). Shrewd choice for DFSers.
28. Kevin Na … Easily his most memorable moment of 2018 was his emotional reaction once it began to sink in that he was victorious at Greenbrier. Long-time fans of the PGA TOUR will remember when he was among the best without a win before his maiden title at the Shriners in 2011, and the Sentry TOC adds perspective to every drought in between victories. In his case, it's been seven years since he's qualified. And he's just 35 years of age. Consider in DFS formats only.
29. Andrew Putnam … Rung up his first victory in Reno and another three top fives, including a T4 in China two months ago. Might lead the field in greens hit this week, but still needs to learn the putting surfaces in his foray. Utilize as a back-end complement in DFS.
30. Brice Garnett … If he wasn't a first-timer at Kapalua, he may have been the Wild Card. The 35-year-old prevailed in freshening winds at Corales in March. He added a solo fifth in the ball-striker's paradise at Mayakoba in November. So, there may be a little something to his comfort of playing tough tests in the tropics.
31. Satoshi Kodaira … When he broke through as a non-member at the RBC Heritage, it yielded the opportunity to play full-time on the PGA TOUR. The rub is that it was unforeseen at a time of the year when his sights may have been fixated on returning to competition abroad. So, the holiday break presented a moment to recalibrate and set reasonable goals. Even better is that he closed out his fall with a playoff victory at the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup, a 30-man invitational on his home circuit in Japan. Logging his first live action at Kapalua will warm the engine, but our expectation need to remain low until his proficiency off the tee can be dangerous.
32. Ted Potter, Jr. … Evidence of the possibilities in any given week and one of the best stories of last season after he stared down Dustin Johnson and held off Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and other notables at Pebble Beach. It's a tale told even better given his disappearance from the scene following a broken ankle in Canada in the summer of 2014. The lefty can go on a heater with his putter, but overall form and a five-year gap in between appearances at Kapalua warrants the no-play.
33. Andrew Landry … Double-whammied as a debutant who's finished no better than T35 in his last 10 starts.
34. Michael Kim … Love him in the long-term, but he's one of the best recent cases of a guy striking it hot. His breakthrough title at the John Deere Classic is one of just two top-60 finishes in his last 13 starts. He's gone eight straight without one. That dry spell will end this week for obvious reasons, but we need to see more consistency before he rises into focus regularly.
Justin Rose … This is the sixth consecutive time that he's opted not to compete at Kapalua. The 2018 FedExCup champion remained busy in the last quarter of the year. He also remained a staple on leaderboards with a win in Turkey and a pair of third-place finishes, including in his backyard in The Bahamas.
Tiger Woods … Hasn't played Kapalua since 2005, so it'd have been a surprise if he appeared, but that he qualified in the first place is a story in and of itself. Now learning how to juggle his interests and family with being competitive inside the ropes again. He'll be guarding against running out of gas all year.
Phil Mickelson … He's passed on the invite in each of the last 13 times he's earned it. Expect him to resume his season on the West Coast but brace for a curtailed schedule overall.
Power Rankings Recap – The RSM Classic
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Webb Simpson 3rd
2 J.J. Spaun T37
3 Kevin Kisner T7
4 Jim Furyk MC
5 C.T. Pan MC
6 Lucas Glover T11
7 Brian Gay T23
8 Russell Henley MC
9 Bud Cauley MC
10 Charles Howell III Win
11 Stewart Cink MC
12 Cameron Champ 6th
13 Harold Varner III T23
14 Austin Cook T11
15 Peter Uihlein T7
Wild Card Michael Thompson MC
Sleepers Recap – The RSM Classic
Nate Lashley T59
Jamie Lovemark T65
Peter Malnati MC
Seth Reeves T71
Ben Silverman T46
Power Rankings Recap – ISPS Handa Melbourne World Cup of Golf
Power Ranking Team Result
1 Australia T2
2 Korea T6
3 England 8th
4 United States T16
5 Denmark T4
6 Thailand T14
7 Scotland T14
8 Spain 21st
9 South Africa T18
10 Ireland T10
Wild Card Belgium Win
Wild Card China 13th
Wild Card Mexico T2
Power Rankings Recap – Hero World Challenge
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Justin Rose 3rd
2 Rickie Fowler T5
3 Dustin Johnson 7th
4 Justin Thomas T12
5 Tiger Woods 17th
6 Tony Finau 2nd
7 Bubba Watson T12
8 Jason Day 16th
9 Gary Woodland T8
10 Patrick Reed 11th
11 Alex Noren T8
12 Bryson DeChambeau T12
13 Henrik Stenson 4th
14 Keegan Bradley 15th
15 Xander Schauffele T8
16 Patrick Cantlay T5
17 Jon Rahm Win
18 Hideki Matsuyama 18th
Birthdays among active golfers on the PGA TOUR
January 1 … none
January 2 … none
January 3 … Charlie Wi (47)
January 4 … Sebastián Muñoz (26)
January 5 … Shaun Micheel (50)
January 6 … Tyrone Van Aswegen (37); Corey Conners (27)
January 7 … Camilo Villegas (37); Keith Mitchell (27)