Say this about the latest iteration of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, it's going to be harder to dominate.
While bonus points are back to reward actual finish, the new provision of low 65 and cuts has raised the bar for what constitutes a successful week. Because fewer golfers are making cuts, even when you connect with a winner, as I did with Sebastián Muñoz at the Sanderson Farms Championship, you still need to avoid zeroes for it to have an impact. (I've had only three make each of the first two cuts.)
After A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, I gravitated to the notion that the fantasy game is set up stronger than ever, but now that I've experienced the sweet and the sour myself, it's been validated.
The best weekly fantasy games with long-range objectives present massive swings in scoring in a given week. That churn not only keeps things fresh, it keep the possible within reach. Front-runners can't waver and those in pursuit always have a chance.
The underrated component of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf is that overall scoring is down since the last time bonus points were in play (2017-18), which I cited last week. This reinforces the balance of the old and the new.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for the Safeway Open (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Byeong Hun An; Bud Cauley; Harris English; Sungjae Im; Adam Long; Troy Merritt; Sebastián Muñoz; Kevin Na; Chez Reavie; Adam Scott; Cameron Tringale
Driving: Bud Cauley; Corey Conners; Harris English; Lucas Glover; Emiliano Grillo; Charles Howell III; Sungjae Im; Scott Piercy; Brendan Steele; Kevin Streelman; Harold Varner III
Power Rankings Wild Card
Chez Reavie … Since he pulled out of the Sanderson Farms Championship before it started, Silverado become the site of his season debut. Great choice. He's 5-for-5 on the course with a trio of top 25s. As last season's TOUR leader in fairways hit, he's a poster boy for how the course rewards avoiding three-inch primary rough off the tee. It also doesn't hurt that he ended a mild slump with an eighth-place finish at the TOUR Championship.
Kevin Tway … While he's experiencing the obligations of his first title defense, it'll no doubt rejuvenate him to pile onto a 3-for-3 record on a course that suits his style. Plus, he's played much better in recent months than how he opened 2019. Because there's nothing glaringly wrong, you can't rule out the rarest of repeats. Think Matt Every at Bay Hill in 2014 and 2015.
Brendan Steele … But only because he's turning a corner in getting closer to putting four rounds together. The two-time Safeway Open champ (2016, 2017) has scuffled for well over a year, but Silverado is the softest of landings. The benefit for alert DFSers is that he'll be over-owned by course-history buffs, so pivot accordingly.
Emiliano Grillo … It's been four years now since he famously went Win-Win to bridge the Korn Ferry Tour Finals with the opening of the 2015-16 PGA TOUR season. Still hasn't recorded another top 25 at Silverado since the breakthrough victory, but he hasn't missed a cut, either. He doesn't miss most cuts as it is, so slot him confidently in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf.
Harris English … Already was entered via a sponsor exemption before his second consecutive top 10 of the season eliminated the need for the opportunity, so he's known he was headed back to Silverado before the T6 in Mississippi. When he's on, his ball-striking has carried him. Well, eight rounds into 2019-20, he's fourth in total driving, second in greens hit and 10th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. If the TOUR still awarded a Comeback Player of the Year, he'd be the clubhouse leader.
Charles Howell III … As one who always has thrived on the West Coast, it's surprising that this is his first appearance at Silverado since missing the cut three years ago. However, because he makes most cuts and usually rewards those hopeful in an over-under for a top 25, don't think twice.
Lucas Glover … Despite last week's disappointment as the No. 2 in the Power Rankings, I'm doubling down on his prospect at Silverado where he's hung up a pair of T17s, including last year. When his knack for hitting fairways and greens abandons him, it's returns just as quickly. Invest in the expected rebound.
Doc Redman … Off to a nice start as a first-time TOUR member. Because so much good has happened so quickly, he still has to feel like he's stealing a little bit, but it's not like he doesn’t have the pedigree. Proper in all formats.
Harold Varner III
Phil Mickelson … Despite a T8-T3-T17 flourish at the Safeway Open in the last three years, he's exhibited virtually no form since the Masters. His long-range strategy to peg it only on courses with light rough not only backfired, there simply aren't enough of those setups after the West Coast Swing to generate momentum for courses on which rough is a primary challenge. Now, Silverado is a bomb-and-gouger's track, and it has four par 5s, so his muscle and short game alone should get him to the cut line, but he's angling to record a career-worst result on it.
Bryson DeChambeau … As a big fan of this guy, I know who's not reading all of the time when I'm panned when I hop off the bandwagon at various stops. Being criticized for not respecting him and his method is amusing given I've loved everything he's challenged and continues to chase. As the saying goes, it's entirely better to try and fail than not to try at all. Inject his intelligence and growing wisdom as a touring professional, and there's every reason to buy in. So, you're wasting your time with cracks that I "don’t get it." The only thing that matters is whether you use him in a given situation. Simply, his inconsistency throughout 2019 has regressed him into a better longer-term own than hoping to get lucky with a lottery ticket.
Si Woo Kim … Continues to struggle in general, but he plays often enough to warrant confident investment in the long-term. In his only prior trip to Silverado, he missed the cut in 2015.
Pat Perez … Silverado has been unkind what with his 0-for-2 record and scoring average of 74.25, but he's yet to display consistency since injuring his left calf in March.
Luke List … He'll test the battle between course history and recent form like few have all year. He's 3-for-3 at Silverado with a T4 last year and a scoring average of 69.83. However, he arrives mired in a 1-for-8 skid with a T77 at THE NORTHERN TRUST. I'd be interested only if the facts were reversed.
Charley Hoffman … The 42-year-old is making just his second start at Silverado (MC, 2017), but he's coming off a T23 at Country Club of Jackson. It was his first top 50 in eight starts. We know who he is, but we thought we knew he was before a lackluster 2018-19. Approach him as a contrarian to fend off the sharks.
Kevin Chappell … I love that he's returned and refreshed. It's also of value that he's swatted away residual rust from his extended layoff due to back surgery, but he's 0-for-2 at Silverado where he hasn't competed in four years.
Returning to Competition
Marc Leishman … Despite his cachet, he's not an automatic. The Aussie started the season ominously with a back injury that compelled him to withdraw only one round in at Greenbrier. After a week off, he returns to Silverado for the first time since a T46 in its inaugural edition in 2014.
Aaron Baddeley … Also a victim of the injury du jour, this Aussie hasn't played since walking off Liberty National during his first round of THE NORTHERN TRUST with a sore back, and that occurred after he withdrew from the Wyndham Championship before it started. En route to reestablishing fully exempt status, he finished T4 at Silverado last year, but recency bias should trump course history in his case.
Chris Stroud … Played only one round in the FedExCup Playoffs before a back injury forced him to withdraw from THE NORTHERN TRUST. It was his second mid-tournament WD in six starts (Rocket Mortgage Classic). Just 1-for-4 at Silverado, but the lone payday was a T10 in 2015.
Bo Van Pelt … This is not a misprint. He's poised to make his first PGA TOUR appearance since Pebble Beach in February of 2016. In the interim, he's undergone surgeries to reattach a bicep muscle and repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Despite having only one TOUR title (2009 U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee), he has status today via a career earnings exemption that has carried over since he was eligible for sitting inside the top 50 all-time. Veteran gamers who invested back in the day remember how dangerous he could be to the opposition. He was a top-25 machine who could go low almost on cue. Now 44 years of age, don't be surprised if he rekindles the magic at some point, but give his body a chance to chisel away the rust before considering even fractional ownership.
Jimmy Walker … This is the first time he's opted out of a commitment after the deadline since the AT&T Byron Nelson in 2017. In his only prior appearance at Silverado, he placed 63rd in his title defense in 2014. He's 0-for-5 since the Scottish Open in July.
Matt Jones … After opening the season with a T10 at Greenbrier, he withdrew before the second round of the Sanderson Farms Championship with a sore back.
Kramer Hickok … Since a blistering Korn Ferry Tour Finals to regain his card, he's 0-for-2 in his sophomore season. Like so many others at his tier, he's played a ton of stressful golf over the last three months. Since the Travelers Championship in the third week of June, this will be just his third week off.
Graham DeLaet … He continues to tease us. It was at the Korn Ferry Tour's TPC Colorado Championship in July to which he also committed and withdrew early. Clearly, he's getting closer to getting back inside the ropes for real, but there's no sense rushing it, either. Every one of his 24 starts on a Major Medical Extension makes a difference.
Power Rankings Recap – Sanderson Farms Championship
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Scottie Scheffler T16
2 Lucas Glover MC
3 Brian Harman T14
4 Sungjae Im P2
5 Joaquin Niemann T54
6 Vaughn Taylor MC
7 Robby Shelton T28
8 Wyndham Clark MC
9 Corey Conners MC
10 Sebastián Muñoz Win
11 Brandt Snedeker T45
12 Byeong Hun An 3rd
13 Denny McCarthy T18
14 J.T. Poston T11
15 Grayson Murray MC
Wild Card Kyle Stanley MC
Sleepers Recap – Sanderson Farms Championship
Akshay Bhatia MC
Ryan Blaum MC
Joseph Bramlett MC
Roberto Castro T52
D.J. Trahan MC
Birthdays among active golfers on the PGA TOUR
September 24 … none
September 25 … Adam Long (32)
September 26 … Freddie Jacobson (45)
September 27 … none
September 28 … Will MacKenzie (45)
September 29 … Matthew NeSmith (26)
September 30 … none