Fantasy Insider: ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP
October 22, 2019
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
- Joaquin Niemann finished T12 at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES. (Chung Sun-Jun/Getty Images)
Last week's CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES was the first tournament of the 2019-20 season for which ShotLink wasn't used. That meant that fantasy scoring was determined by actual scores and bonus points only.
Since all of the remaining four events this fall used in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf also won't have ShotLink measurements contributing, it's interesting to review how fantasy scoring at NINE BRIDGES stacked up against the first five tournaments. (The Seaside Course at The RSM Classic will be lasered, but because the co-hosting Plantation Course won't be, ShotLink will not apply to that tournament for fantasy purposes.)
The top performers at the first four tournaments recorded totals of 958 points (Greenbrier), 986 points (Sanderson Farms), 924 points (Safeway) and 1,081 points (Shriners). The weekly winner of the Houston Open amassed only 875 points.
The broad-stroke analysis of why the best teams varied as such is rooted in the usual variables of distance off the tee and overall scoring. Golf Club of Houston yielded the shortest average of distance of all drives and the highest scoring average thus far.
Without ShotLink active at NINE BRIDGES, "tampatom" led all fantasy gamers with 880 points. While he collected bonus points with Justin Thomas (win), Danny Lee (2nd), Hideki Matsuyama (T3) and Byeong Hun An (T6), overall scoring was comparable to Houston (with ShotLink) because actual scoring was lower in the tournament proper.
Scoring at Narashino Country Club this week is projected to be tempered during the first two rounds due to wind. Come the weekend, the only defense for the short course with three par-5s might be hole locations. The wind will lay down, so it could surrender low scores.
As a long-time gamer and honest critic of the various fantasy formats that have been offered, I must stress that the current iteration of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf finally gets it right. Any game in which you have as much to gain as you have to lose while covering the alternative dynamics such as the current stretch that covers the no-cut Asian Swing and without ShotLink, without golf shoes getting hurled at it, is impressive. Short- and long-range fantasy golf formats are far from perfect due to the nature of the sport, so appreciating what we have now is as important as the value that has been validated.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Paul Casey; Adam Hadwin; Ryan Moore; Collin Morikawa; Kevin Na; Patrick Reed; Adam Scott; Jordan Spieth; Gary Woodland
Power Rankings Wild Card
Jason Day … A rare second consecutive appearance by the same golfer in this space, so go ahead and debate it. He was sharp in the opener at NINE BRIDGES with a bogey-free, 6-under 66, but he didn't break 71 the rest of the way and drifted to T31 for his sixth straight result outside the top 30. It's irrelevant that he won Monday's MGM Resorts The Challenge, except for what that could do for his confidence. Winning is winning is winning and he proved something to himself amid his current slump. So, maybe it's not so irrelevant after all.
Joaquin Niemann … Bell answered. I was cool on him THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES because I wasn't yet convinced that he had separated from the career achievement of winning at Greenbrier. How much time required to turn the page mentally from a breakthrough victory and the next start that showcases similar form varies. That he was the first Chilean to win a PGA TOUR event brought with it more significance than usual. Given his results in the two events that followed, we couldn't rule out the hangover effect (even though he doesn't turn 21 until Nov. 7, wink wink). Lo and behold, he walked off NINE BRIDGES with an eagle-3 and signed for a 4-under 68 to finish T12. Consider the page turned.
Ian Poulter … Split the bull's-eye at NINE BRIDGES with a T16. It piles onto a record there that started with a T15 and a T10, but he's always flourished in the limited-field, no-cut events. The ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP is yet another that allows him to put another brick on the wall for the season.
Marc Leishman … As he continues to experience inconsistency, this is not a time to run. He's only two starts and less than one month removed from a solo third at Silverado. It's one of, count 'em, seven top-fives worldwide in the last 11 months. His class is permanent. What should excite you (and him) this week is that the wind is expected to play a role during the first two rounds (assuming no extended delays on Friday). Suit him up!
Andrew Putnam … I'm slowly generating a man-crush on the 30-year-old. Go ahead and cite a weakness. I'll wait. … Exactly. Since a T3 at Colonial, he's 12-for-12 worldwide with seven top-25s. He's nails no matter your format. He's also affordable in DFS.
Chez Reavie … Arrives on a downturn, but Narashino is a short track that will reward his tee-to-green precision. Invest in a likely upswing.
Harold Varner III
Tiger Woods … Once upon a time, and still to a lesser degree today, playing time late in the calendar year for golfers coming off an injury was considered an opportunity for gamers to observe for relevant action to come. However, since the wraparound schedule was introduced six years ago, these guys can contribute to the bottom line. The trick is letting them come to you, no matter the billing. Monday's exhibition was a bonus that allowed his owners to exhale in advance of his season debut, which is his first official action since the BMW Championship in August and, more importantly, since he underwent knee surgery. Yes, there's no cut, Narashino is a short course and he's capable of winning, obviously, but there are hotter, healthier and younger talents from which to choose. If you can't help yourself, then just stow him on your bench in PGA TOUR Fantasy and surround him with chalk.
Danny Lee … First and foremost, we have to respect the emotional component and unquantifiable motivation triggered by the premature birth of his second child on the eve of THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES. He mentioned it after the third round even though he wasn't going to speak about it until after the tournament, and then decided not to elaborate. That tournament also was contested in his native South Korea, so it's only natural to connect his focus to when he wanted to qualify for the Presidents Cup in the country in 2015, which he achieved. In terms of execution, he ranked just T56 in greens in regulation at NINE BRIDGES but led the field in both scrambling and fewest putts taken. On unfamiliar greens at Narashino this week, he'll be better suited to hit more of them than he found of the massive targets last week. And now a week removed from the variables of going to work immediately after a significant life event and an admission of it, it'd be understandable if he lacks the same fire in Japan.
Byeong Hun An … Although he led after one round at NINE BRIDGES and finished T6 for his second top-10 of the season, I prefer his hit-it-and-find-it style better on longer tracks where his distance is a distinct advantage. So, consider this as an opportunity to sit him out until the fit improves.
Bubba Watson … His missed cut in his last start at the Shriners to open October was his fifth MC in 10 starts. He managed only one top-45 finish in the other five (T8, WGC-FedEx St. Jude).
Returning to Competition
Hudson Swafford … He got back after it in last week's European Tour stop in Paris. After opening with 3-over 74 in the Open de France, he converted three eagles and four birdies en route to a second-round 65 to make the cut. After respective rounds of 69 and 76 on the weekend, he finished T29. The 32-year-old hadn't played anywhere since missing the cut at the RBC Canadian Open in early June. It was his fifth straight MC and eighth in nine starts. Two weeks later, he withdrew early from the Travelers Championship, citing an injured foot. He opened this season with a Minor Medical Extension affording seven starts, but because he passed the four-month checkpoint without competing, he's been elevated to the Major Medical category. If he earns 133.289 FedExCup points in seven starts, he'll retain status for the remainder of 2019-20. He is not playing this week.
J.B. Holmes … Withdrew during his third round at NINE BRIDGES with a shoulder injury, and then pulled out of the ZOZO not long after the commitment deadline. He's had only one top-50 finish in his last 15 starts in individual competition (T21, Rocket Mortgage).
Power Rankings Recap – THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Justin Thomas Win
2 Brooks Koepka WD
3 Sungjae Im T39
4 Rafa Cabrera Bello T26
5 Tommy Fleetwood T20
6 Tyrrell Hatton T6
7 Hideki Matsuyama T3
8 Cameron Smith T3
9 Danny Willett T46
10 Marc Leishman T43
11 Viktor Hovland T31
12 Jazz Janewattananond T65
13 Gary Woodland T3
14 Kevin Na T20
15 Pat Perez T31
Wild Card Jason Day T31
Sleepers Recap – THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES
Joel Dahmen T43
Kyonghun Moon T46
Ryan Palmer T12
Adam Schenk T46
Brian Stuard T72
Birthdays among active golfers on the PGA TOUR
October 22 … none
October 23 … none
October 24 … Marc Leishman (36)
October 25 … Troy Merritt (34); Xander Schauffele (26)
October 26 … none
October 27 … Fabián Gómez (41)
October 28 … none