All right. Here we go. Striding the tee box for the first time this season are Brooks Koepka, Gary Woodland, Webb Simpson and Tony Finau.
No, they're not the first golfers who advanced to the TOUR Championship in August to make their 2019-20 season debuts – 14 of those guys already have done that, 10 of whom are committed to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open – but that foursome as a whole generates a electricity we haven't experienced since East Lake.
Since we get three starts per golfer per Segment in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, you are free from rationing any on each of the four studly debutants. There are only seven tournaments remaining in Segment 1 and the three stops on the upcoming Asian Swing won't have cuts.
Also of importance, bonus points in events that won't use ShotLink will be equivalent to 10 percent of FedExCup points earned by your final-round starters, just as they're determined in events with ShotLink. Holdover gamers from 2017-18 may recall that non-ShotLink events at the time yielded bonus points of 50 percent to offset a significant reduction of fantasy points. With the playing field evened this season, you no longer need to consider the punch of a victory in South Korea, Japan or China any more than the same in Vegas.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Keegan Bradley; Dylan Frittelli; Charles Howell III; Hideki Matsuyama; Denny McCarthy; Andrew Putnam; Adam Scott; Aaron Wise; Gary Woodland
Driving: Keegan Bradley; Tony Finau; Lanto Griffin; Charles Howell III; Jason Kokrak; Robby Shelton; Harold Varner III; Gary Woodland
Power Rankings Wild Card
Hideki Matsuyama … Because he's a machine, it's understandable why you'd get bent out of a shape by any missed cut such as his quick exit at the Safeway Open, but keep two things in mind. First, he rarely goes even 0-for-2. His last MC-MC "slump" occurred in July of 2018 at the Scottish Open and The Open Championship. Second, there's been no news of an ailment that generated last week's MC. Gamers who have been around long enough understand the value of the absence of that negative. Quite simply, he putted poorly at Silverado, going just 5-for-28 in scoring chances. Finished T10 in his only previous trip to TPC Summerlin in 2014.
Joaquin Niemann … Taking last week off might have served as good a break as any he's had. After opening the season with his breakthrough victory at Greenbrier, he finished T54 in Mississippi with what had to feel like decompression. Immediate letdowns are predictable but we still hold our breath because of the talent. After the separation, it's time again to invest with confidence.
Kevin Streelman … He's playing possum with me. After alternating a top five with a missed cut when my recommendations were for the reverse results in each the last two weeks, he's not escaping a 9-for-9 record with five top 25s at TPC Summerlin.
Aaron Wise … He's 3-for-3 at TPC Summerlin with a pair of top 15s and a scoring average of 68.58. Also enters having connected six cuts made.
Scott Piercy … He wants to win in his hometown badly, naturally, but we're OK with a leaderboard appearance even short of victory. Since 2009, he's 9-for-10 with five top 15s and another two top 25s at the Shriners.
Matthew Wolff … I love that he took a minute to reset after what was a historic summer. Because he won the 3M Open in what was his third career start as a professional, it's easy but unfair to elevate expectations for regular leaderboard appearances. Certainly, his sights are set on exactly that, and his rhetoric will reflect it. Of course it will. It has to. He's an athlete. However, for the time being, count on him as a contributor, not a contender. There's value in that, too, and you want to be in position to capitalize.
Nick Watney … Because he's a NorCal native, my hopes always are high when he pegs it at Silverado, but until last week's T10, he hadn't done anything on that track worthy of our attention. Now that he's bouncing off what is his fourth top 10 in the last five months, I'm chasing his shadow at TPC Summerlin. Arguably best utilized in DFS, he's hung up five top 20s here since 2010.
Russell Knox … Punctuated his fortnight in the U.K. with a T15 in his native Scotland on Sunday. Now poised to pile onto a 5-for-5 record at TPC Summerlin. It includes a solo third in 2014.
Byeong Hun An
Harold Varner III
Phil Mickelson … In recent seasons and for different reasons, notables such as Hunter Mahan and Bill Haas have been mainstays in this section before evolving into omissions due to absence of a turnaround. Lefty has reached that point. Continue to abstain and I will as well.
Lucas Glover … After opening the season 0-for-2, he's seeking to right the ship at TPC Summerlin where he finished third (2016) and T7 (2018) in his last two tries. But onto what should we attach our faith? Exactly.
Bubba Watson … In the 11 years that only TPC Summerlin has hosted the Shriners, he's appeared only once, finishing T51 without a red number in 2017. But it's not like his game doesn't translate to desert golf, there's more than enough evidence to dispense of that angle, but his form for months has been uninspiring. Since a T12 at the Masters, he's recorded only one top-45 finish, and that was at the no-cut WGC in Memphis (T9).
Rory Sabbatini … Something will give, so you're advised to observe only. After a terrific 2018-19 during which he missed only four cuts, one of them occurred at TPC Summerlin. A closer examination reveals that he's 1-for-9 in the tournament (T25, 2015) since the course has hosted solo (2008-present).
Cameron Smith … He'll turn it around at some point, and it just might happen at TPC Summerlin where he finished T10 in his last visit three years ago, but his extended slump as compared to our expectation continues.
Keith Mitchell … Back at TPC Summerlin since missing the cut in his debut two years ago, he's gone 10 consecutive starts sans a top-35 finish. Extending the definition of his dry spell, a T8 at the Wells Fargo Championship is his only top 35 in 15 starts.
Pat Perez … Now 0-for-3 since the Wyndham Championship and without a top-35 finish in nine consecutive starts.
Lucas Bjerregaard … The Dane is making his PGA TOUR membership debut this week. He made his hay with a fourth-place finish at the Match Play, but he's yet to pick off a top 10 in stroke-play competition on this circuit. Just be aware, if you already aren't, that he's eligible for the FedExCup Playoffs in case he makes any noise.
Tom Lewis … The KFT Championship winner is fresh off a T5 at the Dunhill Links, but he presented stronger at Greenbrier in the wake of his title a month ago. Suffice it to say that we'll need time to learn more about how his game translates at this level.
Returning to Competition
Matt Jones … Withdrew from the Sanderson Farms Championship before his second round with a sore back, and then pulled out of his commitment to last week's Safeway Open. Mixed results at TPC Summerlin include only one top-55 finish in five tries, but because he's risen into contention at times this year, he warrants a taste fractionally in DFS.
James Hahn … Making his first start in eight months. He was sidelined with a partial tear in a triceps tendon. As a result, he has 17 starts to earn 305.136 FedExCup points and retain status. Give him at least one start to feel the competitive juices again before consideration in every format.
Graham DeLaet … Take three. The 37-year-old committed to and withdrew from a Korn Ferry Tour stop in July. He repeated the process at last week's Safeway Open. If he keeps his date at the Shriners, it'll mark his first sanctioned action since THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES nearly two years ago. Treatment and surgery on his back has prevented him from competing, but he has 24 starts on a Major Medical Extension to continue to try.
Ben Martin … It's understandable that he wants to preserve and smartly ration the last four starts on his Major Medical Extension, but TPC Summerlin is the site of his only PGA TOUR victory (in 2014), so if he was going to burn one of those starts, logic would tilt most into this favor. What's more, he's already secured conditional status (before he needed the medical). However, in his last four rounds of the tournament, he's failed to break par and missed two cuts. He also scuffled before and after the back injury that sidelined him for about a year (save one start).
Power Rankings Recap – Safeway Open
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Justin Thomas T4
2 Sungjae Im T49
3 Hideki Matsuyama MC
4 Patrick Cantlay T40
5 Ryan Moore MC
6 Adam Scott T17
7 Collin Morikawa T10
8 Scott Piercy 67th
9 Kevin Na MC
10 Byeong Hun An MC
11 Brandt Snedeker T17
12 Francesco Molinari T23
13 Troy Merritt MC
14 Kevin Streelman MC
15 Sebastián Muñoz T33
Wild Card Chez Reavie T33
Sleepers Recap – Safeway Open
Bud Cauley T44
Scott Harrington T23
Martin Laird MC
Adam Long T23
Cameron Tringale T44
Birthdays among active golfers on the PGA TOUR
October 1 … Grayson Murray (26)
October 2 … George McNeill (44); Zack Sucher (33)
October 3 … Danny Willett (32)
October 4 … none
October 5 … Kelly Kraft (31)
October 6 … none
October 7 … none