If you ever wanted to know how it felt to go three months without competitive golf – you know, like a legitimate "offseason" as compared to team sports – you got it. And it was no fun, was it? Exactly.
One of the default benefits of playing fantasy golf is that it spans all seasons in team sports; that is, if you include all official PGA TOUR action. Of course, not all gaming is the same. DFS is to traditional fantasy what a tweet is to a novel. There's something for anyone, but the last three months gave nothing to everyone.
The hiatus triggered by the pandemic will be an exit strategy for casual gamers. They don't and won't miss the sweat. At the same time, the exhilaration and freshness of a restart with summer upon us will encourage new prey, er, rookie gamers with aspirations of success. With professional sports at a standstill otherwise, the focus on the Charles Schwab Challenge will be as sharp as it's ever been.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf has been revised so that the first seven events back will comprise Segment 3, while the last six make up Segment 4. (The Barracuda Championship played opposite the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational does not contribute to the game.) To review the breakdown, scroll to Exhibit A in Rules.
While there are no fans for the first five events of the restart, volunteers are still needed on site for various duties. This includes ShotLink, which will be utilized in its entirety. So, all shot-level bonuses will be measured.
Because so many things extending deep in 2021 have been affected by the hiatus, I put together a primer for the restart, but it's also an evergreen guide not unlike the introduction of my annual full-membership fantasy ranking that publishes immediately before every season. If you bookmark the primer, you might be surprised how often it'll come in handy.
The Charles Schwab Challenge also reignites the Official World Golf Ranking. When I inquired as to how the formula would account for the hiatus, I received the following response from the OWGR:
"The ranking period will stretch over 116 actual weeks, making it 104 weeks of play (as normal) plus the 12 weeks during which there was no play. The output will be as if the last 12 weeks never happened."
It's a sensible resolution, obviously, but it'll take two years to forget about the reasoning. Of course, the impact as to why it happened it was necessary in the first place never will be forgotten. So, embrace this moment to cherish that we can have some fun and invest in a deviation from the things that have consumed our attention, no matter how important.
It's just great to be back. I've missed you.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for the Charles Schwab Challenge (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Bryson DeChambeau; Rickie Fowler; Sungjae Im; Phil Mickelson; Kevin Na; Patrick Reed; Jordan Spieth; Vaughn Taylor; Justin Thomas
Driving: Corey Conners; Joel Dahmen; Bryson DeChambeau; Harris English; Sergio Garcia; Billy Horschel; Sungjae Im; Louis Oosthuizen
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Patrick Reed … Finicky gamers probably wouldn't take issue if this slot was renamed after him. He tends to dodge positive projections as often as he warrants them. So it goes. It's been four years since he last appeared and recorded a personal-best T15 at Colonial, so the native Texan isn't unfamiliar with the layout.
Xander Schauffele … Poor records early in a career like his at Colonial (1-for-3; T48 in 2017) are the norm. The 26-year-old can buck expectations at times a little like Justin Thomas, but our faith remains strong in the long haul, and for tremendous reason. You never zag with Schauffele, but course-history buffs won't invest.
Rickie Fowler … Had been inconsistent prior to the break but nothing over which to get in a twist. Really solid record at Colonial includes a T5 (in 2012) among a trio of top 20s in seven appearances.
Sergio Garcia … Another year and he's still the answer to the trivia question as laid out in the Power Rankings. The Spaniard hasn't been a regular since breaking through in his debut here in 2001, but he did finish inside the top 20 in each of his last three (2011, 2012, 2017). That means a lot more than most younger talents with no experience but who will have higher ownership percentages this week.
Phil Mickelson … This is mild and only because this will be his last start as a 40something. The World Golf Hall of Famer reaches The Big 5-0 on June 16. As he searches for any and all kinds of motivating factors, that's not a small one. Of course, he's also a two-time winner at Colonial, but it's been 12 years since his more recent, and this marks just his second trip in the last 10 (T29, 2017).
Brendon Todd … Just as how Harris English has turned it around this season and tests my theory that guys who had been playing well before the hiatus and for whom it could be argued that it was surprising, Todd presents similarly. Obviously, the big difference is that he's already a two-time winner this season, whereas English (in my Power Rankings) still is chasing his most recent victory. It's been six years, but Todd finished T5 at Colonial where his accuracy of the tee elevates his expectations this week. Overall, he's 3-for-4 with 13 rounds in the books on the course.
Joel Dahmen … If a 58 during the hiatus (alongside Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs, thank you very much) isn't enough to get you on board, how about the fact that he entered the hiatus on a T14-T5-T5 binge! He also finished T20 in his Colonial debut two years ago.
Joaquin Niemann … Despite his age (21), I'm willing to lean on his 2-for-2 record at Colonial with a T8 in his debut in 2018.
Rory Sabbatini … After an impressive summer last year, he had been sliding along a bit until the hiatus, but he reemerges at a great spot. The long-time area resident won the tournament in 2007 and he's recorded four other top 10s, including a T6 last year.
Collin Morikawa … Never mind that he's a debutant, his game has traveled everywhere he's committed. It's possible that you've forgotten that he's 20-for-20 as a professional with a win, a T2 and another four top 10s among 11 top 25s. If the field in general is rusty with their short games – this is my primary thought upon reentry – he'll be even tastier as an option because of his tee-to-green proficiency.
Bernhard Langer … In the field on a sponsor exemption and served on a silver platter to DFSers. Shared runner-up honors in his last trip as a 49-year-old in 2007. A top 25 on this course and even in this field is a reasonable expectation.
Justin Rose … It wasn't surprising that he won the Charles Schwab Challenge in 2018, but he finished just T58 with one red number in his title defense, and that occurred during an arc of good form. If he contends again this week, he'll support the notion that the hiatus came at a great time given that he sandwiched a T56 at Riviera with three missed cuts beforehand, but I'm very much in a wait-and-see mode, especially as it pertains to his putting.
Dustin Johnson … Acknowledged the rust and proved its existence despite victory in the TaylorMade Driving Relief. Hasn't appeared at Colonial since 2014 (T14).
Jason Day … No, I'm not concerned about his lower back that led to the mid-tournament withdrawal at Bay Hill three months ago – not in the heat he's going to feel this week – but he's hasn't appeared at Colonial since back when he was a member in 2011.
Gary Woodland … Not in the classic sense, but he's among the notables who doesn't have much experience at Colonial. In his only prior appearance, he placed T73 in 2012. This means that contrarian investors will be all over him and the rightful philosophy that his class is permanent.
Ryan Moore … He'd seem to angle as a short-lister on a classic track, but despite five cuts made in eight appearances, only two resulted in a top 50, and neither of those yielded a top 25.
Matthew Wolff … Colonial doesn't reward first-timers, much less youngsters. Just give the 21-year-old at least a week to get his competitive legs underneath him, the hits and giggles of TaylorMade Driving Relief notwithstanding.
Erik van Rooyen … As noted in the section dedicated to rookies in my primer linked in the intro, the South African leads all non-members with the equivalent of 188.133 FedExCup points, so he's just inside 100 points of qualifying for Special Temporary Membership. With the PGA TOUR the only game around for a few weeks and given his cachet, he's a must-get for longer-term formats if he's still on the free-agent pile. That said, remain patient as he navigates Colonial for the first time.
Harold Varner III … There aren't any analytics to project something like his willingness to speak about his understanding of social injustice in advance of performance inside the ropes, but I'm curious if he piggybacks the feels of his personal life over the last two weeks specifically into something special in his second spin of Colonial (MC, 2017).
Rafa Cabrera Bello
Charles Howell III
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
Louis Oosthuizen … Technically, everyone is returning to competition this week, but he's in a category of his own since he withdrew during the first round of the canceled PLAYERS with a sore left shoulder. Injuries have dogged the South African throughout his career, so the hiatus couldn't have happened a better time for him in that context. He had been playing well most of the time in the months prior. He also finished T5 in his last trip to Colonial in 2018, so you have the green light. Just don't get too excited about the fact that he's leading the PGA TOUR in Strokes Gained: Putting at the restart. Only six of his 14 rounds contribute to the value and he recorded a clip of minus-0.357 en route to missing the cut at The Honda Classic. He ranked second in the stat at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship despite finishing T51.
William McGirt … Committed to the Korn Ferry Challenge at TPC Sawgrass as a rehab start. Assuming he keeps it, it'll mark his first sanctioned competition since the 2018 FedExCup Playoffs. He underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his left hip and femoroacetabular impingement not long after missing the cut at THE NORTHERN TRUST. Whenever he returns to the PGA TOUR, he'll have a full season's worth of starts (29) to earn 375.582 FedExCup points and retain status. He'll turn 41 on June 21.
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE GOLFERS ON THE PGA TOUR
June 9 … Billy Hurley III (38)
June 10 … Xinjun Zhang (33)
June 11 … Ben Taylor (28)
June 12 … none
June 13 … Peter Malnati (33)
June 14 … none
June 15 … Lanto Griffin (32); Cameron Champ (25)