Throughout the last couple of months, I've fielded numerous requests for information on the whereabouts, travel restrictions and other details concerning PGA TOUR members emerging to compete post-hiatus. No doubt my label as an insider implies that I have that a certain level of clearance, but we are in unprecedented times and we must respect the privacy of all.
The conversation on playing time and scheduling never ends, anyway. I've always done everything I can to feed everything I know to you. All I ask is that you remember that one of the perks of being an independent contractor is that the only decision of consequence is to commit to next week's tournament by 5:00 p.m. ET on Friday. Everything after that is subject to change. While it may aggravate gamers, it's a life goal to own your own schedule. Besides, it's out of our control.
Players' websites are informational, but a very high percentage that maintains a schedule page don't update it regularly. Some just post the entire PGA TOUR schedule so that you don't have to leave the site. Even if you connected with any golfer on social media about committing to any event, a "we'll see" is the best form of a non-no as you should expect. If you get a "yes, I'll be there," baked into it are the aforementioned conditions of uncertainty. A golfer likely is just being positive and polite. It's just the nature of the business.
In the coming weeks, it's going to be interesting which dual-tour members will leave to focus on the European Tour. Since all PGA TOUR cards are locked in through 2020-21, positioning in the 2020 FedExCup likely will yield one-way tickets overseas for those who figure to be on the outside looking in, at least for the foreseeable future. And it will be a week-to-week process in the interim.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for the RBC Heritage (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Daniel Berger; Tony Finau; Brian Harman; Sungjae Im; J.T. Poston; Justin Rose; Xander Schauffele; Jordan Spieth; Gary Woodland
Driving: Daniel Berger; Joel Dahmen; Lucas Glover; Tyrrell Hatton; Sungjae Im; Viktor Hovland; Jason Kokrak; Xander Schauffele; Kevin Streelman; Gary Woodland
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Hideki Matsuyama … Even though average and poor putters can hide on small greens, and even though in his last action he electrified the last gathering of a crowd with a course-record-tying 63 at THE PLAYERS in March, I'd like for him to be a little more familiar with Harbour Town where he missed the cut in his only prior trip in 2014. Granted, that hasn't stopped others from not only contending but winning, some even as first-time participants, but I prefer a combination of an impressive track record with a strong restart to the season last week to build a worthy lineup.
Jason Kokrak … The last snipped from the Power Rankings remains a non-winner on the PGA TOUR, but he profiles a lot like Tony Finau. Both are known primarily as long hitters, but their games travel because they adapt. That's made possible by a well-rounded skill set, which puts in to perspective that their distance off the tee is a bonus when they need to tap into it. Kokrak checked all of the boxes en route to a T3 at Colonial, including pacing the field with a 64 on Sunday. His record at Harbour Town captures our attention even more. Since 2013, he's 5-for-7 with a T6 (2016) among four top 20s.
Jordan Spieth … He didn't have his A-game at Colonial, but he didn't get any help from the curve, either. Although maddeningly inconsistent and compelling all at once – in a word, golf – his T10 to restart the season is evidence of the hope. Connected top 15s at Harbour Town from 2013-2015 and hasn’t missed a cut in four career attempts.
Gary Woodland … Obviously gave all of his bulk to Bryson DeChambeau, but it didn't have a negative influence on the 2019 U.S. Open champ. He finished ninth at Colonial to bracket the hiatus with top 10s. His full bag was on display and he led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green for good measure.
Bubba Watson … The break likely served him well. He's had his hands in a number of things for a while now, so it was inspiring to see him finish T7 right out of the gate at Colonial. On paper, it's exactly the kind of test you'd expect him to ace. Harbour Town is another, but this is just his second appearance since missing the cut in 2007. Quite simply, he's preferred the week off after the Masters, so it's fortunate that he's back.
Branden Grace … The 2016 champ is 4-for-4 with three top-11s and a scoring average of 69.44. His T19 at Colonial was disappointing because he sat one stroke off the 54-hole lead, but his short game was dialed in after the break.
Brandt Snedeker … The career devotee to the RBC Heritage scaled to victory here in 2011. It's his only top 10 in 14 trips, but he's scattered another four top 25s among 11 cuts made in all. Remains one of the most reliable of late to make any cut.
Tyrrell Hatton … Daniel Berger populated the headlines on Sunday at Colonial, but he's merely the second consecutive winner on the PGA TOUR who recently overcame an injured right wrist. Hatton had surgery on his in late November, and then won in just his second start thereafter. His victory at Bay Hill was the last before the hiatus. This is his third appearance at Harbour Town.
Matthew Fitzpatrick … Still not contending, but he makes cuts and he's cashed in the last two editions of the RBC Heritage. Sub-70 in all four rounds en route to a T32 at Colonial.
Luke Donald ... With, count 'em, five runner-up finishes and two thirds at Harbour Town, all he's missing is a victory to clinch a statue or a lighthouse named after him along the Calibogue Sound. He's a far cry from the talent that led to him being the No. 1 pick in One & Dones in any tournament, but there's still a little gas left in the tank. Of course, he's never given it a go in this tournament with the kind of field around him this week, but anyone would trade his current firepower for Donald's wisdom around this place.
Rafa Cabrera Bello
C.T. Pan … Ready to get back after it. You'll recall that he was a late WD before the opening round of THE PLAYERS Championship due to concerns related to the coronavirus. He missed the cut at Colonial by four strokes, so he's now just 1-for-7 worldwide dating back to December. No question that the positive vibes of his first title defense this week will help, but the experience of the distractions of the duties and attention triggered as a result of it generate doubt for a turnaround. In a vacuum and long-term, I remain steadfast in my belief, and especially on shorter tracks, but he sets up as a trap at Harbour Town.
Brooks Koepka … Played just OK at Colonial where he placed T32. His tee-to-green game wasn't sharp, but the putter covered. Obviously, expectations remain sky high, and the narrative of the virtual absence of intrigue in non-majors feels tired, but it's still accurate. Sigh.
Dustin Johnson … You don't need me to validate a decision you've already made. Signed for a pair of 71s en route to a predictably early exit at Colonial. It's awesome to see him commit to his home-state TOUR stop for the fifth time and third consecutive, but he's still scraping off the rust.
Rickie Fowler … The course success angle failed at Colonial where he whiffed by four. Hasn't seen Harbour Town in eight years, so maybe the reverse strategy will work. You're on your own if you nibble.
Corey Conners … Delivered on his Sleepers nod at Colonial (see below), but he's yet to solve Harbour Town, so it's a no-play for me. He's 0-for-3 with only one red number.
Jason Day … What to make of him? Good record at Harbour Town, but he hasn't appeared since 2016. Missed the cut at Colonial by four strokes where he hadn't appeared since 2011.
Cameron Smith … No matter how you slice time since his burst of form in late 2018 and early 2019, he can't shed the profile of lighting fire only sporadically. Likely too costly in DFS to consider even as a contrarian, while full-season investors wait him out.
Wesley Bryan … This is his first appearance in a PGA TOUR event since The RSM Classic in November of 2018. Two months later, he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and sat out the entirety of 2019. He then went 1-for-2 in a rehab stint on the Korn Ferry Tour earlier this year. Now he returns to the site of his only TOUR title in 2017. He was lighting stages on fire for weeks in advance of the breakthrough. Keep your finger on the add button should he perform well this week. He has 21 starts on a Major Medical Extension, so we could be seeing him regularly.
Charles Howell III
Erik van Rooyen
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
Michael Kim … Benefits vary and are experienced in degrees, but despite the reason for it, no one might be more pleased that he's keeping his job for 2020-21 than the winner of the 2018 John Deere Classic. It was because of that victory that he's exempt this season – he went just 4-for-26 in 2018-19, but three of those paydays occurred in no-cut events – and it's because of the pandemic that his card was extended into another season. He hasn't played since The RSM Classic where he withdrew during his opening round with a sore wrist. It was his third mid-tournament WD in seven starts. Perhaps the separation from the injury and any bad habits it may have caused will get him back on the horse.
Kevin Na ... Missed the cut by one in his title defense, all the while not appearing to look 100 percent physically. He's the poster boy for early WDs, though. This is his 11th since he qualified for the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions where he couldn't play due to a fractured pinky finger on his right hand. Neck and back soreness has thwarted most other intentions to compete.
Scottie Scheffler … This is the rookie's first early WD after the commitment deadline. He placed T55 at the Charles Schwab Challenge and sits 20th in the FedExCup. The good news is that he's guaranteed to have Sunday off to celebrate his 24th birthday.
POWER RANKINGS RECAP – CHARLES SCHWAB CHALLENGE
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1. Jon Rahm MC
2. Webb Simpson MC
3. Rory McIlroy T32
4. Kevin Na MC
5. Brooks Koepka T32
6. Justin Thomas T10
7. Kevin Kisner T29
8. Marc Leishman MC
9. Tony Finau T23
10. Ryan Palmer MC
11. Matt Kuchar MC
12. Harris English MC
13. Jordan Spieth T10
14. Sungjae Im T10
15. Bryson DeChambeau T3
Wild Card: Patrick Reed T7
SLEEPERS RECAP – CHARLES SCHWAB CHALLENGE
Corey Conners T19
Emiliano Grillo MC
Brian Harman T23
Russell Knox MC
Vaughn Taylor MC
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE GOLFERS ON THE PGA TOUR
June 16 … Phil Mickelson (50)
June 17 … David Hearn (41)
June 18 … none
June 19 … none
June 20 … Charles Howell III (41)
June 21 … Matt Kuchar (42); William McGirt (41); Russell Knox (35); Sangmoon Bae (34); Scott Scheffler (24); Aaron Wise (24)
June 22 … Dustin Johnson (36)