As we continue to learn the ebb and flow of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, at times it’s valuable to drop in on original thoughts. This is one of those times.
When the latest iteration of the format was available for me to review, two outcomes rushed into focus.
First, and as you’ve experienced, scoring is approximately one-quarter the previous version. That’s fine because we’re all in the same boat.
The other wrinkle concerned how golfers would be measured. Using Modified Stableford scoring, golfers can post (and have posted) a negative number in a round. In all the fantasy I’ve played over the decades, I’ve never been a fan of subtraction because it doesn’t happen in reality, but again, we’re all in the same boat, so the only controllable opinion applies to the decision to play.
In the season-opening Fantasy Insider, I referenced the possibility that the U.S. Open at Southern Hills next year likely will be the low point for fantasy scoring, so much so that gamers actually might sit it out because a zero could win the week. That extreme example tests the value of the game, which, of course, ultimately will demand a full roster if for no other reason than the bonus points for bogey-free scores, low rounds and overall finish.
All the while I was conveying the message in that comprehensive preview, the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open was top of mind. I didn’t write about it specifically but I have messaged it to a couple of gamers since.
Before digging into the data, my recollection of Memorial Park was that it was a beast and easily the most challenging host of all non-majors last fall. However, when I got to work on the tournament this week, it became evident that tough first and second rounds inflated the overall scoring average (71.025) on the par 70 and likely distorted my takeaway. This is to say that I’d be surprised if it plays as difficult this week.
My roster for the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Tony Finau (+2500 to win, +260 for a Top 10, +120 for a Top 20) … Coulda predicted this placement when he didn’t appear in the Power Rankings proper. After soaring in the Playoffs, he went just 1-2-0 on what was a juggernaut of a home team at the Ryder Cup. Since, he’s turned in a pair of pedestrian T45s. Memorial Park is a ballpark where he should dominate – he was T8 entering last year’s finale and backpedaled to a T24 with a closing 71 – but merely expecting paydays is below the target line of his value and our expectations.
Adam Scott (+3000 to win, +300 for a Top 10, +140 for a Top 20) … It’s almost impossible to notice that the pandemic impacted him as much as he’s stated. He delayed his return to competition by two months in 2020 and has missed only two cuts since, one of which at the PGA Championship that’s worth ignoring. He’s been off since a T5 at THE CJ CUP @ SUMMIT, and he signed for a trio of red numbers and stepped on the driver (second in distance of all drives) en route to a T32 at Memorial Park a year ago.
Shane Lowry (+4000 to win, +400 for a Top 10, +180 for a Top 20) … Last week’s missed cut was an opportunity to rest ahead of his return to Houston. Only he, Carlos Ortiz (win) and Sepp Straka (T5) beat par in every round here last year, but the Irishman settled for a T11. Every club but the putter cooperated. And he’s made too much noise worldwide since. Solid DFS value.
Erik van Rooyen (+5000 to win, +500 for a Top 10, +250 for a Top 20) … Continues to compete in a high gear and life outside the ropes is outstanding, so there’s no reason to doubt him now. Also placed T20 here last year with a consistent attack paid off by terrific putting.
Ryan Palmer (+6600 to win, +650 for a Top 10, +300 for a Top 20) … Reconnected with his long game at Mayakoba for a T27. Although it’s his best finish in a full-field, individual PGA TOUR event in seven months, that’s all that matters when we’re focused on his next commitment. The native Texan is making his Memorial Park debut.
Odds sourced on Tuesday, November 9 at 5 a.m. ET. For live odds visit betmgm.
Patrick Reed … Hasn’t pegged it is his backyard since 2017 and he hasn’t wrung as much out of his game relative to deeper fields in a while. However, because he makes most cuts and his potential energy is undeniable, he serves as a fantastic contrarian among the chalk. I’m on the record as a conservative investor, so that’s why he lands in this section.
Jason Day … Positioned to prevail one stroke back after 54 holes last year and settled for a T7. He’s added only two top 10s and another three top 20s since, but no other top 30s and he arrives 90th in the Official World Golf Ranking. It’s his worst value since he was 171st as the winner of the AT&T Byron Nelson in May of 2010.
Francesco Molinari … His T15 at Memorial Park was the lone highlight of just three starts after his seven-month break in 2020, and it was a balanced bag that yielded it, but 39-year-old Italian hasn’t displayed anything similar for months.
Lee Westwood … Relatively speaking, the 48-year-old hadn’t been playing his best before going 1-2-0 on the losing end of the Ryder Cup. He’s rested since. He’s also renewed his PGA TOUR membership for the 2021-22 season during which he should get into all of the majors. He shot 77-69 to miss the cut by three shots at Memorial Park last year.
Cameron Tringale … Won’t talk you out of him in aggressive situations, but this is yet another thick field. Until he breaks free from the familiar narrative, expectations must remain tempered.
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
Kelly Kraft … Because he had injured his neck and withdrew during the Shriners a month ago, I was this close to selecting his opponent in their matchup on the Action App at Mayakoba. I can’t recall who the opponent was, but I remember that it was a non-member who was unfamiliar to me (which doesn’t happen often), so I balked. Kraft ended up withdrawing during the second round due to an illness. So it goes. The same strategy paid off when I opted for Kurt Kitayama over Vaughn Taylor at Bermuda the week prior. Taylor has been dealing with a sore rib for a few months, so he was the easy fade against Kitayama who finished T65. Kraft still has nine starts on his Major Medical Extension, so he’s not quite feeling the pressure to perform, but even if physically fine, he’s not a great fit at Memorial Park. He missed the cut here last year, too.
Carlos Ortiz … Nagging soreness in his left shoulder prompted an early exit and as the defending champion. It was the same reason why he called it quits halfway through the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP. We’ve known that this two-week stretch was a lot, but at least he was able to make a run at Mayakoba for a solo second. Despite the blow, the timing is otherwise decent as he can recover and treat the wing for two months and miss little competition because of the imminent holiday hiatus.
Emiliano Grillo … It’s a little hard to believe that this is his first early withdrawal after a commitment deadline in his career. Mayakoba marked his 164th career start and 157th as a PGA TOUR member. Even more remarkable is that he’s never withdrawn during a tournament. If you haven’t already, make a note that his wife is expecting their first child in March. They’re having a boy. Nappy Factor devotees rejoice!
RECAPS – WORLD WIDE TECHNOLOGY CHAMPIONSHIP AT MAYAKOBA
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Abraham Ancer T7
2 Billy Horschel T33
3 Justin Thomas 3rd
4 Viktor Hovland Win
5 Tony Finau T45
6 Talor Gooch T11
7 Aaron Wise T15
8 Emiliano Grillo MC
9 Patrick Rodgers MC
10 Sergio Garcia T7
11 Scottie Scheffler 4th
12 Lucas Herbert MC
13 Matt Fitzpatrick T64
14 Henrik Stenson MC
15 Seamus Power T11
Wild Card Matt Kuchar T22
Golfer (GolfBet prop) Result
Brice Garnett (top 20) MC
James Hahn (top 20) T27
Russell Henley (top 20) T56
Maverick McNealy (top 10) T11
Sam Ryder (top 20) MC
OUTRIGHT: Abraham Ancer (+1600) T7
PROP: Justin Thomas, Abraham Ancer and Viktor Hovland all to make the cut (-115) 3rd/T7/Win
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE MEMBERS OF THE PGA TOUR
November 9 … David Duval (50); Ted Potter, Jr. (38)
November 10 … Jon Rahm (27)
November 11 … Robert Garrigus (44); Joel Dahmen (34)
November 12 … Lucas Glover (42); Chez Reavie (40); Jason Day (34); C.T. Pan (30)
November 13 … none
November 14 … Talor Gooch (30)
November 15 … none
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