Fantasy Insider: Viking Classic and British Open

July 12, 2011
Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist

Well, as you'd expect at a British Open, my peek at the weather in Monday's Power Rankings is already outdated. What was forecast to be a dry Thursday now includes a 95 percent chance of rain. The wind is expected to be a bit stronger now, too, still blowing from the north but at a hearty clip of 20-25 mph. The good news is that as long as it rains, greens should be receptive for pinpoint approaches. Putting surfaces at this major are always generally slower than average, but a recent drought projected firm and fast conditions; that is, until now.

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The lesson gamers get this week isn't too different than from what the competitors themselves glean. Patience and a level head are key. Emotional spikes are to be expected during all majors, but you truly have to treat it as just another golf tournament. For all intents and purposes, expect weather, luck and the golf course to win. The golfer clutching the Claret Jug at the conclusion will merely be the guy that suffered the fewest blows to the chin.

If your fantasy format includes the Viking Classic and you'd like some insight, email or tweet me. Meanwhile, this week's Matchups game on Facebook includes only the PGA TOUR stop in Mississippi. I was asked to provide one of the pairings below, and you'll see nuggets on both guys beside them on the site. I finally suffered my first loss in the game last week, going 1-2-1 at the John Deere Classic. I'm now 9-2-2 with 24 points on the year. That's good for a share of third place overall, but I'm ineligible for all prizes. User kschwab14 leads the way with 30 points, while six others are tied for second at 26.

My picks for the Viking Classic: • Stephen Ames over Matt McQuillan • Brendon de Jonge over Steve Elkington • Williams McGirt over Zack Miller • James Driscoll over Jeff Quinney • Heath Slocum over D.J. Trahan

The staff also publishes its picks, which you can review here.

Power Rankings Plus

11. Justin Rose ... He's turned a corner with his putter in a big way in his last two starts. First, en route to a T15 (in his title defense) at the AT&T National, he ranked fifth in putting despite a lofty T15 in greens hit. (He also co-led the field in fairways.) Then, in the weather-shortened, 54-hole Scottish Open, he took 93 putts after hitting a whopping 48 greens. Anytime a guy takes fewer putts than the product of twice as many GIR, even in a single round, everything is clicking.

12. Retief Goosen ... Twelve consecutive cuts made at the British, nine of which are top 15s, including a T10 at Royal St. George's in 2003. Enters with five consecutive top 25s in stroke-play starts, including last week's T14 at the Scottish Open. Still one of the best putters in the world and underrated short-game studs.

13. Phil Mickelson ... Throw out all of the numbers for him at the British, and there are just as many reasons to fade him as there are to endorse, but the fact remains that he can still get up and down from just about anywhere better than most in the world, and that's only if he needs to. He didn't crack the Power Rankings for two reasons: a propensity for course mismanagement on links courses and a putting stroke arguably too fluid for the greens at this major.

14. Ian Poulter ... Sniffed victory at Royal Birkdale in brutal conditions in the final round in 2008, finishing alone in second place, four strokes back of Padraig Harrington's pace. Transcends all stats with his tenacity and innate greenside game. Recently won the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain.

15. Dustin Johnson ... Despite a T14 at St. Andrews last year, he's still learning the nuances of links-style golf. He's probably as likely to go bogey-free as he is to shoot 80, but he's battle-tested in less-than-favorable conditions (Turning Stone, Pebble Beach) and deserves that benefit of the doubt. Also ranks 18th on the PGA TOUR in greens hit.

Power Rankings Distribution for Yahoo! (rank)

Group A ... Luke Donald (1); Lee Westwood (2); Nick Watney (7); Matt Kuchar (8); Louis Oosthuizen (10); Phil Mickelson (13); Dustin Johnson (15)

Group B ... Charl Schwartzel (4); Steve Stricker (9); Justin Rose (11); Retief Goosen (12); Ian Poulter (14)

Group C ... Sergio Garcia (3); Jason Day (5); Rory McIlroy (6)

Dark Horse (Yahoo! Group)

Webb Simpson (B) ... His only weakness is inexperience. The third-year PGA TOUR member is making his debut at this event. He placed T14 at Congressional a month ago in what was his first start in a U.S. Open. He leads the TOUR in the all-around category, sits seventh in bogey avoidance and owns one of the best greenside touches you'll see. He is what this category embodies.

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Aaron Baddeley (C) ... Continues to enjoy the kind of career epiphany with his irons that Luke Donald has experienced. Baddeley remains one of the PGA TOUR's best putters, which suggests that this is the year that he sheds the collar in the British (he's 0-for-5). A taut greenside game and one of the lowest launch angles off the tee doesn't hurt either. And he's employed Andy Sutton to be his caddie. Sutton is a local and served as Ben Curtis' looper at Royal St. George's in 2003.

Graeme McDowell (A) ... Already a grizzled veteran of seven British Opens, three of which resulted in top 25s. He's cooled considerably in recent months, with no top 10s in his last 10 stroke-play starts, but his best finish was a T14 in defense of his U.S. Open victory a year ago. He won't have any issues with the elements. In fact, he could emerge because of them.

Robert Karlsson (C) ... Hasn't played since finishing T45 at the U.S. Open, but has two top-fives in his three starts before Congressional. That included a share of fifth place at Colonial and a playoff loss at the St. Jude. Made his first of 15 starts in the British as a 19-year-old in 1989. Has placed inside the top 15 in his last two appearances.

Francesco Molinari (C) ... His most recent results have been forgettable, but he's inside the top 15 on the European Tour in greens hit and 22nd in putting.

Danger (Yahoo! Group)

Ben Curtis (B) ... The "defending champion" at Royal St. George's has posted three of his 15 career top 10s on the PGA TOUR in this tournament, so he probably deserves a nod as a Dark Horse. However, he's also missed the cut in his other five starts in the British and remains best-suited deep into rosters of full-season formats.

Martin Kaymer (C) ... This depends on your perspective. He earns the fade based on his inconsistent play all year. He has four top fives, including a victory, but two occurred in match-play formats. Then again, his most recent is a solo fourth in Paris. He's 3-for-3 at the British with a T7 at St. Andrews last year, and slots solidly across the board in European Tour stats, so consider this argument unwinnable. When that's the case, I almost always hedge toward the conservative.

Yahoo! lineup
STARTERS(In alphbetical order)
Group A: Luke Donald; Lee Westwood
Group B: Retief Goosen; Ian Poulter; Justin Rose; Charl Schwartzel
Group C: Sergio Garcia; Rory McIlroy
Yahoo! Stats
SEASON: 4,062 points (4,986th) ... SUMMER: 488 points (22,932nd)
ONE-AND-DONE - British: Rory McIlroy
2011 earnings: $3,772,825.84
DUFFER: Anthony Kim
2011 earnings: $822,220.50
ONE-AND-DONE - Viking: Chris Kirk
DUFFER:Steve Elkington

Charles Howell III (C) ... If there ever was a time that he was going to post his first top 40 in the British, it would be now. He crossed the Atlantic having finished inside the top five in his last three starts. Alas, CH3 is 2-for-6 in this major and has missed the cuts the last four times he's qualified.

Hunter Mahan (B) ... First trip to the United Kingdom since his infamous chip at the Ryder Cup in Wales last fall. More relevantly, he's struggled lately at venues where he's performed well, proving that concern is just. Holster him for Firestone in a few weeks.

Paul Casey (B) ... Two top 10s in his last three British Open appearances, but no top 10s anywhere since winning in Bahrain in his second start of the year; that's a shocking drought of 12 straight starts.

Medic! (Yahoo! Group)

Nicolas Colsaerts (C) ... Injured his elbow after falling off a scooter in town on Monday evening. Could be a last-minute decision to play or withdraw given the severity. "I've been getting manipulation from the physio, taking anti-inflammatories and there's nothing more to do but to just wait and see how quickly I recover," the Belgian told Reuters. "If I play I'll play through to the end because I'm not going to quit after nine holes, that's for sure."

Alvaro Quiros (C) ... Opted to rest a shoulder injury instead of play the Scottish Open last week. Missed the cut at the French Open by two strokes the week prior.

Robert Garrigus (C) ... Called it quits just nine holes into last week's John Deere due to a sore back. Had played wonderfully just prior, sharing third place at the U.S. Open and posting a T20 at the AT&T National. The long-hitter is making his debut at the British.

Lucas Glover (A) ... Has been out of action since withdrawing after nine holes of the AT&T National two weeks ago due to an illness.

Notable WDs (Yahoo! Group)

Tiger Woods (A) ... Out two months now with injuries in his left leg. His return remains unknown.

David Toms (B) ... Withdrew after nine holes of last week's John Deere with a hip injury, and then announced that it would prevent him from teeing it up at Royal St. George's.

Tim Clark (B) ... Right elbow has prevented him from competing since THE PLAYERS. Verbally committed to next week's RBC Canadian Open.

Vijay Singh (B) ... Hasn't played since withdrawing at the midpoint of the AT&T National two weeks ago due to a sore back. Hoping to return at next week's RBC Canadian Open.

Thomas Levet (C) ... Sidelined 4-6 weeks after having surgery to repair a broken right leg suffered while celebrating his French Open victory two weeks ago. The kicker, no pun intended, is that he was already eligible for the British (via IFQ-Europe). The injury also jeopardizes his start at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational on Aug. 4-7.

Rob Bolton is the freelance fantasy columnist for PGATOUR.COM. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the PGA TOUR.