Friday, December 28, 2012

The 2013 Fantasy Golf Preview: Part 1

"I put it to you Yahoo." 
Isn't it time we came up with a better way to play fantasy golf than some version of trying to pick the winner every week? Isn't the entire basis for the exploding popularity of fantasy sports the fact that we got tired of just betting on who was going to win the games? I put it to you reader. Isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well you can do whatever you want to me, but I'm not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America (sorry, got a little carried away).*

Where was I? Right . . . a better way to play fantasy golf. Well I don't know what the rest of you have been doing for the past fifteen years but, since 1997,** I've been tweaking, tinkering and generally massaging the greatest fantasy golf format known to man (or at least known to me). Here are three reasons why you're going to love it: (1) There is a draft and anytime you can add a fantasy draft night to your calendar, it's a good thing, (2) you actually get a team of players for the season with whom you can bond or, in the case of Paul Goydos at the practice round for the 1997 U.S. Open, walk with and attempt to inspire with some good natured pep talk until it starts to border on stalking,*** (3) once you draft your team, you can put as much or as little effort as you want into managing it during the season because there is no obligation to make picks every week.

Here's how it works:

1. Each team drafts six players and no two players can be on the same team. A draft for a 12 team league takes about an hour.

"Hey, where did all of my
imaginary friends go?"
2. The draft order is selected randomly on draft night but instead of doing a simple six round serpentine draft, the order goes as follows based on a 12 team league:**** 1-12, 12-1, 12-1, 1-12, 12-1, 1-12. So the team that picks last in the first round picks first in rounds two, three and five. This is necessary based on the decided advantage of being able to pick from players like Tiger and Rory in the first round versus guys like Brandt Snedeker and Webb Simpson.

With the exception of 2010 which was a year of parity, history has shown that the top players regularly earn 75% to 100% more than the players in the 10-12 range. Re-working the draft order balances this out a little bit by giving the teams at the bottom more depth. Using last year's money list as an example, this means that, instead of the team with the top pick getting Rory, Lee Westwood and Adam Scott, they would get Rory, Lee Westwood and Martin Laird which meant about a $900,000 difference in earnings but it also meant that the team with the #1 pick wouldn't get three of the top nine favorites to win the Masters.

3. During the season, teams are free to drop and add players at anytime except while that week's tournament(s) are being played. Free agent activity peaks before the majors when non-eligible players are dropped for guys like Nicholas Colsaerts, Peter Hanson and, in more desperate cases, Robert Rock and Branden Grace. Then after the tournament, everyone races to re-add the tour grinders like Ken Duke and John Rollins looking to pick-up a couple of top 10's. This year we added a waiver system that runs for two days after the end of the tournament so as to avoid an email race to pick-up last week's winner. The team that picked last in the draft starts at the top of the order and then every time a team makes a claim, they drop to the bottom. Players can be dropped and added on Wednesdays with no impact on the waiver wire because if you haven't made your move by then, too bad.

4. The team with the most combined money earned in each event wins it along with a little something for the effort. The entry fee for the leagues I run is about the same as the price of a Callaway RAZR Fit Driver ($299.99) which is also the same amount you win if your team takes a major. Each transaction costs as much as a sleeve of Pro V's which is also what you win for a run of the mill tournament like the John Deere Classic. Winnings for the other tournaments are based on their relative importance with the WGC events and the Players coming in at about half of what a major is worth. The remainder of the pot goes to the overall combined money winners at the end of the season depending on how many spots you want to reward.

So that's the basic format. To give you an idea of what a winning squad looks like, here are the final rosters from the two winning teams in my leagues from last year with the position where each player was drafted (15 teams in each league):

Moore is still on my undraftable list because I can't take
his body language for a full season but I rolled the dice
on him for the FedEx Cup and he actually came through.
League 1

1. Rory McIlroy (4th)
2. Bo Van Pelt (27th)
3. Charlie Wi (FA)
4. Cameron Tringale (FA)
5. Sang Moon Bae (72nd)
6. Bud Cauley (79th)

League 2

1. Matt Kuchar (8th)
2. Zach Johnson (23rd)
3. Bo Van Pelt (38th)
4. Kevin Na (53rd)
5. Brian Davis (FA)
6. Ryan Moore (FA)

The League 1 winner drafted Anthony Kim 3rd and Camillo Villegas 4th proving that you can make-up for even the most egregious mistakes if you pull the plug early enough (and if you have the tour's leading money winner). The League 2 team was mine and I had originally drafted Vijay Singh in the 5th round and Scott Piercy in the 6th but dropped Piercy in late February which was obviously a mistake.***** The lesson there is that I could have sat on my originally drafted team of Kuchar, ZJ, Van Pelt, Na, Singh and Piercy and won the league from the 8th spot proving that it doesn't necessarily matter where you pick or how much you churn your roster throughout the season.

In addition to winning a big chunk of the overall pot for finishing first, I got paid handsomely for Kuchar's win at the Players plus a couple other small paydays for ZJ's two wins. I also had two players in the mix at Augusta (Kuchar and Peter Hanson) which enhanced the experience of watching what was already one of the best majors in recent memory. Under this format, you are almost guaranteed to get that at least once or twice a season but if you're picking one or two players per week, you may never have a guy get Sunday airtime at a major.

Now for the downside. I have yet to discover a website that offers this format so we still do it all manually using old fashioned spreadsheets and weekly emailed updates. At this point, I'm not sure I'd switch to a website because the weekly updates (which were the inspiration for the FGR) provide a great opportunity for Jim Furyk owners to vent after he ruins another Sunday for them. Besides, it's not much work once you set it up because all you're doing is rolling down the tournament results and entering the dollars on the spreadsheet. You also avoid the inevitable hassle of website glitches or people failing to understand the transaction process. You will, however, need an Excel guy to set-up the sheet the right way and I am not that guy as I keep recycling the same one our league's co-founder devised about ten years ago. (If you want to see what it looks like, email me here - Email the FGR).

"Always hit through the ball."
So there you have it. Don't feel like you need to rush out and put together a league between now and the Tournament of Champions. A better place to start may actually be the Northern Trust on February 14th because that's one of the first loaded fields and it's a week before the Accenture Match Play when the season really gets rolling. It takes a little work to get started but, revisiting my ancient movie reference, "don't think of it as work . . . the whole point is just to enjoy yourself."

(Coming tomorrow - Part 2: The PGA Tour Preseason Top 30).

Endnotes

* This of course is a reference to the classic disciplinary council scene in Animal House, one of the five funniest movies ever made. I never thought I would feel compelled to explain an Animal House reference until it dawned on me that the movie came out 34 years ago which means that it is ten years older than some of my readers. Explained another way, an Animal House reference to a 24 year old is the equivalent of a Some Like it Hot reference for me. I'm going to stop there before I ponder the question of whether a 24 year old would find Animal House as unfunny as I found the first 45 minutes of Some Like it Hot (because that's all I could take).

** I know it was 1997 because I drafted Tiger as a rookie with the 6th overall pick and every year I email the five guys who passed on him a friendly reminder of their mistake (not really . . . but only because I can't remember who those five guys were other than the one who took Steve Jones #1 overall and I do make sure that comes-up in conversation whenever possible . . .  and yes, I too marvel at the fact that the FGW voluntarily married me).

*** That wasn't me but I was there when it happened. For the record, Goydos doesn't really like being repeatedly called "Pauly Kid."

Not that kind of talent pool.
**** You can have as many teams as you want but 15 is probably the max before the talent pool gets overly diluted.

***** I actually had the foresight to take Piercy 6th in both leagues and the ineptitude to drop him in both leagues but, in one of them, I dropped him for Ernie Els which almost made-up for my drafting Jason Day one spot ahead of Rory McIlroy. And by "almost" I mean "not remotely close." The memory of that still stings.