Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 Fantasy Golf Preview: Part 3 - The Winners

If you're doing a one pick per week league or a one and done league, it would behoove you to go through the tournaments and pick the winner of each one before the season starts for two reasons: (a) it will give you a working list of the roughly forty players who you believe have the potential to win a tournament before the ups and downs of the season start to mess with your rational thinking and (b) it will prevent a situation where you get to the end of the season, have only two picks to use on the PGA Championship and realize, "crap, I still have Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson and Nick Watney available."

I'm not going to go through every tournament here because that could take years and cost millions of lives (and I can't seem to get through one of these things lately without an Animal House reference). For now, let's just cover the majors, the Players, the WGC events and get the ball rolling with the opening event of the season.

Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Every week the FGR presents two top five lists: (a) the top five overall and (b) the top five one and done players which assumes that you can't pick Rory and/or Tiger every week. The players on my one and done list will be ones that I am not reserving for the majors and the other four near majors listed below.*

The FGR looks for Bradley to have a
fackin' retahded season this year.
Why not start with the opener?
Top Five Overall

1. Keegan Bradley
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Matt Kuchar
4. Scott Piercy
5. Steve Stricker

Top Five One and Done

1. Scott Piercy
2. Steve Stricker
3. Webb Simpson
4. Rickie Fowler
5. Nick Watney

Bradley is going to be a threat to win every time he tees it up this year and especially on courses where he can bomb it and make a lot of birdies like Kapalua. Scott Piercy is coming-off a strong finish to 2012 and can also make birdies in bunches. So can Steve Stricker who is the defending champ and has never finished worse than 10th in this event. Can't go wrong with either of those guys if you want to save Bradley for later.
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And now for the eight tournaments where you probably want to allocate your most potent resources in 2013. One thing you will notice about the game plan outlined below is that it leaves plenty of solid options on the bench including Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Peter Hanson and Webb Simpson. You could sub Watson, McDowell and Hanson just about anywhere except you might want to avoid Bubba at the British Open where he's never finished higher than 23rd (towering cuts/draws + wind = trouble). Keep in mind that D.J. has won the AT&T Pebble Beach twice and has two other top tens there in the last five years. Also consider that Webb Simpson is a member at Quail Hollow Club which hosts the Wells Fargo Championship where he finished 4th last year.

A lot can happen over the course of a nearly ten month long golf season and I am prone to at least one or two impulsive/calamitous last minute substitutions so these picks are subject to revision but if I was calling these tournaments now, here is what it would look like.

Accenture World Match Play: Keegan Bradley and Ian Poulter

This pose is just a recurring match
play nightmare for opponents.
This is a tricky one because you want to bring-out the big guns but that often backfires. For example, if you used your two picks last year on the 2010 and 2011 champions (Ian Poulter and Luke Donald), you were done in the first round. In hindsight, Rory McIlroy would have been a great pick but do you want to use him in a non-major? Bradley won a couple matches last year in his Accenture debut and was at the top of his game at the Ryder Cup. If you have to ask why I'm picking Poulter in this format, you may be gambling on the wrong sport.

WGC Cadillac: Charl Schwartzel and Matt Kuchar

This event traditionally features one of the strongest final leaderboards on tour so you better bring two of your best. It's almost impossible to go wrong here. Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and defending champion Justin Rose would all be great picks. Just depends on who you want to save for later. All I ask is that, at some point during the final round, you think fondly of the fact that the most over-served the FGR has ever been on a golf course (that he wasn't playing at the time) was at the Blue Monster during the final round of the 1997 Doral Ryder Open.**

Masters: Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott

I made the mistake of subbing Tiger in for Phil last year after Tiger's win at the Arnold Palmer duped me into the thinking he was all the way back and Phil's sloppy early season putting made me think he was going to struggle at Augusta. Last year was Phil's thirteenth top seven finish at the Masters since 1995 including three wins. His tie for 24th in 2007 was the first time he's missed the top ten since 1998 and his only missed cut was fifteen years ago. At this point I'm struggling with the second pick. Bubba would obviously be a decent choice but no one has gone back to back since Tiger in 2001 and 2002. Louis Oostuizen warrants consideration but his record at Augusta before last year's second place finish includes three missed cuts in three tries and his blowout British Open win in 2010 is his only other standout performance in a major. I'm going with Adam Scott for now. He finished tied for 8th in 2012 and tied for 2nd in 2011. He also finished 15th or better in every major last year. Not to mention, he needs to win one before they take his putter away.

The Players: Luke Donald and Bo Van Pelt

Craig . . . is that a look of
exultation or disbelief?
My well-documented disdain for the TPC at Sawgrass is based on the fact that five of the last eleven winners have been underwhelming (Tim Clark, Henrik Stenson, Stephen Ames and Craig Perks have combined to win 3 PGA Tour events other than the Players and Fred Funk was 49 when he won it). It's also the only tournament of any significance that Tiger has won just once. I'm picking Donald and Van Pelt because they are two of the most solid all-around players that I don't trust in a major. Sounds like a couple Players Championship winners to me.

U.S. Open: Jason Dufner and Lee Westwood

It's tough to get a read on Merion as a U.S. Open course because it hasn't been played there since 1981 when David Graham won it by three strokes over George Burns (not the comedian) and Bill Rogers (not the 1980 Boston Marathon winner). You've got to drop back four more strokes to get to legends like Jack Nicklaus and Chi-Chi Rodriguez so that's no real help.*** I'm banking on the first-time major winners trend continuing and going with two guys who have classic U.S. Open style games. It just feels like Dufner is going to win a major this year doesn't it? And if you were going to pick one that suits his game, it would be a U.S. Open.

British Open: Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia

I know it's of a cop-out to go with the defending champion here but, if I have to make a pick in January, I'm taking with the guy who won it the last time it was played at Muirfield in 2002. Sergio missed the playoff that year by two strokes after shooting 71-69-71-69. He also showed continuing signs at the end of last year that his game is still on the way back with a win at the Wyndham, a tie for 3rd at the Barclays and a tie for 15th at the Tour Championship. I still believe that he falls into that category of player who is going to come back and win a major after we've written him off and if that's going to happen anywhere, it will be at the British Open.

Bridgestone: Tiger Woods and Louis Oosthuizen

I think enough time has passed
for us to start liking Sergio again.
Every time Tiger has been in top form, he's dominated this event (winning it seven times) which is played on the same course every year. There are certain tracks that Tiger just owns and this is one of them. If you want to use him at Arnie or Jack's tournament, that is also acceptable but the league I'm in pays a dividend for the Bridgestone so I'm using him here. Louis finished 4th at Firestone last year, tied for 9th in 2010 and it's a great fit for his game.

PGA Championship: Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy

The leaderboard from the last time they played at Oak Hill would indicate that it is a ball-strikers paradise**** so I'm going with two of the best in the world. Putting has not been one of Rose's strengths lately so if he's going to break-through and win a major, this is his best chance in 2013. You could pick McIlroy pretty much anywhere. I'd be reluctant to use him at the match-play because one bad round or opponent with a hot putter could knock him out early. He makes more sense at a stroke play event where he always has the potential to shoot 11 or 12 under on the weekend and either make-up a ton of ground (WGC-Cadillac) or blow-away the field (PGA Championship).

Email your questions and comments to the Fantasy Golf Report at Email the FGR.

Endnotes

* In the format I play, the majors, the Players and the three WGC events come with a little extra incentive so you are encouraged to bring out your "A" players for them.

** The recount of this event also spawned one of my personal favorite FGR entries - The Blue Monster.

How are we going to reach the 18-
24 male demographic with a show
about a Cincinnati radio station?
*** Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a Youtube clip of WKRP in Cincinnati's Les Nessman butchering the name "Chi-Chi Rodriguez" (as in Chai Chai Rodweeguezzzz) so we'll have to settle for "Monster Lizard Ravages East Coast." (Developing something of a monster theme this week).

**** Shaun Micheel became one of the most unlikely major winners in golf history beating Chad Campbell by two strokes and any course where Campbell, Kenny Perry and Charles Howell, III can finish in the top 10 clearly does not put a premium on putting.