Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The Players Preview

I've been kind of hard on the Players Championship over the years* but you have to consider that at about the time I started writing the Fantasy Golf Report, we were coming off a six year stretch that featured wins by ratings machines like Tim Clark, Fred Funk, Stephen Ames and Henrik Stenson (back when Henrik was just a James Bond thug looking character with a decent golf game). But the landscape has shifted a bit lately with Tiger winning a thoroughly entertaining Players last year thanks to Sergio's late Sunday meltdown and Matt Kuchar winning in reasonably exciting fashion the year before. Those results give me hope that the "A" listers are going to reappear this week and put on the show we were hoping to see at the Masterzzzzzzzz.

On the other hand, we could be looking at a reversion to the mean. Especially considering the spate of new and inexperienced winners we've had since the start of 2014. Here's a fun and depressing fact. The only players who have won this year** and had more than two career wins when they did it were 
(career wins including most recent): Zach Johnson (11), Matt Kuchar (7) and Bubba Watson (6). Compare that to ten years ago when, by the second tournament in May, the following players had already won: Tiger Woods (40), Phil Mickelson (22 and 23), Vijay Singh (16, 17 and 18), Ernie Els (13), Mike Weir (7), Stuart Appleby (5) and John Daly (5).*** Oh what Tim Finchem wouldn't give for a John Daly "distraction" this week to at least get the Players coverage bumped ahead of Sportscenter reports on the texture of California Chrome's morning constitutional.

I am, however, going to remain optimistic that Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar or some other intriguing character (Phil?) can rescue us from this malaise so the picks have been front loaded with a lot of chalk. The back half features five players who have had success at Sawgrass including Ben Crane who has an unlikely four top tens since 2008 including a tie for 8th last year so if you're looking for a sub ocean depth sleeper, he could be your guy. But being this is the Players Championship with a $10M purse and it could make or break your season, you've got to ask yourself a question, "do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya . . . punk?

The Favorites

1. Adam Scott - 14 to 1
I know we've been remiss on coverage of the
Golf Digest Gretzky spread but why such a big
deal about these pictures when they followed . . .
2. Rory McIlroy - 14 to 1
3. Matt Kuchar - 18 to 1
4. Luke Donald - 22 to 1
5. Justin Rose - 25 to 1
6. Sergio Garcia - 25 to 1
7. Bubba Watson - 28 to 1
8. Henrik Stenson - 28 to 1
9. Phil Mickelson - 28 to 1
10. Jordan Spieth - 30 to 1

The FGR Players Picks

1. Adam Scott
2. Jim Furyk
3. Luke Donald
4. Matt Kuchar
5. Rory McIlroy
6. Martin Laird
7. Kevin Na
8. Kevin Streelman
9. Jonathan Byrd
10. Ben Crane

Webb Simpson showed signs of life last week as he entered the final round at -5 and, if he could have matched Jim Furyk's 65, he would have climbed into contention. Alas, the converging trends of the FGR's rocky season and Webb Simpson's two month slump brought a Sunday 75 and a tie for 38th. That's why I'm pushing my chips to the middle with Adam Scott this week. I was going to save him for the WGC Bridgestone but now it looks like Tiger could be healthy by then and my season needs a good hard slap across the face . . . or the ass . . . depending on what motivates you.

Last Week's Report Card: C+

1. Webb Simpson - T38th
. . . these pictures. (Sorry Arnie but
we just couldn't fit you in the shot).
2. Rory McIlroy - T8th
3. Jim Furyk - 2nd
4. Robert Karlsson - M/C
5. Chesson Hadley - M/C

The Struggle Town Report

Hyundai: Gary Woodland - $130,000
Sony: Chris Kirk - $604,800
Humana: Charles Howell, III - $12,198
Farmers: Bill Haas - $20,740
WM Phoenix: Billy Horschel - M/C
Pebble Beach: Russell Knox - $46,860
Northern Trust: Dustin Johnson - $723,600
Match Play: Hunter Mahan - $148,000
Honda Classic: Graeme McDowell - $15,600
WGC-Cadillac: Rory McIlroy - $76,000
Valspar: Harris English - $23,940
Palmer: Justin Rose - M/C
Texas Open: Kevin Chappell - M/C
Houston Open: Keegan Bradley - $18,374
Masters: Matt Kuchar - $342,000
Heritage: Jim Furyk - $187,050
Zurich: Graham DeLaet - $44,200
Wells Fargo: Webb Simpson - $28,980

Season Total: $2,422,342

Footnotes

* My basic theory was that if Tiger Woods has played your tournament a dozen times and only won it once, then your golf course stinks. He then screwed that theory up by winning the Players for a second time last year thus adding another chapter to our love/hate story.


** Note that I am defining "this year" as 2014. Those fall events don't count as they could have played them with 15 inch cups and no one would have noticed (rest assured that I will be addressing that issue at a later date).

*** Of course noting that John Daly has five PGA Tour wins totally buries the lead on his career which is that he has entered 65 majors, won two of them (British and PGA), tied for 3rd in one (Masters), not made any other top tens and missed the cut or withdrew from 30 others. He is the professional equivalent of a 12 handicap with the capacity to shoot 75. (At least he used to be. Now he's just the guy zipping around in the cart by himself on Tuesday mornings ripping butts and drinking enough diet coke to paint the clubhouse). 

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