Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fantasy Golf: WGC-Cadillac Match Play Preview

The Match Play Favorites

1. Rory McIlroy - 9/1
2. Jordan Spieth - 9/1
We're looking at a mostly European
final four. (Trust me, she's French).
3. Jason Day - 16/1
4. Henrik Stenson - 16/1
5. Justin Rose - 20/1
6. Dustin Johnson - 20/1
7. Adam Scott - 22/1
8. Bubba Watson - 25/1
9. Patrick Reed - 25/1
10. Jim Furyk - 25/1

The FGR Match Play Picks

1. Graeme McDowell
2. Sergio Garcia
3. Brandt Snedeker
4. Ian Poulter
5. Jordan Spieth
6. Paul Casey
7. Jim Furyk
8. Brendon Todd
9. Jason Day
10. Louis Oosthuizen

The One and Done Pick: Graeme McDowell

The Sleeper Pick: Brendon Todd

Match play events are hard enough to handicap even when you're not mired in a miserable life sucking slump that is genuinely affecting your mood on the weekends. Even with the new format that gives the higher ranked players a better chance of reaching the sweet sixteen by allowing them to exploit their talent edge over three matches instead of just one, it's still match play so it's still a crapshoot. (As for the new format, to paraphrase Colonel Jessup, I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain it here but I will sum it up in one word: better. Click on the link provided if you want to check it out or just sit ten feet from me at a country club bar and wildly speculate about it until my fucking head explodes . . . I don't give a damn).
"No you ignorant ass clown they are
not playing nine hole matches and they
are most certainly not using those big
cups that you saw in Golf Digest!!!"

Let's start trying to figure this thing out by looking at the golf course. Here is what we know about Harding Park which hosted the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship and the 2009 Presidents Cup. Good players play well there (that was helpful). Tiger Woods won in 2005 with Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Graeme McDowell and Vijay Singh all landing in the top six. At the Presidents Cup, the leading point winners were Woods and Phil Mickelson for the Americans along with Singh and Ernie Els for the Internationals. (The Americans won 19.5 to 14.5 which made everyone happy because Greg Norman's team lost).  

Ok so the course is a bit of a dead end . . . what else do we know? Well we know that certain players excel at match play and those that do tend to fall into at least one of three categories: (1) they're passionate (Ian Poulter, Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed), (2) they're cool (Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson); and (3) they're European (see five of the eight previously listed players along with Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose). Therefore, chances are that our winner this year is going to be a fiery or cool European.

Now that we have our winner's profile and some confidence that the course isn't going to quirk-out the good players, we can look at the bracket and determine who is going to go deep and have a shot to win it all. (It does not look like they named the brackets this year so we'll just refer to each one by its top seed). The first thing that jumps-out is that the Spieth Bracket is the bracket of death with the Masters champ, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson. Good luck running that gauntlet and we're going with Sergio purely on a hunch and to stick with our European profile.

At the other end of the spectrum we have the Watson Bracket which seems a little light at the top once you get past Bubba as Jim Furyk, J.B. Holmes and Rickie Fowler are the next three highest seeds. Fowler is slumping, Furyk is Furyk and the two mad bombers probably don't have the attention span it's going to take to advance so we're going for a grinder in Graeme McDowell.

"Where's the rest of this moose?"
The McIlroy and Stenson Brackets are both solid and McIlroy is going to have to get past Brandt Snedeker and Billy Horschel while Stenson will have to deal with Bill Haas and Brendon Todd. My gut tells me that Spieth is the only top seed who will advance out of the Group Stage so we're going with Snedeker to clip McIlroy and advance to the final four while Todd takes-out Stenson before losing to Ian Poulter in the greatest contrast of personalities since Arthur met with his future father in-law.

From there, McDowell stares down Snedeker and Sergio simply ball strikes his way past Poulter setting-up a final between two European Ryder Cup studs that no one on this side of the Atlantic other than the geekiest golf geeks will watch (and I'll be one of them). It will be all smiles and backslaps on the first tee before McDowell stops chatting somewhere around the 5th hole as Sergio wonders why they're not friends anymore. The next thing he knows, McDowell will be offering to buy the first round when they shake hands on the 16th green as Sergio cashes another second place check and wonders why he didn't win . . . again.           

Last Week's Report Card: D

1. Dustin Johnson - T43rd
Did someone say 
"fiery European?"
2. Rickie Fowler - M/C
3. Sean O'Hair - T12th
4. Steve Stricker - M/C
5. Brendan Steele - M/C

One and Done Picks to Date

Hyundai: Kevin Streelman - $70,667
Sony: Chris Kirk - $42,280
Humana: Russell Knox - M/C
Phoenix: Hunter Mahan - $36,729
Farmers: Hideki Matsuyama - M/C

AT&T: Dustin Johnson - $281,067
Northern Trust: Jimmy Walker - $24,120
Honda: Keegan Bradley - M/C
WGC-Cadillac: Bubba Watson - $540,000
Valspar: Jim Furyk - $23,600
Palmer: Brooks Koepka – W/D
Texas Open: Matt Kuchar - $99,200
Houston Open: Louis Oosthuizen - M/C
Masters: Rory McIlroy - $480,000
Heritage: Patrick Reed - M/C
Zurich: Rickie Fowler - M/C

Season Total: $1,597,663

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fantasy Golf: The Zurich Classic Preview

The Zurich Classic Favorites
This week's FGR jinx . . . er . . . pick is
dating "bikini model" Alexis Randock.

1. Jason Day - 7/1
2. Dustin Johnson - 8/1
3. Justin Rose - 9/1
4. Rickie Fowler - 14/1
5. Keegan Bradley - 18/1
6. Harris English - 25/1
7. Billy Horschel - 25/1
8. Steve Stricker - 33/1
9. Brendan Steele - 35/1
10. Jamie Donaldson - 35/1

The FGR Zurich Classic Picks

1. Dustin Johnson
2. Rickie Fowler
3. Sean O'Hair
4. Steve Stricker
5. Brendan Steele

The One and Done Pick: Rickie Fowler

The Sleeper Pick: Troy Merritt

Just when I thought this year couldn't get any worse, last week happened. But the failure really dates back to early January because before each season starts, I generally do a quick run through the tournaments and slot as many players as possible based on repeated success at certain events. The primary purpose of this is to make sure I don't get to the Tour Championship with Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson all sitting on my bench because the fact that I have the attention span of a four year old means I forgot to play them. 

The other purpose is to link players and events without getting swayed by current form because we know from experience how quickly that can change. It sounds good in theory until you get off to a bad start and then lose your composure by making rash decisions like yanking Jim Furyk out of the RBC Heritage slot and putting him in the Valspar slot. Turns-out that was a $1M mistake give or take a few thousand but hey, who's counting? (Other than the people to whom I will be handing money in October). Combine that with the kick in the man zone I got when the guy I actually did pick missed his first cut since last year's British Open, and you have the rock bottom point of the Fantasy Golf Report's 2015 (I hope). 

"I ain't feeling so good
about the picks this week."
My current state of mind combined with the fact that we have one of the tour's less anticipated events on deck enticed me to take this week off and get my head right but then I remembered the inspiring pep talk that Opal Fleener gave to coach Norman Dale in Hoosiers* . . . "the sun don't shine on the same dog's ass every day but mister, you ain't seen a ray of light since you got here." And then I remembered how Coach persevered, how he helped get Shooter clean and how his fortunes changed by sticking to what he knew was the righteous path. I'm going to do the same. 

If only I'd come up with this idea sooner, I would have gotten myself thrown out of the game for a week and then found an old shaky drunk guy to put on a suit and write the preview but I didn't so I guess I'll just have to play the part of the old shaky drunk guy too. (I know it's a stretch but work with me). We're going with Rickie Fowler because (a) he found something at the Masters, (b) he's entered the Zurich Classic the last five years so he must like the course even if he doesn't play it that well and (c) the guy I picked back in January, Graham DeLaet, isn't playing. I guess he doesn't want to miss five cuts in two months and yes I'm bitter about drafting him in the fourth round two months ago over J.B. Holmes. So there's your fantasy golf version of running the old picket fence at them. (We'll conveniently ignore where the stroy went for Shooter from there).      

Last Week's Report Card: D-
Apparently Alexis also dabbles as a
"sweater model." Well you know what the
Australians like to say . . . vive la difference.

1. Patrick Reed - M/C
2. Webb Simpson - T51st
3. Ben Martin - T37th
4. Matt Kuchar - 5th
5. Brandt Snedeker - T26th

One and Done Picks to Date

Hyundai: Kevin Streelman - $70,667
Sony: Chris Kirk - $42,280
Humana: Russell Knox - M/C
Phoenix: Hunter Mahan - $36,729
Farmers: Hideki Matsuyama - M/C

AT&T: Dustin Johnson - $281,067
Northern Trust: Jimmy Walker - $24,120
Honda: Keegan Bradley - M/C
WGC-Cadillac: Bubba Watson - $540,000
Valspar: Jim Furyk - $23,600
Palmer: Brooks Koepka – W/D
Texas Open: Matt Kuchar - $99,200
Houston Open: Louis Oosthuizen - M/C
Masters: Rory McIlroy - $480,000
Heritage: Patrick Reed - M/C

Season Total: $1,597,663


* Speaking of Hoosiers, in a case of rare political commentary by the FGR that is certain to offend some (and I don't care), I would like to express the following sentiment to Indiana Governor Mike Pence and those of his constituents who supported the original version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act: "fuck you." We now return to the inanity of our regular subject matter.

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fantasy Golf: The Heritage Preview/Masters Hangover

The RBC Heritage Favorites
"Excuse me stewardess . . . is this
the RBC Heritage Preview?"

1. Jordan Spieth - 11/2
2. Zach Johnson - 16/1
3. Jim Furyk - 18/1
4. Matt Kuchar - 20/1
5. Patrick Reed - 20/1
6. Ian Poulter - 22/1
7. Webb Simpson - 28/1
8. Louis Oosthuizen - 28/1
9. Luke Donald - 28/1
10. Brandt Snedeker - 30/1

The FGR RBC Heritage Picks

1. Patrick Reed
2. Webb Simpson
3. Ben Martin
4. Matt Kuchar
5. Brandt Snedeker

The One and Done Pick: Patrick Reed

The Sleeper Pick: Boo Weekley

Stripes is to the funniest movie ever debate what The Who are to the greatest rock band of all-time debate. No one would argue with any great conviction that either of them is number one but, at the same time, no one is going to scoff at you for throwing Stripes into the discussion with Caddyshack, Animal House, Airplane and Blazing Saddles in the same way that no one would laugh at you for recognizing The Who as being within range of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.* There may not be a more subjective debate than funniest movie of all-time but those I just listed would be my top five in some order followed by a second five that would include This Is Spinal TapStep BrothersThere's Something About MaryTrading Places and The Blues Brothers.** 

At some point, this needs to be it's own FGR piece where we lay down some ground rules. For example, movies made before 1964 (when Dr. Strangelove was released) do not count. I really tried to watch Some Like it Hot which is regarded as one of the greatest comedies of all-time but couldn't even sit through it much less laugh at it. Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers were geniuses but please don't look at me with a straight face and tell me you laughed more watching The Gold Rush than you did watching Blazing Saddles. And if you did, please God let me get eaten by a shark before spending more than twenty minutes alone with you in a lifeboat. 

"Well that hurts reader and I don't think I want
to take your abuse. And I know that I don't
want to write about your golf tournament."
(Speaking of lifeboats, will the tides be carrying us anywhere near the freakin' game of golf before this is over?) Well as you know, the plot of Stripes revolves around Bill Murray's character, John Winger, joining the Army as an act of total desperation because he got fired from his job and his girlfriend just dumped him. Now watch this scene and tell me that the point when he slumps to the floor after getting the door slammed in his face doesn't perfectly capture how felt when the Masters coverage ended ("and then depression set in").

If you want to stretch the analogy a bit further, then the moment Winger desperately looks into his girlfriend's eyes and says "I need you" (1:35 mark) is the movie's painful equivalent of the Butler Cabin lobotomy we sit through every year because we're not yet ready to accept the fact that we won't get to see a real live meaningful shot on the 12th hole for what seems like an eternal 360 days. We just can't let go so every year we voluntarily watch Jim Nantz conduct interviews so awkward that they make Frost/Nixon look like Fallon/Timberlake.*** 

And then it's over. All of the international players split along with Phil, Tiger and Bubba like they have jobs and families while we have nothing better to do but drink until dawn and then (riding this Stripes theme into the ground) go join the Army to turn our lives around. That's what the RBC Heritage feels like. It's a fine golf tournament and there is no shame in watching it just as there is certainly no shame in serving your country but, when it's your last resort, it kind of takes a bit of the patriotism out of it. We just need to remember that good things are on the horizon because, in just a couple of months, we'll be razzle dazzling them on the parade ground (U.S. Open), rescuing our platoon from a Czechoslovakian military base (British Open) and then returning to a hero's welcome with a martini in our hand (PGA Championship). 

And then, before we know it, we'll be bathing in the splendor of the Par 3 Contest again with past champions chunking shots into the ponds and five year old kids dragging putters across greens that we'd give one of our cojones to play. Hey you know what? I'm feeling better already. Thanks sarcasm. You're always there when I need you. Oh yeah, we're picking Patrick Reed because he's the best player in the field not named "Jordan Spieth" and unfortunately that's all the time we have this week.             

Last Week's Report Card: B+
Grown Ups 2 serves two vital functions for the FGR:
(1) It is the gold standard for awful sell-out movies
and (2) Selma Hayek was one of the sell-outs.

1. Rory McIlroy - 4th
2. Jordan Spieth - 1st
3. Bubba Watson - T38th
4. Jason Day - T28th
5. Jimmy Walker - T38th
6. Victor Dubuisson - M/C
7. Brandt Snedeker - M/C
8. Phil Mickelson - T2nd
9. Matt Kuchar - T46th

10. Dustin Johnson - T6th

One and Done Picks to Date

Hyundai: Kevin Streelman - $70,667
Sony: Chris Kirk - $42,280
Humana: Russell Knox - M/C
Phoenix: Hunter Mahan - $36,729
Farmers: Hideki Matsuyama - M/C

AT&T: Dustin Johnson - $281,067
Northern Trust: Jimmy Walker - $24,120
Honda: Keegan Bradley - M/C
WGC-Cadillac: Bubba Watson - $540,000
Valspar: Jim Furyk - $23,600
Palmer: Brooks Koepka – W/D
Texas Open: Matt Kuchar - $99,200
Houston Open: Louis Oosthuizen - M/C
Masters: Rory McIlroy - $480,000

Season Total: $1,597,663

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com.


* Considering the thoroughly self-serving nature of the Fantasy Golf Report, it should come as no surprise that Stripes is my favorite comedy and The Who is my favorite band. If you don't like it, go watch the Golf Channel. I think Brandel Chamblee's favorites are Grown Ups 2 and Nickelback.

** A long honorable mention list would include Old School, Sixteen Candles, Little Miss Sunshine, The Jerk, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, History of the World: Part 1, Get Him to the Greek, Napolean Dynamite, The Other Guys, I Love You Man, The Naked Gun, Austin Powers - The Spy Who Shagged Me, Office Space and Superbad. This list by collegehumor.com isn't bad if you just look at it as a compilation and ignore the order because putting Animal House and Caddyshack behind Zoolander and Happy Gilmore is a travesty of comedic justice.

*** I originally had Johnny Carson and Steve Martin in that spot but then it occurred to me that I might want to drag this column out of 1978 and into the 21st century.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Fantasy Golf: The Masters Preview - Part 2

The Masters Favorites

Rory McIlroy - 5/1
We kind of got away from our
roots in Part 1 so let's re-center
and work the green jacket theme.
Jordan Spieth - 10/1
Bubba Watson - 10/1
Jason Day - 12/1
Dustin Johnson - 16/1
Adam Scott - 18/1
Henrik Stenson - 22/1
Phil Mickelson - 22/1
Jimmy Walker - 25/1
Rickie Fowler - 30/1

The FGR Masters Picks

1. Rory McIlroy
2. Jordan Spieth
3. Bubba Watson
4. Jason Day
5. Jimmy Walker
6. Victor Dubuisson
7. Brandt Snedeker
8. Phil Mickelson
9. Matt Kuchar
10. Dustin Johnson

The One and Done Pick: Rory McIlroy

The Sleeper Pick: Russell Henley

I have been accused on more than one occasion of over-thinking things so let's try not to fall into that trap on this, the most important day on the Fantasy Golf Report calendar. I'm picking Rory McIlroy this week and here's why:

1. He's the best player in the world and it's not even close. I have no idea how they compute the World Golf Rankings but if you compare the numbers they use, Rory has 11.07 and the next three guys have 7.66, 7.45 and 7.32. Between no other players do you find a disparity of more than 1.0 much less the 3.41 that currently separates McIlroy from Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth;

2. He won the last two majors of 2014;

3. He played two tournaments before coming to the U.S. this season and he finished first and second beating fields that included the likes of Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer and Sergio Garcia;

4. He was 12 under through three rounds of the 2011 Masters. Sure he had an epic meltdown with an 80 on Sunday but let's cut him some slack considering he was only 21 and it was the first time he had contended at Augusta. Last year he shot -3 with a 77 on Friday and lost by five so he's basically been one decent round from winning twice in four years;

5. This year he's coming in as no bigger than the third or fourth biggest story behind (1) Tiger's return, (2) Bubba's repeat and possibly (3) Spieth trying to win his first major. Rory's a pretty laid back dude but he's also a competitive SOB so I bet he grits his teeth on a few backswings and hisses "I won the last two majors mutherf-ckers" and then uncorks 350 yard drives around the corners on holes like 9 and 13.   

Keep in mind that I already picked Bubba this year so he was not available but I wouldn't have gone with him anyway because I don't see him going back to back (we covered this in Part 1 yesterday). The other players I was most tempted by were Jordan Spieth for obvious reasons, Jason Day because, next to Rory, he's probably the player most due to win a green jacket and Phil Mickelson because if he actually pulled it off, how great would it be for an egotistical prick like me to be able to say, "I had that"? . . . (pretty great). I also like Victor Dubuisson because well, I like Victor Dubuisson. He has that Seve like ability to will the ball into the hole and that quality is going to win him at least one major. Just not this one.   

I've had Rory pegged for this Masters since he shot 71-69 on the weekend last year. It felt like he exercised some demons in those two rounds and he appeared to enjoy playing the course for the first time since it ate him alive in 2011. The fact that he'll be paired with Phil and Ryan Moore the first two days means that he'll get to play in a relaxed group even if they have to stop between holes and put a mirror under Moore's nose to make sure he's still alive. So many times this year the correct pick has stared me right in the face but I've decided to hide behind the chain saws instead of jumping into the running car. Not this week.  
Last Week's Report Card: B+

1. Jordan Spieth - T2nd
Come on Rory. It's ass kicking time.
2. Matt Kuchar - 70th
3. Louis Oosthuizen - M/C
4. J.B. Holmes - 1st
5. Sergio Garcia - T37th

One and Done Picks to Date

Hyundai: Kevin Streelman - $70,667
Sony: Chris Kirk - $42,280
Humana: Russell Knox - M/C
Phoenix: Hunter Mahan - $36,729

Farmers: Hideki Matsuyama - M/C
AT&T: Dustin Johnson - $281,067
Northern: Jimmy Walker - $24,120
Honda: Keegan Bradley - M/C
WGC: Bubba Watson - $540,000
Valspar: Jim Furyk - $23,600
Palmer: Brooks Koepka – W/D
Texas Open: Matt Kuchar - $99,200
Houston Open: Louis Oosthuizen - M/C

Season Total - $1,117,663

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Fantasy Golf: The Masters Preview - Part 1

You're damn right we're doing a two part preview for the Masters. We'll kick it off with a brief introduction followed by a lazy writing gimmick. Then we'll follow-up on Wednesday with the odds, rankings and of course, a pick. Maybe by then some of the scars from my J.B. Holmes v. Louis Oosthuizen decision from last week will have healed and I'll be able to think straight. At this point, however, there is just a lot of self-loathing occasionally interrupted by muffled sobs. The good news is that this has happened to me so often over the past two years that the recovery time is down to about 24 hours at which point I'm ready to make another ill-fated choice and repeat the cycle (assuming Duke doesn't win another damn title in the interim prolonging the agony).  

Let's start the healing process by turning our attention to the Masters which continues to give me that warm and fuzzy Christmas Eve/last day of school feeling every year unlike any other sporting event. Maybe it's because I'm a middle aged white guy and that's just the way many of us are wired but I think it goes beyond that and actually has more to do with the fact that the Masters is the perfect sports viewing product and those who run it and televise it have been smart enough not to mess with it by let's say building in enough dead time to make it last 50% longer than it should. Put another way, if the NCAA ran the Masters, the leaders would arbitrarily go sit on a bench for five minutes prior to teeing off on 17 and 18. Then they'd do it again before their approach shots and their putts because you know, that's how the game was meant to be played. But I digress.

The other thing that puts the Masters above events from other sports is that it doesn't just happen over a few hours like the Super Bowl and it's not broken-up over two weeks like the World Series or the NBA Finals. The Masters unfolds over four consecutive days which makes it the sports version of binge watching the Sopranos or Game of Thrones. Thursday and Friday are like the first five or six episodes with different characters each doing their thing and we have no idea how it's going to end but we do know two things with absolute certainty: (1) someone is going to get whacked - either by getting suffocated by his boss, getting shot with a crossbow (MAJOR SPOILER ALERTS ON BOTH OF THESE CLIPS) or hitting his second shot into Rae's Creek on 15; and (2) we're going to be riveted to the screen for every minute of it.  

So with that in mind, let's kick-off our two part Masters Preview by answering eight burning questions. Why eight? Because that's all we could come up with by our deadline (which we missed anyway). Why are they burning? I don't know. Jock itch?

1. Can Bubba Watson Become the Fourth Player to Win Two in a Row?

Well if he does, he'll be in pretty good company with three guys I like to call Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus. Arnold Palmer won four in seven years and came within a stroke of taking three green jackets in a row from 1960-62 but Jack, Nick and Tiger are the only three players who have gone back to back. Bubba may not be on the same level as those hall of famers overall but he's a freak at Augusta which he turns into a par 68. He won't go back to back this year because his mental circuitry was installed by your uncle who swore "I know what I'm doing dammit!" but he will almost surely win another one down the road meaning this won't be his last shot to try and, by next time, maybe he'll get some of those wires uncrossed.  

2. Is a European Ever Going to Win this Freakin' Thing Again?

The last one to do it was Jose Maria Olazabol in 1999 when he capped a run of eleven European winners over a twenty year span but things got really squirrelly after that when a Fijian won it the next year and then all hell broke loose when a Canuck of all people won it in 2003. Since then, we've had seven American winners, two different South Africans (not named Ernie Els or Retief Goosen I might add), an Australian (finally) and a chain smoking duck from Argentina. The only Euros to come close in the last fifteen tries are Lee Westwood in 2010 and Jonas Blixt last year. They both lost by three shots so "close" is a relative term.   

Not quite sure why Sergio
can't putt. It couldn't be
his body language.
Why the drought? I'll tell you why. Putting. Europe's best shots this year by the odds are Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood also known as five guys you'd feature in a training video called Don't Putt Like Me. Rose is the only one who doesn't immediately call to mind the image of a pushed three footer and he hasn't finished in the top 100 in strokes gained putting since 2011 when he ranked 96th. One of these years Rory is going to compensate by simply out ball-striking everyone but he hasn't shown signs that this will be that year. On the other hand, we've tried to bury Rory after mini-slumps before and he's come back and shoved a major or two right up our wazoo so who knows? We'll ruminate on that one a bit and revisit it in Part 2.      

3. Do You Have to Hit it 300+ Yards to Win?

Let's take a look at the winners since 2008 when Trevor Immelman won the Masters (that never actually happened), along with their average driving distance that season:

2014 - Bubba Watson (314.3) 
2013 - Adam Scott (297.8) 
2012 - Bubba Watson (315.5)
2011 - Charl Schwartzel ( 297) 
2010 - Phil Mickelson (299.1) 
2009 - Angel Cabrera (304.1)

So the answer is a definitive "NO." You do not need to drive it 300+ yards to win. You only need to drive it 297. So does that rule-out Jordan Spieth who is only averaging 294 yards off the tee this year? I don't know. You tell me. (Seriously, please tell me because he's on my short list and I thought he hit it further than that).  

4. How is Tiger Going to Play?

Terribly. Remember back in 2010 after the troubles started and he began playing again but his personal life was still a wreck? Many speculated that the golf course would be a refuge where he could escape from the distractions which was ridiculous because you can't hide from your conscience on a golf course like you can on a basketball court or a football field. (Running full speed and/or having people smash into you is the best mental medicine). There's just too much time for your mind to betray you between shots and once that happens, you're screwed. It took Tiger over two years to win again (the 2012 Arnold Palmer Invitational) and now it looks like he's worse off than he ever was during that stretch.

To play golf well, you need to be either supremely confident (Nicklaus, Palmer, pre-2010 Tiger, etc.) or just not give a rat's ass (Fred Couples). Tiger has always cared deeply about what people think of him which is dangerous in golf where you are judged on every shot. That didn't used to matter, however, because he always knew his next shot was going to be great. Not anymore. Now after he hits a bad shot he looks embarrassed instead of pissed-off and taking that mindset to Augusta is very risky. We're looking at a two day long train wreck. I hope I'm wrong because I don't want to see him go out like that but I doubt it.

5. Does Phil Have Another Green Jacket in Him?

I know we're never topping 1986
but man would this come close.
It doesn't seem that far-fetched until you consider that he's 44 and his last two results were a tie for 54th and a missed cut which ended a majestic fourteen year run that saw him win three times and never go two years without finishing 6th or better. Considering the high level that he can still reach with his game (see the 2013 British Open), he's probably got four or five good Masters runs left in him but even with that he might still need a down year from guys like Bubba, Rory and Spieth to win. I've always been a sucker for Phil so I'd love to see it happen but, at this point, his odds can't be much better than 20 to 1. However, the odds that he has at least one more Sunday charge in him that gets Augusta rocking like 1986 are even money. (I just got a chill). 

6. Who Are This Year's Legit Sleepers?

Let's start by defining a "sleeper" as any player with odds of 100 to 1 or longer. The prominent names right at that mark are Ryan Palmer, Gary Woodland and Jason Dufner* but, other than Ryan Palmer's tie for 10th in 2011, they have showed no signs of figuring-out Augusta so let's keep looking. At 125 to 1 you have Jonas Blixt who finished tied for 2nd last year and Marc Leishman who finished tied for 4th in 2013 but those results are anomalies. 

We need to find the next Blixt or Leishman and it's probably a guy who's played Augusta just enough to be familiar but not scarred which rules-out the likes of Webb Simpson and Ernie Els. He's also got to be able to bust it off the tee so let's make our formula Long Driver + Second or Third Year Player which yields Charley Hoffman (T27 in 2011), Russell Henley (T31 in 2014), Branden Grace (T18 in 2013, MC in 2014) and Stephen Gallacher (T34 in 2014). If I'm picking from from those four, I'm leaning towards Henley because he seems like he has the onions to contend at a major. Hoffman and Grace have already played in a bunch without ever scaring a top ten. It doesn't make them bad people. It just means that they're more suited to win tournaments sponsored by booze, banks and tractors.   

7. Who is the Best Bet from Outside the WGR** Top Twenty?

Keegan Bradley always seems like an obvious choice because he can bomb it with Bubba but he's never finished better than a tie for 27th. This is not based on any statistical analysis but I'd bet his short game and putting don't hold-up over 72 holes. Charl Schwartel obviously has the game but I'm just not picturing him as a two time champ. The same goes for Zach Johnson.

The Euro quartet of Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Jamie Donaldson and Graeme McDowell are all intriguing yet flawed. You can say the same thing about Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker who have contended but couldn't hold-up on Sunday. That pretty much leaves the upper middle class American players like Bill Haas, Chris Kirk, Kevin Na and Palmer who have combined for exactly two top tens in majors. Their 2015 Masters prospects can be described in one word. Nope.

If you want to get creative, pick Louis Oosthuizen. We know he can compete at Augusta because he lost to Bubba in a playoff three years ago but, more importantly, he was the FGR pick last week and he missed the cut which makes him primed for a bounce back.  

8. So Who is Going to Win?

You'll have to check back tomorrow on that one because I still have no idea who I'm picking. I'm counting on one of the players to appear in my dreams tonight and show me the light. With my luck lately, it'll be Tiger.  

According to divorce papers, the 
Dufner marriage was pretty much 
an extended ice bucket challenge. 
* We're sad to report that the Dufner's two+ year marriage is apparently ending in divorce striking yet another blow to the dreams of every goofy looking kid who thinks the path to a model wife is through the driving range.

** WGR stands for World Golf Rankings, a system that the FGR started recognizing as legitimate the day it replaced the likes of Luke Donald and Lee Westwood in the top spot with Rory McIlroy.

You can email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com.