There are four different castes of players on the PGA Tour the week before a major. They can be classified as:
1) Elites – no need to play an event prior to a major. These golf studs value “family time” and have already made several trips to the major championship venue (in this case Augusta) over the previous few weeks.
2) Grinders – Above average players that probably would be better served taking the “pre-major” week off, but their career dictates they average 25-30 events a year. It’s all about cashing checks!
|Paul Casey will be trying to kill two birds this weekend – warm up for the Masters and repeat at Shell Houston Open champion. Photo Credit: SD Dirk|
3) Ham-and-Eggers – Journeyman players that have little chance in a normal strong-field event, but can dream of hoisting hardware with elites out of contention.
4) Spare Parts – Guys just struggling to make enough to stay on the PGA Tour. The void of upper level talent these weeks can turn their normal 64th place finish into a potential Top 20.
With these stereotypical descriptions in mind we can better judge the field in Houston. Please keep in mind that the event before a major is rife with last minute withdrawals so make sure you verify your roster prior to your deadline.
Shell Houston Open
Purse – $5,800,000.00
Winner Share – $1,200,000.00
FedEx Cup Points – 3500 (500 to winner)
Course – Redstone Golf Club, Humble, Texas
Redstone was designed by architect Rees Jones and consultant David Toms and was built specifically to host a PGA event. The nearly 7,500 yard layout has in the past few years been manicured in a similar fashion to the course conditions seen at Augusta, so expect tricky greens but benign rough.
Weekly Picks –
It has been a resurgent 2010 season for the Big Easy, who appeared to lose a lot of drive the seasons after he suffered an ACL injury on his boat. Those days are over! His 2010 season-to-date has seen him earn $3.03 million, more than all of 2009. This was accomplished on the strength of two wins (last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC- CA Championship), a tied-fifth (Farmers Insurance Open) and only one other finish (out of six starts) outside of the Top 25. Els is sporting a 69.15 scoring average, and is poking drives 11 yards further than the tour average – fairly impressive for someone on the wrong side of 40 years old.
Mickelson’s 2010 is somewhat the opposite of Els’ with no wins to this point, but is still effective with the type of production that can help your fantasy lineup. Mickelson will be working on his game looking towards to Augusta. One might think that would be a negative, but we feel that Mickelson’s stress-free Shell Houston Open approach will allow him to pick up a Top 10 with little concern. He won’t sweat a missed putt nearly as much as he will at the Masters. He also has not finished outside of the Top 25 in his five events in 2010.
Ogilvy’s PGATour.com player page is chock full of interesting stats, but the only one you need to consider is that over the course of his career Ogilvy has made 154 out of 216 cuts. That is impressive. Ogilvy has made every cut this season (five) and won the season-opening SBS Championship, further cementing his reputation as a player that plays best in big events. Ogilvy will be a fantasy consideration next week at Augusta if he pokes around the Sunday leaderboard in Houston. Proof of his talent level is that four of Ogilvy’s seven PGA Tour wins have been majors or World Golf Championship events.
Westwood plays mainly in Europe and only comes over to the United States in the weeks leading up to majors. Thus, it behooves us to recommend him to start. He is one of the world’s best players, but due to his lack of PGA Tour status most fantasy owners forget about him. Westwood has three Top 25s this year on the PGA Tour including a tied-ninth at the Honda Classic. Westwood has earned over $25,000,000 over the course of his career (Lee turned pro in 1993), which is even more impressive when you consider that European purses are much less than on the U.S. tour.
Mahan has graduated from “up-and-comer” status all the way to established PGA star with his win in the 2010 Waste Management Phoenix Open. He currently stands 11th in the FedEx Cup standings and played well last year in this event (tied sixth) as well as in the 2009 Masters (tied 10th). The only profile stat that doesn’t add up is his scoring average – 70.39 – which is keeping him from avoiding some low finishes in off weeks.
Steady and consistent has been Yang’s M.O. over first part of 2010, with Top 25 finishes in four of seven cuts (including a tied-third at the Waste Management Houston Open). Surprisingly the “Big Yanger” is only sitting at an even 70.00 in scoring average despite the fact that he is currently ranked ninth in the PGA “overall ranking”, which factors every facet of a golfer’s game into play.
Another no-brainer from your RotoExperts! Seriously, Casey is like a dividend paying blue-chip stock: all he does is produce. Three Top 10s in four events, two of which were elite-field WGC Events (runner-up at the Accenture Match Play and a tied-sixth finish at the CA Championship). If the guy played here full time, more people would take notice of his 69.08 scoring average! Oh, don’t forget Casey won last year’s Shell Houston Open for his only PGA Tour win.
We go back to the well once again to Snedeker, and until he lets us down and misses a cut we don’t see why we won’t call his number. Snedeker has made the cut in all seven of his events to date and has earned over $600,000. Sure, a majority of the money was earned with a tied-second place finish at the Farmers Insurance Open, but he has three other Top 25s to bolster his credentials. Brandt makes a smart pick here if trying to fit under salary cap constraints as well.
Salary Cap Options –
You know the drill. Salary caps are tough to manage. Here are some decent options to consider if you picked lots of solid players recommended above.
A Top 10 at the Arnold Palmer got him into the Shell Houston Open this week. He is a low-cost option that can bang out a good finish week after week when he gets on a roll. Make sure he is in the field prior to committing to him.
“Kuch” is never listed amongst the greats of the game, but he is having a tremendous beginning to 2010, with two tied-third finishes and over $1.3 million in earnings to date.
The most confusing name in golf makes another appearance on our low-cost options. Charl has made the cut in all PGA events this side of the ocean.
Couples heats up at this time of the year, and he just set a course record in a Champions Tour event on the way to victory this past weekend.
Overheard on the Range –
Ben Curtis “reported” that Tiger Woods appeared nervous earlier in the month in his first practice round at Isleworth Country Club as he prepared for his much-anticipated return to the PGA Tour. Arnold Palmer’s counsel to Tiger? Let the media take their shots. Palmer feels like the first true step to reconcile with the public will be to avoid the staged press conference setting that Woods has participated in previously. Rory McIlroy was a last-minute addition to the Shell Houston Open field, obviously an attempt to prep for Augusta National.
Greg Kinzer’s coverage of the Shell Houston Open is always a tough assignment – with Augusta only one week away! Contact Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to discuss other fantasy golf topics
Be sure to check out FANTASY SCORECARD, the preseason fantasy baseball special brought to you by RotoExperts and Free the Fan.