Both golf worlds, reality and fantasy, are in a frenzy following Phil Mickelson’s win at the Masters. The “reality” golf world seems determined to turn Mickelson’s third green jacket into some sort of triumphant victory of good over evil.
The fantasy golf world saw its two biggest names, Mickelson and Tiger Woods, return to the top of the “must-start” list. Mickelson’s 2010 season started slowly, and Woods’ had been non-existent. After an impressive win for Lefty and a tied-for-fourth effort in Woods’ first appearance, fantasy managers will be forced to make the tough choice between the two headliners whenever they both tee it up.
Luke Donald will try to improve upon his tied-second finish at the 2009 Verizon Heritage. Photo Credit: Jenni Douglas
That’s not a problem this week at the Verizon Heritage, as most of the PGA’s top players will sit out after the year’s first major. These tournaments create a unique situation for smart fantasy players. The right decisions could boost your team up the leaderboard.
Purse – $5,700,000.00
Winner Share – $1,026,000.00
FedEx Cup Points – 500 to the winner
Course – Harbour Town Golf Links – Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Harbour Town Golf Links is located in one the United States’ top golf destinations, Hilton Head. There are many who believe that the site is the home of the oldest golf club in the United States. The club was founded in 1786 by Scottish merchants.
Despite being located in a warm, beachy area, there is definitely a Scottish feel to Harbour Town. At less than 7,000 total yards, the par-71 is a relatively short course, but it requires accuracy and consistent shot making. The par-4 eighteenth is the most famous hole on the course, known for the marshlands that come into play on golfers’ first and second shots.
Weekly Picks -
The biggest challenge for fantasy golfers playing in a tiered format will be choosing A-list players. With the big names at home, the highest ranked A-lister this week is 29th-ranked Zach Johnson. Thirty spots lower on the World Golf Rankings is Ames at 59. A Top-10 finish for Ames would be a pleasant surprise, as he only has one on the season (Transitions Championship). However, he did have back-to-back Top 10s at this event in 2004 and 2005.
At the very least, Ames has been consistent this year, making the cut in eight of nine events with the only missed cut coming after he withdrew from the Northern Trust Open. He’s a safe choice from a slim list.
If Ames is a safe choice, then Donald is a risk-reward A-lister. The risk is that Donald has been slumping lately, missing the cut in his last two events (Masters and Shell Houston Open). The reward is that Donald finished tied second at Harbour Town in 2009 and has three Top 10s in 2010 (second at Northern Trust, tied ninth at Accenture Match Play Championship, tied sixth at Transitions Championship).
Choi started 2010 with a tied 39th at the Sony Open in Hawaii. His worst finish in his seven starts after the Sony Open was tied 27th at the Northern Trust. The other six results have all been in the Top 25. He hasn’t missed a cut, and he has finished below par in every tournament.
Choi is coming off an impressive 11-under Masters performance that tied him with Woods at fourth, but he hasn’t played at the Harbour Town event since 2001.
Like Donald, Gay is coming off two consecutive missed cuts (Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Masters). In 2009 at the Verizon Heritage, Gay defeated Donald and everyone else in route to a tournament championship. He stole the show with a minus-20 (second place finished minus-10). He also finished tied 16th in the event in 2007 and tied ninth in 2006. The course’s short and tight layout plays well for Gay’s game; he’s currently first in driving accuracy but only 185th in driving distance. If he can hit Greens in Regulation, he should be in contention on Sunday as he is ranked third in Putts per Round.
Bo Van Pelt
Van Pelt has had an up and down start to 2010. In 10 events he has three Top 25s and three missed cuts. He’s an attractive fantasy option this week because he has had recent success at Harbour Town. Last year he finished tied 13th and in 2007 he finished tied 10th. What makes him even more interesting is that he currently leads the tour in Total Driving and Ball Striking, two crucial statistics at the Verizon Heritage.
It’s hard to argue against a player who hasn’t missed a cut in eight events, has three Top three finishes, and three additional Top 25s. The only concern with Holmes is that his best finish at the Verizon Heritage was tied 36 in 2007. His game is definitely better suited for longer courses, but there is a good reason to like Holmes this week. His Scoring Average before the Cut is third on tour. He’s a player that fantasy managers may want to start in rounds one and two, and see where he stands heading into the weekend.
So what if Casey missed the cut at the Masters, his other four tournaments in 2010 produced Top 10 results. The world’s number seven ranked player tied for 11th at last year’s Verizon Heritage. His performance included a final round 66, which was second only to Gay’s 64. Harbour Town is not tailored to Casey’s game, but he is 12th in Putting Average. With a diluted field, Casey is a premier fantasy option.
This is an excellent week to give Taylor a fantasy start. Having sat out the Masters, Taylor’s last result was a second place finish (playoff) at the Shell Houston Open. It was his third Top 10 in eight starts this season. At the Verizon Heritage in 2006 and 2007 Taylor finished tied third and tied fourth respectively. His statistics match the course well, with him being 38th in Total Driving and 30th in Ball Striking.
Salary Cap Options
Although I doubt many people will be up against the cap this week, here are a couple of options to consider for those running low on funds.
Davis Love III - He may be getting up there in age, but Love III won this event in 2003 and has five Top 10s since 2000.
Tim Petrovich – Petrovich has made the cut in this event three of the previous four years. That’s not too impressive, but his tied 8th last season was.
Nate’s News Notes
After last year’s surprising run at a U.S. Open championship, the USGA has granted 60-year-old Tom Watson a special exemption to play in this year’s tournament … The Masters final round on CBS earned an impressive 12.0 overnight rating and 25 share. The ratings weren’t quite as high as Woods’ first Masters win in 1997 (15.8/32) … 16-year-old Matteo Manassero was the only amateur to make the Masters’ cut. He finished 4-over and in a tie for 36th. Manassero is expected to turn pro this year.
*All stats up-to-date as of 04/13/10.
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