My personal 2010 golf season kicks off this week with a three-day golf trip to beautiful West Virginia. I’ve never teed it up in the Mountain State before, and dealing with the unknown always adds a degree of difficulty to my golf game.
Inevitably, I’m going to set up on a par-4 dog leg left and face the tough decision of hitting driver or laying up with a 4-iron. The smart golfer in me says, “Go with the four.” The part of me that still thinks I can birdie any hole, screams “driver!”
Charles Howell III makes his way back into the RotoExperts weekly picks. PHOTO CREDIT: Carl Lindberg
It’s not too different than facing unfamiliar circumstances in fantasy golf. In tournaments like this week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans, many of the familiar names aren’t registered. Fantasy owners can’t turn to Phil Mickelson or Tiger Woods. There’s temptation to make quick selections and swing for the fences. However, look inside the numbers of the pros who are playing, and you can find nice, safe plays that will provide a higher success rate (like a 4-iron).
Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Purse - $6,200,000.00
Winner Share - $1,116,000.00
FedEx Cup Points - 500 to the winner
Course – TPC Louisiana, Avondale, La.
TPC Louisiana is a much longer and wider open course than Harbour Town was last week (due mainly to damage caused by Hurricane Katrina). The course features large greens, which will present many long birdie opportunities. This is an excellent course for the Tour’s better putters.
However, this isn’t a course where certain types of players are always successful. Golfers with nearly any skill set can thrive or fail. Sand comes into play frequently at TPC Louisiana, so accuracy, scrambling, and bunker shots will be key factors. The toughest hole on the course is the par-4, 476-yard sixth hole. It’s a dog leg left with a hazard on the left that players will need to avoid off the tee.
Weekly Picks -
This week is a great time to pop the world’s No. 3 ranked golfer into fantasy lineups, especially with No. 1 and No. 2 (Woods and Mickelson) not playing. Stricker is off to good start in 2010. He’s made the cut in all eight events he has entered; he won the Northern Trust Open, finished third at the Sony Open in Hawaii, and has two other Top 10s.
Stricker tied for seventh at last year’s Zurich Classic, tied 11th in 2007, and has three other New Orleans Top 25s since 2002. Stricker is seventh on Tour in Scrambling and 29th in Putting Average. He’s due for his fifth Top 10 finish.
Marino finished two spots ahead of Stricker, tied fifth, at the 2009 Zurich Open. He’s quietly having an impressive first half of 2010. His last three starts, the Masters, the Shell Houston Open, and the Arnold Palmer Invitation have resulted in two tied 14ths and a tied 11th. He also has two Top Five finishes (AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Northern Trust Open).
While Marino doesn’t stand out in any one statistical category, he does have a respectable 33rd Overall Ranking.
Charles Howell III
Earlier in the season, Howell III appeared regularly in the RotoExperts weekly picks. Outside of two missed cuts, his worst finish is a tied 28th. He has three Top 10s, and three other Top 25s, including a 22nd at last week’s Verizon Heritage. His 69.84 scoring average is good for fifth overall.
In the 2009 Zurich Classic Howell III fired a 13-under en route to a tied second. He also finished tied second in New Orleans in 2006.
If you believe in karma, then Davis is probably going to pick up his first PGA Tour victory this week. After turning himself in for a minor infraction on the first hole of the playoff at the Verizon Heritage, Davis gave up his chance to knock off Jim Furyk on the final hole and settled for a second-place finish.
Even without cosmic forces, Davis has a decent chance to win this week. He tied for 19th at the tournament last year and is a streaky player coming off an excellent performance.
Simpson is off to a rollercoaster start to 2010. He’s missed three of the last six cuts, but in his last five made cuts he has three Top 15s. He cruised to a six-under-par tied 14th finish at the Verizon Heritage.
If Simpson can get the job done on the greens, he’ll sit near the top of the leaderboard. So far he is 14th in Putting Average and 12th in Putts per Round. In 2009 he ended up 25th in Putting Average and seventh in Putts per Round. Simpson can clearly roll it, and if he can get to the greens in regulation he’ll be a nice fantasy pick.
Perez hasn’t found the Top 10 since the SBS Championship in January and the last we saw him he was busy missing the cut at the Shell Houston Open. He’s probably not the most popular option in this tournament, but he is a pretty safe bet.
In his only appearance in the Zurich Classic (2008), Perez managed a tie for 12th. He’s not lighting up the greens like Simpson, but he’s certainly getting to on the dance floor. He’s eighth in Greens in Regulation and 13th in Sand Save Percentage.
As one of the top putters on tour, Weir is a very logical pick for the Zurich Classic. He’s currently first in Putts per Round and 16th in Putting Average. He’s also 28th in scrambling.
Fantasy owners who prefer previous success in an event might want to stay away from Weir. He missed the cut in New Orleans in 2009 and 2008. I’m not too worried about those performances. Weir’s missed cut last year was the result of a poor Thursday round where he shot 76. He came back on Friday and fired a 69.
Poulter showed up in New Orleans last year and finished tied 13th, which included a 66 in round two. Poulter’s superior putting (sixth in putts per round in ’09, 24th in 2010) will go a long way toward helping him improve on his 2009 finish.
Because Poulter limits his Tour appearance, he falls into the “C” list in tiered fantasy formats. Make no mistake, at sixth in the World Rankings he’s far from “C” level talent. He finished 10th at the Masters, and was tied for the lead through two rounds.
Salary Cap Options
Lining up Stricker and Poulter may put a strain on salary cap manager’s wallets. Here are a couple low-budget options for New Orleans.
Roland Thatcher – Thatcher finished the 2009 Zurich Classic tied ninth and tied for 20th the year before. He’s struggled this season, but did take a Top 25 slot at the Shell Houston Open.
Greg Owen – Owen exploded out of the gates last week, firing a 66 and 69 in the first two rounds of the Verizon Heritage. A poor weekend show dropped him out of the Top 50. He tied for 19th in the 2009 Zurich Classic.
Nate’s News Notes
Mickelson and Woods have both committed to the Quail Hollow Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina beginning on April 29. Woods finished fourth and Mickelson fifth at the event in 2009. … NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice missed the cut by a wide margin at the Nationwide Tour’s Fresh Express Classic. … The 2010 U.S. Open will be broadcast later than ever in prime time. The third round broadcast will end at 11 p.m. ET, and the final round will not end until 9 p.m. ET.
*All stats up-to-date as of 04/20/10.