THE RETURN OF FANTASY GOLF!

Patrick Mayo, Staff Writer January 2, 2013

Some things in life always let you down. New Years parties are a consistent culprit. As is double dipping at the ATM to recoup the cash you’ve already lost at the blackjack table. But not Fantasy Golf.

No, despite being lower on the Fantasy food chain than NASCAR and uhhhhhh… soccer, the fairytale PGA season is a shining light, waiting for you every Thursday – without fail. When it says it will pick you up at 8pm, it’ll be there at 7:55pm. It’s dependable. Each week, from January through September, you get to spend five minutes selecting eight players from a pool of 125 – or so – and that’s it. Outside of a brief glance at your squad Friday evening to make sure your guys made the cut.

Ian Poulter is beloved everywhere, expect outside the British Isles. Photo Credit: Michael Dodge

Like Golf itself, its Fantasy doppelganger is low-intensity and ultimately relaxing. Competition on the virtual links doesn’t drum up the vitriol like football. There will be no bellyaching from league mates. No daily, hate filled e-mail chains designed to break your opponent by kickoff. If it’s every brought up around, expect someone to drop a “nice week” on you. It’s the Fantasy equivalent of “great putt”. It’s known to all parties that the statement is said utmost resentment, but it’s still a gentleman’s game, honored by all.

So, if you’re lacing up the Fantasy spikes for the first time in 2013, welcome – you’ve made a capital choice. And if you’re determined to hoist the hypothetical novelty check at season’s end you need to know two things: Always remember to set your lineup; taking a zero will essentially eradicate your chances, and this week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions is the most important event on the Fantasy Golf schedule.

Forget the Masters, the two highest-scoring weeks the entire season are the first and last. They also happen to be the two smallest fields of the year. Make sure to stack your roster with enough safety to remain with the pack. Gambling on an underdog or two is fine, but don’t shoot for pure upside this soon. Wait for the talent pool to expand first.

PICKS

Johnson Wagner – If sporting the most powerful duster since Daniel Plainview wasn’t incentive enough to take Wagner, know that of his six Top 10 finishes the last two season – four have come in January, including a solo fifth at Kapalua 12 months ago. And you’d think a moustache so powerful would be damaging in the sweltering Hawaii heat.

Kyle Stanley – STANLEY! The defending Waste Management champion faded as 2012 progressed, but remains one of the longest hitters in the field. A distinct advantage when navigate 7,411 yards all weekend.

Zach Johnson – Since the field is invite only, experience tends to dictate the outcome. ZJ is taking his fifth crack at Kapalua, tied for most of anyone in the field.

Steve Stricker – The ultimate safety pick. Last year’s champ has finished inside the Top 5 his last two turns, and leaving Hawaii a million dollars richer seems like a convention at this point.

Ricky Fowler – A TOC neophyte, Fowler is long off the tee and steady enough with the flat stick that is inexperience won’t be a problem.

Ian Poulter – Sure, many chuckle at Poulter’s sartorial sense or his gelled hair protruding through an arrogant visor, but don’t let that cloud senses. The Brit is most consistent putter on Tour, and at a par 73, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to score.

Webb Simpson – After a dismal debut in 2011, Simpson fired four rounds in the 60s in his second go-around. Keeping with the safety theme, after Stricker, Simpson is your best bet. Plus, putting him in your lineup not only gives you a rooting interest to see him win, but to see him win then pose for pictures with his hottie wife.

Hunter Mahan – Mahan has never seen a pin placement that he won’t fire at. Sure, he’s risky, but he’ll so super low in at least one round.

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