Pictured: Sung-Jae Im
Source: Matt Sullivan / Getty Images North America

A two-tournament week brings us to the Dominican Republic for the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship. 

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This week really spotlights the impact that DFS has on the sport. 

Just a few years ago, this would have been a forgotten tournament with most of the TOUR’s top talent competing in the WGC-Match Play. Now, with DFS there are hundreds of thousands of dollars up for grabs. 

Let’s dive through the weather and look at an interesting course-fit angle to see who might enjoy their time in Punta Cana. 

Thursday (R1): Mostly sunny with a high of 82 degrees. Winds at 10-to-14 MPH. Precip % less than 10. 

Friday (R2): Sunny with a high of 82 degrees. Winds at 3-to-10 MPH. Precip % less than 10. 

Thursday brings moderate winds. Surprisingly, this is the only day forecasted for anything relevant in terms of breeze. It’s not a huge deal but there might be a slight advantage to having a Friday AM tee time. 

Being played right on the coast, I expect much more wind in the forecast but that’s just not in the cards this year. 

Course Fit

The Corales Golf Club is a resort course that caters to all skill levels. To make is playable for all skill levels, Tom Fazio made sure the landing areas were generous. 

Last year, the field averaged just over 73 percent of fairways hit which was the second-easiest of courses played last season. That was even with a few days of heavy winds. With lighter winds in the forecast, we could see the field eclipse 75 percent of fairways hit which means a lot of clean and crisp approach shot. 

Looking at sample-adjusted performance on courses with easy-to-hit fairways since the start of 2014, the top 15 performers on a per-round basis looks like this: 

Peter Uihlein
Chris Stroud
Jhonattan Vegas
Chad Campbell
Matt Jones
Nate Lashley
Denny McCarthy
Joel Dahmen
Seungsu Han
David Hearn
Charl Schwartzel
Joaquin Niemann
Shawn Stefani
Brandon Harkins
Trey Mullinax

Other than raw performance, we can also look at who shows the biggest improvement on Easy-to-Hit Fairways (versus their baseline). Using that as the criteria, the following names pop:  

Charlie Beljan
Troy Matteson
Chris Stroud
Eric Axley
Josh Teater
Nicholas Lindheim
Tyler Duncan
John Merrick
Dicky Pride
Max Homa
Grayson Murray
Seamus Power
Sangmoon Bae
Peter Uihlein
Chad Campbell

Overlap List: Looking for golfers that crack both lists we find Peter Uihlein, Chris Stroud, and Chad Campbell.  

They all arrive without any form in their favor but Uihlein does present himself as an interesting high-upside sleeper. 

Value Spotlight

Hank Lebioda: The young Florida State product is familiar with playing golf south of the border. He finished 6th on the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica circuit in 2017. He used that knowledge to open the 2018 Web season with back-to-back top 10s in The Bahamas. Looking more recently, the four best finishes of his rookie season have come on coastal tracks (RSM Classic, Sony Open, Farmers, and Pebble Beach). The lefty isn’t the longest off the tee but in a Web.com Tour Q&A he mentioned driver as the club he likes to hit most. He’ll get to use that club early and often this week on a wide-open Fazio design. As for fantasy scoring, he’s posted more birdies per round than the field in eight of his last nine starts. Not too shabby for a bargain-bin option.

FanPicks Top Selections:

Joel Dahmen : Has beat the field average in 7 of his last 8 rounds played. He’s rounding back into form and has finished top 25 in both trips to Corales. Snapped out of a slump at THE PLAYERS and backed it up with a top 30 at the Valspar. 

Nate Lashley : Won at the Corales Golf Course in 2017. Returned to finish T28 last year. Enters with four top 20s over his last eight starts. Playing the final start of his medical extension. He won’t want to waste the opportunity. 

Denny McCarthy : Posted a top 10 last week at the Valspar and finished top 5 here last year. 

Adam Schenk : The Purdue product is 3-for-3 at the Corales with strokes gained over the field in 10-of-12 rounds played here. Three top 30s in his last four starts.

Sungjae Im : His salary popped up nearly $4k overnight but I want to ride this train into the winner’s station. We knew the young Korean had a world of upside when he dominated the Web last year but we didn’t know if his rise would happen so fast. Playing against a glorified Web field this week, Im should be comfortable and the odds board reflects that as he’s co-favorite alongside Jhonny Vegas. 

Jonathan Byrd : Should be low owned this week since there are plenty of juicy value options below him. Picking a slightly-overpriced Byrd should help keep the lineup unique. We don’t want a duplicate lineup. Byrd has seen this course twice and is 2-for-2 with a T30 and T54. 

Posted in Golf, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Bubba Watson
Source: Getty Images North America

Bubba Watson is back to defend his title

The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is set for March 27-31 at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas. That means it’s time to pick your optimal FanPicks fantasy golf lineup. Fortunately, our fantasy golf experts are ready to help.

Here’s what our best WGC-Dell Match Play 2019 lineup looks like:

Tommy Fleetwood

If you read between the lines of this week’s picks (or heck, even if you just glance at them), you’ll notice a distinct Euro lean. It’s a simple equation: match play = Ryder Cup = Euro success. Our friends across the pond haven’t quite dominated the Match Play like you might expect — since 2009, Europe can boast three winners and six runner-ups at this event — but match play does seem to suit them, none more than Fleetwood, whose lights-out putting at the 2018 Ryder Cup was the stake through America’s heart.

Bubba Watson

The defending champion comes in hot off a T4 at the Valspar, and his stress-free takedown of all comers at Austin CC last year — he dusted Kevin Kisner 7&6 in the finals — was a wonder to behold. The track, the format and the current trend line all play in Bubba’s favor.

Sergio Garcia

Another longtime Ryder Cup hero, Sergio emerged from pool play 3-0-0 at last year’s Match Play before losing in the quarters. Scuffled a bit at the Valspar (T54), but otherwise his current form is unassailable.

Phil Mickelson

Gotta love how Lefty is finally embracing social media; just last week he treated the world to a five-part series via Instagram on how he got his massive calves. Lefty’s loving life and giving no effs, and that makes him especially dangerous, despite a couple of recent MCs. He was a quarterfinalist here in 2017.

Ian Poulter

He’s broken your heart enough times at Ryder Cups; now let him earn you some money. Poulter is second only to Tiger in career match wins at the Match Play with 27, and he’s playing great this year, with a recent streak of four straight top-6 finishes. Lost in the quarterfinals here last year.

Jim Furyk

His stirring charge at Sawgrass was no fluke; he has five top-20 finishes, including three top 10s, in his last seven starts. Leads the Tour in driving accuracy, second in scoring. His record at the Match Play includes a semifinal 1-up loss to eventual champion Rory McIlroy in 2015.

Posted in Golf, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Sergio Garcia
Source: Warren Little / Getty Images Europe

Past winner Sergio Garcia is among this year’s favorites

THE PLAYERS Championship is set for March 14-17 at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. That means it’s time to pick your optimal FanPicks (DFS) fantasy golf lineup. Fortunately, our fantasy golf experts are ready to help. 

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Here’s what our best PLAYERS Championship 2019 lineup looks like:

Sergio Garcia

We’re going bargain-hunting this week, and the Sergio display in the window has caught our eye. His prolonged tantrum in Saudi Arabia aside, he’s off to a really underrated start this year. Just take a look at his last 11 worldwide starts dating back to late September: T7, 1, 2, T9, T6, T7, T3, DQ, T37, T6, T9. The DQ is all anyone can talk about, but the guy’s been on fire. And he’s a TPC Sawgrass ringer: The 2008 PLAYERS champion has five career top-10 finishes here. If he can stay in his happy place, he’ll contend.

Webb Simpson

The defending champion cruised to a stress-free four-shot victory last year at Sawgrass despite a middling final-round 73. He’s 16-for-18 in cuts made since then, including the last 15 in a row, with 10 top-20 finishes in that span. He’s 12th on Tour in SG: Approach-the-Green and 9th in SG: Around-the-Green. In other words, he looks like a massive bargain at this price. Only caveat: Nobody’s ever gone back to back at THE PLAYERS.  

Adam Scott

Scott’s had a feast-or-famine quality to his play of late (and really for his whole career). The last time we went to this well, he burned us with a missed cut at the Honda, but he finished solo 2nd at Torrey and T7 at Riviera. And, of particular interest this week, he’s a Sawgrass stud. His 21 rounds in the 60s at THE PLAYERS are the most in the field. He’s made the cut here seven straight times, with five top-15 finishes in that span.

Matt Kuchar

Like Sergio, Kooch is playing great golf but getting attention for the wrong reasons. Granted, he hasn’t played as well since Caddie-gate broke big, but he’s still a two-time winner this season and hasn’t missed a cut since July. He’s 6th in Driving Accuracy, 3rd in GIR and 2nd in money this year. Plus, he’s a past PLAYERS champion (2012) and is among the leaders in career SG: Total at TPC Sawgrass. Not much not to like unless you’re the unforgiving type.  

Paul Casey

Another bargain. Since a missed cut at the Sony, the mind-numbingly consistent Casey has showings of T2, 2, T25, T3. Before that, he had strung together five straight top-18 finishes. His ball striking has been phenomenal — he’s 12th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 11th in GIR. If an indifferent putter heats up at all, watch out.

Phil Mickelson

After threatening to skip the event — he told the Golf Channel, “It’s not a must-play for me because I’m 48 and I’ve played it 25 times and I’ve already won it” — Lefty caught our eye with this tweet over the weekend: “The course here is in spectacular shape with very little rough, much like Augusta!” If he finds a comfort level this week, he could win it again; just make sure he stays in the field until kickoff. 

Posted in Golf, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Adam Scott
Source: Sam Greenwood / Getty Images North America

Adam Scott, the 2016 Honda champion, is among the favorites

The Honda Classic golf tournament is set for Feb. 28-March 3 at the PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. That means it’s time to pick your optimal FanPicks fantasy golf lineup. Fortunately, our fantasy golf experts are ready to help. 

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Here’s what our best Honda Classic 2019 lineup looks like:

Adam Scott ($7,400)

Many people wrote off Scott when they banned the belly putter, but he’s adapted and then some — he ranks 18th on Tour in SG: Putting. He posted two top 7s in his last three starts, including a solo 2nd at Riviera. Oh, and he’s an absolute stud at PGA National, with his last three Hondas looking like this: 1, T14, T13. 

Lucas Glover ($6,400)

Glover dipped back down to the Web.com Tour last fall to reclaim his big-boy privileges, and his determination has paid off with a really solid start to the season — six top 20s in seven starts, including a T7 at Pebble two weeks ago. He’s flashing the kind of ball striking that once won him a U.S. Open — he’s second on Tour in GIR — and for what it’s worth, three of the last four Honda winners were previous major champions. 

Scott Piercy ($6,000)

Slow and steady wins the occasional race, but we’re not asking Piercy to win this week, just to be his normal consistent self. He’s made his last nine cuts, with three top 10s in that span, including a T10 at Pebble two weeks ago. Finished T17 at the Honda last year and T5 in 2009.

Michael Thompson ($5,900)

Thompson offers that coveted fantasy two-fer: He’s a past Honda Classic champion (2013), and he arrives playing great golf (four straight top-15 finishes, including three top 10s). He’s 9th on Tour in SG: Approach the Green, a tantalizing stat on a short but challenging track.

CT Pan ($5,800)

Pan doesn’t miss many cuts — only one MC since June — and simply being around for the weekend is half the fantasy battle. On a relatively short course, his lack of power is largely irrelevant, while his precision and scrambling ability (first on Tour in Scrambling from the Fringe) can come in handy at PGA National.

Brendan Steele ($5,100)

Steele’s recent form has been abysmal — which is why we think he’s a hidden bargain this week, based primarily on his history as a course horse. In the past five years, he’s fourth in Strokes Gained: Total at PGA National, and he hasn’t missed a cut here over that span.

Posted in Golf, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Brooks Koepka
Source: Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images North America

Koepka comes in rested after a long layoff

The World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship golf tournament is set for Feb. 21-24 at the Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City, Mexico. That means it’s time to pick your optimal FanPicks fantasy golf lineup. Fortunately, our fantasy golf experts are ready to help.

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Here’s what our best WGC-Mexico Championship 2019 lineup looks like:

Brooks Koepka ($7,200)

Brooks has been pretty scarce stateside of late, with zero appearances in the lower 48 since the Tour Championship (not counting the appearance of his buttcheeks in that viral thong photo). But that just means he’s rested. The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year and World No. 2 could jump-start another dominant season this week.

Tony Finau ($6,600)

Real tempted to go with defending champion Phil Mickelson here, but fatigue has to be setting in for the arthritic 48-year-old. So instead, we’ll go with a guy who’s brimming with youthful energy and who saves some of his best golf for the big stages. Since a T27 here last year, he’s gone T17, T10, 2 at the WGC events, with three major top 10s thrown in. His second career Tour win has proved elusive, but it’s inevitable.

Bubba Watson ($6,200)

Bubba will be cleared for takeoff in the altitude of Mexico City; he’s 3rd on Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee. He also loves to shape shots, and the Club de Golf Chapultepec offers plenty of opportunity for Bubba’s particular brand of sorcery. He’s coming off a nice T15 at Riviera and a T4 at Phoenix, and that’s without making many putts.  

Gary Woodland ($5,900)

Woodland has three top 10s in four starts in 2019, including a solo second at the Sentry. He’s hitting the ball beautifully — 4th in SG: Tee-to-Green, 5th in GIR, 4th in Birdie Average. He hasn’t missed a cut in almost a year, and he’s two for two in playing the weekend at the Club de Golf Chapultepec. 

Matt Kuchar ($5,800)

Kooch contritely (if belatedly) attempted to put the caddie-stiffing controversy behind him this week by publicly falling on his sword and begging forgiveness — and now he returns to the country where the controversy was born. So why are we picking him this week? Simple — the guy’s playing great golf (6th in Driving Accuracy, 9th in GIR, 6th in scoring). Look for him to go out of his way to endear himself to the Mexico fans this week.

Tyrell Hatton ($5,500)

Hatton’s a course-horse play this week, after a T3 here last year and a solo 10th in 2017. He’s coming off a missed cut at Riviera, but he had a nice T15 at Phoenix a few weeks ago and should find the high 70s in Mexico City much more to his liking than the hand-stinging mid-50s of LA last week.

Posted in Golf, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Phil Mickelson
Source: Harry How / Getty Images North America

Mickelson has made the last nine cuts at Riviera

The Genesis Open golf tournament is set for Feb. 14-17 at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. That means it’s time to pick your optimal FanPicks fantasy golf lineup. Fortunately, our fantasy golf experts are ready to help.

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Here’s what our best Genesis Open 2019 lineup looks like:

Phil Mickelson ($7,000)

A loaded field — six of the world’s top 10, plus Jordan and Tiger — and a classic venue give this week something of a major feel. But nobody checks the dual fantasy boxes of course history and current form quite like Phil. He’s made the last nine cuts here, with two wins and two seconds, and he has a win and a T2 over the last three weeks. He put on an absolute clinic at Pebble. He’s first on Tour in birdie average, and he just keeps giving himself makable looks. Ride the wave.      

Bubba Watson ($6,900)

Another Riviera ringer, Bubba’s the defending champ and has three Genesis wins in the last five years. Last seen finishing T4 in Phoenix, where he struck the ball beautifully. Success at Riviera seems to portend success at Augusta, and our top two picks this week have five green jackets between them.      

Matt Kuchar ($6,300)

Your current FedExCup leader arrives playing as well as anyone in the world, with two wins and six top 25s in seven starts for the young season. The numbers are a buffet of tasty morsels — 3rd in Driving Accuracy, 5th in GIR, 20th in SG: Total. He’s been so good that a T22 at Pebble was a major disappointment.    

Charles Howell III ($5,900)

CH3’s last five tournaments look like this: 1, T14, T8, T34, T20. He’s won this tournament before (2007), and he’s playing well right now. That two-fer puts him on our radar.    

Keegan Bradley ($5,600)

It all comes down to the putter with this guy. He’s striking it well — 33rd in SG: Tee-to-Green — but he’s an abysmal 213th in SG: Putting. He could probably manage that with his eyes closed (which may be worth a try at this point). Still, he’s a cut-making machine — 17 in a row, and 31 of his last 33.  

Ernie Els ($4,900)

Els, who turns 50 in October, likes the idea of being a playing captain for the 2019 Presidents Cup matches before he turns his attention to his fellow greybeards. And his game is showing flashes of its former greatness — a T12 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic that included a second-round 65, and a T28 this past weekend at Pebble. 

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Posted in Golf, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Phil Mickelson
Source: Robert Laberge / Getty Image North America

Lefty leads a great golf lineup for the Waste Management Phoenix Open

The Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament is set for Jan. 31-Feb. 3 at TPC Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Ariz. That means it’s time to pick your optimal FanPicks fantasy golf lineup. Fortunately, our fantasy golf experts are ready to help. 

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Here’s what our best Waste Management Phoenix Open 2019 lineup looks like:

Phil Mickelson ($6,800)

Lefty’s more at home in the desert than a herd of camels. He’s won in Phoenix three times and is the tournament’s all-time leading money winner. He was last seen opening with a 60 on his way to a T2 at the Desert Classic. Plus, there’s the fact that the year’s biggest galleries will make Phil the object of their affections.

Matt Kuchar ($6,700)

A two-time winner already this season, Kooch cruised at the Sony in his last outing, shooting no worse than 66 en route to a drama-free four-shot win. Finished T5 here last year, in keeping with his recent profile in Scottsdale — a scoring average of 68.75 since 2009.

Chez Reavie ($6,300)

Another local hero — like Lefty, he played his college golf at Arizona State — Reavie finally found something in Scottsdale last year after a decade of futility, going 68-65-67-66 and losing in a playoff to Gary Woodland. An unblemished seven-for-seven in cuts made this season.

Byeong Hun An ($6,300)

This bomber should be cleared for takeoff at TPC Scottsdale, where he finished solo sixth in 2017 and T23 last year. Coming off a solid 12th last week in Dubai.    

Martin Laird ($5,700)

We’re going heavy on local knowledge this week, and Scottsdale resident Laird fits that profile. Something about TPC Scottsdale fits his slow-and-steady game — he has four top 10s here since 2011.  

Steve Stricker ($5,000)

When you’re looking for bargain basement roster fillers, you could do a lot worse than the likely 2020 U.S. Ryder Cup captain. He rarely misses cuts, and he still likes to prove he can hang with the kids. 

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Posted in Golf, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Tiger Woods
Source: Christian Petersen / Getty Image North America

The Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament is set for Jan. 24-27 at Torrey Pines Golf Club in La Jolla, Calif. That means it’s time to pick your optimal FanPicks fantasy golf lineup. Fortunately, our fantasy golf experts are ready to help. 

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Here’s what our best Farmers Insurance Open 2019 lineup looks like:

Tiger Woods ($7,600)

He’s rested, he’s ready, and he’s on familiar turf. There are horses for courses, and then there’s Tiger at Torrey Pines, where he’s some combo of Secretariat and Pegasus. Tiger’s an eight-time champion at Torrey, and for the first time since his last win there (2013), he enters the tournament as a legitimate threat to win it. Once he gets in contention at Torrey, muscle memory kicks in and he cruises; the last time he finished in the top 10 at the Farmers but didn’t win came in 2004, back when it was the Buick, and he’s won it five times since.

Alex Noren ($6,200)

The third-round leader at the Farmers in 2018, Noren lost to Jason Day in a playoff in his Farmers debut and arrives with unfinished business. The only issue is rust — he hasn’t played since the Hero in early December. One of many heroes of the Euro Ryder Cup demolition squad in 2018, Noren has won at least one tournament in four straight years.      

Brandt Snedeker ($6,200)

Sneds is another course horse who saves much of his best work for Torrey Pines — two wins (2012, 2016), two seconds, seven top 10s. Shot four rounds in the 60s at the Sony a couple weeks ago to finish T16, so he’s close. If his health holds up, he’s poised for a strong year.

J.B. Holmes ($5,900)

Bomber actually rolled the rock brilliantly at last year’s Farmers in finishing fourth, his third top-6 finish at Torrey in four years. Two of Holmes’ four career wins have come during the West Coast portion of the schedule, so this good old boy is comfy on Pacific time.    

Daniel Berger ($5,800)

In his first action since September, Berger shot four rounds in the 60s at the Desert Classic and finished T12. On Sunday, he didn’t miss a putt inside 10 feet. If he’s fully recovered from a wrist injury that put a damper on his 2018 season, he’s dangerous.   

Rory Sabbatini ($5,200)

The Tour’s other Rory is strictly a course play this week: He has seven top 25s and two top 5s at Torrey since 2002. Finished T20 last year after a solid ball-striking week. Interesting footnote: The South Africa native is now a citizen of Slovakia and is clearly thinking about playing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo under the Slovakian flag.

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Posted in Golf, Top Fantasy Picks

Photo: Phil Mickelson
Source: Harry How / Getty Image North America

The Desert Classic golf tournament is set for Jan. 17-20 at the TPC Stadium Course, Nicklaus Tournament Course and La Quinta Country Club in La Quinta, Calif. That means it’s time to pick your optimal FanPicks fantasy golf lineup. Fortunately, our fantasy golf experts are ready to help. 

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Here’s what our best Desert Classic 2019 lineup looks like (with top golfers, and sleepers):

Adam Hadwin ($7,100)

His three visits to La Quinta have yielded finishes of T6, 2 and T3. Last year, he posted four rounds in the 60s in finishing two strokes behind winner Jon Rahm. His solo second here in 2017 included a tasty third-round 59.    

Phil Mickelson ($6,900)

Lefty was last seen outlasting Tiger in The Match over Thanksgiving weekend, so he’s rested and ready to display his usual desert dominance. He’s won twice in La Quinta and was T3 as recently as 2016. Of his 43 PGA Tour wins, 18 have come in January and February, when the schedule puts the players west of the Rockies.

Lucas Glover ($6,300)

The 2009 U.S. Open champion dipped back down into the Web.com ranks to earn his Tour card for 2018, and he’s playing like he wants to stay. In four Tour starts in late 2018, he didn’t finish outside the top 17. He’s 10th on Tour in both scoring average and GIR. Given the personal battles he’s fought over the last year, we’re rooting for him.

Corey Conners ($5,600)

His season has had a feast-or-famine quality to it thus far — three missed cuts, a solo second, a T23 and a T3 at the Sony last week, when he went 68-67-64-64. We’re going with the notion that he found something out on the islands, where he was T3 in GIR and made a ton of putts.    

Bud Cauley ($5,500)

Another rootable guy given his obstacles. A serious car crash at last year’s Memorial threatened his career, but he returned to the Tour in late 2018 and played well, with a T10 at the Shriners. His three trips to La Quinta have produced finishes of T14, T3 and T14.   

Hunter Mahan ($5,300)

Mahan’s looking to write a second chapter to a career that went off the rails. He recaptured his Tour card at the 2018 Web finals and posted a T15 in his most recent outing, the RSM in November. He’s played on seven Cup teams (Ryder or Presidents) in his career, so it’s still in there somewhere.

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Posted in Golf, Top Fantasy Picks

Photo: Gary Woodland
Source: Chung-Sung Jun / Getty Image AsiaPac

The Sony Open in Hawaii golf tournament is set for Jan. 10-13 at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. That means it’s time to pick your optimal FanPicks fantasy golf lineup. Fortunately, our fantasy golf experts are ready to help. 

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Here’s what our best Sony Open 2019 lineup looks like (with top golfers, and sleepers):

Gary Woodland

Clemson’s dominant win this week gives us the courage to go slightly off the board with our top pick. Okay, we admit that going with last week’s runner-up doesn’t exactly put us in Siberia relative to the board, nor does Woodland’s record at Waialae, where over the last four years he’s gone T3, T13, T6, T7. Since his T6 at the PGA, the guy has done everything but win: two runner-ups and five other top-12 finishes. Look for him to hoist a comically oversized cardboard check one of these weeks.

Zach Johnson

Maybe not the lead horse at Waialae, but he’s in the paddock. The 2009 Sony winner has tacked on top-15 finishes in four of the last five years. ZJ is coming off a tough season, but this is the perfect spot for a confidence boost. Of note, he parted company in December with his caddie of 15 years, adding to the fresh start theme as 2019 dawns.

Matt Kuchar

For the last couple of years, Kooch decided that a January trip to Honolulu just wasn’t worth it, and we have to wonder why: From 2011-16, his scoring average at Waialae was 66.85. That’ll play. He wasn’t a factor at the Sentry TOC last week, but he did win at Mayakoba in November and could get an early leg up in the FedExCup race.

Brian Harman

Like ZJ, Harman is looking for a return to form after a lackluster 2018. Nothing in his recent offerings provides much hope, but his record at Waialae offers plenty: four-for-four in top 20s since 2015 with a scoring average of 66.88. Opened 63-64 here last year on his way to a T4.    

Steve Stricker

His appearances are getting rarer, but when he shows up, he usually cashes a check — he’s 19-for-23 in that department over the last two years. Stricker’s strictly a gut-level play this week; he hasn’t played since August. But you well know that he’s more than capable of an out-of-nowhere top 10.

Shugo Imahira

This week’s IPO has been rising sun levels of hot on the Japanese and Asian circuits the last two years: two wins and 26 other top-10 finishes, with 17 top 20s in his last 20 tournaments of 2018. We’ll see if it translates, but he’s worth a flyer at this price.  

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Posted in Golf, Top Fantasy Picks

Everything You Need to Know About the Hero World Challenge

A year ago today, all eyes were on Tiger Woods and his surgically fused back. Woods, then ranked outside the top 1000, was making his first start since major back surgery and a year-long absence. Questions abound about his health and the state of his game. Given his recent injury history, most were understandably skeptical of the notion that Woods would return to world-class form.

A year later, Woods returns as the world’s No. 13 player, with reinvigorated and not-unfounded hopes of winning another major championship. What a difference 365 days makes.

It was at last year’s Hero Challenge—a tournament Tiger hosts, and one that benefits his foundation—where Woods laid the foundation for his comeback with a solid performance, finishing T-9 in the limited field of 18 players. Woods is back in action at this week’s Hero, where he’s making his first appearance since losing $9 million to Phil Mickelson and playing his first stroke-play event since winning the Tour Championship. He’s one of a number of big-name players teeing it up at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas.

The Hero Challenge does not count as an official PGA Tour event—a victory doesn’t get you into the Masters, it doesn’t count for the money list nor a player’s career win total—but it does, controversially, offer world ranking points. Last year, Woods’ T9 propelled him from outside the top 1000 to 668th. The winner this week will receive 48 world ranking points, the same number Marc Leishman received for winning the full-field CIMB Classic earlier this year.

Here’s everything you need to know about the last 72-hole, stroke play tournament of 2018.

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The Course

The Ernie Els-designed course is part of a five-star resort in the New Providence area of the Bahamas. Woods and Els, as well as Justin Timberlake, were involved in the resort’s founding and all own part of it. Similar to the resort courses the Tour frequents in Hawaii, Albany is a relatively open track with wide fairways, big greens, little rough and lots of bunkers. It’s a visually stunning course, as most fairways are lined with either pearly-white sand or a water hazard. As with many courses close to the ocean, wind will be the chief defense. It should be a birdie fest, and the winner will be someone whose putter stays hot all week.

The course record is 61, set by Rickie Fowler in the final round of last year’s tournament. He made seven birdies in a row en route to a four-shot victory.

The Field

The 18-man field is usually determined mostly by world ranking, with the defending champion and two special exemptions also getting in. In the past, Woods has had to use a special exemption on himself. Not so this year, as his ranking of 13th is good enough on its own merits.

Four of the top five players in the world are teeing it up—Justin Rose (2), Dustin Johnson (3), Justin Thomas (4) and Bryson DeChambeau (5).

The rest of the field, with world rankings in parentheses.

Jon Rahm (8)
Rickie Fowler (9)
Jason Day (11)
Xander Schauffele (12)
Tiger Woods (13)
Tony Finau (14)
Patrick Reed (15)
Bubba Watson (17)
Alex Noren (18)
Patrick Cantlay (20)
Hideki Matsuyama (25)
Henrik Stenson (28)
Keegan Bradley (29)
Gary Woodland (32)

Tee times

All times eastern. Players wil be re-grouped based on score for each of the final three rounds.

Tony Finau, Gary Woodland – 11:10 a.m.
Keegan Bradley, Hideki Matsuyama – 11:21 a.m.
Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele – 11:32 a.m.
Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson – 11:43 a.m.
Jon Rahm, Alex Noren – 11:54 a.m.
Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods – 12:05 p.m.
Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson – 12:16 p.m.
Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson – 12:27 p.m.
Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau – 12:38 p.m.

TV Schedule

All times eastern.

Thursday, Friday: 1:30-4 p.m. on Golf Channel

Saturday: 12-2:30 p.m. on Golf Channel, 2:30-5 p.m. on NBC

Sunday: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Golf Channel, 1-4 p.m. on NBC

Past Champions

Note: The Hero World Challenge was played at Isleworth in Florida in 2014, and at Sherwood in California from 2000-2013.

2017 – Rickie Fowler (-18)
2016 – Hideki Matsuyama (-18)
2015 – Bubba Watson (-25)
2014 – Jordan Spieth (-26)
2013 – Zach Johnson (-13)
2012 – Graeme McDowell (-17)
2011 – Tiger Woods (-10)
2010 – Graeme McDowell (-16)

The pick

Obviously every one of these guys is capable of winning this week, and most of these guys haven’t played a 72-hole stroke play event for a little while, so there’s not too much to go off of. Adding to the difficulty, the course doesn’t appear to fit one type of player over another. I’m going to go with an all-around stud in Justin Thomas, who will show out on Thursday while paired with Tiger and ride a hot putter to the victory. Gary Woodland (+2800) and Xander Schauffele (+1800) are also worth plays.

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Posted in Golf, Top Fantasy Picks

Mayakoba Classic

Oh, to be a PGA Tour pro. Traveling the world playing perfeclty manicured golf courses for millions of dollars, having your work trips be to places like Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

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The picturesque beach resort is the host of this week’s Mayakoba Golf Classic, and some high-profile players are making the trip south of the border (more on the field in just a minute) to tee it up this week.

Here’s everything you need to know.

THE COURSE

El Camaleon Golf Club is the host venue this week, located on the southeast portion of Mexico, almost directly south of Atlanta. It’s a Greg Normal-designed course that meanders through jungle but also has multiple holes with sweeping ocean views. It’ll play as a par-71 this week and measure around 7,000 yards. Distance won’t be the issue this week, as the relatively short layout will give players multiple scoring opportunities with short irons and wedges into greens…if they can plot their way around the expansive and dramatic hazards lurking on nearly every hole.

By all accounts, it’s a pretty typical resort course—wide fairways, dramatic views, manageable rough, well-manicured green complexes, slower-than-average putting surfaces and not overly difficult. The average winning score over the past five Mayakoba Golf Classics is 19.2-under par

THE FIELD

Three American Ryder Cuppers are in the field this week—world No. 9 Rickie Fowler, world no. 14 (!) Jordan Spieth and world No. 14 Tony Finau. Aaron Wise will be there, as will big-hitting phenom Cameron Champ, who already has a win and three top-28 finishes in his rookie season. Four Mexicans will be teeing it up on home soil this week: Abraham Ancer, Jose de Jesus Rodriguez, Carlos Ortiz and Roberto Diaz. Gary Woodland, who have five straight top-12 finishes and shot 63 last Sunday, is playing. Defending champion Patton Kizzire will be on hand to defend his title. Other notables in the field: Matt Kuchar, Billy Horschel, Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson and Emiliano Grillo.

TEE TIMES

Here are some tee times for marquee groupings.

Rickie Fowler, Emiliano Grillo, Aaron Wise – 7:30 a.m. Thursday*/12:00 p.m. Friday
Billy Horschel, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar – 7:40 a.m.*/12:10 p.m.
Jordan Spieth, Patton Kizzire, Pat Perez – 12:00 p.m./7:30 a.m.*
Cameron Champ, Jhonattan Vegas, Tony Finau – 12:10 p.m./7:40 a.m.*

* denotes 10th-tee start. 

THE PAST CHAMPIONS

2017- Patton Kizzire (-19)
2016- Pat Perez (-21)
2015- Graeme McDowell (-18)
2014- Charley Hoffman (-17)
2013- Harris English (-21)

72-hole scoring record is 263, set by Harris English and equaled by Pat Perez. The course record is 61, set by Roland Thatcher.

HOW TO WATCH

Golf Channel has the coverage from 1-4 p.m. EST on Thursday-Sunday. Simulcast will be available through NBC Sports Live.

THE PICK

No surprise too see the highest ranked players in the field have the best odds, and Vegas stays really high on Emiliano Grillo. The players too targer this week are those who find find fairways and put it close with their scoring clubs—the last four winners of this event aren’t particularly long hitters, but all four were precise with their wedges. Abraham Ancer, who quietly has one of the best short games on tour, is a sneaky good pick to win on home soil (and what a story that would be). Nor would it be shocking to see Jordan Spieth, who is at his lowest world ranking since the end of 2014, get the W. He finished third in proximity to hole forom 125-150 yards last year, a yardage that should come into play often this week.

Instead, I’m going with a guy who hasn’t played this event before and whose wedge statistics we don’t know because they don’t keep those on the Web.com Tour: Sungjae Im, who led the Web moneylist wire-to-wire. Im, who doesn’t turn 21 until March, won twice last year including once in the Bahamas, at another resort course that placed a premium on short iron play. He’s had a solid start to his rookie season, making three of four cuts with a T-4 in Napa and a T-15 last week in Vegas. I fully expect Im to make this year’s President’s Cup team—he is the real deal—and he’ll get his first win on the big boy tour this week.

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Posted in Golf, Top Fantasy Picks

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

After an unexpectedly compelling weekend that saw Xander Schauffele win a WGC in China and the emergence of a star in Cameron Champ, the PGA Tour’s attention shifts to Las Vegas this week for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Play Now!

Apart from Champ—who mesmerized the golf world with his prodigious length, clutch putting and infectious smile en route to his first Tour victory in just his ninth start—the headliner this week is Jordan Spieth. Spieth famously failed to satisfy the Tour’s minimum start requirement last year, so the three-time major winner entered this tournament as well as the Mayakoba Golf Classic after discussion with Tour officials. In total, six players ranked inside the top 25 of the Official World Golf Rankings will be teeing it up in Sin City.

This tournament was formerly hosted by Justin Timberlake and bore his name—a mouthful: the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hopsitals for Children Open—but that connection stopped in 2012. Shortly after it was announced that Timberlake would no longer be involved, the touranment director said “when the TV cameras weren’t on, he disappeared” and that Timberlake didn’t do enough to bring big-name stars to the tournament. It was an awkward, ugly breakup for all involved.

Anyways, Patrick Cantlay is the defending champion at TPC Summerlin this week, where he picked up his first and only PGA Tour win last year. That victory served as a springboard to a fantastic 2017-18 season, during which he broke into the world top 25 and qualified for the Tour Championship. Perhaps this week will provide a similar boost for an up-and-coming young player.

Here’s everything you need to know about the sixth PGA Tour event of the 2018-19 season.

The Course

TPC Summerlin is a private club located in an upscale, planned community about 12 miles northwest of the Strip. The Bobby Weed-designed track opened in 1991 and five years later was the site of Tiger Woods’ first PGA Tour win, at the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational.

It’s a classic Las Vegas course, one of those impeccably green tracks that contrast starkly with the barren landscape surrounding it. There are certainly elements of target golf at TPC Summerlin, with defined fairways and greens guarded by water hazards and waste areas filled with knee-high bushes. One thing to consider this week is altitude, as the course sits at about 2,700 feet above sea level. That means the ball will travel significantly farther than it does at sea level, making the 7,200-yard, par-71 layout play shorter than it measures. That also means guys like Champ will have some tape-measure drives, especially downwind.

That wind is another thing to keep an eye on—Vegas doesn’t have much tree protection, so its quite exposed to the elements. Wind will be TPC Summerlin’s chief defense, and whether it blows will have a huge effect on the winning score. Last year was breezy, and Cantlay won with nine under; the year before, not so much, and Rod Pampling’s winning total was 20 under.

The field

Spieth is probably the biggest name here, though Bryson DeChambeau (No. 6) and Rickie Fowler (No. 9) are two players ranked higher than him in action this week. Champ will draw his share of attention, both in person and on the broadcast, after his tour de force coming out party last week. Tony Finau has made the trip from China to Vegas—what a juxtaposition there—after yet another near-miss but excellent week in finishing second to Schauffele. Cantlay will defend his title and is on a streak of 12 straight made cuts. Newly crowned 2017-18 Rookie of the Year Aaron Wise is playing, as is Las Vegas resident Kevin Na. Other notables in the field: Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, Ryan Moore, Si Woo Kim, Jason Dufner.

Tee times

Here are some tee times for marquee groupings.

Cameron Champ, Jordan Spieth, Aaron Wise – 10:30 a.m. Thursday*/3:05 p.m.
Kevin Tway, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay – 10:40 a.m.*/3:15 p.m.
Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar – 3:05 p.m./10:30 a.m.*
Kevin Na, Ryan Moore, Tony Finau – 3:15 p.m./10:40 a.m.*

* denotes 10th-tee start.

The pick

I’m ruling out anyone who played in China last week—those guys had to endure a miserable travel day and a gnarly time change. That eliminates both Tony Finau and Patrick Cantlay, the latter of whom profiles as a great pick given his recent form and past history at TPC Summerlin. It’s also tempting to pick Cameron Champ, who is good enough to win anywhere when he’s driving it well. But winning once and winning back-to-back weeks are very different propositions. Rickie Fowler and Bryson DeChambeau have taken some time off to reset after the shellacking at Le Golf National, and both guys would seem to be well-rested.

All that being said, I’m going with Gary Woodland this week. The big-hitting Kansan has played terrific golf recently, posting four straight top-12 finishes including a solo second in his last start at the CJ Cup. Woodland has only played this event once, posting T-18 last year, and you’d like to see some more positive course history when making a pick. But as Champ showed last week, current form can override relative unfamiliarity with a track. Woodland picks up his fourth PGA Tour win this weekend.

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Posted in Golf, Top Fantasy Picks