Fantasy Golf Picks: 2016 Tournament of Champions Starts & Sleepers
Fantasy Golf Picks: Tournament of Champions Starts & Sleepers
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Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Defending Champion: Patrick Reed
HARK!!! Fantasy Golf has returned. And Fantasy Golf does it right; easing into the fray, letting us get acclimated to our surroundings with a warm up tournament. It's the same thing big-time college programs do for their season openers, schedule a cupcake to beat up on to gain some confidence. That’s the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Unlike the typical PGA Tour events, the Tournament of Champions is a condensed field of only the previous year’s winners... with no cut. For 2016, that amounts to 32 players, and the separation between stars and scrubs is rather pronounced. Generally, the world’s top players skip the trip to Hawaii and either wait until the TOUR hits the mainland to make their debut, or head to the Middle East for a guaranteed appearance fee and a chance to compete in a full field and a giant payday. But not this year. Event organizers really did some work this season, talking Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson into showing up. It’s the first time since 2005 the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world will be in the tropical field. In fact, toss in defending champ Patrick Reed with that quintet, and six of the world’s Top 10 will be in attendance.
So what should we expect? BIRDIES… and lots of them. Kapalua was the easiest course on TOUR last year, with only four holes playing over Par, and it’s not like much has changed in the past 12 months. The only thing that may suppress scoring is the wind, and really, ocean gusts may make the pins appear to have spina bifida, but birdie making should still be simple. The wind played a major factor in 2013, when Dustin Johnson won at -16, but that tournament was shortened to three days.
Hyundai Tournament of Champions Key Stats
Par 4 Scoring
Birdie Conversion Rate
Greens in Regulation
Putting > 15-Feet
On paper, Kapalua appears to set up perfectly for bombers. It’s ultra-lengthy at 7,452 yards and remains the only Par 73 on the circuit. But a deep-dive into the past champions reveals that distance off the tee doesn’t translate to success. Of the past ten champions, only DJ and Vijay Singh (2007) really qualify as “bombers". Because of the elevation swings across the layout, shorter hitting, strong iron players, that keep their putters hot, tend to be the ones accepting a novelty check after four rounds. So, key in on players with high GIR rates who make a lot of putts from inside 15-feet. The wining score is likely going to be -20 (or lower), and leaving strokes on the course from that range will result in defeat.
Hyundai Tournament of Champions Picks
Rickie Fowler & Jordan Spieth
The Yahoo! A-List is going to present the most problems. While it’s difficult to make too many bad picks in a small field with no cut, you only have two spors for three golfers you’re going to want: Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. And that’s just tossing aside the notion of taking Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas or Bubba Watson. I definitely want Rickie, since he’ll be the lesser owned of the three, and I’ll side with Spieth over Day, since driving distance is less of a factor at Kapalua. Hopefully, Fowler plays well enough I won’t have to burn a Spieth start, but having the world’s best player on-call is a nice safety net.
Patrick Reed, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker & Zach Johnson
Feel free to use the cluttered B-List to differentiate your team, but I’m going to stick to the chalk in the opening event. Patrick Reed ended 2015 with six straight T10s around the world, and is the defending champion. He’s an auto play… Since we’re in Hawaii, you may as well burn all your Jimmy Walker starts now. Walker was running away with this tournament last year before his final round stumble, and he appears to have finally righted his game after his late-summer swoon. Walker contended at the Hero World Challenge, ending up T8… Any time length off the tee isn’t a MASSIVE advantage, dial up 2014 champ Zach Johnson… Yes, Kevin Kisner is a first timer at Kapalua, but he possess the skill-set that’s translated to success on this layout in the past. Despite possessing average distance off the tee, Kisner sits second in total strokes gained through his putting prowess and Top 20 birdie conversion rate. Also, it’s difficult to overlook his last two showings to finish 2015 - A win and a runner-up.
Scott Piercy &
Graeme McDowell Emiliano Grillo
This is where I’m mixing it up. In non-cut events, give me all the Scott Piercy. Every day will be a crapshoot, but if you guarantee him four rounds, he’s going to go really low AT LEAST once. If Piercy can avoid that one blow up round, he’s the type of high volume scorer that can actually challenge the big names for the title… All of a sudden that guy wearing the Graeme McDowell mask the last year has been murdered and replaced with the real GMAC again. It’s nice to have him back. McDowell came out of the nowhere to claim the OHL Classic in November and followed it up the next week with a third place showing in the final event of the swing season. McDowell’s iron proximity has returned, the putting has been consistent from in close, and he actually has a top-tier finish to his credit on this course in his only appearance. In 2011, McDowell tied the course record (62) in the final round, ending up with a third place payday. NOTE: Emiliano Grillo didn't appear in the Yahoo! system until Wednesday. I'll be playing the GIR monster over McDowell.
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