Fantasy Golf Picks: Go with Safety over Sleepers at Greenbrier
The Greenbrier Classic
Defending Champ: Jonas Blixt
I remember when the PGA Tour first started this event back in 2010. Which is surprising since I don’t remember much. And, really, this stretch from the US Open through the Open Championship blends together rather seamlessly. The Par 72s that just beg the players to fire at every pin have vanished. It seems every week the Tour is just making things as difficult as possible for everyone involved. After the 2010 debut of TPC Old White on the schedule, I thought three things: 1) Wow, this course is pretty easy. 2) It’s strange that the 18th is a Par 3 with a giant hill in the middle of the green. 3) “Old White” is probably the most telling name in all of golf – it captures the entire demo! I mean, Tom Watson and Nick Faldo are in the field, and Maroon 5 is playing a concert over the weekend.
Event organizers agreed with me on point No. 1, lengthening the course in 2011 to keep the scoring from breaching into outrageous territory. Also, in 2010, Stuart Appleby fired a Sunday 59 to win. Maybe that’s why it lingers in my mind. Wouldn’t expect that to happen again. The birdies will be piled up in bulk, yes, but the winner will likely max out around -20. As always, a hot putter is essential to success and leaning towards the best (Sang-Moon Bae, Andrew Loupe, Michael Thompson, Morgan Hoffmann, etc) is a great way to mine cheap value, but I prefer doing that in salary cap leagues. For regular formats, I want well-rounded games featuring players that give themselves plenty of opportunities to score - aka. Greens in Regulation Percentage.
Gary Woodland & Bubba Watson – Thin week in the Y! “A-List” so I’m keeping things simple and going with the style of game that should succeed at Old White – just hit as many greens in regulation as possible and pray the putts start falling. Woodland’s distance off the tee masks his shoddy long iron and putting game and, frankly, it’s been a fairly effective strategy this season. Sure, at first glance, it doesn’t appear that way, with just four Top 10s in 16 starts, but that’s not the entire story. After missing the cut at the Frys.com back in October, he’s reeled off 15 consecutive cuts made. At an event that delivers results as capricious from year-to-year as the Greenbrier, having a bit of safety on the roster is critical. Plus, he’s familiar with the layout, playing this event in each of its four years, finishing T4 in 2011. Everything that Woodland does well, Bubba just does it better: 11th GIR%, fifth in Par 4 scoring, first in driving distance and fifth in Birdie average. Yes, Bubba’s putter has cooled as of late, but he’s still 44th in SG-Putting for the year. Watson underperformed on this site last year, T30, but has since purchased property in White Sulphur Springs, and has possibly become too inundated with the entire resort.
Bill Haas & Webb Simpson – A disastrous Sunday in DC, squashed Haas’ productive week at Congressional, but he played the weekend for the 21st straight time (minus one medical withdrawal at The Heritage). Anticipate seeing him on Sunday this week as well, likely near the leaderboard summit. Again, going back to birdie opportunities, Haas ranks T17 in GIR%, something that has fueled his success on Old White over the years. Dating back to 2011, Haas has turned in finishes of T2, T32 and T9 - tough to argue with those results. Webb too has been solid in West Virginia the last three seasons notching two Top 10s in those starts, but he’s taken an alternate approach, relying on his flat stick to inflate his bank account. Although, Simpson is about Tour average GIR% (80th), his ninth ranked putting allows him to convert his birdie chances. Along with being deadly from 150 to 200 yards away, it’s the reason he’s 21st in Par 4 performance and 28th in Par 4 birdies or better. A crucial number at a course with 12 of them spread across the resort.
Steve Stricker & Ted Potter Jr. – There have been a slew of out-of-nowhere winners since the tournament’s inception - BWONGGGGGGGGGGGG – but if you want to guess which one of the scrubs in the field will be the next Jonas Blixt or Scott Stallings, go ahead, make yourself mad. Those sorts of picks are better suited for the daily salary cap game. In standard Fantasy Golf, go with the best bets whenever possible, especially when you don't have to fear wasting season eligibility. There’s a pretty simple rule of thumb for Stricker, if he’s in the field, use him. He’s made all six cuts in 2014, posting T13, T6 and T21 his last three starts. It’s not like he was picking on scrubs at weak events either. No, those results came at The Players, Memorial and US Open. He’ll have no issues in a glorified Web.com Tour field. OK, I know I said you can’t just dig up the randos that win this event, but Potter Jr. isn’t one of those guys, since he won here in 2012, and he fits the mold of the past winners. He’s been playing awful all season, missing seven of ten cuts coming in, yet he always plays well at the Greenbrier. A lot of that success has to do with his driving accuracy, 13th on Tour. His putting has been bottom of the barrel in 2014 to date – 124th in SG-Putting – but that’s nothing new. He’s never been great with the flat stick. However, on TPC Old White, he always has his stroke working. Experience at a particular layout matters, and Potter Jr. knows this one very well. He finished ninth in the field last year in putting en route to a T6 and I’d expect him to be in the mix again. The best news? Very few others are going to have him, so creating a points gap between you and the competition is very much in play if he can remain consistent.
Jimmy Walker & Brendon Todd – I have the urge to keep starting Todd based on how well he’s played entering play – 1st, T5, T8, T17, T5 in his last five starts – and how everything he does well suits TPC Old White – sixth in stroke gained-putting and fifth in Par 3 birdies or better. But, all that’s done is earn him a spot on the bench to begin the week - you gotta start Jimmy; mainly because he’s cool like a fool in swimming poooo… poooo… pool, on this course, at least. On top of being the best player on Tour this season, this particular layout really amplifies what he does well: 28th GIR%, fourth in SG-Putt, 16th in driving distance, second in Par 3 birdies or better, fourth in Par 4 birdies or better and second in birdie or better conversion percentage. Need I go on? Why not… He has Top 10s in three of his past four starts, and has a pair of T4s to his credit at this event from 2010 and 2011… and that was before he was awesome.
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