What a fabulous first event of the FedEx Cup playoffs at The Barclays last weekend. That is unless you had Matt Kuchar, or uhh, Jonas Blixt. I loved Blixt last week, and he was sitting at a respectable 7-under heading into Sunday’s final round at Liberty National. However, he blew up and had an 81 to tumble way down the standings.
As for Kuchar, he was a co-leader heading into Sunday, but his game fell apart and he, too, swam with the fishes like so many others along the shores of Hudson Bay.
Fast forward to this weekend in Boston. It’s Labor Day weekend, and the Deutsche Bank Championship is unique in that it begins on Friday. Thus the posting of this column a day later than perhaps you’re used to seeing it. The championship round will be Monday afternoon, so if you’re having a barbeque, or just enjoying the day off of work, remember to tune in.
The field is down to 100 golfers this weekend, and things will continue to get pared down significantly as the playoffs roll on. You would think lesser golfers would make picking less challenging, but these are some of the best golfers in the world, and it is actually more challenging than ever.
Deutsche Bank Championship, Norton, Mass.
Purse – $8 million
Winner Share – $1,440,000.00
FedEx Cup Points – Top 70 advance in playoffs
Course – TPC Boston, Norton, Mass.
Friday, Aug. 30 – Golf Channel – 3-6pm ET
Saturday, Aug. 31 – Golf Channel – 3-6pm ET
Sunday, Sept. 1 – Golf Channel – 1-3pm ET, NBC – 3-6pm ET
Monday, Sept. 2 – Golf Channel – 11:30am-1:30pm ET, NBC – 2-6pm ET
*** WEATHER ALERT ***
The forecast for Friday and Saturday look good, calling for mostly clear skies and temperatures around 80 degrees. There is a 10 percent chance of precipitation for the first two rounds, so things should go swimmingly up until ‘Moving Day’. Sunday calls for a little bit more of a brisk wind, although nothing substantial, and a 30 percent chance of isolated thunderstorms. The forecast for the final round Monday calls for that same brisk southwest wind, and a 40 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms. Hopefully Mother Nature will cooperate.
TPC Boston is 7,214 yards of tranquil New England scenery. It’s too bad they don’t have this tournament in October, as it would be absolutely beautiful with the colors of the changing leaves.
These links are famous for its ‘chocolate mounds’, small, Hershey’s Kiss shaped grassy mounds which add to the difficulty in the rough. Golfers will see them immediately on the first two holes. It behooves the player to be extremely accurate with their tee shots, as anyone straying into the rough could have a heck of a time with those mounds, as well as plentiful fairway bunkers which pose a problem.
The fifth hole can be good for those who are accurate, but again, anyone going into the rough could have some ugly numbers to ruin their day. Plus, there is a tiered green, so even those who manage to get to the dance floor in two strokes will still do well just to earn par.
Those in the gallery will get a workout following their favorite golfers along the seventh hole, a 600-yard Par 5. There is an ominous fairway bunker which will make everyone think hard about either laying up or taking a leap of faith with a blind third shot. This will be a hole which can change the leaderboard in the blink of an eye.
The first few holes on the back nine aren’t terribly challenging as far as length, but there are plenty of bunkers and tricky greens to make up for it. Accuracy and finesse, not power, will rule the day. Remember that when setting those Fantasy lineups.
The 15th hole has an insane FOUR fairway bunkers, and an elevated green is guarded by two more bunkers. If you’re looking for a sand save lesson, you might want to set your DVR. Plenty of pros are likely to get sandy on this link.
The 16th hole looks easy on paper. It is just 161 yards, which is a piece of cake even for your weekend duffer. However, there is water in front and around the left rear, a less-than-flat green. It is a very picturesque, and dangerous, hole.
The final hole is a bear at 530 yards. The 18th hole features two bunkers in the middle of the fairway, leaving those to decide if they want to blast away and carry them, or play it safe and lay up. There will be eagle chances here, which could turn the tournament around, even if a player finds themselves down a stroke or two after 71 holes on Sunday. The scorecards will vary dramatically depending on the player and his choices, and that will make for a tremendous, and unpredictable finish!
Rory hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since he picked up a win at TPC Boston last season. In fact, he has only one Top 3 finish, and five Top 10 finishes this season. He ranks a rather ordinary 35th on the money list, and he just hasn’t been dominant this year. However, he has been showing signs of life lately, finishing 27th or better in three straight events, and he turned in an eighth-place showing at Oak Hill before managing a rather respectable 19th last weekend at Liberty National.
Snedeker has looked lost lately, missing the cut in each of his past two events, and he has been 66th or worse in three straight tournaments. So why pick him? Well, in salary cap Fantasy leagues, his price tag has dropped dramatically, and he is a tremendous value. The 2012 FedEx Cup champion ranks seventh on the PGA Tour in All-Around Ranking, ninth in putting, and fifth in sand save percentage. The latter will serve him well, as there are plenty of bunkers at TPC Boston.
Bradley saw his streak of three straight Top 20 finishes come to an end last weekend at Liberty National, but he still wasn’t awful at 33rd place. Now, the Hopkinton (Mass.) High School graduate looks for a little home-course advantage. Bradley missed the cut at TPC Boston in 2011, but he bounced back with a solid 13th place showing last year. He will be among those in contention when Sunday rolls around. He has the temperament, the experience, the finesse when necessary, and the comfort level being back in Massachusetts.
There’s not much to dislike about Furyk’s game lately, as he has rattled off four consecutive Top 10 finishes. He has also posted a 72 or better in 16 consecutive rounds. Like Bradley, Furyk is the kind of golfer who has the temperament to slay TPC Boston. You don’t necessarily have to be a heavy hitter to win this tournament, just smart and accurate. Furyk is ranked sixth on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, hitting 69.64 percent of fairways, well above the 60.81 PGA Tour average.
Merrick is a deep sleeper that your average Fantasy owner might overlook. He has made the cut in seven of his past eight events, and he does have a victory this season back at the Northern Trust Open (Feb. 14-17). It might be a bit ambitious to expect a Top 10 finish, but a Top 25 wouldn’t be shocking at all.
Summerhays quietly turned in a Top 15 finish last weekend at The Barclays, and he has been 15th or better in four of his past six events. Lately he has been all of nothing, so you’ll know early Thursday how this tournament will go. Since May 30, Summerhays is 80th or worse in five tournaments he has missed the cut, and 15th or better in four events he has made the cut.
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Stenson finally showed he is human last week at The Barclays. He started out with a 65 in the opening round, but was progressively worse as the event went on, ending up tied for 43rd. That ended a streak of three straight finishes with over a half-million dollars in winnings. Still, over his past 16 rounds, he has been at or below 71 in 13 rounds. He has been 43rd or better in 13 of his 15 events this season, so when you start him, you know what you’re getting. Stenson leads the PGA Tour in Greens in Regulation (GIR) at 70.94 percent, and that is a big reason he has been so impressive lately.
Chances are you haven’t thought about Streelman recently, and you’re not alone. After a red-hot April into May, which saw him post three straight Top 6 finishes, he managed to finish 59th or worse in six of his seven events from May 30 to Aug. 4. He had a renaissance at Oak Hill in The PGA Championship, and carried over momentum into The Barclays last weekend. Look for Streelman to keep up the good work and earn himself another solid payday.
Daily Fantasy Selections (based on DraftStreet.com salaries or tiers)
Tier 1 – Rory McIlroy – Will Rory win his second straight Deutsche Bank Championship?
Tier 2 – Henrik Stenson – He cooled off a bit last weekend, but is still a great value
Tier 3 – Keegan Bradley – I’m putting all of my eggs in the Keegan Bradley basket this weekend
Tier 4 – Jim Furyk – The quiet Furyk could make plenty of noise with his sticks in Beantown
Tier 5 – Jordan Spieth – The youngster doesn’t seem to get spooked, regardless of the opposition
Tier 6 – Rory Sabbatini – Sabbatini has rolled up five straight Top 20 finishes
SALARY CAP DRAFT
Henrik Stenson $20,907 – Stenson took a little step backward last week, but he is still solid
Jim Furyk $18,261 – Furyk has a good chance to win this one
Keegan Bradley $18,602 – The Boston-area native just might entertain the hometown gallery
Brandt Snedeker $17,503 – You can do way worse with your fourth option
John Merrick $12,387 – As mentioned above, Merrick is an undervalued play
Kevin Streelman $12,115 – Streelman has turned it around and is worth a look
*All stats up-to-date as of 08/28/13.