by Patrick Mayo
Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Defending Champ: Dustin Johnson
Fantasy Golf is like Alf, it’s back!!!!!!! Although, not in POG form .
The first of 40 Fantasy golf events tees off Friday on the Plantation Course at Kupalua in Hawaii, because this is January, and even California is still a bit too nippy to welcome these guys, who I hear are good , to the links.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re new to the game:
- It’s low intensive. Literally, it takes five minutes a week to play. And I happen to know the difference between ‘literally’ and ‘figuratively’, it really does take 5 mins – no hyperbole. Just get your picks in by first swing Thursday morning, check back in Friday night (or super early Saturday morning) and make certain all the players in your starting lineup have made the cut. If not, get those bums out. DONE.
- Remember to make your picks for every event. It’s inevitable, at some point of the season, you’ll forget to submit a lineup or two – just don’t make a habit of it, it’ll prove costly. And like the elite golfers, scramble to salvage your week with any active player on your team immediately.
- The two most impactful tournaments of the 40 are not Majors, WGC events or The Players. No, the two where you’ll score the most points: The first and last. Fantasy Golf is a socialist haven for scoring – I’ve heard the same thing about Norway  too! Each event is weighed equally, so capitalizing on fields that have been zapped with a shrink ray  is the key to claiming both seasonal and year-long championships. This week’s Tournament of Champions features just 30 golfers. The Tour Championship to conclude the FedEx Cup, also has 30. If you’re not piling up points at these events, you’ve already lost.
- While making contrarian picks is the best way to separate your squad from the rest of the plaid pantsproletariat – sorry, forgot this was golf – bourgeoisie, not extracting full usage from top players that stick to a limited schedule is worthy of the insane stamp . Use Tiger every time he plays. Ditto for Steve Stricker. Look,Phil Mickelson – and by extension, Bones – is my least favorite athlete of all time, from any sport, but it doesn’t prevent me from inserting him into my roster when I can. Just because I can’t stand the guy, doesn’t cloud my judgment. This is universal to all Fantasy Sports: Winning is all that matters. And if Hefty can help with that, he’ll be in my lineup.
And that’s it.
If you’ve never played before I could not recommend it more. It’s fun, quick and gives you something to do at work on a boring Wednesday afternoon. If you’re already a fan it’ll expand your knowledge of Tour’s immense depth and give you a reason to tune into early round coverage of any event. If you haven’t a clue, no matter. Since golf’s the least predictable Fantasy sport, you’ll have just as good of a chance of winning as anyone else regardless. And FUN FACT,Fantasy Golfers have the highest average annual income of any Fantasy sport . So like golf in real life, it’ll make you appear affluent just by association! Win/Win.
Oh, if you want to join a league, but lack the required number of friends to make that reality, I have you covered. I’mopening up my home league to anyone who’d like to join . Veteran and neophyte alike are welcome – just make sure to have a hilarious name. And if you perpetually don’t set your roster, YOU’RE LAUNCHED, PAL!!!
Yahoo Group ID: 4739
Plus, you always get the extra bonus of knowing who I’m taking every week. Use that info to your advantage. You’ll need it need to beat me, and the defending champ, the Frozen Golfer . And don’t forget to check out our Golf Year in Review. It was a good one…
Dustin Johnson – There are reams of reasons to side with DJ at Kapalua: He’s the defending champ, his four appearances are tied (with Zach Johnson) for most of anyone in the field, he’s one of the Tour’s top athletes, he can hit the ball over those mountains over there and enters playing some of his best golf, ever, finishing no worse than 18th in any of his past four tournaments – including two legit showings among the game’s elite – a solo fifth at East Lake and a win in Shanghai at the WGC-HSBC Championship. But none of that matters. One of the old-timey scouts inMoneyball accurately pegged Johnson’s future success when he said, “Ugly girlfriend means no confidence.” So what happened in 2013? DJ bedded uberbabe Paulina Gretzky , locked that down and put together his most successful season on the links. Don’t want to fully attribute Johnson’s ascension to the Great Ones ? Then you look like a FOOL .
Matt Kuchar – Of all the names strapping on the soft spikes in the season opener, Kuchar is the one that will be started on the most Fantasy teams. With good cause too, he’s about as safe as it gets. Kuch has three starts at the Plantation Course and has three Top 10s. I hear that’s OK. And in a field featuring just 30 golfers you can ill afford to go contrarian and leave Kuchar on the bench – there are too many points to be lost if he continues his consistent play.
Billy Horschel – One of the problems with such a condensed field is plucking names from a giant group of mediocrity. If the entire pack of 2013 winners were going to be in action this wouldn’t be an issue. That’s the not the case, though. With no Tiger Woods, Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Graeme McDowell or Justin Rose in Hawaii, you’re forced to gamble on some iffy talent. So why not Horschel? He was a Fantasy savior through the first few months last year, pumping out quality finish after quality finish, culminating with a super stretch starting in April where he posted a T2, T3, T9 in consecutive tournaments before finally breaking though at the Zurich Classic with an unbelievable (well, probably not unbelievable since, you know, I watched it happen) walk off putt for his first career win . He faded as the season moved along, but that happens. I like Horschel to build off his 2013 success and no better place to start than the year’s first event.
Harris English – I’m not really a believer of “momentum” in most sports. Trying to weigh the impact of unquantifiable things isn’t something I like putting much stock in when there’s plenty of empirical data to be had. Not so much the case in golf. Sure, you can look at driving distance, putting, GIR percentage, scrambling ability, strokes gained on the green and the host of other links stats, but where competition takes place with a completely different set of variables each week, there’s only so much information we can extract from those numbers. Sooooooooooooo, that means putting some blind faith into recent success is a logical way assessing a golfer’s ability to play well in the short term. Unlike all other sports, the unknown of what’s going on between the players’ ears is something we can never know, so current results are about all we can look at to project the non-elite class of player. English, coming off the most triumphant  season of his short career, enters this week spitting Dylan levels of hot fire . He’s one of the few in the field to play an extensive fall schedule and all those reps paid off in Mexico last month, winning for the second time in 2013 at Mayakoba. He should be able to parlay his momentum into another quality finish to kick start his 2014.
Scott Brown – After spending the majority of the past two years grinding on the Web.com Tour and lower level PGA events, the generically named one now has full status for 2014 and a quick start could be the determining factor of keeping it into 2015. And, Brown has replicated the English model to keep his game at a high level, playing five events in the PGA’s fall lineup and churning out some respectable results – missing just one cut and collecting a pair of Top 4s at the McGladrey and Frys.com Open. Most players in the field have taken a lengthy vacation while Scotty B will be in mid-season form, he’ll use that to his advantage.
Jason Dufner – It’s hard to tell which Dufner is going to show up week-to-week, but since I’m passing on Adam Scott – who’s never played well at Kapalua – I feel the need to load up on the rest of the top ranked players. And at No. 11 in the world, Dufner is a must have.
Brandt Snedeker – Many will forget Casper the Friendly Golfer  was rapidly approaching Tiger’s position atop the World Golf Rankings until he suffered his fourth cracked rib in the last six years. Not a preferred malady for someone who contorts his midsection for a living. Sneds walked off the course at Pebble that week a winner, but sat out the next six events to rest his ribs. And despite a summer win in Canada, he posted capricious results the rest of the season – the consistency he’d established at the outset 2013 vanished as the year unfolded. After his victory north of the 49th, Snedeker notched just a lone Top 10 over his final eight events, capped off by an untimely tumble from a Segway in China and a knee injury. Terrific. That fall has kept him sidelined for the past two months, but HE’S BACK. Kapalua is his first start since his oriental excursion and he claims to be healthy . Who am I to call the guy a liar? Snedeker always starts the season strongly, and if the knee truly is no longer an issue, there’s no reason he can’t replicate the bronze medal performance he posted here last year… or maybe even better.
Kevin Streelman – There’s a cluttered group of first time winners making the trek to Kapalua and no one really knows how any will deal with the verticality and wind the Plantation Course provides, but I have faith in Streelman. One of the overlooked aspects of teeing off in Hawaii is the massive time zone swing. No concern for Streelman, however. He achieved jet leg immunity over the last few months, glob trotting from South Africa to Australia back to the good ol’ #MERICA . He’ll be adjusted, prepped and ready to contend.