At one point on Sunday, more than 20 players were tied for the lead at the Farmers Insurance Open. Only one was able to separate from the pack, though… Jon Rahm played the final eight holes -6 and outpaced Charles Howell III and C. T. Pan by three shots. Rahm eagled both par fives on the back nine, including knocking in a video game putt from more than 60 feet out on the 72nd hole. This was Rahm’s first victory on the PGA Tour, and he has the look of a monster ready to embark on a 20-year spree of tournament destruction.
But, who cares? Let’s chat about fantasy!
2017 Farmers Insurance Open recap
162 points; Season Ranking – 1,785 (96th percentile)
Without griping too much, it was another frustrating week. Missed opportunities ran wild yet again, as I had Tony Finau on the bench for his third-round 67, which would have been good for 20 points. I left Howell III on the pine the last two days while foolishly hoping Hideki Matsuyama would have a merry no-pressure Sunday. One of these weeks, I’ll get my starters correct and carve away at the top of the mountain. Nevertheless, I made up more than 1,000 spots on the Yahoo! overall leaderboard.
What went right and wrong?
Fairway – My gut pick of Finau paid off, as he finished T4 and held the lead on Sunday. Fading Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka was the right move, as each MC. I hinted at Rahm “dancing with the leaders” and noted that Matsuyama wouldn’t hit the top 10. Many other bits of prognostication in last week’s preview came true. And then…
Rough – Jimmy Walker has become completely untrustworthy. I bit hard last week and it cost me precious points in the early rounds. I crashed and burned with Martin Laird, who seemed to have a large up arrow heading into the tournament. I tossed out Brooks Koepka as my second gut pick and I should have just tossed him out.
The Arizona desert awaits! Vaminos!
2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open Yahoo! fantasy golf picks
- Brendan Steele – He’s the class of the feeble ‘A’ Group, bringing a 6-6-20 start to the season and a 53-5-6-6-26-17 run at TPC Scottsdale over the past six years to the table. He’s not known to be a long par-4 specialist, which could be the difference in a top-20 and winning this week. Regardless, there is no aura of letdown around Steele this week. Fire at will!
- Gary Woodland – His profitable start to the season continued last week, and his finish would have looked sexier if not for a double bogey on the 14th hole on Sunday. Woodland is a noted birdie-maker who crushes par 5s, but his lack of success here (6-7 but only one top-15) is a bit alarming. I still like him better than Patrick Reed this week, but I’m hoping to stay with Steele all weekend.
- Patrick Reed – Speak of the devil… Reed should be in contention every week, especially in a less-than-elite field. His course history isn’t too much of a concern, although he finished 40th in 2015 following a Weiskopf course surgery. Both times we’ve seen Reed in 2017, he has come off as solid, yet unspectacular. I’m fading him this week, but his class means I won’t yell if he’s on your team.
- Rickie Fowler – I was right to pass last week but I wouldn’t fault you if you rolled the Rickie dice this week. Keep in mind that he’s a total flake… his playoff loss last year followed a run here of MC-MC-46, which followed a run of 2-13-26. Of course it did. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in contention Sunday. His form of 36-MC isn’t inspiring, but he’s such a roller coaster that he might just win.
- Jordan Spieth – The ‘B’ group is loaded this week, so there are plenty of options if you need to fade Spieth to save starts. Finished seventh at TPC Scottsdale in 2015, and third in his first two tournaments of the calendar year. Skill set fits across the board. The contrarian play might be to start him out of the gate and don’t look back. I’ve already used him twice, so I’ll wait.
- Hideki Matsuyama – He has looked decidedly human his last two times out, but he proved his class in the last few months and his finishes of 4-2-1 here (not a typo) leave nothing to chew your fingernails over. If he doesn’t contend, it will be considered a major upset. Ride him for all six furlongs and spend your energy elsewhere.
- Justin Thomas – You have to at least consider him, right? Right? He placed 17th here two years ago and MC last year, but he’s JUSTIN FREAKIN’ THOMAS now. The course sets up well to be abused by his length, and if his putter stays hot, he almost has to be among the top 25. He’s due for a letdown, but I can’t see him falling far.
- Ryan Moore – In any other week, Moore would be the focal point. He comes in flying a bit under the radar, having not played since finishing third at the Tournament of Champions. His last four seasons here of 4-6-11-17 show that the course change didn’t affect his game. His stats don’t line up with the profile of past winners, but that hasn’t stopped him in the past and it shouldn’t halt you from using him.
- Bubba Watson – He’s a co-captain on Rickie Fowler’s All-Flake Team. He openly admitted he hates the course, but his record here is impeccable. Bubba has finished outside the top 30 once in the past eight editions but he hasn’t been sharp lately… but he’s Bubba. At any time he could dominate with his driver and run away from the field. I just don’t think it will be this week.
- Phil Mickelson – Flake #3… Tied for 11th last year on the new design, and is just as likely to win as MC. His form is good coming out of major surgery, and he’s always a popular play in the desert following his record-breaking 28-under-par performance in 2013. You know what you are getting by playing Phil… you don’t need me to warn you, right?
- Harris English – I love this play because many will focus on the big ‘B’ names. English seems to have broken out of his slump with a solid 14th place finish last week following three ugly MC. He loves this event, as evidenced by his 5-5 record. Finished 3rd last year on the new layout, and 12 of his last 20 rounds here have been in the 60s.
- Russell Knox – Hasn’t been outside the top 20 this season. Finished T15 in 2015, his only trip to the WMPO. He isn’t long, which is a skill that has played well here, but he’s straight and he can make birdies in bunches. Not much of a reach, but he’s the gut play of the week. I’m looking for a top-10 finish and a chance to dance on Sunday.
- Webb Simpson – I debated whether to waste space on him, but his last four finishes at the WMPO are 8-8-10-14, and he hasn’t been horrible lately. Finished 13th at the Sony Open and made the cut at the CareerBuilder, but never fired. Coming off a week of rest, I like his chances at a finish in the 15-30 range.
- Robert Streb – Total reach here… or is he? Finished 10-37 the last two years on the new design, and arrives off a ninth-place finish last week. He’s long enough to stay with the big boys, and if he finds the fairway at all this weekend, he should make the cut and collect a decent paycheck.
- Bryce Molder – Sneaky play alert… finished between 41st and 50th each of the last three weeks. He has played 7-7 weekends here with a sixth-place finish a year ago. I don’t expect him to win, but he should pay better dividends than names twice his size.
- Jon Rahm – Hard not to lead off with Rahm, if only out of respect. The ‘C’ group is straight fire this week, so if you believe in a winning hangover, then fade the new star. His T5 here in 2015 was a glimpse into the future, and you already know what he did last week. Rahm’s distance is sick, and his approach game is elite. No great reason to bench him, although it’s awfully tough to win twice in a row.
- Keegan Bradley – Keegan will need strong finishes to have enough money for side games with Phil… MC at the Sony Open is the only gash in his season, and when his driver is working, he can win on any course. Finished fourth last week and his four made cuts in five tries here saw him post 15-24-17-24. Seems like more of a gamble than it should be…
- Tony Finau – My gut play of last week came through with a fourth-place finish after holding a Sunday lead. Finau is long and filthy off the tee, and will attack par-fives with anger. He missed the cut here in 2016 after a 22nd-place result the year before, but he’s a much better player at this point. Tee-to-green is his specialty, and if he fires up the driver again, he’ll make a run at the top.
- Zach Johnson – Speaking of tee-to-green… unfortunately, he occupies the final seat in the Rickie Fowler Flake Car. Loves the new design with 10-14 finishes the last two years and an average score of just under 69. He just misses too many cuts when he’s not supposed to. Hard to pick two players in ‘C’ this week, but if you leave ZJ out due to his wild inconsistency, I wouldn’t blame you.
- Brooks Koepka – Only had two rounds to knock the rust off in his MC last week, so the 2015 WMPO winner arrives as an enigma. He muddled his way to a 41st-place finish in his title defense last year. He was my second gut play last week and I’m going to the well one more time with BK. He’s simply too talented to let this course swallow him. Play with confidence.
- Pat Perez – Just when you thought the wheels had fallen off following the Sony Open, he responds with a fourth-place finish last week. He has never made the first page at TPC Scottsdale in 15 tries, but he’s too hot to ignore completely. A finish somewhere in the 20-30 range sounds about right… if he can answer the challenge of playing at home in white hot form, color me impressed.
- Brian Harman – Two top-10s in the last two weeks and two made cuts (66-58) in the last two years here warrant inclusion. Seems like a better DFS play than Yahoo! but you never know. Playing for the fourth week in a row, and very few players ascend to the top in week four of the bender.
- Daniel Berger – Not sure why, but I feel like Berger could contend this week. His tee-to-green game is typically solid and he can make a lot of birdies. Finished 10th here in 2015 but his recent form is uninspiring. Probably won’t see a lot of ‘C’ play behind the names at the top, but don’t say I didn’t throw you one…
- Patrick Rodgers – Thanks to the Atlanta Falcons, he’s the only Rodgers playing this weekend… He let the tournament slip away last week, but still showed enough with the driver to make people believe he’ll be a star. Posted a 17th-place finish last year in his only WMPO. Hard to bench a Zach Johnson or a Keegan Bradley for Rodgers, but dumber moves have been made.
My Yahoo! fantasy golf lineup
(* – denotes first round starter)
- A – Brendan Steele* and Rickie Fowler
- B – Hideki Matsuyama*, Ryan Moore*, Bubba Watson and Russell Knox
- C – Brooks Koepka* and Zach Johnson
My roster drafts had nearly 30 different combinations. How do I bench Rahm and Finau? Do I burn a start on Spieth against an average field? Why on Earth should I trust Rickie Fowler? I simply chose eight players who I think could win the tournament and have the ability to go low in any given round. Yahoo! is about scoring… anyone outside a top-3 finish might as well finish 70th if they don’t have a low round. See Hadwin, Adam… two weeks ago, he was -13 in one round, -6 combined in the other three. I didn’t start him for his 59, and he was useless the rest of the weekend.
Knox and Koepka are the gut plays this week, and also great Scrabble words. I think one of them rises up and wins the tournament. This weekend is the most fun event on the PGA Tour, so grab a beer and stay glued to the tube! Good luck!