Some experts went public with thoughts that Jordan Spieth had a “down” year in 2016 with only two victories, and he responded by stating that 2017 will be an excellent season. Spieth 1, Experts 0.
The 23-year-old Texan pulled away from the field in the third round, then masterfully managed Pebble Beach on Sunday to register his ninth PGA Tour victory. Four shots back of Spieth’s 19-under total was the late-charging Kelly Kraft, and Dustin Johnson earned a solo third-place finish at 14 under. The quirky, three-course rotation proved difficult for some, and the rain and fog delays made for an interrupted routine for the world’s best players. As stated in last week’s preview, the cream often rises at Pebble Beach, and last week was yet another example.
So how did my fake golf team and predictions fare?
2017 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am recap
Yahoo! Tournament Points – 237; Season Points – 1,077; Yahoo! Ranking – 268 (99th Percentile)
Last week was solid as I jumped up into the top-300 overall behind the power of Spieth and D.J. I made the decision early on to shelve Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose unless they were in the hunt, and I didn’t need either one of them.
I made one strategic move – in two of my leagues, I was tied on Saturday night with another player seemingly ready to use the same starters as I would in Round 4. In one league, I would lose the tiebreaker, and in another, the weekly prize pot would be split. I decided to fade Spieth on Sunday for Rose in an aggressive move to try to take down both pots. It didn’t work, as Rose butchered the greens on his way to a 1-over round, three shots behind Spieth’s total for the day. In the end, it cost me six Yahoo! points, but it was fun to make a move to win.
If you are playing a Yahoo! league with a weekly payout or some other benefit, it doesn’t hurt you to check your opponents’ team page before Sunday. Yahoo! obviously doesn’t show you who your opponent is starting until the rosters lock, but you can get a good idea for what you might need to win. One of my leagues offers a three-week contest bye for high score in week six, so the potential benefit was well worth the risk.
As for players, what worked and what didn’t?
Fairway – I happen to accurately call Snedeker finishing exactly fourth. Reed finished just inside my predicted top-30, and never got close to the top. Burning a Spieth start obviously paid great dividends. I never liked Webb Simpson’s chances and he rewarded me with a MC. Rahm was a solid choice as a second ‘C’ player, especially because J.B. Holmes didn’t fire until the weather cleared up. Matt Jones had another solid week.
Rough – I didn’t trust Jason Day and he made his way to T5. Rose didn’t compete and I loved him coming into the tournament. I should have known better to waste keystrokes on Sean O’Hair and Martin Laird, both who MDF.
One more week in California --- Riviera awaits!
2017 Genesis Open Yahoo! fantasy golf picks
Dustin Johnson – For the second consecutive week, DJ is the crème de la crème. I noted last week that Pebble Beach will always be DJ’s valentine; Riviera checks in as the girl he doesn’t quite pick every year. 7-9 with five top-5 finishes in this event, all without ever hoisting the trophy. His form is elite and he is in the midst of a stretch that could carry him to the Hall of Fame. Burn a Yahoo! start here with confidence.
Patrick Reed – He performed as expected last week, finishing T23 despite playing in bad weather. Reed isn’t a bomber or a GIR machine, but he checks enough of the boxes (including short-game prowess) to take a look at this week. His only run around Riviera produced a MC four years ago, but he has stepped up in class (and attitude) mightily since then. I don’t see him winning, so I will fade him again, but a top-20 finish wouldn’t shock me.
Jason Day – Hasn’t made the drive to Riviera since 2012 and is just 1-3 with a 62nd-place finish on the famed track. Followed up a miserable Saturday last week with a solid Sunday to finish T5, but there seems to be no reason to burn a start amid uncertainty, especially with solid ‘A’ options. Like most of my clothes, I just don’t like the fit.
Adam Scott – Here’s the ultimate wild card. His last three tours here ended with 17-10-2 finishes, and he’s a past champion (2005) who followed up his title with a runner-up showing. He looked sharp last month in Singapore until the final round, and he should arrive fresh and hungry. I’ll roster him alongside DJ and if he’s in the mix, I might start Scott on one of the weekend days. Oi Oi Oi!
Bill Haas – Sneaky play here...most will look at his MC the last two years and be scared off, but my feeling is he’s in the hunt on Sunday. We haven’t seen him since the CareerBuilder Challenge, but Jay’s kid had a solid start to 2017 with finishes of 13-17 in his first two runs. The 2012 winner followed the victory with a third-place finish but hasn’t hit the top-10 in any of his other nine trips here. Look for a top-30 finish.
Brendan Steele – I like Steele a lot, and he’s probably my third ‘A’ player this week...but I can only use two. He has made the cut in each of his last five visits to Riviera including two top-15 finishes. He’s in excellent form, with results of 6-6-20-16 in 2017. He rested last week, and if his driver cooperates, he could scare the leaders on Sunday. If Scott worries you, Steele is a solid contingency plan.
Shane Lowry – His form is solid and his driver is excellent. Those two notes usually play well at Riviera. However, he has never teed it up in this tournament, and no player has won here in his maiden voyage. A very deep ‘A’ list means you can leave Lowry alone at the dance. Sorry, Shane.
Marc Leishman – I love this as another contrarian play. He has nothing worse than a 24th-place finish since the calendar turned, and if the weather gets nasty, he sports a solid advantage. Leesh finished fifth here last year and has two other top-20 posts at Riviera. I won’t roster him, but if you are chasing Yahoo! leaders already, throw a dart.
Hideki Matsuyama – The horse returns to a course where he’s had great success; 23-4-11 in three starts at Riviera is a great way to start a historical trend. His form is as good as any, and I’m not biting my nails over starts yet. He’s too young to have great course history all over the country, so this week is a positive exception. I don’t expect him to win this week, but he’ll score enough points in Yahoo! to make you feel warm that you burned a start. Besides, he’s the only sure thing. Read below.
Jordan Spieth – I hate the ‘B’ group this week. There is Matsuyama and then everyone else… no other slam dunks. Everyone else starts with Spieth, coming off a most impressive performance at Pebble Beach. He’s 2-4 here, but his two made cuts went for 12th and fourth. MC last year isn’t much of a worry. I’ve already used him three times and so I’ll fade Spieth this week and save him for venues where he tears it up. It’s still tough for anyone to win back-to-back on the Tour.
Justin Rose – This should be an automatic on the week of Valentine’s Day, but we got in a fight last week when he left his putter at home and I think I’m close to breaking up with him. That said, putting contests have not historically crept into Riviera, and Rose has made eight of nine cuts going back to 2005. Only one of those broke for a top-10, but he’s still a high-class player who was in great form before fading late last week. I’ll roster Rose and hope he treats me well.
Ryan Moore – He’ll be the forgotten ‘B’ player this week, but don’t be so quick to make that mistake. He knocked the rust off a few weeks back with an uninspiring performance at the WMPO and was in fantastic form before that. His skill set correlated to his success here make no sense, as he isn’t a long driver, but he’s made five of his last six Riviera cuts with nothing worse than a 27th-place finish. I’m not excited enough to roster him, but I don’t think he’ll flame out.
Paul Casey – This is the perfect roster start burn, as you likely won’t run out of starts and he has the talent and history to score you some points. Nothing special yet this year, but he’s improving off a MC at the Sony Open. He’s made his last four cuts here with a runner-up finish in 2015, and his success will be dictated by his driver, which is normally a good sign. I’m going to gamble with Casey and hope that Riv meets his eye this season.
Justin Thomas – The MC at the WMPO was predictable, as the spaceship always comes back to Earth. He’s another ‘B’ player who probably won’t be in your lineup 10 times this year, so this seems like a decent place to use a start. We all know what JT can do when he’s on, and he’s made the cut in both tours around Riviera. Few players have the ability to win every week, and JT is becoming one of those. Hit or miss.
Phil Mickelson – Phil is a Yahoo! nightmare. You can’t predict his tournament finish, to begin with, then he pulls his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act in the middle of rounds. Hacked his way to a 44 on the back nine Sunday following an opening 33. Seems to be a theme on the final day lately, and Riviera will be his fifth-straight week on the course. Two wins and two runners-up here are the only reason I’d even consider him this week.
Brandt Snedeker – Are the greens poa annua this week? Yes? Then you have to consider Sneds as an option. I’ll pass due to his abysmal history here; he’s 3-6 with two top-20s, but has only played one time at the Riv in the past four years and it was ugly. Better options to be had.
Bubba Watson – Here’s the 800-pound pink gorilla. I love playing guys in Yahoo! who can win, and he’s tamed this course twice in the past three years. Overall, he’s 6-10 making cuts, with no worse than a 17th-place finish when he sees the weekend. His form has been poor, especially showing an MC at the WMPO where he was a horse. I have no idea what to do with Bubba, so I’ll throw him at the end of the roster and hope I don’t have to start him, because as soon as I do, he’ll do something dumb.
Francesco Molinari – He isn’t very long, but the driver is extremely accurate. Three trips here have been less than fruitful, making the weekend twice but nothing in the top-39. He hasn’t played in three weeks, but his form was white hot. Molinari is a deep contrarian play and nothing else.
Adam Hadwin – Another sneaky move… he’s 2-2 here with finishes of 22nd and 16th, and his form has been solid of late. He won’t overpower the course, but he’s long enough to keep up with the big boys. Shhhh.
Jim Furyk – Do I have to? Hasn’t missed the cut here since 2008 and five of those weekends have been top-25 finishes. I don’t care. Father Time might be winning this battle. Pass.
Sergio Garcia – Sergio is riding high following his win at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic a few weeks ago, and his confidence should lead to a solid week. He’s the chalk choice of the ‘C’ group, and his MC at Riviera last year followed a 6-46-4-13-4 run. There will be no issue with starts for the season, and I’m hoping to ride Sergio at least three rounds. Fire at will!
J.B. Holmes – His unspectacular, solid season continues, but he was frustrating to watch last week. Needed a fantastic finish Saturday to make the cut, then poured in a 67 on Sunday to finish 23rd. His great success at Riviera came years ago, and his last nine trips have produced 7-6-3-12-8-MC-52-22-11, so he’s getting close again. He needs a decent putter to compete, but seems like a good fit opposite Sergio.
Brooks Koepka – To repeat, nobody has won here in their first attempt, but Koepka is the type of player to break that mold. If he can put together four good rounds and keep the ball in the fairway, he has a chance to win on any course requiring length. His last two tournaments have been extremely disappointing, but he’s still a star in the future. Keep your expectations tempered, but look for a surprise. Is that oxymoronic?
Charl Schwartzel – I can’t ever seem to trust this guy, even though I really like his game. He was solid to end 2016 and his game seems to fit Riviera, as evidenced by his 3-5-41-45 finishes the last four years. If you don’t like either of the two above him, Schwartzel presents an opportunity to roster a class player without much interference from your opponents. If not, then move on.
Keegan Bradley – Here’s another former major winner who has become unpredictable. His four tournaments in 2017 have yielded MC-25-4-MC, and his Riviera record includes MC-2-16-20-4-MC. I tend to believe his head and his driver are in a good place, and he’s my gut play of the week to hit the top-15. Hard to believe, but he hasn’t won a tournament since 2012… is this the week?
Ben An – Along the lines of Koepka, he’s a rookie here who has the distance to compete. He’s hot no matter the course, and his sixth-place finish at the WMPO included a 66-66-65 start before a fade to 73 on Sunday. In a sleepy ‘C’ group, An will be rostered by the deep diggers.
My Yahoo! fantasy golf lineup
(* - denotes first round starter)
- A – Dustin Johnson* and Adam Scott
- B – Hideki Matsuyama*, Justin Rose*, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey
- C – Sergio Garcia* and J.B. Holmes
The ‘B’ group scares me this week; I’m not greedy… just looking for two of my players to make the weekend. I’m all in on DJ and Sergio, and hoping not to move them from the lineup all weekend, unless Holmes and/or Scott offer a chance at bonus points. I think this is the year DJ gets over the Riviera hump and wins the tournament, but there are 15 other players who could rise to the top. I’m a bit itchy on not rostering my gut play of Keegan Bradley, but I love the upside of Holmes opposite Sergio.
The multi-round, pro-am, non-traditional, cutesy tournaments are behind us -- let’s tee it up and play some golf! Follow me at @commishjoe and feel free to send questions or thoughts. Good luck!