Rickie Fowler is often the forgotten man when conversations arise over the best young players in the world. Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have won multiple major championships. Jason Day is a major winner as well and has a dozen other top-10 major finishes. Justin Thomas created a load of buzz by winning both tournaments in Hawaii this year.
But what about Rickie? Where does he fit in?
Last week was a step toward a membership card for the club.
Fowler battled the wind and thick rough, and ran out to a four-shot lead by Saturday afternoon. That was the final margin, as his 12 under score bested the 8 under posted by Morgan Hoffman and Gary Woodland, who were one shot better than six golfers at minus 7. Despite critics who opined that Fowler couldn’t close, he birdied 12, 13 and 16, putting the tournament out of reach before giving back a shot on each of the final two holes. Save for a few errant drives on Sunday, Fowler seemed to be in complete control of his game, and is one of the hottest golfers in the world.
With the win, Fowler moves into the 10th position in the FedEx Cup Standings, and his confidence cup runneth over with Augusta just five weeks away. Is this the year Rickie breaks through as a major champion? Stay tuned…
So how did my fake golf team and predictions fare?
2017 The Honda Classic recap
Yahoo! Tournament Points – 186; Yahoo! Season Points – 1,427; Yahoo! Ranking – 52nd Overall (99th Percentile)
Despite the hours of research, fantasy golf is often peppered with luck – this was on full display last week with my team. The Electric Mayhem squad saw three of its players miss the cut, but with the Fowler win and a solid performance from the entire starting lineup on Saturday, I was able to finish dangerously close to the top 50 overall. Yahoo! doesn’t give exact numbers, but based on early season percentile rankings, it appears there are approximately 40,000 players. Needless to say, I’m pleased with how the season has started.
As for players, what worked and what didn’t?
Fairway – My mild endorsement of Rickie obviously paid off. The strong selection of Paul Casey to win wasn’t terrible, as he grinded to a T11 finish. All three of my gut plays saw the weekend; Woodland finished T2, and Rafa Cabrera Bello and Russell Henley both shot 74 on Sunday to finish T37 and T43, respectively. Fading Danny Willett, Scott Brown and Brooks Koepka was the right move. Kevin Kisner played to my prediction until a 77 on Sunday. I loved Tyrrell Hatton’s game and I should have been more bold last week.
Rough – Justin Thomas and Russell Knox both missed the cut after I was high on the pair. Daniel Berger sat for the weekend, marking the first time I had three MC on my team in the same week. Adam Scott finished T14, but I expected more. My vehement disdain for Luke Donald wasn’t completely warranted, as he posted a T27 finish.
The Tour flies to Mexico for the week before heading back to the States. Vamanos!
2017 WGC-Mexico Championship Yahoo! fantasy golf picks
I’ll preface this section by saying I have no idea what to expect this week. Various reports on websites and through Twitter state that the host course is a fair, tree-lined test of various shot types. At more than 7,500 feet above sea level, even the shortest of hitters will feel like Jamie Sadlowski this week. Justin Thomas tweeted a picture of shot statistics showing a 355-yard carry on one of his drives. Bombs away!
The entire field is chalk, and with this being a no-cut event, it’s difficult to pick the right strategy. Do we save starts for the elite and run with more obscure foreign players? Do we use WGC history to determine the best fit? Everybody could be in play this week, so I’ll keep the capsules brief.
- Jordan Spieth – He hasn’t broken through for a WGC win yet, but Spieth has won just about everywhere else. His accuracy off the tee will be tested, but he’s a good bet to hit the top-10, if not better. He loses distance to the big boys closer to sea level, but he’ll be plenty long enough this weekend. All he does is hit greens. Bring it on!
- Justin Rose – Another tee-to-green specialist who comes in burning hot, Rose continues to perform no matter the venue, green surface, or weather. With no certainty on any of those this weekend, it comes down to remaining starts. I have eight, and after this weekend, I’ll have seven.
- Hideki Matsuyama – I’ve opined in past previews that I think he’s on the verge of superstardom. Matsuyama has risen to fourth in the OWGR and is among the elite ball-strikers in the world. Ignore his last round in a monsoon at Riviera… think of what you would have shot that day! I only have six starts left, but he’s white hot right now and I’ll worry about running out of bullets later.
- Justin Thomas – He didn’t come to dance last week in a weak field, missing the cut at the Honda without providing any excitement whatsoever. Hard to see how the jump in class benefits JT. Distance is his friend, but he won’t need it in Mexico. He’s quickly becoming an unreliable start. Pass.
- Russell Knox – I can’t trust him anymore. If the course is as tight as it appears, Knox could compete... but I can’t trust him anymore. When he’s on, very few hit more fairways than the Brit. I can’t trust him anymore. Right?
- Matt Kuchar – In a week with the unknown looming, Kooch seems like a safe pick. Always solid, never spectacular is his calling card, and, like Justin Rose, that led to success at the Olympics, another spot with no course history. If you are looking hard at remaining starts already for the big boys, Kuchar is a phenomenal second-tier option. He’ll be my fourth ‘B’ player this week.
- Phil Mickelson – No clue. He could win or finish dead last. He could be leading Sunday afternoon and vomit out a 46 on the back nine to finish T47. With Rickie Fowler’s success and moderate consistency, Phil is driving the flake car now, and I’m not interested in taking the ride this week.
- Brandt Snedeker – Here’s another sneaky start-saver. Sneds loves poa annua greens, which make up at least part of the course. His lack of elite distance will be defused this week. If he can stay in the fairway and control the ball, he’ll punish the greens and make a run at the crown.
- Bubba Watson – WGC stud. Recent dud. Nope.
- Sergio Garcia – He has plenty of experience playing at high altitude, and he hasn’t been awful this year. Again, an elite ball-striker can travel anywhere, and Sergio should be in the mix come Sunday. The ‘C’ group is incredibly deep and a bit scary this week, so if you go elsewhere, there are options.
- Henrik Stenson – How much longer will his angry right knee hold out? Henrik is the ultimate boom-or-bust pick this week. If he feels good, he has the form and class to win. If not, you will waste a start when there are loads of alternate routes to take. I’ll roll the dice, but good luck with that call!
- Martin Kaymer – Kaymer tied for fourth last week and has been extremely strong of late. Along the lines of Scott, Kuchar and Rose, the major champion gives you an extra helping of solid, not spectacular. If that’s your path this week, Marty fits the bill.
- Tyrrell Hatton – Hatton has hit the top-10 in five of his last eight worldwide starts, and isn’t any less of a GIR machine than he was in last week’s preview. You won’t run out of Yahoo! uses with him, but is it time to jump from the train?
- Jon Rahm - This is his first WGC event, which spells less than a victory. That said, the last time we heard from Rahm, he was blazing a trail toward acclaim. New courses haven’t bothered him at all, and he doesn’t seem spooked by a field loaded with big names.
- Emiliano Grillo – Fairway. Green. Repeat. He’s one of my gut plays this week, but I won’t roster him in Yahoo! due to disappointing recent form. Bled to a 77 last Sunday in the wind, and hasn’t had a solid finish since November. I still think top-15 is in order.
- Alex Noren – The 11th-ranked player in the world, playing in the familiarity of high altitude, and coming in with four wins in the past seven months? Sign me up. He’s my top gut play this week and a dark horse for a top-5 finish.
- A – Adam Scott* and Dustin Johnson
- B – Justin Rose*, Jordan Spieth*, Hideki Matsuyama, and Matt Kuchar
- C – Sergio Garcia* and Henrik Stenson
My Yahoo! fantasy golf lineup
(* - denotes first round starter)
I’m not a huge fan of uncertainty, as analysts like me glom onto nerd data like course history, venue statistics and a player’s skill set correlated to both. None of that exists this week, so the instinct is to default to class. Looking at the last winners of the WGC events, rarely does an upstart find his way to the pinnacle. This week, even with a track alien to the pros, chalk should rule again.
Which begs the question… is Alexander Noren chalk? Most stateside casual golf fans have never heard his name but his career arrow is pointing up and I think he could shock the WGC world this weekend. Ultimately, a name like Scott, Spieth or Matsuyama might end up winning, but names like Noren, Grillo and Grace make for nice side bets.
It’s very likely that I’ll change my starting lineup before the first peg goes in the ground, so stay tuned. Let’s just get past this tournament and start fresh in the Sunshine State next week! Hit me up at @commishjoe on Twitter with questions, comments or emotional outbursts. Good luck!