Last week, I offered the thought that those professionals who played in the WGC-Mexico Championship might not be in top shape for the Valspar Championship. The interruption of the Florida Swing with a six-hour flight to Mexico City had the potential to leave even the most physically fit professional in a state of bodily lethargy. The theory came true, as only two of the top-10 finishers teed it up in Mexico, and one (Henrik Stenson) withdrew on the first day.
What does all this mean? Not sure, but it’s an interesting trend to watch going forward this season. Take Justin Thomas, for example; his four consecutive week run included California, Florida, Mexico and back to Florida. He was sick for the pro-am in Mexico City and couldn’t muster enough energy to compete last weekend at Innisbrook. And he’s 23. Kids these days think they are invincible. Man, I’m getting old.
Oh yeah, Adam Hadwin won the Valspar by one shot over Patrick Cantlay, and he was two shots clear of third-place finishers Jim Herman and Dominic Bozzelli. None of those four players appeared in my preview last week, although Hadwin obviously should have. Still, it wasn’t a terrible week in the fantasy world.
So how did my fake golf team and predictions fare?
2017 Valspar Championship recap
Yahoo! Tournament Points – 104; Yahoo! Season Points – 1,747; Yahoo! Ranking – 38th Overall (99th percentile)
None of my players scored more than 34 points for me, and I made some poor (unlucky?) decisions on starters, leaving Ryan Moore benched on Saturday and not firing up Graham DeLaet on Sunday. The good news is last week didn’t cost me any starts from players who I’ll need down the stretch, so we are all systems go for the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The Valspar didn’t paint us a high-scoring week (see what I did there?) but it didn’t dent my overall standing much. I still have a healthy segment lead in two of my three leagues, and with one week to go and cash prizes on the line, I’m not saving any bullets this week.
Fairway – Fading Patrick Reed, Gary Woodland and Daniel Berger were the right moves in a week absent many. I had a bad feeling about Justin Thomas and rostered him anyway, but his MC wasn’t surprising. Harris English finished T27, just inside my top-30 float.
Rough – The players I missed on or predicted wrong are too numerous to mention, so I’m hoping you didn’t get caught with a handful of manure on your team. I only had two MC on my squad, but only Stenson hit the top 10 for me. My boisterous call for Graham DeLaet to win was a bust, and only a 67 on Sunday saved him from the Out of Bounds category.
This week will feature solid golf and many tributes to the King – welcome to the Arnold Palmer Invitational!
2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational Yahoo! fantasy golf picks
This is the final week of the Yahoo! Winter segment, so if you are in the hunt for money, plan accordingly. If not, feel free to punt and pick up the chase two weeks from now at the Shell Houston Open. Long irons and approach shots will be important again this week, and with four par 5s on the card, pure scorers can’t be ignored.
- Jason Day – The defending champion will always be the enigma of any tournament he enters. Will he win? Will he WD? Something in between? He hasn’t been in mid-season form, but he’s Jason Day, and the course appears to fit his game. Hasn’t played in three weeks, so fatigue/body/immune system shouldn’t be an issue. I don’t trust anyone in this ‘A’ group, so you might as well fire up a stud.
- Rickie Fowler – Rickie is hot right now, but his course history is sketchy – four of five weekends is solid, but his only finish better than 29th was a bronze medal in 2013. His approach game and his long irons are incredibly healthy, so nobody will look at you funny if you burn a start here.
- Branden Grace – The API should be a good fit for Grace, but he hasn’t had triumphs in Orlando, finishing MC-62 in his two starts. He’s a much classier player than during those runs, but he isn’t hot enough to consider starting over the big boys.
- Marc Leishman – Course history? Sort of; 40-3-48-MC-31-MC-17 at the API. Recent form? Sort of; 20-20-24-MC-27 in his last five starts. Where will he finish? T23. That prediction worked for my Matt Kuchar call last week, as he finished T22. Leishman is this week’s Kuchar. Pass.
- Graeme McDowell – GMac surprised me last week with a T14 -- his second straight T14 finish. He loves Florida courses but the stats don’t add up. He isn’t a great par 5 player, and his approach game is still miserable. I’m offering a solid fade on McDowell this week, which means he will likely win.
- Rory McIlroy – Rory looked firm two weeks ago in his return, posting a T7 and showing no signs of injury or atrophy. 11-27 finishes in his two starts at Bay Hill is solid, and any time there are four par 5s, I’m interested. I think Rors shows up to win this week in a Masters tune-up. I’m firing off a start.
- Louis Oosthuizen – Form is trending in the wrong direction, but his only appearance here in the last five years was a T9 in 2015. He’s a classy option if you are punting, but I wouldn’t bother considering him if you are near the lead.
- Paul Casey – You could do worse than to roster the Brit, whose ninth-place finish here is his only good run in three trips. If he can hit the green this week with a long iron, he’ll contend. Not a noted par-5 killer, but his form and class are enough to warrant consideration.
- Lucas Glover – MC-14-MC-27 in his four API starts isn’t moving my needle. His form is trending positively, but with no dearth of options, Glover can watch from the sidelines. He’s one of my gut plays of the week, but there is simply no room.
- Adam Hadwin – I suppose I owe him inclusion in the article since he won last week, but I don’t have any reason to roster him in Orlando. Winning two consecutive weeks is tricky, and, well, that’s about it. Saw the weekend and cashed at T36 in last year’s API. Beware the winning hangover.
- Charles Howell III – Like several other tournaments, he shows up every year and typically cashes in. He has played the weekend eight years in a row, but with nothing better than 20th. Same as Glover, I don’t see a reason to suddenly believe he’ll earn a medal, but CH3 should offer a solid weekend.
- Kevin Kisner – He’s the best in the business with long irons, and his form is tremendous. If there was course history to go along, this would be an automatic start. 49-MC doesn’t do it for me, so I’ll pass in Yahoo! but my gut says he could surprise.
- Hideki Matsuyama – Classy player. Course horse. No other analysis needed. I’ll offer some anyway… Still one of the best players in the world despite MC-25 in his last two starts. API has resulted in 21-6 in his two attempts, and his par-5 prowess and elite approach game are custom-fit for Bay Hill. Wouldn’t surprise me to see him holding the trophy. I only have six Yahoo! starts left, but I’d like to hold my segment lead. Start first, ask questions later.
- Francesco Molinari – My fellow Italiano has cashed with 34-5-17-9 at the API and has form of 12-14-MC-14-20 since the calendar turned. His approach game is elite, and if his long irons work, another top-15 is in order. Molinari is a perfect play alongside bigger names, as he’s a cut-making machine and could offer valuable points along the way.
- Ryan Moore – Although he never threatened last week, I like the T18 finish following a T28 in Mexico. As I’ve said several times before, that’s a difficult trip to make and Moore handled it well. Now, he heads to Bay Hill, where he hasn’t had any recent success at all. Not sure why, but I like him to see the weekend and hit the top-30. Will I roster him? No.
- Kevin Na – Na didn’t handle the Mexico-Florida trip as well as others, but his MC last week isn’t entirely alarming. His form was decent before that, and he absolutely owns Bay Hill. Finishes of 11-2-30-4-14-6 in his last six trips to Orlando have me salivating. Well, it could be the burger I’m eating, too… He’s another perfect play opposite the big boys.
- Justin Rose – The Brit is always in good form, and four top-10s here in his last eight trips means he’s comfortable playing in his second home of Orlando. He kills par-5s and he’s a birdie machine when hot. Don’t overthink this. Fire out of the gate!
- Brandt Snedeker – I’m fading Sneds this week, only because I don’t think he’ll win. 14-MC-9-4-MC-7 in his last six tournaments, so he’s completely all-or-nothing. He’s 8-10 at the API, but only one resulted in a top-10, and he’s trending backwards. Statistically, he has been very poor at shots from 200-plus yards, and that will play a factor this week.
- Byeong-Hun An – He’s going to be a stud, but this is his fourth-straight week on the course and the last three have resulted in 55-48-49. Fade.
- Wesley Bryan – He simply keeps posting top-10 finishes. That run has to end at some point, and I’m guessing this is the week. He’ll play four rounds and might finish top-30, but a lot of chalk at the top means Bryan takes a back seat.
- Graham DeLaet – I’d love this to work, but the course history isn’t there. Nothing worse than last week’s T22 in his last four starts, but the stars don’t align in Orlando.
- Tommy Fleetwood – Is he the guy who already has a win and a runner-up finish in 2017, or the guy who missed cuts in back-to-back weeks? Doesn’t matter… If you are chasing, he makes for a solid contrarian risk. If not, find an option with course history.
- Tyrrell Hatton – This is his virgin API experience, but he’s posting a rating of about one million Scoville Heat Units right now. Nothing worse than T13 in his four 2017 starts. Like Bryan, this can’t last forever, and a new course against a good field is the recipe for a letdown. Hatton is still a stud, but this isn’t his week.
- Billy Horschel – Every time I trust the Florida product, he lets me down… and vice versa. Trending nicely at the API with finishes of 75-43-43-20 in his last four, but you simply have no idea which Billy Ho shows up. I don’t need him this week, and he probably doesn’t need me, either.
- Zach Johnson – A long course shouldn’t suit a noted bunter well, but ZJ keeps taming the monster. Statistically speaking, this makes no sense whatsoever, but finishes of 9-5 the last two years put that to bed. Zach could win the tournament or MC, and with Stenson as my ‘C’ rock, I’ll take a chance that he could give me some bonus point love on Sunday.
- Martin Laird – Kept riding the see-saw by MC last week… now has results of 9-74-7-66-8-MC since the first of the year. Laird is 7-7 here with a win in 2011, but nothing else in the top-30. He still can’t hit a green from distance with an iron, and that will be his kryptonite this week. Not a terrible ‘C’ option because his successes have been in the top-10, but I’ll fade and not look back.
- Sean O’Hair – O’Hair has lit it up at the API, but until I’m positive he is past the neck injury that caused a WD last week, I’ll pass.
- Charl Schwartzel – He surprised last week with a top-10 finish despite flying back from Mexico. Hasn’t played the API since 2010-11, when he finished 52-47. Form is good and class is permanent, but there are better options.
- Henrik Stenson – Top-10 finishes each of the last four visits to Bay Hill. Top-10 finishes seemingly every time he tees it up. Ignore the WD in Mexico… this ball-striking hero has done everything here but win… until this week. Start your engines!
My Yahoo! fantasy golf lineup
(* - denotes first round starter)
- A – Rory McIlroy* and Jason Day
- B – Hideki Matsuyama*, Justin Rose*, Paul Casey, Kevin Na
- C – Henrik Stenson* and Zach Johnson
I love chalky weeks, and this is a tournament where I burn starts to try to win cash. I’m still not fully believing that McIlroy is 100 percent, but I have no proof otherwise. Stenson, Matsuyama and Rose seem like no-brainers… anything less than a top 20 from them would be a disappointment.
Zach Johnson and Kevin Na made the roster after I ignored common statistical trends. Na doesn’t play par 5s well, and ZJ isn’t long whatsoever, but both have had tremendous success at the API. Those are good chances to take with bench options.
Stenson for the win, Glover and Kisner as the gut plays, and the fades of Hatton and Bryan start this week. Bring it on!
Hit me up at @commishjoe on Twitter with questions, comments or emotional outbursts. Follow along for last-minute changes. If you aren’t a GNN Plus member, sign up today! $10 for the year! You spend that on two craft beers! Good luck!