Despite the stars assembling for the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship and the non-qualifying pros heading to the Puerto Rico Open, Yahoo! Fantasy Golf enters a week-long siesta. We won’t have another breather until the week between the Dell Technologies Championship and the BMW Championship during the FedEx Cup Playoffs, so enjoy your Spring Break, gamers!
Since there is no roster to construct, and nobody cares who my One-And-Done picks are, I’ll use this space to offer DIY strategic advice on the Yahoo! game. Some play the game purely for fun, but many others have joined money groups with different formats. Strategy (sprinkled with luck) is the key to success. One of my readers (thanks, Mom) sent me a message asking how I make final calls on my roster and what the best strategy for daily starting lineup decisions looks like, so I’ll use those inquiries as a jumping-off point. Bookmark this guide and come back for free refills throughout the season.
Fantasy golf research
The Golf News Net website has just about any bit of information you can think of. The PGA Tour Results Database is an incredible tool. Reaching back to 2011, you can search the results of every tournament played and request millions of combinations. Want to know who plays well on Pete Dye courses in the State of Florida? Just search it. Need to find what pros have succeeded on poa annua greens in the last three years? The database can handle it. For historical data, there is no better instrument for the price.
Wait...price? Don’t get yourself riled up. Membership to the site cost $10. Ten bucks. Not monthly, but annually. Honestly. That’s it: 19 cents per week, or the cost of...nothing. Nothing costs 19 cents anymore. Except the best golf news site on the planet.
Sorry, I get excited. Back to business.
The site offers a ton of data, and includes delicious course previews every week by Ethan Zimman. Other contributors offer One-And-Done picks, expert opinions on DFS plays and pertinent handicapping information. All of this can help you with your Yahoo! lineup, so don’t be a one-article gamer. Take all the writers out for a spin.
PGATour.com is a solid resource for deep statistical dives. They keep official stats on every shot taken and will prove valuable once you identify what the course will demand of the players.
What to look for
It simply depends on the tournament. Each competition has its own set of nuances and quirks which play to the style of a group of players. The trick is finding the combination to the lock.
Course Layout: If the track features several doglegs or extremely long par 4s, then long irons become a research focal point. When a par-70 arises, par-5 scoring isn’t as important. Once you locate the identity of the course, selecting players to tame it becomes less tedious. Finding specialists who fit the mold of a specific course can lead to solid Yahoo! point totals.
Trends and Form: When research shows a player has decreasingly successful results at a course over the last few years, the course might not fit his eye. When a pro has produced solid numbers each time he plays in Florida, he’s likely comfortable there. Find your own trends and pay close attention. Recent form is a decent barometer of future success, though relying on it solely will lead to trouble. I don’t care how well a guy is playing if the course doesn’t fit his game or his course history is putrid. Look for short-term positive trends and/or form, as not many players can stay hot regardless of course, or for a very long time.
Recent Activity: This is different from Trends and Form, as you also need to focus on how frequently a player tees it up, where they have played recently and any outliers that might cause problems. This season’s Florida segment was a perfect example. The WGC event was moved to Mexico, interrupting the Sunshine Swing and introducing a myriad of new considerations, including stomach bugs, six-hour flights and fatigue. Those who played The Honda Classic generally underperformed in Mexico, and those battling in the WGC didn’t find much success at the Valspar Championship a week later. Thinking outside the box can lead to happiness.
Course History: This piece is obvious, but one nugget to carry with you is course renovations. Many courses have undergone a lift or a tuck in the past five years, and while some weren’t altered much, others became as unrecognizable as Kenny Rogers. This becomes significant because if a player’s course success came before the surgery, you have to consider lessening its weight in your informal formula. Absent of course changes, you can determine quickly if one course treats a player better than another. Again, diving too deep into the past isn’t typically fruitful; as players age and their game changes, courses look completely different than when they were young bombers.
League Information: The type of league(s) you participate in can also help determine who to roster. If your league pays only at the end of each segment, burning starts on star players toward the end of the segment might not be a sound move. The Spring segment includes two majors and The Players Championship, and the Summer segment gives us the other two majors, a WGC event and the FedEx Cup Playoffs. There's no reason to burn too many starts early if you aren’t in contention. However, if your league pays a weekly prize, trot out whomever you need in order to win cash.
Not to digress, but the Arnold Palmer Invitational was a great example. I had a healthy lead in both of my leagues that pay a segment prize. I was comfortable starting superstars to all but guarantee my segment wins. As it turned out, the chalk almost cost me some cash, but they held up and padded my pockets. Know your league and plan accordingly.
Weather: More on this below, but if weather is expected to be a factor, you won’t want all of your players in a group (A, B, C) playing in the same draw; mix them up between a.m. and p.m. waves to hedge against Mother Nature screaming only when all of your guys are on the course.
Gut: If fantasy golf has been torturing your soul for some time, you will get gut feelings on a player, even though the stats might lead you away. My gut plays last week were Kevin Kisner and Lucas Glover, who posted T2 and T7, respectively. Did I roster either of them? No. Instead, I tossed in Kevin Na because he was a course stud. Fail. Go with the gut sometimes. It’s fun stuff.
Who to start?
After digging through all of that minutiae, you finally have your two ‘A’ players, four ‘B’ players and two ‘C’ players. You love your roster and are poised to win cash. It’s all downhill from there, right?
The most frustrating weeks in the Yahoo! game come when many points are left riding the pine. It has meant the difference between winning enough to pay for the season and having to dig into your son’s savings account to play next year. So how do you select the right starters? There is no foolproof way, but these attention items can ease the pain.
Weather: As I said above, weather can change the feel of the entire tournament, so give it some love. Long-range weather forecasts are as unreliable as my driver, but you can typically get an hourly forecast about 24 hours before the event starts. Pay particular mind to the wind, as conditions often change dramatically during the day. If weather isn’t an issue, I prefer morning players, as the weather can change unpredictably, and nobody has trampled through the greens yet in the morning. You can use this approach all four days, but if a player is playing poorly but survives the cut, default to the better player.
Starts: If you aren’t completely sold on a player and don’t have many starts left, hide him on your bench for a few days until his performance track becomes evident. This is a difficult practice, because this theory usually applies to chalky players, and you don’t want to end up wasting a start chasing Yahoo! bonus points on Sunday. Confucius says discipline is key.
History/Prediction: If you are confident in a rostered player who started poorly, using him in the middle rounds can prove advantageous. Peeking back at the average winning score for the past 5-10 years gives you a benchmark of what you think the winner will post. If your player starts 2 over and the winner usually finishes 14 under, that player has to chase, which can lead to low daily scores. It can also lead to another poor round and a missed cut. Thanks, Henrik.
Chasers: Again, depending on the course and the typical winning score, most players don’t follow a 64 with another 64. Consequently, most star players don’t post a 74-74. If you believe in your roster, you can use this strategy to bench a player after a disproportionately good round, or start a player following an uncharacteristically bad lap. Yahoo! only cares about the current round and the final podium, so gambling on a solid or poor round can help your score tremendously.
Gut: Less reliable than the gut of above, this is pure gambling. There isn’t much reason to have a gut feeling on a guy playing the third round in a non-major tournament. Casinos don’t continue to be built because of our short-term gut prowess.
Hopefully, this walk through my cavernous brain provided some insight on the Yahoo! game. It has helped me realize tremendous success over the past five years, and I continue to refine the theories each week and season. Again, do yourself a favor and plunk down the $10 to join Golf News Net. Even if your leagues aren’t cash-based, the data you will pull from the site and the success you will have is worth the $10.