Since we last met, much has happened in the world of golf. Justin Thomas took the Dell Technologies Championship by storm and bombed his way to a three-shot victory over Jordan Spieth. Then, following a one-week siesta, Marc Leishman earned a wire-to-wire victory at the BMW Championship. The PGA Tour has whittled the field down to 30 for the Tour Championship, and while my travel schedule didn’t allow me time to post a preview last week, the final preview of the season will be chock full of analysis and speculation.
2017 BMW Championship Recap
Yahoo! Tournament Points – 198; Yahoo! Segment Points/Ranking – 1,916/10,710th; Yahoo! Season Points/Ranking – 5,416/644th
Even though I didn’t write anything about the BMW Championship, I still played the week… and it went well. Not many had rostered Leishman, so I didn’t lose any ground, and Jason Day’s fourth-place finish numbed the sting of saving my last Rickie Fowler start for this week and not capitalizing on his runner-up result. I rode Justin Rose to a T2, and my team was rewarded with T5 from Matt Kuchar and Jon Rahm.
So here we are… the last dance of the golf year. To those who have been with me all the way, and continue to tweet me and send email, I thank you so much. It has been a rewarding run, even though my performance has been a shade below my expectations. The stories from some of you detailing how the GolfNewsNet website has helped you win fantasy leagues is gratifying.
However, the work isn’t done. The Tour Championship is here, and that means anyone with a start is in play for the Yahoo! game this week. For the pros, $10 million is a nice balloon to throw darts at! Here we go!
2017 BMW Championship Yahoo fantasy golf picks
Before we dive into Yahoo! selections, a quick overview of the FedEx Cup Playoffs is in order.
Five players – Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Marc Leishman, and Jon Rahm – win the FedEx Cup and the $10 million prize if they win the Tour Championship, and they all have other scenarios to win the playoffs if they don’t hold the trophy this week. Rickie Fowler, ranked sixth, is the only other player who can finish second at the Tour Championship and still win the FedEx Cup, but he will need help.
Each of the other 24 players can win the FedEx Cup, but they would have to win the tournament and get help from many angles. Even the 30th player in the field, Jason Dufner, can earn $10 million this week… but, he needs to have Spieth finish 29th or 30th, and have nobody else currently ranked in the top-five in points finish T2 or better. Not likely.
That said, below is the breakdown of every player in the field, by Yahoo! group and then alphabetically, regardless of Yahoo! starts. Buckle up!
- Jason Day (4) – His fourth-place finish last week was his third top-10 in his last four starts, and his last four trips to East Lake have resulted in 6-14-4-10, so he sees something in Atlanta that he likes. The rough on this track is penal, and his rank of 172nd in Driving Accuracy is a bit scary, but he sits 21st in Driving Distance, so that negates a bit of the sour feeling. The Aussie leads all remaining players in putting average during the playoffs, so if he can get to the green, he will contend. Day is my #3 ‘A’ option this week, but I specifically saved a DJ and Rickie start for the end, so that’s where I’m going. Sorry to spoil it.
- Rickie Fowler (1) – His history here is good, not great. 23-8-12 in three runs, but the 23rd-place finish was in 2012 when he wasn’t RICKIE FOWLER yet. He shot 74 on Sunday in 2015 to fall to T12 after starting the day two shots behind eventual winner Jordan Spieth, and in his three trips, his Sunday rounds have been 76-71-74. Is this the year he closes the deal? He sits second in SG:Total, third in Total Driving and in the top-40 in just about every other statistical category. Fowler has just one win this season, but he has played brilliantly all year. The course sets up well for Rickie, and he’s one of the five players I think can win.
- Dustin Johnson (1) – Not much to analyze here. You already know that the Player of the Year award is between DJ and Justin Thomas, and this win would cement the award for the victor. 5-5-6 in his last three trips to East Lake is outstanding, and he looked like he would go wire-to-wire here last year before a 73 on Sunday derailed his chances. He leads the playoffs in Total Driving by a mile, and his length will allow him short irons to the greens, which helps if he misses the fairway. Keep it simple… if you have a DJ start, use it. I do, and I will.
- Marc Leishman (9) – Leish is on fire, posting a bronze medal at the Dell Technologies Championship before running wire-to-wire last week. Amazingly, if he wins this week, he will take the crown and pocket nearly $12 million. Leishman hasn’t played at East Lake since 2009, and his final round 78 moved him down to one shot in front of DFL. Of course, that means nothing. This year, he paces the remaining pros in SG:App during the playoffs and sits third in SGP. I have him ranked behind DJ and Rickie, and I’d still lean on Day before Leishman, but only because of course history. Nothing to base this thought on, but it feels like a T12 here.
- Patrick Reed (8) – Reed has been on a rollercoaster of late, posting 19-36-2-20-6-65 in his last six starts. His best finish in three trips to East Lake is T19 in 2014, and he has posted par or worse in each of his last eight rounds here. Unless you are completely out of starts, I’d leave Reed to the desperate owners. 141st in Driving Accuracy and 176th in GIR isn’t going to work here. Fade.
- Jhonattan Vegas (10) – After his T3 at the Northern Trust, Vegas has gone T65-T63 in the last two playoff events. His win at the RBC Canadian Open was impressive, but it seems he is returning to being Jhonny Vegas and his T24 at the 2016 Tour Championship is his only visit to East Lake. I just don’t need him this week.
- Gary Woodland (8) – T18-T27 the last two weeks is unspectacular, but I feel like he could post a top-10 this weekend. He sits eighth in GIR and 13th in Driving Distance, plus, Woodland has posted T9-T10 in his last two journeys to East Lake. His 2014 run to Atlanta featured a third-round 63, and he played the weekend here 69-67 last year. One major issue is that he ranks dead last in scrambling in the playoffs of those still alive. If he’s cheap enough, Woodland makes for a sneaky DFS play, but I can’t see him winning… another T10 looks right. Remember, there is no cut, so he could provide a good finish at solid value.
- Paul Casey (1) – His incredible record of consistency took a slight hit last week, as he turned in a T33. If that’s the floor in normal events, fantasy owners can handle that. This week could be a different story. In three trips to East Lake, Casey has posted 4-5-4, and he seems poised to return to the first page of the leaderboard. The driver might tell the story this weekend, and Casey has finished in the top-25 in Total Driving in each of his last four tournaments. He will need to win and get some help to win the FedEx Cup, but the 40-year-old had a brilliant season no matter the outcome. With course history and season-long form, I’ll put him on the bench and hope he finds the podium.
- Kevin Chappell (9) – If you are out of starts for some of the stars in this group, take a long look at Chappell. Converging trends are usually friendly, and he lost in a playoff to Rory McIlroy here last year. T6 at the Northern Trust and T12 last week prove that his form is positive. Chappell sits 27th on Tour in Total Driving, and although his putting and scrambling have been subpar, he has improved dramatically during the playoffs. I like Chappell as a sneaky top-10 pick. You could do worse.
- Adam Hadwin (8) – This is the Canadian’s first trip to East Lake, and following a T40 last week and nothing overwhelmingly impressive during the playoffs, I see no need to gamble here.
- Charley Hoffman (5) – Since peaking a few months back, Hoff has played well, just not well enough to make him an automatic fantasy start; T17-T47-T27 in three playoff events isn’t stirring. He’s a plus driver, and while his history here has yielded T6-T22, Hoffman is still having the best season of his career. He sits T7 in SG:Tee in the playoffs, but that alone might not be enough to carry him to glory. I don’t see a victory here, and I have others that I like a lot better. If you are chasing, Hoffman is a fair choice as a deep gamble.
- Kevin Kisner (1) – He doesn’t have good history at East Lake, and his playoff run has gone 54-53-67. I was cheering for his season to end with a bang, but the flame is gone. Pass.
- Matt Kuchar (1) – Interesting scenario here. We all know that he has finished in the top-15 in every tournament he has played in for the last 200 years. His consistency isn’t in question. So why has he not been able to better a T10 finish in eight trips to East Lake? Not too sure. In his last six years here, only 12 of his 24 rounds have been under par, with nothing better than a 67, and he isn’t an elite driver of the ball. What wins out this week – the alarmingly dependable finishes he has posted, or the course history? Hard to say. Rostering Kooch will be an exercise in patience, as he won’t win, but any bonus points or one low round could justify the selection. I hate it, but Kooch is on the bubble.
- Hideki Matsuyama (1) – Here’s another star who could go either way. Opposite of Kuchar, Matsuyama’s trend at East Lake is 22-12-5, but his playoffs have gone for MC-23-47. Not long ago, he was the hottest player on the planet, and his driving and ball striking ability took him toward the top of the leaderboard every week. Fast forward to the playoffs, and the driver has failed him, as he has hit just the fairway with just 50% of his drives. Putting has always been an issue, but when the other clubs go downhill, he’s in trouble. Because of the course history, Matsuyama is a sneaky play this week, as most will either be out of starts or feeling down on him. He has firmly earned his seat in the bubble car next to Kuchar.
- Justin Rose (1) – Straight fire. Rose seems to have shaken off injuries to turn in a brilliant playoff performance so far. After changing his swing to accommodate a back injury, he is striking the ball beautifully, and has turned in 10-10-2 in the three FedEx Cup events. Rose led the BMW Championship last week in GIR and Scrambling, and finished fourth in Total Driving, a stat he led at the Dell Technologies Championship. He sits sixth in Scrambling over the last three weeks, and simply looks like the elite Rose of old. You want course history? From 2012-15, he racked up finishes of 2-6-4-2 at East Lake before missing last year’s event. 13 of his last 16 rounds here are at par or better. Need more? No, you don’t. This is a no-brainer. Fire him up!
- Webb Simpson (7) – Here sits another sneaky good DFS play. T6 at the Northern Trust and T9 last week are fantastic, and his 2012-13 run at East Lake was T5-T4. Webb leads all remaining players in Driving Accuracy and ranks fifth in Scrambling, but the playoffs have brought a different Webb. The putter has treated him well, which isn’t something I ever thought I’d type, as he sits ninth in SGP in the playoffs, but sits negative in SG:Tee and SG:Approach. Form is good. History is good. Par-70 performance is good. If you need a non-elite option, look no further.
- Jordan Spieth (0) – He’s the favorite for a reason. My decision late in the regular season to burn Spieth’s last start might haunt me, but that’s the dilemma most people have with a superstar. It’s all there; 2-2-7 in three playoff events. Runner-up at the Tour Championship in 2013 before winning in 2015. He’s leading the remaining playoff participants in GIR, and he has been better than the field average in Driving Accuracy for each of the last five events. He also happens to be the best putter on the planet. If Spieth can find the fairway off the tee, he will have a great chance to win. I have no starts left, but if you do, don’t hold back.
- Justin Thomas (1) – Last year, Thomas scuffed his way to a 32nd-place finish at the BMW Championship, then turned around and posted T6 in his East Lake debut. Fast forward one year, and he has five wins for the season including a major title and the Dell Technologies Championship a few weeks back, and needs to win this week to take home the FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus. Why not? He is still filthy long, and he leads the playoffs in SG:ATG, so if he misses the short stuff, Thomas won’t freak out. I said in a preview early this season that I wasn’t sure Thomas was elite, as he MC in several weak-field events. I’ve changed course; this kid will be a star for years. Winning this week would make 2016-17 historic. I’m all in.
We round out the season with the C Group on the next page.