Welcome into Golf News Net’s premiere edition of fantasy golf picks for 2014, presented by DraftDay.
Each week, we’ll be providing our tips for that week’s PGA Tour event — and, sometimes, the European Tour as well. We’ll do that in a pair of ways: with these weekly nods in written form, as well as answering your specific fantasy golf questions via video. Ask those questions to us @GolfNewsNet on Twitter with each week’s hashtag. This week, use #FantasySony.
Since every fantasy league is a little different, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to rank players. In some leagues, you have to save players for bigger tournaments. In others, it doesn’t matter. Some leagues have you pick four players, or six or one. Instead, we’ll offer 10 picks in two buckets: horses for courses and hot hands.
Let’s get down to business.
The Sony Open in Hawaii really is the Hawaiian Open. Played at Waialae C.C. near Honolulu, it’s a bit of a throwback early on the PGA Tour schedule (wraparound or not). It’s a dramatic departure from Kapalua, home to last week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions. It’s tight, favors a draw, isn’t very long and requires a hot flat stick to do well. With the exception of Ernie Els, it seems mid-length players tend to do best here since the course is pretty well accessible for every PGA Tour regular in the field.
Russell Henley put on an absolute clinic a year ago, winning in his first start as a PGA Tour member with a performance that challenged the Tour’s all-time 72-hole total scoring mark with a 256 total. Expect low scores and great weather again this week.[divider_with_title]Hot Hands[/divider_with_title]
- Zach Johnson: You’d be a fool not to get on the Zach Train again this week at Waialae. Johnson won the Tournament of Champions in impressive fashion on Monday and has three wins in his last six starts dating back to the ’13 BMW Championship. He’s a former champion here, too, winning in 2009, but he’s got two MCs and no top 10s since. Recent form is important here.
- Jordan Spieth: Spieth is a fast learner. He put himself into position to win on the weekend several times in ’13, making mistakes and learning from them before winning at the Deere over the aforementioned Johnson. It’s his first start at Waialae, but his game travels anywhere, and he’ll have learned something from the nerves of trying to win on a bigger stage at Kapalua. Also, if the wind picks up, the Texan has it covered.
- Adam Scott: The 2013 Golf Writers Association of America Player of the Year (I voted for Tiger Woods) is making his return to Waialae after skipping the last two years. Scott has a runner-up finish here, to Zach Johnson in 2009, but missed the cut here in 2011. He’s in the conversation with Henrik Stenson and Zach Johnson as the hottest hands in golf today, so it’d be hard to ignore him.
- Matt Kuchar: Earlier in his career, Matt Kuchar struggled mightily at Waialae, only having cashed twice before 2011. Since then, he’s posted top-five finishes in off years, 2011 and ’13. He’s got this course figured out and is playing excellent, consistent, Matt Kuchar-like golf.
- Jimmy Walker: Dyn-o-mite isn’t in the same company as the four players above him, but he’s now a winner on the PGA Tour, which has him a hot hand thanks to the Frys.com Open breakthrough. He’s a coin-flip to cash in this event in the past, but he’s a solid player who could do big things this week.
- Charles Howell III: CH3 was born to play a place like Waialae. In his last seven starts in this event, he’s finished runner-up twice and in the top 5 a handful of times. The other times were missed cuts, but the evidence is strong suggesting he’s a good pick.
- Tim Clark: The South African doesn’t have the same history in this event as CH3, but he does have consecutive runner-up finishes in the Sony Open in Hawaii. He skipped the 2012 event because of injury,
- Harris English: The Georgia product could fit into the Hot Hands category, too, having won at Mayakoba to close out his ’13 portion of this first wraparound schedule. However, with a T-9 finish here a year ago, the game seems friendly for him. He also told me in 2011 that he loves tight courses like this one.
- Brian Gay: Brian Gay won’t blow you away this week, but he’s straight money at Waialae. He hasn’t missed a cut there since 2000 and has a pair of top-six finishes in his last five starts there. Almost a lock to score some nice points.
- Carl Pettersson: This is a bit of a flier. Pettersson hasn’t played since Nov. at the McGladrey Classic, where he finished T-55. He only had one top-10 finish last season. But, he’s been in the top five here in two of his last five starts. Looking for a high-risk, high-reward pick to save another player for later in the year? Swedish Redneck it is.
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