It could end at any moment, but for now I’m riding the wave. The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial marks my third consecutive week entering a tournament ranked inside the top 20 of the Spring Segment and the Overall Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game. With that, I’ve received more than a few questions over the last several weeks about Yahoo! strategy.
My Rotoworld counterpart, Ned Brown, penned a solid piece on the same topic as the year was kicking off. Ned’s success in the Yahoo! format over the years is well-documented and undeniable. I suppose the difference in his article and this one is that I’m writing this during the peak of a consistently hot run.
As with any game, there is a certain element of luck in the Yahoo! format. The goal then is to continually put yourself in a position to be lucky while side-stepping land mines.
Selecting the Team
Yahoo! essentially offers two games within a game. The first is selecting an eight-team lineup and the second is deciding which four players to play each round.
Step one in my process is conducting tournament research and formulating a power ranking. This is done completely independent of outside influences and I generally follow the same research format every week. I try and combine course history, current form and relevant statistical strengths as they relate to the course in play. I’ve found this to be the lengthiest but most important step in the process.
Understanding that most people probably don’t have the time to do this, at least every week, I’d recommend Rob Bolton’s Power Ranking at PGATOUR.com, Mike Glasscott’s weekly preview at Rotoworld and invite you to check mine out at thegolfaficionado.blogspot.com.
The second step is converting the power ranking into a Yahoo! lineup. With the NFL Draft having just concluded, think of your player rankings as your Big Board for the week. Just like NFL GMs typically don’t reach for players, don’t give up too much ground for a want or a gut feeling.
Usually on Monday night or Tuesday morning I’ll spend about two or three minutes setting my lineup before walking away. Essentially, I try and see how many of my top eight players can fit on the team given the restrictions of the Group A, B and C format. It generally works out to where I don’t have to reach outside of my top 10 or 12 to fill a lineup. The nightmare scenario is when three of the top four players are all in Group A or C and I have to leave a player ranked that high off my team.
I’ll do a second pass at the lineup after tee times are released on Tuesday afternoon, at the same time checking the weather forecasts for the first two rounds to try and determine if a specific wave of players will have a decided tee-time advantage. In a perfect world, it works out to where I have four players available for each wave of tee times on both days. The inexact science is understanding when to leave off a higher-ranked player to reach and make that tee time split a reality. The difference between the sixth- and ninth-ranked player on a list may be negligible, whereas the difference between the third and seventh player on the list could be enormous.
Other Items of Consideration
Each player is allowed only 10 starts per year. We are reaching the point of the season where a player probably needs to be on a roster, but it would be best if he is only used if he presents the opportunity for bonus points. Matt Kuchar is a popular example. When this happens, pair him with a safe player who stands a very high probability of at least making the cut. There’s nothing worse than having to burn a guy like Kuchar in this situation for a T46 because his counterpart missed the cut.
Bonus points can erase a multitude of sins. If you are trying to make a tough call on a final roster spot, ask yourself if one stands a better chance of winning than another. That’s precisely why we’ve reached the point in the season where guys like Kuchar and Jordan Spieth have to be hidden on the bench for events where there is little or no intention of playing them.
It doesn’t always work out perfectly, but all things being equal a morning tee time on Thursday or Friday is better than an afternoon start. This is something akin to Fantasy Golf 201 in the Yahoo! format. Because all things are not always equal, it’s important to check the weather forecast the night before a round to see if there is anything that would cause you to reconsider starting AM tee times. As a general rule, winds pick up in the afternoon and the greens tend to get a little bumpier.
Saturday is moving day both in the tournament proper and in the Yahoo! game. The convergence of elite players on your fantasy team making the cut on the number and going out in an 8:00 a.m. twosome is a Yahoo! dream. Rory McIlroy drew that straw in the third round at Quail Hollow and nabbed investors 20 points.
Saturday is also the day to burn a start, if you haven’t already, on players inside the top five or 10 for the ultimate purpose of potential bonus points. There is nothing worse on a Sunday than to have a player in the final twosome that’s been on your bench all week. You have to burn him due to potential bonus points, but he probably isn’t going to go low and garner many daily points.
On that last note, stay away from players in the final pairing/threesome on Saturday and Sunday. For the most part, they are sitting ducks and play a little tighter.
I tend to try and stick with guys, especially coming out of Friday and into the weekend, for two or three consecutive rounds unless a circumstance dictates otherwise. A lesson learned over the years is to be patient with a lineup and not chase after the prior day’s low rounds. Too many times over the years I’ve seen yesterday’s lineup outperform today’s by 15 points and wish I would have just left it alone.
Just like the stock market, buy low and sell high. History has proven that it’s wiser to consider bailing on a guy after a 64 than it is following a 72. With few exceptions, pros rarely put together four really good rounds in a tournament; however, they often have two or three low ones. The law of averages works out in your favor to play a guy after an average or slightly below-average round, especially if he draws an earlier tee time because of it, rather than chase a hot round.
Best Calls of the Year
Looking back over the course of the season, there are three decision that stand out as having set me apart from a crowd of really good players and into the realm elite. They all have one thing in common. I stuck to my convictions without worrying about what others were doing.
• Bubba Watson in the Northern Trust Open ... Rode his T2 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open two weeks prior as others chased players with a little better course history or elite reputation. He shot back-to-back 64s on Saturday and Sunday to score 20 points on both days, and picked up an additional 20 points for the win. As luck would have it, Ryan Moore was the other Group A player in my lineup that week and missed the cut. That meant that I didn’t have the opportunity to screw it up by benching Bubba in either of those rounds.
• Bubba Watson at the Masters ... Many people faded him after not breaking 80 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and withdrawing following the first round. I didn’t care about that as it related to the Masters, because I trusted that his T2 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship was the true indicator that he was once again read for Augusta National as it was in 2012. He got the nod over Adam Scott in the second, third and fourth rounds, netting me a respective 20, 4 and 16 points, and then 20 bonus points for the win. Note that I stuck with him after nabbing just four points in the third round because of the law of averages mentioned above, as well as being patient with a lineup.
• Matt Kuchar at the RBC Heritage ... I rode Luke Donald for the first three rounds in Group A; he finished second. After his third-round 66 and a 20-point effort, I didn’t really like his prospects of going low in the final group on Sunday. While I wanted to save a Kuchar start, all of the signs were there for him to go low in the final and snare some bonus points. I held my breath and pulled the trigger, and it resulted in a 40-point day from Kuchar (20 for the low round and 20 for the win).
At the end of the day, your Yahoo! Fantasy Team is just that -- your team. There are plenty of great resources out there from which to pull information, but you have to make the last call and live with the results just like I did in the three examples above.
As always, best of luck to all!