By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy columnist
Yep, Tiger Woods is back. After his third victory of the season on Sunday, he’s once again forcing Yahoo! gamers to think about when to plug him in.
On the surface, that’s an absurd statement given all golfers get only 10 starts and strategy is inherent. However, taking a peek at the last two years, there is considerable and sudden relevance to the notion.
After a mammoth 2009, he managed only two top 10s in 2010 — neither of which victories — in just 12 starts. Battling injuries in 2011, he teed it up only nine times. Toss in the dynamic that in 2010 he became eligible for Life Membership. That’s important to gamers since he doesn’t have to play the minimum 15 tournaments required by all non-Life Members. In a sense, he earned the simplistic approach to invest every time he committed to a tournament. If anything, the angle was to project when he wouldn’t succeed, leaning on others in counter defense.
Those days are apparently over. Healthy and active again, he’s 10-for-11 this year with the aforementioned three wins, another top 10 and three more top 25s. He arrived at his first Greenbrier Classic in a familiar spot, atop both the FedExCup standings and the money list. (He’s also first in adjusted scoring, a stat in which the touring pros take great pride.)
Since he hoisted his third piece of hardware on Sunday at Congressional, the hot-button issue has been how to manage whatever starts you have remaining. This email is a prime example:
I only have four starts left for him. Think I have to hold off for the majors and the FedExCup, but considering he won Arnie’s, Jack’s and his own tournaments, it seems natural for him to take the one at Sam’s house! — Joe
Joe likely owns the over for number of starts remaining for Woods. I have only two left; the majority seems to have two or three. With the assumption that all of us are going to exhaust all 10, it’s time to prioritize, if not ration. And I don’t agree with Joe’s plan.
After this week’s stop at The Old White TPC, he’s scheduled to compete in the British Open in two weeks, the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational two weeks after that and the PGA Championship immediately following the WGC. The FedExCup Playoffs begin two weeks after the PGA, so he could add as many as four more tournaments to his schedule. That’s up to eight more opportunities in Yahoo!’s format.
First and foremost, if you have one start remaining, save it for the WGC at Firestone. Despite a pair of forgettable finishes the last two years, he’s owned that track with seven victories, one co-runner-up and a pair of fourth-place finishes. Moreover, both of his last two results can be excused for different reasons.
Before circling a No. 2 site to invest, both of the remaining majors could be crapshoots. Certainly, Woods will be motivated, favored, etc., but course history means little at the British and weather (i.e. wind) could swing scoring toward a specific draw at either. Unless you have as many as seven starts to use, I’m advising taking a pass on the majors.
I’ll be saving my second start for the TOUR Championship. He won at East Lake in 2007 and finished solo second in 2004, 2005 and 2009. This is an easy call.
For those of you with three starts to burn, consider the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston. He won the event in 2006, has logged a pair of T2s and has finished no worse than T11 in six of his seven appearances.
Another factor to support the Deutsche Bank is that the remaining list of options equates to a series of the unknown. This week’s stop in West Virginia, The Barclays at Bethpage Black and the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick are either new to him or contested at sites used sparingly on the PGA TOUR.
Woods has long maintained the most predictable schedule of anyone on the circuit, so there’s value in sticking with comfort zones. However, Joe and anyone else fortunate to have as many as four starts to spread out would be wise to save one for the Playoffs, and likely for The Barclays since he’s navigated Bethpage as recently as the 2009 U.S. Open. What’s more, he tied for sixth that week, best among those caught up in the wrong side of the draw due to the terrible weather that plagued the tournament.
The fail safe is that Woods will probably reward us more often than not anyway. Still, the general lesson is that when counting starts for any golfer in Yahoo!, there are always approaches that project better than others.
- Tiger Woods