Fantasy Golf 2012: Hyundai Tournament of Champions Preview

John Miller@SportsSomethingCorrespondent IIIJanuary 4, 2012

Bryce Molder's short game should be a huge asset for him on the Plantation Course this week in Hawaii
Bryce Molder's short game should be a huge asset for him on the Plantation Course this week in HawaiiRobert Laberge/Getty Images

When three NFL pregame shows solely devoted to fantasy football, it has gone completely mainstream. Fantasy baseball, the oldest form or fantasy sports, has a strong following of it's own. Fantasy hockey, fantasy basketball and even fantasy NASCAR are acceptable as quirky little hobbies. But fantasy golf? Seriously?

If we are going to be perfectly honest here, we are talking about a niche activity. Either you are really into fantasy sports or really into golf. Probably both.

And you know what? Good for you. Find something you like and have fun with it.

Interestingly enough, fantasy golf and fantasy NASCAR come the closest to replicating the fantasy football experience. Because you only have one game, tournament or matchup.

All other fantasy sports take place over the course of a week or entire season. Much like in fantasy football, on Sunday, you can watch a single player attempt to win your week/matchup for you. One guy, one game. It can be a lot more fun than you would think to watch play out.

(By the way, golf and hockey are the two sports to benefit the most from HDTV.)

Are you with me so far? If so, then it's time to talk turkey. There are several different forms of fantasy golf. The most popular formats are weekly lineups and survivor/one-and-done/overall winnings.

The weekly format is probably the most popular one. It has been offered on Yahoo! for years. Every week, you pick golfers from three different groups; A, B and C. You can use every golfer 10 times during the season. You can also make lineup changes in between rounds of a tournament, using the golfers that you selected (drafted) this week. 

The latter format is pretty simple. Each week, you select one golfer. You are credited with whatever money he wins in the tournament that week is the amount of money. You can use every golfer once throughout the season. The team with the most money at the end of the season wins. The Roto Times offers a fun version of this format.

Now, you know the basics. As with any fantasy sport, there are many different kinds of leagues. If you have any questions about your particular format, don't be afraid to ask.

How do we go about picking players week-to-week? I personally try to save the elite players for the large tournaments with bigger prize money. The goal is to use players who might not be that great overall on the week(s) where they fit best on a particular golf course, or they are on a hot streak.

Early in the season (especially the first week) you're going to be pretty much flying blind. All you can look at are the track records of players on a certain course. If you're lucky, maybe a few players played in a few events overseas recently, so you can at least gauge how they are playing a bit.

This week, we have the Hyundai Tournament of Champions taking place on the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii. Jonathan Byrd is the defending champion.

The first thing to do is to check out the course. The Plantation Course sets up nicely for the players, and you should expect to see quite a few low scores. The course also favors players with a strong short game, especially players who can knock down mid-range putts consistently.

Because there should be so many players shooting low scores, this is a good week to use players a bit further down in your rankings, especially a player who historically has a strong short game.

Who am I using this week?

Yahoo! Weekly Lineup Game

Group A

KEVIN NA (Starting)—Na finished eighth last season on the PGA Tour in strokes gained—putting (.604). He also finished 22nd in birdie percentage. In 2011, the first tournament on tour was the Sony Open in Hawaii, and Na finished at eight-under-par, which was good enough for 20th place.

K.J. CHOI (Bench)—Not only did Choi finish fourth on the money list in 2011, he was 19th in scoring average (69.99) and 27th in scrambling (60.87 percent). Choi could post some very low scores, but there is some risk here. That makes him a perfect bench stash.

Group B

DAVID TOMS (Starting)—Toms has one of the better short games on tour. In 2011, he finished 18th in strokes gained—putting (.503) and 25th in scrambling (61.21 percent).

BRYCE MOLDER (Starting)—Molder is a perfect fit for the Plantation Course. Molder finished third in strokes gained—putting (.745), 15th in scrambling (62.50 percent), fourth in total putting (57.3) and second in putting from five to 10 feet (31.86 percent).

LUCAS GLOVER (Bench)—Glover is just a solid all-around player and he is capable of posting some low scores. It's slim pickings in Group B this week.

GARY WOODLAND (Bench)—Woodland is just about the best of the bunch left in Group B, at least as far as scoring potential goes. His short game is worrisome here.

Group C

AARON BADDELEY (Starting)—Baddeley isn't exactly huge off of the tee, but that doesn't really matter much at Plantation. Baddeley showed a very solid short game last season finishing 34th in strokes gained—putting (.350), 15th in total putting (101.0) and 12th in putting between five and 10 feet (30.17 percent).

JONATHAN BYRD (Bench)—The defending champion won last season by being phenomenal on the greens and he could keep that up this year. But overall Byrd struggle with the rest of his short game and he's a risky start this week, but a nice asset to have on the bench.

Easy enough, right? Now, who do you pick in your Weekly/Survivor/Eliminator/Earnings League?

If you read the Yahoo! breakdown, my top three choices would be Kevin Na, David Toms and Bryce Molder.

How do we get from these three to just a single golfer?

Very carefully, my friend. First off, I'm going to eliminate David Toms. Not because he's bad. In fact, because he's good. There will be multiple tournaments throughout the season where I could use Toms, so I'm going to hold onto him.

That leaves me with Kevin Na and Bryce Molder. Neither player was particularly consistent in 2011, but both players finished the season stronger than they began it. Na seems to post the higher finishes overall, but misses almost as many cuts as Molder.

At the end of the day, I'm going to take Bryce Molder. I'm not sure where else I will use him and his short game and putting set him up perfectly for success at the Plantation Course. I never said this was easy right? Or did I?

Do you have any questions?

You probably should. Please use the comments feature below if you have anything to ask or anything to add to the discussion. If you have a lineup or roster question, please be as specific as possible regarding the setup of your league.

Good luck to all this week, I'm sure you wish you were golfing in Hawaii, too.

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