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Risk and Reward - Valero Texas Open

In what might be one of the best holiday combinations ever, today is both Pecan Day and Waffle Day. Both items are delicious and awesome in their own right, but put the Pecans IN the waffle and holy mother of God is it epic. While the correct pronunciation of the word pecan may be endlessly debated (here's a hint, its "pecan"), there's something undeniable about those weird, wavy nuts inside some sugary, golden dough. I already know what I'm having for breakfast tomorrow, but do you know who's in your lineups yet?

If you're like me and procrastinate everything but your fantasy golf, you probably do, so let me inspire some tinkering for the Rodney Ruxins of the world. For the rest of you, there's a whole heap of talent that didn't make my Power Rankings that you might consider as you ponder whether to start Matt Kuchar or Jim Furyk at the 11th hour. To that end, picking between those two players for this tournament is like picking between pecans and waffles - it's just better to have both.

My Power Rankings draw on statistics only, while Risk and Reward draws more on gut feel and intuition about players who missed my Top 15. In this column, you'll find "Lay-Up", "Going For It", and "Hazard". Look for more subjective analysis here, as opposed to the Power Rankings, where I rely strictly on data. Lay-Up may contain players who, barring a Great Flood, will bank you some points. Going For It is where I'll have players that may have missed the Power Rankings or who I feel present an excellent opportunity to pick up a win, but carry some considerable risk. Lastly, Hazards, where I often find myself on any given Sunday, should be avoided.


Charles Howell III - TA: 38, CHG: (+10) - He's got to win one soon, right guys? Right? Hey... where are you all going? Even if he doesn't win, he's an extremely safe bet for some solid points when he's playing well, and he's playing well. He's a Top 5, Top 10, and Top 25 in his last five starts, and while statistically he's a poor fit here, so too was he at Innisbrook, where he finished in a tie for 10th. Finished 8th here in 2011.

Brendon de Jonge - TA: 41.25, CHG: (-1.4) - It's shocking to me that he hasn't won yet considering how many birdies this guy makes. Were it not for a swing that crumbles under pressure, this ornithologist would have a couple of trophies. Regardless of that balky quality, he's playing too well right now too ignore. In his last six starts, he's got five finishes better than 33rd and a lone missed cut. He's been perfect at Valero since the tournament moved to the AT&T Oaks course in 2011, with two Top 25s. 

Harris English - TA: 42.71, CHG: (+2.2) - I can't put him anywhere but here. He's playing too well to bench but not well enough to win. Chalk it up to a swing that he's still learning to trust. Statistically, there's little to find fault with, since he ranks within the Top 30 in Total Driving, Strokes Gained:Putting, Ball Striking, and Scrambling. He's made the cut both in both of his attempts here, but hasn't finished better than 61st. His Masters invite this year hangs heavily on his performance this week.


Charley Hoffman - TA: 43.5, CHG: (-19.6) - Here's the deal, this guy is good, despite having missed two cuts in his last four starts. The problem? Me. No, seriously, both times I've used him extensively this year, he's bombed out. So let's test that theory, I'll abstain, despite his never having finished worse that 13th here in four starts, including second and third place finishes. If he finds his game and nabs his second victory this season, you all will owe me one.

Zach Johnson - TA: 46.88, CHG: (+11) - His albatross at Bay Hill went somewhat unnoticed since it came after Daniel Berger's historic first-in-competition albatross. His 9th place finish, though, is largely due to his putting finally shaking off the ice and dropping some putts. He pulled a T6 here in his debut, so if his form is to be believed, he should do well this week.

Jason Kokrak - TA: 50, CHG: (+6.8) - With two Top 10s in his last two starts, I think its safe to say that he's back from the injury that put him out for much of last year and into this year. He's still somewhat inconsistent, but he's got a decent history here, with a T15 and T31 in two of his three attempts. He's 51st in Total Driving, 59th in Ball Striking and 60th in SG:Putting. So while he's not exceptional, he's not bad either.


Retief Goosen - TA: 69, CHG: (-5.2) - Have you even had a work week so exhausting that it took you over a month to recover? It appears that Goosen had one at the Northern Trust Open, since he's missed two cuts and finished no better than 69th since. Statistically, he's not a good match for this course, mostly because he ranks outside the Top 100 in every meaningful category but SG:Putting. Add in a missed cut last year and a T53 before, and this goose is cooked (Not even I can believe I waited that long for that joke).

Kevin Chappell - TA: 66.88, CHG: (-14) - I'm not sure what happened to him in the off-season, but last year, he missed just six cuts and he's on pace to blow past that number at his current rate. He's dropped about 1.5 strokes-gained tee-to-green since last year, though he's putting marginally better. He missed the cut last year despite having a T15 and T2 at the Valero to his credit. Skip him until he starts making some cuts.

My Picks

PGA Tour - 84th of 812 - Experts League - 5988 points
  • Matt Kuchar
  • Jim Furyk
  • Jordan Spieth
  • Daniel Summerhays
Yahoo! - 2nd of 50 - Reddit/r/golf League - 94th percentile, 3824th overall
  • Jim Furyk (S)
  • Matt Jones
  • Matt Kuchar (S)
  • Daniel Berger (S)
  • Jordan Spieth
  • Charles Howell III
  • Daniel Summerhays (S)
  • Kevin Na
Golf Channel - 8th of 100 - Reddit/r/golf League - 3413th overall
Valero Texas Open
  • Jim Furyk
  • Kevin Na
  • Daniel Summerhays
  • John Peterson
LPGA Kia Classic
  • Lydia Ko
  • Ha Na Jang
  • Il Hee Lee
  • Sydnee Michaels
Thanks for Reading

Kyle Donovan