Forelinx Fantasy Golf Preview ⏤ WGC Workday Championship

Fantasy Golf


The World Golf Championship series kicks off this year with the Workday Championship at Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, FL. This series of events was created back in the late 1990s with the stated goal of bringing the world's best players together more frequently throughout the course of the year. The field assembled for this week's event certainly illustrates the degree to which that goal has been accomplished with a group of 72 players that features 48 of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. While originally slated to take place in Mexico City, COVID-19 has relocated the event stateside and will grant the public its first televised look at tournament play on this Jack Nicklaus design.

The golf course is named after the famous moment in Ryder Cup history when Nicklaus conceded a short putt in singles to Tony Jacklin on the final green at Royal Birkdale in 1969. The Americans had largely dominated the event for decades and it had been forever since the Great Britain and Ireland outfit had won a match. In fact, the GB&I side had only won but once in the previous 13 editions of the prestigious event. Jacklin had about a two-foot putt to halve the last hole and his match with Nicklaus, which would result in the overall Ryder Cup matches ending in a 16-16 tie. Nicklaus could have let Jacklin putt out and hoped for a shocking miss, but the Golden Bear had no designs on setting up his foe for humiliation. He gave Jacklin the putt, they shook hands and walked arm-in-arm off the green.

Nicklaus was largely praised for his sportsmanship in conceding the putt to Jacklin, but not all the American players were thrilled with his choice. In fact, that year's captain (Sam Snead) was a vocal opponent of the move from Nicklaus. “When it happened, all the boys thought it was ridiculous to give him that putt,” Snead said of Nicklaus' choice. “We went over there to win, not to be good ol’ boys.”

The Field and the Favorites

As its creators would have hoped, the World Golf Championships almost always seem to bring out a first-rate field and this week is no exception. The only players missing from the top-50 in the world are Tiger Woods (still recovering from back surgery) and Paul Casey, with everyone else (including all top 15 in the world) showing up for this event. Nevertheless, in spite of the quality of the field, the world's highest ranked player in Dustin Johnson is still a sizable favorite at +600. This should come as no surprise given the run of form he's shown over the last six months and even his B game is sure to factor come Sunday.

Some of the other favorites are coming off of rough weeks at Riviera in last week's Genesis Invitational. Like this week, that event too had a strong field but had a large number of notable names who missed the cut. Bryson Dechambeau (+2000) struggled to a first-round 75 at Riviera behind a run of missed fairways off the tee. Rory McIlroy (+1400) drove the ball poorly too, but struggled especially on the poa annua greens and missed the cut by seven shots. Justin Thomas (+1800) hasn't been the same since the passing of his grandfather, and he too missed cut by a handful (eight) of shots.

While Jon Rahm (+1000) never really factored in last week's tournament, he did play well enough (especially on Sunday) to backdoor his way into a top-five finish. The week was kind of a microcosm of his 2021 to this point as Rahm hasn't had a poor week yet (his worst finish is T13 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open) but still hasn't really been a major factor down the home stretch of any of these tournaments. He's played well enough to deserve his spot on the odds board as the second favorite, but his inability to keep himself around the lead pack makes him not a great bet to win this week. However, he would be a very steady choice in our Pick Em', H2H and Parlays formats.

Cut from the same cloth is the continuing saga of Tony Finau (+2000), who leads the PGA TOUR in top-five finishes over the last year but still has not managed to bag a win in that time period. His last month has been more of the same as he collected a top-five finish at the American Express in Palm Springs to go with three straight runner-up performances at the Farmers Insurance Open, the Saudi International on the European Tour and last week at the Genesis Open. Last week might have been his best chance of the bunch to grab a W as his final-round 64 was looking like it might be one short of a Max Homa win. Homa missed a three-foot putt at the last to give Finau life, but he couldn't capitalize on the opportunity and lost on the second hole of the subsequent playoff. Like Rahm, he may not be a great bet to win this week but he'd be a great selection in all of our fantasy golf formats.

The Golf Course

The COVID-19 switch of the host site from the mountainous Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City to the sea-level Concession Golf Club in Florida has very much changed the nature of the test for the WGC Workday Championship. While past stagings of this event in Mexico City have been exercises in driving accuracy from the tee and distance control into the green, this week's high priority item will be placing the ball in the proper section of the multi-level greens. 

Not unlike Augusta National, the greens at Concession have a lot of contour that separates them into multiple, distinct sections that polarize the second-shot results. The player who finds the pin side of the slopes in the greens will seem some balls collect towards the hole, but those who find the wrong side of these ridges will watch as their ball is repelled by the very same slope. This will require players not only to judge their distances correctly, but also make sure not to miss their targets by too-wide a margin as many hole locations will have these polarizing contours.

Water lurks on a fair number of holes at Concession, but by and large the property has fairly wide playing corridors. On the holes without the water, there is a fair bit of room off the tee and driving accuracy will only be of special importance on a very specific few holes. These holes include a few of the par-five holes, where scoring chances will come to those who can place the ball in the fairways but bigger numbers might lurk for the wayward driver of the ball.

Scoring is tough to forecast given the lack of PGA TOUR history at the golf course, but some of the professionals who know it well seem to think it depends largely on the wind. If the forecasted conditions for sunshine and merely a light breeze hold up, it wouldn't be too much of a surprise to see some fairly low scores here. Should the wind kick up beyond what we'd expect, the dispersion patterns on approach shots will start widening and those small little sections of these greens will get increasingly tough to find.