The golf season’s final major, the PGA Championship, begins on Thursday. While there’s still time before it starts, I thought I would share a fun fantasy game that I play with some friends that you can feel free to co-opt yourself.
We started it before the U.S. Open, since a number of us would be attending. We had fun, so we decided to do one for the Open Championship as well. I also won, so that made it easy to run another one; I promptly finished dead last next time out.
It’s pretty easy to run one of your own. First, recruit between four and seven other players to join you, and make sure you have people who are able to respond to emails reasonably quickly; otherwise, you risk your draft taking way too long. We have seven players and run a snake-style draft; last pick in the first round has first pick in the second round, etc. We do four rounds, so each player has four golfers on their roster.
After the tournament is over, each person gets credit for the money earned by the players on their roster. Most golf tournaments give much larger prizes to players at the top of the leaderboard than those further down, so drafting the winner and three guys who finish in the 30s will probably beat someone who has four guys who finished between 10th and 20th.
(This is how I won the U.S. Open; Justin Rose was my second round pick.)
Every player who makes the 36-hole cut (usually the top 60 or 70 players, plus ties) earns a paycheck, but if one of your golfers misses the cut, you don’t simply get a zero: you also suffer a penalty. If one golfer on your roster misses the cut, you lose 10% of your earnings. If two miss the cut, the penalty is 25%, and if three of your golfers miss the cut, you get docked 50%. Obviously, if none of your golfers make the cut, you end up with no money, but that could never happen, right?
(This is how I finished last at the Open Championship; all four of my golfers missed the cut.)
It’s that simple. It gives you a rooting interest where maybe you didn’t have one, and it gives you a chance to beat your friends at something.
Because we can’t help ourselves – okay, I can’t help myself – we added a couple wrinkles before our second tournament. First, we decided the draft order for the Open by reversing the standings from the U.S. Open. Then we decided to add the popular fantasy staple of keepers to our little “league.” Any golfer on your team in the previous major (our “season” consists of just those four tournaments) who made the cut is eligible to be kept, and he will be drafted to your team in the same round that he was drafted last time.
(For example, Rose was my second round pick for the U.S. Open. I kept him, meaning he became my second round pick for the Open Championship. He proceeded to miss the cut, so I was not able to keep him – or anyone else for that matter – for the PGA Championship.)
After the PGA Championship is over, we’ll add everyone’s totals for each tournament together and declare a season winner. There’s nothing on the line, but we do enough pick ’ems and prediction contests that calling yourself a champion really matters. To us, at least.
Next season, we’ll kick off the year in April with The Masters. I’m sure I’ll tweak something between now and then because, like I said, I can’t help myself. But it’s a simple contest, with simple rules, and it’s fun.
And sometimes, that’s all you need, you know?