Last week, I wrote of a developing trend where good players come out of nowhere to grab a victory. That trend continued last week as Justin Rose, who, heretofore, was about as lost as anyone on the PGA TOUR, somehow put it all together and won at The Memorial. It's safe to say that the trend is real. The question now is - where do we go from here? First things first, recent history needs to take a back seat to track record at a given venue. That has always been my preference, but considering that recent history has played little to no factor in the determining the eventual winner this season, I think it's safe, at least for now, to almost throw it out the window. In some respects, this new trend will be liberating. No longer will golfers require good form to be considered a logical choice. This may in fact help us all with the majors right around the corner. Every time a major rolls around, the easy selections are most often golfers who enter on a roll, but more often than not, those players, those over-hyped players, fall flat. With the restrictions of recent form lifted, perhaps it will all become clear this time around. Considering my personal track record at the majors the last couple years, I sure hope I'm right.
What The Memorial means:
Justin Rose: Rose, much like Adam Scott spent most of the previous few years struggling to find his game. Needless to say he found it. Could this be the spark that sends his game to the next level?
Rickie Fowler: The hype machine is in overdrive for this kid and with good cause, but you have to wonder if it's too much too soon. His game is certainly holding up in the face of the attention, so perhaps he's one who can handle the spotlight and maintain his game.
Phil Mickelson: Here's where I am going to get myself in trouble. I just mentioned that form has little bearing on the outcome of the next event, but I must make an exception already. Form in of itself cannot be relied upon, but coupled with a good track record, it can make a difference. There, I've covered all the bases now; I am bullet proof.
This week: St. Jude Classic
Last Year: Brian Gay shot a final-round 66 on his way to a five-stroke victory over Bryce Molder and David Toms.
Players to Consider:
1. Justin Leonard
Two-time winner here and he's been off his game for most of the 2010 season. What more could you want?
2. Zach Johnson
I'm not thrilled that he won a couple weeks back - he may be playing too well coming in - but he finished fifth in his only start here and has a history of going on long runs when his game is right.
3. Robert Allenby
Allenby finished fourth here last year and runner-up the year before. He's obviously got a feel for this course, and he hasn't won since 2001.
4. Brian Gay
Gay cruised to victory here last year and has underachieved all season. Can the defending champ be considered an "out of nowhere" candidate?
5. David Toms
Toms has an incredible track record here, including two wins, two runner-ups and a third-place finish. He's also played well below his normal standard this year.
Players to Avoid:
1. Lee Westwood
Just because recent poor form doesn't exclude you from selection, doesn't mean good form does. That's not why Westwood is on this list. He's on here because he's obviously using this event as a tune-up for the U.S. Open next week.
2. Ian Poulter
I mentioned a couple weeks back that Poulter's performance in stroke-play events this season has been underwhelming, which alone wouldn't exclude him. But considering he's already won this season, he technically cannot come out of nowhere this week.
3. Tim Petrovic
Petrovic played well last week, but he's never been consistent. Considering his track record here is not good, it looks like his run may end this week.
4. Retief Goosen
Goosen's track record here is decent, but the two-time U.S. Open champ is likely looking ahead to next week also.
5. Chris DiMarco
If DiMarco were to win this week, we couldn't even classify it as out of nowhere. DiMarco is so far gone, we'd need a new classification.
Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:
This week: St. Jude Classic
1. Zach Johnson
2. Justin Leonard
Group A is thin this week, but there are at least two solid selections to make in Johnson and Leonard. Johnson is playing well and is usually reliable in that situation. Leonard has played just poorly enough to be dangerous this week.
1. Brian Gay
2. David Toms
3. Robert Allenby
4. Camilo Villegas
Many players in Group B have solid track records here, but Gay, Toms and Allenby top the list. Between them, they have three wins and a handful of top-5s since 2003. Villegas does not have the track record of the other three, but he's played here four consecutive years and has easily made the cut each time.
1. Ben Crane
2. Bob Estes
Group C is loaded with a bunch of players this week, but the talent is hard to find. Crane looks to be one of the better picks from this group in that he's got plenty of experience on this track. His track record is not great, but it's good enough to merit a selection. Estes is a risky pick, but with so many players using this as a tune-up, Estes is definitely focused on the task at hand. His track record here is solid also, so we can be certain that he knows his way around this course.
Starters Round One
1. Zach Johnson
2. Robert Allenby
3. David Toms
4. Ben Crane
As you can tell, I'm taking this "out of nowhere" trend seriously this week, but I'm still a little hesitant to put it into play early in the week. Leonard should do well this week, but the safe play out of the gate is Johnson. Group B is a different story because the recent history of Allenby and Toms here is so strong, I have no problem starting them out of the gate. I'm taking the safe route in Group C also with Crane over Estes.
Round Two and Going Forward:
The interesting thing about the "out of nowhere" theory is it turns at some point during the week and you've got to spot that turning point. For instance, if Leonard is to come out of nowhere and win this week, we'll see signs of that early on. The key is to figure out when it’s going to happen and move quickly when it does. Needless to say, I'll keep a close eye on Leonard out of the gate this week. Anyone, I mean anyone, from Group B is capable of winning this week. Will it be Toms, whose track record here is second to none? Or Allenby, who's never won here but has been close a few times? A repeat by Gay seems unlikely, just like Rose winning last week was unlikely. Villegas will have to show he's focused on this event and not the U.S. Open on the horizon before he gets a start. That said, a three-man rotation will be in effect for rounds one and two with Toms, Allenby and Gay. Villegas will get a start Saturday if he looks good heading into the weekend. The Friday start for Group C is dependent on how Crane and Estes play in round one. Crane has the early edge, but Estes can play his way in with a solid opening round.