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Golf Barometer: The Most Interesting Major

David Ferris

David Ferris

Ferris covers the PGA Tour for RotoWire. He is an award-winning sports writer and a veteran fantasy columnist. He also is a scratch golfer.

The most interesting major of the year hits on Thursday, and it's on perhaps the most famous course in the world, Pebble Beach. It's a great time to be a golf fan, and with Father's Day coming on Sunday, you won't need to make any excuses for all the couch time. Enjoy the theatre.

UPGRADES

Lee Westwood:
He's learned how to get out of his own way, he's come a long way as a putter and he's finally turned into the elite player we all expected maybe a month ago. Next up is winning a major, something he's got a better than 50-50 chance to do over the next four years.

Camilo Villegas:
His game seems to be peaking at the right time - he was sharp on the weekend at the St. Jude Classic, earning a T8 check - and we've seen that Villegas has a knack for playing his best golf on difficult courses. His fitness and creativity around the greens will be a huge aid to him this week. Villegas deserves to be one of the four or five primary favorites this week.

Zach Johnson:
He's got a better chance at the U.S. Open this week than you might realize, because this week's test is going to be more about controlling your ball and reliable driving than it is about pure power. Everyone remembers what the young and powerful Tiger Woods did the last time this major came to Pebble Beach, but the assignment this week is going to bring a lot of potential contenders into the field because it's not going to demand that players are behemoths off the tee. Johnson's rounding into form nicely for the second major of the year, fresh off the win at the Memorial and a solid T12 at the St. Jude Classic.

Robert Karlsson:
It was encouraging to see him almost win at St. Jude - we can now say with confidence that Karlsson is finally over his eye injury and ready to be an international factor. But if every golfer on the circuit played as deliberately as Karlsson does, the PGA Tour would get no viewers on the weekend. Keep it moving, big guy.

DOWNGRADES

Justin Leonard:
He's still got the mind for the game but can the body still execute the shots? Leonard hasn't topped $70K in any event this year, and he prepped for the U.S. Open with a couple of missed cuts, slamming the trunk at Colonial and the St. Jude Classic. The Pebble setup should be a Leonard-favoring track, but that doesn't mean we're picking him in this spot.

Jeev Milkha Singh:
He looked like the "better Singh" back when he made a run at the Match Play in February, but Singh hasn't done much since, cashing just three times. He's 186th in total driving and 189th in GIR, which just about cancels him out for our purposes - if you can't play tee to green, no amount of short-game creativity will save you. And Singh's just 93rd in putting to begin with.

HOLDING STEADY

Dustin Johnson:
Don't assume he's one of the U.S. Open favorites merely because he won at Pebble Beach in February - the tournament plays very differently this time of year and with a U.S. Open setup in the works. Not that Johnson doesn't have a chance, but accuracy will mean more than power this week.

Robert Garrigus:
Normally a near-miss in a playoff brings a boost of confidence forward, but the bombastic way Garrigus choked prior to the playoff might leave a scar that never completely heals. You can't help but feel for the guy, he had the St. Jude trophy in his hands.

Tiger Woods:
The sharp mind and fierce competitiveness haven't left him, not by a long shot, but he's had trouble shaking off the rust. He's no longer got a clear physical advantage over the rest of the Tour (the circuit is far more fit today than it was 5-10 years ago) and you have to wonder how much the off-course issues might be affecting his focus. Heck, if you had a eight or nine-figure divorce hanging over your head, you might have trouble visualizing your shot into the fifth green, too. I'm expecting Woods to gut out a respectable showing at Pebble Beach, but I'd be very surprised if he won.