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Honda Classic Preview: On the Comeback Trail

Greg Vara

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

A "big" win is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes a "big" win is a player's first win. Sometimes it's a win that sends a statement, and sometimes it's a long-overdue win. Last weekend, we witnessed two "big" wins on the PGA Tour. Luke Donald finally won something other than a regular tour stop event, and Johnson Wagner secured his spot on the PGA Tour for the next two years. Which win was bigger? In the eyes of the golf world it was Donald's; in the eyes of someone who's struggled to stay on the PGA Tour the last five years, it was Wagner's. Every result on the PGA Tour has some relevance as proven last week. If Martin Kaymer had topped Luke Donald the headline might have been Donald's inability to take his game to the next level. If Johnson Wagner falls in a playoff to Spencer Levin, the headline would be about this Levin kid, who looks like the next big thing. A lot can happen on a Sunday, even when 60 of the best players in the world aren't on the course.

What the WGC Match Play and Mayakoba Classic mean:

Johnson Wagner: On a personal level, no win was bigger than Wagner's last week. He's struggled to maintain his PGA Tour privileges for a while and now he can relax and simply play the game. He's been in this spot before, though, and he didn't exactly thrive.

Luke Donald: Donald conquered one demon this week; now, where does he go from here? A major perhaps? No one doubts his talent, but his inability to win a big event was baffling, so where he goes from here is anyone's guess.

Martin Kaymer: Kaymer's runner-up finish last week will go a long way to solidify his PGA Championship title from last year. European folk are well aware of Kaymer's talent, but prior to last week, the people in the States had really only witnessed one great showing from him at the PGA Championship last year.

This week:
Honda Classic

Last Year:
Camilo Villegas shot a final-round 68 on his way to a five-stroke victory over Anthony Kim.

Players to Consider:

1. Vijay Singh

Singh is beginning to resemble the player he was five years ago, and he returns to a course this week where he's had a lot of success. Singh has finished in the top-five in four of his last five tries here.

2. Luke Donald

It's not a major, but consecutive wins on the PGA Tour would sure send a statement to the rest of the players. Donald has the track record here to pull it off with a runner-up finish in 2008 and a win in 2006.

3. Spencer Levin

Levin steps up in class this week after a runner-up finish at the Mayakoba last week, but all indications are that he can handle it. Levin had a little success on this track a couple years back, but, again, he's a much better player now.

4. Anthony Kim

Kim finished runner-up last year at this event, and though he did bow out early at the Match-Play event, that can be attributed to an illness. A full week off should help his recovery.

5. Robert Allenby

Allenby inexplicably missed the cut here last year, but prior to that he finished in the top-five three consecutive years. Look for Allenby to get back on track this week.

Players to Avoid:

1. Ian Poulter

Poulter exited the WGC Match-Play event in the first round last week, which signals that his game is not where it needs to be. Add to that his poor track record here, (T41 and T46) and there's no reason to look at him this week.

2. Mark Calcavecchia

Calcavecchia has plenty of experience on this track as well as some success, but this course is simply too demanding for a man his age. He might start well, but the fade is inevitable at some point.

3. Chad Campbell

Campbell has a decent track record here, but most of his success here came prior to 2005. His game is off, as well, so it's best to wait on Campbell.

4. David Duval

Duval's had a bit of a resurgence this year, but his track record at this event is brutal. Three tries and three missed cuts. Sure his game is better now than at any point in the last three years when he's missed the cut, but he's been way off.

5. Vaughn Taylor

You've got to give him credit for trying, but Taylor just doesn't have an eye for this course. Six tries here and nothing higher than a T49 in 2008.

Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:

This week: Honda Classic

Group A

1. Luke Donald
2. Matt Kuchar

A lot of big names in Group A this week, but few with a lot of success at this event. These two, however, have each won here, and though Kuchar's recent history here isn't great, he's a much better player now than he was the last time he played here in 2009.

Group B

1. Spencer Levin
2. Vijay Singh
3. Y.E. Yang
4. Robert Allenby

A very solid bunch of players in Group B this week. Any of the four players on my roster could walk away with a win this week. But even if not, all four still should be competitive. Levin has the least experience on this track, but he's played well all year. Singh has also played well all year and has the track record here. Yang picked up his first PGA Tour win here in 2009 and is coming off a good showing at the Match-Play event.

Group C

1. Anthony Kim
2. Rory McIlroy

A couple of big names from Group C this week. Kim has been erratic this year, but I'm hoping for one of his good showings this week. Something like his runner-up showing from last year would do just fine. The second pick was a tough call as no one really stood out. McIlroy is certainly the biggest name of the bunch, but he hasn't had a lot of success here. That said, he's good enough to win anywhere, no matter his history at that event.

Starters Round One

1. Luke Donald
2. Vijay Singh
3. Spencer Levin
4. Anthony Kim

A fairly simple strategy out of the gate this week - stick with the hot hand. Donald comes in off his biggest win on the PGA Tour last week; expect the momentum to carry over. Singh has played well all season and considering he's won here before, there's no reason to think his roll ends this week. Levin doesn't have much experience here, but he's coming off a solid showing at the Mayakoba last week. There isn't a "hot-hand" in Group C, so I am going with Kim, who has the track record.

Round Two and Going Forward:

I am leaning on Donald heavily this week as he has the track record here and is coming in on a high. Kuchar will have to play lights-out to get a starting spot this week. If Kuchar is to find a starting spot, it will likely be Saturday. Singh has a strong hold on one of the starting spots in Group B this week, but the other one is up for grabs after round one. Yang and Allenby can get around this course, so a good opening from either will likely result in a starting spot in round two. If both start well, I'll lean towards Allenby as the round two starter. Group C also is up for grabs after round one. McIlroy doesn't have much to show for his time on this course, only a top-15 in 2009, but a solid opening round and he'll be the starter Friday.

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