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Byron Nelson Championship Preview: Turnaround Time?

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.

"Don't bury me, I'm not dead," not only a classic line that Bill Pullman uttered in "The serpent and the Rainbow" before his funeral, but one that David Toms could have spouted last weekend at the Colonial. Actually, that phrase has been appropriate the last two weeks. The word "struggled" doesn't exactly describe the last few years for David Toms, but there's little doubt he looked headed the wrong way prior to the 2011 season. Sure, he was only two years removed from a $3 million season, but then again, he was only three years removed from a season in which he earned less than $1 million. The consistency appeared to be fading, which isn't all that unexpected considering his age, (he turned 44 in January). The problem looking ahead for Toms was that, at 44, his options were limited. He was still six years away from the Champions Tour, and spending the next half decade grinding it out on the PGA TOUR didn't look like a good option. The only thing left to do was to rediscover his former game that once led him to a major championship. With his play the last two weeks, he's done just that. Toms might not keep up this level of play the next couple years, but his win last week guarantees a spot on the PGA TOUR the next two seasons. So, he'll no longer have to worry about grinding it out on tour the next couple years, or anyone burying him alive.

What Crowne Plaza Invitational means:

David Toms: I mentioned last week that Toms was capable of playing at a high-level throughout the year, but that competing at a major might be a little ambitious. Well, I might have to change my opinion on that matter. Toms has the game - right now at least - and if the U.S. Open were this week, he'd be a contender. But the question is, can he keep up the momentum until then, or flip the switch if needed?

Zach Johnson: After another strong showing, it's official, Zach is back! Johnson struggled early in the season, but lately he's really turned it around. Including last week, he's recorded three consecutive top-15 finishes.

Robert Karlsson: With the Open Championships on the horizon, Karlsson is readying himself to be a dark-horse contender this year. Karlsson has played well overseas, but his game has yet to translate to the PGA TOUR. That could be changing as he showed plenty of game last week at Colonial.

This week:
HP Byron Nelson Championship

Last Year:
Jason Day shot a final-round 72 on his way to a two-stroke victory over three players.

Players to Consider:

1. Dustin Johnson

Johnson has yet to live up to his billing this season, but with the U.S. Open right around the corner, I have a feeling he's about to turn it up a notch. Johnson has consecutive top-10s at this event.

2. Jason Day

Day is defending this week at the Nelson, and while that's not a great situation for a young player, Day can handle it.

3. Scott Verplank

Verplank disappointed last week with a T54 at Colonial, but this week will be different. Outside the majors, no event on the schedule means more to Verplank than this one. He won here in 2007 and finished in the top-five last year.

4. Marc Leishman

Outside a couple big names this week, it looks like there will be a bunch of lesser-known golfers on the weekend leaderboard. Leishman is one of those lesser-knowns who could be in the mix this week as he's carded consecutive top-15s here.

5. D.A. Points

Points has struggled since his win in early February, but a return to a place where he's had some success could help him snap out of this recent funk.

Players to Avoid:

1. Ryan Palmer

Palmer has teed it up here seven times and only played the weekend once. He's playing well this year, but not enough to overcome his difficulties on this course.

2. Nick Watney

It's not often that Watney finds his way onto this list, but this week looks like a good spot to take a pass. In four tries here, Watney has made only two cuts.

3. Chad Campbell

One would expect Campbell to play well in his home state, and for years he did play well here, but the last three years has been a different story. Campbell hasn't made a cut here since 2007.

4. Jeff Overton

Overton could be a popular pick here this week off his runner-up showing last year, but his game isn't quite where it needs to be. Overton was hoping to build on last season's success, but entering this week, he has only one top-10 this year.

5. Justin Leonard

Leonard has a pretty good track record here, but his game is way off entering this week. After a decent stretch of golf earlier in the year, Leonard has fallen into a rut, missing the cut in five of his last seven events.

Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:

This week:
HP Byron Nelson Championship

Group A

1. Dustin Johnson
2. Marc Leishman

There isn't a whole lot to choose from in Group A this week, but I am comfortable with this pair. Johnson and Leishman have solid track records here. Choi, Kuchar and Watney could burn me, but I don't think any of them will win this week.

Group B

1. D.A. Points
2. John Senden
3. Ben Crane
4. Blake Adams

I could let a monkey pick my team and it would probably look better on paper than the squad I came up with, but to use a tired cliche, you don't play golf on paper. I can see how many rosters will look this week - a lot of Leonards, Campbells and Singhs based on name recognition - but I don't like any of those picks, so I am going with some lesser-known players in the hope that the trend of the last couple years continues and we see some lesser-known players in the mix come Sunday.

Group C

1. Scott Verplank
2. Jason Day

Pretty clear-cut selections in Group C this week as both Verplank and Day are in my top-five overall picks. Day won here last year, and we know he's capable of winning during any given week. That's not the case for Verplank as his opportunities to win are limited to a certain few spots, but this is one of them.

Starters Round One

1. Dustin Johnson
2. John Senden
3. D.A. Points
4. Scott Verplank
This is going to be a big week for Johnson, and, considering his track record here, I wouldn't be surprised to see him start extremely fast out of the gate. The Group B starters were pretty easy to select as Crane is coming off a missed cut and Adams isn't exactly the most reliable player yet. Points isn't the most reliable player either, but he's got a strong combination of track record and recent play entering the week. Senden has quietly put a really good season together, including a top-10 last week at Colonial. Verplank's respect for this event means he'll never mail it in here, which is nice because you don't always know who's going to show up from week to week.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Johnson controls the fate of Group A this week, and hopefully he plays well enough to keep his starting spot all week. It's no disrespect to Leishman, but if both players bring their best, Johnson is starting all four rounds. I feel good about Points this week, so he could start all the way, but the second spot is likely up for grabs after round one. Crane is probably the first off the bench, but he'll have to show that his poor play from last week is behind him. Adams played well last week and was in the group of three players that finished right behind Day last year at this event. We know he's capable this week, but he'll again have to prove it before he gets a starting spot. I love the pair in Group C, and I'll likely get Day in the starting line-up Friday. That will give him a chance to get into the rhythm of this event after a week full of defending champion duties.