We are now a full six months into the 2011 season, and it goes without saying that this season has been the "year of the rookie." No? OK, six months into the season and this year is clearly the "year of the big-name player." Try again? Six months in, clearly the "year of the European." How about this, six months into the year, and this season absolutely refuses to be labeled in any way shape or form? Is that better? Just when it looks like a trend is starting to develop, something happens that completely throws the direction of the season.
Earlier this year, Jhonnatan Vegas made a claim for the "year of the rookie," that quickly ended, though, as it was another 14 weeks before a rookie won again on the PGA TOUR. Big-name players have won several events this year, but absent from the list are such names as Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Dustin Johnson. A European player won the Masters, but Euro's have accounted for only three PGA TOUR wins this season. No, even though this season is well past the halfway mark, we still have no single determining characteristic to describe this season. There is hope, though; three of the four majors are still on the schedule, and it will be those majors that define this season. If that doesn't work, then we can call it the "year of the letdown" in reference to Mr. Woods.
What the HP Byron Nelson Championship means:
Keegan Bradley: In only his second season as a professional, Bradley became the third rookie to win on the PGA TOUR this year. It will be surprising to see much out of him the rest of this season, though - everything has come so quickly, there's bound to be a bit of a letdown ahead.
Ryan Palmer: A tough way to end the week for Palmer as he led most of the tournament. Palmer played poorly on the weekend, but still had a chance in the end to beat Bradley. It was not to be, though, as he found the water during the first playoff hole. It will be interesting to see how Palmer responds to this very difficult loss.
Dustin Johnson: Quite the week for Johnson at the Byron Nelson. He opened with a 66 and followed that with a 75. He rebounded well Saturday with a 69 but gave it back with a 73 on Sunday. It looks like he's getting close to top form just in time for the U.S. Open, but obviously he needs to find more consistency to mirror his run from last year's U.S. Open.
This week: The Memorial
Last Year: Justin Rose shot a final-round 66 on his way to a three-stroke victory over Rickie Fowler.
Players to Consider:
1. Matt Kuchar
Kuchar has a nice track record here; four consecutive top-15 finishes, and he's coming off a top-10 at the Byron Nelson last week.
2. Justin Rose
Rose is the defending champ this week, and his win last year was no fluke as he posted a runner-up finish here in 2008, as well.
3. K.J. Choi
Choi won here in 2007, and in case you haven't heard, he's the reigning Players Champion. Choi has finished in the top-15 in nearly half (5-of-11) of his starts here.
4. Dustin Johnson
Johnson doesn't have a great track record here (one top-15 in three tries), but he showed some game last week at the Byron Nelson, and I have a hunch he's about ready to put it all together.
5. Luke Donald
Like Johnson, not a great track record, but Donald is quickly becoming a safe bet every week. And considering this is Jack's event, you can bet he'll be ready to go.
Players to Avoid:
1. Sean O'Hair
O'Hair has a decent track record here (three top-15s in his last five tries), but O'Hair is heading the wrong way with no relief in sight. Last week he missed the cut by a country mile.
2. Mike Weir
Weir's runner-up finish here in 2008 seems like a lifetime ago, as he's not resembled that player in quite a while - certainly not at anytime this season.
3. Keegan Bradley
Bradley could be a big star some day, but I'm guessing he'll struggle with his new-found success, at least for a few weeks. He's also a first-timer here, so that's not going to help his cause, either.
4. Lucas Glover
Glover's game appears solid. He picked-up a win just a few weeks ago, but his track record here leads me to believe he'll struggle this week. Only one top-10 in six tries at this event.
5. Jim Furyk
Furyk has a nice track record - six top-10s here, including two in a row enter this year - but his game is off. He's bound to figure it out at some point, but I'll wait until he does before using him again.
Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:
This week: The Memorial
1. Dustin Johnson
2. Matt Kuchar
This pairing will go a long way in determining my overall success this week. I say that because I'm guessing that Mickelson, Choi and Donald will be on a lot of teams, and, as you can see, I have none of them. That's OK, though, because Johnson and Kuchar are in my top-five this week.
1. Steve Stricker
2. Charl Schwartzel
3. Justin Rose
4. Bubba Watson
I didn't exactly ignore course history when making my selections in Group B this week, but considering that outside of Justin Rose this group has produced not a single top-10 here, you could say that I didn't put much of an emphasis on it. The reason? Well, for starters, my ranking is not exactly where I want it to be, so it's time to shake it up a little. Also, it's not like you can go wrong with the likes of Bubba Watson and Steve Stricker, not to mention the reigning Masters champion.
1. J.B. Holmes
2. Ryan Moore
Moore nearly won here in 2007 and finished in the top-five last year. He obviously has a feel for this venue. Holmes does not have a great track record here, but he's developing into a very reliable player. And with his power he can overwhelm the course from time to time, which can result in victories.
Starters Round One
1. Dustin Johnson
2. Justin Rose
3. Bubba Watson
4. Ryan Moore
I'm going to play my hunch about Johnson right out of the gate this week. If I am right, I stand to gain some valuable points. Rose gets one of the spots in Group B as the defending champion. I am usually wary of starting anyone in that position, but Rose should be able to handle it. Watson gets the other nod in Group B based on his consistent play overall this year. Moore gets the start in Group C based on his track record here. He might not be playing up to his standards this season, but he usually finds a way to succeed here.
Round Two and Going Forward:
Unlike last week, when I had Johnson and Leishman in Group A, this week, Johnson will not control the fate of this group. Kuchar is starting to come on, and if he's got his "A" game this week, I'll have to get him into the line-up right away. A good start by both players will result in a Kuchar start Friday, as will a poor start from Johnson. Only a poor start from Kuchar will result in Johnson holding his spot. I'm expecting Rose to play well all week in Group B, but other than that, I am unsure who of the other three will emerge as a contender. I can only say this, one will be in the mix come Sunday. Any player who starts well Thursday will get a Friday start. Group C is Moore's - for now. Holmes has the ability to take over, and if he shows well early, I'll get him in the line-up right away. A poor or average start from Holmes on Thursday and I'll likely wait until Saturday to insert him into the line-up.