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Golf Barometer: Watney: America's Best Hope

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.


UPGRADE

Nick Watney:
His brilliant putting got the headlines at the holiday win, but in truth, this is a dominant player and a dominant profile. Watney bombs it off the tee (12th in distance), hits a reasonable amount of fairways (69th), uses his irons well (13th in GIR) and putts like the confident star he is (fifth in strokes gained). He's America's best hope for a major in 2011.

K.J. Choi:
It was surprising to see him miss the cut at Congressional, but Choi rallied nicely at AT&T National, strolling and smiling his way to a smooth, unhurried second-place finish. Choi's modest length off the tee limits the amount of courses he can probably win on, but it's hard to quibble with someone who's second on the money list and missed just three cuts all year.

Charles Howell:
It's been the sort of year that sneaks up on you, but it might go down as Howell's best when it's all said and done. He's banked six checks of $100K or more, including a pair of Top 3s in a row, showcasing a steady iron game and an improved putting stroke. Perhaps success came too easily to Howell in his early years, but he has the quiet confidence of a reliable pro now. Watch out for him in his mid-to-late 30s.

Chris DiMarco:
He posted an early 64 on Sunday when no one was around, pushing his way into a T13 finish. DiMarco now has seven cashes in his last nine starts and might be worth a sleeper look in the thin John Deere Field this week.

Webb Simpson:
If he can get back to his 2010 putting form, he's going to be a star. Either way, you'll go far in this game if you stand 12th in total driving and 16th in greens in regulation; that's a profile that can contend anywhere. Simpson has banked four major checks in a row (all of them six figures), and he's been inside the Top 25 in eight of his last nine starts.

Ian Baker-Finch:
The glue of the CBS broadcast team, the secret weapon. He's not as drop-dead funny as David Feherty, not as biting as Nick Faldo and not as loquacious as Jim Nantz, but Finch never wastes a second on the air and knows how to balance standard analysis with the second-level insight that only an ex-player can truly provide. It's a shame Finchy's career didn't last longer, but he's hitting a home run in his second act.

DOWNGRADE

Thomas Levet:
His victory at the Open de France should have landed Levet in the Upgrade file, but an ill-fated lake celebration afterward led to a broken leg and has Levet's British Open status in doubt. Somewhere in Orange County, Kendrys Morales is quietly commiserating.

Vijay Singh:
A struggling 48-year-old with a sore back? None for us, thanks. Singh's ball striking was fine in Pennsylvania last week but you could see his body wasn't right; his weekend withdrawal came as no big shock. He hadn't qualified for the British Open, but it's a moot point now.

Camilo Villegas:
The T3 at the St. Jude Classic looked like a push off to better things, but Spiderman has two uneventful trunk slams since. Villegas normally can find ways to score despite ordinary component stats, but there's nothing to hang his hat on in 2011. He's 126th in total driving, 170th in GIR, 147th in putting strokes gained and 162 in scoring average. Someone needs a long, head-clearing break.

HOLDING STEADY

Steve Marino:
Stop us if you're heard this one before - Marino was lights out on a Saturday (63, briefly setting a new course record) before stumbling on the final round (74). Marino's ranked ninth on tour when it comes to Round 3 scoring, but he stumbles all the way to 143th for the Sunday sessions. If this guy could ever find a way to get out of his own head and win that first trophy, I'm sure a bunch would come tumbling after. But the first hoist is always the hardest.