Pressure. It can reduce the best in the world to mere mortal and callously steal a life-changing victory from the hands of a once-steady golfer. Last weekend at the PGA Championship, we witnessed the best that pressure had to offer. On one side you had Tiger Woods, once the best player in the world by a country mile, suddenly fighting to make it above the cut line. On the other side you had Jason Dufner looking to become the next Shaun Micheel and shock the world by winning the PGA Championship. Unfortunately for both, they were battling not only the cut line and their fellow competitors, they were also battling enormous pressure.
The similarities end there, however, as the type of pressure Tiger now endures on a weekly basis is much different than what Dufner went through over the final hour of his round Sunday. Tiger's pressure is more of a nuisance; he needs only to play well just once and it will likely fade. Dufner's, however, was the kind of pressure that can ruin a man, not for the moment, but for a career. I'm not saying he's done by any means, but ask Jean Van de Velde how he responded to his major collapse. It's not quite the same, only because Dufner's meltdown occurred over a three-hole span, but it's doubtful that's any comfort to him right now. Keegan Bradley walked away with the Wanamaker trophy last week, but make no mistake, pressure was the true victor. It was only after Bradley tripled the 15th hole that his game reappeared. As difficult as it is to play under pressure, when that pressure is released, it usually results in extraordinary play by that individual. Unfortunately for Jason Dufner, the pressure release appeared only after the playoff ended.
What the PGA Championship means:
Keegan Bradley: Rookie of the Year? President's Cup? Everything changes from here on for Bradley. At first glance, Bradley doesn't look the part of the next great golfer, but it's hard to argue with the success he's had in his first year on the PGA TOUR.
Jason Dufner: Dufner was a pretty good player before last Sunday, and he'll likely be a good player after this week has become a memory. It will be interesting to see how he responds to being the guy who blew a great chance at winning his first major.
Tiger Woods: Back to the drawing board? This is Woods' third major swing change and each change has been painful to some degree, but you have to wonder how long he sticks with this new swing. He has plenty of time to figure it out now as he won't likely play a PGA TOUR event until next year.
This week: Wyndham Championship
Last Year: Arjun Atwal shot a final-round 67 for a one-stroke victory over David Toms.
Players to Consider:
1. Lucas Glover
Three trips to Sedgefield and nothing outside the top 25. The field is mostly comprised of golfers who like to play this event and those looking for a spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs, so the competition isn't all that stiff this week.
2. Brandt Snedeker
Throw out his win here in 2007, that was on a different course. He does, however, have consecutive top-10s on the current course.
3. Jim Furyk
I was as shocked as anyone to see Furyk's name near the top of the leaderboard last week at the PGA Championship, but it was only a matter of time before he found his game. He's worth a look now that we've got some evidence that he's getting back into the groove.
4. David Toms
Even with some high expectations, Toms played well at the PGA Championship last week, and he's played well at this venue as well. He looks like a solid pick again this week.
5. Bill Haas
It's safe to say that Haas is a much better player now compared to 12 or 24 months ago. So, the fact that he's played relatively well here in the past bodes well for him this week.
Players to Avoid:
1. Henrik Stenson
Stenson made a little run at the U.S. Open in June, but beyond that, it's been a horrible year for the Swede. His top-25 at the Open was his only top-25 on the PGA TOUR this year.
2. Arjun Atwal
Atwal shocked the golf world last year when he won this event as a Monday qualifier, but don't expect similar results this time around. Atwal hasn't exactly taken off since that win last year, and if not for his inclusion in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions earlier this year, he'd be outside the top 125 now.
3. Paul Casey
Lost in all the Tiger-drama, and to a lesser degree the questions surrounding Jim Furyk's fall, is that Paul Casey has played some of the worst golf of his life this season. Casey hasn't recorded a top-25 since early March, and there's no reason to think he gets one this week, either.
4. Camilo Villegas
Villegas is one of those players looking to make a run this week and gain entrance into the FedEx Cup playoffs starting next week, but if he plays anything like he has over the past few months, he's wasting his time.
5. Davis Love III
Love III played well at the PGA Championship last week. He is a past champion of this event, but he hasn't quite taken to the new venue. In his three starts at Sedgefield, he's finished no better than T60.
Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:
This week: Wyndham Championship
1. Jim Furyk
2. Lucas Glover
I can't quite believe that Furyk is back on my roster just a week after a trip to the "Avoid List," but that's what happens when a golfer of his caliber shows some of his old form, which he did last week at the PGA Championship.
1. Bill Haas
2. Webb Simpson
3. Carl Pettersson
4. David Toms
Not many surprises here. Toms will likely be on most rosters this week, so I'm not gaining any ground. Pettersson is a former champ at this event, which will garner him some attention as well. Haas is one of the bigger names in the field this week and will be on plenty of radars. Simpson might be the wild card, though, as his game has fallen off a bit lately. Perhaps his run is over for now, but if he has one last push before the FedEx Cup, he might be someone who can help you make up some ground this week.
1. Brandt Snedeker
2. Jason Dufner
No one will blame Dufner if he fails to show up mentally this week, but I have a feeling he'll do more than that. I usually shy away from players who might have a mental issue heading into the week, but I have a strange feeling that Dufner is going to come out of this situation OK. The healing process begins with a good showing this week.
Starters Round One
1. Lucas Glover
2. David Toms
3. Bill Haas
4. Brandt Snedeker
As much as I'd like to believe that Furyk is back, I'd like to see one more round before I put my money where my mouth is. Glover is one of the top picks this week, so there's really no risk in waiting out Furyk. I'm taking the safe route in Group B with Toms and Haas as my first-round starters. Both players have plenty of experience on this course, and both have shown the ability to play at a high-level this season (Toms more recently than Haas, however). As much as I believe in Dufner this week, I'm not crazy enough to start him out of the gate. Snedeker is the smart play to open things up Thursday.
Round Two and Going Forward:
This looks to be an interesting week as I have a player who appears to be back to form and one who could go in any direction after a tough loss. It goes without saying that Thursday will be a very important day, not only for the players in my starting line-up, but the ones on the bench as well. If Furyk plays well Thursday, I'll likely start him Friday. Same situation with Dufner in Group C. If Dufner can show that he's put last week behind him, he'll likely contend this week. Toms has a strong hold on one of the starting spots in Group B this week, but the other one is up for grabs come Friday. Hopefully, Webb Simpson will show some early season form and work his way into a starting spot. But if not, Haas or Pettersson should pick up the slack.