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Golf Barometer: Play Quickly, Play Decisively, Play Happy

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

Matt Kuchar:
While Kuch only has four PGA Tour victories, two have come against loaded fields - the hoist at The Barclays in 2010 and last week's win at TPC Sawgrass. Baseball writer Bill James once observed that versatile players are more likely to be underrated than a player who excels in one specific area, and you can apply that to golf (and to Kuchar) as well. He's accurate, he's consistent, he's smart around the greens and he's deadly with the putter. He will win a major, perhaps two, before the end of the decade - book it.

Ben Curtis:
He's been the best player on tour for the last four weeks (win, T13, T5, T2), pairing a confident swing with perhaps one of the top-5 putting strokes on the circuit. Curtis will finally take a much-needed break this week - he admitted he was on fumes in Florida, but it didn't show in his play. It's a shame he doesn't have a U.S. Open ticket punched yet, because his game is perfect for that sort of setup. Keep him on your sleeper list for the other two majors.

Rickie Fowler:
He almost stole the tournament with a late Sunday run, and after the event there were no regrets - just a wide smile and a gushing comment of "that was a lot of fun." There's a lot to be learned from the Fowler file: play quickly, play decisively and play happy. His victory two weeks back was probably the springboard to a monster season.

Bob Estes:
The PGA Tour is No Country for Old Men, not for the long haul, but we can try a veteran in short doses if the timing is right. Estes carded a nifty 65 at Sawgrass on Sunday (with Mark Brooks, the former PGA Championship winner, on the bag), and he's had a solid finish in three of his last four starts (T15, T4, T24). Estes is a Texas man through and through, so why not dial him up for this week's Byron Nelson Championship?

NBC/The Golf Channel:
We've said many times that every telecast improves if Johnny Miller is in the booth, and Dan Hicks's smooth traffic-cop role is well documented too. But let's offer a respectful golf clap to booth analyst Gary Koch and course reporter Dottie Pepper; I can't recall when either made a course observation or prediction that turned out to be wrong. If Koch says "everyone misses this putt left" ... you can be sure the ball's going to miss left. They're outstanding at what they do.

DOWNGRADE

Rory McIlroy:
Make it three consecutive missed cuts at Sawgrass for the uber-talented kid. There are plenty of golfers who never figure out how to play Sawgrass or at least enjoy it; for now, McIlroy is on that list. Clip and save, and count him out in May 2013.

Tiger Woods:
He finally cashed at The Players after a couple of seasons of WDs. But a T40 check is no reason for a parade. At least Woods didn't bother with his "I'm close" rhetoric, though he did talk about one round of 73 like it was a day without a misplayed shot. We're used to that bunk by now.

Camilo Villegas:
He hasn't banked a check over $81K this year, and most of the slump has been tied to play around the green. Although Villegas's ball striking has still been solid, he's 98th in strokes gained putting, 160th in sand saves and 122nd in scrambling. If you can't envision the short shots, you can't score. Time to give up on Gator Bait.

HOLDING STEADY

Kevin Na:
He handled the catcalls and the media pressure about as well as could be reasonably expected, but until Na gets out of his own way and finds a solution to his yips on the tee, it's going to be near-impossible to cash in on his significant ability. Na probably rushed himself during Sunday's blow-up 76, but there are plenty of golfers who turn quick, decisive play into a positive - look at Rickie Fowler for one example.

Jason Dufner:
A four-day line of 73-71-76-75 is uninspiring after the New Orleans victory, but a man's allowed to be a little wiped out after his wedding. And with Kevin Na and Sergio Garcia in the field, no one had time to notice, or complain about, Dufner's waggling problem.