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Golf Barometer: Kuchar Eyes the Next Level

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

Boo Weekley:
He's finally healthy again after several seasons held back and the wonderful ball striking has returned as well. Weekley's putter can get a little leaky now and then - he missed a few put-it-away shots during the final round of the Crowne Plaza - but when you're striping it tee to green as Weekley was, the ordinary play with the flat stick isn't that big of a deal. Give him the trophy, punctuate the story. Weekley now has four Top-10 finishes on the year and a terrific 13 checks in 15 starts. Comeback Player of the Year, lock it down.

Matt Kuchar:
He's rounding into form nicely for the rest of the majors - remember he was T8 at the Masters, and then we saw a sole second at the Crowne Plaza. Kuchar's one of the 10 best putters on the planet, his ball striking is consistent, and he's as mentally balanced a player as you'll find. Sounds like a good recipe for U.S. Open contention.

Bo Van Pelt:
He's getting close, really close - the Crowne Plaza was a good event for Van Pelt until the uneven 71 on Sunday, and he's quietly cashed five times in a row (including a T6 at Wells Fargo in early May). Van Pelt's tee game has always been accurate and reliable, and his sterling iron play is finally starting to come around. Look for a statement from Van Pelt this summer.

Fredrik Jacobson:
A player this good has to break through and win a slew of events one of these years, right? The grinding Swede has cashed in his last 10 events, fashioning a classy putter (20th in strokes gained) and a knack for outperforming his ball-striking stats (he's fourth in scoring). The hip problem that knocked Jacobson out of Wells Fargo four weeks ago doesn't seem to be a problem anymore.

Jimmy Walker:
This might be the best player no one seems to talk about: 21st on the money list, 21 overall cuts made back to 21012. Walker is a monster off the tee (12th in distance) and while there are some wayward offerings, the rest of his game comes together nicely (28th in GIR, 24th in strokes gained putting, 39th in scrambling). Walker is in his age-34 season, prime time for a career to peak.

DOWNGRADE

Sergio Garcia:
We don't mean to pile on, but if you ever needed an amateur psychologist version of why Garcia is the ultimate underachiever, you got it over the last two weeks. Garcia has an uncanny knack of never knowing when he should be trusting his mind, his heart or his cojones; you'd think at this stage of his career, a little perspective would creep in. And good luck getting a quiet gallery on U.S. soil the rest of the year - Garcia has done a nice job of sabotaging himself with the crowds. Talk about someone who needs an older brother or a father figure.

Tommy Gainey:
If you can't consistently hit your irons as you want to, good luck making cuts and competing on the weekend. Gainey is 172nd in GIR, and his total driving has been a mess as well (165th). If not for a somewhat-miraculous performance on the greens (67th in strokes gained putting), Gainey wouldn't even be 130th on the money list. Another friendly sleeper fizzles out on us.

HOLDING STEADY

Nick Watney:
On one hand it's downright maddening to see him 45th on the money list, especially with five checks over 100K. Watney's had some trouble closing in 2013, of course, and a balky putter isn't doing him any favors (he's 176th in putting strokes gained). But anyone who can keep cashing this regularly despite the green issues is someone to be deathly afraid of; eventually the stroke comes back and that's when a player like Watney might roll to a five or six-shot victory.

Angel Cabrera:
He doesn't turn 44 until fall, and The Duck is still waddling around impressively in stateside events, grabbing 10 cashes and making a run at the Masters and the Byron Nelson. The only strange leak in his game is the Sunday scoring, where he ranks 146th in average. That's downright bizarre for a player of this experience level. But Cabrera never lacks for confidence in any situation, and he's still powerful enough (295.1 driving average) to contend on the modern layouts.

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