Ken Duke is that guy. That name that you see on the leadeboard every now and then, but nothing seems to materialize. That guy that creeps into the top 50 on the money list one year and is not even on the PGA Tour a couple years later. He's that guy who had a ton of game that one time you watched him play on a random Saturday afternoon. He's that guy who's been around for a long time, but you're not sure if you could pick him out of a lineup. He's that guy with a lot of unfulfilled potential, albeit not of his own doing; he's that guy who's battled the dreaded back injury for years. He's that guy who never seemed to catch a break at the right time, if he did, well maybe things would be different and he wouldn't be fighting for his card every year. He's that guy who's in his mid-40s but looks a bit older in his PGA Tour bio, the kind of guy who could tee it up on the Champions Tour and not get carded. He's that guy who fights to play the game he loves, even if it means going back to the Web.com Tour to regain his playing privileges. He's that guy who just joined a very exclusive group with a win last weekend. He's that guy who'll tee it up at Augusta next year and no longer has to worry about his PGA Tour card. He's Ken Duke, and he has skills. It's about time we realized it.
This week: AT&T National
Last Year: Tiger Woods shot a final-round 69 on his way to a two-stroke victory over Bo Van Pelt.
Players to Consider:
1. Adam Scott
No Tiger Woods? How about the next best thing? Scott is on a roll this year, so much so that he's even avoided the Masters hangover. Scott has played well on this course as well, as he posted a top-10 here last year. Look for Scott to contend at Tiger's event again this year.
2. Hunter Mahan
Mahan has always been the guy who plays well when you least suspect it. Better yet, he plays well the week directly following a week in which you expected him to play well - there's a difference. This is one of those weeks as everyone expected big things from Mahan last week when he didn't exactly shine. He'll surprise some this week by playing well, but not us.
3. Jason Day
Here's what I worry about concerning Day. I worry that by getting so close at the majors, he's going to lose focus outside the big events. There's no evidence to back up this theory, but I've seen it before. In fact, Day actually fell off a bit after nearly winning the Masters and the U.S. Open in 2011. If he's as good as we think he is, though, he'll figure it out. This week should be a good barometer of where his mind is.
4. Billy Horschel
This is what I like to call a "show me" week for Horschel. He put his name on the map earlier this year when he won in New Orleans, and he entered the consciousness of the average golf fan at the U.S. Open with a top-5. Now it's back to the grind, show me what you got. I think he has plenty left to show us, and a good performance this week would add to what is already an outstanding year.
5. Scott Stallings
Last week's, "throw out the U.S. Open results" player didn't pan out, but I have a feeling this week's will. Stallings was on fire heading into the U.S. Open and though things didn't go well that week, the conditions should be somewhat easier this week. Expect Stallings to get back to form.
Players to Avoid:
1. Y.E. Yang
Yang hasn't played a Saturday round on the PGA Tour since early March. Yes, he has played since early March, several times in fact. Yang is just in a huge rut, and this track isn't usually one that allows players to work out the kinks.
2. Aaron Baddeley
Someone close to Baddeley might want to tell him to take a break. Whatever is wrong with his game, playing through it doesn't seem to be the fix that he needs. But he'll tee it up again this week, hoping to avoid an eighth consecutive missed cut.
3. Ken Duke
As you can probably tell, I have a fondness for players like Duke who grind it out year after year. That said, after waiting so long to pick up that first win, could you really blame Duke if he failed to show up mentally this week?
4. Camilo Villegas
Unlike the first two golfers on this list, Villegas has actually played on the weekend quite often the last couple months, but his track record at this event leads me to believe his run may be interrupted. Villegas has missed the cut here in his two most recent attempts.
5. Justin Hicks
Hicks is playing well this season. He comes into this week ranked 87th in the FedEx Cup standings, but as is the case with players in that range, the runs come and go and it looks like Hicks is in the midst of a bad run. He's missed his last two cuts, and a third could be in line this week.
Yahoo! Fantasy Golf
1. Brandt Snedeker
2. Nicolas Colsaerts
Yikes. I've seen worse from Group A. Check that, maybe I haven't. This is an extremely weak group of players, and I struggled to even find one player I really liked. Snedeker might be back to form after a decent showing at the U.S. Open, so that's something. Colsaerts isn't having a good year, but he also showed well at the U.S. Open, so maybe that's something as well. I'll say it again, yikes.
1. K.J. Choi
2. Charley Hoffman
3. Hunter Mahan
4. Scott Stallings
A pretty solid group of players to choose from in Group B this week. Two of the players are in my top 5, one is a former champion, K.J. Choi, and one has been on a roll for a few months now. The player on the roll is Charley Hoffman, who last week picked up his fourth top-10 in the last 10 weeks. As for Choi, he's been all over the map here, but when he's playing well, it usually means a top-3 here.
1. Adam Scott
2. Billy Horschel
Proof that I don't check the Yahoo! groups before making out my top 5. Three of my top 5 are in Group C this week, and let me tell you, figuring out which two players to take was very difficult. As is often the case, the tie-breaker was the number of starts left. I have only five left with Day and seven with Horschel. That, and I'm more likely to use Day in the remaining majors, so I need to be careful with his starts.
Starters Round One
1. Brandt Snedeker
2. Hunter Mahan
3. Charley Hoffman
4. Adam Scott
It didn't take long to set the starting lineup this week, and it's no surprise that the most difficult decision was in Group A. I'm not super excited about either player in Group A, which obviously leads to a tough call on whom to start. Snedeker gets the nod because he's Snedeker, and Colsaerts wasn't exactly lighting it up prior to the U.S. Open. Group B's starters were pretty easy to set. Hoffman continues to roll, and there's no reason to think that changes this week. Mahan has both recent play and track record on his side this week. Group C wasn't too difficult, either, as even though picking the second player was difficult, picking the first player was not. Adam Scott is the top choice from Group C this week, and as such, he gets the start Thursday.
Round Two and Going Forward
Group A is up in the air starting at the conclusion on round one Thursday. With any luck, Snedeker will regain his form from earlier this season and the entire week is his. If he struggles, however, things will get interesting as Colsaerts is no sure thing either. Choosing the Group B starters for Thursday was fairly easy, but that doesn't mean the group belongs to Mahan and Hoffman all week. If Choi shows the form that saw him win in 2008 and finish runner-up here in 2011, I'll have to find a spot for him. Stallings could be the first off the bench if he picks up where he left off prior to the U.S. Open. Group C should be fun as Scott and Horschel should be in the mix all week. Scott has a fairly strong grip on the starting spot, but if Horschel starts well, I'll try to find him a spot Saturday.