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Tournament of Champions Preview: 2014 Tees Off

Greg Vara

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

Ready or not, the start of the 2014 season is here. Well, not the official start, that was back in October ... I think. OK, so the changes to the PGA Tour schedule were a lot to absorb, but now that the PGA Tour is back in Hawaii, order has been restored. It's still too early to tell how the new schedule will impact things, but my suspicion is that it will minimally affect the better players on the PGA Tour, while having a fairly major impact on the newcomers.

As for this space, you'll notice a change this year. We'll still make picks for those who play the Yahoo game, but we'll also focus on pick-one formats. And we'll make a "survivor" pick each week. The 2013-14 season brings plenty of changes, both on the PGA Tour and here at RotoWire, and I for one am looking forward to it.

This week:
Hyundai Tournament of Champions - Plantation Course at Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii

Last Year:
Dustin Johnson shot a final-round 68 on his way to a four-stroke victory over Steve Stricker.

Players to Consider:

Matt Kuchar

Kuchar has yet to win this event, but he's been in the hunt the last three times. Kuchar has three consecutive top-10s at this event, and while that's not quite as impressive as it would be against a full field, it's still pretty good.

Jordan Spieth

Spieth is obviously a first-timer here, but as he proved time and again last year, that simply doesn't matter. It will be interesting to see how Spieth responds to higher expectations this season - many before him have struggled with that. Spieth appears to be a special player, and I have a feeling he'll be just fine.

Brandt Snedeker

Few PGA Tour players are more productive outside the majors than Snedeker, and in case you were wondering, no, the Hyundai is not a major. I get the feeling Snedeker is feeling some pressure to turn his game up a notch this year. A win out of the gate would be a good start.

Dustin Johnson

Speaking of turning it up a notch, Dustin Johnson is also looking to move this year from a guy with potential to one of the top players in the world. To do that he'll need to show more consistency and, of course, pick up wins whenever possible. With the short field this week, this will be a prime opportunity to pick up another win.

Adam Scott

Is it possible to leave Scott off this list when he only needs to top 29 other players? I guess the answer is no. He doesn't have a great track record here; he hasn't cracked the top half of the field since 2007. But he finished runner-up that year and is certainly a better player than he was his last time here in 2011.

Players to Avoid:

Woody Austin

Austin's inclusion in this event is further proof that, yes, he did in fact win on the PGA Tour last year. Austin has had his moments the last 10 years on the PGA Tour, but his skills are declining, and I'd be surprised to see him contend this week.

Zach Johnson

Johnson finished last season on fire, and while there's a possibility that might carry over to this event, his history here is hard to ignore. Johnson has played here six times and finished in the top half just once. It appears as though Johnson just has a tough time getting around this course.

Brian Gay

When he's on, he's tough to beat. But the other 51 weeks out of the year, he's just an average player. For you non-math majors, the odds of Gay being on this week are just under 2 percent. He's played this event twice and finished in the lower half both times.

Derek Ernst

I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I have to imagine this event is tough for first-timers. Ernst will make his first appearance at this event, and it just might be a lot to take in.

Ken Duke

Duke will also make his first appearance here, and while he probably won't be overwhelmed, his game might not be up to par. Duke picked up a huge win last season when no one expected it, so he's got that in him, but I don't see a repeat performance this week.

ONE AND DONE GOLFER:
I obviously don't want to burn a big name this early in the season, but my options are a bit limited. With that in mind I'm going with Martin Laird, who has played well here with two top-5s in his only two appearances. He's also a player I don't mind using early in the season because there are a limited number of spots where I'd use him throughout the year.

YAHOO PICKS:
Group A: Kuchar - Snedeker. Group B: D. Johnson, Spieth, Simpson, Laird. Group C: Walker, Weekley

SURVIVOR PICK:
NA - no cut this week.

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