RotoWire Partners

AT&T National Preview: Getting Closer

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.

With or without Tiger Woods, professional golf will likely never ascend to the heights of professional baseball, football or basketball, but if the sport has any chance at maintaining the level of interest that it carries now, it needs the stars of the future to turn it up a notch. Already this season we've witnessed many younger players take their games to the next level, and Bubba Watson added his name to that list last week. There was a time on the PGA TOUR when young stars came on the seen one at a time, but in 2010 it seems as though nobody wants to wait their turn. Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Bubba Watson have already notched victories this season and the youngest of them all, Rickie Fowler, appears to be on the brink. For years, it was thought that professional golf needed a rival to Tiger Woods to thrive, now it appears as though a bunch of young guys living up to their potential may be enough to sustain interest through the remainder of the decade. Now, if we could just get one of these guys to win a major.

What the Travelers Championship means:

Bubba Watson: This could be the moment Watson turned everything around. Like it or not, he is always going to be compared to J.B. Holmes because they came onto the PGA TOUR together and both bomb it off the tee. Prior to last weekend, though, Watson was not in Holmes' league, but a win changes that.

Scott Verplank: This would have been a special win for Verplank as chances like this don't come around too often anymore. Verplank can still play well in spots, but don't expect a month-long run out of this good performance.

Justin Rose: Yikes! Good thing he won a few weeks back at the Memorial, or we'd all be wondering where this guy's head is right now. A complete meltdown on Sunday from Rose. He went from hitting about 75 percent of greens through the first three rounds to less than 40 percent on Sunday.

This week: AT&T National

Last Year: Tiger Woods shot a final-round 67 on his way to a one-stroke victory over Hunter Mahan.

Players to Consider:

  1. Tiger Woods

    We've yet to see the real "Tiger" for an entire week this season, but it's easy to see that he's getting close. What better way to re-emerge as the king than at his own event - which he won last year.

  2. Hunter Mahan

    Is he playing well right now? No, but since when did that matter? Mahan is probably chomping at the bit to get going this week after an embarrassing missed cut last week.

  3. Jim Furyk

    Furyk has a great track record at this event, which doesn't mean squat since they are playing a new course this year, but something tells me he'll show well at the new course, just like he did at Congressional the last three years.

  4. Vijay Singh

    Singh isn't all the way back yet, but just like Tiger, he's close. Last week it was one poor round that derailed him. This week he'll need to avoid a similar explosion as there is too much talent in the field.

  5. Justin Rose

    Does one bad round erase the momentum of three good ones? Possibly, but I think Rose will have his mind right from the start this week. Even though he failed to close last week, he's only a few weeks removed from winning Jack's event.

Players to Avoid:

  1. Brian Gay

    How do you pick five guys to avoid on a new course during such a wacky season where nothing is what it seems? My theory is to pick players who gofl well only on certain tracks and hope this isn't one of them.

  2. Kevin Streelman

    The other option is to pick players who have really underachieved this season. To the point that a win this week would be a complete shock.

  3. Derek Lamely

    Avoiding a player off a missed cut is usually a good idea. Notice I said usually. Being a first-timer at this event is just a bonus.

  4. Chris Riley

    If that doesn't work, you can always pick out the guy who dramatically overachieved the previous week. It doesn't hurt when said player has a track record of disappearing the following week after a good showing.

  5. Chris DiMarco

    And if all else fails, pick on the guy who hasn't been right in years. The three decent rounds he posted coming into this event will only lead you down the wrong path.

    This week: AT&T National

    Group A

    1. Vijay Singh

    2. Tiger Woods

    Woods and Singh look like the easy choices this week, though there are a couple players who could take the spot of Singh this week if you were looking to make a move. Ryan Moore and Steve Marino would top that list.

    Group B

    1. Hunter Mahan

    2. Bo Van Pelt

    3. Jim Furyk

    4. Dustin Johnson

    Plenty of options in Group B this week, but I think I've got all the bases covered with this foursome. The most popular pick likely will be Furyk. His success at this event, be it at a different venue, lends justification to his selection. Mahan is coming off a brutal showing last week, but the good ones respond well after outings like that. I guess we'll see what he's made of this week. Van Pelt is quickly becoming one of the most dependable players on the PGA TOUR, and there's no reason to doubt him this week. Johnson could very well be a mess this week after his final-round meltdown at the U.S. Open, but I have a feeling he's ready to put that behind him. A win this week would be a good start.

    Group C

    1. Justin Rose

    2. Ben Crane

    With no compelling reason to select anyone from Group C this week, I am simply going with the top two performers to date. Rose will need to put the disappointing final round from last Sunday behind him, but I think he's capable. Crane has been solid all year and seems like a perfect pick for a new course.

    Starters Round One

    1. Tiger Woods

    2. Hunter Mahan

    3. Jim Furyk

    4. Ben Crane

    I've started Tiger Woods in round one a few times this year, and it's yet to really pay off. This week that changes. Woods is oh-so-close to finding his top form, and I have a feeling he'll hit the ground running this week on his way to successfully defending his title here. Furyk seems a logical choice to start round one this week as there are few players on the PGA TOUR who are more reliable. Van Pelt has shown reliability all year, but I am going to go against the grain here and go with my hunch that Mahan was embarrassed last week and ready to atone this week. I'll give Rose a round to recoup from a poor final round last week and come out of the gate with Crane, who much like Furyk, has been very reliable this season.

    Round Two and Going Forward:

    As is often the case when Tiger is in the mix, Woods will dictate the rotation in Group A this week. Singh is suddenly capable of winning again, and if he starts well, I'll have to consider him for round two, but if Woods goes low on Thursday, he'll be hard to remove. I'll give the Mahan experiment one day, but if he fails to show anything Thursday, he's getting the hook. Furyk has a much stronger hold on his starting spot heading into Friday. Van Pelt is likely the first one off the bench Friday, and Johnson might have to wait for the weekend. A good showing from Rose on Thursday will result in a Friday start. I just need to see that he's put last week behind him. From there, it's a toss up. Both Crane and Rose have already won this year, so you know they are capable of winning this week.