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WGC-Bridgestone Preview: Sucker Bet?

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.

Emotion has been a part of sports since the very first athletes stepped onto their respective fields. In sports such as basketball, hockey and football, emotion plays an extremely important role, for without it, the chances of success go down dramatically. That's not the case in golf, however. Sure, the masses crave it, and emotion of any sort makes television viewing much more exciting, but golf is one of the few sports where emotion rarely helps the cause of the player and often hurts it. Further proof of this theory was offered last weekend when Jeff "Spalding" Overton absolutely fell apart on Sunday. It started slowly, a missed put here and a look of frustration; a poor swing there and a look of anger. The rush of emotions, though, soon took over and the entire golfing world was there to see every minute of it. First, the wayward tee shots followed by Overton dropping his club. Then a missed shorty on the 17th green that resulted in a 60-second pouting session about something on the green. It was mentioned that his father was a football coach, and Overton has a hard time bottling up his emotions. How much you want to bet that his father, standing just outside the ropes, wanted to jump over and slap some sense into him after that missed putt on 17? The funny thing was, as soon as the commentators saw how Overton responded to his mistakes, they knew it was over. They didn't say as much, but they know - just like we do - when you let your emotions take control, in this game, you lose.

What the Greenbrier Classic means:

Stuart Appleby: Raise your hand if you saw this coming. I certainly did not as evidence by my placement of Appleby on the Avoid List last week. There certainly weren't any signs of this coming, but now that Appleby has another win, he's got plenty of time to work out the kinks and get back to his form of a few years ago.

Jeff Overton: Somebody close to Overton needs to have a chat with this lad about his temper. Other than Tiger Woods, is there any successful player on the PGA TOUR with that kind of temper? Woody Austin and Pat Perez are two names that come to mind, both good players, both underachievers.

Kenny Perry: This may be the beginning of the end for Perry. I surmised last week that Perry, with the added motivation of philanthropy, might resurrect his season at the Greenbrier. He promptly went out and shot an opening-round 75. He did back it up with a solid 68, but it was too little too late.

This week: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

Last Year: Tiger Woods shot a final-round 65 on his way to a four-stroke victory over Padraig Harrington.

Players to Consider:

  1. Tiger Woods

    I know, I know, I am a complete sucker. I just can't get past his track record here. Of all the events on the PGA TOUR schedule that Tiger "owns," this one stands alone. Four consecutive wins here and seven wins in 10 years. Yes, read it again, seven wins in 10 years.

  2. Hunter Mahan

    Mahan has not inspired much confidence lately, but he usually finds a way to play well in Akron. Hey, Stuart Appleby didn't inspire any confidence heading into last week, right?

  3. Paul Casey

    Casey has five top-20s in six tries here, and he's playing well entering this week. Casey has a knack for playing well at big events outside the majors, and he should be in the mix this week.

  4. Lee Westwood

    There was a time when considering Lee Westwood for a big event was suicide. I dare say that's changed the past couple years. Now, Westwood is among the small group of players who must be considered every week.

  5. Justin Rose

    Rose came out flat at the British Open a few weeks ago, but remember, entering that event he had won twice in a three-week span. He's played well here before also, finishing runner-up to Woods in 2007.

Players to Avoid:

  1. Kenny Perry

    As mentioned above, Perry is just not on his game, and considering his age, he's likely running short on time to find it.

  2. Sergio Garcia

    If Garcia doesn't pick up his game soon, he won't be playing in the WGC events anymore. Garcia will likely need some time off to fix the holes in his game.

  3. Ernie Els

    Call it a hunch. I just don't like the way he's played since winning a couple events earlier in the year.

  4. Phil Mickelson

    Mickelson is slightly off his game, which didn't hurt him at Augusta. But this is Firestone, where Mickelson has only one top-20 in the past seven years.

  5. Adam Scott

    Scott has made strides toward his old form this season, but even during his best years, he failed to figure out this course. Only one top-30 in seven tries here.

Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:

This week: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

Group A

  1. Tiger Woods

  2. Luke Donald

I'll admit that Woods, even with his track record here, is a bit of a gamble. However, the other big names from this group are not all that enticing, so it makes the pick easier. As for the second spot, Donald doesn't have a great track record here, but I like what I've seen from him lately, and he might be ready to go on a run.

Group B

  1. Hunter Mahan

  2. Padraig Harrington

  3. Lee Westwood

  4. Rory McIlroy

I just realized that three of the four players listed above are European. I note that because I only chose those three players because they looked like the best players in the group with little or nothing to do with their track record here. I'm getting off track, but it wasn't long ago that even the best Euro's struggled over here; now many of them are thriving. Anyhow, Mahan has the track record here along with Harrington and, as mentioned, Westwood and McIlroy are simply the best remaining players, both of whom play well in big spots.

Group C

  1. Justin Rose

  2. Paul Casey

Very easy decisions in Group C this week. Casey and Rose are in my top-5, and though there are some intriguing options in Group C, these two stand above the rest.

Starters Round One

  1. Tiger Woods

  2. Hunter Mahan

  3. Lee Westwood

  4. Justin Rose

Hopefully Tiger figured out his putting the last couple weeks. I have to imagine that's priority No. 1. Considering he's conquered every challenge to this point in his career, I have to believe that he's going to find a way out of this putting funk. That belief is why I'll start him out of the gate. The starters from Group B were not easy to pick. All four players are solid and any one of them could post the low round of the day. I am going with Westwood, who continues to meet every challenge, and Mahan, who has the track record here. Rose gets the nod in Group C as he was the hottest player on the planet before his trip to St. Andrews last month. I'm guessing a less treacherous setting, at least weather wise, will return him to form.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Why is it that I can't abandon Tiger Woods? As I write this, there is little to no doubt in my mind that he'll play well this week. All the evidence from this season would be in direct conflict to my belief, but there is too much history here to ignore. Donald may not get a chance to start this week, but hopefully he plays well anyway. If Tiger starts poorly, I might sneak a second-round start in for Donald. I'm going to decide Group B on a daily basis this week. All four players are solid and anyone of them could start all four rounds, but I'll have to wait and see who's playing well before setting my line-up. Westwood is the most likely candidate to get three or more starts, but I won't hesitate to pull him after one poor round. Casey and Rose should alternate starts this week. Hopefully I get the better of the two on Thursday, though, as I don't want to be chasing my tail all week if Casey outplays Rose in round one.
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