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The Barclays Preview: FedExCup Tees Off

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.

The 2010 FedExCup is on the horizon and, believe it or not, this year's cup has the potential to be the most entertaining yet. The most obvious storyline occurs in the very first week; will Tiger Woods survive and advance to Week 2? Can you believe this? In years past, the question was, will Tiger show up for the second event? Now he's fighting to qualify. Other than the Tiger drama, there's a distinct possibility that one of the young guns could take the title. You know, one of the guys who failed to handle a lead at the majors. You have Nick Watney, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy all in the mix this year. Can Phil grab his first FedEx title? To this point, only Tiger and Vijay have won FedEx championships. Mickelson would surely like to join those ranks, and he's performed well during this race over the past three years - he's third on the all-time FedEx money list - so this could be his year. Speaking of performing well during the FedExCup, Steve Stricker usually finds his best form this time of the year; can he do it again? Oh, and then there's the current leader, a golfer we haven't heard from lately, Ernie Els.

What the Wyndham Championship means:

Arjun Atwal: Atwal went from sure Q-School attendee to fully exempt in four days. Atwal didn't exactly come out of nowhere - his name was known in golfing circles - but to win as a qualifier is nearly unheard of.

David Toms: Toms didn't have enough to catch Atwal last week, but he's getting hot at the right time. Toms could definitely make a run the next four weeks.

Michael Sim: Speaking of sleeper picks for the FedEx, Sim carded a 62 on Sunday and tied for third. He also played pretty well at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

This week: The Barclays

Last Year: Heath Slocum shot a final-round 67 on his way to a one-stroke victory over three players.

Players to Consider:

  1. Steve Stricker

    The players are headed back to Ridgewood Country Club this year, the course played in 2008. Stricker finished in the top-20 that year, but I expect a better result this time around as this is his time of year.

  2. Justin Leonard

    Leonard tied for seventh in 2008 and is coming off a nice showing last week at the Wyndham where he tied for third.

  3. Bubba Watson

    Watson finished 12th here in 2008, and when we last saw him, he was playing pretty well. Watson seemed a little perturbed after his playoff loss at the PGA Championship. I can only imagine that he's been licking his chops at another chance to prove himself.

  4. Rory McIlroy

    This is McIlroy's first time at this event, but as he's proven at the PGA and everywhere else this year, it doesn't matter. The only question will be how committed he is to the FedExCup. If fully committed, he'll be playing all four weeks with a chance to hoist the trophy at the end.

  5. Paul Casey

    Casey's been lying in the weeds this season, but I have a feeling he's about to make a splash the next four weeks. Casey played well here in 2008, so if nothing else, he should perform well during Week 1 of the FedExCup.

Players to Avoid:

  1. Tiger Woods

    I'm going to put my classic Tiger disclaimer on this: this isn't to say Tiger is a bad pick this week, but if you are expecting a win, you need to look elsewhere. Yes, he needs to play well this week to advance to the next event, but he hasn't shown the ability to play well under pressure this year. So why would it be different this week?

  2. Vijay Singh

    Yes, he won here in 2008, and, yes, he's shown the ability to play extremely well during the FedExCup, but this isn't the same Singh who won two years ago. In fact, Singh has only two top-10s all year.

  3. Geoff Ogilvy

    It's nearly impossible to win on the PGA TOUR and still have a bad year, but Ogilvy has managed to pull it off. Ogilvy's win came in early January, and he hasn't even cracked the top-10 since.

  4. Woody Austin

    Austin played his way into the top-125 with a couple good efforts the last month, but all that momentum was lost last week when he missed the cut at the Wyndham.

  5. David Duval

    After he misses the cut this week, Duval will have plenty of time to finish his upcoming book titled, "Four good days and one big paycheck, hello FedExCup!"

Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:

This week: The Barclays

Group A

  1. Steve Stricker
  2. Bubba Watson

I really wanted to use Mickelson here, but I have only two starts left with him, so I'll save those. It's not like I'm reaching with either of these players. Watson and Stricker should both be in the mix come Sunday.

Group B

  1. David Toms
  2. Nick Watney
  3. Dustin Johnson
  4. Rory McIlroy

All four players selected from this group are itching to get going this week. Toms is looking to keep his momentum from a runner-up finish last week. Watney will try to erase the memory of his final-round collapse at Whistling Straits. Johnson is also trying to erase the memory of Whistling Straits, and McIlroy is trying to figure out how to close. I have a feeling that at least three players from this group will be successful this week.

Group C

  1. Paul Casey
  2. Brandt Snedeker

It took nearly the entire season, but it looks like Snedeker is finally coming around. He's one of my sleepers to contend for the whole ball of wax over the next month. Casey is also a contender in my eyes, and I think he'll get off to a good start this week.

Starters Round One

  1. Steve Stricker
  2. David Toms
  3. Rory McIlroy
  4. Brandt Snedeker

My first-round strategy is probably pretty apparent, avoid the mental meltdown. Although I think Watson, Watney and Johnson will all be fine this week, I would hate to find out I'm wrong while they were in my starting line-up. Stricker is one of the favorites to walk away with the FedExCup in four weeks, and to do so, he'll need to start quickly, which he will. Toms should carry some momentum in from last week, and McIlroy is usually dependable early in the week. Snedeker is starting to find a groove, which is why he gets the first-round start.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Although Watson played extremely well at the PGA Championship, he's still on the outside looking in this week on my squad. Stricker will have to falter slightly, and Watson will have to play well to earn a starting spot. Group B is full of talent, it's just a matter of which ones have their heads on straight. Watney suffered the biggest meltdown, but that was overshadowed by Johnson's bunker incident. In the long run, that incident saved Watney a lot of grief as he was no longer the focal point of the final round. Anyway, Watney should recover quickly, which will lead to a starting spot on Friday or Saturday. Johnson can get back into the line-up with a good start as well, I'll just have to watch him more closely than the others. Group C is up in the air after day one. Casey will likely get the start Friday so I can clear my starts for the weekend.
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