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Bob Hope Classic Preview: Don't Cink the Hope

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.

Jonathan Byrd tops Robert Garrigus in Week 1 followed by Mark Wilson besting Steve Marino and Tim Clark in Week 2. OK, so 2011 isn't quite off to the start I expected, but let's not send up the white flag just yet. Remember, we are only two weeks in and many of golf's biggest names have yet to even tee it up. If you're looking for the cavalry this week, though, you are out of luck. Woods, Mickelson and most of the top European's are still MIA, which means it's a perfect opportunity for those players looking to make the leap to the next level, to, well make the leap. Steve Marino nearly captured his first PGA TOUR win last week; this would be a good time to carry some momentum over to the following week. Tim Clark was also right there until the end last week; he's looking to back up his first win last season. Other players looking to regain their prior form such as David Toms and Mike Weir are also in the mix this week. The PGA TOUR bills itself as more than just a few big names. If that's the case, this is the time of year when we should see other golfers step up. There are plenty of intriguing story lines this week, let's hope we get a good one Sunday afternoon.

What the Hyundai Tournament of Champions means:

Mark Wilson: Wilson has been at this for a while, and I think we know what he is at this point - a good player who can win on occasion, but don't expect a leap to the next level.

Steve Marino: Marino hoped to rebound from a poor 2010 season, and if last week is any indication of what's to come, his 2011 is going to resemble 2009 more than 2010. Don't be shocked to see Marino grab his first victory this season.

Geoff Ogilvy: For those who drafted Ogilvy, his absence from the Hyundai was a big blow. Not only because every player in the field is guaranteed a payday, but because he was the two-time defending champion, and he's developed a habit for producing primarily in the first couple months of the season. Hopefully, he recovers quickly and can get some starts on the West Coast Swing.

This week:
Bob Hope Classic

Last Year:
Bill Haas shot a final-round 64 on his way to a one-stroke victory over three players.

Players to Consider:

1.Matt Kuchar

Kuchar was among the group of three players that finished one-stroke behind Haas last season. Kuchar has shown no signs that last season was a fluke, as he's picked up where he left off last season with two finishes in the top-6 already.

2. Tim Clark

Clark was also among the three players who finished just behind Haas last season, and, much like Kuchar, he's also well on his way to backing up his solid 2010 campaign. Clark also finished runner-up here in 2005.

3. Mike Weir

Weir is coming off a disappointing 2010 season, but it shouldn't take long to put that behind him, as he usually fares well at the Hope. Weir has finished in the top-6 three of the last five years here.

4. Vaughn Taylor

Taylor has teed it up here four times and has yet to finish outside the top-35. His upside may not be as high as it once was, but if you are looking for a reliable sleeper this week, Taylor is your man.

5. Bubba Watson

Watson makes his 2011 debut this week, and what better place than the birdie-fest that is the Bob Hope Classic? Watson has fared well here the last three years, with his best showing last season when he finished 29 under.

Players to Avoid:

1. Billy Mayfair

Mayfair is coming off a disappointing 2010 season, one which forced a trip to Q-School where he earned medalist honors. While that feat is certainly impressive, he'll likely have to wait until next week to really get going as his track record at the Hope is not good.

2. Steve Flesch

Flesch probably isn't atop your list to begin with, but just in case, consider his track record here: 13 starts and only one finish in the top-20.

3. Chris DiMarco

DiMarco showed some signs of life last week at the Sony Open where he finished T30, but after the last five years, I'm going to need to see a few more solid efforts before considering him again.

4. Jesper Parnevik

Parnevik won this event in 2000, and he made the cut last week at the Sony Open, but he struggled on the weekend and ruined what could have been a great start to the 2011 season.

5. Stewart Cink

Cink is looking to rebound from a less-than-stellar 2010 season, but his comeback may have to wait until next week, as he's never really figured out the Hope. Cink earned back-to -back top-10s in 1997 and 1998, but his performance here since then has been lacking.


This week:
Bob Hope Classic

Group A

1. Steve Marino
2. Matt Kuchar

Group A has few quality choices this week, but at least two players could win from this group. Kuchar is the top pick this week, and Marino is coming off a nice showing last week at the Sony.

Group B

1. Chad Campbell
2. Tim Clark
3. Bubba Watson
4. Vaughn Taylor

Four of the top six picks in the field this week come from Group B. I say top six because I had Chad Campbell in my top-5 before I realized that I left Mike Weir off the list. Campbell won here in 2006 and finished in the top-10 in 2009. Watson should again thrive in this five-round format just as he did last year. Clark was runner-up last week at the Sony as well as runner-up here last year. Anything outside a top-5 this week would be disappointing. Taylor is a bit of a sleeper this week, as he's not usually on many radars, but he's got a good feel for the courses in play this week.

Group C

1. Mike Weir
2. Ryan Moore

As I scrolled down the list of players in Group C, I began to get very concerned, then Mike Weir's name appeared. That was a close one. I was worried that I would have to go back to Jamie Lovemark again this week. As it is, I happened to find another solid pick in Ryan Moore, who has two top-10s here in the last three years.

Starters Round One

1. Matt Kuchar
2. Tim Clark
3. Bubba Watson
4. Mike Weir

The Hope is the first of a handful of events throughout the year where multiple courses are in play throughout the week. In addition, there are five rounds, starting on Wednesday. Here are the courses in play this week from easiest to most difficult: PGA West (Nicklaus), La Quinta, PGA West (Palmer) and Silver Rock. If you have a decision between a player at the easiest course vs. one at the most difficult course, then by all means use that criteria to determine your starter. As of this writing, the tee times have yet to be released, so I cannot set my first round line-up just yet. Once, I have access to those tee times, I'll set my line-up, likely Tuesday afternoon.

Round Two and Going Forward:

As the case with the first-round starters, it's hard to project which players will start on which days. All golfers will play on all four courses with the cut coming after Saturday's play. My best advice is to keep an eye on which courses are playing easy on Wednesday and lean toward your players who are on that course the following three days. The course rankings above reflect how the courses have played the last few years, but that can change from year to year, so keep an eye on the leaderboard. If you see seven or eight players in the top-10 played at one of the four courses, then that is a pretty good indication that said course is going to be vulnerable all week.