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Phoenix Open Preview: To Tend or Not to Tend

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.

To tend or not to tend, that is the question. Phil Mickelson's theatrics aside, the PGA TOUR finally received something it was in dire need of - superstar drama. I take that back, Phil Mickelson's theatrics only added to what was a thrilling finish to the Farmers Insurance Open. Not only were we talking about the winner, Bubba Watson, but we were also talking about the runner-up, Phil Mickelson, and whether he actually needed "Bones" to tend the flag on the 72nd hole. Talk about a win-win for the PGA TOUR. An up-and-coming star wins the tournament, and there's actually some additional buzz from the group behind him. All of this and we haven't even broached the subject of Jhonattan Vegas, who just might be the real deal. Oh, and did I mention that Tiger Woods was in the field last week? When was the last time Tiger Woods fell apart on the weekend and the golfing world, for the most part, didn't really care?

What the Farmers Insurance Open means:

Jhonattan Vegas: So much for relaxing. Vegas could have easily mailed it in this week and not a soul would have blamed him. Not satisfied with his lone win this year, Vegas made a push for his second victory of the young season, and he almost got it. I'll have to take another look at Vegas; he doesn't appear to be a one-hit wonder, but I wouldn't rush to judgment yet either and call him the next superstar.

Bubba Watson: Watson didn't need a win at the Farmers to validate his first victory on the PGA TOUR last year - he accomplished that when he took Martin Kaymer to a playoff at the PGA Championship - but it's sure nice to get win No. 2 out of the way. Watson belongs in the group of players just behind the PGA TOUR superstars.

Phil Mickelson: Mickelson was surely disappointed to miss out on another PGA TOUR victory last Sunday, but he's already off to a much better start than last season, which can only bode well for Mickelson owners.

This week:
Waste Management Phoenix Open

Last Year:
Hunter Mahan shot a final-round 65 on his way to a one-stroke victory over Rickie Fowler.

Players to Consider:

1. Rickie Fowler

Fowler finished runner-up here last year, but it was a disappointing finish as he entered the final round with the lead. A more seasoned player now, Fowler likely will play better if placed in a similar position this year.

2. Phil Mickelson

Mickelson is hit-or-miss at this event, but considering the way he played last week at the Farmers, it looks like he'll be on his game this year in Scottsdale.

3. Hunter Mahan

Mahan has two top-10s here in six tries, including his win last year, so it's no slam dunk that he'll climb the leaderboard. But considering he's coming off a good showing at the Farmers, he'll likely defend well this week.

4.Jeff Overton

Overton has two top-25s here in three tries, but he's a much better player now than in any of his three starts here, and he'll likely improve on his best finish of T24 last year.

5. J.B. Holmes

Holmes hasn't fared well here the last two years, but when he's on, he's nearly impossible to beat. He has won this event twice, including 2006 when he destroyed the field.

Players to Avoid:

1. Trevor Immelman

The jury is out on Immelman this year as he appears to be healthy for the first time since his Masters victory. But this week will not be an accurate barometer as he's never really fared well in Scottsdale, even when healthy.

2. Brian Davis

Davis has had his share of early-season success the last couple years, but Scottsdale has been the exception. In six starts here, Davis has four missed cuts and nothing better than a T27.

3. Kenny Perry

I surmised last week that Perry stopped at Torrey Pines to gauge where his game is heading into the 2011 season, and if last week is any indication, the Champions Tour is looking like a good option at this point. This week will be a better barometer, however, as he's played well in Scottsdale over the years. Still, I can't get past his 75-76 at the Farmers last week.

4. Bo Van Pelt

It's difficult to judge Van Pelt on his track record here as he's a much better player now than he was four or five years ago. But his failure to even make the cut on a regular basis here is too much to get past.

5. Aaron Baddeley

The opposite of Van Pelt, four or five years ago Baddeley's game was at its peak. Now, his game is a mess, and though he's had success here, don't expect it this week.

Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:

This week:
Waste Management Phoenix Open

Group A

1. Phil Mickelson
2. Nick Watney

Mickelson was in complete control last week at the Farmers, and even though he didn't win, he was right there until the end. Another performance like that may be good enough this week. Watney has a decent track record here, but this pick is based on his final-round performance at Torrey Pines last week.

Group B

1. Jeff Overton
2. Rickie Fowler
3. Hunter Mahan
4. Bubba Watson

An embarrassment of riches in Group B this week. Among the possible options are the defending champ, last week's winner and last year's runner-up. The odd-ball of the bunch is Overton and the last time anyone doubted him, he tore through his first-round Ryder Cup opponent. Noticeably absent from the list is Bill Haas, who has played extremely well this season but lacks the track record here.

Group C

1. Anthony Kim
2. Jhonattan Vegas

Kim continued to play well last week, but he's yet to finish well this season. This could be the week as he closed with a solid 67 here last year. Vegas has had no problem closing this season, and, though I'm likely a week too late on him, I can't take the chance of leaving him off my roster again.

Starters Round One

1. Phil Mickelson
2. Ricky Fowler
3. Bubba Watson
4. Anthony Kim

All four first-round starters this week fared well at the Farmers last week. Some, such as Kim and Fowler, didn't exactly finish well, but there should still be some carry over from an overall solid week at Torrey Pines. Mickelson and Watson did finish well and both players should start well this week.

Round Two and Going Forward:

I failed to get Watney a start last week, and I paid for that decision as he posted the best round on Sunday. That was partially due to Tiger Woods and my continuing insistence that he'll again find his form, but the other part of the equation was that Watney never forced my hand. Watney didn't really show any signs that a low round was coming last Sunday. Group B has so much talent that I can't possibly give any one of the four an edge now. Fowler likely will get the nod in a toss-up situation on the weekend, but other than that, I'll simply go on feel the entire way; no set game plan heading into the week. I'm starting with Kim in Group C as I just want to see one more round from Vegas before I pull the trigger.