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Mayakoba Golf Classic Preview: Taking Advantage

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.

Perhaps nothing is more frustrating to a fantasy owner than a golfer attempting a swing change. For starters, unless the player making the change is highly visible, Tiger Woods comes to mind, we often don't even hear about it until the process is well under way. Second, once this change is made, the player often struggles initially, which to the first point I made, would be fine - if we knew it had already started! Lastly, there's simply no way to tell when or, more importantly, if the swing change will ever pay off. For every success, there are certainly more failures; we just don't know about them. I bring this up because after struggling for the last few years, Aaron Baddeley is suddenly figuring out this new swing of his. There were signs leading up to this weeks event that his game was coming around, but certainly nothing that would have led any of us to believe he'd win at Riviera. It's now safe to add the "swing change" to the long list of reasons why fantasy golf is the most challenging of all fantasy sports.

What the Northern Trust Open means:

Aaron Baddeley: Kudos to anyone who drafted Baddeley this year. It looks like he will end up being quite the sleeper in 2011. Baddeley knows how to win - he's done it three times on the PGA Tour - now it's just a matter of trusting this swing, again.

Fred Couples: Before you get too excited about Couples' performance last week, remember that he loves Riviera and always has been known as one who gets up for events he loves. That he seemed to break down near week's end is also a sign that he just doesn't have enough to win on the PGA TOUR anymore.

Vijay Singh: Singh, on the other hand, might have a little something left in his tank after all. He's playing really well, and though he hasn't won in a while, if he continues to putt like he did at Riviera, he'll find the winner's circle sometime soon.

This week:
Mayakoba Golf Classic

Last Year:
Cameron Beckman shot a final-round 67 on his way to a two-stroke victory over Brian Stuard and Joe Durant.

Players to Consider:

1.Aaron Baddeley

The concern this week is whether the big-name players will treat this week as work or pleasure. Something tells me that Baddeley is determined to keep the momentum going and will show up for work this week.

2. Jhonattan Vegas

Vegas simply refuses to go away. He had an opportunity to fade away last week after missing the cut in Phoenix, but he rebounded with another top-15 finish. Expect Vegas to take advantage of the weakened field this week.

3. Cameron Beckman

You never want to defend a championship at the Mayakoba because it means that you did little after winning the title the previous year. If Beckman had any success after his win last year, he'd be in the field at the Match Play event. That said, he has a feel for this course and this event, so he's worth a look this week.

4. Joe Durant

Remember the most important point about this week - who's coming to work. Durant's had few opportunities to win on the PGA TOUR recently, but he has a shot at the Mayakoba. He finished runner-up last year, and there's no reason he can't contend again this year.

5. Brian Gay

Gay won here in 2008, so we know he can get around this course. His two-year exemption for his victories in 2009 runs out this year, though, so he's back in the spot of having to earn his card. Gay will use this week as an opportunity to move up the money list and get one step closer to securing his card for 2012.

Players to Avoid:

1. Chad Campbell

Campbell could use this week to jump-start his season, but it doesn't look like his game is in any shape to do so. Campbell has made only two cuts in five starts this season.

2. Nathan Green

Green needs to make hay and fast, but to date, he's done little to earn his spot back on the PGA TOUR. Green has only made one cut in five tries this season.

3. Billy Mayfair

Mayfair had a nice showing at the Waste Management Open a couple weeks back, but other than that week, it's been a tough go for Mayfair this year. He's coming off a 77-73 last week at Riviera.

4. David Toms

Toms is one of the bigger names in the field this week, but his game is a little off. He comes into this week off consecutive missed cuts.

5. Scott Verplank

Verplank withdrew from his only start of the 2011 season at the Bob Hope Classic. This certainly isn't the time to rely on four good rounds from him.

Yahoo! Fantasy Golf

This week:
Mayakoba Golf Classic

Group A

1. Brian Gay
2. Rory Sabbatini

In all my years of playing the Yahoo! game, I don't think I've ever seen only four players to choose from in any group. Fortunately, there are a couple good options in Group A this week. Gay is a former champion, and Sabbatini has three top-25s this season already.

Group B

1. Spencer Levin
2. J.J. Henry
3. Carl Pettersson
4. Fred Funk

Levin and Henry are among the top scorers this season in the Yahoo! game from Group B and are heads above the rest of the field this week among those who have multiple stars on the PGA TOUR this season. Pettersson is simply one of the best golfers in the field this week and is as likely as anyone in the field to pull out a victory. Funk may seem like a wasted pick, but the same could have been said about Couples last week. Funk won this event in 2007, and though he's not likely to repeat the feat this week, he could produce a couple low rounds like Couples did last week.

Group C

1. Aaron Baddeley
2. Jhonattan Vegas

As is usually the case during these opposite-field events, Group C has a ton of options. That said, two players are heads above the rest this week if they continue to play like they have all year - Vegas and Baddeley.

Starters Round One

1. Brian Gay
2. Spencer Levin
3. J.J. Henry
4. Aaron Baddeley

It's difficult to come up with a starting line-up for this week's event as there are many conditions that aren't usually in play as they are this week. First, you have the setting. Sure, many events on the PGA TOUR schedule could be described as scenic, but tropical? Second, even those in attendance won't argue that this event isn't the lesser of the two professional golf events this week, which means you can't be quite sure who's fully focused on the task at hand. Still, I've come up with a line-up that I think will perform well Thursday. Gay doesn't have the luxury of fooling around this week, and considering he won here in 2008, he should look at this as a great opportunity to secure another two-year exemption. Levin and Henry get the starts in Group B due to their performances so far this season, and Baddeley gets the nod based on his play last week.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Gay has a decent hold on the starting spot in Group A heading into the week, but a poor start will open the door for Sabbatini. I don't expect a poor start, however, so I'll be looking for a spot to insert Sabbatini on Friday or Saturday. The two Group B starters have the opportunity to stay in the line-up all week, if their early 2011 form holds. If not, Pettersson will be the first one off the bench. Pettersson can also force my hand with a strong start Thursday. Although Levin and Henry have outplayed Pettersson this season, Pettersson is more likely to actually win this week. Baddeley gets the start in Group C, but I'm planning on starting Vegas on Friday, no matter how they play Thursday. Now, if Vegas blows-up Thursday, I might have to alter my plans. But anything outside of that, he'll be the starter Friday.