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WGC Preview: In A Groove

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.

Is it too early to hit the panic button? Twenty-eleven was supposed to be quite a year. The talent was no longer concentrated among just a few players, it was everywhere. From young guns like Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy, to seasoned vets like Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Yes, 2011 was going to be a year in which the big guns ruled. One problem, though - through the first two months of the season, only one "big gun" has won an event and the deck was stacked in that occurrence as the field included only the top 64 in the world. To be more precise, only two golfers, Luke Donald and Bubba Watson, held a World Golf Ranking inside the top 100 the week they won on the PGA Tour. Sure, we've witnessed a possible superstar in the making in Jhonattan Vegas pick up his first win, but prior to his victory, he wasn't even on the map. Aaron Baddeley and Jonathan Byrd are certainly fine players, but neither has reached the "elite" level on the PGA Tour. So, is it time to panic? Short answer, no. A look at the defending champ in the next five events on the schedule shows us that this is about the time of year when things start to heat up. Another WGC event is up next, and the first major of the year is only a month away. No, now is not the time to panic, now is the time to get excited.

What the Honda Classic means:

Rory Sabbatini: Sabbatini was once on the doorstep of the elite level, but the last few years have not been so kind. It's not that he's fallen apart, he's just lost a bit of relevance. With his win last week, he can start his ascent to the next level once again. He may get there yet, just a few years after we thought he would.

Y.E. Yang: Yang posted another solid finish at the Honda Classic, but before you get too excited remember that he's fond of that venue as it was the site of his first win on the PGA Tour.

Vijay Singh: The stars were aligned last week for Singh as he was playing at a very high level entering the week, but it didn't matter as he threw out an opening-round 77 on his way to cuts-ville. Singh will recover from this setback, but perhaps our expectations ran a little too high after the way he started the 2011 season.

This week:
WGC - Cadillac Championship

Last Year:
Ernie Els shot a final-round 66 on his way to a four-stroke victory over Charl Schwartzel.

Players to Consider:

1. Aaron Baddeley

Baddeley is an extremely streaky player, and even though his win was three weeks ago and he missed the cut in Cancun, I have no doubt his game will pick up where he left off in California. His track record here, two top-15s in three tries, indicates he can get around this track as well.

2. Charl Schwartzel

Schwartzel surprised many when he finished runner-up here last year. While he won't sneak up on anyone this time around, he's probably a better player now than he was 12 months ago.

3. Paul Casey

Three top-10s here in seven tries, not exactly Woods-esque, but solid enough to warrant consideration. Call this one a hunch. Casey seems to be the forgotten one with all the other Euros taking the spotlight recently. That could change this week.

4. Luke Donald

Donald's track record here is nothing spectacular, but I like the way he bounced back after a slow start last week at the Honda Classic.

5. Tiger Woods

I know, I know, it isn't the same Tiger. But how can you ignore his track record here? Six wins and never - never - outside the top-10 in 10 tries.

Players to Avoid:

1. Rory Sabbatini

Sabbatini was heads above the field last week, but the field is much better this week, and his track record at Doral is not good. Five tries here and no top-20s.

2. Y.E. Yang

Yang is coming off a solid showing at the Honda Classic last week, but he's never fared well at Doral. Perhaps he turns it around this year, but I'll stick with the trend.

3. Jhonattan Vegas

Vegas looked like the next big thing about a month ago, but he's fallen back to earth since. This will be his first time at Doral, and considering the competition, I doubt he makes any noise.

4. Phil Mickelson

I'm just not feeling it this week, not here anyway. Mickelson won here in 2009, but that was his only top-10 in eight tries at Doral.

5. Jim Furyk

Furyk certainly has a solid track record here, but his game is way off, further off than Tiger's game.

Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:

This week:
WGC - Cadillac Championship

Group A

1. Luke Donald
2. Tiger Woods

I never thought I would see the day, but Woods is now a player you can put on your roster to gain points on your competition - if he can perform at a high level that is.

Group B

1. Paul Casey
2. Charl Schwartzel
3. Jeff Overton
4. Camilo Villegas

As mentioned previously, Casey is a hunch pick this week. Schwartzel has a limited track record here, but a runner-up finish is part of that limited history. First time for Overton at Doral, so he's a bit of a risk, but he's playing well coming into this week. Villegas is always a threat in Florida, and his track record at Doral is pretty solid.

Group C

1. Alvaro Quiros
2. Aaron Baddeley

Baddeley comes in with a lot of momentum, and his track record here is solid, his DQ in 2009 not withstanding. Quiros has only played here twice, but he finished in the top-15 both times.

Starters Round One

1. Luke Donald
2. Charl Schwartzel
3. Camilo Villegas
4. Aaron Baddeley

Donald gets the nod over Woods in round one this week. He has more momentum entering the week, and, quite frankly, he's more reliable at the moment. Schwartzel gets one of the starting spots in Group B based on his showing here last year. Villegas gets the other spot based on his play at Doral and track record in Florida. Baddeley gets the nod in Group C on a hunch, I guess. Sure he missed the cut his last time out, but come on, it was in Cancun - after a big win. The Baddeley that won at Riviera will be the one teeing it up Thursday.

Round Two and Going Forward:

As has been the case all year with Tiger, I'll have to wait and see which version shows up. Donald is certainly capable of scoring all week, so I will not force Tiger into the line-up, but if he shows anything in round one, I'll certainly get him in the line-up Friday. Although Casey will start the week on the bench, I'll likely look to get him in the line-up Friday. Only a blow-up in the opening round will prevent Casey from finding his way into the line-up Friday. Overton likely will have to wait until the weekend to find his way into the starting line-up. The plan for Group C is to get Quiros in the line-up Friday, which will open up the weekend.

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