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The Heritage Preview: First Time is the Charm

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.

As I pursued the Internet on Sunday afternoon, I saw it again. Another headline concerning Lee Westwood and his spot atop the World Golf Rankings. Evidently, if Luke Donald had won in a playoff last week, he would have taken over the No. 1 spot. I wondered - who exactly is concerned with this? Perhaps it's the same folks who are interested in the upcoming Royal Wedding. That's right, the media. I'll be the first to admit that the World Golf Rankings mean absolutely nothing to me. Maybe it's because Tiger Woods dominated the rankings for so long, or maybe it's that he held onto the top spot for months after he last won an event. Maybe it's that Lee Westwood, a man who's yet to win a major, is the top-ranked player in the world! Have we even discussed how that is possible? Perhaps it's that no one really understands how it works, and we are at the mercy of the folks at the Golf Channel, NBC or CBS to explain to us when something is about to happen. Whatever the case, we're bound to hear about the rankings until Tiger finally retakes his throne at some point. Check that; we're bound to hear about it until months after Tiger has held the top spot, then maybe it will go away again.

What The Heritage means:

Brandt Snedeker: Is this the moment that Snedeker finally ascends to the next level. With two wins in his rookie season, he set the bar awfully high, and he's failed to live up to the expectations his rookie season brought, but the talent has been there all along. Snedeker is one guy who could definitely parlay this win into bigger and better things.

Luke Donald: After years of playing just below expectations, Donald is finally living up to his potential. He didn't get the win last week, but the fact that he came in as one of the favorites and nearly won is a sign that he's becoming the player we thought he would be.

Jim Furyk: Remember when Furyk could close with the best of them? I'm not saying his best days are behind him, but to this point in the season, he has not resembled the man who won the FedEx Cup last season.

This week:
Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Last Year:
Jason Bohn shot a final-round 67 on his way to a two-stroke victory over Jeff Overton.

Players to Consider:

1. Nick Watney

Watney won here in 2007, and considering the somewhat weak field this week, a similar result this time around is definitely possible.

2. Steve Stricker

Stricker hasn't played up to expectations this season, but a win this week could set him on the right track. Sticker has two top-11 finishes in his past three appearances here.

3. Jeff Overton

Overton finished runner-up last year at this event and T13 the year prior. Overton had a great season last year, and although he hasn't built upon that success this year yet, he could start this week.

4. Luke Donald

Course history be dammed! Donald is playing lights-out, and it doesn't matter that he hasn't played here before, he'll surely figure out this course quickly.

5. Spencer Levin

Levin finished in the top-30 here last year before he was the player he is now. Does that make sense? Levin continued his fine season last week with yet another top-15 finish at the Heritage.

Players to Avoid:

1. Graeme McDowell

McDowell finished in the top-15 in his only start at this event, but that was on a different track. His inclusion on this list, however, is based on his play this season, which has been well off what we expected from the major champion. Unlike others who made the top-five, I don't think McDowell finds his game this week.

2. Steve Flesch

Once upon a time Flesch owned New Orleans, but that was a different time and a different venue. He's played fairly well in his last two starts here, but his game is going the wrong way.

3. Bob Estes

If memory serves, I had Estes as a sleeper last year, and he went on to miss the cut. He looked like a good sleeper last year, but much like Flesch, his game isn't getting better.

4. Ben Crane

Crane has played this event five times and has yet to make it to the weekend. Of those five tries, three have been on the current course.

5. Joe Durant

Durant had some success at the previous venue, but since the switch to the TPC Louisiana, he's struggled. Five tries at the current venue and only two made cuts.

Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:

This week:
Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Group A

1. Nick Watney
2. Luke Donald

A perfect fit this week in Group A. There's nothing like two clear-cut choices from any group, let alone Group A. This week was pretty easy for me as both Watney and Donald are in my top-five.

Group B

1. Spencer Levin
2. Steve Stricker
3. David Toms
4. Jeff Overton

A very solid bunch in Group B this week, which made the final cut fairly difficult. In the end, I've got a good group, though, led by Stricker, Overton and Levin, who are all in my top-five this week. The only player who did not make the top-five was Toms, who has a history of playing well in New Orleans. His best was saved for the previous venue, but he's fared well enough at the new venue to grant a look.

Group C

1. Brandt Snedeker
2. Chris Couch

I didn't have time to count the number of available players in Group C this week, but at first glance I am putting the number at about 3,000. With all of those options, you would think there would be some good ones in there, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I am left with Snedeker, who won last week but hasn't made a cut on this course, and Couch, whose best finish at the TPC Louisiana was T37 last but has yet to miss a cut this year.

Starters Round One

1. Nick Watney
2. Spencer Levin
3. Steve Stricker
4. Chris Couch

A very tough call in Group A this week, but I have to go with Watney's track record here over Donald's play coming in. If Donald had any experience on this course at all, he would have earned the start, but I just can't throw the first-timer out there Thursday. Levin and Stricker get the starting spots in Group B. Stricker's is based more on his track record here while Levin's is based on his play this season, but more specifically, his form entering this week. I decided on Couch to open from Group C because of his play this season. He's earned three top-10s this season, and a lot of that is due to his play in the first two rounds each week.

Round Two and Going Forward:

As mentioned, Donald rides the pine Thursday, but once I see a decent round out of him, he'll likely find his way into the starting line-up. Hopefully he opens well, then I'll get him in there Friday and the starts will be open for the weekend. Overton is likely the first one off the bench in Group B this week. Levin has a strong hold on one spot, so I'll be quicker to pull Stricker from the line-up. Toms isn't guaranteed anything this week, so I have to wait and see on him. Hopefully he finds some hometown magic and he forces my hand come the weekend. Couch looks like a solid starter for rounds one and two this week, but his weekend track record is not great so far this season. So I'll lean toward Snedeker on the weekend - if he makes it that is; he's yet to make the cut here - but hopefully his win from last week means he's going to break that trend.