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Crowne Plaza Invitational Preview: Back for Another Round

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.

It's a question that doesn't come up quite as often as it used about seven or eight years ago - who is the best golfer yet to win a major? It wasn't so much a question at the turn of the century as a topic of conversation; the answer was Phil Mickelson. After Mickelson won his first major at the Masters in 2004, the debate rose from the ashes once again. At the time there were a few legitimate contenders, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood often entered the conversation, but after years of those top players failing to win their first major, the chatter started to fade. I bring it up now because the man who won last Sunday, K.J. Choi, has perhaps the best resume of anyone yet to win a major.

Better than both Westwood and Garcia. Sure, Westwood has held the top spot in the world off and on the last 12 months, but what has he accomplished in the States? As for Garcia, he's only recently started to resemble a professional golfer again. There are a lot of big names out there now, mostly young players who look the part. Based just on their resumes, most do not stack up favorably to Choi, who's not only captured The Players but also the Memorial, among others. So who is the best to have never won a major? You got me, but as far-fetched as it might seem, Choi is now a part of that conversation.

What The Players means:

K.J. Choi: Choi is no stranger to winning multiple times within a calendar year, so his latest victory should not hurt his prospects going forward. If anything, his production might even improve the remainder of the year.

David Toms: Toms has not resembled the major champion he once was the past few years, until last weekend. Any thoughts that he's ready to check out were premature. Toms still has something left, but it's unlikely he can pull off a similar feat during a major.

Graeme McDowell: McDowell hasn't exactly disappeared this season, but I dare say he hasn't lived up to his expectations entering this year. He has a great opportunity to back up his major win from last season with a victory last week, but like many other quality players, he faded down the stretch.

This week:
Crowne Plaza Invitational

Last Year:
Zach Johnson shot a final-round 64 on his way to a three-stroke victory over Brian Davis.

Players to Consider:

1. Ben Crane

Crane is playing well this year, and his track record at Colonial is very impressive. In his last four starts here, he's finished in the top-five three times.

2. David Toms

Toms couldn't quite finish last week, but this course is set up perfectly for him. He doesn't have a great track record here, but it's been seven years since he missed the top-30 at Colonial.

3. Scott Verplank

Like Toms, Verplank came oh-so-close to picking up another win on the PGA TOUR this season, and also like Toms, he's had his moments here. Verplank has two top-10s in the last four years at this event.

4. Zach Johnson

After a rough start to the season, Johnson looks to be back on track, and he returns to this event as the defending champ. Johnson enters this week off consecutive top-15 finishes on the PGA TOUR.

5. Martin Laird

Laird finished 10th here last year. Soon after, his season and career took off. He continued the momentum from his 2010 season with a win earlier this year at the Arnold Palmer. Laird is certainly one of the favorites this week.

Players to Avoid:

1. Trevor Immelman

Injuries the last two seasons have likely contributed to Immelman's poor performance here, but that doesn't mean his three missed cuts in three tries at Colonial can be ignored.

2. John Rollins

Rollins has missed the cut here in five of his eight tries with only one top-25 to show for his time at Colonial.

3. Hunter Mahan

It feels like Mahan is about to break out soon, but it probably won't be this week. Mahan has struggled on this course with only one top-40 finish in seven tries.

4. Adam Scott

Scott finished T64 in his only try here in 2009, but his inclusion on this list is based on his performance last week at The Players where he missed the cut. It seems as though all the momentum from his Master's run is gone.

5. Tim Herron

Herron won here in 2006, but he's not resembled that player in quite a while. Gone are the days of the massive up and down swings - now it's just the down swings.

Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:

This week:
Crowne Plaza Invitational

Group A

1. Martin Laird
2. Steve Marino

Not exactly the biggest names of the bunch, but Laird and Marino look like a solid tandem this week. Marino is coming off a nice showing at The Players and finished runner-up here in 2009.

Group B

1. David Toms
2. Jeff Overton
3. Ben Crane
4. Kenny Perry

Admittedly, a strange foursome out of Group B this week. Crane is must from this group. Considering the overall lack of quality from Group B this week, Toms is also a must. Overton has not built on his success of last season yet this year, but he's got a solid track record here and could come up big this week. Perry hasn't played well in quite a while, but I've seen him tear this course apart and if there's anything left in the tank, this is a course where he can still win.

Group C

1. Zach Johnson
2. J.B. Holmes

You may have noticed that the third player on my top-five list is absent from my Group C squad. A couple reasons for that. First, I'm not comfortable with the combination of Verplank and Johnson; can't put my finger on it, that's just how I feel. Second, I simply can't leave Holmes off the team, he's playing too well and he's going to win soon.

Starters Round One

1. Martin Laird
2. Ben Crane
3. David Toms
4. J.B. Holmes

Laird had little trouble getting around Colonial last year, and considering the 12 months that followed his most recent trip here, I'd be insane to start him on the bench. Group B is clear-cut as well as Toms and Crane are clearly the best two players of my four from Group B. Group C wasn't quite as easy as the other two as Johnson is not only the defending champ, but he's played well the past couple weeks. Still, there's something about Holmes right now, and I don't want to miss out on a big round.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Laird controls the fate of Group A this week as he's the top player from the group and one of the best in the field this week. Marino can earn a starting spot if he plays like he did last week, but again, Laird will likely have to play his way out of his spot first. Group B belongs to Toms and Crane, but the other two can find their way into the line-up with a good start. Perry might have a shot on the weekend, but he'll have to put together a couple good rounds early on. Same for Overton, as he'll need to prove he's got his best game before getting a starting spot. With a good start on Thursday, I'll likely get Johnson into the line-up on Friday. I hate to bench Holmes, but Johnson did win here last year, and if he starts well, he could win again, so I'll need to make sure both players have at least one start this week.

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