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Weekly Preview: Back on Top - Just in Time

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.

Well, it's about time. It took nearly an entire PGA TOUR season, but Webb Simpson finally captured that elusive first win last Sunday at the Wyndham Championship. It seemed only a matter of time for Simpson as he'd been knocking on the door all season, but as any golfer can tell you, the longer it takes, the harder it gets. Simpson, in fact, is the top-ranked player on the PGA TOUR, according to the stats. Simpson is atop the All-Around Ranking on the PGA TOUR, a measure that considers just about everything imaginable on the golf course, with the exception of wins. Oddly enough, those among the best in All-Around ranking do not always win events each year. Geoff Ogilvy was near the top of the AAR list for a number of years before he finally had a breakout season. For some reason, a golfer can do everything right, according to the stats, yet find a way to avoid the winner's circle. Perhaps there's a better way to measure who is actually performing the best on the course, or perhaps there's just a lag between the AAR numbers and victories. In any case, after playing like a winner for nearly the entire season, Simpson finally took the leap from paper champion to actual champion.

What the Wyndham Championship means:

Webb Simpson: The next great American golfer perhaps? Lost in all the hoopla over Rory McIlroy and the sad state of American golf was Simpson, who has plugged along all season and now looks to be America's next great hope. Simpson was highly touted when he first arrived on the PGA TOUR, so this is not a surprise to anyone. The surprise was that it took so long to get win No. 1.

George McNeill: McNeill's runner-up finish last week was his second in his last four starts. McNeill could be a decent sleeper for anyone entering a FedEx pool this fall. Each year it seems like someone comes out of nowhere and makes a run; McNeill could be that guy this year.

Padraig Harrington: Harrington did just enough to earn a spot in the first Fed Ex event this week, but before you get too excited, take a look at what he did to earn entrance: a T59 followed by a T64 and a T47. He's not exactly on fire entering this week's event.

This week:
The Barclays

Last Year:
Matt Kuchar shot a final-round 66 on his way to a playoff victory over Martin Laird.

Players to Consider:

1. Steve Stricker

A new track this week, so course history is not a factor. Stricker has a knack for saving his best golf for this time of the year, and there's no reason to think that this year will be any different.

2. Webb Simpson

He's met every other challenge to this point in the season, so why can't he meet this one? Simpson has the ability to be one of the best players in the world and is ready to take the next step, which for now is a good showing during the FedEx Cup.

3. Rickie Fowler

Call it a hunch, but I think Fowler makes a run at the FedEx Championship this fall. We saw a glimpse of what he could do at the British Open earlier this year, but he has more in store yet this season.

4. Carl Pettersson

Pettersson loves this time of year and usually saves his best golf for the post-PGA Championship portion of the season. We saw a bit of that last week as he tied for fourth at the Wyndham Championship.

5. Jim Furyk

It looks like Furyk might actually be back. It certainly took long enough, but if he's back to his old form, he's a threat to win the FedEx Cup again. Of course, he's got a long way to go this time-around, but don't count him out.

Players to Avoid:

1. Phil Mickelson

Other than an unlikely run at the British Open earlier this season, we haven't seen a whole lot from Mickelson lately. I get the feeling he's ready for this season to be over.

2. Padraig Harrington

As mentioned, he did just enough last week to earn a spot in this week's event, but if you think he's going to build momentum off a T47, then you're in for a long week.

3. Matt Kuchar

Is Kuchar capable of turning his recent struggles around and making a four-week run to the FedEx Championship? Sure, but it doesn't appear likely at this point.

4. Dustin Johnson

Much like Mickelson, Johnson just doesn't seem fully engaged. I'm not sure the reason behind it, but Johnson hasn't resembled the player from last year's PGA Championship at all this season.

5. Graeme McDowell

Many, including this writer, thought McDowell would take the momentum of his first major championship and build on that success this season, but that hasn't happened. Don't expect a late-season run from McDowell this year. Looks like he'll have to build on that major win next season.

Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:

This week:
The Barclays

Group A

1. Jim Furyk
2. Nick Watney

Furyk makes the squad for the second week in-a-row, and I'm hoping he performs at least as well this week as he did last week. Watney is not in my top-five this week, but he should make a run at the FedEx title this season, and that would mean a good showing this week.

Group B

1. Rickie Fowler
2. Webb Simpson
3. Carl Pettersson
4. Spencer Levin

A couple surprises this week on my team from Group B. Most Yahoo! players will have Simpson and many will have Fowler, but Pettersson and Levin offer a chance to make up some ground on the competition. I'm taking a one-week flyer on Pettersson on the assumption that he's playing near his peak. Levin seemed to peak earlier this season, but I have a feeling that he'll make some more noise before year's end.

Group C

1. George McNeill
2. Jason Day

One safe pick and one risky pick in Group C this week. Day is obviously the safe pick as he appears to be the best player going in Group C this week. He's often one of the best players from Group C during any given week, and considering his only competition is Rory McIlroy, who's not a PGA TOUR member, expect to see Day a lot over the next four weeks. McNeill is a sleeper pick this week, but he's shown the ability to play at a high-level over the past month or so and could be the surprise of the FedEx Cup this year.

Starters Round One

1. Nick Watney
2. Webb Simpson
3. Carl Pettersson
4. Jason Day

I struggled with the Group A starter this week as Furyk is really starting to come on. In the end, though, I had to go with Watney who enters the FedEx playoffs as the top-ranked player. Simpson was an easy choice in Group B, the only possible reason he starts slowly this week is a first-time-winner hangover, but considering how steady he's been the last few months, that seems highly unlikely. Pettersson gets the other Thursday start with the thought that if I'm to gain any ground on the competition, I'll need to start early. Day starts in Group C, not really a difficult choice there as he's clearly the best option in Group C this week.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Group A should be interesting this week. I plan to get Furyk into the line-up early on, but Watney has the ability to lock down a starting spot all week if he's on his game. I doubt it will play out like that, however, and a Friday or Saturday start seems likely for Furyk. Simpson has a strong hold on one starting spot in Group B, but if he shows any ill effects from his first PGA TOUR win, then I'll have to look elsewhere. Fowler is likely first off bench this week. Pettersson needs to show that his play from last week carried over to this week to keep his starting spot Friday. If not, Fowler is first in there as well. Levin will have to show that he's ready for this stage before he gets a look. Group C is Day's to lose, but if McNeill shows his form from last week early on, then I'll have to find a spot for him in the line-up. Friday or Saturday seem like the likely options for McNeill this week.