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Deutsche Bank Preview: FedEx Playoffs Gain Steam

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 weighed the options for my FedEx pool last week I came upon one Dustin Johnson ... and proceeded to pass. It wasn't an easy decision. After all, the price was right - Johnson had underachieved in 2011, so his cap hit wouldn't be much of a burden at all - but his seeming lack of interest was of concern. As you probably guessed by now, I passed on Mr. Johnson, and, needless to say, I'm in a big hole after only one week. But enough about me, this is about Dustin Johnson and the reason he seemed like a questionable choice entering the FedEx Playoffs - because he underachieved this season.

But has Johnson really underachieved in 2011? A second look at his numbers reveal a pretty good season. In fact, most would categorize his 2011 season as a success, so why the perception that he underachieved? The answer goes back to that damn bunker on the 18th hole at Whistling Straits last season. Johnson's misadventure in that bunker not only eliminated him from contention at the 2010 PGA Championship, but it left all of us with the feeling that he should have won his first major right there. Without that mistake, he could have been one step ahead of Rory McIlroy. The only problem, of course, was he didn't win, and because he still hasn't won a major, the perception is he's underachieved. Warranted or not, the underachiever label can be hard to shed, but luckily for Dustin Johnson, there's never been an underachieving FedEx Champion.

What the Barclays means:

Dustin Johnson: There are two ways Johnson could go this week. One path leads to the destruction of the FedEx field. With a win this week, Johnson would eliminate all but a handful of players. However, complacency could creep in, because in reality Johnson could miss the cut in his next two events and still have a shot at winning the FedEx Championship.

Matt Kuchar: Kuchar could be the next Steve Stricker in that it doesn't matter how he's playing leading up to the FedEx Cup, he's going to play well during these four weeks. A runner-up finish last week has him just where he wants to be entering the final three weeks.

Webb Simpson: It seems as though nothing can slow this guy down. Simpson has played at an extremely high level for months now, and there's no reason to think his run will end within the next three weeks.

This week:
Deutsche Bank Championship

Last Year:
Charley Hoffman shot a final-round 62 on his way to a five-stroke victory over Geoff Ogilvy.

Players to Consider:

1. Geoff Ogilvy

No, this is not a typo. Yes, I am suggesting Ogilvy this week, and they are not playing on the west coast. Why? Simple, he loves this course. He's finished in the top-seven in three of his last four trips here.

2. Webb Simpson

He's never made a cut here, and I couldn't care less. Simpson is just simply a much better player now than he was the last two times he came here. If he's proven anything the last couple months it's that the course doesn't matter, when you're on - you're on.

3. Vijay Singh

I really didn't think Singh would make this list again this year, but he forced my hand with his top-three showing last week. He's a two-time winner here, and if he truly found his game last week, he could be a factor the next three weeks.

4. Charley Hoffman

Sometimes it's best not to overthink things. Hoffman won here last year and is coming off a top-10 at the Barclays. There's no reason to think he won't perform well this week.

5. Brandt Snedeker

Snedeker might be primed to make another run this year at the FedEx. He finished tied for third last week at the Barclays and carded a top-five last year at this event.

Players to Avoid:

1. Phil Mickelson

I was wrong last week about Kuchar and Johnson, but I was spot on about Mickelson. I think he's had enough of this season and is ready to move onto the offseason.

2. Keegan Bradley

I'm sure he'd like to end this season on a better note, but it appears as though he might be suffering from a major-hangover. Bradley missed the cut by five strokes last week.

3. Bubba Watson

Watson has played here five times and has only one top-20 to show for it. He also missed the cut last week at the Barclays, which could indicate that he's also ready for the offseason.

4. Ian Poulter

Poulter had a nice showing at the Barclays last week, but his momentum is likely to end as soon as he tees it up this week. In four tries here, Poulter has finished in the top-50 only once.

5. Nick Watney

The leader heading into last week needs to make a move if he's to stay in the mix, but it's going to be tough for him this week as he's never played well here. Watney has played here seven times and made the cut only twice.

Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:

This week:
Deutsche Bank Championship

Group A

1. Geoff Ogilvy
2. Charley Hoffman

I am fully aware that I left a lot of talent off my roster this week and yes, I am very nervous about it. That said, Hoffman and Ogilvy have proven the last few years that they can get around this course, and there's no reason to think this year will be different.

Group B

1. Rickie Fowler
2. Webb Simpson
3. John Senden
4. Justin Rose

I'm leaving two players on the roster from last week in Fowler and Simpson. One, Simpson, played well and the other, Fowler, did not. But I like the way Fowler was trending. After a poor first round, Fowler posted a couple nice scores and could have made a run into the top-10 with another round. Senden is a sleeper pick this week based solely on his track record here. He's finished in the top-11 here the last two years. I like the way Rose played last week, and though he hasn't played well TPC Boston recently, he does have a couple of top-fives here, so there's hope that he can maneuver around this course.

Group C

1. Brandt Snedeker
2. Jason Day

Day proved again last week why he's one of the best players in the world with yet another solid showing. Snedeker has been a bit of a mystery this year. It seems as though I'm always a week late with him, but I think I've got him pegged properly this week as someone who should contend.

Starters Round One

1. Geoff Ogilvy
2. Webb Simpson
3. John Senden
4. Jason Day

I found myself in a similar spot for both Group A and B this week. Do I start the player with the better track record on this course or the player who's playing better coming in? In each case, there was one player on each side of the argument. Unfortunately, no player met both criteria. In each case I decided to go with course history over recent history as is my M.O. Ogilvy has shown his best on this course the last few years, and I expect the same this year. Simpson gets the first spot in Group B this week as his play recently trumps any concern about his track record here. The other spot was where the question between course and recent history came into play. I decided to go with Senden who's played well the last two years even though he missed the cut last week. Jason Day in Group C, and that wasn't a difficult decision.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Although I am sold on Ogilvy to start this week, I am well aware that he has a habit of disappearing this time of year, so I'll keep a close eye on him early. If it looks like he's not on his game, I'll quickly switch to Hoffman. Simpson has a strong hold on one spot in Group B, but the other spot is up for grabs starting Friday. Senden gets the Thursday start, but I have a feeling that Rose will continue his fine play from last week and make his way into the lineup Friday. Fowler could make things interesting if he starts well Thursday, but I'll lean toward Rose on Friday and Fowler for the weekend in that situation. Day is the starter in Group C until he shows some cracks, which I don't expect. Snedeker will have to play like he did last week to force my hand, but that likely won't happen until Saturday at the earliest.