RotoWire Partners

Pebble Beach Preview: Golf's Best Pair

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 an idea that's tough to get behind - pardon the pun - but is it actually better to be trailing entering the final round of a PGA TOUR event rather than leading? Ask any expert and he'll tell you that the strokes are more important; a three-shot lead is worth the pressure that it brings. But recent history, including the last two weeks, might prove otherwise. The sample size is too small to make a definitive declaration, but the last two weeks we've witnessed this experiment play out in the form of Kyle Stanley. As you recall, Stanley led two weeks ago at Torrey Pines only to crumble near the end, eventually losing to Brandt Snedeker. Fast forward just one week and this time he's the one trailing. And wouldn't you know it, his play down the stretch is much improved while the player in the lead is tripping over his feet coming in. Perhaps it only applies to young, inexperienced players. After all, it's not often you see a player such as Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson wither down the stretch; check that, it's not often that you see a player like Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy lose it on the back nine. OK, so there's only one true closer in the game today and he can't get in position to hold a lead. Maybe the next time we hear a professional golfer say he'd rather be a couple strokes down entering the final round, we might believe him.

What the Waste Management Phoenix Open means:

Kyle Stanley: Much like McIlroy last season, Stanley played this perfectly. He won so quickly after his heart-breaking loss that the disappointment didn't have time to fester. Stanley looks like the real deal, but before we get too excited, keep in mind that this could simply be a hot stretch. Let's see how he's doing a month from now.

Spencer Levin: Levin played the role of Stanley this week, but his decline was much more agonizing as it lasted for nearly two hours. Levin started to crack at the turn and never was able to right the ship. It will be interesting to see how he responds in the coming weeks.

Webb Simpson: It shows how far he's come over the last 12 months that his T8 finish last week was a disappointment. Expectations for Simpson are sky high this season, and he's off to a pretty good start. The big question about Simpson this season is how he'll perform in the majors.

This week:
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

Last Year:
D.A. Points shot a final-round 67 on his way to a two-stroke victory over Hunter Mahan.

Players to Consider:

1. Dustin Johnson

Johnson is not at the top of his game, as evidence by his T61 last week, and we aren't sure how healthy he is. This week should tell us more, however, as he's won here in two of his last three starts.

2. Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach has always been a great pairing, but there's a little hesitation because he hasn't been the same now for the last two years. That said, his performance two weeks ago in Dubai has his confidence back, and we could see Tiger back on top again this week.

3. Phil Mickelson

I mentioned a theory of mine earlier this year that Phil is at his best when Tiger is Tiger. Well, if Tiger is Tiger this week, Phil might be Phil. Mickelson is coming off a decent showing last week, and his game looks to be rounding into form.

4. Kevin Na

Na's track record at this event is not good, but he's notorious for starting the season well. He's coming off a nice showing last week, which included a very nifty weekend 69-65.

5. Spencer Levin

Just like Stanley, Levin has a chance to redeem himself just one week after his collapse. Judging by Levin's history at Pebble Beach, he just might pull it off as well. Levin tied for fourth here last year.

Players to Avoid:

1. Mike Weir

Solid track record here with five top-fives since 2003, but he's not that player now. Weir could find his game at any moment, but he's too much of a risk this week.

2. Nick Watney

It's rarely a good idea to take a player who withdrew the week prior, and considering Watney's history here is nothing special, you might as well just wait on him another week or so.

3. Jim Furyk

Furyk has a pretty good record at Pebble, but he hasn't cracked the top-five since 1998, and we still aren't sure where his game is at after a disappointing 2011 season.

4. Padraig Harrington

Much like Furyk, we simply don't know where Harrington's game is, and also like Furyk, his track record at Pebble Beach is OK but lacks high-end finishes.

5. Brian Gay

It might be the courses in play, or it might be the Pro-Am format, but whatever the case, Gay does not usually play well here. In five tries, he's made the cut once.


This week:
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am

Group A

1. Phil Mickelson
2. Spencer Levin

I expected more punch from the players in Group A this week, but three of my top-five are in this group, so I can't complain. The man on the outside looking in is Kevin Na, who has the worst track record at Pebble of the three.

Group B

1. Dustin Johnson
2. Hunter Mahan
3. Tiger Woods
4. Bryce Molder

Group B is loaded with solid options this week, so much so that I had to leave Brandt Snedeker off my squad. D.J. tops the list with his outstanding history at Pebble, followed closely by Tiger. (On a side note, isn't it strange seeing Tiger in Group B?) I filled out the roster with Mahan and Molder, both of whom have decent track records here. Molder is coming in off a good showing last week as well.

Group C

1. D.J. Trahan
2. Matt Jones

As you can tell by this pairing, there isn't much to choose from in Group C this week. Trahan is coming off a good showing last week; hopefully, some of that carries over to this week. Jones has no such momentum coming in, but he's got a solid record at this event with top-15 finishes in his past two tries at Pebble Beach.

Starters Round One

1. Phil Mickelson
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Tiger Woods
4. D.J. Trahan

Three courses in play this week, though, unlike Torrey Pines, the courses are pretty similar. That said, one of the courses, Monterey Peninsula, is a par-70, which will make it a little more difficult to post a really low number under par and the Yahoo! game is based on strokes under par, not total strokes. As for my first-round starters, I'm playing pretty safe this week with the three big names starting round one in Groups A and B. I didn't have that luxury in Group C, so I went with the player who has some momentum coming into this week, D.J. Trahan.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Keep a close eye on how the courses playing early. Yes, they are similar, but some years there is some separation. Other than that, I'll watch Spencer Levin early to see how he bounces back from his disappointing finish last week. He'll have to play well early to steal the starting spot from Mickelson. Woods has a pretty strong hold on a starting spot in Group B, but I can't say the same about Dustin Johnson. Yes, I like his prospects this week, but the health issue is a concern and if he starts slowly, I might cut bait and give Mahan or Molder a shot in round two. Group C is open to either player at this point. Jones is a risky pick with some upside, so I if he starts well, I'll likely find a spot for him Friday.

Top Fantasy Golf Player News
No major news stories have been reported recently.