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The Honda Classic Preview: The Road to Victory

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 popular maxim in sports: "it's good to have short memory." The adage refers to the importance of forgetting epic failure so the athlete can move forward to bigger and better conquests. The only problem with that expression is, how can you learn from your mistakes unless you do remember the times when everything went wrong? The answer is simple, yet complex - it depends. In the case of Hunter Mahan, there was nothing to learn after he famously flubbed his chip shot on the 17th hole of his 2010 Ryder Cup match against Graeme McDowell. It was a mistake, but what would be the takeaway in a situation like that? Don't get nervous? In Mahan's case, it truly was better to have a short memory as there was nothing to gain last week by looking back on his biggest failure as a professional golfer. It's predictable that the stories of his loss on the final day of the 2010 Ryder Cup have resurfaced after he conquered the field last week in a match-play format, but perhaps after this week we can all practice the "short memory" technique. Until this fall that is, when the Ryder Cup is played again and the topic de jour is bound to be what occurred in 2010. Come to think of it, maybe it's not even possible to have a short memory anymore.

What the WGC Accenture Match Play and Mayakoba Classic mean:

Hunter Mahan: A huge victory for Mahan, not only because he put to rest some demons, but because of the money earned and the FedEx points, not to mention his status on the Ryder Cup list. Perhaps this year's winner of the match-play event can go on to have a year like last year's winner, Luke Donald.

Rory McIlroy: McIlroy had a chance to take over the No. 1 spot in the world last week with a win but failed to do so, which brings up an interesting question - who cares about the No. 1 spot in the world? I'm sorry, but when golfers who've never won a major can hold that spot, then the rankings are irrelevant to me.

John Huh: In other news, John Huh picked up his first PGA TOUR win Sunday at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. The fact that his win was overshadowed is nothing new; this is what happens when the top-64 play elsewhere. It's a nice win for Huh, but if history tells us anything, it's that a win at the Mayakoba has little bearing on future success.

This week:
The Honda Classic

Last Year:
Rory Sabbatini shot a final-round 70 on his way to a one-stroke victory over Y.E. Yang.

Players to Consider:

1. Y.E. Yang

Yang picked up his first PGA TOUR win here in 2009 and proved that win was no fluke later in the season when he won the PGA Championship. He also proved his success at the Honda was no fluke last season when he nearly won for the second time here. Yang obviously has a great feel for this course.

2. Charlie Wi

Wi has a strong track record here that includes a T13 in 2007 and consecutive top-10s in 2009 and 2010. He also played very well a few weeks ago at the AT&T where he finished runner-up.

3. Lee Westwood

Westwood has played fairly well here the last two years with a T29 last year and a T9 the previous year. His semifinal-round appearance last week shows he's obviously playing very well entering this week.

4. Fredrik Jacobson

Jacobson played well in his only stroke-play start this season, a top-15 at the NTO, and his track record here is solid with a T5 in 2009 and a T6 in 2010.

5. Robert Allenby

Allenby has been difficult to peg the last couple weeks. He fell flat at Riviera, then almost won at Mayakoba. His history at the Honda is impressive, and he seems to have his game back on track. It would make sense that he plays well this week.

Players to Avoid:

1. Heath Slocum

Slocum has a poor track record here that includes only one made cut in four tries on the current course. He's also a little off his game this season with no top-30s after five starts.

2. Vaughn Taylor

Taylor's had little problem making the cut here in recent years, but his success on the weekend has been non-existent. His best finish here since the venue change in 2007 was a T49 in 2008.

3. Jeff Maggert

Maggert had some early-season success, but he's since fallen off that pace and his results here scream "stay away." Maggert's best finish here since 2007 was a T44 in 2009.

4. Anthony Kim

Kim earned a runner-up finish here in 2010, but he hasn't been the same player since. We've all seen the talent this guy has, but the memory of Kim at his best is quickly fading.

5. Padraig Harrington

This isn't so much a slight on Harrington; more a good place to point out that this event switched venue's in 2007, which means Harrington's 2005 Honda win came on a different course. His two tries on the current track have resulted in a T13 and a T40.


This week:
The Honda Classic

Group A

1. Kyle Stanley
2. Y.E. Yang

Who would have thought that only a couple months into the 2012 season, Kyle Stanley would be player you have a hard time leaving off the roster. I couldn't do it this week; there just wasn't anyone else forcing my hand, so I'll stick with Stanley and, of course, Y.E. Yang.

Group B

1. Lee Westwood
2. Fredrik Jacobson
3. Mark Wilson
4. Robert Allenby

I feel like I need to justify the exclusion of Tiger Woods from my Group B players, and though I can't find a good reason to keep him off, I can't find a good reason to keep off any of the four players I selected either. Wilson is playing well and won here in 2007. Allenby played well last week and he has a solid track record here. Westwood also played well last week and has shown the ability to get around this course and Jacobson has been money here the last three years.

Group C

1. Charlie Wi
2. Charl Schwartzel

This certainly won't be the most popular pairing this week, but it has plenty of potential. Wi nearly won a few weeks ago, and his current form along with his track record here could result in another top finish. Schwartztel is more of a gut call, his track record here is limited, but he showed some flashes last week and could be ready to put another trophy in the case this week.

Starters Round One

1. Y.E. Yang
2. Mark Wilson
3. Robert Allenby
4. Charlie Wi

There weren't many easy calls this week. Usually a few names pop out as certain starters Thursday, but that wasn't the case this week. What I ended up with was a group of players with a solid history on this course. None better than Yang, who should snap out of his funk this week on a course he loves. In addition to their fine histories here, Allenby and Wilson both played well last week, so that's an added bonus, and Wi looks to be rounding into form.

Round Two and Going Forward:

It stands to reason that with difficult first-round decisions come even more difficult decisions later. Perhaps some trends will develop that will make things easier as the week progresses, but for now, it looks like all the groups are up in the air. That said, here's what I am thinking. Yang should start well and play well all week, so it might be difficult to get Stanley in the line-up. However, Stanley has played lights-out this season and if he shows that form early, I'll have to find a way to get him in the line-up. Group B is filled with golfers who have played well here, so anyone could come out of the pack this week. My money is on Allenby as the one to finish strong. I hope that my instincts on Schwartzel are correct; if so, I'll try to find a spot for him on Friday, but if not, I have complete faith in Wi this week.