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Transitions Championship Preview: Donald Finding his Game

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.

Rory or Tiger, which to lead with? No, this is not a mistake. This is not last week's piece. Like it or not, it's simply a statement on where the PGA TOUR is right now. Justin Rose and Bubba Watson battled fiercely to the end last Sunday to cap what was a very exciting week of golf, but, in the end, it was the same two names that dominated the headlines, albeit for very different reasons. McIlroy was in the spotlight once again because of his weekend play. After a poor start, he was essentially left for dead, but in true champion-like fashion he didn't give up and nearly won again. If not for all the ground he had to make up over the final two days, McIlroy would have posted back-to-back victories on the PGA TOUR. Woods, well, his body gave in once again, and we are left to question, once again, if he can truly get back to his previous form. It's a shame really; he had made huge strides the last month and now it could all be lost. He might be able to recover quickly from this latest injury, but will he still have all the parts of his game, like he seemingly had the last two weeks? There's no way to tell. Let's just hope that he's not only ready to go at Augusta, but that he's also near the top of his game, because that's the story that the PGA TOUR needs right now. Like it or not.

What the WGC-Cadillac Championship and Puerto Rico Open mean:

Justin Rose: Is this Justin Rose's coming out party? Everyone knows he has the talent to be one of the best in the world, but he's yet to find the next gear, until now. A major championship would boost Rose into the top tier of golfers.

Rory McIlroy: Is it safe to say that McIlroy will contend at Augusta no matter what? He's starting to get into that Tiger-ish zone from a few years back, where no matter the circumstances, he'll be in contention.

Ryo Ishikawa: Sure, the Puerto Rico Open isn't exactly a hotbed of top-end professional talent, but a runner-up finish is a runner-up finish. Ishikawa picked up his career-best finish on the PGA TOUR this last weekend, and the confidence boost could make him a factor the rest of the year at larger events.

This week:
Transitions Championship

Last Year:
Gary Woodland shot a final-round 67 on his way to a one-stroke victory over Webb Simpson.

Players to Consider:

1. Justin Rose

I'm beginning to hate these picks that look "too good to be true." Rose is coming off a great week and has never finished worse than 30th here. It certainly looks like he could go back-to-back.

2. Luke Donald

Donald started to find his game late last week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. And he fared well the last time he played here, with a T6 finish.

3. Nick Watney

There's been a weird trend this year where golfers play well the week after their expected to. That could be the case this week as Watney underperformed last week, and he has a pretty strong track record here.

4. Webb Simpson

Simpson was all over the place last week but did manage two low-rounds in the mid-60s. He was runner-up here last year, and if he's going to get it together this season, it will start with a strong showing this week.

5. Charl Schwartzel

First time here for Schwartzel, but that shouldn't matter as his game appears to be peaking. Schwartzel played well all four days last week, but he failed to go really low in any of those rounds. That could change this week as he's about ready to show the form that won the Masters last season.

Players to Avoid:

1. Retief Goosen

Goosen has a very impressive track record here, which includes two wins and a top-five just two years ago, but his game has fallen quite a bit the last two years. He'll likely continue to struggle this week.

2. Jason Day

With the Masters right around the corner, many wonder, "where is the Jason Day we saw last year at Augusta?" He's nowhere to be found this season, and that likely won't change this week as his history here leaves a lot to be desired.

3. Sang-Moon-Bae

Moon-Bae appears to be hitting the rookie wall as he hasn't had a round in the 60s since the opening round at Pebble Beach in early February. Rookie walls are not easily overcome either; this may take a few weeks to sort out.

4. Geoff Ogilvy

I'm not going to beat a dead horse here - this will be the last time you see Ogilvy on this list until he proves worthy of "avoiding" in the future. Another disappointing finish last week at the Cadillac Championship.

5. Vijay Singh

Singh had a nice two-year run here in 2003-04 when he followed a runner-up finish with a victory, but he's simply not that player anymore. The effects of aging appear to finally be setting in on Singh.


This week:
Transitions Championship

Group A

1. Luke Donald
2. Webb Simpson

Furthering my opinion that Nick Watney may win this week is my decision to leave him off my Group A squad. That's truly a pessimistic viewpoint, but hey, I'm having a rough year. I have a better feeling about Simpson and Donald, and when you are dealing with players of this caliber, the only separator sometimes is your gut.

Group B

1. Justin Rose
2. Brandt Snedeker
3. Gary Woodland
4. Bo Van Pelt

There are enough big names in Group B to put together a team that looks really good on paper, but I don't think that's the way to go this week. Rose is an obvious pick. Snedeker might be as well, as he finished T4 here last year and is playing well this season. The final two are not as obvious even though one is the defending champ. I initially wanted to avoid Woodland, this being his first time defending a title, but he played pretty well last week and really cut through this course last year. Van Pelt has a decent track record here and is coming off a top-10 last week against the best in the World.

Group C

1. Harris English
2. Charl Schwartzel

I am completely comfortable with Schwartzel going the entire way this week in Group C, so I can take a bit of a chance with the other player in this group. It's not really that much of a risk, however, as English has played really well this season. He's yet to miss a cut in six starts this year and is coming off a top-20 at the Honda Classic.

Starters Round One

1. Webb Simpson
2. Justin Rose
3. Brandt Snedeker
4. Charl Schwartzel

Since we are in the midst of March Madness, I'll use a term that we are all too familiar with to describe my first-round starters - chalk. I see no season to go away from the chalk in round one. Simpson has the track record here, as do Rose and Snedeker. Rose is playing well coming in, just like Schwartzel. Starting the chalk Thursday happens to make a lot of sense this week.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Group A is going to be interesting this week. Simpson hasn't played up to the standard he set late last year just yet, but I have a feeling its right around the corner. If so, it might be difficult to find a spot for Donald, but if he plays like he did last week, I'll have to find a spot for him. It looks like Rose and Snedeker have a pretty strong hold on the starting spots in Group B right now, but that could change if either slip early. I don't expect a fast start from Woodland, so his best shot is on the weekend. As for Van Pelt, he could slip in Friday if everything falls right. Schwartzel has a strong hold on the starting spot in Group C, and I'll likely go to English only in an emergency; you know, like a MC from Schwarztel.