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Arnold Palmer Preview: Will Rose Bloom this Week?

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.

Have you heard the news? Luke Donald is now the No. 1-ranked player in the world according to the most recent World Golf Rankings. Many thought he couldn't make it back to the top, but Donald proved them wrong. Perhaps it was the length of time spent out of the top spot; after all, it had been nearly two entire weeks since Donald had last held the top spot. Who could blame Donald for giving up hope in the midst of such a stretch? And what now will become of Rory McIlroy, the man who's dream was to become the No. 1 player in the world? This must be a crushing blow. He worked for years to get all the way to the top and now he must wait at least another six days to reclaim the throne, and that's if all goes well. If not, he might not regain his spot atop the rankings until next month. You have to wonder if the young McIlroy can handle such a heavy burden, perhaps it will affect his game; we all know how important the World Golf Rankings are to everyone on the planet. OK, I'll put an end to the sarcasm here. I was trying to make a point about how ridiculous the WGR are, but I think the point was made for me this weekend when Rory McIlroy fell from the top spot after just two weeks. The good news, however, is Donald's surge to the top was a mere afterthought to his play last weekend. Perhaps the media is catching on and realizes that no one really cares about who's No. 1 in the world - until Rory takes over the top spot again.

What the Transitions championship means:

Luke Donald: Donald has accomplished everything as a professional outside of winning a major, and I have a feeling the heat is about to be turned up on the young man. Remember all the grief Mickelson took before finally winning a major? That is what Donald can expect in the near future if he's unable to capture a major soon.

Ernie Els: It's hard to feel bad for a man who's so accomplished - after all, most players would kill for his resume - but there probably wasn't a golf fan on the planet who didn't feel for Els as he missed a short putt on the final hole, which would have sent him into the playoff. Perhaps this will be a springboard for better things to come for Els, but what I saw was a player who's no longer sure of himself.

Jim Furyk: Maybe he's not dead yet? Entering last week I was beginning to question if we'd ever see the 2010 Jim Furyk again, but after last week I have to think that we will. Sure, he didn't close out like he used to, but just the fact that he was in position to win again is a great sign for his prospects down the road.

This week:
Arnold Palmer Invitational

Last Year:
Martin Laird shot a final-round 75 on his way to a one-stroke victory over Steve Marino.

Players to Consider:

1. Justin Rose

Last week, Rose looked like a solid pick but didn't come through. We've seen this scenario before, though, just prior to the WGC-Cadillac Championship, where he won. Look for something similar this week. Rose has two top-10s here in his last four tries, including a T3 last year.

2. Tiger Woods

Admittedly a risky pick this week, but he looked fine Monday, and there's no way he'd risk playing if he wasn't ready; there's just too much at stake with the Masters right around the corner. Tiger has won this event six times and finished T24 last year.

3. Jim Furyk

He's near the top of his game and has fared well here the last two years with a T9 last year and a T11 in 2010. Another solid week and it will be safe to say he's back.

4. Ernie Els

You would think that a player of Els' caliber could bounce back from a tough finish the week prior, but there's simply no way to tell. I'll take a chance on Els, though, because he won here in 2010 and his game as a whole is looks good.

5. Mark Wilson

Wilson appears to be hitting his post-West Coast slide, but the same thing happened last year just before he pulled out a top-10 here. This might be your last chance to use Wilson before the fall season.

Players to Avoid:

1. Camilo Villegas

Villegas is known for playing well in the state of Florida, but for some reason he struggles at Bay Hill. In five starts here, Villegas has failed to crack the top-40 and missed the cut twice.

2. Ryan Palmer

Palmer is a good player who just can't get it done at Bay Hill. Palmer has made the cut just once in his five trips here. He's also off to a rough start this year with only one top-25 in six starts.

3. Nick Watney

This one could easily come back to bite me, but hey, I take risks. Watney has not played well this season, or at least not as well as we expected, and his track record here is not good. Only one top-25 in five tries.

4. Tim Clark

Healthy? Not Healthy? We still can't tell just yet. And considering his history here is nothing special, it's probably wise to wait a few more weeks on Clark.

5. Martin Laird

Laird didn't exactly cruise to victory last year; he stumbled to the finish line with a 75 on the final day. He's also defending a title this week, which could lead to a rough start.


This week:
Arnold Palmer Invitational

Group A

1. Jim Furyk
2. Webb Simpson

Surprisingly, there isn't a lot to choose from in Group A this week. There are a few solid choices, though, including Furyk and Simpson. Simpson is quietly having a solid season with three top-10s in six starts. Simpson has not reached the level he was at last year just yet, but I have a feeling it's right around the corner.

Group B

1. Justin Rose
2. Tiger Woods
3. Ernie Els
4. Mark Wilson

Unfortunately, four of my top-five are in Group B this week, which makes selecting this group easy, but tougher in the other groups. A couple names were tough to leave off the roster, mainly Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan, but I can live without them this week.

Group C

1. Ben Crane
2. Pat Perez

Wow, it's been a while since I struggled this much to put a team together. I had a feeling this would happen, though, as my top-five picks were all in Groups A and B. And after missing the cut in Group C last week, I need to play it safe. Pat Perez is a good bet to make it to the weekend. He hasn't missed a cut this year, nor has he missed a cut at Bay Hill in nine starts. Crane is playing well this year and has finished in the top-25 his last two times here.

Starters Round One

1. Webb Simpson
2. Justin Rose
3. Ernie Els
4. Ben Crane

I have a sneaking suspicion that Simpson is really going to turn it on this week. His track record here leaves a little to be desired, which is why he didn't crack my top-five this week, but he's played well all year and we all know his potential. Rose seems an easy selection to start this week. Sure he underperformed last week, but that shouldn't affect him this week as he's obviously comfortable here. I decided on Els over Woods just to be safe. I think Tiger is fine, but I'd hate to be stuck with him if something happens early. Crane is the choice in Group C because of his high-end potential. Crane has three top-10s in six starts this year.

Round Two and Going Forward:

I have no set plan for Group A heading into the week. Simpson starts and could hold that spot if he plays well Thursday, or he could lose it if Furyk starts well. My guess is both guys play well Thursday, which will make my decision difficult Friday. I'll wait one day on Woods in Group B, then I'll give him the nod. I just need to see him get through the round in decent shape. Rose likely will hold his starting spot on Friday with a good opening round. If not, Els or Wilson should be ready to go. I've got Wilson and Els on equal ground heading into the week. Group C is Crane's to lose at this point. Perez is there as a safety net, but honestly, I hope Crane can take control and start all four rounds this week.