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Zurich Classic Preview: Bubba Gumbo

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.

The road traveled by Ben Curtis is one not often traveled. In fact, Curtis' road is reserved for him alone. No, he's not the only player to win a major in his first attempt, but the places he's been since that win in 2003 can only be described as unique. Curtis struggled immediately after his 2003 Open Championship victory, and it wasn't until the 2006 season that he actually solidified his standing on the PGA TOUR. During that season, Curtis won twice and suddenly he was not only legit, but one of the best players on tour. He failed to keep up the torrid pace he set during the 2006 season in the following years, but that's not to say he wasn't successful. Although Curtis failed to win in the seasons that followed his breakout year, he still found success. His success waned, however, as the years went on. Entering last week, Curtis' victory drought had reached six years and, to put it bluntly, he'd become irrelevant. That all changed with one good week, however, and Curtis is back on the map. Will this lead to another successful run like we saw in 2006? If history tells us anything, it's that no one, not even Curtis, knows where this road leads.

This week:
Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Last Year:
Bubba Watson shot a final-round 69 on his way to a playoff victory over Webb Simpson.

Players to Consider:

1. Webb Simpson

It was in New Orleans last year that we first got a glimpse into the future of Webb Simpson. He just missed last year, but he enters this week with a lot more confidence than he had last year at this time.

2. Bubba Watson

Successfully defending a championship is reserved for a select few on the PGA TOUR, but after Watson's win at Augusta a few weeks back, can anyone doubt his abilities anymore?

3. Jason Dufner

Dufner enters the 2012 Zurich Classic on a run of three consecutive top-10s. He finished T3 last year, just out of the playoff between Watson and Simpson.

4. Keegan Bradley

There's plenty of firepower in the field this week, so this isn't a case of just choosing one of the bigger names. Bradley finished T26 last year at this event, but considering where's he's been since, I dare say he enters this week's event in better form.

5. Andres Romero

Romero hasn't accomplished much on the PGA TOUR since his win here in 2008, but his top-10 last year, with his game a shambles, is a clear sign that he can navigate this course even without his "A" game.

Players to Avoid:

1. Geoff Ogilvy

Ogilvy hasn't played here since 2005, and his presence here is a sure sign that he's trying desperately to get his game together. Good for Ogilvy - it's nice to see players tee it up in places they normally don't - but he's simply not a good choice this week.

2. Retief Goosen

Goosen's best finish at the Zurich Classic came in 2006 when he tied for 25th, but that was on a different course. His track record on the current course is virtually non-existent, and his game is not where it needs to be now.

3. Rickie Fowler

It's starting to look like Fowler might have been overhyped, or at least he might need more time than anyone thought to break through on the PGA TOUR. Whatever the case, he's not sharp, so there's no reason to take him this week.

4. Brandt Snedeker

Amazingly, Snedeker has never made the cut at this event. In all, four tries and no weekend rounds. Sure, he's a better player now than he was in 2004 when he missed his first cut here, but you can't ignore his struggles on this track.

5. Jerry Kelly

Kelly won here just three years ago, but his game has fallen since, and even his performance at this event has dipped the lst two years with nothing better than a T67.


This week:
Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Group A

1. Keegan Bradley
2. Webb Simpson

There's no shortage of firepower in Group A this week, and no matter which way you go, you have to leave some heavy hitters on the sidelines. In my case, those heavy hitters are Stricker and Donald - ouch.

Group B

1. Bubba Watson
2. Ernie Els
3. Justin Rose
4. Andres Romero

As is the case in Group A, I'm also leaving some big names on the bench in Group B. But unlike Group A, the names left off in this group aren't as dangerous. The players I settled on look pretty strong with the previous champions Watson and Romero and the usually strong combo of Justin Rose and Ernie Els.

Group C

1. Carl Pettersson
2. Jason Dufner

A good balance among the three groups this week leaves plenty of good options in Group C, as well. The best appear to be Dufner, who has a strong history here, and Pettersson, who's coming off a very impressive win just two weeks ago.

Starters Round One

1. Webb Simpson
2. Bubba Watson
3. Andres Romero
4. Jason Dufner

Course history is the major factor in my round-one selections. In Group A, it's Webb Simpson who lost in the playoff to Bubba Watson last year. Speaking of Watson, he gets the nod in Group B along with Romero, who might not be playing well this season, but usually plays well here. Dufner is the easy choice in Group C as he has this course figured out.

Round Two and Going Forward:

If course history plays a big role this week, like I hope, this could be a very quiet week as far as line-up changes are concerned. If not, I'll have to play close attention to what happens Thursday and Friday, especially in Groups A and B. Even if all goes as planned, I'll likely find a spot for Bradley in Group A. He's been too good this season to ignore, and if he starts well I'll get him in the line-up Friday. Group B has plenty of firepower beyond Romero and Watson as well, so I'm sure that the bench players will get some starting time as well. Romero will have to perform out of the gate, otherwise he'll get the boot in favor of Rose or Els. Dufner has a pretty strong hold on the starting spot in Group C, but Pettersson could change that if he shows the form of two weeks ago.

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