RotoWire Partners

Byron Nelson Preview: Back-to-Back?

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.

There are any number of ways to determine the best player to have yet to win a major, but by any measure, Matt Kuchar tops the list. He was already near the top of the list entering The Players Championship last week at the TPC Sawgrass, but with his win Sunday, Kuchar above the major-less field. This shouldn't be about what he's yet to accomplish, however, because the list of what he has accomplished is pretty impressive. An amateur championship, a PGA TOUR money list title, a Ryder Cup appearance, 45 top-10s on the PGA TOUR, nearly $20 million in earnings and now The Players champion. For most golfers, this list would encompass a career fulfilled, but Kuchar will be anything but satisfied until he grabs his first major. So what are his chances? He's actually fared pretty well at three of the four majors, the only exception the British Open where he's made only one cut. Don't underestimate what his win last week will do for his confidence. Kuchar has always appeared to be strong mentally and proved it last week. As long as he continues on his current path, he'll only have to answer those pesky questions about failing to win a major a little while longer.

This week:
HP Bryon Nelson Championship

Last Year:
Keegan Bradley shot a final-round 68 on his way to a playoff victory over Ryan Palmer.

Players to Consider:

1. Jason Day

Day's performance last week was certainly a letdown, but this week should be a different story as his track record at the Byron Nelson is spectacular. Day picked up a win here in 2010 and finished solo fifth last year. If Day is to turn around his disappointing season, it will start his week.

2. Keegan Bradley

Bradley's in a bit of a rut, but he's not too far removed from a nice run at the beginning of the season, and perhaps a trip back to the Byron Nelson can get him on track.

3. Matt Kuchar

Kuchar doesn't have a great history here, but he did finish solo sixth last year and, well, he's kind of playing well entering the week. No need to worry about the hangover either, Kuchar's very strong between the ears.

4. Jeff Overton

Overton has underperformed this season but has played well in spots, including top-5 finishes. He's also coming off a solid round Friday at The Players, and he has performed well here, including a runner-up in 2010 and a top-10 last year.

5. Jhonattan Vegas

We all witnessed what Vegas was capable of last year went he went on a month-long tear. While he's struggled since that run last year, he showed some signs last week that he might be on his way back.

Players to Avoid:

1. Steve Flesh

I didn't realize that Flesh was still active on the PGA TOUR; I thought he was a full-time commentator on the Golf Channel. Whatever the case, he's in the field this week, and he finished with a top-15 here last year. No matter, though, as I doubt his game in sharp.

2. Andres Romero

Romero's game is a mess. He enters the week off two awful rounds at The Players, and his track record here is brutal as well, with two missed cuts in two appearances.

3. J.B. Holmes

Holmes looked like a good pick last week at The Players, yet he failed to make the weekend. This week he doesn't look like a good selection. Holmes' history here is not good, and if last week is any indication, his game is a little off too.

4. Justin Leonard

Leonard has a handful of top-25s at this event, but he lacks the high finishes you'd like to see. And he's coming off a couple of tough weekend rounds at The Players.

5. Charley Hoffman

Hoffman has two top-10s here and another top-25, but he's also missed the cut in three of his six appearances. And he's coming off a poor showing at The Players.


This week:
HP Bryon Nelson Championship

Group A

1. Keegan Bradley
2. Matt Kuchar

There is at least one big name I'm leaving off the roster this week, but I feel comfortable with this pair. Kuchar won last week and Bradley won here last year, so both are capable of winning this week.

Group B

1. Brian Davis
2. Ken Duke
3. Ernie Els
4. Jason Day

Day leads Group B this week, at least in my mind, and he has some solid support in Ernie Els and Brian Davis. Els has a fairly solid track record here, and Davis played really well last week. As for Duke, well, he's quite the sleeper pick this week, but he has played well in spurts the last month, and you never know.

Group C

1. Jeff Overton
2. Jason Dufner

A lot of players to choose from in Group C this week, but not a lot of quality options. There are a few, however, and Dufner and Overton definitely fall into that category. Dufner did not play as well as I'd hoped last week, but he's still one of the better golfers in the field this week. Overton has a very strong track record here.

Starters Round One

1. Keegan Bradley
2. Jason Day
3. Brian Davis
4. Jeff Overton

Tough call in Group A this week, but I'm going to give Kuchar at least one round to adjust to the biggest win of his career. Bradley is defending for the first time, which could prove difficult, but I have a feeling he'll relish getting back to this venue. Day is coming off a poor week at The Players, but I have a feeling he'll bounce back right away this week. Davis is coming off a solid week at The Players, and hopefully that momentum carries over to this week. Overton gets the call in Group C based on his Byron Nelson history.

Round Two and Going Forward:

It should only take one round to get Kuchar into the starting line-up in Group A; I just want to make sure he's focused on this week and not last week, but he's mentally strong, so I'm not too worried. Day has a strong hold on a starting spot in Group B - if he starts well. If not, Els likely will be the first one in off the bench, but he's also coming off a poor week at Sawgrass. As for Duke, I'll probably need to see two good rounds from him before placing him into the starting line-up. Group C is up in the air after round one. Overton starts Thursday, but the second round is open to whoever plays better in the first round.