RotoWire Partners

Crowne Plaza Invitational Preview: Zach Back on the Attack

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 is said that once a player gets his first victory on the PGA TOUR, everything that follows comes much easier. That certainly seems to be the case with Jason Dufner. Dufner picked up his first win at the Zurich Classic just three weeks ago, and it was assumed it was just the beginning. Little did anyone know, Dufner was just a few weeks away from win his second victory. Did his first win make it any easier to close out his next, though? Possibly, but it certainly wasn't obvious. After all, Dufner needed a 25-foot putt to go down on the final hole to seal the victory. Without that final putt, Dufner would have found himself in yet another playoff, like his win in New Orleans. A closer look, however, reveals that his play leading up to that final putt was much better at the Byron Nelson than in New Orleans, and that's where added confidence comes into play. In New Orleans, Dufner fought hard just to hang onto a share of the lead as he closed with a 70. Last Sunday, Dufner closed with a much more impressive 67, and that's how you win on the PGA TOUR - by closing well on Sunday. As anyone who follows this game can tell you, confidence is the key to closing on Sunday, and Dufner is bursting with it.

This week:
Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial

Last Year:
David Toms shot a final-round 67 on his way to a one-stroke victory over Charlie Wi.

Players to Consider:

1. Zach Johnson

Johnson's short and precise ball-striking is custom made for this course, as his results prove. In six tries here, Johnson has finished no worse than T30, his last two starts resulting in a win and a top-5.

2. Rickie Fowler

Few golfers are playing better than Fowler, perhaps only Jason Dufner. Fowler appears to be taking the next step in his development, which in this case would be multiple wins in a season. He just might follow Dufner into that realm this week.

3. Matt Kuchar

Entering last weekend, it appeared Kuchar would be the one to pick up his second victory of the season, but he slowly faded on the weekend. That shouldn't be the case this week, though, as he's had two weeks now to get his head around his Players win. Kuchar has fared well here also with top-20 last year and a top-10 in 2008.

4. Bill Haas

Haas started 2012 on fire, but as of two weeks ago, he found himself in the midst of a mini-slump. A top-25 at The Players may be a sign that his game is coming back around, however. And now he returns to Colonial where he's finished in the top-15 the last two years. Look for a similar finish this year.

5. Ken Duke

Believe it or not, Duke is tied for fifth in top-10 finishes this season. Duke has four top-10s entering this week's event and even though his track record here is nothing to write home about, he's proven capable of cracking the top-10 just about anywhere this year.

Players to Avoid:

1. Justin Leonard

Leonard's game would seem well suited for this course, but for some reason he's struggled here recently. He's missed the cut two years running, and his game is not in good shape having missed the cut in two of his last three events.

2. Y.E. Yang

Yang has yet to figure out Colonial, and his current form is well off. Yang has yet to make a cut here in three tries and enters off consecutive missed cuts on the PGA TOUR. The first of which included an 80 to open The Players.

3. John Rollins

Rollins has played this event nine times and finished the week under par just once. He's also missed the cut in three of his past four tries. His only successful journey to the weekend ended in a T71.

4. Rory Sabbatini

Sabbatini knows his way around Colonial (he won here in 200), however, his game the last month or so has fallen dramatically. He comes into this week on a streak of three consecutive missed cuts and five misses in his last six events. He's certainly capable of turning it around this week, but don't bet on it.

5. Jeff Maggert

Maggert started the season well with three consecutive finishes in the top-26, but since that stretch he's really struggled. He's made the weekend just once in his past four starts and missed the weekend in his two most recent tries at Colonial.


This week:
Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial

Group A

1. Zach Johnson
2. Matt Kuchar

Not a lot of quality options in Group A this week, which means this pair is likely to be extremely popular. Kuchar does not have a solid track record here, but even after a tough weekend at the Nelson, he's still near top form. As for Johnson, he's the top pick overall this week and a must in Group A.

Group B

1. Rickie Fowler
2. Ken Duke
3. Hunter Mahan
4. Bill Haas

A strong foursome in Group B this week with three of the four players in my top-5. The lone player from this group outside my top-5 is Hunter Mahan. Mahan missed the cut his last time out, but he's won twice this season and finished in the top-10 here last year. Duke is the one player from this group who could help you gain some ground on the competition this week.

Group C

1. Ben Crane
2. Jason Dufner

Dufner doesn't have the track record at Colonial, but you simply have to take him. After Dufner, there was a group of players bunched together, but Crane stood out from that group because of his history at Colonial. Crane has three top-5 finishes in his past five tries here, which puts him right behind Dufner this week.

Starters Round One

1. Zach Johnson
2. Rickie Fowler
3. Bill Haas
4. Jason Dufner

Johnson is the top pick this week because of his stellar performances here, and as such, he'll get the nod in Group A this week. Fowler gets the first start in Group B because of his form coming in. The second start was truly a toss-up, but Duke won because of his recent play. It's not going to be a popular pick, so there's a chance to gain some ground early if he performs well out of the gate. I also decided to go with current form over course history in Group C with Dufner over Crane. As mentioned, Dufner has not played very well here, but you can't ignore how well he's played the last month.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Johnson not only gets the start in round one, but he also has the edge for the remainder of the week. Kuchar is capable of supplanting him, of course, but I'll have to see Kuchar's best game before making that move. Group B is up in the air after round one. While Fowler was an easy choice to start round one, I'll have no problem pulling him Friday if he starts slowly. Haas is likely the first one off the bench. Mahan doesn't have a great course history here, so I might need to see two rounds from him before putting him in the starting line-up. Dufner gets the starting spot Thursday in Group C, but if he starts slowly, I'll pull him for Crane. A slow start from Dufner could mean that he just can't get around this course, in which case I'll go with Crane for the remainder of the week.