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The Greenbrier Classic Preview: Tiger Fine Tunes

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.

He may not be the dominant force he once was, but with his win last Sunday at the AT&T National, Tiger Woods has to be considered the best player in the world. No, he hasn't won a major this year, but neither have two of the three most recent official holders of that title, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald. Besides, it seems as though no one can win multiple majors anymore as the last 15 have been won by 15 different players. So we need to look elsewhere for greatness now, and when you look elsewhere, there's only one player on the PGA TOUR who has won thrice this season, and that's Tiger Woods. In fact, he's on a pace similar to his heyday when he was winning five-plus times per year. The only difference between now and then, of course, is his performance at the majors. But that's the state of the game. The majors are a complete toss-up, and Tiger is simply a part of the mix that can win during any given major, or he can fade during any given major. No, he's not the unstoppable force he once was, but he's the best player going, and when the best players in the world tee it up at Royal Lytham St. Anne in three weeks, he will be the favorite.

This week:
The Greenbrier Classic

Last Year:
Scott Stallings shot a final-round 69 on his way to a playoff victory over Bob Estes and Bill Haas.

Players to Consider:

1. Brendon de Jonge

Not a name you see too often on this list, but he has the credentials this week with two top-5s in his two starts at The Greenbrier Classic and finished just outside the top-10 last week at the AT&T.

2. Tiger Woods

A little surprising to see Tiger tee it up here, but with only two weeks left until the Open Championship, he'll use this as his final tune-up. Normally you'd like to stay away from players who are obviously using an event as a tune-up, but the way Tiger is playing, he can win no matter his motivation.

3. Seung Noh-Yul

If you aren't familiar with this name, well, soon you'll know. Sorry, I had to do that just once. This is a legitimate pick, however, as Noh-Yul is starting to heat up. He's carded five top-20s in his last nine starts and is coming off a top-5 last week.

4. Jimmy Walker

There aren't many big names in the field this week, so we need to look elsewhere to find some players who might be under the radar, and Walker fits the bill. Walker also has two top-5s in two starts at this event, and this week, that puts him near the top of the list.

5. Webb Simpson

One of a few big names in the field this week with experience at this event. Simpson cracked the top-30 a week after his U.S. Open win, and now that he's a couple weeks removed from that victory, expect an even better performance this week.

Players to Avoid:

1. Rod Pampling

Just as his track record at the AT&T made him a viable pick last week, Pampling's track record at the Greenbrier makes him a poor selection this week. Two starts, two missed cuts.

2. Phil Mickelson

A little odd seeing Mickelson in the field this week, but this isn't even his first start here. He played here last year with no success as he missed the cut. Mickelson will be looking to fine-tune his game for the Open in two weeks, which means he'll be looking ahead.

3. Camilo Villegas

Villegas carded a couple rounds in the mid-to-high 70s last week at the AT&T National and didn't fare much better last year at this event. He made the weekend in 2011 but performed poorly once there on his way to a T71.

4. Kevin Streelman

Streelman has really struggled the last three months with only one top-50 in his last seven starts. He also struggled in his only start here as well as missing the cut in 2010.

5. Gary Woodland

Woodland played well here last year when he finished in the top 5, but he enters this week's event off a rough weekend at the AT&T National where he carded weekend rounds of 75-80.


This week:
The Greenbrier Classic

Group A

1. Jim Furyk
2. Webb Simpson

There aren't many big-name players in the field this week, but you wouldn't know it by looking at this pair. Furyk and Simpson each have top-10s at this event, and both showed top form as recently as a few weeks ago at the U.S. Open.

Group B

1. Tiger Woods
2. Jimmy Walker
3. Brendon de Jonge
4. Dustin Johnson

All things considered, Group B looks very strong this week. You wouldn't know it by looking at this foursome necessarily, but considering that de Jonge and Walker are solid picks this week, this group of players could easily produce the winner. Johnson and Woods have no experience here, but they have both shown good form recently.

Group C

1. Seung Noh-Yul
2. Patrick Cantlay

If you weren't aware that Noh-Yul was a good pick this week, well soon you'll ... OK, I said only once. Seriously, Noh-Yul looks to be finding his game, and Cantlay, while yet to find his, has shown some signs the last month. This event has yielding some surprise winners the last two years, and Cantlay would certainly fit that bill.

Starters Round One

1. Webb Simpson
2. Brendon de Jonge
3. Jimmy Walker
4. Seung Noh-Yul

Still a few months left in the season and I'm already forced to use some strategy with my starts. I have only three starts left from Tiger, so I have to be smart and save them for the proper time. Considering his form coming in, I can't omit him from the roaster altogether, but I don't want to burn a start if he's not in top form this week. As for the players in the line-up, I'm going with Simpson over Furyk on a hunch; there's just not much separating these two this week. In Group B, I'm going with Walker and de Jonge, which is a bit of a surprise, but then again, look at who's performed well here over the last two years, and you'll see a list of surprising names. In Group C, I'm going with Noh-Yul and if you think ... sorry, can't help myself.

Round Two and Going Forward:

This should be an interesting week if for no other reason than the Tiger dilemma. When do I put him in? I'll have to be careful not to waste a start, so I'll only start him if he starts very strong. If not, I'll make the best out of the other three available players, which should be fine considering the track records of those involved. Group A should be a toss-up after round one as I expect both Simpson and Furyk to perform well this week. Simpson gets the nod in round one, but he has no advantage over Furyk after that. I'll simply go with the player in better form after round one. Noh-Yul has a fairly strong hold on the starting spot in Group C, but he's young and unpredictable so that could change at any moment.

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