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Wyndham Championship Preview: Wind at his 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.

It was the scenario many golf fans had eagerly awaited quite a while now. The once dominant force finally regaining his spot atop the golfing world. While Tiger Woods must wait another eight months for a shot at breaking his majors drought, Rory McIlroy ended his mini drought last Sunday at the PGA Championship, and the win couldn't have come at a better time. Woods is all too familiar with the drill: you get to the top of the world, dominate the competition and everyone expects you to win nearly every time out. While McIlroy had yet to consistently dominate his competition, when he dismantled the field at the U.S. Open last year, the expectations of greatness were placed upon him. And while he appeared to be ready, he wasn't. Whether it was immaturity, an inability to handle the spotlight or just a loss of priorities, McIlroy's game fell apart and, unlike most professional golfers who can get away with a dry spell, McIlroy could no longer hide among the crowd. Everyone had an opinion and most centered around his relationship with professional tennis player Caroline Wozniacki. I can only imagine how much additional pressure that put on McIlroy. Not only was his game falling apart, but many were now blaming his relationship with his girlfriend. Fortunately for McIlroy, the speculation on why he wasn't winning can be put to rest. Now it's back to the question we were all asking about 14 months ago - will McIlroy become the next dominate force in the game of golf?

This week:
Wyndham Championship

Last Year:
Webb Simpson shot a final-round 67 on his way to a three-stroke victory over George McNeill.

Players to Consider:

1. Webb Simpson

Simpson captured this event during the midst of an incredible run last season, and though we haven't seen a run like that from him this year, there's still time. The field is pretty thin this week, and Simpson should take advantage.

2. Brandt Snedeker

Sendeker has posted two top-10s here the last four years. He hasn't played well the last two times out against the best in the world, but perhaps a lighter field this week will help his state of mind and his game.

3. David Toms

Toms has fared pretty well at this event since the change in venues four years ago. His best finish came in 2010 when he scored 19-under on his way to a runner-up finish. He also finished in the top-20 here last year.

4. Lucas Glover

Glover hasn't had the high-end finishes here the last four years, but he's been extremely steady. Glover's worst finish the last four years at this event came last year when he finished T30.

5. Carl Pettersson

Pettersson won this event in 2008, the first year at the current venue, and he finished T4 here last year. He's also coming off a solid showing at the PGA Championship last week where he finished T3.

Players to Avoid:

1. Jason Day

Nothing short of a crazy run through the FedEx Cup will salvage Day's season, and if he's going to position himself for a run, it needs to start this week with a good showing heading into the playoffs. Unfortunately, there are no signs that a run is imminent.

2. Chris Stroud

Four tries on the current course and no luck for Stroud. It's not that he's blowing up, but while everyone else is making birdies, Stroud is making pars. Stroud has yet to make it to the weekend at this venue.

3. John Daly

Daly surprised just about everyone last week when he pulled a rabbit out of his hat and finished in the top-20 at the PGA Championship. But if history tells us anything, it's that Daly's success never lasts too long.

4. George McNeill

It could be that McNeill has a feel for this course and will play well here no matter the state of his game, but I'll have to see it before I believe it. McNeill's game has been well off since his win earlier this year. Don't expect that will change this week.

5. Nick Watney

There aren't many times during the season that you can safely pick against Watney, but this looks like one of those spots. Watney missed the cut here in his only try on the current course and also missed the cut by a country mile at last week's PGA Championship.


This week:
Wyndham Championship

Group A

1. Webb Simpson
2. Chez Reavie

With very few options in Group A this week, Simpson is a must. The second pick was not quite as easy to make, but I'm going with Reavie, who's carded two top-10s here in his only two tries on the current course.

Group B

1. David Toms
2. Brandt Snedeker
3. Tommy Gainey
4. Tim Clark

Admittedly a very strange group of players from Group B this week, but I see plenty of upside. Toms and Snedeker are in my top-five this week while Gainey and Clark have shown some signs of life the last few weeks. Clark most recently as last week where he finished T11 at the PGA Championship. Gainey, on the other hand, missed the cut last week, but his results from the past couple months are trending in the right direction.

Group C

1. Carl Pettersson
2. Kevin Stadler

For the second consecutive week Group C is pretty weak. Pettersson is certainly a strong pick, but there's not much behind him. I'm going with Stadler, who's coming off a good showing in Reno and seems to excel when the field is not very strong, like this week.

Starters Round One

1. Webb Simpson
2. David Toms
3. Tim Clark
4. Carl Pettersson

Even though he's coming off a missed cut last week, Simpson seems like an easy pick to start round one. The picks in Group B are a little more difficult, however, as there is not a clear round-one starter among the bunch. I'll go with Toms, who has a solid track record here, and Clark, who appears to be rounding into form. Pettersson is an easy round-one start this week in Group C as he's heads above the rest of the players in the group.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Similar situations in Group A and Group C this week as there appears to be one player who is the clear choice to start in each round - if he's on. That said, the bench players in both groups have their upside, but it may not be enough to crack the starting line-up unless the top players in each group falter. Simpson would appear to be more likely to falter than Pettersson only because of his play last week, but I have a feeling the missed cut will be long forgotten by the time Simpson tees it up Thursday. Group B, on the other hand, should be made up of moving parts all week. Toms and Clark are starting Thursday, but beyond that, the starting spots will be up for grabs on a daily basis. Clark looks to have the inside edge on a Friday starting spot, but that could change with a slow start. Snedeker is the first one off the bench if he starts well Thursday.

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