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Weekly Preview: Texas Open Preview

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.

Now that we're back in this 24-hour all-Tiger news cycle, I worry about the "off" weeks when he doesn't play. I worry if a story will develop that's worthy of a few hundred words. It is possible to find a story every week, no matter what plays out on the course, but no one wants to write something that feels forced. Fortunately for me, in a week when only a handful of notable items occurred on the course, something fascinating happened off the course - and it didn't involve Tiger or deer antler spray! This fascination of course is "Dufnering." Fascination doesn't quite do it justice, though; phenomenon is more appropriate. What started as a harmless photo of Jason Dufner sitting on the floor with a distant look in his eyes while volunteering at an elementary school, ended up as the biggest thing on Twitter last Friday night. By Saturday, shots of people "Dufnering" were all over Twitter. So how exactly did this happen? Well, it was a perfect storm of personalities, friends in high places and, of course, the age we live in. It worked because Jason Dufner was caught being, well, Jason Dufner. That in of itself can be quite hilarious. In fact, this phenomenon doesn't work with any other player on the PGA TOUR. It had to be the guy who has a bit of a belly and is known for being a bit distant. The picture was hilarious on its own, but for a craze to sprout out of nowhere, it needed a little more. Enter Rory, Donald, Bubba and Fowler. The younger stars of the PGA TOUR, who are no strangers to social media took the photo and ran with it. The actual photo was just the beginning, though. Something more was required - imitation. Without that group of guys finding ultimate humor in Dufner's actions, this would have never developed. I have to admit, it was fun from my perspective to witness this entire story develop on Twitter last Friday. It's not every day that the guys on the PGA TOUR are "the" story, especially when it has nothing to do with golf. This is the new breed, though, and from what I've seen on Twitter and YouTube, I think professional golf is going to be quite entertaining for years to come.

This week:
Texas Open

Last Year:
Ben Curtis shot a final-round 72 on his way to a two-stroke victory over Matt Every and John Huh.

Players to Consider:

1. Freddie Jacobson

The golfer formerly known as "Fredrik" is already off to a great start this season, and if past performance is any indication, he will add to his bank account this week. Since the event moved to the TPC San Antonio in 2010, Jacobson has finished no worse than T18 here. He also finished runnerup here in 2010.

2. Brendan Steele

Not a loaded field this week, so there are going to be multiple sleepers in play. Steele has an outstanding track record here, which includes a win in 2011 and a T4 last year. He's struggled a bit this season, but he's playing well enough that another win this week wouldn't be shocking.

3. Charley Hoffman

Hoffman's another sleeper with a great track record here and a bit of momentum entering the week. He has finished no worse than T13 at the current venue and finished runnerup to Steele in 2011. He's also coming off a top-20 last week in Houston.

4. Henrik Stenson

This is Stenson's first time at this event, but that probably won't matter if he plays anything like he did last week. If the Houston Open was a 74-hole event, Stenson would have won. He's on a roll, and that roll should carry to this week in San Antonio.

5. Bud Cauley

It's amazing what a few bad months can do to your memory. Prior to last week, Cauley had been so bad this year that I forgot he nearly made $2 million last season. Cauley has loads of talent, and we saw a bit of that last week in Houston. He just needs to avoid those small disastrous stretches that have plagued him this season. He's close, he might be ready to make a run this week. Top-20 here last year.

Players to Avoid:

1. Ben Curtis

Curtis has always been a streaky player, and my guess is he just happened to catch lightning in a bottle last year at this event. His form entering this week is not good, with only one top-50 finish in his last six events.

2. Matt Every

If recent form holds, this year's leaderboard will look nothing like last year's. Every played well here last year, just missing the win, but his current form is awful. Every has missed the cut in four of his last five events.

3. Jim Furyk

This will be Furyk's first time on this course, at least at this event anyway. His name is going to stick out in a field that's lacking a lot of firepower, but that's not enough to take him this week. There are plenty of good options elsewhere.

4. Cameron Beckman

Give him credit, Beckman has played this event every year since 1997. Unfortunately, with little success. The course change three years ago didn't seem to help him either, as he's missed the cut at the current venue twice in three tries.

5. Tommy Gainey

Gainey didn't just miss the cut here last year, he missed it by a country mile, shooting 20-over in his two days on the course. He also missed the cut here the previous year. In fact, he's never made the cut at this event. Now that's a huge mental hurdle to overcome.


Group A

1. Rory McIlroy
2. Kevin Chappell

Group A is woefully thin this week, which is why I'm going back to McIlroy even though he has no experience here, and his game still appears to be off. One good round and suddenly he's a contender this week. Chappell played well last week and has played well here before. He finished runnerup in 2011.

Group B

1. Jimmy Walker
2. Freddie Jacobson
3. Bud Cauley
4. Bob Estes

There are a lot of decent options in Group B this week, but not a lot of great ones. Jacobson certainly qualifies as a great option, but I dare say that I'm taking some chances with the rest of the squad. Walker is pretty solid and not much of a risk, but he doesn't have much of a track record. Still, he quietly is one of the most reliable players on the PGA TOUR. Cauley and Estes are certainly risky, but there are good reasons for each. Cauley looks to be rounding into form, and Estes has been surprisingly consistent this year. That, and he usually plays well in Texas.

Group C

1. Henrik Stenson
2. Brendan Steele

A lot to choose from in Group C this week, but these two stand out. Stenson looks like he's about to go on a run and show us again why he was one of the best in the world just a few years ago. Steele has an outstanding history here, and I see no reason why that will change this week.

Starters Round One

1. Kevin Chappell
2. Freddie Jacobson
3. Bud Cauley
4. Henrik Stenson

As mentioned, there's not enough talent in Group A to keep Rory off the roster, but I can certainly keep him on the bench for one round. Chappell will do just fine in round one. He's coming off a nice performance last week and should be comfortable on this layout. Jacobson is an easy choice to start in Group B this week, he has the track record here, and his play lately has been solid. Tough call on the other starter, but I'm going with Cauley, though it's hard to articulate why. Just a hunch, like Westwood last week. Stenson is another easy call in Group C. When he's on, he's tough to beat. Well, at least that was the case a few years back, but he very much resembled that player last Sunday, and I expect to see that guy again this week.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Group A will hold much of my attention this week as I'll be curious to see if Rory continues his slow progression. Chappell should be around all week, so if McIlroy shows any signs of leveling off, I might just save the start and keep him on the bench all week. If he does happen to start fast, I'll get him in the lineup right away. Jacobson has a strong hold on one of the spots in Group B this week, but the other is up for grabs starting Friday. If Cauley plays well out of the gate, I'll likely keep him in there Friday. Estes probably won't get a look until the weekend. Walker is a tough call this week. He's been good in most spots and really good in others. If he's showing that top-5 form again this week, I'll have to make room for him Friday or Saturday. Stenson has a pretty strong hold on the starting spot in Group C, but if I'm wrong about his momentum carrying over, I'll have no problem getting Steele in there. In fact, if Steele plays like I expect, I'll have to make room for him at some point.

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