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Memorial Tournament Preview: Trailing Tiger

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's something going on, and if I didn't know any better, I'd say we are in the midst of a time warp that's sending us back to the early 2000s. For those who don't remember, that was a time when golf was ruled by one man alone, and no one outside that one man could be trusted to do what was expected of him. There's little doubt that Tiger Woods is again ruling the golf world (though some might say he needs to win a major before making that distinction), and the latter half of the statement is certainly holding true with two big names, Keegan Bradley and Matt Kuchar, failing to seal the deal each of the last two Sundays. This isn't an attempt to bash the likes of Kuchar or Bradley, it just seems that in recent years, more often than not, the top players would take care of business when the opportunity presented itself. But recently that doesn't seem to be the case. Does it have anything to do with the ascent of Tiger Woods? Probably not, but it's certainly something to think about. Speaking of Tiger, he's back on the scene this week at the Memorial, a place where he's dominated in the past, um, I mean the present. If this actually were 10 years ago, it would be a battle for second place this week. Although it's not 10 years ago, I still have one question - who's your pick for runner-up this week?

This week:
Memorial Tournament

Last Year:
Tiger Woods shot a final-round 67 on his way to a two-stroke victory over Andres Romero and Rory Sabbatini.

Players to Consider:

1. Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods at the Memorial is akin to a one seed in the opening round of the NBA playoffs. Woods has won here five times dating to 1999. Remember, though, many of those years he was tinkering with his swing, or his game just wasn't right, neither of which is the case this year.

2. Rory McIlroy

It's about time the Rory-Tiger rivalry gets going, and what better place than Jack's tournament. McIlroy has a decent track record here by his standards with two top-10s in three tries. Something tells me he'll be amped for the opportunity to battle Tiger this week.

3. Matt Kuchar

Kuchar's track record at this event is solid with four top-10s in five tries. He's also coming off a pretty decent performance last week at the Colonial. Kuchar often plays his best when lying in the weeds, which will be the case this week with the spotlight elsewhere.

4. Justin Rose

Rose's track record here might be second to only Tiger. Rose won here in 2010, just two years after he finished runner-up to Kenny Perry. In addition to that, he also has a pair of top-15s. The only downside to Rose is his tendency to disappear from time to time. He's missed two cuts here in the last four years.

5. Jonathan Byrd

Byrd has missed consecutive cuts coming into this week, but missed cuts have not been an accurate predictor of future performance for Byrd over the years. His track record at this event is predictably all over the place, but he does have three top-10s in his last four starts here.

Players to Avoid:

1. Rickie Fowler

Fowler is having a pretty good season, but he's in the midst of his worst stretch of play all year. Fowler hasn't cracked the top-50 in his last three starts and hasn't finished inside the top-30 since mid-March. His track record here leaves something to be desired also.

2. Vijay Singh

Singh has a decent track record here, which might give some a reason to take a look at him, but one look at his recent play should scare everyone off of him this week/. Singh has missed three of his last four events and finished in 80th place the one week he did make the cut.

3. Carl Pettersson

Pettersson has a solid track record at this event, which includes a win in 2006, but recently he's struggled here. He's missed the cut in three of his past four tries here, and his game just isn't very sharp now. Pettersson has only one top-10 this year, which came during his first start of the season.

4. Brandt Snedeker

Even though Snedeker is one of the best players in the world, his track record at this event is impossible to overlook. Four starts here and not a single weekend round. Last year he was forced to withdraw, but his previous three starts resulted in MCs. He'll turn it around at some point, but it's probably wise to wait on him until he does.

5. Keegan Bradley

Just like Snedeker, Bradley will eventually figure out how to navigate this course, but there's no reason to take a chance on him until he's proven he can. Bradley has played here only twice, with no success to speak of.


Group A

1. Tiger Woods
2. Rory McIlroy

To be honest, I wasn't looking for a good pair of players this week in Group A, I just wanted to make sure that no more than two of my top-5 came from this group. Fortunately, it's just Woods and McIlroy, so mission accomplished.

Group B

1. Justin Rose
2. Matt Kuchar
3. Jimmy Walker
4. Luke Donald

Group B is absolutely loaded this week. That said, Kuchar and Rose should be on just about every team this week. The other two picks will vary greatly, though. I'm going with Walker, who's having a great season and Donald, who has a decent track record here. I'm obviously leaving off some big names, but then again, everyone will have to leave some big names off their rosters this week - it's just a matter of which ones.

Group C

1. Adam Scott
2. Jonathan Byrd

Plenty of solid options in Group C this week as well, and considering I'm taking a bit of a risk with Byrd, I have to be certain that the other player I choose is reliable. Scott fits that bill, even though his track record here is a little spotty. I trust Byrd this week, but it's nice to know that Scott will be there if the Byrd experiment fails.

Starters Round One

1. Tiger Woods
2. Matt Kucha
3. Justin Rose
4. Adam Scott

Easy calls all around Thursday this week. Tiger is the easy call in Group A as his track record here is outstanding, and his form is great. There are some weeks when it might be wise to wait on Tiger, this isn't one. Kuchar and Rose are clearly the best options in Group B this week, so they'll get the starting spots in Group B. Scott will get the nod in Group C only because Byrd is so erratic. I do trust Byrd this week, but I'm going to wait one round before putting him into the starting lineup.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Group A could get interesting this week is McIlroy starts well. I really don't see a scenario where Tiger is benched prior to Saturday, so it will take a hot start from McIlroy - I mean, really hot - for McIlroy to earn a starting spot on the weekend. Kuchar and Rose are pretty well locked in to the starting spots in Group B as well, though it won't take quite as much to remove them from the lineup. A slow start from either Rose or Kuchar could result in a change Friday. As for the first one in, that's in the air as Walker doesn't have the track record here, but he's proven he can play on just about any track, while Donald has played well here and, well, he's Donald. If all goes well, I'll have a decision to make in Group C on Friday. I'm hoping the good Byrd shows up this week and forces my hand Friday. If Byrd plays well Thursday, I'll have no problem putting him in the starting lineup on day two.