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Travelers Championship Preview: Bubba Time

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.

The stars are aligned, perhaps it's meant to be, team of destiny. We hear these cliches all the time and don't give them much thought. But I had to wonder last Sunday, what happens when something looks like it's destiny, but isn't? If you recall, Phil Mickelson was gunning for his first U.S. Open on Sunday and from the onset, it looked like the stars were aligned. The final round was on Father's Day, and Phil just flew across the country to attend a ridiculous ceremony for an 8th grade graduation, it was his birthday and he was in the lead. For someone dealing the currency of fate, there wasn't much more you could ask for. Throw in a magical hole-out on the 10th hole for eagle and it was enough to make even the biggest skeptic believe something else was at work here. Only one problem, there wasn't. Phil went on to finish second yet again, and Justin Rose picked up his first major win. Yes, in case you didn't realize, Justin Rose is the new U.S. Open champion. My question is what happened to all that destiny talk? The folks that throw it out there never seem to bring it back up again when things don't turn out like they thought. The truth is all of those sayings we are used to hearing are simply products of a media looking for an angle. Then again, I didn't follow the BBC in the lead-up to the final round, perhaps it was destined that Justin Rose was going to win Sunday.

This week:
Travelers Championship

Last Year:
Marc Leishman shot a final-round 62 on his way to a one-stroke victory over Bubba Watson and Charley Hoffman.

Players to Consider:

1. Hunter Mahan

Mahan has everything you could want in a player this week. Good form coming in and an outstanding track record at this event. Mahan likely will be disappointed after nearly missing out last week, but with a legitimate chance to win this week, he should snap out of any funk early.

2. Charley Hoffman

Hoffman just missed here last year and enters this week in good form. Hoffman has finished in the top 20 in five of his last eight starts, and in three of those starts he cracked the top 10, as well.

3. Jason Dufner

Dufner has little history at this event, but if you witnessed what he did last Sunday at the U.S. Open, you know he's in a groove. Now, will that carry over to this week? There's no way to tell, but if Dufner is at the top of his game, he's tough to beat.

4. Bubba Watson

I have a feeling that Watson might be getting tired of the mediocrity that he's displayed since winning the Masters last year. If so, this would be the perfect spot to get back on track as his record here is pretty solid.

5. Kyle Stanley

Throw out the U.S. Open, which is unlike any other stop on the PGA Tour, and Kyle Stanley is one of the hottest players going. Stanley struggled after a hot start to last season, but it looks like he's finally found his game again. If that's the case, he's a good option this week.

Players to Avoid:

1. Justin Rose

It's hard to imagine anyone performing well after such a huge victory, and though Rose seems to be pretty level-headed, I just don't see his head being in it this week. Perhaps he'll start well, still on the high from last week, but I don't think he can sustain that momentum all week.

2. Aaron Baddeley

After a decent start to the 2013 season, Badds has really struggled. He enters this week on a streak of six consecutive missed cuts. When someone is playing that poorly, his track record at a given event really doesn't matter.

3. Y.E. Yang

Raise your hand if you thought Yang was a great sleeper pick this season. OK, just me? Well, some picks don't quite pan out, and I'm not afraid to admit that I thought the former major champion had a bit more in him. Evidently, that's not the case as he's having just an awful season.

4. Kevin Stadler

Stadler has really struggled at this event the last five years. In fact, he hasn't made a cut here since 2007. His form is also off entering this week. Stadler has missed the cut in three of his past four starts.

5. Mike Weir

Weir's strong start at the U.S. Open last week brought his name back into our consciousness, and though he has turned his game around a bit over the last month or so, he still has a ways to go. Hopefully he makes the cut this week, but even if he does, a top-20 seems like his ceiling.


Group A

1. Jason Dufner
2. Bubba Watson

I really wanted to get Stanley on my squad this week, but it came down to him or Watson, and I have a better feeling about Bubba this week. Dufner is almost a must after his Sunday performance last week.

Group B

1. Webb Simpson
2. Charley Hoffman
3. Hunter Mahan
4. Marc Leishman

Well, I've handcuffed myself a bit with the omission of Rose, but beyond the obvious reasons why you might want to avoid him this week, I have only three starts left with Rose, so I probably wouldn't use him under normal circumstances. As for the players I do have, Mahan is an obvious choice. Leishman finished runner-up here last year and is playing pretty well this year. Hoffman is in my top-5 this week and Simpson, well, he was the last one in and his inclusion was based on his name and not much more.

Group C

1. Rickie Fowler
2. Lee Westwood

I'm not a fan of taking the chalk, but there doesn't appear a better way to go in Group C this week. Fowler and Westwood each played well for short periods last week at the U.S. Open and perhaps that will carry over to this week. As is always the case, hopefully both players can avoid the major hangover this week.

Starters Round One

1. Jason Dufner
2. Hunter Mahan
3. Charley Hoffman
4. Rickie Fowler

It took about one minute to figure out my starting lineup for Thursday this week and 55 seconds was used on Group C. After his play Sunday, Dufner was an easy choice to start in Group A. Mahan was an obvious choice to start as well. It wasn't quite as easy to pull the trigger on Hoffman, but compared to the decision in Group C, it was lightning fast. As for Group C, I went with Fowler because I am a little worried about Westwood's mindset this week. He was cruising early last week, but went in a tailspin after an encounter with a flagstick. I know he's a professional, but all these major-misses have to be getting to him.

Round Two and Going Forward:

As is always the case when the starting lineup is so easy to set, changes in the starting lineup after round one will be tough to make. That said, I'm starting Dufner on the notion that he's starting to find his game; if he's plays poorly out of the gate, then maybe his round last Sunday was a fluke. If that's the case, then I'll have no problem putting Bubba in there. Mahan appears to be locked into the lineup in Group B. He's playing well and has the track record. Hoffman has a fairly strong grip on the other starting spot, but a quick start from Leishman or Simpson will make for a tough call on Friday. Group C will be up in the air after round one. I'm hoping Fowler starts well so I can ride him through the week. If not, I'll need Westwood to step up and rebound from last week.