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The Open Championship Preview: Scott's Back for Redemption

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's British Open week and as is customary, we look to the future. Before that, however, we look to the past, or is it the future? Jordan Spieth's win last week was a game-changer for the young man. By winning the John Deere Classic, he essentially added five extra events to his schedule, the Open Championship this week along with the four FedEx Cup events at the end of the year. For those who have Spieth in salary cap leagues or draft leagues, his win last week will continue to pay dividends the remainder of the year.

Now, what about this week? Oddly, there doesn't seem to be quite as much hype surrounding this major as the previous one at Merion. Perhaps it's because it's the U.S. Open is on American soil? Possibly, but not likely. I attribute the perceived lack of attention to the Tiger factor. Prior to the U.S. Open, Tiger was near top form, this time around, most of us are wondering if he's healthy enough to even make it to the weekend. Although this sport has plenty of young and exciting players, Tiger is still the straw that stirs the drink, and when he's not at the top of his game the hype machine has trouble getting started. Here's the funny thing about the hype machine, though. It takes only one good round from Tiger to get going. As for Spieth, well someday he might be responsible for the hype machine, but for now he'll have to figure out how to play one of the four big events of the year just three days after the biggest win of his life. He's surprised us all by his rapid ascent up the ranks of the PGA Tour, but even the greatest optimists among us would be surprised if he happened to play well again this week.

This week:
The Open Championship

Last Year:
Ernie Els shot a final-round 68 on his way to a one-stroke victory over Adam Scott.

Players to Consider:

1. Adam Scott

For those who recall last year's Open Championship, Scott pretty much had it wrapped up with four holes to go, and then ... I won't get into the gory details, but it was bad. The difference between now and then? Well for starters, he enters this year's Open as a major champion. A little confidence is often the difference between first and second place.

2. Phil Mickelson

I'm proactively bowing to perceived pressure here. Mickelson looks like an obvious pick this week with his near miss at the U.S. Open and his win at the Scottish Open last week, but more often than not, the player coming into a major with all the momentum, fails to capitalize. That said, it's Phil, and he's scary good when he's playing well.

3. Graeme McDowell

The great thing about golf is, the results are often so wacky that the reasoning behind the picks can be just as strange. My reason for liking McDowell this week? He failed miserably at the U.S. Open when everyone expected him to play well. In my mind, that means he'll play well this week, when many have written him off or just plain forgotten him.

4. Jason Day

Jason Day is to majors what Jordan Spieth is to regular PGA Tour events. Both are always in the mix, and up until last week, neither had won. That changed for Spieth last week and it could very well change for Day this week. He knows how to win, he's just yet to figure out how to close out at a major. It's just a matter of time, however, as he's simply too good and too focused not to eventually win a major.

5. Brandt Snedeker

Snedeker has been all over the place this season, from atop the money list to missing consecutive cuts on twice. His failure's this season can be attributed to injury, however, and now that he appears to be fully healthy again, he should be considered a threat to win.

Players to Avoid:

1. Keegan Bradley

For all the hype that surrounded Bradley heading into this season, he hasn't exactly lived up to it. Bradley already has a major championship, so there's not exactly any pressure on him, but if he continues along this pace, he might start to feel some pressure again soon.

2. Bubba Watson

Another major champion that just doesn't seem to be anywhere the same level he was when he captured his biggest win. Watson, though, appears to be a bit disinterested in taking his game up another level, which doesn't seem to be the case with Bradley. Again, all speculation, but that's my job.

3. Webb Simpson

Continuing the major champion theme. Simpson has been largely ineffective at the majors since capturing the U.S. Open last year. He missed the cut at the Masters earlier this year, as well as the PGA Championship last year and altogether skipped the British Open last year. Yes, he had reason to skip the Open, I guess, but it plays to the larger point that some golfers want to be great and others are happy making a comfortable living playing golf.

4. Martin Kaymer

I might as well keep listing major champions who aren't likely to contend this week. Next up, Martin Kaymer. Kaymer, unlike the other guys on this list has simply fallen off the map this year. He has only one top-10 at a stroke play event his year on the PGA Tour. Not exactly the form you want to see prior to a major.

5. Vijay Singh

Rounding out the list of major champions is Vijay Singh. It came down to Singh or Tom Watson, but Watson scares me. Singh on the other hand has shown no signs that his game is ready to take on a major set-up. Perhaps the antler-spray scandal has taken its toll, but whatever the reason, Singh's game is just not good.


Group A

1. Phil Mickelson
2. Graeme McDowell

Without a doubt, one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make playing this game. So many good players to choose from, and even a couple sleepers I would have liked to take, but in the end, I stuck with two guys from my top-5. For those who are curious, Sergio is my sleeper this week.

Group B

1. Justin Rose
2. Ernie Els
3. Luke Donald
4. Matt Kuchar

Whereas Group A is overflowing with good options, Group B seems a little thin. That might be because I have several players from his group in my Avoid List though. Whatever the case, I do like the four players I ended up with. Rose comes in with a lot of hype, which isn't usually a good thing. But who knows, maybe he takes it to another level this week. Els is the defending champ, both of the event itself and the course (2002). As for Kuchar and Donald, there's not much beyond the fact that they are both solid players, but heck, that's a pretty good reason to take anyone.

Group C

1. Jason Day
2. Adam Scott

Love, love, love this pairing this week. Best thing about it? No Lee Westwood, woo hoo! Seriously, Westwood has been pretty good to me this year, but as anyone who's picked him during a major can attest, he can be pretty frustrating to have. Enough about Westwood. Scott and Day have been in the mix several times the last few years at the majors, and while Scott is the only one to actually break through, Day has probably been the more consistent of the two.

Starters Round One

1. Phil Mickelson
2. Justin Rose
3. Ernie Els
4. Adam Scott

It was fairly easy to set the starting lineup for Round 1 this week, though I should mention that weather is always a factor at the Open Championship, so this could change at any moment. For now, I'll stick with Mickelson in Group A, as he's coming off a win overseas. You couldn't ask for a better set-up. Group B I have Rose and Els. Els because of his familiarity with the course (sorry, this is the only time I'll use course history) and his play at the Open Championship over the years. Rose gets the nod because he should come into this major with a new found confidence after capturing the U.S. Open last month. Tough call in Group C as I like both players, but Scott is my No. 1 this week, so I should start with him.

Round Two and Going Forward:

As mentioned, weather is always a factor, whether it's actual weather or a forecast, the weather can wreak havoc on your lineup. The problem with the Open Championship is the weather often sneaks up on everyone, which means you, I and everyone else is stuck with the lineup we set hours earlier. That doesn't mean you should ignore the forecast though. If there seems to be an advantage for either the morning or the afternoon groups, by all means, use it to your advantage as well. Now, if weather is not a factor, I'm looking at a pretty busy week as I expect nearly all the players on my roster to get a start at some point. The exception would be if Mickelson starts really well in Group A, which could result in a four-round week for him. Otherwise, I fully expect to get Donald, Kuchar and Day at least one start at some point this week. I'll update my changes throughout the week on Twitter @gregvara.

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