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Wyndham Championship Preview: Brandt's Bouncing 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.

When we look back at the 2013 majors, we'll likely remember how a couple players launched fabulous careers. But in the midst of this season it's hard to talk about anything other than Tiger Woods' troubles. Perhaps years from now we'll look at this season as the year we finally gave up on Tiger's quest to beat Jack's record. After all, if he can't win a single major while he's seemingly on top of his game, what are the odds he can win five more and top Jack? That said, the 2013 major season is over, and there's no reason to talk about what might have been, so we might as well talk about what did happen and what it could mean.

After a couple heartbreaking losses, Adam Scott finally broke through at a major when he won the Masters in April. One and done? No way, Scott not only won the Masters, but he fared well at the Open Championship and the PGA Championship. Scott will be among the favorites at every major for the foreseeable future. Justin Rose picked up his first major at the U.S. Open, and while another major seems likely, he has an uphill battle with the likes of Scott around for years to come. And then there's Jason Dufner. Dufner, like Scott, had his own heartbreak not so long ago, and like Scott, he erased the pain of that loss with a triumphant win at the PGA Championship. What are Dufner's odds of winning another major? Probably good, if only because he's the type of player who's extremely tough to beat when he's locked in. All of these guys have a good chance at picking up another major, but there's one problem - all of these guys will be around for years to come, and I didn't even mention Rory McIlroy, who 12 months ago seemed poised for a great 2013 season. When we look back at 2013, we'll see greatness ahead, just like we did last year, but it doesn't always work out the way we think it will.

This week:
Wyndham Championship

Last Year:
Sergio Garcia shot a final-round 66 on his way to a two-stroke victory over Tim Clark.

Players to Consider:

1. Brandt Snedeker

Snedeker is quickly becoming Tiger-esque when it comes to non-major, non-WGC events. Although he struggled in his last two starts, he's a good bet to get back on track this week at the Wyndham where he has two top-10s in his last four starts.

2. Zach Johnson

Johnson extended his streak of top-10s last week to four consecutive. More impressive is where he earned those top-10s. The two most recent came at the Bridgestone and the PGA Championship. Johnson has a great chance to extend his streak to five this week with a lighter field on hand.

3. Webb Simpson

Simpson hasn't exactly taken off this year like many expected, but he's done well enough to make us think that he has a run in him at some point. Will that run start this week? It could, he won here in 2011 and hasn't finished outside the top-25 here since 2008.

4. Bill Haas

Haas is quietly having a strong season, but he's been overshadowed by the first-time major winners. His play lately has been solid, and he just might be ready to make a run at the FedEx Cup like he did in 2011. Of course, he'll have to wait one more week to get the big points, but everything helps.

5. Roberto Castro

Castro has only played here once, with little success, missing the cut last year, but his game has improved a lot in the last 12 months. Castro finished runner-up at the AT&T in late June and has backed that up with a top-10 at the RBC and a T12 last week at the PGA.

Players to Avoid:

1. Justin Leonard

Leonard sure loves this course. In three visits to this venue, he's earned three top-20s. Not exactly the resume of a player who should be on the "avoid" list, but his game seems to be regressing and I'm not sure if he's capable of putting up anything better that something in the 20s this week. Only one top-10 this year.

2. Carl Pettersson

Pettersson has an even stronger track record here than Leonard, with two top-5s in the past two years, but also like Leonard, Pettersson's game is struggling. Can he break out of his funk here? Certainly, but I usually avoid players who aren't anywhere near the top of their game.

3. Arjun Atwal

Who is Arjun Atwal, and why is he on this list? Well, he won this event as a Monday qualifier in 2010, but he's fallen off the map since. Atwal did next to nothing with the two-year exemption that he earned from that win, and he's now surviving on sponsors' exemptions. It makes sense that he's in the field this week, but don't expect lighting to strike in the same spot again.

4. Casey Wittenberg

Can the highly touted rookie make one last run at the top 125 and get into the playoffs next week? Not likely. Wittenberg seems to have enough game to compete week in and week out, but something is not clicking. My guess is he makes a small run during the fall season, ehem, the start of the 2014 season.

5. Michael Bradley

Bradley has the distinction of being the player in the field this week who has missed the cut every time he's teed it up on this course. That's right, he's 0-for-5. Bradley has a knack for coming out of nowhere and playing out of his mind every few months, but don't expect anything like that this week.


Group A

1. Brandt Snedeker
2. Bill Haas

Pretty straight-forward selections in Group A this week. Two of my top-5 players, Snedeker and Haas come from this group, and there's really no one else who caught my attention. Nice and easy.

Group B

1. Webb Simpson
2. Andres Romero
3. Jimmy Walker
4. Zach Johnson

I missed out on Zach Johnson's fine performance last week because I wanted to save a start. I hope that pays off this week. I actually have three starts left from Johnson, but if he continues to play like he has the last month, I'll probably need him during the FedEx Cup. Simpson was an easy pick as he and Johnson are the top 2 from this group. The other two players will vary widely from team to team, but I'm going with Walker, who's been pretty darn good all year, and Romero, who might be hitting his stride.

Group C

1. Roberto Castro
2. Jordan Spieth

A nice paring in Group C as I have Castro, who's in my top 5 this week, and Spieth, who's played really well outside the majors this year. Both will be looking to bolster their position heading into the playoffs next week, and I expect both to fare well.

Starters Round One

1. Brandt Snedeker
2. Webb Simpson
3. Zach Johnson
4. Roberto Castro

Some weeks it takes a long time to figure out who to start during round one, and others ... Well, as you might expect, with my top-5 players spread among the three groups, my Thursday four were fairly easy to pick this week. The only tough call came in Group A, where two of my top 5 reside. I went with Snedeker because he's been solid against weaker fields this season. Don't get me wrong, this isn't the John Deere, but you probably noticed quite a few big names missing from the field this week. Group B took all of about three seconds to figure out. Johnson and Simpson are in my top 5 and seemingly head and shoulders above the other two players in that group. Group C wasn't as easy as Group B, but I went with Castro because he's played very well lately.

Round Two and Going Forward:

If all goes according to plan, I might only have to concern myself with the players in Groups A and C this week. Simpson and Johnson have the feel of four-round starters this week, but we'll have to wait and see. Romero was runner-up in his last outing, so maybe he's ready to go on a run, and Walker has played well all year, so maybe he can force my hand as well. Group A is Snedeker's to lose, but Haas could definitely make it difficult to decide all week. Group C is probably the toss-up group this week. I'm starting with Castro, but I'll probably give Spieth a look as early as Friday.