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Shriners Open Preview: Leading the Field

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 more things change, the more they stay the same. The PGA Tour is undergoing an unprecedented change in the way it calculates all sorts of things including earnings, exemptions to majors and playing status, but it seems that one thing will remain the same -- the fall portion of the season is still the best time of the year for first-time winners. Jimmy Walker took advantage of a weaker field last week at the Open and captured his first victory on the PGA Tour. And while Walker is no slouch, there's no denying that this portion of the season, be it part of the 2014 season or not, allows for greater opportunity to win for would-be first-timers. Unlike years past, though, this win will have ramifications on the season as Walker has already punched his ticket to Augusta and is now atop the FedEx Cup Standings for the 2013-14 season. What remains to be seen is whether the big names will feel that they are missing out by skipping these events. Perhaps after a few events, some will sense they are falling behind. There were many reasons behind this schedule change, but I have to think that one of the main ones was to get the bigger names to show up in the fall. If that doesn't happen, then for the most part, the new fall season is just like the old one.

This week:
Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

Last Year:
Ryan Moore shot a final-round 66 on his way to a one-stroke victory over Brendan de Jonge.

Players to Consider:

Zach Johnson

Johnson doesn't strike me as a guy who shows up at an event just to show up. With that in mind, Johnson should be a factor all week as he's probably the top player in the field this week. He also fared well here in his only previous start, a Top-10 in 2008.

Vijay Singh

I surmised during my 2013-14 preview that Singh may benefit the most from the new format as he needed a break from the 2013 season more than anyone. If last week is any indication, it looks like the break did wonders for Singh as he finished runner-up last week.

George McNeil

McNeil is one of a few players in the field this week with a long history at this event. McNeil has played here each of the last six years and has had plenty of success as well. He won this event in 2007 and finished runner-up in 2009. He's also coming off a Top-10 last week at the Open.

Martin Laird

Laird also has a strong history here with a win 2009 and a runner-up the following year. Laird is coming off a solid 2013 season, and what better way to start the new season than to add another top finish at the event where he's had so much success.

Hideki Matsuyama

My season projection for Matsuyama caught some attention as I had him pegged a little lower than most, and while I'm sticking by that prediction, the fact remains that, for now, he's hot. Young players are often streaky, and if that's the case here then this might be a good time to jump on board.

Players to Avoid:

Bud Cauley

OK, so I may have jumped the gun on the Bud Cauley comeback as he struggled to a T71 last week. On the bright side, he did put two good rounds together, so there's hope that he'll rebound soon, just not this week.

Jeff Maggert

Maggert had his ups and downs during the 2013 season, but as a whole, the season was a success as he again finished inside the Top 125. His 2013-14 season got off to a decent start as he cashed a check at the Open, but ended up with a MDF. He's also struggled at this event, missing four consecutive cuts.

Troy Matteson

Matteson won this event in 2006, but that must seem like a lifetime ago as he hasn't had much success here or anywhere else since. His record here since that win is brutal with only one cut made in his last six tries.

Retief Goosen

Goosen still appears to be struggling in his attempt to come back from back surgery. He missed the cut last week at the Open, and he's a first-timer this week. Goosen will probably find his old form at some point, but it likely will take time.

Rory Sabbatini

Sabbatini was on the Avoid list last week and came nowhere near to make the cut. It looks like he'll struggle again this week as his track record here isn't much better than it was entering the Open last week. Sabbatini hasn't played well here in quite a while.

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