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Phoenix Open Preview: Stanley's Desert Oasis

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.

Rampant overreaction to the previous week's results are generally reserved for fans of the NFL, but according the Twitterverse, the PGA Tour filled in admirably during the week off between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. For those who weren't plugged in this weekend, Tiger Woods may be done and Phil Mickelson is showing his age. Yes, these reactions spawned from watching two or three days of action early in the season, but many thought it enough to make a valid argument for the end of two prominent careers. OK, so maybe I'm the one going overboard with reaction to the reaction, but there is actually a segment of the population that thinks last week's results are an indicator of things to come. Never mind the fact that Tiger won five times last year and Phil nearly won two majors. No, two bad days in January is rock solid evidence that something is wrong.

Look, I'm not going to lie, I was shocked at how poorly Tiger played last week, but perhaps, and stick with me here, perhaps Tiger is going all-in on the majors this year. I realize that Tiger is capable of performing well while looking ahead to majors, but don't underestimate how much some of these guys think about the majors and how that can have an effect even months prior to an event. Perhaps my way of thinking is just as preposterous as those who think two days in January will have a lasting effect, but what's more likely, Tiger being done or Tiger being distracted? Oh, and there's another possibility - he might have just had a bad week. Golfers used to have those before Tiger came along.

This week:
Phoenix Open - TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Last Year:
Phil Mickelson shot a final-round 67 on his way to a four-stroke victory over Brandt Snedeker.

Players to Consider:

Gary Woodland

Woodland was on his way to the top of the PGA Tour a couple years ago when an injury stalled his progress. Now, finally healthy, Woodland is surging once again. His track record here is pretty solid, and he's coming off a top-10 last week at the Farmers.

Graham DeLaet

DeLeat's track record here leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, he's made the cut just once in his previous three starts, but it looks like he's about to go on a run again like he did late last year. If that's the case, now is the time to jump on board.

Bubba Watson

Watson was on the "Avoid" list last week, and while he didn't post a great finish at the Farmers, his track record here, along with his top-25 showing last week, is enough to be considered a top-5 pick this week.

Hunter Mahan

Few players in the field this week are both playing well and have strong track records here, which means you have to take an either/or approach. Mahan failed to break par last week, but his track record here includes a win in 2010 and a top-20 last year.

Kyle Stanley

Stanley has experienced quite a lot in the last two seasons. His peak came two years ago when he won this event, but his valleys have been many since that win. He looks to be on his way back up the mountain, and maybe a return to Scottsdale will be the catalyst.

Players to Avoid:

Brandt Snedeker

All the stars were aligned for Snedeker last week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and he fell flat on his face. It was clear early last week that Snedeker was off his game when he opened with a 77 on the North Course. His track record here is solid, but his form right now is not.

Phil Mickelson

We all know Phil's connection with this event and for the most part, he's been pretty solid here, but you never want to take a golfer who withdrew the previous week -- even if it's Phil Mickelson. Chances are he'll be fine, but like many other big names, there will be better spots to use him this season.

Nick Watney

Watney is known for playing well early in the season, and January is certainly early in the season. But for whatever reason, Watney has, for the most part, struggled at this event. Only one top-10 in eight starts here.

Kevin Streelman

Streelman managed to make the cut in his first two tries here, but recently his performance at this event has been pretty bad. He's made the cut only once in his past three tries, and even that ended up on a sour note as he finished T73.

Gonzalo Fernandez Castano

If there was a fantasy golf rulebook, somewhere near the top would be: "never take a guy coming off a round in the 80s." Castano struggled mightily last week, and while the TPC Scottsdale is no Torrey Pines, it's hard to get behind a guy who just shot an 83.


Last week:
Brandt Snedeker (MC) - $0; Season - $309,061.

This week:
Gary Woodland - It's too early to tell if Woodland is just a streaky player or if he's really that good, but either way, this looks like the best time to use him.


Group A:
Woodland, Stanley

Group B:
Mahan, DeLaet, Horschel, Bradley

Group C:
Holmes, Goosen


Last week:
Brandt Snedeker - missed cut; streak (0).

This week:
Gary Woodland - I'm certainly not learning my lesson about doubling-up on players, but I have to use Woodland in this spot as well. Woodland has teed it up here four times and has yet to miss a cut.