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Weekly Preview: Valspar Championship Preview

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.

"Those that do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it." It's an adage we learn when we are young, though we don't quite grasp the meaning until we're older. Perhaps, it's why the young often make mistakes that older, learned folks don't make as often.

Take the case of Patrick Reed. In case you missed it, Reed captured the WGC-Cadillac Championship with ease last week, but it wasn't his play on the course that garnered the attention afterward -- it was his comments. To paraphrase, Reed claimed he was one of the top-5 players in the world. Soon after, every golf fan, media member and tour pro chimed in with their opinion. The majority seem to question Reed's statement as a little ambitious. Others, defending Reed by asking, "isn't this what we want from professional athletes, to tell the truth?" Each side has a case to be made, but I'm not so much curious about the validity of the statement, rather why he made it at all.

The way I see it, there are three possible reasons to make such a claim. The first is motivation - perhaps he needs this pressure to play his best. If so, then who are we to say he shouldn't have made those remarks? The second is that he simply wanted to rock the boat. Peculiar strategy, but his "brand" awareness is much higher now than it would have been if he'd gone the status quo route. The third possibility is that he truly believes what he said and was just being honest. This is actually the worst scenario for Reed as there is no upside in this case.

There have been countless golfers who have caught fire over the years, and I'm sure they felt the same as Reed. Confidence is a huge part of this game, yet when the time came to go public with their thoughts, they stayed humbled and answered the questions as if they were simply another golfer. Think Jimmy Walker didn't feel like the best player in the world a month ago? Notice how we aren't hammering Walker now for not performing well? That's because he didn't boast of being one of the best in the world after his incredible run earlier this year.

Reed may very well be one of the best players in the world, but he hasn't proven it yet and his comments last weekend are only going to make his road tougher. What will the reaction be the next time he hits a slump? Will the media ignore it? No chance. The media and the public are going to pounce on this guy as soon as he falters, and in case you are new to this game, EVERYONE falters in golf from time to time.

Reed would have been better served taking notice of Ben Curtis, who upon winning the 2003 British Open, claimed he was one of the best players in the world. The golfing world chuckled at the time - after all, it was his first career major and here he was claiming he belonged with the best. Curtis went on to have a decent career and still plays to this day, but for a very short period a few years after that win, Curtis never threatened the best players in the world. Would his career have turned out differently if he'd gone the humble route? We'll never know, but one thing is for certain, it sure would have been easier on Curtis to simply spout cliches instead of what he thought was the truth.

Whatever his reasons, there's no turning back now. The comments are out there and the pressure is on. Reed's story likely will go one of two ways. He lives up to his words and win over everyone, or he struggles with the pressure and fades away. Whatever the case, we can only hope the younger generation is paying attention this time.

This week:
Valspar Championship - Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club (Copperhead Course), Palm Harbor, Fla.

Last Year:
Kevin Streelman shot a final-round 67 on his way to a two-stroke victory over Boo Weekley.

Players to Consider:

Luke Donald

Donald seems like the player who strikes when you least expect it, and I dare to say, no one expects him to win now. The reason he is up here, though, is his track record at this event. Donald has finished in the top 10 here in his last three starts, including a win in 2012.

Jim Furyk

Furyk's had plenty of trouble closing the last couple years, but if the last four years at this event are any indication, he'll get another shot to close this week. Furyk won here in 2010 and has finished in the top 15 in his three tries since. This could be the week he gets the monkey off his back.

Justin Rose

Rose has only one top-10 here, but he usually finds a way into the top 25. Rose has finished in the top 25 here in five of seven starts and has never finished outside the top 30. He'll definitely be around for the weekend, the question is, can he find that next gear this week.

Jason Dufner

Dufner is coming in off a nice showing last week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and has a solid, but unspectacular track record here. Dufner has only one top-10 here in six tries, but he's finished in the top 30 in his five most recent appearances.

Justin Leonard

Leonard is a deep sleeper this week. He's not the player he was 15 years ago, or even a few years ago for that matter, but no matter the state of his game, he's performed well here the last four years. Three top-20s in his last four tries here, including a top-5 last year.

Players to Avoid:

Carl Pettersson

Pettersson's had his moments at this event, but they haven't come in the last three years. He's missed the cut in two of the last three years and four of the last five. He's also been off his game for a while, so don't expect him to find it this week.

Boo Weekley

Weekley finished runner-up last year, but that came in a middle of a pretty strong run. Weekley has not shown that form much lately, and as such, he's probably not a good selection this time.

Peter Uihlein

Uihlein is an American who has had a lot of success overseas, but he's yet to crack the code in the states. Euro Tour players have long struggled on the PGA Tour, so it's no surprise to see Uihlein struggling out of the gate. But it's also uncommon for Americans to play well on the European Tour, so maybe Uihlein can break the mold. Until then, however, he's not worth a pick.

Ben Curtis

Just in case anyone out there thinks I have the power to reverse-jinx someone. Curtis has played here four times and has failed to make a cut. Probably the last time you'll see his name on this list.

Ryo Ishikawa

Remember that mini-run that Ishikawa was on late last year into early this year? Well, he followed it with three consecutive missed cuts, and though he's coming off a top-20 in Puerto Rice, I don't think his game is in good shape. He's also missed the cut here in four of five tries.


Last week:
Rory McIlroy (T25) - $76,000; Season - $1,773,760

This week:
Jim Furyk - Furyk is no longer a guy you can count on during majors, and his performance recently at the WGC events leaves a bit to be desired, so this looks like a good spot to pull the trigger on him.


Rank: 12,455

This Week:

Group A:
Luke Donald, Matt Kuchar

Group B:
Justin Rose, Jim Furyk, Jason Dufner, Kevin Streelman

Group C:
Justin Leonard, Harris English


Last week:
N/A, N/A; Streak - 2

This week:
Justin Rose - As mentioned, Rose may not have the high-end finishes here, but when it comes to making the cut, there's no one more reliable.