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OK, time to exhale. I don't know about you, but I had a harder time today believing that Webb Simpson won the US Open on Sunday. I just can't believe all of the top players crumbled allowing it to happen. This felt similar to Geoff Ogilvy at Winged Foot in 2006, making all the shots when he needed on the back nine while the proven guys collapsed late. Just a weird result that hasn't full settled.
Speaking of which, this is going to be a weird week. Normally the tourney after a major is a, umm, well, a major letdown. The field isn't great, there are a lot of WD's from the event, and guys are sluggish after getting beat up on a great golf course. Throw in the fact that the Travelers Championship is being played in Hartford, Conn., 3,000 miles from San Francisco where the US Open was played, and now we've got issues. But here's where fantasy owners make their bones.
The good news is that this year the Hartford (actually, Cromwell, 20 minutes South) field is pretty solid with several big names. Let's dive right in… this week is one where you'll definitely want to confirm your players are still in the field sometime on Wednesday, as guys like Charl Schwartzel (we won't be seeing him for awhile with an abdominal tear) and Jimmy Walker have already WD'd.
- Bubba Watson. Comfort zone course for the past champion, unlike Olympic Club, where Jack Fleck could have dusted off his hickory-shafted irons and beaten him.
- Hunter Mahan. Disappointing final day at Olympic, but he's a past champ here and has two other top-5 finishes.
- Zach Johnson. Has two decent finishes here his last two attempts.
- Webb Simpson. Hard to pick him here with the week he's going to have, but it wouldn't be a shock to see him contend. T13 here in 2011 at the beginning of a ridiculous run for him.
- Matt Kuchar. Should be guaranteed six figures.
Let's take a look at some guys who should fare well at TPC River Highlands, where there are drivable par-4's, plenty of water, undulating holes and birdies to be had. You've got to hit fairways and make a lot of putts in the 5- to 20-foot range here to be successful.
10. Patrick Cantlay. This will be his first event as a professional, but he played well here last year, surging up to the top of the leaderboard with a second-round 60 before leveling out over the weekend. He's been up and down this year at UCLA, but he played solidly enough the last three rounds at the US Open (72-71-72). His golf is trending in the right direction, and he's got the incentive to make as much money as possible on the limited sponsor's exemptions he's going to receive this summer.
9. Tom Gillis. This is a super sneaky pick, but Gillis is in the midst of a career year and if you're going to use him, this is the week. Some might be scared off by the first-round 81 and subsequent WD at Memorial, but last year he shot a second-round 79 in Memphis and followed it up with a t9 at Travelers. He likely won't be heard from again the rest of the year, but I like him this week where his accurate driving game can be rewarded.
8. Bud Cauley. He hasn't made an appearance on this list in several weeks, but this is a good spot for him. He closed with a 65 in the final round here last year (his first regular Tour event as a professional) to sneak into the top-25. He's just not been putting well the last two months, and sometimes positive memories bear good results. The rookie is now starting to come back to courses he played during his impressive late-season run in 2011.
7. Andres Romero. I'm closing monitoring him, but not in a creepy way. He can reel off several high finishes in a hurry, and he was t2 in his last start at Memorial. I'm really gauging him for the Open Championship, where he's been a regular in the top-10 the last five years. Last year in Hartford he was t6 and never had more than 27 putts in a round. Sneaky play, but could pay off big time if you want to hold off on using another big gun. Romero WD'd late Tuesday.
6. John Peterson and Michael Thompson. The two top-5 surprises from the US Open are in the field this week, and they have good measurables for the TPC. Thompson is an incredible putter and should like the surfaces here, and led the field in birdies at Olympic. Peterson's game is a bit of an unknown, since he's been the man without a Tour for the last few months as he stayed an amateur and missed a bunch of opportunities to claim a spot somewhere… but he was among the leaders in fairways hit and GIR% at the US Open. He also can't chest-bump very well, although it was fantastic that he tried. Both will be playing for improved status on Tour, and it's logical to ride them while they're hot.
5. John Rollins. A t2 here last year, but he was in the midst of some great play at the time. Still, it's hard to ignore three rounds of 65 or better here in 2011. He's great tee to green, which should pay off, and as bad of a putter as he is, he's great from one distance: 5-10 feet.
4. Blake Adams. A great US Open, and he's trending in the right direction with five straight made cuts and $385k in earnings. He drives it straight and is second on Tour in putting from 5-10 feet. Only worry is that he's worn out from Olympic, but this is the point in 2011 when he turned it on: all four of his top-10's were post-US Open, starting with Travelers (t9).
3. Freddy Jacobson. He's my favorite player to watch on Tour, and he won here last year despite missing every other green (only a slight exaggeration), chipping in and holing putts from everywhere. That's his game, though, and it's fun to watch. He's a solid play here, but it wouldn't surprise me if his luck ran out a little after what was a disappointing end to the US Open for him.
2. Ryan Moore. Seems to always be the bridesmaid here: t2 (2011), t13 (2010), t4 (2009). Those are results we can deal with, however. Last year he drove it straight and hit a ton of putts. In his last start at Memorial, he drove it relatively well and putted exceptionally well. A good trend for him heading into this event.
1. Bo Van Pelt. He's had a strange year, with plenty of good finishes and several disappointments. But this just seems like the type of event he should win: he drives it straight (rank: 41), far (35th), hits plenty of greens (65%) and is a top-5 putter on Tour. In fact, he's first on Tour in putting from 5-10 feet and 6th from 20-25 feet. Not surprisingly, he has eight top-25 and five top-10 finishes in 2012, and has two top-13 finishes in Hartford the last three years. He appears to be over whatever issues plagued him in Hilton Head and Charlotte in April and May.
Player to avoid: Louis Oosthuizen. He's missed four of his last five cuts, drives it crooked and isn't putting well. That's not a good combo anywhere, much less heading into this event. Like any of these guys, he could easily turn on the switch and light it up, but it doesn't appear that this is the time to use Oosty.
Decent picks last week: Woods and Kuchar were right in the mix, but only Lee Westwood (t10) and Jason Dufner (t4) cashed big checks. Francesco Molinari was my big sleeper, and he posted a respectable t29.
Poor picks: Peter Hanson and Phil Mickelson missed the cut, which stung because they were in my top six. I hedged on Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald, too, but included them on the list.
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