By Alex Myers
After a rare week off in fantasy golf (let's just say we were all winners!), we're back. And so are most of the world's best players. Like with real estate, location is key to a golf tournament's success. And with PGA National just a quick trip away for many top pros in the Palm Beach area, the Honda Classic has grown in stature in recent years. Who do we like to drive off with the trophy at the first event of the Florida Swing? Here's a look at our lineup.
Starters -- (A-List): Rickie Fowler. Watching him play at the WGC-Match Play, it was hard to imagine this was a guy coming off three consecutive missed cuts. Fowler's swing changes with Butch Harmon are paying off with a proximity to the hole of 31 feet, 3 inches, which ranks him No. 2 on the PGA Tour. He's also finished T-7 and T-13 here the past two years.
(B-List): Rory McIlroy. Yes, this was the site of McIlroy withdrawing on the ninth hole of the first round last year, but it was also the site of one of his high points. The year before, he held off Tiger Woods (and Tom Gillis) to win and reach No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time. Plus, he's coming off four straight top 10s on the European Tour, and a win at the Australian Open.
(B-List): Keegan Bradley. Like Rory and Rickie, another local with plenty of practice and success at PGA National. Bradley has a T-4 and a T-12 in this event the past two years. He's been in the top 20 in 11 of his past 13 events, and he should be particularly raring to go after being ousted in the first round of the Match Play by Jonas Blixt last week.
(C-List): Graeme McDowell. Fresh off a quarterfinal run at the Match Play, G-Mac returns to a comfortable site where he's finished in the top 10 each of the past three years.
Bench/Backups: Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, and Charl Schwartzel.
Knockout/One-and-done pick: Rickie Fowler. Wind usually plays a factor at PGA National, something that clearly doesn't bother the 25-year-old. It also doesn't make as much of a difference when you're hitting the ball as solidly as he has been. Fowler's putting has been unusually cold (174th in strokes gained/putting) this year, but those stats don't include his week of work at the Match Play, where he finished third. Jason Day won that event to earn a long-awaited second PGA Tour title. Perhaps it's Fowler's time to do the same this week. And no pressure, Rickie, our last three picks have all finished in the top two . . .
Previously used: Tim Clark (Sony), Graham DeLaet (Phoenix), Bill Haas (Farmers) Charles Howell III (Humana), Dustin Johnson (Northern Trust), Martin Laird (Kapalua), Jimmy Walker (Pebble -- winner!).