The PGA Tour shifts gears and heads down I-95 towards our Nation’s capital for the Quicken Loans National. While the tourney’s long-time host — Tiger Woods — isn’t expected to play (duh) or even be on property while he deals with personal issues, there is still plenty of star power teeing it up this week at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm.
While the PGA Tour teed it up at TPC Potomac from 1984-2006, Tiger’s tournament is making it’s first trip to the renovated track. With that in mind, nearly every pro in the field is going to be on even footing for this week’s event as rounds played 10 years ago on the old track are virtually meaningless. According to experts, the face lift has turned the course from birdie haven to beast of a track sure to test the best of the best.
The field this week is sans names like Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth or Jason Day, but there are still plenty of big names teeing it up in pursuit of valuable FedExCup points and, of course, the million-dollar pay out that comes with winning on Tour.
Here’s a look at those with a real shot at glory this week and those who are just pretending:
Patrick Reed — SHHHHH! Don’t look now, but Patrick Reed is rounding into top-5 form and seems poised to claim PGA Tour win No. 6 sooner rather than later. In his last seven starts, Reed has yet to miss a cut and has collected six top-25 finishes in that time. Included in that run are his T-13 at the U.S. Open and his season-best T-5 at the Travelers last week.
Rickie Fowler — While it might seem like I’m just taking the two best players in the field here — and that’s true — there is some legitimate backing behind the decision. Fowler will contend this week. Of that, I have no doubt. He finished second in this event in 2015 when it was held at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and always seems to hit his stride about this time each summer. The numbers back up that sentiment, too. It’s his first start since collecting a T-5 in the U.S. Open.
Kevin Chappell — Few players on Tour shine more than Kevin Chappell when faced with a new track or a challenging one. He’s played solidly all year, including his first career win at the Valero to go along with a slew of top-25 showings. As mentioned previously, the new TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms is poised to test the best of the best — which means you’ll probably see Kevin Chappell setting the pace on Thursday and hanging on to a top-15 or so by the weekend.
Xander Schauffele — Go ahead — call me a bandwagoner if you’d like, but I am all in on this Xander Schauffele character. Obviously, the kid has got some serious game and has gone from cool story/weird name to contender, to constant threat, to holy-crap, this kid is going to win and soon. And it all feels like it’s happening fast. After missing six of eight cuts to kick of the 2017 calendar year, Schauffele has collected four top-30 finishes in his last seven starts, including that remarkable top-5 at the U.S. Open. He’s certainly trending up and should be up for serious consideration in all formats this week.
Marc Leishman — Need a fantasy stud you can count on to consistently make cuts and collect points at the back of your lineup? Marc Leishman is your guy. I like to think of him as the Australian golfer version of Scott Brosius. Stay with me — From 1998-2001, Brosius was the quiet assassin at the back end of the Yankees lineup during their dynasty years. He provided consistent performance for very little money and often saved his best for the big moments. To me, that’s a perfect analogy for Marc Leishman, who is a top-30 machine and has also collected three top-5s in majors and always seems to be creeping up the leader board late at big tourneys.
Billy Horschel — Like Kevin Chappell, Billy Horschel is the type of player who seems to rise to the occasion whenever there’s a tough test of golf presented to him. He’s also one of the streakiest players on Tour — something that may have come up on this forum in the past. If you believe in trends and patterns, then it’s high time for, not just a good week, but a great week from Horschel. His last five finishes on Tour? In order, those are 1st (no round worse than 69) T-34 (rounds of 70-70-70-71) missed cut (78-71) T-4 (72-66-70-64) and a horrendous missed cut at the U.S. Open where he nearly shot 80 both days. What does that mean? Look for four rounds in the 60’s and a real shot at victory this week. Or, you know — whatever.
Billy Hurley III — Sentimental picks that cost me good money are normally my calling card. After all, I’m a bit of a sappy sad-sack who cries at crappy movies. That said, you can’t get me to drink the Kool-Aid on the tournament’s reigning champion this week no matter how much I want to. Billy Hurley III’s story is incredibly uplifting and crushing at once. If you’re not privy to, not only his past, but the tragic circumstances surrounding the loss of his father, then become so. It’ll quickly make him one of your favorites. All that said, I can’t bring myself to spend the money on him this week. I can honestly say this is one pick I wouldn’t mind being wrong about.
Matt Every — I’m still a big fan of Every’s and hoping he can continue his positive trend in the last few weeks but I’m still not ready to give him the start. Many would argue that Every’s success comes hard and fast before he flames out again and I would argue his success only comes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. After missing 17 of his first 19 cuts of the 2016-17 PGA Tour season and posting nearly as many rounds in the 80’s (2) as rounds in the 60’s (3) over those 19 starts, Every has put together finishes of T-27 and T-35 in his last two starts, positing four sub-70 rounds in the process. We all know golf sucks and that, sometimes, it feels like we get better overnight. Maybe times are a-changin’ for Every.
Chris Kirk — It’s been a while since I’ve even thought about Chris Kirk — and for a guy who has correctly picked him to win three times, that’s saying something. Kirk started the 2016-17 season hot, collecting a runner-up and three top-10’s in his first five starts of the season. Since the calendar turned over, he’s struggled mightily. Kirk has missed nearly half his cuts and has finished higher than T-62 just once in those starts — an impressive T-12 showing at the PLAYERS. That said, I’d continue to avoid Chris Kirk like the plague until things start to turn up.