Now that the John Deere Classic is in the books, the greatest players on Earth will turn their focus towards the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. For many, this week will be one filled with positive vibes and good feels — but for others, it’ll be a week wrought with concern and self-doubt. 

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2016 RSM ClassicSea Island, Georgia – The PGA Tour returns to Davis Love III‘s home turf this week for the playing of the 2016 RSM Classic.

As with other events in the early going of the 2016-2017 wrap around season, none of the worlds elite players are in the field this week. Some are resting after a busy 2016. Others are in Dubai for the European Tour’s season-ending event.

Still there are FedEx Cup points available and a chance for a year or career defining victory.

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Napa, California – The 2016 Safeway Open had the potential to be one of the most watched events on the tour this season.  Now it’s just the opening event of the 2016-2017 PGA Tour Schedule.

All the excitement of course was generated by the expected appearance of Tiger Woods, but that all died early this week when Woods confirmed he wasn’t going to be in the field.

So, for now, the excitement generated by a new season will have to do.

So with the 14-time major winner not in the picture, here’s what you should be looking for this week as the 2016 Safeway Open gets underway at the Silverado Country Club on Thursday.

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Memphis, Tennessee – The PGA Tour returns to the home of the blues, as Memphis hosts the 2016 FedEx St. Jude Classic, the 59th playing of the event in the barbecued pork capital of the world.

Aside from serving as another chance for PGA Tour glory, the 2016 FedEx St. Jude Classic also serves as the last tune-up event for the second major of the season.  The game’s best will be in Oakmont, Pennsylvania next week for the 2016 United States Open.

Here’s what you need to know to prepare for the 2016 FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Last Year

Argentina’s Fabian Gomez fired a final round four-under par 66 to win his first PGA Tour title at the 2015 FedEx St. Jude Classic. His 72-hole total was 267, 13-under par, on the Par 70 TPC Southwind course.

The then 36-year old journeyman finished four shots ahead of Englishman Greg Owen, his third round co-leader. Owen had a closing round 70.

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New Orleans, Louisiana – The big question heading into  the 2016 Zurich Classic of New Orleans is will the recent domination of foreign-born players continue?

After a strong start for American players in the fall portion of the 2015-2016 PGA Tour season, eight of the past 13 events have been won by players whose passport doesn’t say born in the U.S.A.

This week’s foreign contingent is lead by Australia’s Jason Day, the number one player in the Official World Golf Ranking. The defending PGA champion is one of a small group of three players entered who rank in the top 10 players in the world.

Joining the World #1 is American Rickie Fowler, the current fifth ranked player in the world and defending champion Justin Rose of England, who sits 10th in the world rankings.

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Orlando, Florida – As the lead-up to Augusta, and the year’s first major, kicks into high gear, the PGA Tour returns to Bay Hill for the 2016 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

This year’s build-up to the annual pilgrimage to Arnie’s place is dominated by two players attempting to complete rare trifectas.

Two-time defending champion Matt Every looks to become only the second player in tournament history to win the tournament in three consecutive years after wins in 2014 and 2015. He’s looking to match the feat of eight time Arnold Palmer Invitational champion, Tiger Woods, who won the first four of his titles in consecutive years from 2000-2003.

Australian Adam Scott is looking for a three-peat of his own, as he attempts to win his third consecutive PGA Tour start after wins at the WGC-Cadillac Championships and the Honda Classic. The recent success has lifted Scott back into the Top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, as he ranks #6 heading into the week.

Every and Scott will face a strong field that includes five of the top 10 players in the world. In addition to the Australian, other top players in the field include Rory McIlroy (#2), Jason Day (#3), Henrik Stenson (#7) and Justin Rose (#8).

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Here are our Tuesday Fantasy Golf Notes, March 15, 2016 edition.

In this week’s report, we have a Masters’ contender picking up his first PGA Tour victory in almost five years, more struggles for the number one player in the Official World Golf Ranking, an an Aussie winner in Thailand.

Charl Schwartzel Joins List of Early Masters’ Favorites

Based on his strong play on the European Tour so far this year, and his history at Augusta National, South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel was already on most observers’ list of players to watch heading into the first major of 2016. And he didn’t do anything to change that on the weekend.

The 2011 winner of the Green Jacket fired a final round, 4-under par, 67 on Sunday to win the Valspar Championship in a playoff, over American Bill Haas.  The score was the best of the day in difficult conditions and allowed the 31-year old to erase a five-shot deficit and force extra holes.

Schwartzel has been red-hot this year, with three wins in his last six starts, and in a year when many of the Top 10 are struggling with consistency, has to be a Masters’ favorite.

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Palm Harbor, Florida – It was a year ago that an underachieving Jordan Spieth, ranked in 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking at the time, jump-started an historic season with a victory at the Valspar Championship. The now number one player in the world is hoping that pattern repeats itself, as the tour returns to Innisbrook resort for the 2016 Valspar Championship.

Like last season, the reigning Masters and U.S. Open champion is struggling a bit after an early season victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He has a T17, a T21 and a missed cut in last three PGA Tour starts, and is hoping a return to a place with happy memories will kick start his season, in the lead-up to Augusta.

The 22-year old highlights a predictably weaker field, a week after the first World Golf Championship event of the season and a week before Arnold Palmer’s event at Bay Hill. Only six of the Top 20 players in the field are entered to challenge the famed Copperhead course.

The list of elite talent includes Sweden’s Henrik Stenson (currently 7th in the Official World Golf Ranking); last year’s Valspar runner-up, Patrick Reed (10th); Englishman Danny Willet, who finished T3 at last week’s WGC event (11th); and South Africans Branden Grace (12th) and Louis Oosthuizen (18th).

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Scottsdale, Arizona – It’s time for our 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open picks and there’s no shortage of story lines as the PGA Tour returns to the Arizona desert.

On top of the agenda is whether Brandt Snedeker, last week’s winner in San Diego at the Farmers Insurance Open, can keep rolling.  That roll has seen him finish in the Top 3 in all three events he’s played in 2016.  The Nashville native has moved up 37 spots in the Official World Golf Ranking to #12 since the start of the year, and sits second in the Fantasy Golf Rankings.

Another story line will be trying to figure out which Rickie Fowler will show up in Scottsdale this week. Will it be the player who delivered a statement victory in Abu Dhabi against a strong field?  Or will it be the guy who failed to make the cut last week in San Diego.  Let’s give young Rickie the benefit of the doubt, and write off his poor performance last week to a combination of celebration and jet lag.  We predict he will be better this week.

With a strong field that includes 10 of the Top 25 players in the World, led by the fourth ranked Bubba Watson, and defending champion Brooks Koepka, we’re expecting another exciting event. So without further adieu, here is our 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open Picks.

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