By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A line of thunderstorms spanning as far north as Kentucky and as far south as southern Louisiana is barreling toward Augusta National. The expected arrival time: Approximately 4 p.m. ET.
In the meantime, here's a look at a few afternoon groups to keep an eye on as they'll try to get in as much golf as they can before the heavy stuff hits.
Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Angel Cabrera, 12:57 p.m.: Scott has fared well here the last couple of years, tying for eighth in 2012 and second in 2011. The latter was Scott's best finish in a major at the time, and he held the lead by himself while playing the 71st hole. Then Charl Schwartzel birdied the last four holes to win by two. Garcia, meanwhile, famously said a year ago here that he doesn't think he will ever win a major. He's softened his stance since, but he has just two career top 10s here, the last of which came in 2004 when he tied for fourth. Cabrera has won a major -- three of them -- including this one in 2009.
Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, 1:30 p.m.: It's not a driver, it's not quite a 3-wood, it's a Phrankenwood. Mickelson never disappoints when he comes here, one way or the other, and this year is no different with a special club in his bag that's part driver, part 3-wood. He's also won here three times before. Oosthuizen lost to Bubba Watson in a playoff here last year, and he comes in off a 10th-place finish in Houston. He's also played well on the European Tour, winning the Volvo Champions in January.
Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Freddie Jacobson, 1:41 p.m.: Bradley has been a popular pick in various Masters pools in the press room and with good reason. Bradley, who two years ago won his first major at the PGA Championship, arrives here off four straight top 10s, including a tie for fourth at PGA National and a tie for third at Bay Hill. McIlroy, on the other hand, has had his ups-and-downs but seems to be trending in the right direction after a 65 at Doral and a runner-up in San Antonio.
In the final round of the 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, Sergio Garcia hits his second from a tree near the fairway on the par-4 10th hole one-handed and backward.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Sergio Garcia withdrew after 12 holes in his final round Sunday.
He did not give a reason.
Garcia was 5 over on the day and 3 over for the week after a quadruple-bogey, a double bogey and a bogey to go with two birdies and seven pars.
After playing his first five holes Sunday in even par, Garcia hit two tee shots into the water on the par-5 sixth before eventually reaching the green in 7 and two-putting for a 9.
He bounced back the following hole, however, rolling in a 30-footer for birdie.
On the par-4 10th, Garcia hit his tee shot into a tree, then climbed the tree and hit his second from there. He went on to make double bogey.
Sergio Garcia has put together a remarkable run of top-25s since his win last August at the Wyndham Championship. (Cannon/Getty Images)
By Rob Bolton, Fantasy Insider
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Tiger Woods is a must-start at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in every fantasy format that rewards success, but one-and-doners are still required to pause and review the options.
If Woods is still available to you and your rules don't exclude burning the defending champion, he makes it awfully difficult to invest elsewhere regardless who you have No. 2 on your board. Not only did he end a two-year winless drought on the PGA TOUR at Bay Hill last year, but he did so in convincing fashion, going five strokes lower than runner-up Graeme McDowell.
Woods either led or co-led the field in greens in regulation, par breakers, par-4 scoring average, par-5 scoring average and scrambling. He also finished fourth in strokes gained-putting. Two weeks ago, he picked off his fifth victory in the last 12 months with a wire-to-wire, two-stroke triumph at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship. His splits throughout his bag at TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral were ridiculous.
To suggest that you should holster him for the Masters, World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational of the FedExCup Playoffs would be reckless on my part. This is why I'm exhausting my lone self-imposed mulligan on using defending champions and burning him at Bay Hill. Woods' remaining sites for title defenses this season are the Memorial and AT&T National. If I were limiting my options to use my mulligan to events only he has won, the Arnold Palmer Invitational is the runaway choice.
The primary argument against not playing Woods is that this week's purse is just $6.2 million. One-and-doners expect nothing short of a victory when they plug him in, but no second-place paycheck matches the $1,116,000 awarded to the winner at Bay Hill.
If you can't burn him or you're committed to him later, Lake Nona's McDowell is a suitable replacement. Not only is he seeking to climb that final spot on the leaderboard at Bay Hill but he's also red-hot upon arrival.
Another Orlando resident, Ian Poulter, earns an endorsement as well. In his last two trips, he's finished T12 and solo third. What's more, he's still growing on one-and-doners that think of him only as a weapon for match-play events, so you'd likely have little company if you circled the Englishman.
Justin Rose is back in action after a one-week break and immediately returns to our focus at Bay Hill thanks to a T3 in 2011 and a T15 last year, not to mention a hearty T4-T8 start to the Florida Swing. Rest assured that you'll read more about him in this feature later in the season if you don't hop aboard this week.
And just like last week, both Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia command our attention at Bay Hill, and again, it's but one of many venues where each makes sense. That said, the argument for leaning on Garcia is stronger because he can't miss having posted 13 consecutive top-25s since his win at Sedgefield last August.
Last week: Jim Furyk; T7; $148,892,85
Overall Record: 10-for-12
Top 5s: 4
Top 10s: 7
Top 25s: 9
Missed Cuts: 2
MARANA, Ariz. -- Kuchar never trailed in this tightly contested match. At the same time, he never led by more than one hole until he made a 30-inch birdie putt on the 17th hole for the win.
After the two parred their first five holes, Garcia finally flinched and bogeyed the par-3 sixth to give Kuchar the 1-up lead. The two halved the par-5 eighth with birdies but Kuchar bogeyed No. 9 and the match was square heading into the back nine.
Kuchar made a 7-foot birdie putt on the par-5 11th to get back to 1 up but Garcia squared the match with an 8-footer birdie at the 13th. Kuchar finished with three birdies in his last four holes, though, winning the 14th to go 1 up and halving No. 15 before ending the proceedings with the final one at the 17th.
"It was a good battle with Sergio," Kuchar said. "I felt like around this course, his power and driving ability was a big advantage, being able to take it over some of those cross bunkers. He's, I think, one of the best drivers in the game. It can make golf courses pretty easy driving it as well as he can.
"We had a good match that was kind of 1 up, 1 down, all the way through about hole 14. ... And then I had a great approach to two-and-a-half feet on 17 to be able to close the match out 2 and 1."
SCORECARD STATS: Kuchar made five birdies and one bogey. Garcia made three birdies and one bogey.
HOLES WON: Kuchar won four holes. Garcia won two holes.
NEXT OPPONENT: Nicolas Colsaerts, who beat Justin Rose 4 and 2.
MARANA, Ariz. -- Sergio Garcia appeared poised to put Thongchai Jaidee away when he returned to the 16th green on Thursday to attempt an 11-footer for birdie and the win.
Garcia missed the putt, though, as well as the 7-footer on the return and suddenly his 2-up lead was just 1. Jaidee then squared the proceedings on the 18th hole with a 4-footer for birdie to send the first match of the week into overtime.
The two halved the first extra hole with pars. Garcia ended up putting the match away when he two-putted for birdie from 31 feet at the par-5 second, making his 3-footer after Jaidee missed from 14.
"It's hard, obviously," Garcia said. "So many hours waiting here to see if we start. They haven't cut the greens for two days, so you know it's a quick putt, you know it's downhill, but there's a little bit of uncertainty in it. And then obviously a little bit nervous, and I overhit it, and it was obviously very quick, went to nine feet, and then I hit a terrible putt.
"And then he made a great birdie on 18 and had a great chance on the first hole to close out the match, hit a great putt and unfortunately it lipped out, and then I was fortunate enough to play the second hole fairly well and made birdie.
Garcia plays Matt Kuchar in Friday's second round.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- The fog was so thick he couldn't see where his drive landed on the ninth hole late Thursday afternoon.
But Sergio Garcia eventually found his ball safely in the fairway just pass the bunker, and he took an 8-iron and launched it through the heavy air. The result was a birdie putt of 7 feet the Spaniard made to put the finishing touches on a round of 65 that left him one shot off Matt Kuchar's lead at the Northern Trust Open.
Garcia, who is making his 2013 PGA TOUR debut but already has a runner-up finish overseas, opened his round with a string of three straight birdies. He hit his drive over the green at the 10th hole and chipped to 2 feet for the first, then got up and down from the bunker at the par-5 11th hole for the second before making a 15-footer at No. 12.
Garcia, who broke a four-year victory drought at last year's Wyndham Championship, added four more birdies on the front nine, two of which came after the temperature dropped dramatically and the marine layer arrived. He hit eight fairways and 12 greens in regulation while using just 25 putts.
"Obviously very happy with it, and first tournament in the U.S. this year, it was nice to start like that with three nice birdies," Garcia said. "Then I managed to play quite good, not extremely well. I hit my drivers pretty good, obviously some drives here and there that I would like to hit a little bit better. ...
"Overall I managed to hit some nice chips and hit some nice putts here and there. So very pleased with the round."
The last time Garcia played at Riviera, he closed with a 64 and tied for fourth, his second top-10 there in seven starts and his fourth finish of 20th or better. He says he likes the course, "so I guess that helps a lot.
"It's the kind of golf course that if you play well, you can shoot a decent score, but if you are not on, you can struggle quite a bit," he said. "So it's a great test to start the year for me, and it's not an easy golf course. So that those are the kind of courses that I enjoy playing."
Luke Donald is one of a handful of notable players making his PGA TOUR season debut this week at the Northern Trust Open.
Three years ago, Donald nearly won at Riviera, finishing second to Steve Stricker. The last two years haven't been as kind to Donald -- he missed the cut last year and finished outside the top 50 in 2011. For more on Donald, check out his Top 100 to Watch in 2013 profile.
Others notables making their debut this week, include:
Sergio Garcia: This marks the second time in as many years Garcia has opened his TOUR season at Riviera. Last year, he tied for fourth at Hogan's Alley. In 2007, he finished sixth.
Graeme McDowell: This is the first time since 2009 McDowell is playing the Northern Trust Open. He's missed the cut twice and finished in a tie for 41st in his only appearances there.
Adam Scott: The 2007 Northern Trust Open winner has two finishes in the top 20 in his last three trips to L.A., including a tie for 17th a year ago when he also began his TOUR season there.
Ernie Els: The reigning British Open champ has already played three times on the European Tour. This is the latest Els has made his TOUR debut since 2008 when he opened with the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Jason Day has exactly one win in 115 career starts. Look for him to have a Jason Dufner-style rise into the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking. -- Ryan Smithson, Site Producer
Even though he won the Frys.com Open, Jonas Blixt is s till flying under the radar. Despite missing time with a rib injury, Blixt posted 5 Top-10 finishes in his rookie season. He was second on TOUR in Strokes Gained Putting and first in sand saves. -- Fred Albers, PGA TOUR Radio
The last time Phil Mickelson didn't win on TOUR was 2003. Will that change in 2013? Mickelson, who will turn 43 in June, is on the other side of his career, and he continues to battle psoriatic arthritis. I think he's due for a down year. -- Brian Wacker, Side Producer
Bo Van Pelt. He’s placed inside the top 30 in the final FedExCup standings each of the past three seasons. In 2012, he collected a TOUR high-tying 10 top 10s, and is one of the best putters (11th in strokes gained-putting) and one of the best drivers (3rd in total driving). This is the year where Van Pelt wins something big – maybe even the FedExCup. -- Bill Cooney, Site Producer
Gary Woodland. Making a swing change took its toll on one of the TOUR's biggest hitters in 2012. Hopefully he has it figured out by now. -- Mike McAllister, Managing Editor
Due to injury and limited status, Billy Horschel hasn’t had the opportunity to flash his talent over a full season since his debut in 2010. Now healthy and near the top of the opening reshuffle, it would be an upset if he didn’t convert with supreme confidence on top of what was an easy go at q-school that punctuated a quietly solid 2012. -- Rob Bolton, Fantasy Columnist
Gary Woodland. He was essentially a non-factor in 2012 after he was injured amdist a swing change, finishing 134th in FedExCup standings. He showed signs of life in the Fall Series with a T9 at the Frys.com Open, and I think he'll be back to winning-form this season. -- Anne Szeker, Site Producer
I was tempted to say Justin Rose but after eight-top 10s last year, including two in majors, nothing he does would be a surprise. So let's go with big-hitting Gary Woodland, who is fully recovered from that nagging wrist injury and rejuvenated after the hard work he's put in with Butch Harmon. -- Helen Ross, Chief of Correspondents
With a win at Wyndham and (sigh) the Ryder Cup, Sergio Garcia looked like a kid again. And he's only turning 32 on Jan. 9; he still has a lot of productive years ahead. I say this is one of them, with multiple wins. -- John Schwarb, Site Producer