- John Hawkins
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It says "John Deere Classic" on the label, but it's basically the Michelle Wie Invitational to the rest of the golf universe. For the record, this will be Wie's fifth attempt to make a PGA Tour cut. She had an excellent chance to qualify for the weekend at this tournament last year but faltered down the stretch Friday, which says as much about the Deere's weak field and cozy venue as it does about the young lady's exceptional ability.
With all the big names either taking the week off or overseas, we're looking at a lot of guys (and a girl) who rarely win. When in doubt, look for a player who has made a decent career of beating thin turnouts, which takes us to Carlos Franco. He has four wins -- two in New Orleans, two in Milwaukee -- and a history of playing well in hot weather, perhaps because his allergy to the practice range doesn't hurt him as much when it's 90 degrees out.
Franco has missed five cuts since early May, but his statistics are better than his results -- he ranks 25th in GIR and 37th in scrambling. A poor putter, he gets by on his length off the tee, which, come to think of it, can be said for about half the tour these days.
As for Wie, she has played an enormous amount of tournament golf recently, and I'm afraid it may catch up with her. The point of diminishing returns is probably a couple of years away in terms of her effect on men's events -- she is, simply put, good for business. You don't have to like it, but you almost certainly have to watch.
John Hawkins is a senior writer for Golf World magazine
Everyone will be talking about Michelle Wie this week, but Fantasy Focus says to watch out for Carlos Franco at the John Deere Classic.