Junior Fantasy picks: Junior Players

Four months after the PGA Tour rolled through Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., the best juniors in the country will take their hacks at TPC Sawgrass for the Junior Players Championship (Sept. 3-5). Our Golfweek staffers make their picks for one of the final AJGA invitationals of the season:

JULIE WILLIAMS (215 points):

  • Winner: Oliver Schniederjans. The 17-year-old proved that he has the work ethic of a champion at the Junior PGA, and the sheer talent to match with his Polo Golf Junior Classic title last fall. Schniederjans finished T-5 at the Junior Players last year, and that includes a final-round 75. If he can play to his potential for three rounds this year, Schniederjans will walk away the winner.
  • Sleeper: M.J. Maguire. Here is a player that tends to get overlooked, likely because he hasn’t seen wild success in AJGA invitationals. He did, however, hold the first-round lead at last year’s FootJoy Invitational after a 5-under 65, and also won the 2009 Bobby Chapman Invitational in a playoff. The St. Petersburg, Fla., native will have the advantage of playing in his home state this week.

RYAN LAVNER (185 points):

  • Winner: Jordan Spieth. In the past two months he’s dropped from first to fourth in Golfweek’s Junior Rankings, a product of his winless 2010. Expect that to change when Spieth makes his debut at the Stadium Course. (No scar tissue, right?) It’s time for Spieth to reassert himself among the junior elite.
  • Sleeper: Curtis Thompson. Hasn’t played a junior event since medaling at the U.S. Junior Amateur – he lost in the second round of match play – so no one really knows what to expect from the LSU commit. That said, few can mash the ball off the tee quite like Thompson, and at TPC Sawgrass that can prove quite the advantage.

DAN MIROCHA (105 points)

  • Winner: Patrick Rodgers. He’s finished in the top 3 in the last two AJGA invitationals and tied for third at Sawgrass last year.
  • Sleeper: Jay Hwang. Still looking for first AJGA invitational top-10 finish this year, but finished T-5 here last year. Should be comfortable on the Stadium Course.

D.J. PIEHOWSKI (5 points)

  • Winner: Patrick Rodgers. He has played well all summer, winning the Western Junior and finishing T-2 in stroke-play qualifying at the U.S. Amateur, in addition to giving himself a chance to win at the Rolex Tournament of Champions (where he finished T-2). Rodgers, who also finished T-5 at the Junior PGA Championship last month, tied for third at the Junior Players last year, and is clearly familiar with the Stadium Course.
  • Sleeper: Robby Shelton. Shelton established himself as a giant-killer at the U.S. Junior, taking down Jordan Spieth and Golfweek’s top-ranked junior, Anthony Paolucci, on his way to the semifinals. Shelton, who finished T-2 in his only other AJGA start this year, could be poised for another big week against another solid field.

Scoring: Win (50 points), runner-up (30 points), top-5 (20 points), top-10 (10 points), top-20 (5 points). Zero points for anything outside the top 20. Bonus points when specified. (Only rule: You can’t pick the same player two consecutive weeks.)

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