Present and Accounted For
The field will consist of 16 of the top 30 from the FedExCup Final standings. This is the best field assembled since they started the FedExCup.
Of the 30 players in the field, I’ll break them into two categories to start:
Been Here, Done That
These players have experienced the wind and nuances of the Plantation Course.
Bubba Watson: He’s played only two of eight rounds in the 60’s in his only two starts. He finished seven-under (T25) in 2011 and eight-under (T18) last year. The Masters champion had an unbelievable run in 2012 as his worst finish when making the cut was T23 (The Open Championship) but he ended it with a T33 at the WGC-HSBC Champions after he couldn’t build on his opening round 66.
Brandt Snedeker: His first trip to Maui was in 2008 where he finished T10 (-12). Snedeker had six top 10s and was the FedExCup Playoffs champion to complete a dream season in 2012. He only played in one, late-season event, the WGC-HSBC Champions and his only round in the 60s there was a SIXTY in the third round. He finished T11.
Webb Simpson: In his first appearance last year, Simpson was the model of consistency as he fired rounds of 68-68-69-68 to finish T3 even though he made nothing on the greens. He only made four bogeys on the week so he’s should be raring to go after an uneven finish to 2012. His last appearance was T5 at THE TOUR Championship after MC at The Barclays, T18 at the Deutsche Bank and T51 at the BMW. He’ll be well-rested.
Ian Poulter: In his only appearance here in 2011, Poulter was comfortable firing four rounds under par to a T6 finish (-18). His 2012 was solid by his standards but ramped up to great by anyone’s standards come November. He dominated the Ryder Cup, again, plus he fired 65-65 on the weekend in China to win the WGC-HSBC Champions to make him eligible for this event. He also finished second at the Australian Masters as well. So he’s killing it in the Ryder Cup team game, singles and NOW stroke play as well? He had three top 10s in the majors this year as well. Don’t sleep on him.
Keegan Bradley: His maiden voyage was like riding the waves off the coast, up and down. He opened with 68 but his middle rounds of 72-75 made his 65 (solo 16) on Sunday seem like a wasted effort. He definitely found something on Sunday and we’ll see if he can carry it over to this year. If you’re wondering how Bradley has been playing look no further than his T23 at the WGC-HSBC Champions and solo second at the Tiger Woods World Golf Challenge. It’s hard to count him out anywhere anymore.
Steve Stricker: The 2012 Champion only made three bogeys on his way to his fourth-consecutive top 10 finish in Maui. Stricker was second in 2008, T10 in 2010 and T4 in 2011. He’s played 12 of his last 16 rounds here in the 60’s in that stretch. He is the only previous champion in this week’s field. Stricker has admitted to playing a very light 2012 so this week may be the week to burn him as he defends his championship.
Nick Watney: In three appearances at Kapalua, Watney has finished T5 (’08), T16 (’10) and T12 last year after a 68-68 finish on the weekend. Watney was quiet in 2012 until August hit. He went on to win The Barclays to open the FedExCup Playoffs and added the CIMB Classic in late October to his resume. Watney shot 61 in the final round to claim the victory and followed it up by shooting 62 the following week in China where he finished T16. The California-native opened with 67 at the Tiger Woods World Challenge before fading in the final three rounds in his last event of 2012.
Matt Kuchar: The “old” Kuchar played here as a pup in 2003 and finished T25. The “new” Kuchar was solo third here in 2010 as he fired 19-under and backed that up with 18-under (T6) in 2011. He obviously likes this layout. His game should be well-rested as he has only teed it up once since the Ryder Cup as he finished T11 at the Tiger Woods World Challenge.
Dustin Johnson: He’s finished 11th (2009), T16 (2010) and T9 in 2011 so he’ll be plenty of comfortable on the Plantation layout. In 2011, Johnson fired his career-low 66. His worst total is -13 and his best is -14. He finished the 2012 season with top 10s is ALL four Playoff events so he’s obviously healthy and ready to go for 2013. Don’t let that 84 in China throw you off! He finished T13 of 18 players in early December at the Tiger Woods World Challenge.
Zach Johnson: In five starts in this limited field, Johnson has only one top 10 finish. He has only fired in the 60’s in six of 20 rounds. After his two wins in the middle of the season, Johnson only had one top 10 in his final seven starts in 2012 but he was one of only three U.S. players to go undefeated at the Ryder Cup. His final stroke play tournament, the Tiger Woods World Challenge, he crashed and burned on Sunday with a 79. He has too much experience and moxie to dismiss all together but he’s not going to be in favorite’s section this week based on his history here.
Hunter Mahan: He’s finished T5 (-14) in 2008 and T25 (-7) in 2011 as he’s played three rounds of eight in the 60s, including 64 on Sunday in 2008. Mahan won twice in 2012 but his play slipped as the season boiled on, costing him a spot on the Ryder Cup team. He showed signs of life with a top 10 (T8) finish at the TOUR Championship. He also played in the TWWC where his final round 68 was the best of the day and led to his T9 finish. I’m interested to see how Mahan bounces in 2013 after the emotional roller coaster that was 2012.
Carl Pettersson: The American, nee Swede, is playing Kapalua for the fifth time in his career. He’s played his last nine rounds under par which helped him vault to T4 in 2011. His other three finishes were 21st, T22 and 17th. He finished solo seventh, closing with 62 at the CIMB Classic before his T16 at the HSBC Champions so he finished 2012 on the upswing.
Bill Haas: This will be his third straight appearance on Maui as he finished solo eighth in 2011 and 20th last year. In his two events here, Haas has never gone lower than 68 and his high round is 73 (par) twice. His only top 10 of the PGA season after his win at the Northern Trust was T7 at the Wyndham Championship. Haas rallied at the end of the year to finish T16 at the CIMB and T10 at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Ryan Moore: After winning the Timberlake in the Fall Series, Moore will make his second appearance at Kapalua. His first time around he wasn’t lower than 68 but didn’t drift above 70 either for T6 (-17). Moore was excited to see 2012 end as his wife was getting ready to give birth to their first child after his win in October. But he could have been saddened in the sense that his golf game was on fire. He finished the year with that victory after posting three top 10s in the FedExPlayoffs.
Scott Piercy: He broke his maiden here last year with rounds that improved daily (72-71-69-68) to finish T12 (-12). Piercy has shown some solid play over the last two years and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him take another step this season either. His victory at the RBC Canadian Open was his centerpiece to the 2012 campaign but he also closed with 64-62 at the CIMB for T10 and 68-65 at the HSBC-Champions to finish T2 in his final two starts of the year.
Ben Curtis: Yikes. He’s broke par here once in eight rounds. In 2012, he had an incredible four-week run from mid-April to mid-May where he finished WIN (Valero), T13 (Zurich), T5 (Wells Fargo) and T2 (THE PLAYERS). His finish at THE PLAYERS was his last top of ten of the season in his final 13 events. When he’s hot, he’s hot…
Mark Wilson: This will be his fourth start at Kapalua and it’s fair to say that this course doesn’t fit his eye. In 12 rounds here, he’s fired in the 60’s one time, last year in round three, on his way to his best finish, T18 (-8). In 2010 he was two-under and in 2008 he was one-under. He also played the WGC-HSBC Champions and was T46 (-1). If 20-under is the average winning score at Kapalua, I’m not sure I can endorse Wilson this week. I’ll wait until the Sony Open or the following weeks in the desert.
Johnson Wagner: Speaking of early season triumphs, January of 2012 was the month of the moustache as the man with two last names started off on FIYAH. He opened the season T9 at Kapalua and followed that with a WIN at the Sony Open plus T2 the next week at the Humana Challenge. It wasn’t until March when he surfaced in the top 10 again as he posted T4 at Arnold Palmer’s tournament. His best finish in his next 19 starts was T29 the following week at the Shell Houston Open. He finished 2012 with T33 at the CIMB and T75 at the WGC-HSBC Champions. He likes Kapalua as shown above and has played all eight rounds here under par. He backed last year’s T9 with a solo-tenth (-14) in 2009.
Scott Stallings: His welcome to Kapalua last year saw him fire two of his four rounds over par (-5) to finish T22, which is strange for a guy who usually dismantles easier courses with birdies. I would suggest his T15 (McGladrey) and T5 (CMNHC) Fall Series finishes will have him amped and raring to go for 2013. Stallings won the True South Classic by firing 24-under to qualify for the HTOC.
George McNeill: His only other appearance was T25 (-2) in 2008 at Kapalua. McNeill struggled in 2012 as his victory in Puerto Rico (nice!) was his only top 10 (naughty) of the season. He added three top 25s to his win in 24 events. Fade.
J.J. Henry: His only start here came in 2007 as he fired rounds three and four under par to finish T8 (-6). Winds must have been up that year because six-under would not have landed you in the top 20 (of 28 golfers) last year. Henry won at the Reno-Tahoe Open and was T3 at the Byron Nelson. His other top 10 (T9) was at Puerto Rico. Two of his best three finishes were in off weeks or opposite events. Not this week.