Seven tournaments into the PGA TOUR season, we can now hit the pause button and take another snapshot at how the top 125 is taking shape. When you stop to consider what’s happened the last seven weeks, it’s really been a rather remarkable ride.
Dustin Johnson looked like a guy that was set to win five times the way he took down the field at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but since then his performance has been uninspiring. That’s probably not a big deal in the long-term, as he should refocus in time for the meat of the schedule, but it’s been a bit maddening for gamers on a weekly basis. Considering this coincides with his budding romance with Paulina Gretzky, many gamers are drawing a parallel to the early days of Rory McIlroy’s current relationship.
Rookies Russell Henley and Scott Langley put on a show at the Sony Open, with Henley eventually winning. As expected with rookies, consistency has lacked for both of them since.
Brian Gay returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since 2009, winning the Humana Challenge in a playoff. Joining him in that playoff was David Lingmerth and Charles Howell III. CH3 had a great run to start the year and Lingmerth became a surprise among rookies.
Tiger won at Torrey. Shocker. Next.
Phil Mickelson was a lip-out away from a 59 in the Waste Management Phoenix Open first round, eventually winning convincingly. It was his only top 20 in an impossible-to-predict opening five tournaments.
The MVP of the West Coast Swing was easily Brandt Snedeker, following back-to-back runner-up finishes with a win at Pebble Beach. He cited a rib injury, didn’t play Riviera and isn’t in the WGC-Accenture Match Play. He’s gearing up for Augusta at this point and should be a factor in all of the majors this season.
John Merrick bested Charlie Beljan on the second playoff hole of the Northern Trust Open to claim his first PGA TOUR win. Perhaps we learned more about Beljan than we did Merrick. That is, Beljan looks the part of a guy who will miss a ton of cuts but the few weeks he shows up could be special.
Of note, there are several players who still haven’t played a TOUR event ahead of the WGC-Accenture Match Play, and a number of others who kicked off their season at Riviera CC last week. That’s put a number of guys in a holding pattern. I also stress that the difference between the 10th guy on the list and the 30th is a big one, but the difference between 80th and 100th is essentially a top 10 at the end of the year. If you’re debating between William McGirt in 82nd and Graham DeLaet in 84th, McGirt is ranked slightly higher but it’s a virtual tie.
Rank Golfer (Preseason Rank) Comment
1. Rory McIlroy (1) Keeps the top spot until play on TOUR says otherwise.
2. Tiger Woods (2) It will be news when he wins on a course other than one he historically owns.
3. Brandt Snedeker (8) Assume rib injury is a minor bump in the road and he’ll be ready for Augusta.
4. Charl Schwartzel (19) Riviera showed his game is traveling to the U.S. to start 2013.
5. Justin Rose (3) Yet to tee off on the PGA TOUR this year but expectations are high.
6. Luke Donald (4) Didn’t disappoint in first event last week, playing in the penultimate group.
7. Louis Oosthuizen (5) Like Rose, all signs point to a big year despite a late start.
8. Dustin Johnson (6) A little distracted after early win, but should regain his focus in time for the heart of the season including majors.
9. Keegan Bradley (7) Solid start with three top 25s and a top five to just one missed cut.
10. Matt Kuchar (15) Looks as steady as ever to start the season with an eventual win seemingly inevitable.
11. Adam Scott (12) Kicked off his season with a T10 at Riviera CC, picking up where he left off in 2012.
12. Hunter Mahan (13) Trendy start to 2013 shows late-season fade in 2012 is a thing of the past.
13. Jason Dufner (9) Missed cut at WMPO was an unpleasant surprise on a course that suits him.
14. Bubba Watson (10) Seemed like there was always a circumstance surrounding him every week on the West Coast Swing.
15. Robert Garrigus (31) With four top 25s in four starts to begin the year, gamers will find out soon enough if he’s this year’s Jason Dufner or Bo Van Pelt.
16. Rickie Fowler (22) A pair of T6s and a missed cut in three starts preview an inconsistent but generally good ride for Fowler fans in 2013.
17. Phil Mickelson (17) All over the place on the West Coast, but the win at the WMPO fits his historic profile.
18. Webb Simpson (20) A good but not great start to the season builds a base for when he does put it all together for a win.
19. Nick Watney (42) A T4 at Torrey Pines put many preseason concerns to rest, but limped out of the West Coast Swing.
20. Sergio Garcia (29) Showed up at Riviera CC with his B+ game and walked out with a T13, which is a good sign for those that own the Spaniard in season-long leagues.
21. Ian Poulter (16) All eyes will be on the Ryder Cup giant at the Match Play, where he’s lost in the first round each of the last two years following a 2010 title.
22. Lee Westwood (18) Eased into the season with a couple of paydays at Pebble and Riviera, but didn’t crack the top 20 in either.
23. Ryan Moore (23) Expected a big year with his lofty preseason ranking, and he’s done nothing to temper that despite a poor final round at Riviera.
24. Chris Kirk (33) Two top fives, including a runner-up at Pebble Beach, have full-season Kirk owners salivating.
25. Bill Haas (37) Stubbed his toe in the Northern Trust finale, but looks to have found his game and reunited with his big brother on the bag.
26. Scott Piercy (35) Leaves the West Coast with three top 25s and a third at the WMPO. Yes, please.
27. Bo Van Pelt (11) His preseason ranking may have been a little too lofty. He reinforced that thought with just one top 25 in four starts.
28. Brian Gay (96) The win at the Humana Challenge forces us to reconsider him coming off of a down 2012. He’s had a multiple win season before (2009).
29. Jason Day (41) Made each of his three cuts, including two top 10s. All systems go.
30. Russell Henley (65) You’ll notice from his preseason ranking that his early success isn’t a surprise, but a win at the Sony Open certainly ups his stock.
31. James Hahn (NR) Made all six cuts including two top-four finishes and managed to become a You Tube sensation in the mean time.
32. Jimmy Walker (61) Like Hahn, made all six cuts with four top 25s and two top 10s. Hasn’t won on TOUR, but neither had Jason Dufner this time last year.
33. John Merrick (94) The unlikely winner of a star-studded leaderboard at last week’s Northern Trust Open.
34. Steve Stricker (34) A runner-up in his only start, he can’t be faded too far despite his limited schedule.
35. Graeme McDowell (26) Might not deserve this fade, but his time on the sidelines and missed cut at Riviera has allowed others to stake their claim on his old spot.
36. Jim Furyk (28) Not a bad start to the year with a T13 at Riviera and a T30 at Pebble Beach, but a quiet start nonetheless.
37. Zach Johnson (14) We haven’t hit the sweet spot of his schedule, but the missed cut at the Sony Open serves as a small yellow flag.
38. Charles Howell III (70) Missed cut at Riviera officially ends his hot start. How long will we have to wait for his next surge?
39. Josh Teater (116) Making plenty of noise early on tough courses with a T2 at Torrey Pines and a T6 at Riviera.
40. Martin Kaymer (21) Missed cut at WMPO in only start, putting early pressure on him to perform in WGCs.
41. Padraig Harrington (58) A T9 and two missed cuts to start the year teach us to expect a bit of a rollercoaster, but the upside remains in his game.
42. Tim Clark (62) Early runner-up at Sony Open serves as only top 25 in five starts.
43. Ernie Els (38) A T13 at Riviera to start his 2013 puts him in midseason form coming to start the year.
44. Kevin Stadler (63) Baby Stads made four out of five cuts with a T3 at Pebble Beach. The week he putts is the week he could win.
45. Carl Pettersson (39) He’s made four cuts in five starts, but hadn’t cracked a top 40 since the season-opening HTOC.
46. Billy Horschel (50) We expected a breakout 2013 and the Q School retread hasn’t disappointed. Five-for-five with two top 11s.
47. John Rollins (66) Usually a streaky player, he’s been consistent in making all five cuts with four going for top 25s.
48. Ryan Palmer (59) Back-to-back top-six finishes followed by back-to-back missed cuts sound about right for the veteran.
49. Scott Stallings (45) Had a real chance to win the Humana Challenge, reinforcing that he is dangerous on easier courses where the scores go deep.
50. Jonas Blixt (27) One top 25 and three missed cuts in five starts were not the start to the sophomore campaign the Swede envisioned.