Top 10, Plus None
Tiger Woods: His closing 62, his lowest Sunday round on TOUR, last year saw him jump to T2 in his first appearance in this tournament. With one win in one stroke-play event, I see no reason why he can’t continue his excellent ball striking again this week. Remember, he went out in the second round in Match Play last year so I wouldn’t read too much into last week’s result.
Justin Rose: “The Bear Trap” on Sunday knocked two shots off Rose’s final score last year as he made bogey on Nos. 15 and 17 to finish T5. In four starts here, he’s finished T15, MC, third and T5 last year. He’s a premium ball-striker on a ball-striker’s course.
Graeme McDowell: McDowell’s second round 64 in 2012 put him right in the mix and shows he likes the layout at PGA National. His finishes of T31, T6 and T9 the last three seasons confirm that suspicion as well. The harder the course, the more I like McDowell.
Charl Schwartzel: In eight rounds here in the last two years, he’s been under par in six of them. That’s what I’m looking for if nine-under-par is the average winning score. He would have been right there at the end at Riviera except for a couple of doubles that haunted his score card. He’s finished T14 and T5 in his only two appearances at the Honda and has won twice in the previous five months.
Jason Day: Last year, Westwood and McIlroy were in the final four in Match Play and carried it over here. Day and Poulter are the only two from that final four are playing this week so let’s see if the trend fits. Trend or no trend, Day has been on the brink of breaking through in 2013 as he now has banged three top 10s in four starts. His only start here was MC in 2008 but the way he played last week, I wouldn’t hesitate in pulling the trigger. Jason Day WD Tuesday afternoon
Fredrik Jacobson: The perfect storm for “The Junkman” this week as we head to the “Florida Swing”. He’s hit the top 10 in his last three starts after MC in Phoenix and he’s finished T5, T6, T29 and T16 in his last four appearances at PGA National. His putter will keep him out of trouble and near the top of the leaderboard.
Lee Westwood: Two top 10 finishes in his last three at PGA National, including firing 63 on Sunday last year, gives off the vibe that the Englishman and his excellent iron play will thrive this week. He’s moved to the area and established his home base so I expect big things from him this week after only playing one match last week.
Rory McIlroy: Well, another week and another premium player that has left us all scratching our heads. McIlroy also has a home in the area and maybe a few nights in his bed will help straighten out his game. His two-shot victory here last year should bring him some happy thoughts and with his talent, he’s impossible to write off ANY week he plays. “He’s just 23” I have to keep reminding myself.
Louis Oosthuizen: In January, he won the Volvo Golf Champions and also had a T34 in Qatar so he’s shown some early form. His arrival in the states last week saw him get knocked out by the very temperate Robert Garrigus so I’m not worried as he tees it up in Florida. His ball-striking has never been the issue; it’s his putter that has to get going.
Jeff Overton: After just buying a house in the area and getting engaged, it wouldn’t surprise me if this would be the week that Overton jumps back into the top 10. In his last five starts here he’s MC, T9, MC, T6 and T18 last year. He’s made four of five cuts this year with a T8 at Sony for his best finish.
These guys just missed out on the premium list but should not be dismissed this week.
Rickie Fowler: After not breaking par in his first two visits (both MC) to PGA National, Fowler closed with 67-66 on the weekend here in 2012 to finish T7. In three starts this year he’s been T6, T6 and MC before his first-round exit to Carl Pettersson last week in a snow-delayed match. He’s top 20 GIR.
Dustin Johnson: The magical mystery tour is going to take you away…In his four events after winning the HTOC, Johnson has finished T51, MC, MC and had a first round defeat at Match Play. Expectation levels have risen and so has his Q-rating since he’s started dating Wayne Gretzky’s daughter. Too much nasty to omit.
Jason Dufner: Another example that a hot start overseas does not AUTOMATICALLY translate to early season success on TOUR. Dufner tore apart Australia, China and the Middle East but has done nothing (MC, first-round exit Match Play) on his home soil. I’ll patiently wait for his ball-striking to kick in. (HURRY UP, MAN!)
Billy Horschel: According to his website (billyhorschelgolf.com) he’s excited to play these four tournaments in Florida in front of his friends and family. Plus, he grew up playing Bermudagrass and has plenty of rounds on these four courses after playing his college golf at Florida. Oh, and he’s made 16 cuts on the bounce. I’m buying.
Henrik Stenson: Since winning on the European Tour in November, Stenson has quietly put five events in a row T26 or better before he was knocked out in the first round last week in Match Play.
Ernie Els: The 2008 champion is five-for-five at the Champion Course with two additional top 22 finishes. His T13 at Riviera shows he’s dialed in as he heads to Florida and The Open Champion started his 2012 reign of terror (T5 Transitions; T4 Bay Hill) with a T21 here last year.
Chris Kirk: He’s finished T29 and T56 in his only two starts here but he already has made four of five cuts with a second and a T5 in 2013. His worst finish is T33. I’ll ride the hot hand and hot putter (11th strokes-gained putting).
Keegan Bradley: His solid finish, T16, at the NTO didn’t carry into the Match Play last week but that was his second straight top 25. Bradley has played so well over the last two seasons that we expect him to bang top 10s every week but that hasn’t been the case so far. Also, he’s been bothered by all the talk on the anchoring of the putter. The good news is that he’s won on long, difficult par-70 tracks before so don’t be surprised if he finds something this week.
Kevin Stadler: After missing three years, Stadler returned last year to poach T9. He’s already posted his best finish on TOUR since 2009 (T3 Pebble Beach) and has made four cuts in a row.
James Hahn: Why not?
Cameron Tringale: In 22 rounds this season, he’s been over par three times. He now has eight rounds under his belt at this challenging track (T43, T47) the last two years and could surprise.
Off the Beaten Path
Either “horse-for-course” or guys off the radar
Paul Casey: Shhhhhhhhhh.T4 back in the day and a nice, quiet start in Europe in 2013.
Harris English: Don’t forget this 2012 rookie from Georgia was the 54-hole leader before a final round 77 sent him all the way back to T18. His 66-69-66 first three rounds should be your reminder. The big round is still giving him a problem in 2013 but he should have 75% good memories when he returns this week.
Jerry Kelly: In his last six starts here, he’s been the traditional “all-or-nothing” that I love to point out each week. He’s MC three times and has finished third, T12 and T20. Stretching a bit but high risk equals high reward.
Brian Harman: Speaking of 2012 rookies from Georgia, Harman fired a second round 61 last year and finished T12 after bookend 73s. He’s made four cuts on the bounce.
Justin Hicks: He has two finishes in the top 15 in four starts in 2013. He was T17 here two years ago.
Ben Crane: His uneven form to start 2013 keeps him on this list but he loves this course. In his last 12 rounds, he’s fired over par only three times and that has led to finishes of T12, third and T30.
Ted Potter, Jr.: Like GMAC, Potter popped a second round 64 last year on his way to T30 in his first start at PGA National. He’s trending in the right direction as he’s gone T24, T16 and T10 in his last three starts on TOUR.
Matt Jones: In four events this year, Jones has posted T15, T23, MC and T30. He finished T4 here in 2008. It’s scraping the barrel at bit but worth a flyer.
William McGirt: He was heading in the right direction before a MC at Riviera. His ball-striking makes him a sleeper this week.
Brian Stuard: Only one (bad) appearance here but if you are looking for somebody in a deep format that has been cashing checks this year, Stuard is four-for-four with two top 10s, T39 and T30. There are worse chances you can take. Don’t tell anyone he’s 10th in the all-around ranking.
Current form plus course history or injury has chased me away this week. As sure as the sun will rise in the east, one of these guys usually contends each week…
Tommy Gainey: Yes, he was fifth here in 2011 but he’s missed five cuts in a row THIS year.
Geoff Ogilvy: If you are searching history, please remember all six of Ogilvy’s impressive starts at this event were NOT at PGA National. He’s missed four of five cuts in 2013.
James Driscoll: Unless “chat guy” returns to change my mind, Driscoll is out this week for me as he’s missed all three of his tries at “The Bear Trap”.
Ken Duke: His best finish in four starts was last year’s T62 (MC in the other three). His best finish this season is T43.
Brian Gay: Already a winner in 2013 at Humana, Gay is two out of four but those finishes are T55 and T52. I’d go with Henley here if you are looking for a previous champ from this season.