These guys just missed out on the premium list but should not be dismissed this week.
Webb Simpson: He’s quietly gone about his business this year and has used multiple caddies. I say quietly because he’s only hit the top 10 twice in eight events so far. More is expected of the U.S. Open champion but putting things in perspective, his worst finish is only T26. He’s close, folks! He’s three out of six at API and his best finish is T11 in 2009 or he would be ranked higher.
Hunter Mahan: He’s made seven of nine cuts here and his 10th time around Bay Hill might be the one. He’s currently 11th in GIR and 14th in strokes-gained putting. Combine that with accuracy off the tee and he could contend this week. He’s seven-for-seven on the year with six top 25s. Enough, I’m sold.
Phil Mickelson: Same Phil, different week. Good luck kids! In his last three tournaments here he has two rounds in the 60s yet his finishes are T30, T24 and T24 last year. So, um, yeah. He’s already won and T3 this year along with being T51 and T60. He has to be on here somewhere!
Ryan Moore: Another puzzler this week, Moore has struggled on the early part of the “Florida Swing” as he has one round under par in six played. But once you put him on Bay Hill, look out! The last three seasons he’s finished T40, T12 and T4 last year so if he’s going to break out of a funk, this looks to be the place.
Jimmy Walker: He returned to action last week after taking some time off to be with his wife, Erin, who gave birth to their second child. He was only four off the lead heading to Sunday before a final round 73 knocked him back to T30. Not bad after taking three weeks off. He was T24 here last year and has been playing some solid golf.
Chris Kirk: He’s fourth in the all-around ranking and eighth in strokes gained-putting and that’s what has helped him post two top-five finishes in 2013. He’s only teed it up here once, but if you can hit the ball in the fairway and putt like does, he can be in the mix come the weekend.
Jason Day: He’s got bags of talent (this is a recording) but his next step is to get the big round off the card during the four days. His short game will come in handy this week around and on these greens. The faster, the better for him! It doesn’t hurt that he eats up par-fives either!
Ernie Els: “The Big Easy’s” form hasn’t been off to the flying start that we saw at this time last year and his WD last week with a hip injury doesn’t help. But his 2010 victory and his T4 finish last year shows me that this might be the week he puts it all together. He’s won here twice so I’m expecting big things.
Lee Westwood: Here’s another guy who has no problem making pars all day who strikes the golf ball consistently. I was disappointed on the way he finished at The Honda Classic but he should enough greens this week to factor come the weekend.
Graham DeLaet: He’s made six cuts in eight events to start 2013 and five of those finishes have resulted in top 25s, including four straight. He finished up last Sunday with a very solid 67 at Tampa so I’ll jump on the hot hand even though it’s his first time at Bay Hill.
Boo Weekley: Speaking of the hot hand, Weekley blistered The Copperhead Course last Sunday to the tune of 63, the lowest round of the week at Tampa, to finish second. He has three top 25s in the last six years at Bay Hill so I wouldn’t hesitate this week to include him.
Charles Howell III: He’s having a very nice, steady start to 2013 and his play in Florida has been solid with T29 at The Honda and T12 at Doral. He’s made 10 of 12 at Bay Hill including four straight of T38 or better. He sprays the ball off the tee but the generous landing areas can help with that this week!
Off the Beaten Path
Either “horse-for-course” or guys off the radar
Stewart Cink: This will be his 14th trip around this course so he should know all the nooks and crannies. He’s looking to build on his 68-68-68 finish last week in Tampa as he was one of three players to fire both weekend rounds in the 60s. The other two were the winner and T4. Hot is hot.
Lucas Glover: He hasn’t played here since 2009 but in the three events has teed it up, he’s been over par in just two of 12 rounds. His finishes were T17 in 2006, T41 in 2008 and T11 in 2009. His T4 at The Honda and T38 last weekend haven’t exactly scared me off.
Brian Davis: He’s made six of seven cuts here in his career and has posted T24 (2010), T12 (2011) and T4 last year in his last three. The Orlando resident obviously likes this home game. He needs to jump-start a season where he’s missed four of six cuts and has a WD. High risk, high reward here.
Bob Estes: He’s made all six cuts here and four of those have resulted in T17 or better. He blew up with 79 in the first round at Tampa last week but he’s 28th in scoring this year. Value.
Zach Johnson: Gulp. His last four rounds on TOUR in Florida are 77-75-77-76. The good news? This will be his 10th consecutive appearance at API and he’s made the cut in eight of his previous nine attempts including T6, T8, third and T11 last year. I wouldn’t overpay for him but I’m not writing him completely off either.
I added this feature this week because with deep fields, you get deep sleepers. These are guys who are for entertainment purposes only and will be high risk for high reward in deep weekly drafts and salary games.
Ben Kohles: Every fairway and he can really putt it. He was T7 last week in Tampa.
Brendan Steele: He’s made six cuts on the bounce and can also putt it a bit. He’s rounding into shape for Valero in two weeks!
Brian Stuard: If you know that Brian Stuard is second on TOUR with three top 10 finishes, you’ve been reading this column. He’s played seven events and made seven cuts.
Robert Streb: It’s a big week for the ST boys (Steele, Stuard and Streb)! He’s made three on the bounce and will learn from his 75 last Sunday in Tampa when he was just four shots out of first. His weakness is driving accuracy but that shouldn’t be a huge factor this week.
Henrik Stenson: Two tournaments, all 68s and 69s minus two 73s. He’s played four here and made four cuts including T12 last year.
Rookie of the Week Last Week
I keep an eye on the youngin’s each week to see who is making the most noise.
Sony: Russell Henley WIN
Humana: David Lingmerth P2
Farmers: Brad Fritsch T9
WMPO: James Hahn T16
AT&T: James Hahn T3
NTO: Luke Guthrie T21
WGC-Match Play: Russell Henley 2nd round
Honda: Luke Guthrie 3rd
WGC-Cadillac: Russell Henley T28
Puerto Rico: Jordan Spieth 2nd
Tampa Bay: Jordan Spieth T7; Shawn Stefani T7; Ben Kohles T7