In many ways, the second edition of the new season's Top 125 has proven to be the most challenging in the short history of this feature. For some gamers, this serves as the preseason top 125 while others are already six tournaments into the new wraparound slate.
The logical question for gamers just beginning the year is how to compartmentalize the results of the first six tournaments in terms of what a golfer has left in the tank for the remainder of the season.
Jimmy Walker and Chris Kirk already have wins, so does that make it any more or less likely that they will or will not win again? Psychologically, will they feel like they are chasing their second win of 2013-14 or their first of 2014?
Are Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson now set up for monster years? If your full-season format began with the Frys.com Open and you own one of these guys, life is good and the possibilities remain endless. If your game begins in January, trying to answer those questions is maddening.
Perspective becomes important in situations like this, which is why I’m glad I took the approach that I did in my Preseason Top 125 research. That is, I slotted each player into a range. It was wide for some and narrow for others. As an example, I had Walker slotted between 20th and 75th and Phil Mickelson between second and 12th.
For the purpose of this second edition, I forced myself to stay within this range on all but one or two occasions. Essentially, I’m not letting one great tournament or a string of two or three poor ones drastically shift a player’s projection this early in the season.
When looking for some sort of historical baseline against which to judge, I look at Ryder Cup points lists. Lucas Glover led the 2010 version when the season began on the heels of his performance in the 2009 majors. He failed to make the team. Kyle Stanley’s win at the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open following a runner-up at the 2012 Farmers Insurance Open had him leading the 2012 Ryder Cup standings at a similar point in the season to where we stand right now in the 2013-14 campaign, and he failed to make the 2012 squad.
While the FedExCup points list differs from the Ryder Cup points list in some ways, the message remains that just because Walker leads the FedExCup standings right now, he isn’t a guarantee to end the season inside the top 10, or 20, or even 30 once the elite players hit their stride.
On that note, Tiger Woods hasn’t even teed it up on TOUR yet and isn’t expected to until Torrey Pines.
With that verbose intro behind us, let’s dive into the Top 125 as it stands following the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
Rank Golfer (Preseason Rank) Comment
1 Tiger Woods (1) To be the man, you have to beat the man. He’s still the man.
2 Adam Scott (5) Was one hole away from winning the Aussie Triple Crown and is a true threat to Woods’ top ranking. Limited TOUR schedule is the only issue.
3 Rory McIlroy (7) Most of the time, a win during the traditional “silly season” can be a bit overrated, but any win is a good win for Rors at this point. Should serve as a catalyst for 2014.
4 Matt Kuchar (3) His slight drop has nothing to do with him; rather, it's more of a boost in confidence toward those above him.
5 Justin Rose (6) He’s finished inside the top 10 in each of his last six worldwide starts and is oozing confidence.
6 Phil Mickelson (4) It’s anticipated that his entire season will be geared around trying to win the U.S. Open at Pinehurst for the final jewel in his crown. How that impacts the rest of his schedule is a bit of a guess.
7 Brandt Snedeker (2) Great putter and elite player entering prime of career, but penchant for battling nagging injuries is a pause for concern.
8 Zach Johnson (17) Finished inside the top 10 on the money list in three of the last five years. This year is shaping up to be no different. Probably one of the five hottest players on the planet over the last six months.
9 Keegan Bradley (11) Not a bad spot to plug in a young, confident and accomplished American who plays a fairly hefty schedule for his pedigree. Finished 10th and T11 in his two starts to begin the new season.
10 Webb Simpson (16) Early win at TPC Summerlin resets the expectations for his 2013-14 campaign and boosts him into the top 10. U.S. Open hangover his officially over ... if there ever was one.
11 Jason Dufner (12) He managed to draw Tiger Woods out for an exchange on Twitter surrounding Auburn football and the tee times for Tiger’s tournament. That counts for something right? Oh, and Duff Daddy is still really good.
12 Hunter Mahan (13) Hasn’t played since the TOUR Championship other than a couple of top 15s in some offseason events. Finished inside the top 18 on the last five money lists.
13 Jason Day (14) Have to like that he finally won a tournament again (World Cup of Golf), even if it wasn’t a PGA TOUR event. As great as he’s been throughout his career, it’s time to stack a few more trophies on his mantle.
14 Dustin Johnson (22) Another season, another Dustin Johnson win. Keep in mind that he won the limited field Hyundai Tournament of Champions last season and will be back to defend in a few weeks.
15 Bill Haas (15) Had 16 top 25s and nine top 10s a season ago and corralled top 25s in each of his first two starts of the new season.
16 Harris English (29) Four starts into the new season, he has a win at the OHL Classic and a T7 at the CIMB. He’s here to stay.
17 Billy Horschel (8) A T11 at the CIMB Classic served as the early highlight of 2013-14. Can’t in good faith rank him higher than any of the names above at this point.
18 Jordan Spieth (9) Finished 17th in the WGC-HSBC in his only start of the new season. Similar to Horschel in the respect that he can’t be elevated above any of the others on the list ahead of him until the 2013 Rookie of the Year shows a little more.
19 Sergio Garcia (25) Ends 2013 10th in the world with a fourth at the WGC-HSBC Champions precluding a T2 at the Nedbank Challenge and a win in Thailand. Now if only he can stay out of his own way.
20 Jimmy Walker (53) Already a first-time winner this season. Given his history at both Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach, we will learn just how big a year this will be by the end of the West Coast Swing.
21 Henrik Stenson (10) This really isn’t defendable seeing as how he has a win, a runner-up and a fourth in his last three worldwide starts and has risen to third in the world. It’s my belief that his stock has peaked and will only fall. If you buy, you are buying high.
22 Jim Furyk (18) Other than the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, he’s been on the shelf since East Lake.
23 Nick Watney (19) If he falls to you here, then by all means gobble him up. He’s been one of the most consistent players on TOUR the last five years and made each of his three cuts to start the season. Of course, none went for top 25s and two of them didn’t even have a cut; but who’s counting.
24 Steve Stricker (24) This is such a guess given his reduced schedule.
25 Ryan Moore (27) Fulfilled his early high ranking by winning the CIMB Classic.
26 Graham DeLaet (23) The table is set for a big year. Now it’s up to him to deliver.
27 Bubba Watson (38) A T8 at WGC-HSBC reminds us that there is a reason he was able to claim a green jacket. Ability to handle the spotlight and consistency will always be a question mark, but his ability and creativity are not.
28 Hideki Matsuyama (56) His T3 at the Frys.com Open demonstrates his ability to focus on weeks where the best players aren’t in the field. Also fresh off a win at the Casio World Open.
29 Chris Kirk (43) Picked up his second TOUR win at The McGladrey Classic and should figure out a way to factor into a few more tournaments this season. Possesses a smooth putter.
30 Rickie Fowler (20) Played the two TOUR events in Asia that didn’t feature a cut, tying for 19th at the CIMB Classic. Until he backs up his first win, his ceiling remains tempered.
31 Lee Westwood (32) In his ongoing attempt to desperately grab the major championship that would define his career, he’s made a caddie switch back to Billy Foster.
32 Luke Donald (26) Could be an important year for the Englishman, as he has slipped to 17th in the Official World Golf Ranking and doesn’t have a TOUR win since the 2012 Transitions Championship.
33 Charl Schwartzel (28) Like last year, he’s currently busy racking up wins and top 10s in Asia and Africa against weaker fields. While it’s easy to get excited, remember that it didn’t carry over to the PGA TOUR and he went winless during the 2013 PGA TOUR season.
34 Graeme McDowell (30) A tough call as he proved to be anything but consistent in 2013. He finished third at the WGC-HSBC Champions to start his 2013-14 season, so this spot could be a bit of a slight.
35 Jonas Blixt (31) This is a play requiring patience, as he’s won in each of his first two season on TOUR and finished inside the top 35 both times.
36 Matt Every (33) Knocked on the door with a T7 at The McGladrey Classic, firing all four rounds in the 60s. Has the feel of a guy that will fire a hot final round and pick off a win at some point in the season.
37 Kyle Stanley (34) His good weeks will likely be defined by an above-average putter, and having made four out of five cuts with a T19 at the CIMB Classic is a good sign.
38 Charles Howell III (61) Three Sticks started hot, making all five of his cuts with three going for top 10s. Considering he still has the Sony Open, which is a cash boon for him, it could be a big year for the Augusta native.
39 Gary Woodland (54) While I’ve been slow to fall back in love with him, I’m starting to come around. A playoff loss to Ryan Moore at the CIMB Classic thrust his 2013-14 season in high gear early.
40 John Peterson (37) Seemingly met early expectations with a T21 at the Frys.com Open to start the year, but missed cuts at TPC Summerlin and on Sea Island proving that he isn’t exempt from growing pains.
41 Kevin Chappell (39) On the very short list of players poised to pick off a breakthrough win in 2013-14.
42 Chris Stroud (67) Throwing his hat into contention on a regular basis by following up his playoff loss at the Travelers Championship in 2013 with a pair of T3s early in the 2013-14 season.
43 Ian Poulter (36) Always a tough man to put a number on, the Englishman finished runner-up in his only start of the new season at the WGC-HSBC and added a runner-up finish in Dubai.
44 Ryo Ishikawa (NR) A T21 at the Frys.com Open and a T2 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to start the new season completely changes his outlook.
45 Brendon de Jonge (44) At this point, you know what you’re buying. Lots of weekend tee times and plenty of top 25s, but the strong finishes are few and far between.
46 Charley Hoffman (62) Cut his hair and made each of his four cuts to start the year with a fourth in Vegas serving as the highlight.
47 Jeff Overton (71) Consistent early, securing four out of five cuts with all going for top 25s.
48 Patrick Reed (21) Took a stab at him in a spot higher than he probably deserved to start the year, and have since readjusted to account for his slow start to the season.
49 Tim Clark (77) After playing 20 events in 2013, he already has five under his belt in the new season. His T2 at The McGladrey Classic served notice that he’s in it for a second TOUR win.
50 Kevin Stadler (79) Junior Stadler made all four of his cuts, with three top 25s and a T10 at The McGladrey Classic to start the season. Was in the mix on Sea Island but didn’t handle the pressure well.