The players who should be atop the leaderboard come Sunday sunset; Yahoo! group in ( )
Harris English (C): 2011 Southern Am champ on this track; T7 last year; he has one finish outside of the top 16 in eight starts in 2014. Second in the all-around ranking; sits 11th in total driving and third in ball-striking.
Luke Donald (A): After a quiet start he’s hit form in March with T8 at Honda, a course he loves and three very solid rounds at Doral. Yes, his “other” round was 82, I get it. He loves the layout at Innisbrook even though he’s not one of the better drivers of the golf ball. He opened his account with T6 in 2010, backed that up with a W in 2012 and was T4 last year.
Matt Kuchar (A): In his last eight rounds at Innisbrook, he’s found the 60s six times so it’s no wonder why Kuchar is on this list again this week. If he’s in the tournament, he’s on the Chalk sheet. It’s quite simple. He makes the cut every week, for the most part and all of his finishes are T13 or better.
Webb Simpson (B): After MC in 2009, Simpson has rattled off finishes of T13, second, T10 and T17. He played two different tournaments last week as he opened 78-80 at Doral but then put the pieces back together on a tough weekend to post 70-70. He’s sixth in the all-around category and that’s highlighted by being No. 19 in scrambling and No. 6 in total putting. Oh, and he’s played 19 weekends in a row.
Justin Rose (B): After skipping Honda to give his shoulder more rest, the Englishman joined the fray last week at Doral to try and take a bite out of the new Blue Monster. He played the weekend one-under to create some mo’ heading into this week and as one of the best ball-strikers in the world, he should be on your short-list just about every week. He’s posted 12 of 16 rounds in his last four events here at par or better. First start here since 2012.
Jason Dufner (B): The man with his own column last week, Dufner had a very quiet start to 2014 but he’s started to heat up with a T9 at Match Play and T9 last week at Doral. He had two great rounds on a very difficult course and, sadly for those who played him, two very shaky rounds, including 76 on Sunday. I’m usually the optimist so I see “it” getting better. I’m down with Dufner, especially in Tampa where he has only three rounds over par in his last five starts at Innisbrook. #dipintoDufner
Bill Haas (B): Imagine if he would have hit any greens or fairways last week as the usually dynamic ball-striker was near the top in strokes gained-putting. His T6 last week is his best finish since Phoenix but he’s seen the weekend in 11 events on the bounce. His history around here is spotty but I like the momentum on how he finished last week at Doral (69-71).
Jordan Spieth (B): His T34 at Doral was his worst finish on TOUR, when he’s made the cut, since The Open last year (T44). That spans 14 events. #SpeithBoner. This was the site last season where his T7 made him eligible for a Special Temporary Membership. The rest, as they say, is history. He’ll turn 21 in July.
Jim Furyk (B): Here’s THE horse-for-course this week as he backed his 2010 win with T13, T2 and T7 the last three seasons. In those four tournaments, one round of 16 is over par. Furyk would have been higher up the list but his lovely trend came to a screeching halt last week with rounds of 78-77-75-76 to post 18-over at Doral. Form is temporary; class is permanent. Remember, he was fifth in fairways and T15 in GIR. He was second-last in putting and only made four birdies. No way that happens again this week. He’s too good.
K.J. Choi (C): His best two finishes this year were T2 at Torrey Pines and T12 his last time out at Riviera. Oh, and he’s won twice here. There are not many weeks where crusty veterans outrank young guns but Choi has played in all 12 events on this track and has four top 10s in his career.
Gary Woodland (A): The 2011 champ should be full of confidence as he returns to the scene of his maiden victory on TOUR. In 10 rounds around Innisbrook, he only has posted over par once. His 71-71 last week at Doral saw him claim a share of 16th so that’s moving in the right direction.
Horses for Courses:
Kevin Streelman (B): Win and T10 in his first two starts in Tampa but he hasn’t finished better than T25 in his last four starts. I like that he was just one of four players NOT to make a double last week at Doral as well.
Jonathan Byrd (C): He has four top 12s in his last seven tries. He was T12 last week in Puerto Rico after a brutal start to his season. Shhhhhhhhhhh.
Justin Leonard (C): In his last 16 rounds at Innsibrook, 14 of them have been par or lower. All four finishes are T29 or better including T4 last year.
Ernie Els (B): He fired four rounds under par in 2012 to finish T5 in his only start in the last five years.
Brandt Snedeker (A): In six trips he’s pegged T8 and solo fourth but his recent form keeps him off the Chalk.
Stewart Cink (B): In four trips during March, Cink has found T2 in 2008 and T11 in 2012.
Retief Goosen (C): He’s won twice but his back injuries give me pause. Before MC last year, he rattled off WIN, solo fifth, T28 and T20 in 2012. If you play a deep game, he could be a flier late.
Bo Van Pelt (B): In three trips over the last five years he’s posted T8 in 2009 and solo ninth in 2012. It might take a course like this to get BVP back on track. #bringbackBVP
John Senden (C): A pair of back-to-back T2s in ’07-’08, plus a T15 in 2011 show that he likes it around here. This will be trip No. 11 to Innisbrook.
Russell Knox (C): In his last five events he’s pulled T13, T10 and P2 last time out at Honda. He’s 15th in the all-around ranking and is going to hit most fairways and greens. #hotScot
Matt Every (B): He’s played eight weekends in his first nine starts and has already picked up three top 10s and five top 25s. His last two events have seen him finish T6 at Riviera and T24 at Honda, not two of the easiest tracks around. Buyer beware that he’s 0-fer in three tries in Tampa.
David Lingmerth (B): Follow along: T78, T47, T42, T29 and T8 last time out. #trend
Cameron Tringale (C): He’s played the weekend in six in a row and three of the last four have been T13 or better. It would have been four in a row but his 75 on Sunday at the Honda knocked him to T41. He was solo third last year and has a round of 66 in his last two times at Innisbrook.
Chesson Hadley (C): In his three of his last four starts he’s finished T10 at Pebble, MC at Riviera, T24 at Honda and won last week. #form
Stuart Appleby (C): Hasn’t missed in 2014 and has T9 at Humana and T8 last time out at Honda.
William McGirt (B): He keeps knocking. At some point, the door is going to open. He was the 54-hole leader at Riviera. He was in the fight until a 78 on Saturday at Honda led to MDF. His T29 last week at Puerto Rico hasn’t scared me off, yet. Yet.
Will MacKenzie (C): I faded WillMacca at Riviera because he had been producing on courses where he had previous successes and that course was not one of them. He proved that theory again last time out at Honda where he was T6. I’m going to ignore his average form here and ride the form in general.
George McNeill (C): His last three events have seen him cash T6, T12 and T19 last week. I’ll remind gamers that his best finish since his T2 in five events is T30. Form again trumps course form for me.
Peter Uihlein/Brooks Koepka (both C): The Euro bros. have found their sea legs here in the States and have played the last two weeks. Koepka has poached T33 at Honda and T19 last week at the PRO. Uihlein MC at Honda but tamed the new Blue Monster for a T25 finish even though he was LAST in fairways. #theygotgame
Jason Kokrak: I was surprised to learn that he’s missed all three weekends in three career visits to Palm Harbor.
Ryo Ishikawa: He’s missed the last four cuts here and his only finish is 71st.
Sean O’Hair: Sure he’s a former champ but his T69 finish last year was his first weekend in five after his 2008 victory.
The Man with His Own Section
Graham DeLaet: After flying out of the gate in 2014 with T2s in back-to-back weeks in San Diego and Phoenix, the Canadian has quieted down in his last three events. He was T70 at Riviera, one-and-done at Match Play and finished T34 (of 68) last week at Doral. I feel with a less-than-stellar field this week, GDL should be right back in business. But, it’s easy to see why his recent results have fallen slightly off as his stretch of play from late October through Phoenix had nothing worse than T8. It’s hard to keep that up year-round. This is a week for ball-strikers and that’s where he makes his money. I’m taking a long look this week.