Several noteworthy bits of information have broken since I last penned a post, and with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions starting on Friday I have an extra day to address them. Among them, Ian Poulter spent the better part of Wednesday morning trying to talk anyone who would listen out of betting on him or playing him in fantasy formats. Add to that, the equipment carousel seems to be spinning a little faster than in years prior with the Nike marketing giant front and center. The final bit of information is the extended weather forecast for Kapalua.
Starting with Poulter (and you can read the history on his Twitter page @IanJamesPoulter), the Brit decided to jump into the gaming and punting arena by suggesting that his current form (specifically ball-striking) wasn't worthy of consideration this week. While that's good enough to eliminate him from consideration in any one-and-done or two-and-done format, don't write him off entirely just yet in other games. I'm a believer that athletes of the highest level often perform the best when their expectations are the lowest.
If you want another reason not to give up on Poults, look at the weather forecast. The wind is supposed to blow a steady 20 MPH or more most of the time for all four rounds. That could mean that the deep numbers we usually see on the Plantation may dry up and grinding for par could have some additional value. That's Poulter's strength. The opposite argument is that if he's already not striking it well, he won't stand a chance in the wind. It's valid, but I can assure you there are worse players for the wind that the Englishman.
Keeping with the weather, poor weather could favor scramblers, putters and veterans over the sexy bombers and ball-striker extraordinaries. There's more to it than just low ball flight this week. It's more about course management and knowing how to play the expected trade winds, which comes with experience.
The final bit for the day is the equipment changes. I had a reader email that was frustrated with the lack of information before January 1st on the equipment front. I agree that it's frustrating, and it would have likely impacted a few other players pre-season rankings had I known it. The only people I knew about ahead of time were McIlroy, Stanley and Watney headed to the Swoosh. McIlroy is still the worst-kept secret, and the other two were reported to be filming a Nike commercial which was an obvious tip.
I posted a couple of comments on Twitter yesterday on the topic that Nike Golf scares me right now. There were too many examples of golfers over the past two years that struggled while waving the Swoosh flag. Yes, some of them dealt with injuries and other off-the-course issues. My theory, and it's just a theory, is that something happened with the drivers after they went away from the Sumo series. Don't forget, Tiger mapped out strategies for courses to try and keep his driver in the bag as often as possible, and was most dangerous with 3-woods etc.
They've introduced a new driver this season, and maybe that fixes everything and Nike goes back to 2008/2009 when Trevor Immelman, Tiger Woods, Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink all won majors and K.J. Choi and Anthony Kim were ATM machines. (Of those major winners, only TW is still in the stable.) I just need to see it before I convert. Now that I say that, Watney and Stanley will battle in a playoff Monday!
The purpose of this post is to tell you not to do anything too extreme this week. Play safe, proven, players with as many familiar variables in play as possible. Don't burn anyone in a one-and-done that you really have to have later. Don't overvalue Poulter, but don't automatically think he can't still get a top 10.
Now that I've confused everyone, I'll call it a night.