What a bizarre way to start the year! While there are any number of discussions that can be had in regards to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, we will limit our focus to just how it pertains to the Sony Open. Before we dive into the power rankings, here’s what jumps to the forefront of my mind.
- I would not at all be surprised with numerous withdrawals from those competing at Kapalua who are in the published field at the Sony Open. With this tournament finishing Tuesday, it will be all they can do logistically to make it to the Wednesday Pro-Am. If they get a pass on that, it will mean that the first time they play the course will be in Thursday’s actual round.
- One way of looking at that, is that those who play the Sony Open really want to be there.
- It’s a complete guess as to how those guys will perform, given what they went through both mentally and adjusting swing mechanics for the wind.
- Oh yeah, and that will mean 126 holes of competitive golf in seven days. Q School’s final stage is 108 holes in six days, to give it some perspective.
When researching my picks for the Sony Open, there are several trends worth noting. As with any event, there are several players with very strong records that must be considered. Also of note, there is a recent trend of players making the cut but not being all that successful in their first trip, but having a very nice sophomore voyage to Hawaii. While these guys don’t crack my dandy dozen, Roberto Castro, Bud Cauley, Will Claxton, Harris English, Brian Harman and John Huh all fit that description. And when you think about them statistically, they would all make sense at Waialae CC.
Here we go with the year’s second Dandy Dozen:
- Charles Howell III – You can’t do much better than “three sticks” without winning. He’s got $1.862 million in career earnings at the Sony, including two runner-ups and a third. He’s made each of his 11 cuts and owns six top 10s and seven top 25s.
- Dustin Johnson – Risky due to HTOC, and a prime candidate to W/D, but in his previous two trips he has a T10 and a T16 and is the class of the field.
- Keegan Bradley – Similar concerns to DJ, but followed the pattern I mentioned above of a T68 in his first trip and a dramatic improvement to T13 last year.
- Tim Clark – He’s three-for-three here, all top 25s including a tie for second in 2011. A course where length is diluted is the perfect formula for the South African.
- Brendon de Jonge – In what will be his first test of 2013, he ended 2012 looking like he’d figured out his weekend woes. After missing the cut in his first three trips to Hawaii, he improved to a T20 in 2011 and a T10 last year. To nobody’s surprise, he was over par in each of those final rounds
- Zach Johnson – He’s made six of his seven cuts with a win and a T12, but other than those mentioned he doesn’t have any other high finishes. He may be the most likely of the Kapalua crew to make the trip due to his success at Waialae.
- Matt Kuchar – I’ll admit this is a very dangerous pick. I almost faded him outside of the top 12. He has two top five’s in this event, but he’s also missed six of nine cuts. Stay posted, as he could be a W/D.
- Chad Campbell – I feel like I need to put out disclaimers on most of this week’s Dandy Dozen, and Campbell is no exception. He’s coming off a terrible (by his standards) 2012, but he’s made nine of 10 cuts in this event with seven top 25s, so he can’t be overlooked. This may be a very good indicator as to what type of season the former Ryder Cupper will have.
- Matt Every – He almost won in his first trip to Waialae in 2012 before settling for a share of sixth. He falls into the category of players that have yet to win on TOUR, but certainly wouldn’t surprise anyone if 2013 were the year.
- Brian Gay – Like CH3 and Campbell, Gay touts a solid record at the Sony. He’s made 11 of 13 cuts, including every cut since 2002. That includes three top 10s and six top 25s. Also like Campbell, he isn’t coming off of the best 2012 but can’t be ignored.
- David Hearn – Trending properly, he was T68 in his first trip and T10 in his follow-up venture last year. He will try and continue to ride the wave to the top of the leaderboard in 2013.
- George McNeill – I was surprised to see that he’d made four of five cuts with all four paychecks coming in the form of top 20s. One wouldn’t think of McNeill as a great fit for Waialae, but clearly something works for him.
Rather than list the next five alphabetically, I’ll list them in order under the assumption that some of these will elevate due to pending withdrawals.
- Mark Wilson – Past winner who is also playing Kapalua, he’s made four of six cuts in this event with three top 25s. He tends to struggle in the first round, which may be accentuated after playing 54 holes in about 30 hours before he tees it up.
- Steve Marino – His record is stellar, with four out of five cuts and three top-seven finishes between 2008 and 2011. The concern comes from this being his first start after a lengthy injury hiatus.
- Marc Leishman – Three-for-three and all top 30s.
- Rory Sabbatini – 10 of 13 and eight in-a-row with two runner-ups.
- Kevin Na –Five of seven with two top five’s.
Web.com Grad to watch this week: Doug Labelle II – He’s three-for-four with a T4 and a T10 in 2007 and 2008 respectively. He also needs a big week early, as he was 24th on the Web.com Tour money list, meaning he will have limited opportunities on the West Coast before the reshuffle.
Q School Grad to watch this week: Richard H. Lee – He ended 2012 hot and, despite missing the cut here in his rookie year, should be a good fit for the course now that he has a year of seasoning. He could do something similar to what Michael Thompson did in his second tour of Waialae, finishing tied for sixth after missing the cut in his first foray.
I'm going to wait one more day before publishing my fantasy picks to see if any W/Ds are announced.
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