The Monday finish at Bay Hill leaves us with a quick turnaround for the Shell Houston Open. Tiger Woods winning the event should come as a surprise to no one. Now that he's back to world No. 1, he must hope that Rory McIlroy doesn't return to form quickly enough to win this week and take it right back. With that as sour backdrop, we’ll cut right to the chase. Feel free to check out yesterday’s Preview if you need a refresher on the SHO and/or Redstone GC.
Here we go with the power rankings.
- Hunter Mahan – It’s always a bit of a cop out to go with the defending champion, but you can’t ignore five top-11 finishes at Redstone in seven tries. The only hesitation here is his two missed cuts in 2008 and 2010. He’s third in all-time earnings, with $1,736,060. Similar to recent years where he’s been successful here, he had a solid Match Play and is collecting plenty of top-25 finishes. In short, all signs point to another top-10 finish and not a missed cut.
- Phil Mickelson – He wouldn't have been this high had I not read the Equipment Insider on PGATOUR.com, which detailed that he experimented with a new putter at Bay Hill and will shelf it this week in favor of the one he used to win the WMPO earlier in the year. You may have noticed that he took a four-putt at the API that was really a five-putt, given he used the flat stick from the fringe to start the process. There’s no doubt he’s going to be tinkering again this week, but he tinkered his way to a fourth in 2012 and a win in 2011. If he’s average this week, then he’ll probably win the Masters. That’s Phil.
- Steve Stricker – I’m shocked Strick is playing this week. This tells me that he may get his 15 starts in this season. He’s played two stroke-play events this year and was runner-up in each. We don’t have to look too far back to find a recipe for success at Redstone, finishing T4 in ’11 and sporting four top-11 finishes since 2006. Playing mind reader for a minute, with two runner-ups in a light schedule, deep down I’m betting that he thinks he can win the Masters and this is a sign of him doing everything he can to get ready for Augusta National.
- Keegan Bradley – He tied for fourth here last year and is in form coming into the week off a T3 at Bay Hill. He’s turning into a bit of the 2012 version of Bo Van Pelt, making cuts and cracking top 10s and top 25s, but not exactly contending for the W. I do expect that to change, but pegging the week will be tough.
- Chris Kirk – He’s only played here once, and it was a T2 in 2011. He’s already notched a runner-up this year and is coming off a nice week at Bay Hill. When you consider his driving and putting stats, he’s not all that different from Hunter Mahan. He will be heavily in the mix for a one-and-done this week.
- Rory McIlroy – A final-round 65 to crack a top 10 at Doral in his last start was huge. He finished ahead of a bunch of really good golfers whose form wasn't in question that week. He tied for 19th here in 2009, but missed the cut in 2010. I would not be surprised if this was his “welcome to 2013” moment. Expectations won’t be through the roof, but he may be the most dangerous man in the field. Check that, he is the most dangerous man in the field.
- Cameron Tringale – Similar to last year around this time, he’s running hot. He was third in Tampa Bay and comes off a T27 at the Arnold Palmer. He finished T8 here last year after a T73 in his first trip in 2011. Like Chris Kirk, he’s a guy you have to consider in one-and-done formats this week.
- Dustin Johnson – If you could buy some long-term DJ stock right now, I’d probably advise you to do so. The fact is, he had his second best week in his last start at Doral, finishing T12 with three rounds under par, but has never made the cut at Redstone in two trips. He also hasn't played here since 2009. When you consider everything, the entire West Coast Swing was one big distraction for DJ. If he wasn't playing in a Pro-Am with his girlfriend’s dad, Wayne Gretzky, he had the first family of hockey strolling the fairways watching his every shot. I don’t know Dustin, but he doesn't strike me as the type that needs a lot of help distracting himself. That he’s playing this week on a course he hasn't been successful on in an event he’s left off the schedule since 2009 tells me he’s getting pretty serious about golf right now. His skills should line up for this course. This could be the last week of the season that he’s under the radar, which will come as welcomed news for season-long DJ owners.
- Jordan Spieth – With special temporary status unlocked, he’s playing in his home state with very little to lose. We can’t be sure how Redstone GC will line up for him, since he’s never played it, but his form is excellent. It will be interesting to see if a week off did him well, or cooled him off.
- Lee Westwood – Tenth is about right for him in this event, if not a little high. He’s never missed the cut here, but never done better than T8. Typically for Westy, that means either the greens or the short-game shots exploit his weakness. His year is remarkably similar to his history in this event. He’s made all of his cuts, with a T9 at The Honda Classic his best result.
- Brandt Snedeker – The Arnold Palmer was a bit of a disaster, as is his record of having never made a cut in this event in three tries. Still, I just can’t bring myself to ignore him either. This is likely an emergency start to get ready for Augusta, so it’s more about looking for signs of form this week than investing too much in him.
- Louis Oosthuizen – We’re about to find out what’s going on with King Louis. He was T16 in ’11 in this event and tied for third last year, so we know Redstone suits his eye. It hasn't been a good start to the season, missing the cut in his two starts where there actually was a cut and not contending in the WGCs. His driving stats are noticeably bad, which is a surprise given it’s normally the strength of his game.
Next 5: Graham DeLaet, Bob Estes, Luke Guthrie, Billy Horschel and John Huh
We will be back tomorrow to check out the games. Best of luck!