With star-studded fields of WGC’s and The Honda Classic behind us, it’s time to tackle The Snake Pit at this week’s Tampa Bay Championship. While this field lacks the headliners of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, it offers plenty of depth with the likes of defending-champ Luke Donald, Louis Ooosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Jason Dufner, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia.
Feel free to check back and reference yesterday’s preview of the Copperhead Course and learn a little about the past history of this event if you need a refresher. The short version is that this course doesn't necessarily favor anyone statistically. We've seen short and strait, long and crooked, good and bad putters and everything in between win. There are also plenty of non-U.S. winners dotting the list. The PGA TOUR has seen an American win every week this year, but that could come to an end this week.
I’m happy to report that both of last week’s winners, Tiger Woods and Scott Brown, were prominently featured in last week’s power rankings for their respective events. Hopefully that will be the case again this week.
Here we go:
- Webb Simpson – With Paul Tesori back to riding shotgun, Simpson put together a nice week at Doral. Tesori commented on Twitter that the dynamic duo is feeling very good headed into this week given they managed a T20 with a balky putter last week. That fact is, in 2010 Tampa Bay was Simpson’s fourth best event of the year. In 2011 it was tied for his third best (behind two wins). In 2012 it was his seventh best, but still a top 10. I’ll buy what his caddy is selling.
- Sergio Garcia – If there is anything we know about Sergio Garcia, it’s that he tends to have buckets of success in highly-concentrated spurts. Having tied for third last week, this is a good week to jump on the Spaniard’s bandwagon. Just remember to jump off quickly enough too. He’s made each of his four cuts in this event with a T15 and a T16 in his last two trips.
- Adam Scott – The first two were easy, but here’s where it gets tricky. Scott lit up Doral for a final-round 64, stealing a share of third. I looked back at his history on the PGA TOUR. I counted seven occasions where he fired a 66 or better in the final round of the tournament and teed it up the very next week. In all seven occasions, he finished inside the top 30, but only twice was in the top 10 and never sniffed a top five. He’s never made a top 25 here, missing two of his four cuts. All things add up to him having his best finish here, but how good remains to be seen. *Note, I saw that my friend Ben Coley (@BenColeyGolf on Twitter) looked at similar trends this week involving Scott’s final-round trend. Check him out on Twitter and read through his history for his opinion as well!
- Jim Furyk – His current form isn't anything to set off fire alarms, but his course history here is as solid as anyone in the field. Starting with last year and working backwards, his last three starts here are P2, T13 and Winner. He tied for 35th last week. That may not be a bad thing since he tied for 37th at Doral the week before he won in 2010. I wouldn't be surprised with any finish inside the top 25 for Furyk, first to T25.
- Luke Donald – In his last two starts here, he’s tied for sixth and won in a playoff last year. My disclaimer is that his form isntt as good leading into this week as it was when he posted those finishes. That said, he’s never missed a cut here in four chances. My head tells me this is a top 20 week for the Englishman, but not a top 10. His history demands a little more respect than that.
- Jason Dufner – For the first time this year, Dufner started to look like his 2012 version last week. While this has never been a “must play” for Duf investors, it’s always been a pretty solid tournament for him. He tied for 10th last year in what was his best start, and he’s finished inside the top 30 here in each of his last four starts. I’m marking this down as an important week for him, and a pretty accurate measuring stick of where his game is headed into some tournaments later in the spring where he tends to feast.
- Matt Kuchar – Kuch shocked me (in a bad way) with a T35 at Doral last week. He was more hung over than I thought from his Match Play win on a course where he’d never finished worse than eighth. I don’t think it will last too long, but I’m not 100% comfortable that this will be the week he gets it all the way back. He’s finished a modest (by his standards) T10 and T12 here in his last two starts. That’s on par with where I potentially see him falling in line this week.
- Robert Garrigus – Admittedly, this is a stab in the dark. I loved his mojo headed into Doral last week , but he found more double bogeys and others than I thought were possible. He tied for second here last year, but his history before that was awful. Add to that, he accomplished his 2012 finish with a really hot final round. Were it not for that, he may not have cracked the top 15. Of course, had he not played last week I might have ranked him much higher. He is the highest risk/reward option this week.
- Scott Piercy – Piercy had a decent first trip to Doral last week (T25) to keep a steady year on the tracks. Much like Garrigus, he didn't have a great history here until his tie for fifth last season. Unlike Garrigus, he didn’t give us a huge pause for concern last week.
- Jason Day – His best finish here is a T20 last year. In fact, his history is bad. His season is off to a solid start, so this is a week where he should at least notch his best finish in this tournament. Invest carefully though. Your format will dictate how prudent of a play the Aussie is this week.
- Michael Thompson – He tied for 16th in this event last year, and after winning The Honda Classic and adding a top 10 in his first WGC event, we must show him the respect he’s due. My gut tells me he’s on a downward run, and a top 20 would be optimistic. His form and history say that he’s a solid top-10 option.
- Lucas Glover – I've been waiting to see my fellow Clemson grad play this event since he made a couple of early cuts on the West Coast. Now that he has a T4 at The Honda Classic in his back pocket, I’m even more curious to see how he does. Sort of like Dufner, this is going to be a very good barometer of where he is right now. He’s made the cut 6/9 times with three top 25s and a T4 in 2007. Considering one of those three missed cuts was last year, it’s more like 6/8. I expect a top 25 out of him, with a realistic chance for a top 10. If you want an off the board one-and-done option, you could do worse than him.
Next 5 – Brendon de Jonge, Sang-moon Bae, Luke Guthrie, Nick Watney, Geoff Ogilvy
We will be back tomorrow to check in on a number of various gaming formats.
Best of luck!