Thanks for the patience last week. Had to make a break for Orlando, Florida to take the kids to meet some mice, ducks and princesses.
As I mention frequently, while I rank what I consider to be the top 12 most valuable players every week, there are often tiers that provide very little separation. This week, the top two players jumped off the page. After that, I could make a case to interchange numbers three through 10.
Here we go:
- Jason Day - Everything is pointing towards a huge year for the Aussie. He picked up a win overseas late in 2013, then opened with a T2 in his first 2014 action at Torrey Pines two weeks ago. He's made the cut in this event on all four occasions, twice tying for sixth and adding a T14 in the mix.
- Hunter Mahan - Form is trending nicely, tying for fourth last week after a bogey on the 71st hole ended his hopes at a win. His last three trips to Pebble for the Pro-Am have resulted in a runner-up, T15, T16. He has the look of a guy that is peaking for this event. I also like that he went about his business relatively anonymously at the WMPO last week until around the 13th hole on Sunday. He didn't burn up too much mental energy.
- Jimmy Walker - His record in his last three starts in this event speaks for itself (T9, T9, T3). When he won the Sony Open early in 2014, it looked like Walker would trend towards the top spot in this ranking. His missed cut at the Farmers isn't too big of a yellow flag for two reasons. Number one, he had to deal with the circus of playing with Tiger Woods for the first two rounds. Second, as we gleaned from his wife's Twitter page, he was fighting an illness along the lines of a cold or flu. Now that he's had some time to process his second win of 2013-14, there's no reason he won't be in the mix for a fourth consecutive top 10 here.
- Graeme McDowell - Makes his 2014 PGA TOUR debut at the site of his 2010 U.S. Open victory. It's obvious that his form is unknown, but his class and course fit should still allow for confidence.
- Dustin Johnson - The two-time winner of this event finally crashed here last year with a missed cut. In a weird way, that could be good for this time around. He hasn't played since his T6 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, so there are other players with a warmer heat index. All this deflects some of the attention and expectations away from DJ.
- Kevin Stadler - This is a guess, since we have no history from which to pull how he will react to his breakthrough win last week. It's unreasonable to expect him to go back-to-back, but a top 10 is certainly possible. Who knows? Maybe he'll play with a major weight lifted off his shoulders. His record here is solid and includes a T3 last year on the heels of a T11 at the 2013 WMPO.
- Jordan Spieth - We are finally finding some starting points for Spieth in the form of course history. He tied for 22nd here last year and enters off a T19 at the Farmers.
- Phil Mickelson - Let's face it. His back and subsequent form are a concern. Reports surfaced today on Golfchannel.com that his doctor isn't thrilled about his idea to tee it up this week (or last), suggesting rest over competition and warning of bigger problems if he re-injures. Lefty's won here four times and has eight top 10s, but this isn't the time to overplay your hand with him. He only managed a T42 last week in the desert. While form isn't normally a huge indicator for him, given the health concern, it could be a bigger tell this week.
- Patrick Reed - Backed up his win at the Humana Challenge with a T19 at the WMPO last week, while also tying for seventh here last year. That the Humana was a pro-am format, coupled with his T7 last year at Pebble, could suggest a comfort with the overall style of Pro-Am play.
- Brandt Snedeker - It's a pretty big surprise that his last three starts on TOUR have resulted in a T58, MC, T61 on tracks that should have set up very well for him. Given he faced an injury just before the HTOC, I'm forced to question if he's tried to come back too soon or was out of practice upon his return to kick off 2014. Having the pressure of defending his 2013 title adds to the skepticism. The biggest reason he's even on the list is his penchant for success on poa annua and his history on this specific course rotation.
- Pat Perez - About six holes into the final round of the WMPO, he looked like the guy that might win. He eventually made a bunch of bogeys and followed up his T2 at the Farmers with a runner-up at the WMPO. He's 9/11 in this event, with three top 25s and a runner-up in his first start here back in 2002. He's hot.
- Jason Kokrak - He's been a top-20 machine in 2013-14, racking up four in six 2013-14 starts including a T15 last week at the WMPO. While he missed the cut at Pebble last year, he tied for ninth in 2012. That's good enough for me when you factor in current form.
Next 5 (Alphabetical): Jim Furyk, Charley Hoffman, Matt Jones, Brendan Todd and Nick Watney
Snub of the week may be Chris Kirk, but he played horribly on the weekend last week.
I'll return tomorrow to begin tackling various gaming formats.
Until then, best of luck!