Buying or Selling the Top 10 Men's Golfers

David KindervaterCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2013

Buying or Selling the Top 10 Men's Golfers

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    As another season of professional golf officially commences with the PGA Tour's Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii this week, it's time to take stock of the best players in the game and where they're headed in 2013.

    The Official World Golf Ranking is loaded, of course, with talent from around the globe. Six European players and four American golfers currently comprise the OWGR Top 10. But that's not to say those same names will continue to flourish throughout this season.

    Like the stock market, there are good times to buy and sell. Charts, indicators, data and the like, can help you make decisions. Other times, you act on a hunch. The same can be said for the Top 10 golfers in the world.

    Here's my take on whether you should buy or sell, when it comes to their stock, in 2013.

No. 10: Buying Brandt Snedeker

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    I'm buying into Brandt Snedeker's stock this year.

    Snedeker's 2012 season was a breakout campaign for the 32-year-old former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. He had two victories, including the season-ending Tour Championship, where he walked away with the coveted FedEx Cup, and seven top-10 finishes.

    He's also one of the best putters in the game.

    "Sneds" finished last season No. 1 in Strokes Gained Putting and No. 2 in Total Putting. And as countless players will attest, if you're among the best in the game with the flat stick, you're going to have a chance to win a lot of golf tournaments.

    Snedeker earned a spot on the United States Ryder Cup team as a result of his hot play in 2012, and I believe his game is still on the rise.

No. 9: Buying Jason Dufner

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    As much as Brandt Snedeker had a breakout season on the PGA Tour in 2012, you can say the same about mild-mannered Jason Dufner.

    Dufner quietly emerged as one of the game's best players with two victories and eight top-10s and like Snedeker, he earned a roster spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup squad.

    Unlike Snedeker, however, Dufner is far from one of the best putters on Tour. But, he did find his way to success as a quality ball-striker with a scoring average (69.89) that ranked third best.

    Dufner finds a way to get the job done and I believe his best years are ahead of him.

    I'm buying.

No. 8: Buying Bubba Watson

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    Bubba Watson had one win in 2012, but it was all he needed to launch himself into super-stardom.

    With his thrilling sudden death playoff victory at the Masters Tournament last April, Watson earned not only the coveted green jacket, but also the respect of his peers and everyone who follows the game.

    He was suddenly much more than a gargantuan-driving PGA Tour sideshow.

    It was Watson's first major championship win, and with a personality and style of play that the general public found appealing, Watson's stock soared. He rightfully took some time off to welcome a son into the world, and missed a few cuts upon returning to play, but Watson has next level talent when he's focused.

    I was on the fence about whether to buy or sell the stock of Bubba Watson in 2013, but I'm going with my instinct that he'll be as good as he wants to be this season.

    I'm buying.

No. 7: Selling Lee Westwood

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    For the longest time, Lee Westwood was considered one of the two or three best golfers in the world. He even held the top spot in the OWGR for 22 weeks in 2010. And while he is still one of the elite players in the game, as evidenced by his current No. 7 world ranking, Westwood's stock is dropping.

    His body of work is certainly nothing to scoff at. In fact, it's incredibly impressive: three-time European Tour Golfer of the Year, tournament victories on every major continent, eight straight Ryder Cup appearances. The list goes on. Lee Westwood is a great golfer.

    But, in a "what have you done for me lately" scenario, Westwood isn't quite what he used to be. He won the Nordea Masters in September and he did have a bunch of impressive top-10s in 2012, including a T-3 at the Masters Tournament. But, the question must be raised: Is "Westy" past his prime now?

    At nearly 40-years-old, I'd say yes, he is. It doesn't mean he won't win more tournaments and even that much-desired major championship someday, but he's on the downward side of his career.

    We'll see if his recent relocation to South Florida will bolster his world ranking, but I'm going to lean on the side of skepticism. I don't think Westwood will improve his stock in 2013 so I'm selling.

No. 6: Buying Louis Oosthuizen

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    If Louis Oosthuizen hadn't run into that infamous shot by Bubba Watson from the woods to the right of the fairway on No. 10 at Augusta last Spring, he'd be the reigning Masters champion right now.

    If only. Yes, it would've changed his life, but playoffs tend to bring out the best in some players and Watson seized the moment in keeping Oosthuizen from winning his second major championship.

    Louis Oosthuizen won twice in 2012 (Africa Open, Malaysian Open) and he played well enough to earn a spot among the top players in the world for the first time in his career. I like the direction this is going so I'm buying.

No. 5: Selling Adam Scott

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    Adam Scott has found a home among the top 10 golfers in the world. But after last year's epic collapse at the Open Championship, I have to wonder if the lingering effects of his catastrophic final four holes at Royal Lytham & St. Annes will carry over into this year.

    Following the Open Championship, Scott tried unsuccessfully to defend his title at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational where he finished T-45. He managed a respectable T-11 outing at the PGA Championship and he won the Talisker Masters in November, but I'm very cautious of Scott's psyche heading into this new season.

    My feeling is that Scott will have, by his standards, a mediocre 2013. I don't expect him to disappear from PGA Tour leaderboards anytime soon, but I also don't expect him to win this year. So, I'm selling.

No. 4: Buying Justin Rose

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    Justin Rose has slowly but surely earned his place among the best golfers in the world, but with Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Tiger Woods ahead of him in the current standings, I'm wondering if his No. 4 ranking is as high as he'll ever get.

    After a four-year absence from the top 10 of the OWGR, Rose won the WGC-Cadillac Championship last year and launched himself back into the limelight as an elite player. It was the biggest victory of his career and along with a third place finish at the PGA Championship, a slew of top 10s and an outstanding effort representing Team Europe in the Ryder Cup, he created a buzz that he has successfully carried all the way into 2013.

    I like Justin Rose's game right now. He may not ever be the best player in the world, but I do believe he will be among those players for quite some time. I'm buying.

No. 3: Buying Tiger Woods

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    Tiger Woods has come a long way back since his departure from the OWGR top 10. After holding the top spot for a ridiculous 623 weeks (281 of those consecutively), Tiger fell off the charts, so to speak, as his career and life spun out of control.

    There was the scandal, the swing change—you know the story.

    And while every fan of golf—including Tiger himself—expects victory at each tournament he enters, it is neither realistic nor practical to think he'll dominate the game the way he once did. I'm not saying it won't happen. Anything is possible with Tiger Woods. I'm just saying it probably won't occur.

    Which brings me to my "however."

    Tiger had an outstanding 2012 season by anyone's standards. He won three times and had nine top 10 finishes.

    But his true success won't be measured by how many more weeks he holds the world number one ranking or by how many fairways or greens he hits. Tiger Woods is playing golf to win major championships—four or five more of them to be precise. And I believe he'll get at least one in 2013.

    Thus, I'm buying stock in Tiger Woods' game for 2013.

No. 2: Buying Luke Donald

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    Luke Donald has the same reputation as Lee Westwood when it comes to major championships—he doesn't win them despite being one of the best golfers in the world.

    As the top player in the game for an impressive 56 weeks of his career, Donald seemingly does everything but win the most important tournaments. In fact, his reign of success has always been hampered by his inability to win "the big one."

    Donald has a great short game and he's probably the best putter in professional golf right now. It's a recipe for success he has used effectively to stake his claim as a favorite in almost every tournament he enters.

    Unlike Westwood, however, Donald has remained very close to the top of the OWGR and his consistency should keep him there throughout 2013. I'm buying.

No. 1: Buying Rory McIlroy

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    There is no question that world No. 1 Rory McIlroy is the hottest player in the game right now. And I see no reason to believe that 2013 will be anything other than a huge year for the 23-year-old phenom.

    His rumored contract with Nike Golf is expected to be officially announced before he tees it up at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship this month and I suspect the alleged deal will only further bolster his standing as one of the most popular players in the game.

    McIlroy won the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai late last year to add to his five total victories (and 15 top 10s) for the season. He also walked away with a host of awards for his efforts: most notably PGA Tour Player of the Year and European Tour Golfer of the Year.

    It's good to be Rory McIlroy these days. He can't improve on his No. 1 ranking in 2013 but he can win more tournaments than he did in 2012. And I think he will. I'm buying.