PGA Tour's Hottest and Coldest Golfers Heading into Week of March 12

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IMarch 12, 2013

PGA Tour's Hottest and Coldest Golfers Heading into Week of March 12

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    As the star-packed leaderboard from Doral suggests, this year is kicking into high gear just in time for next month's Masters. 

    Last week, the majority of top golfers were either grooving their swing, or turning the corner on a bad start. We'll touch on both of those groups in this slideshow. 

    There is also the little matter of the minority in the above-mentioned group: the guys with floundering games. 

    While that list has shrunk, it is not without star power.

    Actually, two of our three coldest golfers are former world No. 1s. 

Trend Changers

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    The cold list has had a dramatic makeover. All three of the cold golfers from last week's list had a nice run at Doral.

    Rory McIlroy 

    After a horrendous start to the season, Rory McIlroy finally pieced together a couple of solid rounds.

    On Sunday, he fired a bogey-free 65 and tied for eighth. He looked far more comfortable with his swing. 

    The trick now will be for Rory to sustain the momentum he gained. He will play just one tournament before the Masters. 

    Dustin Johnson

    For the second consecutive tournament, Dustin Johnson started off strong and got worse as the week progressed.

    However, he was far more consistent this week as he finished tied for 12th by posting scores of 68, 69, 70 and 72. 

    Johnson is starting to straighten out his ball, and when he can control it he will have success. 

    Jason Dufner

    Jason Dufner was one of the golfers tied for 12th with Dustin Johnson. This had to be a welcomed sight for Dufner. 

    After landing outside the top 30 in his three tournaments leading up to Doral, Dufner posted scores of 69, 69, 69 and 72.

Cold No. 3: Martin Kaymer

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    After a nice start to the year, Martin Kaymer is losing his game in a hurry.

    He finished tied for 49th at three over at Doral; however, he was playing worse than his score suggested. Kaymer shot a 68 in the second round. He went for a 76, 73 and 74 in the other three. 

    That just continued a bad trend for the former world No. 1. 

    At the Honda Classic, Kaymer finished in 51st. He also missed the cut in Phoenix. A nice run to the Round of 16 at the Accenture separates those two tournaments, but don't let that performance fool you: Kaymer is lost right now. 

    He lacks all consistency, and there isn't one part of his game that is currently good enough to carry him through poor stretches. 

Hot No. 3: Charles Howell III

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    Since turning pro in 2000, Charles Howell III has shown great potential, but he's also shown long stretches of ineptitude. 

    Well, Howell now looks like a golfer ready to have a career year.

    After netting just two top-10 finishes in a PGA event last year, Howell has already logged three this year—including a second and third-place finish. 

    In his six events this year, Howell has missed just one cut at the Northern Trust. Since then, he advanced to the Round of 32 at Accenture, tied for 29th at the Honda Classic and then tied for 12th at Doral. 

    This rebound from his missed cut is a great sign for Howell. He has long been prone to slumps and when they hit him, they aren't quick to leave. 

    Now, I don't expect Howell to start winning multiple tournaments. But I do expect him to have a solid year where is consistently among the leaders. 

Cold No. 2: Zach Johnson

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    Zach Johnson is having a terrible year.

    He's missed the cut in two of his five PGA stroke-play events, and he isn't showing any signs of climbing out of this slump. 

    He finished tied for 47th at Doral. He actually was showing some signs of life early on; however, he limped to the finish by shooting a 77 and 75 over in his last two rounds. 

    The reason for his bad play is pretty simple: He can't putt. 

    Johnson, who is typically an excellent putter, is 131st in strokes gained putting this year. He doesn't have the distance to help ease the sting created by his woes with the flat blade. 

Hot No. 2: Steve Stricker

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    Steve Stricker is playing a fairly light schedule this year.

    And it is paying off for the 46-year-old.

    He's finished in second in both stroke-play events he's played this year, and he advanced to the quarterfinals at the Accenture. 

    As a matter of fact, had he not offered up some putting tips to Tiger Woods before last week's event, there is a good chance he would have won. 

    But Stricker is still playing excellent golf. His swing is solid, and his putting is as wonderful as ever. He is actually first in strokes gained putting. 

Cold No. 1: Luke Donald

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    Luke Donald set up a very light schedule for the start of his year. Perhaps that was a mistake, because the former world No. 1 has some issues to work through. 

    Donald has played just three events this year. He has finished tied for 16th, was bounced in the Round of 32 at the Accenture and then finished tied for 43rd last week. 

    While this isn't a terrible stretch for most golfers, it is far below the consistently excellent standard Donald has established for himself. 

    Donald's problems are fairly obvious. He is just 180th in driving accuracy and 107th in strokes gained putting. He is typically much better in each category.

    And considering his lack of length, he needs to be. 

Hot No. 1: Tiger Woods

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    Considering the insanely lofty standards Tiger has established for himself, he has to go on quite a run to crack the hot list.

    Right now he is on quite a run. 

    With his win at Doral, Tiger has now won two of the three PGA stroke-play events he's played in this year.

    He did have a disappointing first-round exit at the Accenture and a tied for 37th finish at the Honda Classic.

    But this should not be too concerning. Tiger played solid while getting eliminated in the match-play event, and the winds and hazard-laden fairways at the Honda Classic were terrible for Tiger.

    He still has some work to do with his driving accuracy. 

    However, Tiger is excelling in two key areas.

    First, his distance control is dialed in. When Tiger is at his best, he sticks his wedges. He is doing exactly that now. 

    Second, Tiger just came off a tournament where he needed a career-low 100 putts to complete the round. 

    If he can maintain his wedge play and putting stroke, Tiger should be considered a favorite to win any event he plays in.

    Woods will play in just one event (Bay Hill) prior to the Masters, but don't expect this light schedule to throw him from his groove.