Crowne Plaza Invitational 2013: Hottest, Coldest Golfers Heading into Tournament

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IMay 22, 2013

Crowne Plaza Invitational 2013: Hottest, Coldest Golfers Heading into Tournament

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    Sang-Moon Bae turned a solid second year on the PGA Tour into a win last week at the Byron Nelson Championship, and he will be back in action this week at the Crowne Plaza Invitational. He will do so as one of the tour's hottest golfers. 

    This tournament will feature a deep field, but it is not packed with stars. The full field is available here

    Zach Johnson took this event last year, but don't look for Johnson on this list. While he's been a fairly consistent staple of the cold list this year, his last time out he looked much improved with a 19th-place finish at the Players. 

    Now, we'll see if he can use that momentum at a track he has shown he can dominate to help turn his season around or if he'll just sink back into the abyss. 

    The following players on this list do not feature games that are in a similar state of limbo. These golfers will be hoping to either keep their hot hand rolling or end a bad slump. 

    *All stats via PGATour.com.

Cold No. 3: Boo Weekley

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    Consistency has never been Boo Weekley's strength. While he's not the most accomplished golfer, he does have two tour wins under his belt, and he'll go through stretches where he looks like he's ready to take the next step in his career. 

    He had one earlier this season when he had three top-10 finishes in six events between the Puerto Rico Open and the Zurich Classic. 

    However, since then, he's fallen back into the abyss. 

    He was 58th at the Wells Fargo, 48th at the Players and then missed the cut last week. 

    Weekley has never been a good putter, and he is in a bad stretch now. His strokes gained-putting number has dropped each tournament in his last four, and last week, it was an abysmal -2.269. 

    Weekley is a skilled ball striker, but that doesn't help him much when he can't sink a putt. 

Hot No. 3: Charley Hoffman

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    In his first tournament of the year, the Humana Challenge, Charley Hoffman finished in 10th. In his next five tournaments, he finished no higher than 34th and missed two cuts. 

    He looked like he was headed toward an unproductive year. 

    Then, Hoffman had a nice 20th at the Houston Open, and he's been as good as almost anyone since. 

    Hoffman has played five times since the Houston Open. He did miss the cut at the Zurich Classic, but other than that, he's been fantastic. 

    Hoffman was third at the Texas Open, sixth at the Heritage, 37th at the Players and then eighth last week. In those just mentioned four tournaments, Hoffman's lowest mark in strokes gained-putting was .585. This is an impressive stretch of work with the flat iron. 

    There isn't a lot to suggest that Hoffman can keep this going. Combined for 2011 and 2012, Hoffman had just six top-10 finishes. Still, maybe the 36-year-old Hoffman is just now putting it all together. 

Cold No. 2: Matt Kuchar

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    A string of three tournaments consisting of a 35th, 48th and 33rd-place finish is not a terrible stretch for most golfers. However, Matt Kuchar is not most golfers.

    While Kuchar is still looking for his first major title, for the last several seasons, he has been one of the tour's most consistent golfers.

    Last year, he finished outside of the top 30 in just seven of his 23 tour events. Prior to his last three events, Kuchar had finished outside of the top 30 just twice in his nine events.

    And it's not like this stretch is happening on tracks where he can't succeed. He won last year's Players and was 48th this year.  

    Kuchar is a well-rounded player, but in his recent streak, he has struggled with his accuracy off the tee as he hit just 53.57 percent of his fairways in his last two events. He also has been struggling with his putter. 

    Kuchar has finished his last three events with a strokes gained-putting mark lower than his season average. 

Hot No. 2: Sang-Moon Bae

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    Keegan Bradley has earned a reputation for being a talented and clutch performer and a fierce competitor. Last week, he was outdueled in a blustery final round by Sang Moon-Bae.

    Both players are consistent putters, but it was Bae whose putting at the end propelled him to victory.

    The 26-year-old was solid with his flat iron when the pressure was on, and in all, he made 23 percent of his putts from beyond 20 feet.

    Bae has not grabbed a lot of attention this year, but he has been solid. He's missed just two cuts in his 14 tour events this year, and heading into last week's tournament, he was fresh off of a 48th at the Heritage and then 33rd at the Players. 

    These aren't dynamic results, but it is impressive for the 26-year-old nonetheless. 

    Bae is capable of being one of the tour's best putters, but he is inconsistent. If he can putt like he has been in his last three tournaments, he will be in contention more often than not. 

Cold No. 1: Jason Dufner

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    Jason Dufner had a solid 33rd finish at the Byron Nelson last week. So why is he on this list? 

    Well, he won that event the year before, and he needed better than a top-35 finish to help this year be anything other than a giant disappointment so far. 

    Consider that in his final 14 events of 2012, Dufner didn't have one finish lower than 31st, and all of a sudden, his 33rd last week doesn't look as solid. 

    Leading up to last week's tournament, Dufner had finishes of 35th, 42nd and 62nd. For a player who ended last year striking the ball as consistently as Dufner, these results are shocking. 

    Last week, Dufner hit less than 50 percent of his fairways. However, he's been solid off the tee for most of the year. 

    He has not been solid with the flat iron this year, and his putter work is not getting any better. Dufner has finished three of his last four events with a negative number in strokes gained-putting. 

    Until Dufner makes some gains on the greens, his results won't improve. 

Hot No. 1: Marc Leishman

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    Marc Leishman has been quietly outstanding since his trip to the Masters. He was 12th last week in the Byron Nelson, and that was his worst finish his last four times out. 

    He was fourth at the Masters, ninth at the Heritage and then eighth at the Players.

    This impressive run looks even better considering the different challenges the courses of these tournaments presents and considering that he had missed the cuts in his two tournaments leading up to this hot streak.

    The biggest key to Leishman's turnaround is his putting. Leading up to the Masters, Leishman finished his previous six tournaments with a negative number in strokes gained-putting. That stat is not tracked at Augusta, but he's posted a positive number in each tournament since.

    If Leishman can keep this putting stroke rolling, it is only a matter of time before he gets his first win of the year, and the second of his career.