Midterm Grades for All of Golf's Top Stars in 2013
Man, how I hated report card day. The good was never good enough and the bad was always unexpected enough to make the repercussions two times as worse.
That said, there's no more honest a day than when report cards get issued. What was done right, where the wrong occurred and what needs to be improved were the themes of that roller-coaster day every time around.
With the PGA Tour now just beyond its midway point and The Masters and U.S .Open both in the books, it's grading time for the game's biggest stars as we move into the summer months of the 2013 schedule.
The grades are in, so check out how the PGA Tour's best fared.
Tiger Woods: B
Top 10s: 5
FedEx Cup Ranking: 1
Remarks: Yes, Tiger won four times on Tour before mid-May, but his complete failure at the U.S. Open and the controversy that swirled around him at The Masters in April couldn't help but drag this grade down.
On the other side of the ledger, Woods was awful in his defense at the Memorial Tournament and last weekend, he suffered through his worst major championship as a professional, finishing 13 over at Merion Golf Club.
Homework: Get his short game back in order in time to win a major with two opportunities left this season. That’s it; nothing else really matters for Woods than major championships.
Phil Mickelson: B-
Top 10s: 5
FedEx Cup Ranking: 4
Remarks: Mickelson won the Phoenix Waste Management Open back in February, but up to now, his season is defined by yet another second-place finish at the U.S. Open this past weekend at Merion Golf Club.
Lefty grades well for being in contention on such a difficult course, but marks have to come off for again letting another Open opportunity go wanting after he held the lead heading into the final round. Mickelson has now finished second in our national championship a record six times.
Likewise, Mickelson struggled at the Masters this year, finishing in a tie for 54th at nine-over and lost a late lead a couple weeks later at the Wells Fargo Championship to Tour rookie Derek Ernst. There’s a lot of good with Phil right now, but falling short so painfully at Merion and the lack of contention at Augusta National clouds the first-half effort.
Homework: Phil was let down by his putter at Merion and he needs to get right on the greens if he hopes to add a fifth major to his resume this summer.
Rory McIlroy: F
Top 10s: 4
FedEx Cup Ranking: 34th
Remarks: For Rory, there really is no other way to look at the first six months of the 2013 PGA Tour season than as an absolute failure.
After switching to Nike clubs in January, McIlroy has threatened to win only once, was a non-factor in both The Masters and U.S. Open and walked off the course during the second round of the Honda Classic with his game in shambles.
Only at the Valero Texas Open in early April has McIlroy had a real chance to win, and in most events, the Irishman has been plagued by inconsistent play. At Merion this past weekend, Rory finished tied for 41st at 14-over and in the process bent one of those new Nike sticks in frustration during a final-round 76.
Homework: Find some confidence with his new Nike clubs and get back to being the best young golfer in the world that he undoubtedly is.
Adam Scott: A+
Top 10s: 3
FedEx Cup Ranking: 10th
Remarks: Scott won his first career major at Augusta National in April, so that pretty guaranteed the highest grade possible for the talented Aussie.
Yet even before that breakthrough performance, Scott was enjoying a strong start to the 2013 season, highlighted by a pair of top-10 finishes, including a tie for third at the Cadillac Championship at Doral.
That said, since his victory at Augusta National, Scott has played in only three events and hasn't fared particularly well, low-lighted by his tie for 45th at the U.S. Open this past weekend.
Yet what Scott has done in the wake of his breakthrough victory at Augusta National doesn't much matter. The A+ passing grade was a lock after Scott captured the green jacket.
Homework: There’s a lot more out there to accomplish. It’s time to move beyond Augusta National and keep the momentum moving forward.
Justin Rose: A+
Top 10s: 5
FedEx Cup Ranking: 6th
Remarks: Justin Rose didn't just win his first career major at Merion Golf Club last week; he claimed it by besting Phil Mickelson on a golf course that brought many of the world’s best golfers to their knees.
In fact, Rose’s even-par final round might have been among the best in the history of the USGA’s signature event considering the course and the challengers he faced.
Rose, however, gave plenty indication of his major championship form earlier in the season with his tie for fourth at Doral and second-place showing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational just a couple weeks later.
Considering those two performances and his U.S. Open breakthrough, it would be hard to argue that any other golfer is having as good a season as Rose has put together through the middle of June.
Homework: Take time to enjoy the U.S. Open victory and then prepare for the Open Championship with a clear mind and the same game he left Merion Golf Club with.
Sergio Garcia: C-
Top 10s: 4
FedEx Cup Ranking: 50th
Remarks: If only Sergio’s discretion had been as good as his golf game, his first-half evaluation would be so much better.
That said, Garcia’s racially insensitive remarks toward Tiger Woods can’t be ignored and have simply overshadowed some pretty good golf early in the season.
Before spouting off just after falling short to Woods at The Players Championship, Garcia was having a strong season, especially on the greens. The enigmatic Spaniard had four top-10 finishes and three other top-20 showings in his first eight starts of the season.
Yet after his unfortunate fried chicken comment back in May, all that progress has been forgotten and Garcia is public enemy No. 1 yet again.
Homework: Stay patient, rebuild your reputation and victories will come if the putting stays solid.
Matt Kuchar: A
Top 10s: 6
FedEx Cup Ranking: 2nd
Kuchar backed that performance up with a win at the Memorial Tournament several weeks ago and ranks second in the FedEx Cup standings. While Kuchar has been erratic at times off the tee, his short game has been spot on. The American ranks 12th in scrambling, fifth in sand save percentage and 14th in strokes gained—putting.
Kuchar again played well at The Masters with a tie for eighth but struggled early in the U.S. Open (as many did) and finished in a tie for 28th at 12-over.
Homework: Kuchar would be even better if he could find the fairway more often. He ranks 119th in driving accuracy, an issue made all the worse by his 115th ranking in distance.
Jason Day: B+
Top 10s: 5
FedEx Cup Ranking: 9th
Remarks: Jason Day hasn't managed to win this season, but his play in the majors is the reason for his high grade.
After finishing third at The Masters in April, Day backed that performance with a tie for second at the terribly difficult Merion Golf Club this past weekend. Given his strong play in both events, and a tie for second two years ago at Augusta National, it’s only a matter of time until Day joins fellow Aussie Adam Scott as a first-time major winner.
In addition to his major performances, Day started the season strong with three top-10 showings in his first four events, including a third-place finish at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship in February.
Homework: Despite his strong play, Day has only one career PGA Tour victory. He needs to work on closing the deal so the next time he contends he wins.
Graeme McDowell: B
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Top 10s: 4
FedEx Cup Ranking: 20th
Remarks: McDowell has won both on the PGA and European tours this season, and that's an impressive feat considering the talent on both circuits.
His victory at the RBC Heritage came in a playoff over Web Simpson in difficult conditions at Harbour Town Golf Links, and his European triumph came at the Volvo Match Play Championship, one of the more significant events on that schedule.
On the flip side, McDowell has struggled in the 2013 majors, missing the cut at both The Masters and last week at The U.S. Open. Those two performances have significantly frustrated McDowell, who hasn't won a major since the 2010 Open at Pebble Beach.
Homework: Get his game right for The Open Championship at Muirfield and build toward the PGA Championship. McDowell shouldn't be missing cuts in major championships.
Luke Donald: D
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Top 10s: 3
FedEx Cup Ranking: 39th
Remarks: At this point in his career, it’s about winning a first career major for Donald, and while he was in contention to start the final round of the 2013 U.S. Open, he faded away very quickly Sunday at Merion Golf Club.
At Augusta National in April, Donald finished in a tie for 25th, a performance that was anchored by a third-round 75 that doomed any chance the Englishman had of winning the green jacket.
On the positive side, Donald does have three top-10 finishes this year on the PGA Tour, highlighted by a tie for third at the RBC Heritage. Given that, the former World No. 1 hasn't won on the PGA Tour since the 2012 Transitions Championship in Tampa Bay, a span that has now reached more than 15 months.
Homework: Donald needs to improve his iron play that currently has him 149th in greens in regulation despite a driving accuracy percentage that ranks in the top 30 on tour.
Lee Westwood: D
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Top 10s: 5
FedEx Cup Ranking: 40th
Remarks: Westwood has managed to record top-15 finishes in this year’s two majors, highlighted by a tie for eighth at Augusta National, but the fact of the matter is that the Englishman was really never in contention to win either the 2013 Masters or U.S. Open.
To his credit, Westwood owns top 10s at both The Players Championship and Wells Fargo Championship, but those finishes are about checks, not titles.
Bottom line, Westwood still lacks a signature victory that would validate his otherwise solid career.
Homework: Westwood has put a lot of work into his short game, but he still ranks barely inside the top 100 in total putting and even worse in strokes gained—putting. If Westwood is going to win a major championship, he’s going to have to putt better than he has to date.
Brandt Snedeker: B+
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Top 10s: 6
FedEx Cup Ranking: 3rd
Remarks: No one was hotter in the first month or so of the 2013 PGA Tour season than Brandt Snedeker, and the reigning FedEx Cup champion took full advantage of that good form.
In his first five starts of the season, Snedeker posted four top-three finishes, highlighted by his victory at the AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am in early February. An injury to his ribs, however, stalled that strong play and sidelined the former Vanderbilt star for a month-and-a-half following that victory at Pebble Beach.
Since the layoff, it’s been a mixed bag for Snedeker. He’s missed four cuts since his return but also has top-10 finishes at both The Masters and Players Championship.
Homework: Despite the layoff due to his banged-up ribs, Snedeker has played a hefty schedule during the first half of 2013. Rest heading into the British Open and PGA Championship is important to his hopes of winning a first major this year.
Bubba Watson: C
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Top 10s: 2
FedEx Cup Ranking: 53rd
Problem is, when Watson won the green jacket last year, he raised expectations, and his winless resume since then means he isn't nearly reaching that bar.
A tie for 50th in the defense of his Masters title and consistently inconsistent play in the majority of his starts further muddies Bubba’s performance this year.
Homework: Watson has the lead at the midway point of the Travelers Championship. Win there and he erases the pressure of his year-plus winless drought and can focus on getting a second career major later this summer.