PGA at Torrey Pines: 10 Golfers Guaranteed to Be on the Leaderboard
This is a fairly anticipated week for the PGA Tour. With no large European Tour event to lure over members of the tour, this is the week when you will see a good number of the big-name players.
Of course, the 2011 debut of Tiger Woods is highly anticipated, especially at Torrey Pines. But with the field that is assembled here this week—including the likes of Phil Mickelson—will Tiger regain glory?
Here are 10 golfers whose names will be relevant going into this weekend.
Dark Horse: Alex Cejka
He went from T57 at the Sony Open to a T13 at the Bob Hope Classic.
Every year, Cejka seems to put up three or four top 10s and, often, early on is the best time to get it.
While I am not guaranteeing that Cejka makes the leaderboard, I think he could very well put his name into the spotlight.
So far, his accuracy numbers (GIR and FW) have been better than average, and his putting has been above average (in a good way) as well. You could very well see Cejka's name hit the leaderboard this week with his talent.
Charles Howell III
Charles Howell III is another name that has faltered in recent years, but it still comes up once in a while.
Last year Howell came in the top 10 six times and top 25 11 times. He averaged 69.96 while on tour but struggled to stay relevant. His World Golf Ranking is currently 162 and he needs to turn that around.
In 2007, Howell won a tournament and placed second twice while averaging over 71. That year was arguably one of the best of his career as goes tournament finishes, but his scoring didn't reflect it.
Howell's scoring average has steadily decreased since then. However, his finishes haven't reflected that. He is a talented player and his name is most often relevant in the early tournaments like this.
Expect Howell's lower scoring to push him into the top 10.
The 2010 Comeback Player of the Year got off to a rocky start at the Tournament of Champions. However, at the Sony Open, Appleby placed T13 and was toward the top of the leaderboard going into the weekend.
He played extremely well in the first round, firing a six-under 64 and second round 66, but failed to stay relevant on the last day.
Appleby is a player who played to his potential in 2010 and wants to prove that he is here to stay.
Expect a workman-like effort out of Appleby, alongside his first top 10 of the 2011 season.
The 2010 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year is starting his season at Torrey Pines. However, expect him to pick up where he left off last year.
His 2010 was impressive to say the least, with seven top 10s that included a third and two second-place finishes. His World Golf Ranking shot up to 28, which isn't too bad for a rookie.
In the 20 cuts he made last year, he was top 25 50 percent of the time, which helped him finish at 19th in the FedEx Cup standings.
Rickie Fowler is a new and exciting player to be watching, and I would fully expect the orange jumpsuit to be in the picture on Sunday.
Davis Love III
The 2012 Ryder Cup captain still has all the tricks.
At the Sony Open, Love took T9 in his first tournament of the year.
Love has won 20 tournaments in his career, has placed second 30 times, has taken third 15, and has finished inside the top 10 171 times. However, over the past four years, Love has had only one win, one second-place finish and one third-place finish.
While the past few years have been full of obscurity—and his world golf ranking plummeted to 120 in 2010—now is Love's time to prove himself. He still plays on the PGA Tour, a topic of discussion when referring to his captaincy.
For the next two years, Love will be under a lot of scrutiny, even for his play. What he needs to show is that he still has what it takes to be a winner on tour. He also needs to show a little bit more life in him than the calm-yet-frustrated man the golf world is so accustomed to.
This is Davis Love's chance to bring his name back into relevance and enter the Champions Tour a winner.
Carl Pettersson started the year on a strong note at the Tournament of Champions but faltered at the Sony Open.
Pettersson posted T4 at the Tournament of Champions, posting 20-under par for the tournament, with a low round of seven under. However, at the Sony Open, Pettersson struggled in the first round by shooting 72, and a second round 68 was not enough to get him into the weekend.
Pettersson had a decent year in 2010, making the top 10 four times, including a win at the RBC Canadian Open. Pettersson has huge potential and is in the prime years of his career.
Pettersson's numbers are all better than the PGA Tour average in the key stats area (which includes scoring average, driving accuracy and distance, GIR, scrambling and putts per round).
Expect this Swede to be in the mix in the final round.
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Nobody can make as many birdies and never win a tournament as Steve Marino.
Marino has always been a leader in birdies made. However, his issue seems to be that his mistakes override how well he plays. However, he all ready has a second place finish this year at the Sony Open, and had he played better in the final round, he would have a win.
His issues that week remained the same, though, as he was T45 in bogeys for the week, but T7 in birdies. He was first in GIR that week and his scrambling is well above tour average. There is no reason that someone who is above average in both those stats and still a decent putter should make that many bogeys.
If Steve Marino could cut down on his mistakes on course, then he could very well win tournaments on a regular basis.
Bill Haas finished 26th in last year's FedEx Cup standings and is off to a hot start this year. At the Tournament of Champions, he took solo eighth, shooting 16 under for the tournament. This past week at the Bob Hope, he came in second with a score of 27 under par, losing in a playoff to Jhonattan Vegas. However, he had an encouraging 66 in the final round and played all week in the 60s.
Haas is a player who is coming into his own in the shadow of his father, current Champions Tour member Jay Haas. He had four top 10s last year and is looking like a future player on tour.
He's back and he should be ready to play.
He has placed T19 and T13 in his two tournaments, and is still looking for his first top 10 finish of the year. Before his year was ended by a thumb injury, AK posted a win, a second-place finish and a third in 10 cuts made.
Anthony Kim has the potential to be a big name golfer if he keeps on the track he was on. However, he needs to stay out of the spotlight in his personal life as well. There is no issue with going out to party, as long as you don't get caught acting stupid.
Anthony Kim is a name who I believe will be in contention on Sunday. He has the swing and the game to do so.
Contender: Dustin Johnson
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Yes, he is back for this tournament and ready to go for sure.
Johnson took T9 at the Tournament of Champions to kick off 2011 and then withdrew from the Sony Open to address personal matters.
There was quite a media swirl around he and Natalie Gulbis when news broke of a relationship between the two.
However, this week the swirl will be back to his golf game. Johnson showed time and time again that he was capable of putting his name into the spotlight in majors. However, it was his incapability to finish that made him such a hot topic. However, Johnson still managed to capture a victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (for the second straight year) and also won the BMW Championship, an event included in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Dustin Johnson is going to be up near the top of the leaderboard, in heavy contention for the title. However, I think he will fall short in his attempts to one man...
Winner: Tiger Woods
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Yes, I am saying it: Tiger Woods will win this week.
Not only is the play that Woods ended the year on encouraging, but his track record with Torrey Pines is as well. Last time Woods played here, if you remember, he won. At that time his ACL was wrecked and he had a broken leg.
Tiger's work ethic is the last part of him that is encouraging. Since being divorced, he has had eight-hour practice sessions daily, supposedly, but that's easy if you take a look at his new practice facility on Jupiter Island, aka the location of Woods' house.
Tiger wants to make a statement early, showing the world he is here to win and nothing less. He is not playing for second. He is not playing for a top 10. He is playing to win in every week he plays.
With the result of the entire equation above, I have Tiger Woods picked as my favorite going into Torrey Pines. Fully expect the man clad in red and black on Sunday to bring home a trophy.