Most Impressive and Disappointing Starts to the 2013 PGA Season
Sure, McIlroy is the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Rankings, Woods coasted to a four-shot victory at Torrey Pines and Mickelson's score of 28-under made TPC Scottsdale look like an average municipal golf course.
However, people want to see McIlroy develop more consistency in his young career. Golf fans want to make Augusta the loudest place on the planet again when Tiger dominates on Sunday. Everyone is still waiting for Mickelson to close the door at the U.S. Open and Open Championship.
Through nine weeks, there have been several other golfers that are more noteworthy of PGA Tour headlines in 2013. Here are the players who qualify.
No. 5 Impressive: Robert Garrigus
Robert Garrigus is easily playing the best golf of his career.
At 35 years old, Garrigus has climbed all the way to No. 37 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
He's found consistency through a birdie-to-bogey ratio of 2.69 (second on PGA), is launching the ball off the tee at an average of 303.7 yards (sixth) and is tied for eighth with an average of 1.685 putts a hole (via PGATour.com).
Garrigus has shown persistent play on the leaderboard as well. He's finished no worse than 22nd in the four stroke-play events he's played in for 2013, and advanced to the quarterfinals in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Robert showed excellent strides in 2012 with nine Top 10 finishes, but he also missed seven cuts in the process. You simply never knew which guy was going to show up.
Now with a steady game from tee to green, Garrigus is a serious threat to the field.
No. 4 Impressive: Russell Henley
Russell Henley wasted no time in his PGA debut.
Making his first start at the Sony Open, Henley was the star on Maui and fired a total score of 24-under for the win that included three rounds of 63.
After a moment like that, most rookies would be subject to a let down.
Henley has maintained a solid rookie start.
Since his victory, Russell made the cut in three of the four stroke-play events he's participated in, including a 13th-place finish at the Honda Classic.
Henley, listed as a No. 14 seed, also upset Charl Schwartzel in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and pushed Jason Day to 19 holes with a clutch birdie putt on the 18th.
Russell mainly gets it done on the green. He averages 1.671 putts per round (fifth on PGA) that helps him rack up 4.67 birdies (seventh). Henley is also tied for third with five eagles on the season (per PGATour.com).
For someone that very few people knew about coming into 2013, Henley's superb start has been remarkable.
No. 3 Impressive: Jason Day
Jason Day got off to a phenomenal start in his PGA career.
The Aussie won his first PGA Tour event in 2010 at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. He followed that up with a tie for second place at the 2011 Masters and a second at the 2011 U.S. Open. Day eventually finished ninth in money earnings that season (via PGATour.com).
The 2012 season was different. Day missed five cuts (including a withdraw in the second round at the Masters), his best finish at a major was 59th at the U.S. Open, and Jason's best overall finish was fourth at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
It essentially looked like Day would be another young player with talent, but couldn't produce the necessary consistency on the PGA Tour.
Not so fast.
In just four events for 2013, Day has placed in the Top 10 in three tournaments (tied for second on PGA), including a third place at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
What stood out most for Day at the Match Play was his sand game. He, along with eventual champion Matt Kuchar, are tied for second in sand save percentage on Tour (per PGATour.com).
Jason's road at the Match Play wasn't easy either. Ranked as a No. 11 seed, Day defeated Zach Johnson (2007 Masters champion), Russell Henley (2013 Sony Open champion), Bubba Watson (2012 Masters champion) and Graeme McDowell (2010 U.S. Open Champion).
Day is now ranked No. 35 in the Official World Golf Rankings, the second highest ranked Aussie behind Adam Scott. Expect Jason to continue improving on that standing.
No. 2 Impressive: Matt Kuchar
He's no longer just a solid player. Matt Kuchar is developing into one of the best American golfers on the PGA Tour.
Through some bizarre weather at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Kuchar was nearly flawless.
Ranked as a No. 6 seed, Kuchar battled the heavy winds and firm conditions with tremendous poise. As a result, he never had to play the 18th hole in his journey to the title.
In 2013, Kuchar has made the cut in all five of the events he's participated in, including three Top 10 finishes (tied for second on PGA)
With this start and after winning the Players Championship in 2012, it's time for the "Kuuuuuuuch" chants to erupt on a late Sunday afternoon at a major championship.
Matt is currently second in both FedEx Cup points and money earnings (via PGATour.com). Who is ahead of him?
No. 1 Impressive: Brandt Snedeker
He's the best player on the PGA Tour right now.
The statistics reflect Brandt Snedeker's emergence. He's obliterating the field with 1,282 FedEx Cup points, earning just under $3 million and is leading the PGA Tour in scoring average at 67.53 strokes per round (via PGATour.com).
In Snedeker's five tournaments this season, he's finished third, 23rd, second, second and first. Had it not been for Tiger Woods' dominance at the Farmers Insurance Open and Phil Mickelson's thunderous 60 in the first round of the Waste Management Open, the Tennessee native would have three trophies this season.
More recognized as being one of the best putters on Tour in his young career, Snedeker's game is evolving in 2013. He's currently ranked first in scrambling, second in greens in regulation and ninth in driving accuracy (per PGATour.com).
Unfortunately for Brandt, a rib injury kept him out of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and will also prevent him from playing in the WGC-Cadillac Championship (per ESPN.com).
Nonetheless, when Snedeker returns, he is the favorite no matter where the tournament is.
No. 5 Disappointing: Ryo Ishikawa
While Rory McIlroy is the new young star in golf today, he still has a lot to prove and it's important to stay on the lookout for the next upcoming star.
After finishing tied for 20th at the 2011 Masters and tied for 30th at the 2011 U.S. Open, Ryo Ishikawa looked like he was ready to make a name for himself in the golfing world.
Since the 2011 U.S. Open, the Japanese icon has missed five of his last six cuts at major championships and is off to a rough start in 2013. Ishikawa has missed the cut in four of his five tournaments and has only broken 70 once.
Before this rough start began, Ryo received and accepted another special invitation to play in the 2013 Masters (per ESPN.com). This will be his fifth appearance in the tournament and has missed the cut three times at the Masters.
Ishikawa is only 21 years old, but for someone who has won 10 events on the Japan Golf Tour, his start on the PGA Tour has been rather puzzling.
No. 4 Disappointing: Ricky Barnes
Ricky Barnes has almost had his breakthrough on several occasions, but it's going downhill for him in 2013.
After a tied second-place finish at the U.S. Open in 2009 and making the cut in four of seven majors in 2010 and 2011, Barnes is still seeking an official PGA Tour win.
Barnes did start off 2013 with two Top 20 finishes at the Sony Open and the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
Now Ricky has missed five straight cuts and hasn't broken 70 once in that stretch.
The one statistic Barnes can hold onto is that he is tied for 31st in greens in regulation (via PGATour.com) with a 70.47 conversion percentage. He needs help everywhere else.
Now at age 32 and well into the prime of his career, Ricky better find the solutions sooner rather than later.
No. 3 Disappointing: Kevin Na
Then why has Na missed four of six cuts and 22nd is his best finish for 2013?
This is fairly perplexing since Na was 25th in driving accuracy in 2012.
It's mind-blowing that the PGA leader in putting average, who also ranks third in birdies per round, hasn't come close to winning a Tour event in 2013.
Kevin had 10 tournaments in 2012 where he finished in 13th place or better.
As Charlie Sorrell of PGA.com points out, Na has had issues with inner demons in the past at the 2012 Players Championship. At times, he would take an excessive amount of time standing over the golf ball before actually hitting the shot.
While it doesn't appear that those exact issues are reappearing, Kevin needs to figure out his full-swing. His putting game is going to waste.
No. 2 Disappointing: Zach Johnson
For someone who only missed one cut in 2012, Zach Johnson's start to the 2013 season is shocking.
In his four stroke-play events, Johnson has missed two cuts with his best finish being 18th at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions (only 30 entrants in the field). Most recently, Zach was eliminated in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship by Jason Day 6 and 5.
The Iowa native has never been a long-ball hitter. In fact, Johnson ranks 178th (last) on the PGA in driving distance at 264.8 yards (per PGATour.com).
Johnson needs what Kevin Na has, a putting stroke. Zach is currently ranked 126th in putts per hole at 1.796 and has finished no worse than sixth in putting in two of the last three seasons (by PGATour.com).
With putting as the only glaring issue for Johnson so far in 2013, he shouldn't have too much trouble getting back on track. For now though, as someone who has won nine PGA Tour events in his career and made three Ryder Cup appearances, Zach's poor start is too hindering to ignore.
No. 1 Disappointing: Rory McIlroy
The start of 2013 couldn't be any worse for the No. 1-ranked player in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Rory McIlroy started by missing the cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, then was upset by Shane Lowry in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and now walked off the course at the Honda Classic in the second round due to pain in a wisdom tooth (per Doug Ferguson of PGA.com).
Regardless whether you agree with McIlroy withdrawing in the middle of his round, Rory's game is going through a transition phase. According to Ewan Murray of The Guardian, Nick Faldo expressed concern over McIlroy switching to Nike equipment.
Anytime you make a significant switch in golf, there is a feeling-out process. It's important to remember that Rory is only 23 years old, and if he's going to make an equipment switch and get a huge sponsorship deal, now is the time.
This is temporary, and it's not like the Northern Irishman is making a swing change just after dominating the 2012 PGA Championship. Rory's talent is through the roof.
Nonetheless, this wasn't just an average start for McIlroy. This was atrocious. The toothache will go away and the he will get used to the new equipment, but now he has his first real public relations problem.
Considering that his only tournaments in 2013 have resulted in a missed cut, a first-round upset and a withdraw, the No. 1-ranked player in the world is by far the most disappointing player to start 2013.