Weekly Preview - Sony OpenGreg Vara RotoWire.com Golf Writer
We have an early leader in the "taking the reins in 2010" race. OK, it needs a little work, but until the king returns, I'm sticking with it. In case you missed it, the theory goes like this: a handful of players will look to take their games up a notch with the absence of Tiger Woods. Sure, these guys always look to improve, but there's something about the absence of Mr. Woods that might give them an extra edge. The likely candidates heading into the season were Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy, Jim Furyk, Anthony Kim, etc. ... basically, any player in or near the top-10 who has the potential to go from excellent golfer to superstar. Mickelson is the only player among the group who might be considered a superstar, but even Mick's status could see a bump over the next few months. Ogilvy is the early clubhouse leader, but remember, he won this event last year and is known to play well early in the year, so his tale will be told after March. Right around the time Tiger comes back. Will players such as Ogilvy, Kim and Cink have more swagger when Woods returns this time? Will it matter? For all the issues Tiger has dealt with over the years - knee injury, swing changes, etc. - he's always bounced back and always reclaimed his throne. This time could be different, but the key lies within the minds of those who hope to "take the reins in 2010."
What the SBS means:
Geoff Ogilvy: A fast start to the golf season is nothing new to Ogilvy. He's coming off a nice year, and there's reason to think he'll take it to the next level this season. But, as mentioned, we won't know until April.
Rory Sabbatini: Sabbatini is also a notorious quick starter on the PGA TOUR, but success at this event isn't part of his normal M.O. Sabbatini doesn't usually kick it into gear until the Sony. Maybe this is a sign of things to come?
Ryan Moore: Look out PGA TOUR. Moore tied for sixth last week, and while there's room for improvement, it's good to see that he kept some momentum from last season.
This week: Sony Open
Players to Consider:
Last week, the bombers had their way. This week it's the shot-makers, and there are few better right now than Steve Stricker. Stricker finished T-4 in both 2007 and 2008 here.
It's been a while since Els played well here, but he's only entered the Sony once in the last four years. Prior to that, Els had a three-year stretch where he finished no worse than runner-up.
As mentioned, there's a premium on accuracy this week -- enter Jerry Kelly. Kelly once owed this event, finishing no worse than fifth from 2002-2004. Since then, his production has dropped off a bit, but he did manage a tie for third in 2008, which gives hope he can finish high this year.
Toms won this event in 2006 and finished runner-up last year, so there's definitely a love for this course. Toms' skills may be declining, but he's still capable of winning from time to time.
Kevin Na is a player whom you'll need to focus on early in the year, because after the first few months, he's generally not the same player. Na finished fourth and fifth here the last two years.
Players to Avoid:
Curtis usually passes on Hawaii, but the two times he teed it up here, he missed the cut. Perhaps the beach is more important.
Speaking of passing on this event, Leonard hasn't played here since 1995. Sure, it's not exactly as easy commute, but he's played the Mercedes during that span, so why not here? There must be something about this track that he doesn't like.
Quinney is known for playing well early in the season, but that doesn't start until the PGA TOUR hits California. In his three starts here, Quinney has failed to crack the top-70.
Faxon won this event in 2001. You know, back when he had game. Faxon's decline is among the most dramatic I've seen, but there's no denying it, he's lost his game.
Not many players go from winning an event to missing the cut in the next two years, but that's Paul Goydos. Goydos is always a coin-flip, so do you feel lucky?