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Weekly Preview - Sony Open

Greg 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

Last Year: Zach Johnson shot a final-round 65 on his way to a two-stroke victory over Adam Scott.

Players to Consider:

  1. Steve Stricker

    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.

  2. Ernie Els

    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.

  3. Jerry Kelly

    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.

  4. David Toms

    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.

  5. Kevin Na

    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:

  1. Ben Curtis

    Curtis usually passes on Hawaii, but the two times he teed it up here, he missed the cut. Perhaps the beach is more important.

  2. Justin Leonard

    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.

  3. Jeff Quinney

    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.

  4. Brad Faxon

    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.

  5. Paul Goydos

    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?

Article first appeared 1/12/10

Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:

This week: Sony Open

Group A

  1. Zach Johnson
  2. Steve Stricker

Group A comes down to three players this week, the two I've chosen and Ernie Els. Stricker feels like the best pick of the bunch, so it's between Johnson and Els. Normally I'd take Els, but since I'm already off to a poor start, I need to shake it up a bit.

Group B

  1. Charles Howell III
  2. Kevin Na
  3. Retief Goosen
  4. David Toms

Three of the four players chosen have nice track records here, and Goosen played really well last week. That seems like a good balance to me. Howell III and Na are known for starting fast, so one of the two should show up this week.

Group C

  1. Jerry Kelly
  2. Matt Kuchar

Group C is really thin this week. Fortunately, there are a couple players who already have some rounds under their belt. Two of those players are Kuchar and Kelly. Kelly has a solid track record here and Kuchar was lights-out last week.

Starters Round One

  1. Zach Johnson
  2. Retief Goosen
  3. David Toms
  4. Jerry Kelly

A good mix of players coming in hot and players with solid track records at this event. For some reason, Stricker has not played well in the opening round at this event the last five years, which makes Johnson the play in round one. Toms hasn't set the world on fire in round one at this event, but he won't get you in trouble with a horrible round either. Goosen comes in off a solid effort at the SBS and, hopefully, can carry some momentum in. Kelly gets the nod in Group C because of his track record here. That, and even though Kuchar played well last week, he's yet to play well at this venue.

Round Two and Going Forward:

It shouldn't take long to get Stricker in the line-up from Group A. He might need a round to shake off the rust, but after that, he should be good to go. I'll make a point to get Stricker in early so I am free on the weekend. Toms and Goosen start in round one and could stay in the line-up all week unless Howell III or Na shows me something early. Neither Na or Howell III are locks to play well this week, but they've both shown the potential to play well here, so a quick start will get them into the line-up, while a bad start could keep them on the bench all week. Kelly has a tight hold on the starting spot in Group C and only a strong start by Kuchar will remove him. Kelly stays in the line-up until Kuchar forces my hand.