Weekly Preview - Sony OpenGreg Vara RotoWire.com Golf Writer
The more things change, the more they stay the same. A familiar face captured the first event of 2012 last weekend. Steve Stricker took advantage of the void left by many of the top players' absence and is once again atop the FedEx standings. OK, way too early to talk FedEx standings, but there probably won't be much impact to this win beyond the points earned. It was well chronicled last week that many of the top players eligible for this event chose to pass, and with that the field was much less potent than usual. There was still a handful of strong players in the field, and Stricker actually had to fight those same players off toward the end of the event. Small field to be sure, but still a nice victory for Stricker, who enters this season with some questions, due only to his age, of course. Stricker has given his detractors little ammo the last few years; the only reason anyone thinks he might slow down soon is his age, but he's still years away from the Champions Tour as he'll turn 45 in February. It seems as though Steve Stricker is determined to hold onto his spot atop the PGA TOUR, and with a win last week in Hawaii, he's well on his way.
What the Hyundai Tournament of Championship means:
Webb Simpson: If his first outing is any indication, Simpson has no plans of slowing down this season. Simpson came on strong during the second half of 2011 and the momentum has carried over to the start of 2012. He'll have to play out of his mind to top his numbers from last season, but he's already off to a good start, so it's certainly possible.
Martin Laird: Laird is quietly becoming one of the best players on the PGA TOUR. I say quietly because his name rarely comes up in conversations about the best in the game, but he comes into 2012 off consecutive $2 million-plus seasons, and it looks like he'll make that three seasons in a row after collecting $650K last week.
Jonathan Byrd: No reason to get too excited about Byrd's T3 last week. Remember, this is what he does. He shows up every couple months and does little in between. He won this event last year and failed to do much afterward.
This week: Sony Open
Players to Consider:
Johnson won here in 2009, so he knows his way around this course, but this pick is based more on his prospects for 2012, which look really strong.
Might as well strike while the iron is hot. Stricker generally fares well in Hawaii, and it looks like this year will be no exception as he already picked up a win in the Aloha state. His track record at Waialae is solid also with three Top-5s in his last five tries.
Not exactly a strong track record, but then again, he's a much better golfer now than at anytime in his career. It might be time to throw out anything prior to 2011.
Marino has collected three consecutive Top-10s here, including a runner-up finish last year. Marino will win sometime soon, and this could be the place.
Choi missed the cut here last year, but that's not indicative of how he's performed at Waialae over the years. He won here in 2008 and has four Top-15 finishes in his last six tries here.
Players to Avoid:
O'Hair spent most of the 2011 season underperforming and picked up right where he left off last season with a finish in the lower-half of the field last week. Look for something much the same this week.
Vegas really hasn't been the same since his absurdly hot start in 2011. He faded down the stretch in 2011 and is off to a poor start this season already. Waialae was actually one place he didn't play well early last year, so it's doubtful he can figure it out this time around.
Wagner generally plays well once or twice a season and has never had any luck here. Wagner has missed the cut three consecutive years heading into this year's event.
Toms has a good track record with a win in 2006 and a runner-up in 2009, but he was way off last week at the Hyundai. It's unlikely a change of venue can fix his game.
Maggert has some new life via his finish at Q-School last month, but his journey to the Top 125 may have to wait another week as he's struggled mightily here the last three years.