Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There's still snow on the ground in the
Northeast, but the golf season is starting to heat up. Here's a rundown of the
most impressive, disappointing and surprising golfers of the young campaign.
BRANDT SNEDEKER - This one's a no-brainer. Last year's FedEx Cup champion
picked up right where he left off. He followed consecutive runner-up finishes
to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson with a win last week at Pebble Beach and
rose to No. 4 in the world as a result (a career best). Throw in a tie for
third at the season-opening Tournament of Champions and Snedeker has clearly
been the most consistent golfer in the game.
Arguably the best putter on the PGA Tour, Snedeker ranks on the top 30 on the
season in Strokes Gained, Putting Average, and Overall Putting.
He's not in the field this week at the Northern Trust Open and he recently
withdrew from next week's WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship due to sore
ribs, so we'll likely have to wait until March to see if Snedeker can continue
his scintillating start.
PHIL MICKELSON - One extraordinary win has Phil amongst the early-season best.
That victory came at the Phoenix Open, where the lefty came within millimeters
of a first-round 59 and never relented. He tied the tournament's 54-hole
scoring mark a day later and eventually finished at 28-under 256, which tied
for the second-lowest score in a 72-hole PGA Tour event.
Mickelson hasn't finished higher than 37th in his three other tournaments this
season, but he is ranked third in the FedEx Cup standings, and that lone win
at raucous TPC Scottsdale was impressive enough in its own right.
TIGER WOODS - One PGA Tour start and one win for Tiger this season; not a bad
clip. The world No. 2 earned a 4-stroke victory in late January at the Farmers
Insurance Open (his 75th win on the PGA Tour). Although he didn't finish
strong (four dropped shots in his last six holes), Woods ranked first in Total
Driving for the tournament -- a disconcerting sign for the rest of the world.
Tiger's only other start this year came in Europe, where he missed the cut at
the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in his season debut. He recently committed to
the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship, The Honda Classic and the WGC -
Cadillac Championship. Those three events run in succession starting next
week, so another early-season win could be in the cards.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL - Schwartzel is making his PGA Tour season debut this week at
the Northern Trust Open, but he has already produced overseas. The 2011
Masters champion has played in two European Tour events thus far and has
posted a victory (at the Alfred Dunhill Championship) and a second-place
finish (at last week's Joburg Open).
DUSTIN JOHNSON - Johnson won the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of
Champions before withdrawing from the Sony Open in Hawaii the following week
due to flu-like symptoms.
He hasn't produced in his other two starts, with a tie for 51st at the Farmers
Insurance Open and a cut at Pebble Beach, but being linked to Paulina Gretzky
doesn't hurt your chances of making this list.
RUSSELL HENLEY - To call the PGA Tour rookie's debut a surprise would be an
Henley, a Web.com Tour graduate, blitzed the field at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
The 23-year-old, who was making his third career PGA Tour start and first as a
tour member, set the tournament's 36, 54 and 72-hole scoring marks en route to
a 3-stroke win.
A week later at the Humana Challenge, Henley found himself one shot off the
lead after an opening-round 64. He eventually came back to earth, finishing
tied for 56th at that event and tied for 67 at the Phoenix Open, but expect to
hear Henley's name again in the near future.
JAMES HAHN - Another rookie, Hahn has made the cut in all five of his starts
this season while producing two top-10 finishes.
He tied for fourth at the Humana Challenge, but his best showing came last
week at Pebble Beach, where the 31-year-old shared the lead with Snedeker
entering Sunday before eventually settling for a third-place tie.
Add to that his ridiculous 'Gangnam Style' dance at the 16th at TPC Scottsdale
and Hahn has certainly made a name for himself in the early going.
VIJAY SINGH - The World Golf Hall of Famer's best finish this year is a tie
for 20th at the Sony Open. And while his play has been lackluster, it's his
actions off the course that have generated negative attention.
Singh, of course, recently admitted in a Sports Illustrated report that he has
used deer-antler spray -- a product which contains the PGA Tour-banned
substance IGF-1. The soon-to-be 50-year-old has been understandably mum since
the story broke, but the damage has been done and controversy is sure to
follow him throughout the season.
RORY MCILROY - It's tough to lump the world No. 1 into this category
considering he has just one start (on the European Tour) but, like Tiger,
McIlroy missed the cut in that start at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Include the fact that he carded consecutive 75s at the event with his new Nike
clubs, and that he abandoned his Nike Method 006 Prototype putter during the
second round, and Rory has something to prove.
He makes his PGA Tour debut at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match
DEBUTING THIS WEEK
World No. 3 LUKE DONALD, ADAM SCOTT and GRAEME MCDOWELL are making their PGA
Tour season debuts at the Northern Trust Open.
The Sports Network