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Golf rankings, capsules

The SportsXchange

The Sports Xchange's 2014 preseason PGA Tour rankings, selected by TSX Golf Staff.

1. Tiger Woods, United States -- Last year at this time, there were people wondering if Woods would ever win again. He proved the naysayers very wrong by claiming five PGA Tour titles. The quality of his victories was impressive, as he captured the Players Championship, two World Golf Championships, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Farmers Insurance Open. Of course, he did not claim another major title, and remains stuck on 14 since winning the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. ... Probably the closest Woods came in the Grand Slam events in 2013 was at the Masters, where he seemed about to take the lead on the 15th hole of the second round before his approach shot hit the flagstick and bounced back in the water. That led to what turned out to be three penalty strokes after he took an illegal drop. Instead of making a bogey, he took a triple-bogey 8 and eventually finished four shots behind winner Adam Scott. Tiger really likes his chances in the majors this year because he won previously at three of the four venues -- four times at Augusta, the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool and the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla. Not only that, but he tied for third in 1999 and finished solo second in 2005 at Pinehurst No. 2, site of the U.S. Open in June. ... Woods last played in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in 2005. Even though he won it twice and never finished out of the top 10 in eight appearances, and he won't be in Kapalua this week. He will start his PGA Tour season later this month in the Farmers at Torrey Pines, where he won eight times in his career.

2. Adam Scott, Australia -- It will be interesting to see of Scott can maintain his incredible level of play and challenge Woods for the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Rankings after the biggest year of his career, or if he will experience a letdown. He became the first Aussie to win the Masters when he beat Angel Cabrera of Argentina in a playoff at Augusta National, and he won three more times in 2013, including the Barclays to open the PGA Tour playoffs. Then he nearly matched Robert Allenby's 2005 feat of pulling off the Australian Triple Crown in one year, winning the Australian PGA and the Australian Masters before Rory McIlroy beat him on the final hole of the Australian Open. ... Scotty could have closed to within less than a point of Woods in rankings by winning that last tournament of the year, and he will have a chance to close in this week because Woods is not playing in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Scott will be playing at Kapalua for the sixth time. He has three top-10 finishes in the event but none since 2007. He finished second that year, opening with an even-par 73 before posting three scores of 69 to wind up two strokes behind winner Vijay Singh. In 2011, the last time he played the tournament, he broke 70 only when he shot 67 in round two and wound up in a tie for 21st in the 32-player field. ... Two factors played major roles in Scott turning his career around a few years ago: going to the long putter and hiring Steve Williams as his caddie. At some point, he will have to figure out how to win without both, because long putters will be illegal as of 2016 and Williams said this might be his last full season on the bag.

3. Henrik Stenson, Sweden -- What can the big Swede do for an encore after winning the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour and the Race to Dubai on the European Tour in 2013? He rose to a career-high No. 3 in the World Golf Rankings, trailing only Tiger Woods and Adam Scott, and with a few more victories, he could become the first male Swede to become No. 1 in the world, which he set as a goal. Of course, Annika Sorenstam was No. 1 in the Rolex Women's World Rankings for several years and is considered by some to be the best female golfer of all-time. ... Stenson played in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions only once, when he tied for 28th in the winners-only event in 2008. He broke the par of 73 on the Plantation Course only once, when he posted a 68 in the final round, and he won't be back in Kapalua this week to try to improve on that finish. The schedule at henrikstenson.com indicates that he will start his 2014 season in two weeks in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, which he will be playing for the sixth consecutive year. ... Stenson, who was selected 2013 European Tour Player of the Year, virtually dropped off the golf map twice in his career, only to make it all the way back into the top 10 in the rankings. In addition to reaching No. 1 in the world, another goal he set for himself is to become the first Swedish male to capture a major championship. He showed he can win the big events, capturing the 2009 Players Championship, the 2007 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, two PGA Tour playoff events last year including the Tour Championship, and the 2013 DP World Tour Championship Dubai.

4. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland -- McIlroy showed signs late last year that he was on the verge of breaking out of his season-long funk, and he finally put everything together when he beat Adam Scott with a birdie on the final hole of the Australian Open in December. It was his first victory since winning four times the year before, when he rose to No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings. He starts the new season at No. 6, and whether it was the switch to Nike clubs or something else that led to his troubles, he is too talented to stay down for long. ... McIlroy never played in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and he isn't eligible to play in Kapalua this week because he did not win a tournament on the PGA Tour last season. The schedule at rorymcilroy.com has him starting his season in two weeks in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, where he shot 75-76--150 and missed the cut last year after his splashy press conference announcing that he was going with Nike. Some people thought that glitzy show might have put too much pressure on him, but he knows all about pressure, having won two major championships. ... Rory was so good so soon that some people tend to forget that he is only 24. Despite his struggles last season, he should be among the elite players in the game for years to come. He seemed to handle the intense media scrutiny well, especially the interest in his relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, until his game went south on him last season. After rumors that they had broken up, the Wozzilroys, as they are known, were together at several tournaments late last year.

5. Phil Mickelson, United States -- Even though he didn't win again in 2013 after claiming the Open Championship for the first time in July, the victory at Muirfield seemed to energize Lefty. It took him to within one step of the career Grand Slam, and he will get the chance to achieve that milestone in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in June. He finished second in the national championship an agonizing six times, including last year at Merion and also in 1999 at Pinehurst, when Payne Stewart beat him on the last hole. ... Mickelson captured the old Mercedes Championships, now the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, in 1994 and 1998 when it was played at La Costa, near his home in San Diego. However, he doesn't particularly like the Plantation Course, and he hasn't played in Kapalua since 2001. Lefty also has had an on-and-off relationship with what is now the Humana Challenge, which he won twice when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He is skipping the California desert event in two weeks, when he will start his year in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. He will open his PGA Tour season the following week in his hometown event, the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. ... Mickelson took notice when Steve Stricker cut back to 13 events last year at the age of 46 and performed very well even though he did not win a tournament, finishing second four times. Lefty, who will be 44 in June, said he plans to do the same this season, without saying how many events he will play. He will defend his title in the Waste Management Phoenix Open the week after the Farmers. He also said he would play in the Memorial and the FedEx St. Jude Classic leading up to the U.S. Open, but he has not released a full schedule.

6. Justin Rose, England -- There were those who thought Rose might take his game to a new level after becoming the first Englishman to win a major in 17 years (Nick Faldo, 1996 Masters) and the first to win the U.S. Open in 43 years (Tony Jacklin, 1970 at Hazeltine) by outlasting Phil Mickelson and Jason Day last year at Merion. He still might reach that next plateau, but he is winless since claiming his first major title last June, although he came close when he missed a five-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole of the Barclays that would have put him in a playoff with winner Adam Scott in the PGA Tour playoff opener. ... Rose played in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions only once, tying for 12th in 2011, when he opened with a 2-over-par 75 before rallying with 67-69-68. He is eligible to play this week at Kapalua but is not making the trip. Rosy is another player who will make his 2014 debut in two weeks in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, in which he tied for second behind Jamie Donaldson of Wales in his only appearance last year. Rose said late last year that he might take a month off in February and skip the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. ... For a guy who had such a difficult start to his pro career, missing the cut in his first 21 events, the 33-year-old Rose is doing quite well, winning 14 official titles around the world, and three others that were not official. He has won five times on the PGA Tour since 2010, and if he can keep up that pace and throw in another major or two, he could be knocking on the door of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

7. Matt Kuchar, United States -- Mr. Consistency only has to win a little more often to become one of the truly great players in this era, and last year was a good start. He captured the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and the Memorial Tournament, his first season with multiple victories. Kuchar, who made the cut in all 23 of his starts on the PGA Tour in 2013 and has a streak of 28 in a row that is the longest active run on the circuit, claimed five of his six victories since 2010. The only thing is, there could have been more, because he leads the PGA Tour with 48 finishes in the top 10 since 2008. ... Kooch, who finished 2013 with a tie for seventh in the McGladrey Classic and two unofficial top-5s in the World Cup of Golf and the Northwestern Mutual Challenge, will start his 2014 schedule this week in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Not surprisingly, he finished in the top 10 in three of his four starts at Kapaula. After tying for 25th in his first appearance in 2003, he finished solo third in 2010, tied for sixth in 2011 and tied for ninth last year. Four years ago, he closed with a 6-under-par 67 and finished three strokes behind winner Geoff Ogilvy. ... The only thing missing from the 35-year-old Kuchar's resume heading into the season is a major title. After being low amateur in the 1998 Masters and U.S. Open with top-20 finishes, it took him until 2010 to crack the top 10 in the Grand Slam events. However, he showed that he can be a major player with six top-10s since, including a tie for third and a tie for eighth in the past two Masters.

8. Brandt Snedeker, United States -- If Snedeker could only stay healthy for a full season, just think of what he might accomplish. The 32-year-old was forced to pull out of three postseason tournaments late last year because of left knee injury he sustained jumping off a Segway while appearing at a corporate outing for one of his sponsors in China. That came after he was diagnosed earlier in the year for low bone turnover and began taking medication to help prevent the continuation of a series of injuries he had in his ribcage area. Sneds also had surgeries to correct congenital problems in both hips after the 2010 and 2011 seasons. ... Snedeker claims he is healthy as he starts his 2014 campaign this week in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He is playing at Kapalua for the third time, having tied for 10th in 2008 and finished solo third last year. He closed with a 4-under-par 69 when the tournament was shortened to 54 holes because of tropical rain. ... Snedeker is hoping for the type of start he had last year, when he was the best player on the PGA Tour and perhaps in the world for the first two months. After his finish in Hawaii, he tied for 23rd in the Humana Challenge, tied for second in the Farmers Insurance Open and finished solo second in the Waste Management Phoenix Open before winning the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Then he was struck again by the injury bug, this time a strained intercostal muscle, missed two months, and did not really regain his early-season form until he won the RBC Canadian Open in July. Despite his injuries, he has five wins since 2011.

9. Jason Dufner, United States -- Duf endured a disappointing beginning to 2013, with no top-10 finishes in his first 13 starts, but he showed what a big-time player he is by turning things around in the big events. He tied for fourth in the U.S. Open at Merion and tied for fourth again in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and the payoff came a week after that. In a magical four days at Oak Hill, he shot the 26th round of 63 in a major championship on Friday and wound up winning his first Grand Slam title by two strokes over Jim Furyk. ... Dufner will kick off his 2014 campaign by playing in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions for the second time. In his debut at Kapalua last year, he finished in a tie for 18th, bouncing back from a 4-over-par 77 in round two with a closing 69 as the tournament was shortened to 54 holes by rain. Even though he played reasonably well on an early-season trip to the Middle East last year, tying for ninth in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, he is not going to repeat the trek because he said he lost his swing in the windy conditions and didn't get it back until the middle of the season on the PGA Tour. ... Dufner, 36, completed quite a career turnaround, from career journeyman only three years ago to a three-time winner on the PGA Tour and a major champion who is No. 15 in the World Golf Rankings. He might have two titles in the Grand Slam events, but he blew a five-stroke lead with three holes to play and lost the 2011 PGA Championship to Keegan Bradley in a playoff.

10. Jason Day, Australia -- Day, 26, again showed what he is capable of when he captured the individual title in the World Cup of Golf, outplaying even teammate Adam Scott while carrying Australia to the team championship late last season at Royal Melbourne. That was his fourth victory as a pro, but he has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2010 HP Byron Nelson Championship, his only victory on the circuit. He closed his season by tying for sixth in the Australian Open, so he could be ready with a fast start in 2014. ... Day tied for ninth in his only appearance in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, shooting 66-69 in the middle rounds, but he won't be at Kapalua this week because he failed to win on the PGA Tour last season. He is expected to start 2014 in two weeks at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he got off to a good start in 2013 with a tie for ninth. ... Before heating up late in the year Down Under, Day played his best golf of 2013 in the first six months of the year. He recorded five of his seven finishes in the top 10 on the PGA Tour during that stretch, including three in his first four tournaments, the best of which was finishing third in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, where he lost to eventual winner Matt Kuchar in the semifinals before beating Ian Poulter in the consolation match. However, Day saved his best for the majors, finishing third as Scott became the first Aussie to win the Masters and tying for second in the U.S. Open at Merion behind Justin Rose. He starts the year at No. 11 in the World Golf Rankings, and he said after winning the World Cup that he hopes to someday be No. 1.

11. Zach Johnson, United States -- Coming off a year in which he won twice on the PGA Tour, Johnson was expecting big things in 2013, but he struggled until he posted his first top-10 finish when he finished solo third in the Crowne Plaza Invitational. Then he reeled off seven more top-10s, including a victory in the BMW Championship during the PGA Tour playoffs, and he hopes to carry that form into the new year this week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. ... Zach is playing at Kapalua for the seventh time, but the only time he wound up in the top 10 on the Plantation Course was in 2009, when he tied for sixth by closing with 64-67. He broke 70 only five times in 23 rounds on the course, the last coming when he shot 6-under-par 67 in round three in 2011. ... Johnson is hoping to get to Hawaii with some momentum from winning the unofficial Northwestern Mutual World Challenge last month, his final event of the year. After hitting his approach into the water on the 72nd hole, he holed out from the drop zone to get into a playoff with tournament host Tiger Woods, then won with a par on the first extra hole. That gave him 25 victories as a pro, including the 2007 Masters. It also was a continuation of his fine play down the stretch in the 2013 season, capped by a tie for seventh in the Tour Championship at East Lake that lifted him to fifth in the final FedEx Cup standings. Thank to his surge late in the year, Johnson rose to ninth in the World Golf Rankings, where he starts the new year.

12. Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland -- G-Mac played some of his best golf since winning the 2010 U.S. Open early in the 2013 season, capped by his playoff victory over Webb Simpson in the RBC Heritage. After a bit of a lull in the second half of the PGA Tour season, perhaps caused by the planning and buildup to his marriage in October, he heated up again late in the year and seems ready to start out quickly in 2014. ... McDowell was eligible to start his season this week, but he decided not to play in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions for the second time. He finished solo third in his only appearance on the Plantation Course in 2011. The Irishman has not yet indicated where he will start his season, but he did not get going last year until the Northern Trust Open in mid-February. McDowell will play in at least one tournament on the West Coast Swing, having committed to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, returning for the first time to the scene of his only major victory in 2010. ... McDowell won three times around the world in 2013, giving him 12 victories as a pro, as he also captured the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria and the Alstom Open de France on the European Tour. However, he was wildly and uncharacteristically inconsistent, missing the cut seven times on both major tours. He finished third in the WGC-HSBC Champions, tied for 15th in the individual standings at the World Cup of Golf and was solo sixth in the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge late in the year, and he hopes to carry that momentum into the 2014 campaign.

13. Jordan Spieth, United States -- Even though he was projected to be a future star during his amateur and college career, nobody expected the 20-year-old to come so far this soon. A year ago, he left the University of Texas in the middle of his sophomore year and had no playing status on any pro tour. He planned to play the Web.com Tour on sponsors' exemptions, but he did so well on invitations to PGA Tour events that he earned a spot on the big tour and will start the year at No. 22 in the World Golf Rankings. ... Spieth qualified to play in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions this week by claiming his first PGA Tour victory in dramatic fashion at the John Deere Classic. He holed a shot from a greenside bunker for birdie on the final hole to get into a playoff, then beat defending champion Zach Johnson and David Hearn of Canada with a par on the first playoff hole. He could have won three other times as a rookie, tying for second behind Scott Brown in the Puerto Rico Open, losing to Patrick Reed in a playoff at the Wyndham Championship and tying for second behind Henrik Stenson in the Tour Championship. ... Spieth, who once was the No. 1 amateur in the world, is doing quite well for a college dropout, which is what his 10-year-old cousin called him during the holidays, he said in a message on Twitter last week. His victory in the John Deere was the first on the PGA Tour by a teenager since Ralph Guldahl captured the 1931 Santa Monica Open. He went on to earn Rookie of the Year honors, and this year he will play in all four majors for the first time.

14. Luke Donald, England -- Only two years ago, Donald was No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings after becoming the first player to win the money titles on the PGA Tour and the European Tour in the same season in 2011. He held the top ranking for a total of 56 weeks and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth. Now he finds himself trying to climb back from No. 17 in the rankings after a trying stretch in which his only victories came in the last two Dunlop Phoenix tournaments in Japan, the latest in November. ... Luke is hoping that victory will give him some momentum heading into his first tournament of 2014, in two weeks at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, in which he has not cracked the top 10 in his previous two appearances. His only appearance during stage one of the PGA Tour's wraparound schedule didn't exactly point to him making a quick start to 2014, as he finished in a tie for 31st in the WGC-HSBC Champions in November, failing to break 70 in any of his four rounds at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai. However, he followed that with a promising tie for fifth in the DP World Championship-Dubai, the finale of the European Tour season, reeling off rounds of 66-67-67 the last three days. ... Donald took a long break before starting last year in the Northern Trust Open in mid-February, and he never really got anything going. The worst came in the summer, when he missed the cut in three of four events, including the U.S. Open at Merion and the Open Championship at Muirfield. He hopes to put 2013 in the rearview mirror quickly with a fast start in Abu Dhabi.

15. Dustin Johnson, United States -- DJ got off to a quick start last year when he captured the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but he was slowed by illness and a back injury. He posted only five more top-10 finishes, the last solo fifth in the Tour Championship to finish sixth in the final FedEx Cup standings. He also won his first event of the PGA Tour's new wraparound 2013-14 schedule, claiming the WGC-HSBC Champions by three strokes over Ian Poulter at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai in November. It was his first victory in the World Golf Championships. ... Johnson hopes to get the new year off to a similar start this week in Kapalua, where he makes his fifth appearance on the Plantation Course. He was the winner a year ago when the tournament was shortened to 54 holes because of tropical rain. His best previous finish was a tie for ninth in 2011, when he closed with a 5-under-par 68, and he also tied for 16th in 2010 and was solo 11th in 2009. ... Since the new season is under way, Johnson's victory in Shanghai gave him titles in seven consecutive seasons since he came out of Coastal Carolina University. It is the second-longest active streak, trailing only the run of nine held by Phil Mickelson. Johnson had his brother, Austin, on the bag in China and announced afterward that it is now a full-time arrangement. This is the second time he dumped caddie Bobby Brown, who was given much of the blame by critics when Johnson blew final-round leads in the 2010 U.S. Open and PGA Championship, among other negative incidents. Brown gave DJ the wrong tee time at the 2011 Northern Trust Open, and Johnson got to the first tee six seconds before being disqualified. He still was assessed a two-stroke penalty.

16. Webb Simpson, United States -- Emphatically ending a winless streak that dated back to the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, Simpson beat Jason Bohn and Ryo Ishikawa of Japan by six strokes in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas in November, opening with 64-63. He also tied for seventh in the McGladrey Classic, another official event as the PGA Tour unveiled its new wraparound schedule for 2013-14. Simpson starts the year fourth in the FedEx Cup standings and sixth in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings. He also tied for fifth in the unofficial Northwestern Mutual World Challenge last month... Webb will make his 2014 debut this week in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, playing in Kapalua for the third consecutive year. He tied for third in his first appearance on the Plantation Course in 2012, posting four scores in the 60s to finish four strokes behind winner Steve Stricker. Last year he tied for 11th when the tournament was shortened by 54 holes because of rain. ... Simpson did not win during the 2013 regular season, although he came close, losing in a playoff to Graeme McDowell in the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head. That would have been a popular victory since he is a North Carolina native who played college golf at Wake Forest. His surge late in the year started when he finished solo fourth in the Tour Championship in September, closing with a 7-under-par 63 at East Lake. That means he finished no worse than a tie for seventh in his last four events, a possible indication that Simpson might be ready for a quick start to what could be a big year.

17. Sergio Garcia, Spain -- After falling from No. 2 in the World Golf Rankings in 2008 to lower than No. 50 two years later, Garcia made the long climb back and will start 2014 at No. 10. He achieved that spot by winning the Thailand Golf Championship last month in his final event of a year in which he played well but until that point had yet to win a tournament. He claimed two victories in each of the previous two years. The 33-year-old owns 25 wins as a pro, and he still has a chance to achieve some of the greatness that was predicted for him as a precocious teenager. ... The man who was dubbed "El Nino" as a promising youngster will start 2014 in two weeks by playing in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship for the sixth time. He never finished out of the top 15 in the event. He is expected to stick around on the Middle East Swing of the European Tour for at least one more week and tee it up in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, in which he tied for second last year, one stroke behind Chris Wood of England. ... It will be interesting to see who will be carrying the bag for Garcia in the Middle East after he won in Thailand with his girlfriend, Katharina Boehm of Germany, as his caddie. She certainly knows the game, having won the 2006 Bavarian Junior Girls Championship and last spring finished a four-year career on the women's golf team at the College of Charleston, winning the 2013 Cowgirl Desert Intercollegiate. With Boehm at his side, Garcia seemed happier on a golf course than he was in quite some time.

18. Keegan Bradley, United States -- Although he played well in his third season on the PGA Tour, Bradley did not win a tournament for the first time. He came the closest when he finished second in the HP Byron Nelson Championship, which he won in 2011, and he tied for second in defense of his title in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Those were two of his seven top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour. If he keeps putting himself in position, he is bound to win again soon, and the 2011 PGA champion would love to make it a second major title. ... By failing to win on the PGA Tour last year, Bradley did not qualify for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions this week at Kapalua, so he will not make his 2014 debut until the Humana Challenge in two weeks in the California desert. In his only appearance at the tournament, he posted four scores in the 60s and wound up in a tie for seventh. A year ago, he played six times on the West Coast Swing, but that won't happen this time since he is missing the two events in Hawaii. ... Bradley put himself in good position heading into the year by playing twice in official events on the PGA Tour in Asia at the start of the new wraparound schedule, finishing solo 10th in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia despite a 76 in the third round, and tying for 11th in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China. He also tied for 13th in the Northwestern Mutual Challenge, an unofficial event last month. After more than a month off for the holidays, he should be rarin' to go when he gets to California.

19. Ian Poulter, England -- One of these years, Poulter's putting ability and his prowess in the Ryder Cup figure to pay off with a big season, but so far the 37-year-old has been nothing if not inconsistent. He famously was quoted a few years ago as saying that when he got his game together, he would be right there behind Tiger Woods. Although he seems to have ability, he has yet to pull it off. When he followed his play in the 2012 Ryder Cup, in which he virtually willed the Europeans to victory, by winning the WGC-HSBC Champions at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, China, it seemed his time had come, but 2013 was another disappointment. ... Poulter started off last year by tying for ninth in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but because he was worn out by a busy schedule late in 2012, he didn't play again until the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, which he won in 2010. He again showed he is one of the best match players in the world by finishing fourth, losing to Hunter Mahan in the semifinals, but he didn't have another top-10 finish until he tied for third in the Open Championship at Muirfield in July. That was one of only four top-10s he had all season on the PGA Tour. ... Poulter, who has yet to indicate when he will play for the first time in 2014, heated up again later in the year, when he finished second behind Sergio Garcia in his title defense in the WGC-HSBC Champions in its return to Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, and he wound up solo seventh in the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge last month. Wherever he starts, he needs to bring that form.

20. Charl Schwartzel, South Africa -- Buying a home at Old Palm Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., so he can play the PGA Tour full time has yet to pay off for Schwartzel. Although he has not played badly, his only victory on the PGA Tour remains the 2011 Masters, before he made the move. Schwartzel lives much of the year in South Africa but admits things get a bit confusing at times because he actually plays three tours: the PGA Tour, the European Tour and the Sunshine Tour in South Africa, on which he won the Order or Merit, or money list, four times. ... Schwartzel will get his year started next week in the Volvo Golf Champions at Durban Country Club in Durban, South Africa. He played in the tournament once before, finishing fifth two years ago on the Links at Fancourt in George, South Africa. He also might play on the Middle East Swing of the European Tour in the next few weeks and at the beginning of next month in the Joburg Open in South Africa, which he won in 2010 and 2011. Schwartzel didn't make his first appearance last year on the PGA Tour until the middle of February in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera, where he tied for third in his 2013 debut on the U.S. tour. ... Schwartzel claimed his 12th professional victory last month in the Alfred Dunhill Championship, which is co-sanctioned by the Euro Tour and the Sunshine Tour, winning it for the second consecutive year and the third time overall. He hopes to have that success lead to the same on the PGA Tour this year.

Others receiving consideration: Ernie Els, South Africa; Jim Furyk, United States; Lee Westwood, England; Bubba Watson, United States; Bill Haas, United States; Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa; Hunter Mahan, United States; Ryan Moore, United States.
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