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The SportsXchange

The Sports Xchange's 2013 PGA Tour rankings, selected by TSX Golf Staff, based on 2012-2013 performance.

1. Tiger Woods, United States -- Woods already was the favorite of the bookmakers to win the Masters next week before he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the eighth time, which made the odds even shorter. He has won three times in his four stroke-play events this year after missing the cut in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on the Middle East Swing of the European Tour. This is the fourth time in his career he has won three times before the first major of the year, but when he did it in 2000, 2003 and 2008, he did not go on to win the Masters. ... Woods got a congratulatory text message from Rory McIlroy after supplanting his young friend at the top of the World Golf Rankings, and Tiger texted right back in profane terms that Rory should win the Shell Houston Open and take the No. 1 ranking back last week. McIlroy, who had been No. 1 for 32 weeks since last Augusta, tied for 45th in Houston and remained No. 2. ... Woods got in his last competitive round before the Masters last Tuesday, when he played for Team Albany in the Tavistock Cup at Isleworth. He carded only one birdie and posted a score of 1-over-par 73 on a cold and windy day on which only Webb Simpson and Graeme McDowell broke par. However, that was enough to help Albany, a luxury resort in the Bahamas of which Woods is part owner, into a playoff in which Ian Poulter made birdie on the first playoff hole to beat Lake Nona.

2. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland -- With a victory in the Shell Houston Open, McIlroy could have regained the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Rankings from Tiger Woods, but he didn't come close, finishing in a tie for 45th. He was planning a two-day humanitarian trip to Haiti this week, but at the suggestion of caddie J.P. Fitzgerald, he decided to put it off and play in the Valero Texas Open because he needs some work before the first major of the year. ... McIlroy has never played in the Texas Open, and he said wasn't going to this time either, but he changed his mind last Friday and committed to the tournament at TPC San Antonio with the Masters a week away. He has played only 12 1/2 competitive rounds this season and needs the work with his new clubs. It somehow seems like a long time ago because of what he's gone through with his struggles early this season, but Rory must try to find the feeling he had in the last major, when he captured the PGA Championship by eight strokes last August. ... Even though he said he saw improvement in his game last week in Houston, McIlroy was unable to break 70 in any of his four rounds on the Tournament Course at Redstone, coming off a 7-under-par 65 in the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship, in which he tied for eighth. He played his best golf early in round three, when he was a bogey-free 4-under through 12 holes before carding three bogeys in the last six holes to shoot 71. That came one day after he shot 70, recording his only bogey at No. 2. Rory holed a 24-foot putt on the final hole Sunday to finish with another 70.

3. Brandt Snedeker, United States -- Continuing to show the rust from missing five weeks because of a right rib injury, Snedeker shot 74-71 -- 145 last week and missed the cut by two shots in the Shell Houston Open. It was his second consecutive missed cut since returning, as he also did not reach the weekend in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and probably does not have much confidence heading to the first major of the season. ... Before missing all that time because of the injury, Snedeker was considered one of the favorites for the Masters next week, and he still could be in there if he can play the way he did early this season, especially in his victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He led the FedEx Cup standings until Tiger Woods passed him by winning at Bay Hill two weeks ago, having posted four finishes in the top three in his first five starts before being set back by the injury. ... Sneds was one stroke outside of the cut-line when he reached the eighth hole while finishing on the back nine in round two at Houston. Trying to reach the green in two, he hit his approach into the water and wound up with a bogey 6. He actually played reasonably well in his opening 74, but found himself stymied by a tree on the 11th hole and had to hit his second shot left-handed with an inverted iron. The shot ran across the fairway and trickled into the water, leading to a double-bogey 6. If nothing else, he played better than the 76-76 he posted at Bay Hill.

4. Phil Mickelson, United States -- Mickelson charged up the leaderboard with birdies on his first four holes in the final round of the Shell Houston Open to pull within one stroke of the lead. However, he missed several chances while following with carding eight consecutive pars and had to settle for a 4-under-par 68 to wind up in a tie for 16th, but showed that his game is in good shape heading to the Masters next week. ... For one of the few times, Lefty is not going to play a week before a major championship, passing on the Valero Texas Open, which he played only in 1992, when he finished in a tie for 47th at Oak Hill Country Club. He's going to get to Augusta National early and continue his preparations for the Masters in search of his fourth Green Jacket, having already made one reconnaissance trip with Keegan Bradley last month. ... Mickelson started with 72-71 -- 143 to make the cut right on the number last week in Houston, but bounced back to shoot 67-68 on the weekend. He did not card a bogey in the final round, but lost his chance to win the tournament when he drove into a greenside bunker on the 14th hole and three-putted from 34 feet for a double-bogey five. Mickelson took two other double bogeys earlier in the tournament, both after driving into the water on the par-4 fifth hole in the first and second rounds. He dumped the Claw and went to an oversized grip on his putter and averaged 28.0 putts per round, but missed several make-able putts, especially on Sunday.

5. Dustin Johnson, United States -- Playing his best golf since winning the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Johnson made a run up the leaderboard by shooting 7-under-par 65 in the final round of the Shell Houston Open. However, he left a few shots out on the Champions Course at Redstone and wound up in a tie for fourth, recording his first top-10 finish since the opener and getting a shot of confidence heading to the first major of the year. ... Johnson has played in the Valero Texas Open three times, with his best finish a tie for 15th in 2010, when he posted four rounds in the 60s, but he hasn't played in the event since 2009 and is passing again this week ahead of the Masters. He needs to get in some work at Augusta National, because even though he made the trip from South Carolina almost every year to the first major of the year with his parents as a youngster, he has failed to finish in the top 30 in any of his four appearances in the tournament. ... DJ posted five birdies and an eagle in the final round last week in Houston, but two shots cost him a chance to win the tournament. He hit his tee shot with a 3-wood into the water on the drive-able par-4 12th hole and missed a seven-foot putt for par. Two holes later, he hit his tee ball over the green, needed three shots to reach the putting surface and carded a bogey 4. Johnson bounced back with an eagle-3 on the 15th hole, but needed birdies coming in and closed with three consecutive pars.

6. Luke Donald, England -- Even though he was disappointed with his results early in the season after getting a late start by waiting until the Northern Trust Open in mid-February, Donald said he felt he was playing better than the results he was getting. When he tied for fourth in the Tampa Bay Championship, shooting, 67-69, on the weekend, it appeared things were coming together with the Masters only a few weeks away. He was expecting big things when he took a large appearance fee to fly off for the Maybank Malaysian Open two weeks ago, but instead missed the cut for the first time in a European Tour event in his career. He refused to use jet lag as an excuse, saying simply that he had to get things figured out before the first major of the year next week. ... Donald has been No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings for a total of 56 weeks in the last two years, and has been in the top 10 for 134 consecutive weeks, but he has slipped to No. 4 since Rory McIlroy took the top spot from him last August. Now he's chasing Tiger Woods, McIlroy and countryman Justin Rose, so he's not even the leading Englishman at this time. ... Luke is high on the list of the best active players not to win a major title, and after all the high expectations for him the last few years, perhaps it will be good for him to arrive at Augusta National next week flying a bit under the radar.

7. Justin Rose, England -- Rose's top-10 finishes in his last three PGA Tour events will put his name in the conversation ahead of the Masters next week, but he's going to have to step it up to become the first Englishman to win a major since Nick Faldo donned the Green Jacket in 1996. Some people are saying that's the next logical step for Rosy, but he has yet to prove he can be a consistent winner on the PGA Tour, with only four victories. He puts himself in position to win often enough, but has to start finishing off more of those close calls with victories. ... Rose has shown he can win big events against strong fields, winning the 2011 BMW Championship during the PGA Tour playoffs and the 2012 WGC-Cadillac Championship for the biggest title of his career. However, he has finished in the top five on the PGA Tour nine times in the last three years and has to figure out how to make the most of those chances. He does have six other victories around the world in his career, five of them on the European Tour, but has played more in the United States over the course of his career. ... Coming off his runner-up finish behind Tiber Woods in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rose played his final competitive round before the Masters next week in the Tavistock Cup last Tuesday. He struggled to a 5-over-par 77 in difficult conditions, but was on the winning side, as Ian Poulter holed a winning put to lift Team Albany over Lake Nona.

8. Matt Kuchar, United States -- Following a two-week break, Kuchar will make his final tune-up for the Masters when he tees it up on Thursday in the Valero Texas Open. He's had a terrific start to his season, with three more top-10 finishes to give him a PGA Tour-leading 32 in the last 3 1/2 years, including his fifth career victory on the circuit in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship late in February. ... Kooch is playing for the ninth time in the Texas Open, but for only the second at the current tournament site, TPC San Antonio, where he tied for 13th last year. He shot 5-under-par on Saturday to get into contention, but closed with a 73. That was his first appearance in San Antonio since 2008, when he missed the cut for the third consecutive time and the fourth time in five starts at La Cantera Golf Club. His best result in the tournament was a tie for second in 2001, when he posted four rounds in the 60s, including a 7-under-par 64 in the second round, but he finished two strokes behind native Texan Justin Leonard. That came a year after one of his five missed cuts in the tournament. ... Kuchar's strong start has put him third on the PGA Tour money list with $2,154,500 and third in the FedEx Cup standings, and even though he has never won a major he will be a darkhorse favorite next week in the Masters. He has shown he can win big events against top fields, capturing the Players Championship last year and then the Accenture.

9. Bubba Watson, United States -- Bubba passed on the two Texas events before he makes his title defense next week in the Masters. Although he has not won since donning the Green Jacket last April after beating Louis Oosthuizen with a par on the second playoff hole, he has finished in the top 20 in six of his seven events this season on the PGA. He missed the cut on an off week at the Northern Trust Open, but he is not far off his best stuff headed to the first major of the season. That's the way he finished last year, too, with eight finishes in the top 25 after winning the Masters, including a tie for second at the Travelers Championship and a tie for fifth at the Tour Championship. ... It's a big anniversary for Watson in another way because it was a year ago at this time that he and his wife, Angie, adopted their son, Caleb. He was an infant at the time and Bubba admits that he has teared up just thinking about it recently, as the family marked the milestone by moving back to his native Florida and after purchasing Tiger Woods' old house at Isleworth. ... Now that he is a resident, Watson played last week for Team Isleworth in the Tavistock Cup on his new home course. He posted an even-par 72 as Isleworth finished fourth in what was supposed to be a two-day competition, but was shortened to 18 holes of singles play because the Arnold Palmer Invitational ran over into Monday next door at Bay Hill.

10. Keegan Bradley, United States -- Looking for his first victory since the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last August, Bradley started the final round of the Shell Houston Open only two strokes out of the lead. He took himself out of contention quickly with three bogeys in the first seven holes, but rallied with five birdies in the last seven holes to shoot even-par 70 and tie for 10th. It was his fourth consecutive top-10 finish and fifth of the season, giving him some momentum heading to the Masters next week. ... Bradley finished in a tie for ninth in the Valero Texas Open as a rookie in 2011, posing a 4-under-par 68 in the final round, but he has decided to take a pass for the second consecutive year so he can get to Augusta National early ahead of his second Masters. For the second consecutive year, he made a trip to Augusta weeks before the tournament, and hopes to improve on the respectable tie for 27th he posted in his initial appearance. ... Keegan put himself in position to win last seek in Houston when he shot 5-under-par 67 in the third round, recording four birdies in a span of five holes through No. 16. The only blemish on his scorecard came when he three-putted the final hole from 55 feet for a bogey. He started the tournament with three birdies in a spotless first eight holes, but couldn't keep up the pace while playing the first two rounds in 70-70, before getting it going on Saturday. Bradley's numbers were very solid, as he hit nearly 70 percent of the greens and averaged 27.8 putts per round with his belly putter.

11. Adam Scott, Australia -- Even though he didn't elaborate, Scott said that he passed on the two Texas events, even though he won both in the past, because the shakeup in the schedule didn't fit into what he wanted to do heading into the Masters next week. He captured the Shell Houston Open in 2007 and the Valero Texas Open in 2010, but he also did not play in either a year ago and it led to a major season in which he finished in the top 15 of all four Grand Slam events. That's reason enough not to change. ... Scotty has played only four times this season, following a similar abbreviated slate that he set last year, and has done well in two of this three stroke-play events. He tied for 10th in the Northern Trust Open, his first event of the season in mid-February, and tied for third in the WGC-Cadillac Championship. The Aussie also played some good golf in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in his last outing, but a 4-under-par 76 in round three that followed a 66 helped drop him to a tie for 30th. He said he is chipping better than ever, having found something in practice sessions at home in Australia, and ranks eighth in scrambling on the PGA Tour at 67.5 percent. ... Scott played his last competitive golf before heading to the Masters, where he tied for eighth last year, in the Tavistock Cup and posted a 2-over-par 74 in the windy conditions last week at Isleworth as his Team Queenwood finished dead last among the six teams.

12. Webb Simpson, United States -- Simpson is No. 19 in the World Golf Rankings heading to the Masters next week, but he has something that 10 players ahead of him would gladly trade for: a major championship. His victory last year in the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco is one of his three PGA Tour victories, and he has not won since, so he might be trying a bit too hard to live up to the billing he gets on the first tee every time he tees it up in a tournament. ... It's not that he has played badly, with four top-10 finishes and 10 in the top 25, so it seems to be only a matter of time before he finds the winner's circle again. Webb shot 80-73 -- 153 to miss the cut by six strokes in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in his last outing, but no one saw him coming last year at the Olympic Club because he missed the cut in his two previous events. He was playing well enough before arriving at Bay Hill that it wouldn't be a surprise if he was in the hunt at Augusta National. He posted a 2-under-par 70, lowest score of the day on Tuesday in the Tavistock Cup, as his Team Primland tied for third. ... Many people believe that when Keegan Bradley, Simpson and Ernie Els captured three of four majors using belly putters, it convinced the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and the United States Golf Association that anchored putters had to be banned. Simpson will be ready if they do, because he has been working with a traditional putter at home for the last few years because he heard the rumors.

13. Steve Stricker, United States -- Finally showing some rust after playing only three times previously this season on the PGA Tour, Stricker struggled to a tie for 38th in the Shell Houston Open. He had finished in the top five in his three previous starts this year and hopes to be able to regain that form when he gets to Augusta National next week for the Masters. ... Strick claims he is playing in only about 11 events this season, and he has not teed it up in the Valero Texas Open since 2004, so there was never a chance he would be there this week. He will continue his preparations ahead of the Masters at home before going to Augusta National, where he probably will be the best player over 40 who has never won a major championship. Perhaps his judicious scheduling early this year will help him get into the mix in his 13th Masters next week. ... After opening with a 1-over-par 73 last week at Houston, Stricker was his sharpest only when he shot 68 in round two to keep alive his streak of making the cut in 15 consecutive events. Stricker carded four birdies and an eagle in round three, and could have gone very low if not for two shots. He hit his third shot into the water on the fourth hole and carded a double-bogey 7, and drove into the water at No. 11 to take a double-bogey 6 en route to a 71, the same score he posted on Sunday. Stricker hit more than 70 percent of the fairways and 80 percent of the greens, but struggled with his usually reliable putter, averaging a shade under 30 putts per round.

14. Hunter Mahan, United States -- Defending his title in the Shell Houston Open, Mahan had his worst performance of the season, shooting 74-71 -- 145 to miss the cut by two shots. It was the first time he failed to reach the weekend since he missed the cut in consecutive starts, the PGA Championship and the Barclays to open the PGA Tour playoffs, last August. ... Hunter has played nine times this season on the PGA Tour, so he probably needs a break ahead of the Masters, even though the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio is a few hours' drive from his home in Colleyville, Texas. His solid play early this season, with seven finishes in the top 25, could make him a darkhorse favorite next week at Augusta National, where he has finished 12th or better in three of the last four seasons. ... Mahan, who had made the cut in 11 consecutive events, needed to bounce back in round two last week on the Champion Course at Redstone, but instead put himself in a deeper hole with bogeys on two of his first six holes. He tried to rally with birdies on the seventh and 10th holes, but carded seven consecutive pars before holing a five-foot birdie putt on No. 18. One shot cost him the weekend, as he drove into the water on the sixth hole in round one, took five shots to reach the green and carded a double-bogey 6. Mahan hit fewer than 60 percent of the fairways and greens, and wasted some good work on the greens, as he took 27 putts each day.

15. Lee Westwood, England -- Westwood had a chance to win the Shell Houston Open last week, starting the final round only two strokes out of the lead. However, for the sixth consecutive time this season on the PGA Tour, he could not break 70 in the final round, with his 2-under-par 70 leaving him in a tie for 10th. He is averaging 72.2 strokes in his six final rounds this season. Still, his overall play might give him some impetus heading into the first major of the year next week. ... After playing eight times already this season, including seven on the PGA Tour since his move from England to South Florida in December, Westy is taking this week off, passing on the Valero Texas Open, which he has never played. The man whom many believe is the best player without a major title despite several close calls, he will be trying again next week in the Masters, in which he tied for third last year, just missing the playoff in which Bubba Watson beat Louis Oosthuizen. ... Westwood carded only one bogey in each of his last two rounds on the Tournament Course at Redstone, missing a 15-foot par putt on the 18th hole in the final round. He shot 67 the day before, recording his only bogey when he three-putted the 17th green from 42 feet. The Englishman put himself in contention in the Saturday round when he carded five birdies in a span of six holes through No. 16. As usual, Westwood's ball-striking was very good, but he averaged 29.5 putts per round, including at least 30 each of the last three days.

16. Ian Poulter, England -- Playing an abbreviated schedule at the start of the season to save himself for what has become a year-long haul, Poulter will tee it up for two consecutive weeks for the first time in 2013. First is the Shell Houston Open this week, followed of course by the Masters, where he and the rest of England's new Fab Four will attempt to become to first Englishman to win a major since Nick Faldo claimed the Green Jacket in 1996. He probably fits in behind Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Justin Rose on the list of those who have not captured one of the Grand Slam events. ... Poults is playing in San Antonio for the first time in his career, feeling he needed another tournament before the first major of the year after having played only four events to date this season. After starting the season with a tie for ninth in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and finishing fourth in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, he posted similar 3-over-par 75s in the final rounds to tie for 28th in the WGC-Cadillac Championship and tie for 21st in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. ... The day after finishing at Bay Hill, Poulter played in the Tavistock and posted an even-par 72 in difficult conditions at Isleworth. He saved his best for last, holing a seven-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole that allowed Team Albany to end Lake Nona's five-year winning streak in the event. A bit or irony there, since Poulter actually lives at Lake Nona and played for the team in earlier years.

17. Jason Dufner, United States -- Perhaps trying too hard to show that his career year in 2012 at the age of 35 was no fluke, Dufner has not played as well in the first few months of this season as he did in the second half of last year. The worst came when he shot 71-77 -- 148 to miss the cut by one stroke in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, with his second-round score equaling his worst of the season in the second round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. ... Dufner is taking two weeks off before the Masters and it must be noted that he really didn't get rolling a year ago until after the first major of the year. He claimed his first PGA Tour victory a few weeks later in April at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and then won again a few weeks later at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, after getting married in between the two events. Duf nearly made it three victories in a span of four events, but shot 74 in the final round to wind up second in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. ... Dufner has shown in the last few years that he can compete in the majors too, losing in a playoff to Keegan Bradley in the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club and tying for fourth last year in the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in his first tournament after nearly winning at Colonial. Even though he has been playing on the PGA Tour since 2004, this will be only the third season in which he plays in all four majors.

18. Ernie Els, South Africa -- While Els played some solid golf in the inaugural Chiangmai Golf Classic at Alpine Golf Resort in Chiangmai, China, his tie for 14th really was nothing to write home about since he was easily the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 24 in the World Golf Rankings. However, it was much better than his missed cut the previous week in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He has only three finishes in the top 20 in nine appearances this season on four tours, the PGA, European, Sunshine and Asian. ... The Big Easy is resting back at his home in South Florida after the long trip, passing on the Valero Texas Open, in which he tied for third in his only appearance in 2010, winding up two strokes behind winner Adam Scott after finishing with three consecutive rounds in the 60s. He wrote in his blog last week that he can't wait to get to Augusta National for the Masters, hoping to add a Green Jacket to his four major titles, the last coming in the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes last July. ... Ernie was at his best last week in China only when he shot 6-under-par 66 in round three, recording his only bogey on the 11th hole. His ball-striking was good, as he hit nearly 80 percent of the greens, but he averaged 29.25 putts per round with a conventional putter. Els said he will go back to his belly putter for the Masters because of the speed of the greens at Augusta, but expects to put the shorter model back in his bag soon.

19. Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa -- Oosty began the final round of the Shell Houston Open only two strokes out of the lead and was gunning for this first victory in the United States. However, he never really got it going on Sunday, shooting 2-under-par 70 and had to settle for a tie for 10th. But it had to give him a lift heading to the Masters next week after missing the cut in two of his last three tournaments. ... Oosty isn't sticking around in Texas this week for the Valero Texas Open, which he never has played, instead getting an early start on his preparation at Augusta National for the Masters. For a while last year, it appeared he might add the Green Jacket to the Claret Jug he captured in the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews, before Bubba Watson beat him with a miraculous par out of the trees on the second playoff hole. ... Oosthuizen played the first 10 holes in the final round last week at Houston in even par before carding three birdies in a span of five holes through No. 15, but by then it was too late. He was brilliant in the third round, posting a bogey-free 7-under-par 65, his best round of the season on the PGA Tour by four strokes. Oosty was very good in round one at Redstone, playing flawlessly until three-putting from 60 feet for a bogey at No. 18 to shoot 69. HIs numbers were good, as he hit in the neighborhood of 70 percent of the fairways and greens, and averaged 28.3 putts per round.

20. Zach Johnson, United States -- The first major of the year might not be the place to find your game, but Johnson is one player who could do it since he knows how to play Augusta National, his way. In 2007, he laid up on all the par-5 holes and wound up wearing the Green Jacket at the end of the week. The way he has played since winning twice on the PGA Tour last year, he would simply settle for being in contention next week in the Masters. ... Zach is not playing this week in the Valero Texas Open, which he has won twice, and it might not be that much of a surprise. In 2008, he posted four rounds in the 60s, including 62-64 on the weekend, to win by two strokes over Charlie Wi, Mark Wilson and Tom Wilkinson. The following year, Johnson successfully defended his title when he shot 10-under-par 60 in the third round, but still needed a birdie on the first playoff hole to turn back James Driscoll. But those tournaments were played at La Cantera Golf Club and when the tournament moved to the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio in 2010, he shot 80-68 -- 148 while trying for win for a third consecutive year, and has not been back. ... Johnson's ball-striking has been good enough this season, as he is hitting fairway and greens move than 65 percent of the time. However, he depends on his short game and is getting up-and-down from bunkers only 40 percent of the time, saves par when missing the green 56 percent of the time and is averaging 29.76 putts per round, up from 28.45 last year.

Others receiving consideration: Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland; Martin Kaymer, Germany; Nick Watney, United States; Rickie Fowler, United States; Bill Haas, United States; Charl Schwartzel, South Africa; Sergio Garcia, Spain; Jim Furyk, United States; Carl Pettersson, Sweden; Bo Van Pelt, United States; Peter Hanson, Sweden; Jason Day, Australia; John Merrick, United States; Charles Howell III, United States; Tim Clark, South Africa; Michael Thompson, United States.
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