My latest edition could be appropriately labeled “The Rise of Jimmy Walker.” When we last checked in, he was relatively fresh off his breakthrough win at the Frys.com Open. Now he has three wins in nine starts to begin the season.
Perhaps the toughest thing about this third update is trying to figure out how to slot in guys who have barely played against guys with 10 tournaments under their belts. Guys like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have exactly one start and find themselves in quite a deep hole relative to players like Walker, Dustin Johnson and Harris English. With plenty of majors and WGCs remaining, there is little doubt that there is a handful of golfers well outside the top 125 that will end the year inside the top 30.
Since we last checked it, here’s what went down:
• Zach Johnson said aloha to 2014 with a win at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He entered as one of the hottest players in the field, but his course history didn’t suggest a triumph. He finds himself seventh in the current FedExCup standings.
• Walker picked up his second win of the season at the Sony Open in Hawaii, holding off Chris Kirk by a stroke. English finished fourth. (Walker, English and Kirk rank first, third and fourth, respectively, in the current FedExCup standings. If Walker wasn’t taken seriously after his Frys.com win, he served notice at Waialae that he would once again be a force in the West Coast Swing.)
• Patrick Reed picked up his second PGA TOUR win at the Humana Challenge. He entered the final round with a seven-stroke lead, eventually holding off Ryan Palmer by two and Zach Johnson by three. Reed's birdie binge was the perfect fit for a guy with plenty of open-qualifying experience just two seasons ago.
• Arguably the biggest surprise winner of the West Coast Swing was Scott Stallings at the Farmers Insurance Open. He has proven successful over the years on easier tracks, but Torrey Pines' South Course is no walk in the park. Most of the golf world expected perennial favorites in this event like Tiger Woods and Brandt Snedeker to stand tall, but both disappointed.
• It took him long enough, but Kevin Stadler finally broke through at the Waste Management Phoenix Open for his first PGA TOUR title. He held off a strong charge from Bubba Watson and Graham DeLaet late in the day to punch his first ticket to the Masters where he will compete against/with his father Craig, who announced that this will be his last official start in the major.
• Momma, there goes that man again. Walker entered the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with a T9-T9-T3 record in his last three trips to the Monterey Peninsula. He walked out of there with his third victory of the season. Sporting a large lead most of the final round, he did his best to choke it way late, but held on with a par at the iconic par-5 18th.
• Fresh off his T2 at the WMPO, Watson fired back-to-back, bogey-free 64s on teh weekend of the Northern Trust Open to chase down William McGirt and win for the first time since the 2012 Masters. His main competition down the stretch was Dustin Johnson, who finished alone in second.
A quick refresher, this ranking is not the current FedExCup standings. It is an evolving valuation of where players are likely to finish the regular season based on current FEC standings, opportunities that have passed, remaining tournaments on the schedule, expected starts, mind reading and a little bit of dumb luck.
Hold on tight:
Rank Golfer (Previous Rank) Comment
1 Jimmy Walker (20) The West Coast Swing has always been the sweet spot of his schedule. He took full advantage.
2 Tiger Woods (1) It isn’t so much that his only start ended with a MDF at Torrey Pines as it is the amount of ground he has to make up.
3 Dustin Johnson (14) Coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes, he looks like a guy that will contend often this season, including majors.
4 Rory McIlroy (3) Most of our questions will be answered between the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and the Florida Swing. Expecting a win is fair.
5 Adam Scott (2) His schedule could limit how much ground he can make up, but he should be a factor each time he tees it.
6 Harris English (16) This kid has come into his own with four top-11 finishes in his five 2014 starts. That doesn’t even count his win at Mayakoba earlier in the season.
7 Jordan Spieth (18) The chink in his armor is proving to be sleeping on a 36-hole lead. He faced that twice on the West Coast Swing, but didn’t respond well. Still, he’s a top-10 threat every week.
8 Bubba Watson (27) He’s baaaaaaaack! Complete bag of Skittles, in that you have no idea what flavor he’s about to pull, but his form of T2/Win is as good as any.
9 Zach Johnson (8) He’s taken a little break after his win-T8-T3 to start 2014, returning to action at this week’s Match Play.
10 Webb Simpson (10) His T70 at the Northern Trust Open marked the first time he finished outside the top 25 all season.
11 Matt Kuchar (4) Shaking off the cobwebs after a four-week vacation in Hawaii, he missed the cut at Riviera. He's defending the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship this week.
12 Keegan Bradley (9) Second-round 80 at the WMPO was a weird one, but he’s finished inside the top 20 in his other three starts on the West Coast Swing.
13 Justin Rose (5) Knocked off the rust of some shoulder tendinitis with a T45 at the Northern Trust Open.
14 Phil Mickelson (6) Lefty always wins on the West Coast Swing, but didn’t this year. With his focus on the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, his performance in other tournaments could suffer.
15 Ryan Moore (25) Backed up his CIMB Classic victory with top 10s at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the WMPO.
16 Hunter Mahan (12) Top-six finishes at the WMPO and Pebble Beach, and enters the Match Play where he has a win and a runner-up in the last two attempts.
17 Jason Day (13) Out the gates strong with a T2 at the Farmers Insurance Open, and then offered the wrong kind of surprise with a T64 at Pebble Beach. Still on task for a great year.
18 Graham DeLaet (26) Strong final rounds netted him groomsman honors at the Farmers and WMPO. Hard to imagine a win not coming at some point this season.
19 Chris Kirk (29) Tends to run in streaks, so trying to show some restraint towards the man ranked fourth in the current FEC standings.
20 Sergio Garcia (19) Back in action on the PGA TOUR for the first time in 2014 this week.
21 Patrick Reed (48) Had him ranked 21st in the preseason top 125, but faded him a bit too soon. Lesson learned.
22 Graeme McDowell (34) Top 10s in both 2013-14 PGA TOUR starts, and plenty of motivation to make what looks to be another deep European Ryder Cup squad.
23 Charl Schwartzel (33) Off and running with a T4 at Riviera last week.
24 Henrik Stenson (21) Needs to log some starts so we can get a true read on him.
25 Kevin Stadler (50) Already chronicled his breakthrough, now we’ll see if he can build on it.
26 Jason Dufner (11) Got off to a similarly slow start in 2013, but came around late in the season.
27 Bill Haas (15) Didn’t replicate his Northern Trust Open success this time around, which is reason for a slight fade.
28 Hideki Matsuyama (28) Continues to impress and is on the short list for a first-time win this year.
29 Brandt Snedeker (7) Did not play well on his Poa Annua playgrounds out west, leading questions to linger about potential bad habits and compensations from the offseason injury. Putter slumping as well.
30 Billy Horschel (17) Fade could be premature, as he’s arguably playing as well as he was this time a year ago. Heads to home state of Florida soon.
31 Jim Furyk (22) Easing into the new season with a T35 at Pebble Beach and a T23 at the Northern Trust Open.
32 Steve Stricker (24) Returned to action at the Match Play less than a week after his brother’s successful liver transplant.
33 Brian Stuard (67) Certainly not a weekly contender, but a run of 2nd-6th-5th at Mayakoba, Sony and Humana have locked up his 2014-15 card.
34 Scott Stallings (56) Finished inside the top 40 only once in eight starts, but it was a win. That’s about right for him. Expect him to contend a couple of more times, with more misses than hits.
35 Matt Every (36) Four top 25s in eight starts matches his top-25 total from 2013 in 28 starts. Learning consistency.
36 Charles Howell III (38) Right on cue, he started the season well. Now we wait to see if he can do anything on the back half of his schedule.
37 Gary Woodland (39) Off to a nice start with a P2 at the CIMB and two more top 15s in six starts.
38 Nick Watney (23) Something’s not quite clicking yet. No top 25s in six starts despite missing just one cut. Dropped from 60th in the all-around category in 2013 to 120th in 2013-14.
39 Pat Perez (108) It’s not surprising that the Arizona native found some success out West, but four top-11 finishes in his last six starts is among the best runs of his career.
40 Charley Hoffman (46) Three top 12s on the West Coast has him cruising toward another solid season.
41 Ryan Palmer (74) Runner-up at the Humana Challenge following a T8 at the Sony Open have the Texan trending toward an above-average season.
42 Kevin Na (85) Satisfied the requirements of his Major Medical and is free and clear for the remainder of the year. Already has a pair of top-five finishes in 2013-14.
43 Lee Westwood (31) Starting to play like a guy in his 40s. Competed in three out of four tournaments on the PGA TOUR, ending with a season-best T20 at Riviera last week. Nothing all that inspiring.
44 Luke Donald (32) Having made just two PGA TOUR starts in 2013-14, he’s dug himself a deep hole.
45 Jason Bohn (71) Still riding the wave of two top-three finishes early in the season. Hasn’t found a top 30 in 2014, but is a great example of a guy who built an early lead and is holding onto 16th in the FEC standings.
46 Ryo Ishikawa (44) His T7 in the Farmers Insurance Open continued the momentum from the fall of 2013.
47 Brendon Todd (82) A new player, making all nine of his cuts with four top 25s and a top 10 this year.
48 Chris Stroud (42) Boom or bust, with three missed cuts and four top 20s in seven starts.
49 Brian Harman (84) Turned some heads with his T3 at Riviera last week. That was his third top 10 of 2013-14.
50 Ian Poulter (43) Say what? He was bounced by Rickie Fowler in the Match Play opener.
51 Marc Leishman (59) Back-to-back top fives to start 2014, but has cooled of late.
52 Will MacKenzie (101) Enjoying a career renaissance with six top-15 finishes in 2013-14.
53 Scott Brown (63) Proving his Puerto Rico win in 2013 may not have been a fluke, he’s developing into a steady TOUR player by making eight of 11 cuts in 2013-14. Keep an eye on him again in Puerto Rico.
54 Jeff Overton (47) After a seventh at the Sony, the pace slowed to a crawl with a T38 at the Humana Challenge and a missed cut at the WMPO.
55 Robert Garrigus (81) Appears back on track, having made his last four cuts with three going for top 25s.
56 Cameron Tringale (88) Hopped on the top-15 train in the latter half of the West Coast Swing, briefly contending for a win in the final round of the Northern Trust Open.
57 Brendan Steele (93) A couple of top 10s in 2014 has him set up for a nice season. Typically a stud at the Valero Texas Open.
58 K.J. Choi (110) Has quietly amassed four top-20 finishes in six events in 2013-14, including a T2 at Torrey Pines.
59 Rickie Fowler (30) Deserved every bit of this fade, as he failed to secure a cut in each of his last three starts, but promptly eliminated Ian Poulter from the Match Play for partial redemption.
60 Bryce Molder (91) Normally a top-10 putter on TOUR, he ranks 86th at the moment in strokes gained-putting. Still managed top 10s at Pebble Beach and Riviera.
61 Kevin Chappell (41) The good and bad news is that his T23 at the Northern Trust Open last week was his best of the season.
62 Justin Leonard (NR) A T3 at the Humana Challenge and three other paydays in 2014 will pull a guy out of the doldrums.
63 Briny Baird (64) Missed his last four cuts, plus added a WD at Pebble, so our caution after his T2 at The McGladrey Classic was rewarded.
64 Jonas Blixt (35) Always seems to pull a rabbit out of his hat at least once a year, but hasn’t flashed any magic yet.
65 Rory Sabbatini (52) At 60th in the FEC standings, he’s been treading water since his T3 at Mayakoba.
66 Seung-yul Noh (106) Sometimes lost in the shuffle, his last two finishes were his best two. Both went for top 20s.
67 Jason Kokrak (58) He’s made five cuts in 2013-14 and missed three. Each of the five paydays went for a top 20.
68 Daniel Summerhays (94) Riding relatively high after back-to-back top 30s while securing 80 percent of his cuts this season.
69 Kyle Stanley (37) It’s been a terrible winter. The hope his he mixes in a few big hits amongst his numerous misses.
70 Martin Kaymer (60) Back in action at Dove Mountain after a T53 in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but couldn’t topple Hideki Matsuyama.
71 Louis Oosthuizen (61) While missing the cut at Riviera wasn’t a deadly sin, his 6-over-par aggregate is a concern.
72 Brian Davis (72) Made three of four cuts with a T13 at Pebble Beach since 2014 kicked off, which is right in line with his entire career.
73 Russell Knox (105) Had a solid T13-T10-T27 run at Humana, Farmers and Pebble Beach, respectively. It vaulted him to 37th in current FEC standings.
74 Chesson Hadley (76) Took to Twitter and vowed an attitude change before Pebble Beach, and then tied for 10th. It was his first payday since a T5 at the Shriners in October.
75 Jerry Kelly (NR) The vet’s third-place finish in the Sony Open and T13 at the Humana Challenge showed the kids how to get it done.
76 Brian Gay (96) Hasn’t done a ton since the end of 2013, but given he’s 42nd in the FEC standings this spot is more in line.
77 Aaron Baddeley (79) Departs California after building some confidence with a T18 at Riviera.
78 William McGirt (NR) Enjoyed a nice learning experience of holding a 54-hole lead for the first time at Riviera. Putter let him down more than the ball-striking in the final round.
79 Roberto Castro (51) Looking back, he had three top 25s on the West Coast Swing. Perhaps this is a bit too penal, but time will tell.
80 Brendon de Jonge (45) Presidents Cup experience in 2013 was supposed to serve as a catalyst for change. It was, but in the wrong way.
81 Kevin Streelman (80) His T3 at the HTOC is his only top 30 this season. Of course, there were only 30 golfers at Kapalua.
82 John Peterson (40) Plenty of talent, but if you follow him on Twitter you will quickly realize that maturity could be an issue. He gets an A-plus for self-confidence.
83 Luke Guthrie (102) Has yet to fulfill lofty expectations of 2013 rookie season, but he’s still showing signs of eventually reaching a high ceiling.
84 Justin Hicks (98) Made his first four cuts of 2014 before failing to cash at Pebble Beach and Riviera. He’s ranked second on TOUR in ball-striking.
85 George McNeill (103) His T6 at the Northern Trust Open marks his best of 2013-14, and he played in the final trio.
86 Richard H. Lee (78) Truly a course horse at Pebble Beach, with his T10 this season joining a pair of top 15s. Experiencing a statistical regression across the board this season.
87 Vijay Singh (66) Seems like the legal battle is at the end of the line, so we’ll see what happens if his focus finds its way back to golf.
88 Ernie Els (62) Won ugly in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play on the heels of a T35 at Riviera, but seems far from elite at the moment.
89 Spencer Levin (86) Made half of his six cuts on the West Coast Swing, but failed to crack a top 25.
90 Matt Jones (90) Secured seven consecutive cuts thanks to a 69.11 scoring average before the cut, but ranks 145th in final round scoring average at 72.43.
91 Boo Weekley (99) His Match Play loss to Rory McIlroy was his first action since the Sony Open due to a knee injury. Perhaps he’ll tee it up more in his home state during the Florida Swing.
92 Bo Van Pelt (53) Missed four of five cuts in 2014. His fall from grace over the past 14 months leads one to wonder if there isn’t something else going on.
93 John Huh (57) While he’s earned six of nine cuts, he’s yet to finish inside the top 20.
94 Scott Piercy (54) Nearly upset Justin Rose in the WGC-Accenture Match Play, but has been wildly inconsistent in 2013-14.
95 Morgan Hoffmann (55) Followed a T16 at Torrey Pines with a T15 at TPC Scottsdale during an impressive two-week run. Still too many below-average weeks.
96 John Senden (113) A T18 in the Northern Trust Open is his only top 60 in his last five TOUR starts.
97 J.B. Holmes (NR) Still has a Major Medical to fulfill, but an opening round 68 in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and an opening 67 at Riviera show strides in the right direction.
98 Martin Laird (65) His history on TOUR suggests he’ll finish higher than this, but has yet to crack a top 10 in seven tries during 2013-14.
99 Ben Martin (69) Second stint on TOUR proving to be a little more difficult than expected. Missed his last three cuts.
100 Hudson Swafford (NR) A T8 at the Sony Open and T25 at the Humana Challenge brought some rookie attention his way. Sixth in ball-striking and 78th in strokes gained-putting offers serious upside.
101 Michael Thompson (87) Finished inside the top 20 in three of his four starts in 2014, yet I’ve dropped him. Perhaps a bit unfair.
102 J.J. Henry (83) Slumped out west, with a T40 at Riviera by far his best of five 2014 starts.
103 Sang-Moon Bae (115) Contending early in some tournaments, but weekends are killing him.
104 James Driscoll (NR) A T18 at the Humana Challenge represented a season-best and second top 25 of 2013-14. Continues to secure paychecks, but rarely contends.
105 John Rollins (73) Missed four of nine cuts to date, with nothing better than his T19 at the WMPO. Sits 158th in the all-around ranking.
106 Freddie Jacobson (77) Fallen well off his pace from a year ago. Junkman needs to find a groove.
107 Charlie Beljan (NR) Typical to his reputation, he surrounded three missed cuts with a pair of top 12s in 2014.
108 Tim Clark (49) Major health question mark, as he withdrew from the Sony Open and hasn’t been seen since.
109 Ben Crane (89) Rather than bouncing back this season, he’s 114th in the FEC standings.
110 Camilo Villegas (NR) Notched seven cuts in eight starts, but has yet to sniff a top 25.
111 Ken Duke (124) Getting it done with quantity over quality, missing just one cut in eight starts.
112 Stewart Cink (120) Continues to hang around the top-125 bubble, but keeping to the right side of it.
113 Trevor Immelman (NR) Alleviated some reshuffle concerns with a T10 at Torrey Pines. Each of his three paydays has been top 25s.
114 Michael Putnam (NR) Competed 10 times and made eight cuts, but yet to notch a top 30.
115 David Hearn (75) Yet to live up to the preseason hype of a breakout year.
116 Tim Wilkinson (NR) A T7 at Pebble Beach represented his second top 10 in eight starts. That pace will work just fine.
117 Greg Chalmers (NR) Three top 15s in eight starts are due in large part to leading the PGA TOUR in strokes gained-putting.
118 John Merrick (111) Only missed cut of the season came in Riviera title defense, and has just one top-20 finish. Ironically they came in back-to-back starts.
119 Russell Henley (100) Perhaps we are witnessing a sophomore slump, as his only top 50 of the season came in the 30-man HTOC field.
120 Jim Renner (NR) A T2 at Pebble Beach marks the only time he’s made the cut in 2013-14.
121 Stuart Appleby (NR) Secured cuts in all five of his starts on the West Coast Swing, highlighted by a T9 at the Humana Challenge.
122 Nicolas Colsaerts (121) Belgian Bomber tied for 19th at Torrey Pines in his best of four starts this season.
123 David Lynn (95) Vanquished in the first round of the Match Play by Brandt Snedeker in extra holes. While the Englishman has made each of his six cuts, he’s still searching for his first top 30.
124 Chad Collins (NR) An eighth at the Humana Challenge has him on the right side of this bubble.
125 Brice Garnett (NR) A T19 at Pebble Beach is his career best, and he’s missed just one cut in his rookie season.
Falling out: David Lingmerth (68), D.A. Points (70), Mark Wilson (92), Sean O’Hair (97), Peter Hanson (97), Carl Pettersson (107), Padraig Harrington (109), Thorbjorn Olesen (112), Angel Cabrera (114), Charlie Wi (116), Patrick Cantlay (117), Josh Teater (118), David Toms (119), Martin Flores (122), Geoff Ogilvy (123), Lucas Glover (125).
Until next time, best of luck to all!