Ryan's Top 125: Volume Two

Ryan O'Sullivan
Chris Kirk (pictured) is already a winner in 2013-14. Ryan O'Sullivan takes on the tricky task of assessing value during the PGA TOUR's holiday break

Ryan's Top 125: Volume Two

Chris Kirk (pictured) is already a winner in 2013-14. Ryan O'Sullivan takes on the tricky task of assessing value during the PGA TOUR's holiday break

In many ways, the second edition of the new season's Top 125 has proven to be the most challenging in the short history of this feature. For some gamers, this serves as the preseason top 125 while others are already six tournaments into the new wraparound slate.

The logical question for gamers just beginning the year is how to compartmentalize the results of the first six tournaments in terms of what a golfer has left in the tank for the remainder of the season.

Jimmy Walker and Chris Kirk already have wins, so does that make it any more or less likely that they will or will not win again? Psychologically, will they feel like they are chasing their second win of 2013-14 or their first of 2014?

Are Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson now set up for monster years? If your full-season format began with the Frys.com Open and you own one of these guys, life is good and the possibilities remain endless. If your game begins in January, trying to answer those questions is maddening.

Perspective becomes important in situations like this, which is why I’m glad I took the approach that I did in my Preseason Top 125 research. That is, I slotted each player into a range. It was wide for some and narrow for others. As an example, I had Walker slotted between 20th and 75th and Phil Mickelson between second and 12th.

For the purpose of this second edition, I forced myself to stay within this range on all but one or two occasions. Essentially, I’m not letting one great tournament or a string of two or three poor ones drastically shift a player’s projection this early in the season.

When looking for some sort of historical baseline against which to judge, I look at Ryder Cup points lists. Lucas Glover led the 2010 version when the season began on the heels of his performance in the 2009 majors. He failed to make the team. Kyle Stanley’s win at the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open following a runner-up at the 2012 Farmers Insurance Open had him leading the 2012 Ryder Cup standings at a similar point in the season to where we stand right now in the 2013-14 campaign, and he failed to make the 2012 squad.

While the FedExCup points list differs from the Ryder Cup points list in some ways, the message remains that just because Walker leads the FedExCup standings right now, he isn’t a guarantee to end the season inside the top 10, or 20, or even 30 once the elite players hit their stride.

On that note, Tiger Woods hasn’t even teed it up on TOUR yet and isn’t expected to until Torrey Pines.

With that verbose intro behind us, let’s dive into the Top 125 as it stands following the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.

Rank  Golfer (Preseason Rank)  Comment

1  Tiger Woods (1)  To be the man, you have to beat the man. He’s still the man.

2  Adam Scott (5)  Was one hole away from winning the Aussie Triple Crown and is a true threat to Woods’ top ranking. Limited TOUR schedule is the only issue.

3  Rory McIlroy (7)  Most of the time, a win during the traditional “silly season” can be a bit overrated, but any win is a good win for Rors at this point. Should serve as a catalyst for 2014.

4  Matt Kuchar (3)  His slight drop has nothing to do with him; rather, it's more of a boost in confidence toward those above him.

5  Justin Rose (6)  He’s finished inside the top 10 in each of his last six worldwide starts and is oozing confidence.

6  Phil Mickelson (4)  It’s anticipated that his entire season will be geared around trying to win the U.S. Open at Pinehurst for the final jewel in his crown. How that impacts the rest of his schedule is a bit of a guess.

7  Brandt Snedeker (2)  Great putter and elite player entering prime of career, but penchant for battling nagging injuries is a pause for concern.

8  Zach Johnson (17)  Finished inside the top 10 on the money list in three of the last five years. This year is shaping up to be no different. Probably one of the five hottest players on the planet over the last six months.

9  Keegan Bradley (11)  Not a bad spot to plug in a young, confident and accomplished American who plays a fairly hefty schedule for his pedigree. Finished 10th and T11 in his two starts to begin the new season.

10  Webb Simpson (16)  Early win at TPC Summerlin resets the expectations for his 2013-14 campaign and boosts him into the top 10. U.S. Open hangover his officially over ... if there ever was one.

11  Jason Dufner (12)  He managed to draw Tiger Woods out for an exchange on Twitter surrounding Auburn football and the tee times for Tiger’s tournament. That counts for something right? Oh, and Duff Daddy is still really good.

12  Hunter Mahan (13)  Hasn’t played since the TOUR Championship other than a couple of top 15s in some offseason events. Finished inside the top 18 on the last five money lists.

13  Jason Day (14)  Have to like that he finally won a tournament again (World Cup of Golf), even if it wasn’t a PGA TOUR event. As great as he’s been throughout his career, it’s time to stack a few more trophies on his mantle.

14  Dustin Johnson (22)  Another season, another Dustin Johnson win. Keep in mind that he won the limited field Hyundai Tournament of Champions last season and will be back to defend in a few weeks.

15  Bill Haas (15)  Had 16 top 25s and nine top 10s a season ago and corralled top 25s in each of his first two starts of the new season.

16  Harris English (29)  Four starts into the new season, he has a win at the OHL Classic and a T7 at the CIMB. He’s here to stay.

17  Billy Horschel (8)  A T11 at the CIMB Classic served as the early highlight of 2013-14. Can’t in good faith rank him higher than any of the names above at this point.

18  Jordan Spieth (9)  Finished 17th in the WGC-HSBC in his only start of the new season. Similar to Horschel in the respect that he can’t be elevated above any of the others on the list ahead of him until the 2013 Rookie of the Year shows a little more.

19  Sergio Garcia (25)  Ends 2013 10th in the world with a fourth at the WGC-HSBC Champions precluding a T2 at the Nedbank Challenge and a win in Thailand. Now if only he can stay out of his own way.

20  Jimmy Walker (53)  Already a first-time winner this season. Given his history at both Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach, we will learn just how big a year this will be by the end of the West Coast Swing.

21  Henrik Stenson (10)  This really isn’t defendable seeing as how he has a win, a runner-up and a fourth in his last three worldwide starts and has risen to third in the world. It’s my belief that his stock has peaked and will only fall. If you buy, you are buying high.

22  Jim Furyk (18)  Other than the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, he’s been on the shelf since East Lake.

23  Nick Watney (19)  If he falls to you here, then by all means gobble him up. He’s been one of the most consistent players on TOUR the last five years and made each of his three cuts to start the season. Of course, none went for top 25s and two of them didn’t even have a cut; but who’s counting.

24  Steve Stricker (24)  This is such a guess given his reduced schedule.

25  Ryan Moore (27)  Fulfilled his early high ranking by winning the CIMB Classic.

26  Graham DeLaet (23)  The table is set for a big year. Now it’s up to him to deliver.

27  Bubba Watson (38)  A T8 at WGC-HSBC reminds us that there is a reason he was able to claim a green jacket. Ability to handle the spotlight and consistency will always be a question mark, but his ability and creativity are not.

28  Hideki Matsuyama (56)  His T3 at the Frys.com Open demonstrates his ability to focus on weeks where the best players aren’t in the field. Also fresh off a win at the Casio World Open.

29  Chris Kirk (43)  Picked up his second TOUR win at The McGladrey Classic and should figure out a way to factor into a few more tournaments this season. Possesses a smooth putter.

30  Rickie Fowler (20)  Played the two TOUR events in Asia that didn’t feature a cut, tying for 19th at the CIMB Classic. Until he backs up his first win, his ceiling remains tempered.

31  Lee Westwood (32)  In his ongoing attempt to desperately grab the major championship that would define his career, he’s made a caddie switch back to Billy Foster.

32  Luke Donald (26)  Could be an important year for the Englishman, as he has slipped to 17th in the Official World Golf Ranking and doesn’t have a TOUR win since the 2012 Transitions Championship.

33  Charl Schwartzel (28)  Like last year, he’s currently busy racking up wins and top 10s in Asia and Africa against weaker fields. While it’s easy to get excited, remember that it didn’t carry over to the PGA TOUR and he went winless during the 2013 PGA TOUR season.

34  Graeme McDowell (30)  A tough call as he proved to be anything but consistent in 2013. He finished third at the WGC-HSBC Champions to start his 2013-14 season, so this spot could be a bit of a slight.

35  Jonas Blixt (31)  This is a play requiring patience, as he’s won in each of his first two season on TOUR and finished inside the top 35 both times.

36  Matt Every (33)  Knocked on the door with a T7 at The McGladrey Classic, firing all four rounds in the 60s. Has the feel of a guy that will fire a hot final round and pick off a win at some point in the season.

37  Kyle Stanley (34)  His good weeks will likely be defined by an above-average putter, and having made four out of five cuts with a T19 at the CIMB Classic is a good sign.

38  Charles Howell III (61)  Three Sticks started hot, making all five of his cuts with three going for top 10s. Considering he still has the Sony Open, which is a cash boon for him, it could be a big year for the Augusta native.

39  Gary Woodland (54)  While I’ve been slow to fall back in love with him, I’m starting to come around. A playoff loss to Ryan Moore at the CIMB Classic thrust his 2013-14 season in high gear early.

40  John Peterson (37)  Seemingly met early expectations with a T21 at the Frys.com Open to start the year, but missed cuts at TPC Summerlin and on Sea Island proving that he isn’t exempt from growing pains.

41  Kevin Chappell (39)  On the very short list of players poised to pick off a breakthrough win in 2013-14.

42  Chris Stroud (67)  Throwing his hat into contention on a regular basis by following up his playoff loss at the Travelers Championship in 2013 with a pair of T3s early in the 2013-14 season.

43  Ian Poulter (36)  Always a tough man to put a number on, the Englishman finished runner-up in his only start of the new season at the WGC-HSBC and added a runner-up finish in Dubai.

44  Ryo Ishikawa (NR)  A T21 at the Frys.com Open and a T2 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to start the new season completely changes his outlook.

45  Brendon de Jonge (44)  At this point, you know what you’re buying. Lots of weekend tee times and plenty of top 25s, but the strong finishes are few and far between.

46  Charley Hoffman (62)  Cut his hair and made each of his four cuts to start the year with a fourth in Vegas serving as the highlight.

47  Jeff Overton (71)  Consistent early, securing four out of five cuts with all going for top 25s.

48  Patrick Reed (21)  Took a stab at him in a spot higher than he probably deserved to start the year, and have since readjusted to account for his slow start to the season.

49  Tim Clark (77)  After playing 20 events in 2013, he already has five under his belt in the new season. His T2 at The McGladrey Classic served notice that he’s in it for a second TOUR win.

50  Kevin Stadler (79)  Junior Stadler made all four of his cuts, with three top 25s and a T10 at The McGladrey Classic to start the season. Was in the mix on Sea Island but didn’t handle the pressure well.

51  Roberto Castro (40)  Light schedule early, with a T35 at the CIMB Classic in his only action.

52  Rory Sabbatini (41)  Salvaged a rocky autumn with a T3 at Mayakoba.

53  Bo Van Pelt (42)  Important year for BVP owners, as you either just bought him on the cheap or invested at a time where he is beginning a career slide.

54  Scott Piercy (45)  While he hasn’t come close to replicating his July of 2012 run, he is still proving good for a top five every three or four months.

55  Morgan Hoffmann (46)  Made three out of four cuts to start the season, but we’re still waiting on one of those special weeks that seems inevitable.

56  Scott Stallings (47)  When considering his career curve and hit-or-miss nature, that he’s missed three out of four cuts early is not even a yellow flag.

57  John Huh (48)  Finally was able to defend at Mayakoba and posted a respectable T23. That was his best start of the new season, but he has yet to miss a cut in four tries.

58  Jason Kokrak (49)  Finished inside the top 12 twice in three starts to begin the season, which is comforting if you’ve invested in or are considering buying the bomber.

59  Marc Leishman (50)  Expectations will be heightened after his Presidents Cup appearance and how he manages that will be the story of his season.

60  Martin Kaymer (51)  After a full season on TOUR , he now has some familiarity on his side for 2013-14. Tied for eighth at the WGC-HSBC in his only TOUR start of the new season.

61  Louis Oosthuizen (52)  His T15 to begin the new season at the WGC-HSBC already has his earnings at roughly 20 percent of injury-riddled 2013 TOUR season.

62  Ernie Els (55)  Took a tumble in 2013 from where he was in year prior. That he isn’t getting any younger shouldn’t help his attempt to recover and return to the elite. Let someone else buy his name while you invest in some better game.

63  Scott Brown (NR)  Seemed destined to be a bit of a Derek Lamely, with one hot week defining his PGA TOUR career, but a great start to 2013-14 featuring a T3 at the Frys.com Open and a T4 at The McGladrey Classic forces a complete reevaluation of him as a prospect.

64  Briny Baird (NR)  Playing on a medical, picked up his sixth career runner-up finish at The McGladrey Classic to join the fray in 2013-14.

65  Martin Laird (66)  Despite both a light and a slow start, he’s an example of a guy mentioned in the opening that I won’t let fall below a certain range the early in the season due to his career body of work.

66  Vijay Singh (NR)  Rather than be distracted by legal woes, he flew out of the gates with a runner-up to Jimmy Walker at the Frys.com Open.

67  Brian Stuard (NR)  Stated with his clubs that 2013 wasn’t a fluke thanks to a runner-up at Mayakoba and a T15 in Las Vegas.

68  David Lingmerth (35)  Two missed cuts and a T64 to start the 2013-14 season could mean that, once again, the majority of his earnings will come in two or three special weeks and not over a steady long haul.

69  Ben Martin (63)  Made half his cuts to start his sophomore season on TOUR, sharing 16th at the Frys.com Open and tying for 31st in Mayakoba to hold onto a good spot in the graduate reshuffle.

70  D.A. Points (58)  Uninspiring start, but we must remember that he’s finished inside the top 70 on the money list in four of the last five years.

71  Jason Bohn (NR)  Four events into the season he already has a T2 and a T3 to essentially lock up his 2014-15 PGA TOUR card before the apple drops.

72  Brian Davis (68)  On pace with what we would expect at this point, already putting five starts under his belt and cashing on four occasions. His lone top 25 was a T23 in Las Vegas.

73  John Rollins (69)  Rather indifferent start to the season with a T32 on Sea Island going for his best finish in four starts. No reason to make any major changes to his projection at this point.

74  Ryan Palmer (70)  Competed in three events before putting the clubs up for the holidays, he failed to crack a top 50 and cashed on just two occasions.

75  David Hearn (72)  A T21 at the Frys.com Open was the highlight of his fall, and his game then cooled with the weather. Still should contend for a win at some point in 2014.

76  Chesson Hadley (73)  The rookie made noise with a T5 in Las Vegas, but surrounded it with two missed cuts and a T72. Looks to be a patient own and one with plenty of upside.

77  Freddie Jacobson (98)  Finally snapped a top-10 drought that began at the WGC-Accenture Match Play with a T9 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and a T12 in Mayakoba.

78  Richard H. Lee (59)  Modest start to the season, making three of four cuts but never contending. The stat sheet is full of promise, but he has to convert it to strokes on the scorecard.

79  Aaron Baddeley (60)  His fifth at the CIMB Classic already has him half-way to his 2013 top-10 total.

80  Kevin Streelman (65)  Hasn’t recorded a top 10 on the PGA TOUR since May, but has made his last 10 cuts dating back to the John Deere Classic.

81  Robert Garrigus (64)  Finished inside the top 25 in his first three starts of the new season before missing the cut at Mayakoba. He would be a great value in this range.

82  Brendon Todd (85)  Took a bit of a chance pegging him this high in the preseason and he hasn’t disappointed. Hasn’t missed a cut in four tries and already has a pair of top-20 finishes.

83  J.J. Henry (111)  With three top 25s in four starts to begin the season, he has already matched his 2013 season tally in that regard.

84  Brian Harman (118)  Entered his third season on TOUR with three career top 10s and has added two more in a quick start.

85  Kevin Na (NR)  Looking healthy now, he finished T3 at the Frys.com Open. Still a bit of a question mark, as he’s missed half of his four cuts.

86  Spencer Levin (NR)  Joining Baird and Na as former TOUR staples that are now healthy and strong out of the gates, Levin has made each of his four cuts with a T12 at the Frys.com Open.

87  Michael Thompson (74)  One of those guys that traditionally makes an uncomfortably high amount of money in a very few starts.

88  Cameron Tringale (75)  Made three of five cuts to kick off the year, but never really found himself in contention.

89  Ben Crane (76)  Didn’t have a particularly impressive 2013, and the early returns for the 2013-14 season are turning a yellow flag into orange.

90  Matt Jones (78) Gradually improved in each of his three starts to begin the season.

91  Bryce Molder (80)  Played the first three events of the new season, cashing in all three, culminating with a T14 at the CIMB Classic before putting the clubs on the shelf.

92  Mark Wilson (81)  If he is to make a move, it should be in the first three months of calendar year 2014. That would follow his historic curve.

93  Brendan Steele (84)  Another competitor that improved in each of his four starts, he missed the cut at the Frys.com Open but had it figured out by the OHL Classic at Mayakoba where he tied for 16th.

94  Daniel Summerhays (91)  Currently 35th in the FedExCup standings and with a top 10 in the bag, he took advantage of a part of the schedule that set up rather nicely for him.

95  David Lynn (94)  Back on TOUR for a second go, the Englishman satisfied two starts and collected a few dollars in the not-cut CIMB Classic and WGC-HSBC Champions.

96  Brian Gay (123)  Given his lack of length, there are only a handful of courses where he can legitimately contend. By tying for fourth at The McGladrey Classic, he took full advantage of one of those tracks.

97  Sean O’Hair (110)  Early returns support a bounce-back season for the veteran, tying for 26th and 15th in his first two starts before missing a pair of cuts.

98  Justin Hicks (NR)  Sits 30th in the FEC standings and heads to the holidays off a T6 at Mayakoba.

99  Boo Weekley (97)  Made each of his three cuts with a T11 in the WGC-HSBC Champions. Who knew Boo’s game would travel so well?

100  Russell Henley (95)  Keep a sharp eye on his title defense at the Sony Open for our first true gauge at his form.

101  Will MacKenzie (NR)  Web.com Tour Finals survivor started the season on fire, cracking the top 15 on three occasions including a T9 at the Frys.com Open. History suggests that he can’t continue at this pace, but he’s already about half-way to a 2014-15 TOUR card at this rate.

102  Luke Guthrie (90)  When I say this aloud, it doesn’t sound right. His talent suggests a better return than this. Of course, so did Bud Cauley’s last year and he didn’t finish inside the top 125.

103  George McNeill (120)  Season started with a T7 at the Frys.com Open and the TOUR regular added another top 25 before an extended break.

104  Peter Hanson (83)  Tied for 21st at the WGC-HSBC Champions, but we learned last year to only pencil him in for the required 15 starts for membership.

105  Russell Knox (NR)  Split 2013 between Web.com and PGA TOUR, and has already made all four of his cuts in 2013-14 with the highest being a T26 and the lowest a T32. Gamers can appreciate that consistency.

106  Seung-yul Noh (86)  Regained his cared via the Web.com Tour Finals and offered hope that his 2013 TOUR season was just a blip on the radar. Out of the gates a little slow, making three of four cuts but failing to record a top 25.

107  Carl Pettersson (87)  No matter how you dice it, the Swede is a streaky player. At this spot, he is definitely worth an investment because he still has the flair to heat up and make a run towards the TOUR Championship.

108  Pat Perez (88)  Similar to Pettersson a spot higher, Perez feels like he’s on sale here. Ended the calendar year with a T16 at Mayakoba.

109  Padraig Harrington (89)  Converging trends aren’t in his favor. His returns have been slipping of late, he only made 17 starts last year and he isn’t getting any younger. Other than that, everything’s great and he has an enjoyable accent!

110  K.J. Choi (101)  Unlike Harrington, Choi still makes plenty of starts but his overall form is slipping. A T14 at the CIMB Classic in his only start of this season is a nice sign. Perhaps it suggests that his game could benefit by playing a little less.

111  John Merrick (92)  He’s largely disappeared since his win at Riviera CC in early 2013. Don’t read too much into his making all three of his cuts in 2013-14, as two of them were in no-cut events and he hasn’t broken a top 50 yet.

112  Thorbjorn Olesen (93)  At 65th in the OWGR, his schedule could become concerning if he can’t qualify for certain elite events. I’m having flashbacks of Nicolas Colsaerts with the young Dane. Colsaerts finished inside the top 125 on the money list but did not make the FEC Playoffs.

113  John Senden (96)  His T4 in The McGladrey Classic was his first top 10 since a fourth at the 2012 John Deere Classic. He didn’t surround his week in Sea Island by solid returns, so questions linger.

114  Angel Cabrera (99)  Some players can’t be identified by popular metrics and he’s one of them. He’s missed both of his cuts to start the season, but could just as easily win two majors in 2014.

115  Sang-moon Bae (100)  Only taken the time to make one TOUR start this year, tying for 68th at the CIMB Classic. Given his 2013 win affords him a two-year exemption, this could lead to fewer starts in 2013-14.

116  Charlie Wi (102)  With two starts under his belt, already has a T12 at the Frys.com Open.

117  Patrick Cantlay (104)  A nod to his class, he has yet to make a start on TOUR and has struggled with a back injury most of 2013.

118  Josh Teater (105)  A T23 at Mayakoba to end the calendar year was easily his best finish of the fall.

119  David Toms (106)  Amassed a T36 and a T27 in his only two starts of the year. Ho-hum.

120  Stewart Cink (108)  Cashed checks in two of his three starts with a T11 in the CIMB Classic the best effort. Well, unless you count him and his son winning the PNC Father/ Son Challenge.

121  Nicolas Colsaerts (109)  Yet to make a TOUR start and outside the top 50 in the OWGR, it will be interesting to see how his schedule unfolds.

122  Martin Flores (112)  Collected three paychecks in four events to start the season, but never contended.

123  Geoff Ogilvy (113)  Absolutely a player to watch this year. Off to a slow start and has some beginning to question his motivation on the course.

124  Ken Duke (115)  May deserve a little more respect than this given he managed a T15 at TPC Summerlin, but a hangover season could also be in store.

125  Lucas Glover (116)  To be fair, the last spot in the Top 125 could have gone to any of a dozen players who are almost equally deserving. The 2009 U.S. Open champ gets the nod because he’s shown a commitment to playing a heavy schedule, already teeing it up five times and securing three cuts. Besides, if he putts well for a few weeks then he could be a steal here.

Dropping out: Bud Cauley (57), Jamie Lovemark (82), Mark Anderson (103), Tommy Gainey (107), William McGirt (114), Nicholas Thompson (117), Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (119), Scott Langley (121), Ted Potter, Jr. (122), Johnson Wagner (124), Camilo Villegas (125).

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