By Alex Myers
Not surprisingly, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson -- both making their 2014 PGA Tour debuts -- dominated the Day 1 headlines at Torrey Pines. And an opening 64 on the easier North Course by Stewart Cink, who is trying to win on tour for the first time since topping Tom Watson at the 2009 British Open, earned him attention for something other than his stunning tan line.
But quietly going about his business was Brian Stuard. In fact, it's been that way for the past two months.
Even with two late bogeys, Stuard posted a two-under-par 70 on the difficult South Course, putting him in position for another solid week. He began his run with a runner-up at Mayakoba in November, and has finished solo sixth (Sony Open) and fifth (Humana Challenge) in the two events he has played in 2014.
Thursday was the 12th time in his last 13 rounds Stuard has shot at least two under, and he's fired five 65s during that stretch. So who is this guy who currently sits in ninth place in the FedEx Cup standings?
Stuard, who celebrated his 31st birthday last month, turned pro in 2005 after winning nine times during his college days at Oakland University, a Division I school in Michigan. He spent two years on the Hooters Tour before gaining status on the Web.com Tour. After earning his PGA Tour card for 2013, he had his best year with four top-10s and a little more than $1 million in earnings. His best year, that is, until the 2013-14 wraparound season.
In just six events, he's already topped last year's money total and nearly equaled those four top-10s. It may have taken him a few years to find his footing as a professional, but the seven top-10s he has racked up on the PGA Tour since the start of 2013 -- compared to the one he had prior -- show he's trending in the right direction.
None of Stuard's skill stats are great (being 24th in greens in regulation is his most impressive), but none stand out in a bad way, either. Add them all up and you have the sixth-best scoring average on tour right now. If Stuard can keep that up this week at the season's biggest event to date, more people will have to take notice.