The Best (and Worst) of the West Coast Swing
February 24, 2013
Best Player: Brandt SnedekerThe reigning FedEx Cup champ is on pace to make last year's super season seem like a warmup with nearly $3 million so far in on-course earnings. Snedeker opened 2013 with a third-place finish at Kapalua and after a T-23 in Palm Springs (what happened there?!), he had back-to-back runner-ups at Torrey Pines and TPC Scottsdale before winning at Pebble Beach to climb to No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Best Performance: Phil Mickelson (Waste Management Phoenix Open)Lefty wins this award for both a single round and for an entire event with his sensational play at TPC Scottsdale. Mickelson narrowly missed shooting golf's magic number when his putt for a 59 lipped out that Thursday (left), but the birdies kept coming on his way to a 28-under total and a four-shot win.
Biggest Disappointment: Rory McIlroyThree rounds. Check that, three bad rounds -- and only one on the PGA Tour. That's all the most ballyhooed equipment change of the decade has produced so far. It's (very) early, but the new Nike pitchman's best performance in 2013 has come in a commercial.
Weirdest Win: Tiger Woods (Farmers Insurance Open)For three rounds, fans at Torrey Pines were treated to vintage Tiger. For the final round, they were bracing for an epic collapse. Woods hit the ball crooked during his last 18 holes, but with his lead ballooning to eight at one point, he had more than enough cushion to hold on. What does this portend for the major championship season? Beats us.
Best Lull-You-To-Sleep-With-Kindess Player: Matt Kuchar (WGC Match Play)The affable Kuchar must be a pleasure to tee it up with in match play -- until he crushes you. Kuchar topped defending champ Hunter Mahan to win golf's biggest event to this point and run his stellar match-play record as a pro to 15-3 -- all while flashing that goofy grin.
Best Feel-Good Story: John Merrick (Northern Trust Open)The Long Beach, Calif., native and UCLA product kept things local for his biggest professional achievement to date. Merrick topped a deep field at Riviera to prove that golfers can enjoy a home-field advantage as well.
Worst Meltdown: Scott Stallings (Humana Challenge)A final-round 70 might not sound that bad, but when it comes on a course that yielded 10 rounds of 64 or better on Sunday, it simply wasn't enough. Stallings had a five-shot lead entering the final round and played mistake-free golf until bogeying three of the final five holes to miss out on a playoff by one shot.
Best Rookie: Russell HenleyFor a player who won on the Nationwide Tour while still an undergrad at the University of Georgia, success as a pro seemed inevitable. However, Henley surpassed everyone's expectations by winning in his debut outing as a PGA Tour member. Henley won the season's first full-field event, the Sony Open, and he did it in impressive fashion by birdieing the final four holes. He also contended briefly at the Humana and added an upset of Charl Schwartzel at the WGC-Accenture Match Play.
Best Player Without A Win: Charles Howell IIICH3 may be best known as the latest guy to beat Tiger Woods in match play, but he's accomplished a lot more than that already in 2013. He produced three top 10s, including a runner-up at the Humana, and his scoring average of 69.396 ranks fourth on tour.
Biggest Surprise: David Lingmerth (Humana Challenge)A final-round 62 by the Swedish rookie that placed him in a playoff had most golf reporters scrambling for their media guides. Lingmerth came up short to eventual winner Brian Gay, but for a guy playing in just his second PGA Tour event, it served as another reminder that your next tour winner might not be someone you've ever heard of.