March 08, 2010
Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist
While the big dogs enjoy the spoils of a no-cutter at Doral, the dog-eat-dog world of the rank and file will scrimmage in Puerto Rico this week.
The field of 132 resembles what you saw at the Mayakoba Golf Classic three weeks ago. And like that event in Mexico, journeymen and grinders are rewarded for their unsung achievements and toil.
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The scorecard at Trump International GC teases you. It can stretch to over 7,500 yards, but among par-72 tracks in 2009, it was slotted between Torrey Pines North and Magnolia GC in terms of difficulty. That's not quite Murderers' Row if you know what I mean. Greens in regulation are paramount this week.
Defending champion Michael Bradley finished T60 in GIR last year, but he rode a hot putter and carded just five holes over par all week. But make no mistake, birdie opportunities always, ahem, trump the suddenly sharp blade-runners.
|Power Rankings: Puerto Rico Open presented by Banco Popular|
| || ||Kevin |
|He's off to his best start to a season on the PGA TOUR, with two top-10s in five events. K-Stads is fourth on TOUR in greens in regulation and has played in both previous editions of this event. He finished T4 in 2008.|
| || ||Rory |
|At 55th in the world ranking, he's the highest-rated golfer in the field. This is his first go at Trump International. The warm weather and beauty draws him to Hawaii every year, so I wouldn't be surprised if he snuggles into a comfort zone at this week's island feast.|
| || ||Bryce |
|Here's another non-winner that has played improving golf over the last month, with a T10 at Pebble Beach and a T8 in Scottsdale. He's 36th in greens hit in 2010 and placed T13 here a year ago despite ranking T69 in GIR.|
| || ||Alex |
|Six-for-six in cashes with three top-10s this year. Sits sixth in the all-around ranking and seventh in scoring average. Managed a T35 at the Honda despite carding just one birdie on the back nine the entire week.|
| || ||Tom |
|A first-timer at this event. Finished T9 at the Champions Tour's Toshiba Classic on Sunday and has two top 25s on the PGA TOUR in three starts this year. Mental edge alone gets him sets him a cut above.|
| || ||Jeev Milkha |
|Failed to sneak into the field at Doral, so the PGA TOUR rookie will burn a start in his first appearance at this event. He's 60th in the world ranking and has the kind of international pedigree to warrant realistic consideration as a contender.|
| || ||Joe |
|Was in contention in Scottsdale before a final-round 70 forced him to settle for a T8. He looked at the bright side of how it improved his number in the reshuffle, and then finished T26 at the Honda. First-timer in Puerto Rico.|
| || ||Chad |
|Making the most of his TOUR return with six paychecks in as many starts, three for top-20s, including a T4 at Mayakoba. Collins' game improves the closer he gets to the green. Case in point, he was first in putting at The Honda even though a Sunday 78 led to a T56.|
| || ||Alex |
|Twice now, he's had potentially lucrative paydays dashed by 75s this year -- Pebble Beach and Honda. He finished T13 here a year ago and was T13 in greens in regulation last week.|
| || ||John |
|With two top-15s in as many starts in Puerto Rico, Merrick should be listed higher in these rankings, but his best finish in seven tournaments in 2010 is a tie for 25th at the Sony Open in Hawaii.|
Two words you haven't heard in a while, at least in the U.S., are "hot" and "humid." They headline the conditions the field faces on the island this week. Rain and wind could also impact the pace of play every day.