Welcome to a new season of fantasy golf! As always, I'm thrilled to be your point man. The new games at PGATOUR.COM are coming, but you can count on my weekly preview in the meantime.
In my offseason content, I reserved judgment regarding playing time based on how fields would be affected by the compressed schedule of 36 events in the regular season and the elimination of the Fall Series in its previous format. Lo and behold, there's some good news to relay.
Seven tournaments have agreed to expand their fields by 12 golfers to account for the aggregate reduction in potential starts. (No tournaments experienced a decrease.) The first to grow is next week's Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation (156 golfers). It's the only event on the West Coast Swing to see a bump, but it's a valuable one since the Mayakoba Golf Classic has moved to the fall.
The second phase of the graduate reshuffle includes three successive events that will feature bigger fields -- Tampa Bay Championship (156), Arnold Palmer Invitational (132) and Shell Houston Open (156).
Another wrinkle in 2013 is that there will be a reshuffle following the Wells Fargo Championship (immediately before THE PLAYERS Championship). In the recent past, there was no reshuffle between the Masters and the last event before the U.S. Open. During this new truncated third phase, the RBC Heritage will balloon to 144.
In the fourth phase, the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial will host 132. The last tournament to expand is the AT&T National, which will also invite 132 golfers.
Now, as it relates to this week's Sony Open in Hawaii, below are golfers that weren't included in my Power Rankings (or the Wild card) and Sleepers. For the time being, I'll stick with the usual categories with which you grew familiar last year, albeit with a tweak here and there.
My one-and-done selections and season totals will appear in The TOUR Report on Wednesdays.
On a Roll
Ryan Moore ... While things didn't go his way at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, he's hardly in a slump now. Remember that he capped off last year with four consecutive top 10s culminating with a win at the Shriners.
Jimmy Walker ... His inclusion here is more about the long term, but he also placed fourth at Waialae in 2011. Every year since returning full-time to the PGA TOUR in 2008, he's improved in top 25s and earnings, settling at nine and $1.638 million, respectively, last season. Posted two top 10s in the Fall Series just a couple of weeks after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Michael Thompson ... Closed out 2012 with a T13 at the Shriners and a T10 at The McGladrey Classic. Also enjoyed his time at Waialae a year ago, racking up an eagle and 20 birdies en route to a share of sixth place.
Harris English ... After bowing out of the 2012 FedExCup Playoffs at the midpoint, he'd close out the Fall Series with a pair of top 20s to total nine on the season.
Horses for Courses
K.J. Choi ... Once upon a time, he was money at Waialae, posting five top 15s in a six-start stretch. That includes the 2008 title. However, his best effort in the last three editions is a T38 a year ago. Perhaps he can ride the momentum of a victory in his native South Korea in October. He hasn't played competitively since.
Rory Sabbatini ... Failed to record a top 25 in his last 10 starts worldwide, but he's rattled off eight consecutive cuts made at Waialae. That run includes two runner-up finishes and another pair of top 15s in his last seven visits.
Jerry Kelly ... The 2002 Sony champ sits second in all-time earnings at the event (behind Ernie Els). Kelly has added seven top 15s to the victory in 15 total appearances. Incidentally, he's burning a career earnings exemption in 2013.
John Rollins ... Waialae may be just what the doctor ordered for the three-time PGA TOUR winner. He ended 2012 worse than any other season since joining the circuit in 2000, but he's netted top 20s in his last three starts at the Sony, including a T8 in 2010 and a T10 last year.
John Senden ... Ball-strikers tend to fare well at Waialae and this Aussie is no exception. While he's missed five cuts in nine trips, he's also posted three top 25s including in each of his last two.
Marc Leishman ... Having formed a reputation as a contender in the wind, it's no surprise that he's 3-for-3 at Waialae with a pair of top 20s.
George McNeill ... As one of the more underrated fantasy values on the board, he's excelled on islands when the wind blows. Four top 20s in five starts at Waialae. Also worth adding that prior to his victory in Puerto Rico last year, he finished fifth on that island in 2011.
Robert Allenby ... In a perfect world, he'd own Waialae on an annual basis. And while he's managed three top 10s in 11 starts, he's missed the cut in his last two. More concerning is that he's survived only five cuts in his last 17 starts worldwide. Two of those were courtesy of no-cut guarantees in World Golf Championships where he finished outside the top 55 in each.
Brian Davis ... He's survived only two of his last eight cuts and hasn't posted a top 25 since July. Best finish in four tries at Waialae was a T45 in 2009.
Bobby Gates ... Missed the last three cuts of the Fall Series, and then needed to regain fully exempt status via q-school where he survived on the number. He's 1-for-2 at Waialae with a T46 last year.
John Daly ... I hesitated to include him here only because he capped off 2012 with a T15 in an event on the Asian Tour in December. Prior to that, however, he went 2-for-7 without a top 30. The clincher is that he has zero top 25s among seven cuts made in nine appearances at Waialae.
Not So Fast
Charlie Wi ... Finally broke through last year for his first cut made in four starts here, but it resulted in a T46. I've said it before and it bears repeating, he's one of the most predictable fantasy investments. You'll know when it's a good time to take a bite.
Dicky Pride ... Fully exempt again for the first time since 2007, he's a mere 2-for-8 at Waialae with no top 35s.
John Mallinger ... Totaled seven top 25s in 2012 with three top fives, but his only cut made at Waialae in four trips was a T55 in 2008.
Justin Leonard ... Fully exempt via a career earnings exemption, he's never made any noise at Waialae. Last year's solo 70th represented his first cut made in four appearances.
Nicholas Thompson ... He's 0-for-4 and hasn't broken par in all eight rounds at Waialae. The newlywed and Web.com Tour grad will wiggle his way into our consciousness later.
All 23 rookies ... As I stated in the Power Rankings, since 2010 rookies are 37-for-67 with only six top 25s and no top 10s.
Back in the Saddle
Steve Marino ... First start since sitting out the last few months of 2012 to allow his left knee to heal. Has 21 starts on a Major Medical Extension. Also owns a superb record at Waialae with three consecutive top-seven finishes from 2008-11.
Joe Ogilvie ... Hasn't played since the Travelers Championship in June due to a herniated disk. Granted 11 starts on a Major Medical Extension. His T19 at Waialae last year easily ranked as his best finish of the year, so don't outright dismiss him.
Louis Oosthuizen ... Ready to go at the Volvo Golf Champions in his native South Africa. Hasn't played since an eye infection forced him to withdraw before the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December.
Retief Goosen ... Returning early from disk replacement surgery. Scheduled to compete in this week's Volvo Golf Champions on the European Tour. He finished 136th on the PGA TOUR money list last year but he has five starts on a Major Medical Extension.