January's fast starters, iron men, top rookies

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Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
Defending champion Bill Haas knows how helpful a quick start can be in the FedExCup race.
January 30, 2012
Chris Dunham, PGATOUR.COM

The season-long race for the FedExCup cannot be won or lost in the season's opening month, but the framework for a successful campaign can certainly be put into place before the calendar turns to February.

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A quick start affords a player more flexibility throughout the season. Jhonattan Vegas picked up a victory and a tie for third last January and managed to qualify for the third leg of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup despite not picking up another top-10 until the fall series.

Reigning FedExCup champion Bill Haas finished last January at No. 5 in the standings and did enough throughout the season to never fall outside the top 25. He entered the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola at No. 25 in the standings and the pieces fell right to allow him to win both the TOUR Championship and the FedExCup.

All a player needs is a chance.

SURPRISING STARTERS: Six players (Mark Wilson, Steve Stricker, D.A. Points, Haas and Jonathan Byrd) have finished each of the last two Januarys inside the FedExCup top 25. Five others inside this year's top 25 hadn't recorded a single point by the end of the season's first month last year. Here's a look at the players who are seeing the FedExCup race much differently than they did a year ago.

Quick starters
Player Rank Points Rank
Last Jan.
Points 2011
Finish
Johnson Wagner 1 783 N/A 0 70th
Sean OHair 9 238 N/A 0 58th
John Mallinger 13 208 N/A 0 186th
Jeff Maggert 19 166 N/A 0 210th
Scott Piercy 22 159 N/A 0 69th

IRON MEN: Four events were completed in the month of January and a quartet of players competed in each one. Scott Piercy, currently 22nd in the FedExCup standings, is rated highest of the bunch but No. 25 Chris Kirk, No. 51 Michael Bradley and No. 56 Jhonattan Vegas also competed in each of the January events.

Piercy had the most successful month to open the season with three top-25 finishes in his four starts, but Kirk was the only player to compete in all 16 rounds contested in the season's first month.

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January's iron men
Player FEC Rank Points Hyundai Sony Humana Farmers
Michael Bradley 51 82 T22 MC MC T33
Chris Kirk 25 144 T7 T38 T42 71
Scott Piercy 22 159 T12 T23 MC T13
Jhonattan Vegas 56 76 27 T46 MC T60

ROOKIE WATCH: At this time last season, a rookie (Vegas) was sitting atop the FedExCup standings. In a banner season for rookies, the TOUR saw six first-year players claim seven victories. Vegas was the only rookie to notch a victory in the month of January but Chris Kirk (23rd) and Keegan Bradley (26th), two soon-to-be champions, were also inside the FedExCup's top 30 at the end of the season's opening month.

This year, no rookies closed out January better than 30th but Bud Cauley checks in right on that number. Right behind him are Sand-Moon Bae (31st) and John Huh (34th). That trio has combined for eight starts, three top-20 finishes and, more impressively, no missed cuts.

Overall, there are a dozen members of this season's rookie class currently ranked inside the FedExCup top 100. If the season were to end today, 14 would make the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup.

JANUARY NOTES • 146 players have earned FedExCup points in 2012 • At No. 22, Piercy is the highest-ranked player without a top-10 finish • Wagner is the only player on TOUR with three top-10 finishes in January, earning them in three starts. • Five players (Luke Donald, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Fredrik Jacobson, Y.E. Yang) who competed in last year's TOUR Championship have yet to make a 2012 start on TOUR

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