Nothing builds confidence and pads totals like back-to-back no-cut tournaments with half-size fields and inflated purses. That goes for one-and-doners, too. Of course, if you don't capitalize, then you're in the unenviable position of already playing catch-up. So, while you can remain aggressive in one- and two-man formats due to the guaranteed dividend, and while nearly everyone on the board is available just three events down, patience and strategy still matter.
This is the first time that the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions rewards FedExCup points and official PGA TOUR earnings. While many members of the circuit have competed in it in the past, it's primarily served as an oasis late in the season for European and Asian Tour members. To emphasize that fact, while there have been 21 top 10s by golfers in this week's field during Sheshan International's three years as host of the tournament as a WGC (2009-2011), only two were by Americans, and both were in 2009 (Ryan Moore, third; Nick Watney, fifth.) That's enough evidence for me to lean on an international.
Francesco Molinari sits No. 2 in my Power Rankings and went wire-to-wire at Sheshan in 2010, but I'm going to burn the 2011 champ, Martin Kaymer (No. 5 in the Power Rankings). The German shares the tournament course record of 20-under 268 and he's made some noise of late on the European Tour. On paper, he's 35th in greens in regulation and 22nd in scoring average.
With three top fives in all three editions at Sheshan, Rory McIlroy piqued my interest, but he's too valuable an asset with which to roll the dice this early in the season. Whether you're front-running or chasing, he'll figure to carry more value later.
Ironically, if you want to lean on a guy playing well with everything to gain, turn to an American -- Peter Uihlein. Last week, he picked up where he left off in Japan three weeks prior, bookending a fortnight of rest with a T7 and T5, respectively. And those came in the wake of two runner-up finishes in his previous three starts. Uihlein is a non-member on the PGA TOUR, and I have my sights on him in a more usable fashion for 2014-15, but he's a wonderfully fun and potentially dynamic option this week.
CIMB Classic: Sergio Garcia; T11; $161,000.00; 65.000 FedExCup points
Overall Record: 3-for-3
FedExCup points: 219.750
Top 5s: 1
Top 10s: 1
Top 25s: 2
Missed Cuts: 0