Power Rankings: CM Network Hospitals Classic

November 05, 2012
Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM fantasy columnist

As the welcome arch that PGA TOUR rookie, Russell Knox tweeted on Monday morning states, Walt Disney World is the land "Where Dreams Come True." His message is clear. Given that the season-ending Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic is contested at Disney's Magnolia and Palm Golf Clubs, that promise applies to his pursuit as well.

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Various goals remain for the 128 in the field. For some, cracking the top 70 on the money list is the target as it would secure exemptions into the 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard and the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance. In addition, the top 80 are exempt into the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. But for any in the field of 128 stressing over finishing inside the top 125 on the money list, if he fails to convert, he won't be able to blame it on the absence of birdie opportunities on either track. Each golfer gets one round on Palm before the cut; only Magnolia is in play thereafter.

Both courses play to a par of 72. Magnolia's scoring average of 71.367 in 2011 was the highest in four years, but since it was extended to 7,516 yards in 2005, the winning aggregate has averaged nearly 21-under 267. That's a clip aided by the Palm, which has been the easiest track east of California every year since, perhaps not so coincidentally, 2005. Last year, Palm, which measures just 7,010 from the tips, registered a scoring average of 69.578.

All but one of the last 11 champions of this event have carded a 68 or lower at Palm (Stephen Ames, second-round 70, 2009). The actual scoring average of those 11 rounds is 66.18.

In 2006, Justin Rose opened with a course-record 60 on the Palm. It was the 19th of 26 such scores in PGA TOUR history. However, one of the more special records that still stands is the course record at Magnolia -- a 61 by the late Payne Stewart in his third round in 1990. Incidentally, while Stewart won this event in 1983, neither he nor Rose emerged with the trophy in the week either established the low aggregate.

As you'd expect in November in central Florida, the weather will be ideal. Sunshine will be abundant and high temperatures are unlikely to hit 80 degrees. Winds would serve as the only challenge as they could freshen at times throughout the tournament. It might get gusty on Sunday especially as a slight threat of rain begins to move in.

Power Rankings: Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic
Rank Player   Comment
Earned his lone PGA TOUR victory at this event in 2010. Also tied for 10th in 2008. Ranks 26th on the money list, highest among anyone in the field. Three runner-up finishes in 2012. Sits 14th in greens in regulation and seventh in par breakers.

Making his debut at Disney. Ranks 75th in earnings. Also 45th in greens in regulation and 18th in par breakers. Took a week off after sharing fourth place at the CIMB Classic, where he circled two eagles and 22 birdies. Eleven consecutive cuts made.

With a T11 at the Frys.com Open and T7 at The McGladrey Classic, he's playing his best golf in months. Ranks 55th in greens hit and 44th in adjusted scoring. In 11 starts at Disney, he's logged six top 25s, including a pair of T9s (2006, 2010).

While he's 3-for-3 at Disney, he's fared no better than a T30 (2010). However, in his last three starts, he posted a runner-up at the JT Shriners and T4s at The McGladrey Classic and CIMB Classic. Ranks eighth in GIR; 26th in par breakers.

A letdown following his breakthrough victory at The McGladrey Classic should be expected, but he's had two weeks off to come down. It was his first top 10 in 14 starts. Closed at Seaside with a PGA TOUR season-low 60. Runner-up at Disney in 2008.

The all-time money leader at this tournament finally broke through for his first win at Disney in 2008. It remains the most recent of seven top fives at the event. More recently, he tied for fourth at The McGladrey Classic. Ranks 98th on the money list.

Arrives having posted top 25s in his last two starts, including a T7 at The McGladrey Classic, where he closed with a 65. Currently 16th on TOUR in greens in regulation and 41st in par breakers. Made all five cuts at Disney, three going for top 25s.

Will need to hit more greens to contend -- he's 112th on TOUR in GIR -- but he's a scorer, which makes him dangerous. Ranks 30th in strokes gained-putting and 30th in par breakers. Also 4-for-4 at Disney with a T25 in 2008. Eight top 25s in 2012.

One of the many motivated to improve his position on the money list; he's currently 81st. Last competed at the Frys.com Open, where he held the 36- and 54-hole leads en route to a T4. Played his first 38 holes in bogey-free 14-under.

Inconsistency is to be expected from a rookie, but he's survived 21 of 26 cuts, which projects for an exceptional future. Coming off a T15 at The McGladrey Classic, where he ranked T2 in greens hit. Sits 30th overall in GIR and 57th in par breakers.
Five more to watch
These players didn't make the top 10 this week, but they're worth keeping an eye on:
SCOTT STALLINGS ... His splits are weighed down by a sluggish first half due to a rib injury, but he shared 15th place at The McGladrey Classic for his fifth top 25 in eight starts. Posted a T28 here in his debut last year; ranked T9 in birdies with 20.
TOM GILLIS ... No worse than a T26 (twice) in his last four PGA TOUR-sanctioned starts. As a former TOUR leader in birdie average (2010), he's a notable threat to go low. Ranks 50th in strokes gained-putting and 29th in par breakers.
BLAKE ADAMS ... Top 15s in three of his last six starts, including his last two in the Fall Series. Riding a streak of six consecutive rounds in the 60s. Sits 69th on the money list. Also 73rd in greens in regulation, 53rd in strokes gained-putting and 45th in par breakers.
JONAS BLIXT ... Experienced an understandable letdown after his breakthrough win at the Frys.com Open, finishing T84 at The McGladrey Classic. However, potential Rookie of the Year honors are at stake. Sits second in strokes gained-putting and 14th in par breakers.
JUSTIN LEONARD ... Ranks 138th on the money list and not yet fully exempt for 2013. Leonard was able to move inside the top 100 with a solo second here a year ago. It was his second runner-up finish in three starts. Also placed T6 in 2007.

MORE FROM BOLTON: Rookie Rankings | Medical Extensions | Reshuffle List