Nate Lashley … At the risk of getting dramatic, this could be the first of two career-defining weeks for the 36-year-old. While he's set for Playoffs eligibility via conditional status at worst for the remainder of this season, he has two starts to burn via a medical extension. Should he finish no worse than solo 34th at Bay Hill, he'd meet the terms of the medical and rise into the Major Medical category, thus securing a full-time schedule for 2018-19. That result also would trigger a spot in next week's PLAYERS, which, of course, is the PGA TOUR's richest tournament with a prize fund of $12.5 million. When a T8 in Puerto Rico lifted him inside the bubble to qualify for his debut in the limited field at Bay Hill, he opted for rest after committing to The Honda Classic, so all of the stars are aligned. In the vacuum of results and analytics, he's 6-for-6 this season with an average finish a shade better than 27th place, and he's 23rd in greens hit, fifth in proximity and T20 in strokes gained: putting, so he just needs to remain on his trajectory.
Brian Gay … For what he lacks in distance off the tee, he more than makes up for on the greens. In fact, the 47-year-old leads the PGA TOUR in strokes gained: putting. So much for old-man nerves setting in. He's 10-for-11 this season with four top 25s, the most recent of which last week at PGA National where he was perfect on 57 chances from nine feet and in, 22 of which were from outside three feet. Before you dismiss him at Bay Hill where bombers crowd the leaderboard, consider that three of his 10 cuts made on the course went for a top 25. That includes a T22 last year.
Luke List … Because he's 34 years of age and because he's still chasing his first PGA TOUR victory, it can be easy to forget that he's among his generation as one of the longest off the tee. So, while his inconsistency over time relegates his expectations to that of a moving target, he was a fixture of success in both previous trips to Bay Hill. In 2017, he finished T17 that included a bonus of ranking 14th in strokes gained: putting. Last year, slotted third in strokes gained: tee-to-green en route to a T7.
Talor Gooch … He's been all or nothing this season, but that's one way to succeed with conditional status. All four of his cuts made in eight starts have gone for a top 20 – two were top fives – and he's 43rd in the FedExCup. Fresh off a T20 at The Honda Classic where he co-led the field in greens in regulation and ranked T3 in par-5 scoring. For the season, he's 19th in adjusted scoring. Opened strong in his first appearance at Bay Hill last year with respective rounds of 65 and 70 before fading into a T26.
J.T. Poston … The 25-year-old is following a natural progression as a third-year member of the PGA TOUR. As a sophomore on conditional status last year, he qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs in 22 starts, a feat more difficult to achieve than most understand. Now 59th in the FedExCup with four top 25s among eight paydays this season, he's making his debut at Bay Hill where his knack for scoring on the par 5s and putting can make noise. Currently T18 in par-5 scoring and inside the top third in strokes gained: putting.
NOTE: Sleeper is a relative term, so Rob uses unofficial criteria to determine who qualifies. Each of the following usually is determined to be ineligible for this weekly staple: Winners of the tournament on the current host course; winners in the same season; recent major champions; top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking; recent participants of team competitions.