J.T. Poston … This is the second time in three weeks that he's appeared on this page (T66, Bay Hill), but he deserves sustained attention for the kind of season he's assembling. Overall, he's 11-for-13 and he hasn't missed a cut in eight starts during the 2019 portion. The streak has featured three top 25s, including a T22 at THE PLAYERS with a balanced attack. It reflected his profile in that his glaring strength is the absence of a weakness. However, that he's T19 on TOUR in par-5 scoring isn't insignificant at Copperhead. In his only prior appearance two years ago, he ranked T5 on the quartet en route to a T14 on the leaderboard.
Roberto Castro … The 33-year-old owns the dubious distinction of failing to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs after reaching the TOUR Championship the previous season – twice. It's one of those oddities that forces you to appreciate that he didn't scale the mountain only the first time. It's golf at the highest level and there's only so much room on the summit. And here he is again, currently 115th in the FedExCup standings with three top 25s, including in his last two starts. He's accurate off the tee (57th in fairways hit), on approach (39th in GIR and T14 in proximity) and he's comfortable salvaging par (44th in scrambling). He's also recorded a top 25 at Copperhead (T21, 2013), but he missed the cut in his last three tries. Given his profile over time, he's poised to reverse that trend.
Nick Taylor … Coasts into his fifth straight appearance with four consecutive cuts made among nine paydays in 12 starts in 2018-19. His T16 at TPC Sawgrass is his season-best finish. His approach game was outstanding last week, having placed T3 in greens hit and seventh in proximity to the hole. Yet, his strength is on the greens (49th in strokes gained: putting), so marrying the two on a track like Copperhead would yield magic.
Max Homa … There's been a fire under one of the better users of social media since the beginning of February. Since the Waste Management Phoenix Open, he's 4-for-4 with a T10 (Pebble Beach) and a T20 (Honda). While modest to be certain, that pair of top 25s matches the total in his first 60 PGA TOUR starts as a professional. Tends to feast on the par 5s, but he doesn't make any noise without the solid putting that's explained his recent surge. The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club has four par 5s and rewards a confident short game. After missing the cut in his previous two appearances (2014, 2015), this third trip could prove to be the kind of charm he puts on display for his followers.
Akshay Bhatia … Get used to the name because you're going to see more of it – and him – this year. Only 17 years of age – he'll turn 18 next January after which he plans to turn professional – he's following a similar trajectory that Joaquin Niemann blazed in 2017 and early 2018. Bhatia, a lefty, sits No. 9 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and has recorded numerous titles at the junior level. (Niemann also won regularly as a junior, but he honed his craft in professional competition in his native Chile while competing internationally before turning pro nearly a year ago.) Bhatia's success earned him the 2018 AJGA Rolex Junior Player of the Year award. Since, he prevailed in a playoff at the Jones Cup Invitational, a top-shelf amateur event in Sea Island, Georgia. One of the perks for that win is an exemption into The RSM Classic this coming fall. The Valspar Championship will go in the books as the PGA TOUR debut for the wiry six-footer, who makes Chesson Hadley appear plump, so merely making the cut at Copperhead will constitute success.
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.