D.J. Trahan … Despite two wins early in his PGA TOUR career and generally modest success for a number of seasons, it cannot be easy to accept moonlighting on the Korn Ferry Tour while accepting opportunities to compete in a TOUR event with status merely as a former champion. Yet, he turned it into 14 starts last season, converting three of those into top 10s and another two into top 20s, including a T18 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, his third career top 20 in the tournament. Still, he wouldn't escape his category until a T7 at the KFT Championship yielded the last TOUR card up for grabs. Back in business in the big leagues, he's 91st in the FedExCup with a pair of top 25s. He's also turning back the clock with his ball-striking as he's eighth in total driving, 35th in GIR, T11 in proximity and 33rd in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green.
Sung Kang … He collected his first PGA TOUR victory at the AT&T Byron Nelson last year, but it's only recently that he's filed relatively consistent performances. Since the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open five months ago, he's cashed six of seven times, thrice for a top 25. At Torrey Pines two weeks ago, he was in position to strike entering the final round, but faded to finish T16. His tee-to-green game has sustained him over time and it's the reason why he finished T14 at Pebble Beach last year. For the week, he ranked T8 in fairways hit, led the field in greens in regulation, and even finished third in scrambling. Also placed T17 here in 2016.
NOTE: Each of the last three golfers featured here is a product of nearby Stanford University. The Cardinal won the 2019 NCAA Men's Championship.
Patrick Rodgers … Before and after he missed about four months with hand and wrist soreness last year, he wasn't flashing any form. That finally changed after the holiday hiatus as he's opened 2020 with four consecutive cuts made with a T9 at the Farmers Insurance Open and a T16 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open as the nearest objects in the rear-view mirror. Textbook brilliant putting at Torrey Pines slotted him second in putting: birdies-or-better, but it was his tee-to-green precision at TPC Scottsdale that piggybacked the strong effort. Last week, he was third in total driving and T6 in greens hit. Finished T8 in his tournament debut at Pebble Beach in 2018.
Maverick McNealy … It doesn't seem like all that long ago that he was torn between life in the business world or life as a tournament professional. That's because it wasn't, but the 24-year-old has paid off the decision. After two solid seasons on the Korn Ferry Tour, he's generated consistency as a PGA TOUR rookie thanks in no small part to the guidance of coach Butch Harmon and LPGA pro, Danielle Kang, who doubles as his girlfriend. McNealy laces up for his second crack at Pebble Beach having made eight straight cuts with a season-best solo 15th in his most recent at Torrey Pines. A bold but confident approach on the greens has him 10th in putting: birdies-or-better.
Brandon Wu … Former college and Walker Cup teammate Isaiah Salinda also is in the field at Pebble Beach – and both were Stanford teammates with McNealy for two years – but Wu has had a little more success since turning professional last fall. He's 3-for-3 on the PGA TOUR with a T17 at the Houston Open and a pair of T55s. Now exhausting his fourth sponsor exemption, his accuracy off the tee will serve him well as his education is tested at this level. He made news at Pebble Beach last summer when he was presented with his diploma after the conclusion of his final round of the U.S. Open in which he finished T35. Two weeks later, he successfully navigated Final Qualifying for The Open Championship to become the first amateur in 52 years to qualify for both Opens in the same year. Wu will turn 23 on Feb. 17.
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.