The season starts with a partial field playing at odd times, but that doesn't mean we don't have something to talk about. Let's look at the risers and fallers from the Tournament of Champions.
Jonathan Byrd: Some observers might paint him with the underachiever brush, which seems unfair to me. No one hands you victories on this competitive circuit, and Byrd just bagged his fifth victory last week. He's a super iron player, a creative scrambler and he's teeming in confidence after winning back-to-back events (the Timberlake event in late October and now the Tournament of Champions). Byrd hasn't been in the Top 50 in earnings since 2003, but I have a gut feeling he's going back this year.
Robert Garrigus: It was no surprise to see him compete in the opener - Kapalua favors the bombers, and Garrigus is James Joyce long - and it was no surprise to see Garrigus done in by the blade at the end (a 3-foot putt eliminated him in the playoff; the weakest part of his game is the work on the greens). If Garrigus can keep his fairway play on point - he was the best iron player in the small field last week - a breakthrough year is possible at age 33.
Graeme McDowell: He didn't get into the playoff, but his final-round 62 left an impression with the field. It will be a little tricky for McDowell to keep his balance and sanity while he juggles life on two major tours, but he seems like the even-tempered type who can make it work. The major breakthrough last year was not a fluke; more excellence is on the way.
Ian Poulter: Five of his last 12 cashes on the circuit have been six figures or more. The ball-striking has never been better, he's got the nerve of a burglar around the green and his confidence has never been an issue. Poulter should contend in multiple majors this year.
Camilo Villegas: Starting the season with a DQ is always a kick in the teeth, especially in a no-cut event where you're otherwise guaranteed a paycheck. To Camilo's credit, he handled the situation with levity, and he has the type of laid-back personality that will allow him to forget about this quickly.
Anthony Kim: He's still looking for his best form since the thumb injury, and at times you wonder if he's having too much fun off the course to be a dominant player through his 20s. It was disappointing to see Kim post a 69-71-74 start on a Kapalua track that was there for the taking; a 68 to finish is encouraging, but we need to see a lot more.
Zach Johnson: A toe injury forced some footwear adjustments, and Johnson's game seemed to suffer from it - he never found his way into contention en route to a pedestrian T23. I'm surprised Johnson is still in the field for this week's Sony Open; why not take a little time off and let your body heal?
Derek Lamely: He never got the hang of the Hawaii breezes, posting a 72-76-78-70 line and finishing dead last among the 32 players who went the distance. Remember, his way into this event was a win at the watered-down Puerto Rico Open last year, and Lamely finished 2010 with just six cashes in his final 16 starts. It's going to be a while before we see him at Kapalua again.