It was a limited field in the season opener, so our initial Upgrade and Downgrade list isn't that lengthy. But as always, we have a few adjustments to make.
Steve Stricker: He showed up, he knew the greens, he struck the ball confidently, he rolled to an opening win. If Stricker is ever going to get over the major hump, it's probably going to happen in 2012. And it certainly couldn't happen to a nicer, more grounded guy.
Martin Laird: He might be the most underrated fairway walker on the circuit. He's banked more than $4 million in the last two seasons, and he came out sharp in the season opener. He doesn't turn 30 until the end of the year, so the best is yet to come for the sneaky Scotsman.
Luke Donald: Three cheers to the Northwestern product for his Twitter rant about slow play. Mind you, the PGA Tour probably isn't going to do anything about it, as usual - they make changes at a glacially-slow pace - but at least someone is annoyed enough to make a stink about it. Maybe the next commissioner will actually be proactive about making changes that are good for the general good of the game, not just the bank accounts of his players.
Pebble Beach: Tiger Woods is going to make his debut there, no doubt happy to see Poppy Hills out of the rotation. Woods also didn't mind seeing the move to a shorter field, which might keep the field moving at a better pace (every little bit helps).
Louie Oosthuizen: He fell off the map somewhat after his major win in 2010, but he's been blistering overseas the last few months, capped by a second consecutive victory at the Africa Open. We probably won't see Oosthuizen in the states until the Match Play event in late February, but be open minded to his potential in majors and WGC events.
No Shows at Kapalua: Man, this was embarrassing. Eleanor Rigby's funeral had better attendance.
Johnattan Vegas: It's been almost a year since his splashy 2011 moment, but he's made nary a peep since last February. His debut at the ToC wasn't very impressive: a 298 total, just 26 shots behind Stricker. Anyone can luck into a win on the PGA Tour, but it's really the second victory that validates you. My gut tells me Vegas will be one of the more disappointing fantasy commodities of the year.
Lucas Glover: It's tremendous to see him enjoying life so much after a messy divorce, but an ankle injury - suffered while paddleboarding - is going to keep Glover on the shelf for a while. While no injury is ideal in any sport, an ankle problem probably is less worrisome to a golfer than it would be to a different type of athlete. Golfers aren't asked to make surprise cuts and changes of direction.
Paul Casey: Another daredevil bites the dust: Casey dislocated his shoulder while snowboarding and could be down for a few months. He'll probably make it go for the majors, but you have to wonder how sharp he'll be. At least he won't need any kind of surgery; this will be a rest-and-rehab comeback for Casey.