Reading golf fields early in the season can be hard, but the headline for the Sony Open field in Hawaii is crystal clear: Zach Johnson is playing. And that's basically all you need to know. But since you asked, here's some other things about the Song Open:
Johnson (who won last week's Hyundai Tournament of Champions) won the event in 2009 and will be joined by other recent winners K.J. Choi (2008), Ryan Palmer (2010), Mark Wilson (2011), Johnson Wagner (2012) and Russell Henley (2013). Others of note include Adam Scott, who finished second in 2009, and Tim Clark, who was runner up here last year.
Our first recommendation is Johnson who, (besides for the obvious reasons), won the last meaningful event of 2013 (Tiger's Northwestern Mutual World Challenge) and was first in sand saves, 17th in strokes gained-putting, fifth in eagles and fourth in birdies last week in his victory.
Next we have Scott, who won three times in Australia at the end of last year and tied for sixth last week at Kapalua.
We would not pick Wilson who - while having a solid but winless 2013 did have three top-10s - had a poor fall, missing two cuts and having just one in-the-money finish of a T48.
Who Is There
18 players made the trek from long and undulating Kapalua to completely flat Waialae Country Club. Those include Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth and Jason Dufner.
In this group, our pick is Spieth, who finished in a tie for second last week and continues to play top-notch golf, finishing the week with just two bogeys on the scorecard.
Charles Howell III is on the big island too, and is a solid pick purely for trend lines: he's posted seven top-5 finishes in his appearances at the Sony Open.
Seven events into the 2013-14 PGA Tour season – four with full ShotLink capability – and we're beginning to have an early peek at whose playing best so far. Here's who in the top-5 of the all-around ranking is playing this week:
Zach Johnson – Tied for second in the rankings (behind only Dustin Johnson), not much more needs to be said here, except for one more reason to pick Zach this week: a (relatively) flat and short Waialae Country Club fits his game even better than Kapalua did.
Will MacKenzie – MacKenzie, tied with Zach in the standings, might a surprising find here to some, but three top-15 finishes in the fall schedule got his season off to a strong start and have him 27th in driving distance, 20th in strokes gained-putting average, seventh in birdie average and 10th in scoring average.
Hideki Matsuyama – Fourth in the standings, Matsuyama comes in 26th on the FedEx Cup points list and with momentum after a fall that included a tie for third at the Frys.com Open. A surprising stat involving Matsuyama: he's first on the PGA Tour in driving distance at the moment at more than 317 yards per drive. This will change as more players begin their seasons, but it does show that he can hit it long when he has to.