A late-round showdown at the SBS Tournament of Champions between Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama was entertaining enough to briefly draw viewers away from the NFL playoffs, and commercials for the Masters in April have already begun to surface and tease. After the Tour took a month-long winter break, the top golfers in the world returned to action this past weekend. Two events in Hawaii precede California’s West Coast swing as Tour action ramps up again.
Although a double bogey on the par-five 15th caused plenty of suspense towards the latter portion of Sunday’s final round at the SBS Tournament of Champions, Thomas was able to bounce back with birdies on 17 and 18 to win the event -- unlike his alma-mater Alabama during Monday’s CFP Championship. Now with three career wins under his belt, and two already during the 2016-17 season, Thomas is on a roll, and there is no end in sight. The 23-year-old’s recent victory launched him 10 spots up the Official World Golf Rankings, and he now resides in the No. 12 slot right in front of Rickie Fowler. Thomas definitely has plenty of polishing left to take care of before contending for a major and earning elite status like his buddy Jordan Spieth, but in terms of fantasy value, there are few better options right now, especially given his ability to make birdies at an alarming rate.
Perez sandwiched his win at the OHL Classic with a T7 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and a T3 at last week’s event, vaulting him into the top 100 of the OWGR for the first time since 2010. He’s also third in the FedExCup standings behind only the red-hot Matsuyama and Thomas. With Perez’s 2016 shoulder injury a distant memory at this point, he will look to carry his recent momentum into the upcoming Sony Open in Hawaii, where he finished top 20 in both 2014 and 2015.
Moore seems to fly under the radar more often than not due to his struggles at major tournaments, but the 31st-ranked player in the world has posted five consecutive top-25 finishes dating back to the TOUR Championship, and he finished behind only Thomas and Matsuyama at the most recent tournament. Moore’s ball striking may currently be the most promising part of his game, as he hit 61-of-72 greens in regulation to go along with 50-of-60 fairways hit this past week in Hawaii. In 2016 he took off the entire month of January, so we may not see him tee it up again until the Waste Management Phoenix Open in early February.
Watson finished near the wrong end of a weak field at this past week’s SBS Tournament of Champions, sitting 16 strokes back of Thomas, who won with a score of 22-under-par. Having slipped to the No. 10 spot of the OWGR, it would not be a surprise if Watson contends for a couple tournaments throughout the remaining winter months before struggling to post high finishes the rest of the way. In 2016 he won February’s Northern Trust Open and finished runner-up at the WGC-Cadillac Championship before securing just two top-25s in his next nine starts worldwide.
Si Woo Kim
Kim finished one stroke away from dead last this past week in Hawaii, which came on the heels of a missed cut at the RSM Classic and a withdrawal at the OHL Classic. A win at the Wyndham Championship in August led to five top-20 finishes in his next six starts, but the South Korean 21-year-old has experienced figurative growing pains ever since. Kim continues to flirt with the top-50 mark of the OWGR, but his recent trend does not bode well with the PGA Tour schedule heating up and more golfers returning to tournament action.
After making his anticipated 2016 debut at the Hero World Challenge in December following a lengthy recovery from back injuries, Woods recently announced he will participate in four tournaments during a five-week span beginning in late January. The 41-year-old’s upcoming journey kicks off at the Farmers Insurance Open -- hosted by Torrey Pines, where he has eight professional career wins. There remain critics worried about the possibility of re-injury and further disappointment from Woods, so finding his groove at a comfortable venue could be essential for momentum purposes. Given the flashes of brilliance Tiger showed back in December along with the fact he took nearly 1.5 years off from competition, a packed five-week schedule figures to boost his value, at least in the short term.
News of a second sports hernia surgery for Mickelson surfaced in December with the Tour on its annual winter break, ultimately delaying his 2017 debut until the Farmers Insurance Open alongside Tiger Woods. Mickelson has actually missed the cut at this event three consecutive years, so he will be an especially risky fantasy option coming off an injury. Regardless, the fact that he’s able to return in January not long after undergoing surgery warrants a sigh of relief for the 46-year-old.