D.A. Points: He's always been a talented player and a likable sort, and now we get more exposure to Points - he has his first win, he got his Masters ticket punched, etc. How can you not love a player who thanks the crowd for coming out, win or lose? And how can you not love the chemistry between Points and Bill Murray, not to mention their winning teamwork at Pebble Beach? Points is basically Paul Goydos with a higher upside, and we need more guys like that on the circuit. Bravo.
Hunter Mahan: His closing 66 wasn't quite good enough to hoist the trophy, but it's still worth putting in the memory bank, the type of bookcased result that will provide confidence later. Mahan already has four cuts made and two heavy checks in 2011; this has the feeling of a monster year.
Steve Marino: He didn't play poorly down the stretch at Pebble, it was a matter of someone else taking control of the event (you can't blame Marino when Points holes out from the fairway for eagle). Marino knows he's close, and he's finally got a putting stroke to match the radar ball striking. When he finally bags that first victory, look for the second one to follow in the same calendar year.
Phil Mickelson: It doesn't matter that he's not winning yet, we merely like the fact that he's out of the box quickly with a couple of Top-10s already in the bank. It's taken him a while to get the hang of Riviera Country Club, but he's finally there; look for Lefty to be in the weekend picture again this week, no matter that he's playing his fourth consecutive event. If you were redrafting from scratch today, Mickelson would be the top American picked, no questions asked.
Mike Weir: I like him as a semi-sleeper in L.A. this week. He's won the event twice, and off conditions (rain is in the forecast) won't bother him one bit.
Pebble Beach Golf Links: It's still the most breathtaking track in the U.S., and it's a sight for sore eyes given how so much of the country has been pelted by snow this winter. Even the dog beach looked like a good place to be - at this point, I'd chase a tennis ball into the surf if it got me out of one more soul-crushing afternoon of shoveling.
Tiger Woods: He's too talented not to come around eventually to some extent, but you have to wonder if the world domination days are done for good. Woods rallied some in the third round in Dubai but had nothing on the final day, closing with a 3-over-par 75. The spitting-on-the-green incident was overblown, but it also shows how Woods has no real interest in trying to wear a white hat or go out of his way to ingratiate himself to fans worldwide. And perhaps the biggest thing Woods has lost in all this - his opponents no longer shake in his shadow. Back in the day, Woods would often win events because awestruck challengers couldn't take the heat of his presence. That's no longer the case.
Sergio Garcia: He was in the lead at Dubai on the third day, just two holes from the clubhouse, when the typical Garcia meltdown ensued. Garcia got a bad break on his tee shot at the 17th - an unlucky ricochet led to a double bogey - and that fluke unleashed everything that's been holding Garcia back in recent years. His body language was terrible, his pace of play was shameful (the mates at the tee behind him were unnecessarily delayed 15 minutes), and of course Garcia played a horrendous round Sunday, never recovering from that one fateful stroke. If Garcia can't learn to handle negative instances like this, he's never going to shed himself the underachiever tag. Everyone gets knocked to the canvas, son; winners find a way to remain undaunted and get back up.
Jim Furyk: Normally you'd figure him to be a good fit for a track like Riviera, where straight shooters generally get rewarded, but Furyk only has a pair of Top-10s here despite the fact that it's a regular stop on his calendar. Wait for better chances to dial him up; he didn't look sharp last week in the first place.
Adam Scott: It's a shame he didn't feel up to the Northern Trust Open this week because he's got a solid record here. I don't see how we can expect him to do much in the Match Play next week, given that he'll be working off a five-week layoff.
Luke Donald: He's got a snappy resume at Riviera, finishing T3, T6 and second in his last three visits, and bagging a pair of Top 15s in the previous decade. But this is also Donald's first start of the year (he hasn't played an event since December), and you wonder if he'll be paying a sharpness tax because of it.
Zach Johnson: It's good to see him back on the entrant list, but how healthy is Johnson? We probably won't get a good measure of his game in L.A. - he's never finished in the Top 20 at Riviera.
Padraig Harrington: Choose your own Paddy Adventure from last week - do we focus on the 69-68 to start, or the 73-78 on the weekend? Is it possible that he tinkers with his swing too much? I'm not on the Paddy Wagon for the opening quarter of the year, at least until he forces me to reevaluate that position.