RotoWire Partners

Sony Open Preview: D.J. Plays Superstar Music

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

And they're off! Let's try this again. And they're off! OK, one more time. Starting the Hyundai Tournament of Champions a couple days late and ending on a Tuesday wasn't exactly what the PGA TOUR had in mind, but I'm sure there aren't many complaining with the end result. The end result, of course, was a victory by one of the PGA TOUR's superstars. Well, ah, soon to be superstar? How about possible superstar? Let's just say he's one of a handful of golfers on the PGA TOUR who appear ready to take the next step toward that elite level. Why would the PGA TOUR care about that? Well, more superstars equal more interest, and Dustin Johnson is certainly one of the players on the PGA TOUR who creates interest - when he's playing well, and, safe to say, he's playing well. So as the dust, err, rain, settles, all appears to be well on the PGA TOUR. One event is in the books and one big name is on the trophy. Weeks from now we'll all have forgotten how difficult the start of the season was and maybe more potential superstars will have won titles, but the PGA TOUR and its players are not in the clear quite yet, though. The players must survive yet another agonizing week in Hawaii.

This week:
Sony Open

Last Year:
Johnson Wagner shot a final-round 67 on his way to a two-stroke victory over four players.

Players to Consider:

1. Tim Clark

After using part of the 2012 season getting back into form, Clark enters this season ready to roll. His track record at this event is pretty solid as well, which is why he's at the top of the list this week. Clark finished runner-up here in 2011 and has never finished lower than 25th in his three starts.

2. Keegan Bradley

There are plenty of golfers in the field this week with better track records at the Sony than Bradley, but few are just plain better than him. Bradley is a threat each and every week and even with the so-so history here, he's still worth a look.

3. Dustin Johnson

Is D.J. going to take it to the next level? Back-to-back wins would certainly get him started on his journey to the next tier. Johnson has appeared at the Sony twice and has two top-20s to his credit.

4. Charles Howell III

Howell III usually plays his best golf early in the year, and his year usually starts at the Sony. Howell III was one of four players that finished runner-up here last year and has cracked the top-5 in three of his past four starts here.

5. Brian Gay

Gay is likely to come in under the radar this week as he hasn't played all that well the last couple years. He's played very well at this event the last four years, however. Gay has four consecutive top-25s coming into this year's event.

Players to Avoid:

1. Dean Wilson

Wilson has a habit of coming out of nowhere and playing well, but it rarely happens at the Sony Open. Wilson has failed to make the cut here in five of his past six tries.

2. Bo Van Pelt

Van Pelt has become one of the better players on the PGA TOUR over the last few years, but it hasn't helped him at the Sony. Van Pelt has missed the cut the last four years and a fifth wouldn't be all that surprising.

3. Kyle Stanley

Stanley has really struggled since an early season hot streak last year. His struggles seem to have carried over to the new season as he was the only player to finish double-digits over-par at the Hyundai.

4. Vijay Singh

Unlike the others on this list, Singh has had little trouble making the cut at the Sony, but his play on the weekend has left a lot to be desired. Singh hasn't cracked the top-30 at the Sony since 2006.

5. Ted Potter Jr.

As expected, Potter Jr. struggled last week against a quality field. Potter Jr. hasn't accomplished much outside his win last season, and though he finished in the top-15 here last year, his game appears to have regressed since. Another top-20 is not in the cards this week.


Group A

1. Tim Clark
2. Charles Howell III

Maybe during another week, the list of players available in Group A would be disappointing, but not this week. Clark and Howell III each have quality track records at this event and with Group A void of big names this week, this looks like a perfect time to use them.

Group B

1. Dustin Johnson
2. Matt Kuchar
3. Zach Johnson
4. Keegan Bradley

Group B is loaded once again this week, and once again, some big names will miss the cut, on my roster that is. Bradley and D.J. are actually the only players in my top 5 this week, but that doesn't mean I reached for the other two. D.J. is on a roll and since there is only one day between the end of the Hyundai and the start of the Sony, I have to think he'll carry over some momentum. Zach is a former champion here and is capable of winning any given week. Kuchar played pretty well last week and like the others on my roster, can turn it on and win any tournament.

Group C

1. Brian Gay
2. Jerry Kelly

Not a lot of firepower in Group C this week, but there are a couple good picks in there if you look hard enough. Gay is in my top 5, so he's an obvious choice and Kelly is also a pretty easy selection if you factor in his track record here. Kelly has finished in the top 25 in five of his last seven starts at the Sony.

Starters Round One

1. Charles Howell III
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Keegan Bradley
4. Brian Gay

I'm splitting my lineup right down the middle this week. Half is based on track record at the Sony and the other half is based on current form. Howell III is based on track record because his record here is solid, and well, he didn't play last week. D.J. is on a roll, and since there is only one day between the end of the Hyundai and the start of the Sony, I have to think he'll carry over some momentum. Bradley also played well last week and that should also carry over to this week. Back to track record in Group C with Brian Gay. The only question was, which track record to go with, Kelly or Gay? Both solid, but I like Gay's top-10s here the last two years.

Round Two and Going Forward:

We get our first cut this week at the Sony and on a side-note, thank goodness we didn't have to worry about that last week. Anyhow, there is a bunch of talent on this roster and I'll have to wait and see how these guys come out of the gate. With many players teeing off for the first time this season, the opening round will be important. I'll be keeping a close eye on Howell III and Clark in Group A as I believe one of those two will make a run at the title this week. I'll go with the hot hand in that group. Group B has a couple players who come in on a roll and as long as they keep up that high level of play, they will remain in the starting line-up. Kuchar is likely the first one in off the bench if he plays well. Group C has a couple of solid veterans who should both make it to the weekend. Again, I'll go with the hot hand in that group.

Follow @gregvara on Twitter.