Continuing with our Hollywood theme (Oscars are around the corner, after all), let's take a look at others who we expect a lot from -- as well as those who could potentially disappoint -- as the Tour season kicks off in Hawaii this week.
(Picks for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua are at the end of the article).
The Joseph Gordon-Levitt 'Rising Star' Group
The sidekick to Christian Bale's Dark Knight -- and apparent heir to the Batman franchise -- represents the young players I like to shine in 2013.
- Jonas Blixt. Really started to come alive in the late Spring and finished off the post-FedEx Cup Playoffs part of the schedule with a win and a second-place finish. The stats that bode well for better play in 2012: he was 2nd in putting, 25th in scrambling and 10th in scoring average. I also like that his third round scoring average was 2nd on Tour; he got himself into contention often. Expect his newfound confidence to help him improve on No. 62 ranking in final-round scoring average.
- Bud Cauley. Didn't 'flash' like many thought he would in 2012, but his best golf is ahead of him. Made 75% of his cuts and learned a lot out there, and has winning programmed into his psyche.
- Seung-Yol Noh. I'm much higher on him than 2012 ROY (and Tour winner) John Huh. Seventeen consecutive cuts made heading into 2013 and looked ready to contend in most of those weeks.
- Matt Every. He kicked off our 2012 with an ashtray putter, a T6 at Sony and a belligerent interview on Golf Channel about his (past?) drug use. He added four more top-10's and should contend more in 2013, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.
- Luke Guthrie. The Illinois kid burst onto the scene Bud Cauley-style with top-20's in his first three PGA Tour events, and then won in consecutive weeks on the Web.com Tour. Huge upside here, to quote Mel Kuyper.
- Ben Kohles. Another celebrated amateur, BK also won in consecutive weeks on the Web.com in 2012 shortly after turning pro. I'll take Guthrie in the short term building off his success on the big Tour in 2012, but I think Kohles will be better over the long haul.
The PSY 'Shooting Star' Group
How much more do you think we'll see the nerdy 'Gangham Style' creator moving forward? I'm guessing the next time we'll hear his name is when he dies peacefully sometime in 2062. I'm not saying these players will suffer the same fate, but their play in 2012 raised more questions than it provided answers.
- Rickie Fowler. A real puzzler. His year was going great -- plenty of high finishes, a win in Charlotte, T2 at the Players, and was T3 heading into the final round at Memorial… and shot 84. After that, he only broke par six times the rest of the year and his best finish was T23 at the Tour Championship, a 30-man field. His putting rank dropped 100 spots from 2011 to 2012. It's tough to consider that as a blip on the radar, and he's indicated that his back was giving him issues. Not good for a young guy.
- Kyle Stanley. The early season comeback man dropped off the planet after winning in Arizona, mainly due to his putting, which was an abysmal 187th on Tour. He didn't post too many high numbers, however, so there might be hope yet… he is one of the longest players on Tour and that will carry him at certain events. Of course, he's switching equipment to Nike. I'd put him in the 'hold' category for awhile.
- Ryan Moore. Here's what I don't like about Moore's prospects: he's one of the worst wedge players on Tour. Consider his average proximity to the hole from the following distances: 50-75 yards (146th), 75-100 yards (182nd), 100-125 yards (102nd). He's consistently ranked the same in these categories the last five years. He's a good putter and that's what saves him, but missing 25% of greens with a wedge in his hands is tough to make a living doing.
The Jason Bateman 'Mr. Underrated' Group
How many good movies and shows has this guy been in? Plenty. And the group below has performed well and predictably in certain spots... or at least gives us something to look forward to.
- Ben Curtis. Despite missing seven cuts in 2012, he was good in predictable spots. He got a win (Valero Texas Open) and in more than half of the events in which he made the cut he earned a six-figure check.
- Carl Pettersson. He intentionally regained 30 pounds heading into 2012 because he didn't like what his diet-driven physique did to his game, and it paid off huge (pun intended) in 2012. Seventh in FEC standings and $3.5 million in earnings. Should win again in 2013.
- Sergio Garcia. An odd inclusion on this list, I know, but he was a forgotten man just 15 months ago. He only missed two cuts in 2012, and those were right around the number (British Open and PGA). Made a 117-place jump in the putting stats versus 2011.
- Peter Hanson. Joining the PGA Tour full time in 2013, and we'll really see what he can do. He's a world-class player, a proven winner who has contended in majors and other events in the US over the last several years. He bombs it but also has a great wedge game, which is a differentiator compared to many of the other big hitters on Tour.
- Ryan Palmer. Wins every other year on Tour… and he didn't win in 2012. It was another solid year for him, however, with nine top-25's and $1.5 million in earnings. He will play well in one of the Texas events, you can take that to the bank.
The Daniel Day Lewis ''Oscar Nomination Secured' Group
You know what you're going to get from these guys. Unless you're incredibly unlucky, expect a high finish whichever week you use them. These guys average more than $175,000 per start.
- Luke Donald. Lots of top-10's. Good putter. Moving on...
- Zach Johnson. Was especially excellent for a couple of months over the summer, when he won twice. Looks primed to win another major soon.
- Matt Kuchar. The ATM machine. Only missed one cut and finished in the top 10 in 9 of 22 events. Oh year, won The Players. Not too shabby.
- Lee Westwood. 2012 wasn't a fantastic year by his standards, which means he only finished in the top 10 in half his events and made $3 million on this side of the pond. The majors are setup for him this year, too: Merion, Muirfield and Oak Hill are ballstriker's delights.
The James Gandolfini 'You Didn't Forget About Me, Did You?' Group
How could we forget about the 'Sopranos' patriarch? He came back on the big screen in a big way in 2012, even playing a hit man and reminding us what an intimidating dude he can be in 'Killing Me Softly.' There are several guys who fell off the radar screen in 2012 due to injury or poor play. These guys should be factors in 2013.
- Charl Schwartzel. He won twice in the offseason: in Thailand by 11 shots and on the Euro Tour's Alfred Dunhill by 12. Impressive. Appears to be over his abdominal injury and is primed for a big 2013.
- Henrik Stenson. Turned in a lot of good rounds over the summer and even won in South Africa in November in a field that included Kaymer and Schwartzel. Seems to have turned the corner (again).
- Tim Clark. Tim-Tim-Timmay was hurt for the better part of 18 months following the last Presidents Cup, but when he finally got back on Tour full-time in 2012 he was his normal self. He has two top-5's and three other top-15's from late June to the end of the year.
- Jason Day. 2012 was a strange year for Day. An ankle injury early in the campaign and the birth of his first child in the summer really took him off the radar screen. He's as promising a talent as there is in the game and has shown up in big moments.
- Jeff Overton. After a fantastic 2011, he really took a step back in 2012. I watched him a lot, and I can honestly say I've never seen a pro have as many burned edges on the greens as he had in 2012. It affected all parts of his game, but he came on strong toward the end of the year and I believe a lot more putts will drop for him in 2013.
- Martin Kaymer. Pretty much everyone had forgotten about him until he hit the clinching Ryder Cup putt at Medinah in late September. Had T15's in The Players and US Open. Might be trending back to prominence, and his best is as good as anyone's.
- Jarrod Lyle. He was averaging $50K per start (seven events) before returning to Australia for treatment for recurring leukemia in 2012. He's indicated that he won't tee it up in 2013, but if he gets cleared by the docs it wouldn't surprise me to see him play in a few. Would be great to see him back.
The Lindsay Lohan 'Buyer Beware' Group
Not exactly the list a player wants to be on, but it's not all bad news.
- Jim Furyk. His 2012 collapses are well documented. So if you set your expectations appropriately -- a top-10 finish in an event, not a win -- then you won't be disappointed.
- Hunter Mahan. Frustrating. Appeared ready to take his place among the top-10 players in the world after his win at the Match Play in February, but basically hibernated for the the rest of the year. No real signs of life, either. It was almost statistically impossible for him to miss the Ryder Cup team, but in the end he probably wasn't even a real consideration for Captain Love. No idea what to expect from him in 2013.
- Geoff Ogilvy. I was about ready to buy into him around the US Open in 2012, but he just never pushed himself over the top. He only missed two cuts in 2012, but he only had one top-10 in 20 events. Just an average player right now, and that's how it's been for two years running.
- Aaron Baddeley. A flashy player with not a lot of results to back up his stock. He's just not a good iron player; his BEST distance on approach is from 175-200 yards, where he ranked 109th in 2012. His wedge play is Judge Smails quality.
- Mark Wilson. Play him early in the year. After March, he has a combined four top-10's the last four years.
Pick for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions: I'm going out on a limb and taking Scott Piercy this week. I'm very high on his game this year, and he showed decently (T12) at Kapalua in his first attempt in 2012. His game is very solid from the tee through the green, and his length will be an advantage. Others I like:
- Steve Stricker. He might only play 10 events in 2013, and the Hyundai has a history of repeat champs (see: Ogilvy, Geoff and Appleby, Stuart). Might be worth pulling the trigger here.
- Webb Simpson. I like that he finished T3 on Kapalua's sweeping landscape last year in his first go around the course, and I also like that he should feel like he has something to prove after a somewhat mediocre performance in 2012 (ignoring that US Open victory, of course).
- Brandt Snedeker. Kapalua's wide layout minimizes the biggest weakness in his game: driving accuracy.
Another One and Done-related note on this event / Player(s) to avoid: While the purse is large ($1.2 million to the winner), it's never easy to use a big gun this early in the year. Guys like Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar will likely place well here, but they are also likely to win another big tournament later in the year. I'd be nervous using them right out of the gate, especially with players like Daniel Chopra having won this event recently. Using a lesser known guy -- who is basically assured a good check with decent play -- is probably the better bet.
Photo: USA Today Sports Images