Tim Clark entered 2011 the world’s 25th ranked player. Six months later he needed elbow surgery. He returned to action last February and promptly fired a two-round, 16-over at the Northern Trust Open. Good for dead last. That began a string of triple-digit finishes that lasted until April. Only because The Masters has a 95-man field, 10-over is still terrible. He remained riddled with inconsistency into the summer, but a full 12 months removed from his stint under the knife – or laser, probably – he flipped fortunes following an unfortunate exit (T140!) from the Open Championship.
Hopping on an early flight to Canada, Clark mustered up a tie for 15th and looked, well, back to his former self. Can the turnaround be directly attributed to Canada’s extraordinary universal health care system? Unlikely. As a long time customer, I doubt he would have been able to see a doctor in such brisk order. Perhaps it was the bounty of fresh air and manners in the Great White North? Maybe Clark was simply given a magic elixir (or possibly a healing potion) from a kindly local alchemist. Who knows? Tim Clark: The Mystery of Improved Play remains unsolved, despite Robert Stack’s assistance. Although, he may have just regained his feel with the flat stick.
Clark piled up four straight Top 15 finishes from that point, headlined by a silver medal at The Barclays. He faded into obscurity after the season ended, doing nothing more than knocking off rust in the periodic winter event. He also needed to reenergize his tan for the upcoming year.
Now, in his debut event in the first really awkward to pronounce year since 2005, the South African-American has an opportunity to vault back into golf’s upper class. His T2 last time here shows he’s more than able to contend with Waialae’s befuddling layout. All Clark needs is for his putter to have kept its fire through the cold season.
THE SONY OPEN
Generally, there’s a lot to take away from the previous tournament. Momentum is an excellent indicator for determining weekly success on the links but most tournaments don’t have flagsticks with more lean than Fat Joe – rendering most of the information gathered from the event pretty useless.
Due to the weather conditions and extended delays at Kapalua, tee off was pushed back until Sunday, when the wind had finally relented; but it took players out of their usual routines. I know it’s only golf, and the ability to patiently wait around is a job requirement, but I feel that showing up for work on Friday without getting to actually start until Sunday would throw me out of my rhythm. I can’t imagine what it would do to my golf game. Since the Sony Open is the first full-field event of the year, let’s start fresh.
THE OTHERS (MINUS HENRY GALE)
Carl Pettersson – Pettersson’s above average length – off the tee, not in a Greg Oden way, you sickos – kept him in the mix at Kapalua, but he just wasn’t long enough. Common problem. This week, it will simply serve to compliment the rest of his well-rounded game, which will be more useful on a course that challenges all facets of play.
Zach Johnson – Why pick ZJ? If you have to ask, big man, you can’t afford it.
Scott Pirecy – With the C group littered with a slew of Web.com Tour grads this week, let’s go with a name we’ve actually heard of instead of just tossing darts at unknowns. Not that Pirecy is a household name, but that could change quickly. He picked up his second win at last year’s Canadian Open and a breakout in another weak field wouldn’t be surprising. Pirecy was on the front page of the leaderboard here last year before a final round 72 dropped him to 23rd. He’ll rectify that result this time around.
Keegan Bradley – He put together a solid three days on this site last season before fading in the final round. He’s a more consistent player than he was a year ago and will manage to keep it together through Sunday afternoon, Hawaii time, which is like 11pm ET or something crazy. I can’t tell, I’m color blind.
Mark Wilson – Wilson may be the most plain player on Tour. He’s diminutive in stature, just like his drives; frankly, nothing really stands out about him except his sensational early season results. Each of Wilson’s five career wins have come before March 5th, including an oversized paycheck at this site two years ago. Where Kapalua has too much length for even average hitters, Waialae will test the players’ iron games, and that’s where Wilson’s a Viking.
Harris English – This endorsement is 99 percent based on his strong name. The other 1 percent comes from his pedigree, which makes him a likely breakout candidate for the 2013 season.
Webb Simpson – Advanced scouting can be tough for golfers. Jetting off to events every week leaves little time for practice rounds. But that shouldn’t be a problem for Webb Simpson. Why? Because he’s in the proper demographic to have logged many virtual rounds at Waialae on his N64. Whether that’s actually the case remains unknown, but Simpson has the overall skill set to dominate the course. Plus, rooting for Webb is really just rooting for a chance to see his wife in HD. And he’s the top ranked golfer in the field, so there’s that too!