Power Rankings: 2014 McGladrey Classic


The PGA Tour continues to kick off the 2014-15 season with the McGladrey Classic, the third event of the new season. A field of 144 players will tee it up at Sea Island, where players could be challenged by the nearby ocean breezes.

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Chris Kirk won this event a year ago by one shot over Tim Clark and Briny Baird. Here are 10 players to watch in Georgia:

1. Webb Simpson: Simpson may not be a part of the "Sea Island Mafia," but he certainly knows his way around the Seaside Course. In three appearances he has never finished worse than T-12, including a playoff loss in 2011, and he boasts a 67.2 stroke average in the event. Coming off a T-4 finish in defense of his title in Las Vegas, he is clearly in form and should have another strong week.

2. Bill Haas: Making his first start since the Tour Championship, having been edged out by Simpson for a spot on the Ryder Cup squad. Haas quietly capped a solid season last month, one in which he missed the weekend only once in 28 starts and had 17 top-25 finishes. He was a runner-up here in 2010, his lone prior start at Sea Island.

3. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar is a Sea Island resident and tied for seventh a year ago after four straight rounds of 68 or better. After a taxing end to his season, he's had a week off following his T-21 showing at the Frys.com Open and should have some more gas in the tank - not to mention a few Yellow Jacket fans in his corner.

4. Scott Brown: He's gotten out of the gates quickly this season, with a T-12 in Napa followed by a T-10 in Las Vegas. Brown is an Augusta native so he knows a thing or two about golf in the Peach State, and the 31-year-old tied for fourth last year after finishing T-20 in his McGladrey debut in 2012.

5. Zach Johnson: Johnson is making his first start since the Ryder Cup, but like many in this week's field he has plenty of experience on the Seaside Course. Johnson tied for 16th a year ago, going 68-67 over the weekend, and last year showed a penchant for getting hot during the part of the calendar when many top players choose to sit it out.

6. Chris Kirk: The defending champ is teeing it up for the first time since the Tour Championship, but the momentum from his playoff run should still carry over. Kirk had top-five finishes in two of his last three starts last season, including a win at TPC Boston, and closed out 2013-14 with a 68.6 stroke average across his final three events. Now he returns to a course where he fired bookend 66s en route to victory a year ago.

7. Tony Finau: The long-driving rookie has been hot to start the season, with top-15 finishes at both the Frys.com Open (T-12) and Shriners (T-7). While he will be seeing this week's venue for the first time, Finau has had little trouble fitting into the big leagues so far this month and currently sits second on Tour in birdie average.

8. Hudson Swafford: While some fans may mistake him for his doppelganger and fellow Georgia Bulldog Harris English, Swafford has played well so far this season as he looks to build a name for himself on Tour. Swafford has carded 71 or better in each of his first eight competitive rounds in 2014-15, notching a pair of top-20 finishes in the process, and now plays what amounts to a home game at Sea Island.

9. Nick Watney: After a disappointing season, Watney showed signs of life in August and now has begun his new campaign with a T-16 finish in Las Vegas after four straight rounds in the 60s. While he is making his first start on the Seaside Course, Watney now has four top-25 finishes in his last six starts dating back to July and may soon return to the winner's circle.

10. Martin Laird: Laird cooled after an opening-round 64 at TPC Summerlin, but his T-18 result was still his fourth straight top-20 finish dating back to last season. The Scot now has 16 straight stroke-play rounds of 71 or better and has hit the green in regulation 77 percent of the time to begin the new season.