Beginning of 2015 proves it's harder than ever to win on Tour

By Doug FergusonFebruary 11, 2015, 12:49 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Five weeks into the new year, all five winners on the PGA Tour were among the top 50 in the world.

Jason Day didn't need numbers to illustrate what is becoming increasingly clear.

''The game is kind of changing,'' Day said after winning a four-man playoff at Torrey Pines. ''It's evolving into very young, tall, big, strong-looking guys out here that hit it a mile and have fantastic touch. It's getting tougher. It's really tough to win out here.''

That's easy for him to say with only three PGA Tour wins in eight years. For all his talent, the 27-year-old Australian has been cursed by nagging injuries. His hope is to stay healthy all year and finally achieve, or at least make significant progress, toward his lifelong goal of being No. 1 in the world.

The road to the top, however, is starting to look like a California freeway at rush hour.

Day was 18 when he first started playing on the PGA Tour in 2006, the year that Woods won multiple majors for the second straight year and ended the season by winning his last six PGA Tour events. Woods made it look easy.

The new target is Rory McIlroy, who also can make it look easy. McIlroy already has four majors, one by a record margin (eight shots in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island) and two in wire-to-wire fashion (US Open at Congressional, British Open at Hoylake). McIlroy is going to make Day's goal a lot harder to reach.

But it's everyone around him that will make the road feel even longer.

It's easy to jump on Day's bandwagon because he is blessed with enormous power and skill, he believes he has his injuries under control and is more motivated than ever. Day has six top 10s - and no finish out of the top 20 except for injury-related WDs - since the British Open last summer.

But look around.

A week earlier, Brooks Koepka was hailed as a rising star for his victory in the Phoenix Open. The 24-year-old Floridian is powerful, the prototype of the modern golfer, and his quiet work ethic figures to take him even further than he already has come.

Don't forget Jimmy Walker and his nine-shot win at the Sony Open, the largest margin on the PGA Tour in nearly six years. That was Walker's fourth victory in his last 32 starts in America. No one has won more during that stretch, and remember, Walker lost a four-shot lead on the back nine at Kapalua and was only two shots out of the playoff at Torrey Pines last week.

The winner at Kapalua? Patrick Reed, who at 24 picked up his fourth career victory.

The list keeps growing.

Koepka was in the mix at the Phoenix Open with Hideki Matsuyama, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and hard-charging Jordan Spieth, the 21-year-old Texan who is becoming a fixture among the top 10 in the world. Day was in a playoff at Torrey Pines with Harris English, an athletic 25-year-old from Georgia who already has two PGA Tour wins and has the game that makes other players watch.

''The game is in a good spot, especially with the younger guys,'' Day said. ''It's evolving into a fantastic, powerful sport.''

Most of the players, particularly the younger ones, are a product of the Tiger era. They are better off because they only watched him, they didn't get beat by him.

''A lot of people of my generation are used to getting our heads bashed in by Tiger,'' said Charles Howell III after he missed the playoff at Torrey Pines by one shot. ''These guys don't really seem to be afraid of anything and they come out ready to win.''

Howell mentioned Spieth and Justin Thomas, a 21-year-old rookie who already has played in the final group on weekends at two tournaments this year.

''Where Tiger used to be the motivating factor,'' Howell said, ''these young kids are now.''

Day is playing the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am this week, and he can move up two spots to No. 2 with a victory. He's still miles from McIlroy. A year ago, Day won the Match Play Championship to reach No. 4 and had legitimate ambitions to reach the top of the ranking. Woods was No. 1, though there were early signs that he was fading. Day wound up missing most of the next three months with a thumb injury, and McIlroy soon ruled the world of golf.

Day always thought he would have to beat Woods. Now it's McIlroy.

''There's certain players that come along in this world of golf and make winning look so easy, and he's one of those guys that make winning look very easy,'' Day said of McIlroy. ''I can tell you right now, it's not easy. It's not easy to win.''

And that makes the road to the top even harder.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry