England owns three of top six spots in world rankings
It doesn’t take long to find them now.
Lee Westwood, who won the European Tour money title a year ago, remained at No. 4 in the world. Ian Poulter moved up to No. 5 in the ranking published Monday because of his Match Play Championship victory over Paul Casey, who is No. 6.
And they have plenty of company right behind them.
“I just think that there’s been a lot of great talent in England for such a long time,” Poulter said. “And it’s so nice to see guys actually deliver on the golf course. We’ve been waiting for a long time.”
Consider the inaugural Match Play Championship at La Costa Resort a dozen years ago. The only Englishmen in the 64-man field were Westwood and Nick Faldo, and neither lasted more than a day – Westwood because he never got beyond the second round, Faldo because he was the No. 64 seed and played Tiger Woods.
England started with nine players at Dove Mountain and kept the flag flying all week.
The next step is to win a major, which no Englishman has done since Nick Faldo beat Greg Norman in the 1996 Masters.
“It’s about time the guys that have put themselves in position – 4, 5 and 6 in the world, I guess – should step up to the play and hopefully deliver on that,” Poulter said.
Westwood has come close each of the last two years, missing putts on the 72nd hole in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and the British Open at Turnberry that would have put him in a playoff. Casey started the final round of the 2004 Masters only two shots behind, but couldn’t keep pace with Phil Mickelson or Ernie Els on the last day.
Poulter was the runner-up at Royal Birkdale two years ago, and while he was four shots behind, he stood over a 15-foot par putt on the final hole believing it might decide the tournament because of the windy conditions. And he made it.
That was the year Poulter was so determined to improve his putting that he stayed in one spot for hours on the practice green. He left behind two yellow footprints, because he was there so long that the grass beneath his feet had died.
Poulter may not have the raw skills of Westwood and Casey, and he certainly doesn’t have the junior pedigree. The others weren’t working in a pro shop as teens, nor did it take them four years to get tour cards.
Even so, Poulter is not lacking confidence.
It takes moxie to dress the way he does, for one thing. Poulter was known for his wardrobe well before anything he achieved on the golf course. He now designs his clothes, and it sounds as though he can’t survive on the road without an ironing board.
The 34-year-old also drew attention two years ago in a magazine piece when he suggested he was the only real challenger to Woods.
“Don’t get me wrong, I really respect every professional golfer,” Poulter was quoted as saying in Britain’s version of Golf World magazine. “But I know I haven’t played to my full potential, and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger.”
Poulter was No. 22 in the world when the article came out in spring 2008. At the Match Play Championship, Woods passed him in the locker room and said playfully, “Hey, No. 2.”
It no longer looks so far out of reach.
“I just felt that if I could deliver what I believed I could, then I could put myself in a good situation,” Poulter said. “I’ve certainly done that over the last 18 months. And I’ve certainly been able to deliver on that today. It’s so nice to see myself at No. 5 and get higher and higher up the world rankings, and hopefully I can keep going in that direction.”
England is not the new world power. That distinction still belongs to the United States, which offers 1-2-3 in Woods, Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson, and which still has 12 players among the top 30. England is next with five.
Casey won his first PGA Tour event last year in the Houston Open and was poised to made a run at the European Tour money title until a rib injury cost him the second half of the season.
He was not able to finish 72 holes until December, and the best indication of his recovery was playing 114 holes at Dove Mountain over five days.
Pride has returned to English golf, with six players among the top 100 who have competed in the Ryder Cup. In the last Ryder Cup, Faldo was criticized for using his captain’s picks on Casey and Poulter. That might be one of the few things Faldo got right at Valhalla.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas
He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.
Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.
Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.
In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.
Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.
Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.
Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic
Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double
Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open
Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open
Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row
Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow
Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship
The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ
Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year
And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season
Photo Galleries: Best of ...
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com counted down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below. And click here for the full collection of articles.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.
The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.
They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.
Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.
Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.
Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.
''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''
The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.
In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''
Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.
Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.
Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.
It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.
The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.