Power Rankings: The 146th Open

By Will GrayJuly 17, 2017, 9:27 am

The PGA Tour heads across the Atlantic Ocean this week for The Open. A field of 156 players will tackle Royal Birkdale Golf Club, which is hosting the event for the first time since 2008.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Henrik Stenson won this event last year by two shots over Phil Mickelson. Here are 10 names to watch in England:

1. Rickie Fowler: After a number of close calls, it feels like it might be his time. Fowler was a runner-up at Royal Liverpool in 2014 and tied for fifth at Royal St. George's in 2011, and he comes in on a tear that includes four top-10 finishes in his last five starts. Fowler has been close in each of the first two majors this year, highlighted by a T-5 finish at Erin Hills, and appears on the verge of a breakthrough.

2. Jordan Spieth: Spieth has not played since a memorable victory at the Travelers Championship, where he holed a bunker shot on the first playoff hole. His Open record includes a T-4 finish two years ago at St. Andrews, and he has cracked the top 50 in each of his four prior trips. While his results have had both ebbs and flows this season, his iron game appears to be peaking just in time for a busy summer stretch.

3. Jon Rahm: Rahm continues to impress in his first full season as a pro, and he enters off a six-shot romp two weeks ago at the DDF Irish Open. Rahm also won earlier this year at Torrey Pines and has already rocketed to No. 7 in the world rankings. The Spaniard has all the tools, and it's only a matter of time before he contends - and wins - a major.

4. Sergio Garcia: The reigning Masters champ continues to bask in his status as a major champion, and now he heads to the one major where he has had consistent success. Garcia's playoff loss at Carnoustie in 2007 highlights a record that includes seven top-10 finishes in The Open since 2005, including each of the last three years. His ball-striking prowess and creativity both serve him well on links courses, a trend that should continue this week.

5. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama rose to No. 2 in the world rankings after his runner-up finish at last month's U.S. Open, and now he has his sights set on a maiden major. His weakness on the greens can often be neutralized on links layouts, as evidenced by his Open record that includes a T-6 finish at Muirfield in his 2013 debut.

6. Dustin Johnson: The world No. 1 appeared untouchable earlier this year, but he has not played competitively since missing the cut last month at the U.S. Open. Johnson has three top-10 finishes in his last six Open starts, including a runner-up result in 2011, and his advantage off the tee will be noticeable this week - if, of course, he's able to find the tight fairways at Royal Birkdale.

7. Tommy Fleetwood: The local favorite should have plenty of support from the crowds this week at Royal Birkdale, as Fleetwood returns home playing some of the best golf of his career. The Englishman already has two wins this year on the European Tour, including the French Open two weeks ago, and he has finished T-10 or better in each of his last four worldwide starts.

8. Adam Scott: Five years after his heartbreak at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's, the Aussie remains in search of an Open title. Scott closed with a 68 Sunday at the Scottish Open to build some momentum for Royal Birkdale, where he finished T-16 back in 2008. His record in this event also includes four straight top-10 finishes from 2012-15 and he has missed the cut in The Open just once since 2004.

9. Henrik Stenson: The defending champ comes to Birkdale downplaying his current form, just as Padraig Harrington did nine years ago. But Stenson's Open record speaks for itself, and it also includes a T-3 finish on this year's venue back in 2008. The Swede hasn't won since lifting the claret jug last year, but he has finished T-26 or better in five of his last six starts.

10. Rory McIlroy: The Ulsterman is looking for answers after sloppy play led to missed cuts each of the last two weeks. But McIlroy insists that a turnaround is in sight, and his Open record means he can't be overlooked even in the midst of a rut. His win at Hoylake in 2014 remains the highlight, but McIlroy also tied for third at St. Andrews in 2010 and was T-5 last year at Royal Troon.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x