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.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''