Power Rankings: 2014 John Deere Classic

By Will GrayJuly 7, 2014, 4:52 pm

This week marks the 35th event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as the Tour heads to Illinois for the John Deere Classic. A full field of 156 players will tee it up this week at TPC Deere Run, where scores are expected to be low from the start and where back-nine heroics have been the norm in recent years.

Be sure to join the Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge to test yourself against our panel of experts, including defending champion Charlie Rymer. Click here for full fantasy assistance, including stats and picks.

Jordan Spieth returns to defend the title he won here a year ago in a playoff over Zach Johnson and David Hearn. Here are 10 names to watch this week in Silvis:

1. Zach Johnson: With four top-five finishes here since 2009, including a win in 2012 and a near-miss last year, Johnson is the man to beat this week. While he has cooled since his hot start to the season, with no top 25s since May, Johnson doesn't shy away from the fact that this is a big event for him as an Iowa resident and his play backs it up. He is sixth on Tour this season in fairways hit and has fired 20 straight rounds in the 60s at TPC Deere Run.

2. Steve Stricker: The former master of this event, Stricker won three straight titles at TPC Deere Run from 2009-2011. While he has played a limited schedule in 2014, the veteran does come off a solid week at Greenbrier where he was in the mix for the first three days and tied for 21st at Pinehurst last month. Even when he hasn't been winning this event, Stricker was T-5 in 2012 and tied for 10th in 2013.

3. Jordan Spieth: The defending champ has shown no signs of a sophomore slump: six top 10s and 15 top 25s in 19 starts this season, including seven top-20 finishes in his last eight starts overall dating back to the Masters. Spieth surprised many with his dramatic win here a year ago, but a repeat should come as no surprise as the 20-year-old currently sits eighth on Tour in both scrambling and scoring average.

4. Ryan Moore: Making his first start since a tie for fifth at the Travelers Championship, Moore recorded top-25 finishes at this event each of the last two years, including a tie for eighth in 2012. He's among the best ball-strikers on Tour, ranking 12th on Tour in GIR percentage and 17th in fairways hit, and can go low when needed, as evidenced by his three rounds of 63 this season.

5. Chris Kirk: His week at Greenbrier was derailed by a Saturday 75, but Kirk has now made 22 straight cuts dating back to last season and is among the Tour's most consistent players. In three starts at TPC Deere Run, he has finished no worse than T-30 and recorded 11 straight sub-par rounds before a Sunday 72 dropped him out of contention a year ago.

6. Chris Stroud: Stroud punched his ticket to Royal Liverpool with his T-4 finish at Greenbrier, his third top-20 result in his last four starts. Stroud is still in search of his first win but now has four top-10 finishes to his credit this season, and is among the Tour's best around the green (sixth in scrambling). He has never missed the cut in five starts at this event, including two top-25 finishes.

7. Harris English: Seen for many weeks as the next breakout star of 2014, English has slowed down a bit recently but did notch his seventh top-10 finish of the season at the Travelers Championship in his most recent start. English tied for 15th in his Deere debut last year and enters this week ranked eighth on Tour in GIR percentage, ninth in birdie average and ninth in scoring average.

8. Brendon de Jonge: The Zimbabwean still can't find that elusive first win, but he has now made nine cuts in a row, including six top-30 finishes. De Jonge had three straight top-20 finishes at TPC Deere Run from 2010-2012, including a T-7 result in 2011 when he played in the final pairing Sunday, and enters this week ranked 24th on Tour in total driving.

9. Billy Hurley III: Hurley let one slip away Sunday at Greenbrier, but he is still in the midst of a career year and now has made seven straight cuts, with five top-40 finishes across that span and top-10 results in back-to-back starts. He's among the straightest drivers on Tour (seventh in fairways hit), ranks 12th this season in scrambling and tied for eighth at TPC Deere Run in his most recent visit (2012).

10. Kevin Na: Na struggled to back up an opening 66 at Greenbrier last week, but he still has top-25 finishes in more than half of his starts this season. The 30-year-old is making his first trip to TPC Deere Run since 2008 and will look to continue a solid '13-'14 campaign, having already notched a pair of runner-up finishes in Tampa and Columbus and entering this week 11th on Tour in scoring average.

Getty Images

Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

<
Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

Getty Images

Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

Getty Images

Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.