Power Rankings: 2014 U.S. Open

By Will GrayJune 10, 2014, 6:46 pm

This week marks the 31st event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as the Tour heads to Pinehurst No. 2 for the U.S. Open. A field of 156 players will tee it up this week in the "cradle of golf," where turtleback greens and sandy waste areas will test the game's best as only the USGA can envision.

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Justin Rose returns to defend the title he won here a year ago by two shots over Phil Mickelson and Jason Day. Here are 10 players to watch this week in North Carolina:

1. Rory McIlroy: Quite simply, his best is better than that of nearly anyone else in the field. A winner of this event three years ago, McIlroy won earlier this month at Wentworth and has an array of top-10 finishes to his credit this year. His high ball flight will help when trying to land approach shots on turtleback greens, and while his second-round struggles have been well-documented, everyone will make bogeys this week. McIlroy's ability to reel off birdies in bunches - he leads the Tour in birdie average - will separate him.

2. Matt Kuchar: His U.S. Open resume isn't stellar - just one top-10 finish in 11 starts - but he hasn't finished worse than T-28 in this event since 2010 and he has been incredibly consistent this year, with a win and nine top 10s in 15 starts. Kuchar missed the cut here in 2005, ballooning to a second-round 84, but he's a different player now and the result will be similarly different this week.

3. Bubba Watson: Watson's stellar year continues as we head into June, having nearly notched his third win of the season at the Memorial. Questions remain about whether Watson has the temperament to withstand the pressures of a U.S. Open, but he is clearly playing with confidence this year and if it comes down to which players can scramble the most successfully - or creatively - from the sandy areas, his name has to be near the top of the list.

4. Lee Westwood: His window to win a major may be closing, but Westwood has been surprisingly consistent in this event since 2008, with a pair of third-place finishes and no result worse than T-23. Back in 2005 he was in the mix after each of the first three rounds at Pinehurst before a Sunday 79 dropped him back into a tie for 33rd, but the Englishman played well this year at both the Masters and the Players, so there's reason to think he'll contend again.

5. Adam Scott: Surprisingly, Scott still does not have a top-10 finish in the U.S. Open, but that may change this week. The Aussie won last month at Colonial and nearly pulled off a repeat performance at Muirfield Village, showing no signs of pressure in his first weeks as the world No. 1. Scott has been inside the top 25 in all but one start this year on the PGA Tour, and if he can get that long putter to cooperate on the greens at No. 2, he'll add to that trend.

6. Jordan Spieth: Age continues to be just a number for Spieth, who defied all expectations with a runner-up finish at Augusta National and then did it again with a T-4 showing at TPC Sawgrass. Spieth has seven top-20 finishes in nine starts since March, and he is currently seventh on Tour in scoring average and 11th in scrambling. Underestimate him at your own peril.

7. Jim Furyk: Perhaps not the name that comes to mind when you conjure a short-game wizard, but Furyk leads the Tour in the scrambling stat for the 2013-14 season and has a pair of runner-up finishes to his credit, notably last month on the Stadium Course. Furyk is one of only five players in the field this week who made the cut at Pinehurst in both 1999 and 2005, and since winning the U.S. Open in 2003 he has finished inside the top five an additional three times (2006, 2007, 2012).

8. Webb Simpson: A winner of this event in 2012, Simpson will have the crowds behind him at Pinehurst, having played college golf at Wake Forest after growing up in nearby Raleigh. Simpson tied for third last week in Memphis after a Sunday 66, his sixth top-10 finish of the season. He is seventh on Tour in the all-around ranking and his two Open appearances outside of his win at Olympic were pretty solid: T-14 in 2011 at Congressional and T-32 last year at Merion.

9. Phil Mickelson: Without question the biggest storyline this week as he chases the career grand slam, but hardly the lead-up that he would have liked: still without a top-10 this season, he's currently outside the top 100 on Tour in fairways hit, strokes gained putting, total driving and final-round scoring average. When it comes to Phil and this event, sometimes the results defy expectation - but there are definitely some warning signs as he looks for major No. 6.

10. Chris Kirk: Perhaps the opposite of Mickelson, Kirk is a player that has gone under the radar while playing some really good golf this season. A winner at Sea Island in November, Kirk has yet to miss a cut in 18 starts this season and has played well at some tough courses: top-25 finishes at Augusta National, TPC Sawgrass, Colonial and Memorial in the last two months. Currently sixth on the FedEx Cup points list and 19th on Tour in scrambling.

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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