Power Rankings: 2015 Masters

By Will GrayApril 7, 2015, 8:05 pm

The first major of the year is upon us: it's time for the Masters. A field of 97 will tackle Augusta National Golf Club this week, where the winner will receive a coveted green jacket.

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Bubba Watson won this event a year ago over Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt. Here are 10 players to watch in Augusta:

1. Bubba Watson: Only three men have ever successfully defended a Masters title, but Watson could become No. 4. The southpaw's game is clearly well-suited for Augusta National, and the wet conditions early in the week should only accentuate his advantages. He has only one round over 71 this season, with no result worse than T-14, and has been one of the most consistent players on Tour this season.

2. Jordan Spieth: Spieth was a runner-up at this event last year and finished second each of the past two weeks in Texas, so perhaps this spot is an appropriate one. Six of his nine starts this year have yielded top-10 finishes, including a win in Tampa, and he ranks third on Tour in scoring average and fifth in strokes gained putting.

3. Jimmy Walker: Walker is the only two-time winner on Tour this season, having lifted the trophy two weeks ago in San Antonio. He finished T-8 in his Masters debut last year, a strong effort from a first-timer, and currently leads the Tour in birdie average while ranking third in strokes gained putting and fourth in par-5 performance. All three metrics will be key to his success this week at Augusta National.

4. Rory McIlroy: The world No. 1 enters in search of the career grand slam, but his play in the weeks leading up to the Masters hasn't been as strong as he would have hoped. Combine that with the palpable pressure he'd face if in contention over the weekend while vying for a third straight major, and this seems like a week when McIlroy records a solid result but doesn't get the elusive green jacket.

5. Jason Day: Day was second here in 2011 and followed with a T-3 finish in 2013, the lone two times the Aussie has been fully healthy at this event. He is in good shape this time around, boosted by his win at the Farmers Insurance Open in February. Day will give himself plenty of chances, but the key to his title run will be getting a balky putter - he is 52nd on Tour in strokes gained putting - to cooperate.

6. Dustin Johnson: DJ doesn't have the best history at Augusta National, but he can counter that with his red-hot current form. His win at Doral highlights a stretch of four top-6 finishes in his last five starts, including a T-6 result in San Antonio when he rebounded from an opening 78. Johnson clearly has the length to handle Augusta National, but success at the Masters requires as much careful strategy as it does brute strength.

7. Henrik Stenson: The world No. 2 enters off a run of three straight top-4 finishes, including a runner-up at Bay Hill when he probably should have won. The Swede has finished T-14 and T-18 each of the last two years at the Masters, but the key to his success will be the area of his game that let him down last month in Orlando: putting.

8. Adam Scott: The Aussie is back to the long putter he used to win here in 2013, which is probably a good idea considering how poorly he putted with the shorter flat stick earlier this year. Scott was also a runner-up in 2011 and hasn't finished worse than T-18 each of the past five years, with only four rounds over par across that span.

9. Patrick Reed: Reed played poorly in his Masters debut last year, but he should fare considerably better this time around. His preferred draw shape is a draw, which bodes well for Augusta National, and he enters off four straight top-25 finishes highlighted by a playoff loss in Tampa. Reed also won in Hawaii in January and won't be lacking for confidence once the competition begins.

10. Justin Rose: This is a nod to past history over current form, as Rose's exemplary Masters record outweighs his poor start to the season. The Englishman has five straight top-25 finishes at this event, highlighted by a T-8 finish in 2012, and while he has missed three cuts in five starts this season, he did show signs of progress with his play last week in Houston.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry