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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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.