Power Rankings: 2015 Zurich Classic

By Will GrayApril 21, 2015, 8:44 pm

The 24th event of the wraparound season is upon us, as the PGA Tour heads to the Big Easy for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. A field of 144 will tackle TPC Louisiana, where seven of the past 10 champions have been first-time winners.

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Seung-Yul Noh won this event a year ago by two shots over Andrew Svoboda and Robert Streb. Here are 10 players to watch in New Orleans:

1. Justin Rose: The Englishman enters off a runner-up finish at the Masters and now tees it up on a course where he has cracked the top 15 each of the past three years. After a slow start to the season, Rose appears to be finding his form and a friendly venue like TPC Louisiana will only accelerate that process.

2. Dustin Johnson: Perhaps the hottest player on Tour not named "Spieth," Johnson has five top-10 finishes in his last six starts, including a T-6 finish at the Masters. Johnson won earlier this season at Doral and while his lone prior Zurich start was a missed cut in 2008, his current form is strong enough to trump any lack of course knowledge.

3. Keegan Bradley: Bradley appeared in line to win this event a year ago, playing in Sunday's final pairing before fading to T-8. He returns off a pair of top-25 finishes in Houston and Augusta, including a final-round 68 at the Masters, and currently leads the PGA Tour in total driving.

4. Jason Day: The Aussie is making his first trip to New Orleans since 2009, and it comes on the heels of a somewhat disappointing T-28 finish at the Masters where he never contended. Day won in San Diego and has been remarkably solid this season, with no finish worse than T-31 in seven starts. He should be able to continue that trend this week.

5. Harris English: English barely missed out on a Masters invite via the OWGR, but his season has still been a solid one: seven top-30 finishes in his last nine starts, including a T-3 finish at the Sony Open and a playoff loss at Torrey Pines. English last played Zurich in 2013, when he finished T-6 after a final-round 67.

6. Morgan Hoffmann: Hoffmann flirted with victory last month at Bay Hill and followed it with another strong showing last week, finishing ninth at Harbour Town. He sandwiched those around a respectable T-28 Masters debut and has cracked the top 35 in each of his two prior Zurich starts, shooting 70 or better in six of eight rounds.

7. Brendan Steele: Steele has been a cut-making machine, playing the weekend in each of 12 starts this season and finishing inside the top 25 in four of his last five events. He was a runner-up at the Humana Challenge in January and has made the cut in each of his two previous trips to TPC Louisiana.

8. Rickie Fowler: Fowler rallied for a T-12 finish at Augusta National but remains in search of his first top-10 finish since his season-opening start in China in November. Fowler missed the cut at this event last year but his record at TPC Louisiana is otherwise solid, with three straight top-35 finishes highlighted by a T-10 finish in 2012.

9. Cameron Tringale: Tringale has a strong track record at this event, with three top-20 finishes in his last four starts including a T-7 finish in 2012. While he missed the cut at Hilton Head, it was his first MC in nine starts and he tied for fifth earlier this month at the Shell Houston Open.

10. Steve Stricker: The veteran is making a rare start, just his second tournament since hip surgery in December, but he knows his way around TPC Louisiana. Stricker last played here in 2012, finishing sixth, and each of his last three starts in this event have netted top-15 finishes. He finished a solid T-28 at the Masters in his return from the disabled list.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.