Power Rankings: 2016 Players Championship

By Will GrayMay 10, 2016, 3:59 pm

The 2016 fantasy golf season rolls right along, as the PGA Tour heads to Florida this week for the the Players Championship. A field of 144 players will tackle the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, home of the infamous par-3 17th.

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Rickie Fowler won this event last year in a playoff over Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia. Here are 10 players to watch in the Ponte Vedra:

1. Rory McIlroy: After missing the cut in his first three Players starts, McIlroy appears to have a pretty good read now on the Stadium Course. He has finished T-8 or better each of the last three years here, and he enters off a T-4 finish at Quail Hollow that might have been even better were it not for some early stumbles.

2. Jason Day: The world No. 1 continues to impress, as Day finished T-5 at the rain-shortened Zurich in his most recent start. He has made 18 starts since last year's U.S. Open and has finished T-12 or better 15 times, including six wins. It's the type of consistency that makes Day a likely contender this week despite missed cuts in three of his five prior trips.

3. Sergio Garcia: The Spaniard is the all-time earnings leader at this event, having won in 2008 and come close in both 2013 and 2015. Garcia finished T-34 at Augusta National despite a third-round 81 and his Players record includes seven top-15 finishes in 10 starts since 2006.

4. Rickie Fowler: The defending champ let one get away last week in Charlotte, but he still returns to TPC Sawgrass as the season-long leader in the all-around ranking. Fowler has six top-10 finishes in 12 starts this season and was also a runner-up on the Stadium Course in 2012 before last year's memorable finish.

5. Jordan Spieth: Spieth should be well-rested after taking the last four weeks off following his Masters runner-up. He is making just his third start at TPC Sawgrass, where he missed the cut last year but finished T-4 in 2014 after playing his first 54 holes without a bogey. Given his recent record in big events, he seems much more likely to contend than miss the weekend.

6. Henrik Stenson: It's hard to believe seven years have passed since Stenson won at TPC Sawgrass. It's the highlight of a course history that includes six top-20 finishes in 10 starts, and while Stenson lost his consecutive cuts made streak last week at Quail Hollow, he has otherwise been playing well this season and nearly won in both Orlando and Houston.

7. Justin Rose: The Englishman's putter cost him a chance at the title last week at Quail Hollow, but he remains one of the best tee-to-green players around. Rose has five top-10 finishes in 10 starts this season, including T-10 at Augusta National, and while his Players record is spotty, it does include a T-4 finish in 2014.

8. Hideki Matsuyama: A winner earlier this year in Phoenix, Matsuyama has finished T-18 or better in each of his last four starts, including a T-7 finish at the Masters. He has also cracked the top 25 in each of his two prior Players appearances, having shot even-par or better in seven of his eight competitive rounds.

9. Zach Johnson: The reigning Open champ always seems to bring his best to the Stadium Course. Johnson has finished T-32 or better each of the last seven years at TPC Sawgrass, including a runner-up in 2012 and a T-13 finish last year. He was fifth earlier this year at Bay Hill and finished T-29 in San Antonio in his most recent start.

10. Dustin Johnson: When we last saw Johnson, he finished T-4 at the Masters to close out a string of three straight top-5 results. In fact, he hasn't finished outside the top 15 since Pebble Beach, but he'll need all the recent form he can get to reverse a course history where he has cracked the top 50 only once in seven trips (T-34 in 2010).

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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