Power Rankings: 2016 Shell Houston Open

By Will GrayMarch 29, 2016, 12:51 pm

The 2016 fantasy golf season rolls right along, as the PGA Tour remains in Texas this week for the Shell Houston Open. A field of 144 players will tackle the Golf Club of Houston in the hopes of earning a win - and perhaps a ticket to the Masters.

Be sure to join the Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge to test yourself against our panel of experts, including defending champion Ryan Lavner. Click here for full fantasy assistance, including stats and picks.

J.B. Holmes won this event last year in a playoff over Jordan Spieth and Johnson Wagner. Here are 10 players to watch in Houston:

1. Phil Mickelson: When it comes to Mickelson, what's not to like? He has largely exceeded expectations this year, loves playing this week and on this course and played well last week before running into a buzzsaw. The only thing missing is a win, and that could come here where he has five straight finishes of T-17 or better.

2. Jordan Spieth: Spieth used a strong performance here last year to catapault him to a Masters romp, and he'll be looking for more of the same. While his game isn't quite as sharp as it was 12 months ago, his plan has always been to peak leading into the Masters. An uptick this week would go a long way toward that end.

3. Henrik Stenson: Stenson should be refreshed after skipping the WGC-Dell Match Play, and in his last start he nearly won at Bay Hill. The Swede was a runner-up here in 2013 and possesses the type of power game that typically yields favorable results at GC of Houston.

4. Louis Oosthuizen: The South African is fresh off a runner-up performance in Austin, and now he makes the short trip to Houston where he finished T-3 in 2012 and T-10 in 2013. Oosthuizen now has finished T-14 or better in each of his last five worldwide starts, including a win, and appears poised to extend that streak this week.

5. Patrick Reed: Reed is a Houston resident and finished T-17 last year in his return to his de facto hometown event. Reed quietly notched a top-10 performance at Innisbrook and followed that by winning his group at Austin, putting him among the growing list of players building momentum for the season's first major.

6. J.B. Holmes: The defending champ also lost in a playoff here in 2009, finished T-8 in 2012 and T-12 in 2014. Holmes' strength off the tee is a valuable asset at this course, and he could use this chance to get back on track after cooling somewhat following a run of four straight top-11 finishes earlier this year.

7. Dustin Johnson: Johnson hasn't played here since withdrawing in 2014, but he did finish T-4 the year prior. He enters off a quarterfinal appearance in Austin and has now cracked the top 15 in each of his last three starts overall, and like Holmes he should find this week's venue conducive to his strategy and prowess off the tee.

8. Sergio Garcia: The Spaniard is making his third straight start in Houston, where he finished T-3 in 2014. While he made an early exit at the match play, he strung together a pair of strong weeks in Florida to show that he remains a threat to contend - and win - against a world-class field on any given week.

9. Rickie Fowler: Fowler notched a top-10 in Houston in 2014, but that result is sandwiched around a trio of trips where he struggled mightily on the weekend. Fowler was upset during pool play last week to end what had been a run of five top-10 finishes in his last six worldwide starts.

10. Charl Schwartzel: Schwartzel has more experience at this event than you might expect, with five appearances in the last six years highlighted by his third-place showing in 2010. The South African is experiencing a resurgence this year, with a pair of worldwide wins including his triumph at Innisbrook in his most recent stroke-play start.

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Watch: Highlights from Tiger's Friday 71 at Honda

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 23, 2018, 8:12 pm

Tiger Woods got caught in the Bear Trap on Friday, but bit back with a late birdie to sign for 1-over 71 on a difficult day at PGA National, where he sits four off the lead heading into the weekend at the Honda Classic.

Woods started at even par in Round 2 and began Friday with a bogey at the par-4 second, before getting that stroke back with a birdie at the par-4 fourth:



Following four consecutive pars, Woods birdied the par-4 ninth to turn in 1-under 34.



At 1 under for the tournament, Woods was tied for 10th place, three off the lead, when he began the back nine at PGA National. He remained there with this enthusiastic par save at the par-4 11th.

Tiger poured in three more pars at was just two off the 3-under pace when he rinsed his tee shot at the par-3 15th, leading to a double bogey. He dropped another shot and fell to 2 over when he three-putted 16.

But he wouldn't leave the Bear Trap at a total loss. At the diabolical par-3 17th, Woods wowed the jam-packed stands with a flagged 5-iron iron and a 12-foot putt for birdie, pulling him back to plus-1 for the week.

Woods would go on to par the closing hole, leaving him in a tie for 14th with two rounds to play.

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Defending champ Fowler misses cut at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:14 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The roles might be reversed this weekend for Rickie Fowler.

Last year, when he won at PGA National, Fowler was greeted behind the 18th green by Justin Thomas, one of his Jupiter neighbors. Thomas had missed the cut in his hometown event but drove back to the tournament to congratulate Fowler on his fourth PGA Tour title.

It’s Fowler who will be on the sidelines this weekend, after missing the Honda Classic cut following rounds of 71-76.  


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


“I haven’t been swinging it great the last month and a half,” he said afterward. “Obviously playing in the wind, it will pick you apart even more.”

After a tie for fourth at Kapalua, Fowler has missed two of his last three cuts. In between, at the Phoenix Open, he coughed up the 54-hole lead and tied for 11th.

Fowler said he’s been struggling with commitment and trust on the course.

“It’s close,” he said. “Just a little bit off, and the wind is going to make it look like you’re a terrible weekend golfer.”

Asked if he’d return the favor for Thomas, if he were to go and win, Fowler smiled and said: “Of course.”  

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 7:00 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


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Cut Line: Woods still eyeing Ryder Cup dual role

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2018, 6:57 pm

In this week’s edition, Jack Nicklaus makes the argument, again, for an equipment rollback, Tiger Woods gets halfway to his Ryder Cup goal and Paul Lawrie laments slow play ... in Europe.

Made Cut

Captain’s corner. Last week Tiger Woods coyly figured he could do both, play and be a vice captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. On Tuesday, he made it halfway to his goal.

U.S. captain Jim Furyk named Woods and Steve Stricker vice captains for this year’s matches, joining Davis Love III on the team golf cart.

Whether Woods will be able to pull off the double-header is now largely up to him and how his most recent comeback from injury progresses, but one way or another Furyk wanted Tiger in his team room.

“What Tiger really has brought to the table for our vice captains is a great knowledge of X's and O's,” Furyk said. “He's done a really good job of pairing players together in foursomes and fourball. When you look at our team room and you look at a lot of the youth that we have in that team room now with the younger players, a lot of them became golf professionals, fell in love with the game of golf because they wanted to emulate Tiger Woods.”

Woods is currently 104th on the U.S. points list, but the qualification process is designed for volatility, with this year’s majors worth twice as many points. With Tiger’s improved play it’s not out of the question that he gets both, a golf cart and a golf bag, for this year’s matches.

#MSDStrong. Every week on Tour players, officials and fans come together to support a charity of some sort, but this week’s Honda Classic has a more personal impact for Nicholas Thompson.

Thompson graduated from nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and last week’s horrific shooting there inspired the former Tour member to work with tournament organizers and find a way to help the victims.

Officials handed out 1,600 maroon ribbons to volunteers to honor the victims; and Thompson and his wife, who is also a Stoneman Douglas graduate, donated another 500 with the letters “MSD” on them for players, wives and caddies.

Thompson also planned to donate 3,100 rubber bracelets in exchange for donations to help the victims and their families.

“I’m not much of a crier, but it was a very, very sad moment,” Thompson told PGATour.com. “To see on TV, the pictures of the school that I went through for four years and the area where it occurred was terrible.”

The Tour makes an impact on communities every week, but some tournaments are more emotional than others.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Golden moment. Jack Nicklaus has never been shy about expressing his thoughts on modern equipment and how far today’s professionals are hitting the golf ball, but this week the Golden Bear revealed just how involved he may be in what is increasingly looking like an equipment rollback of some sort.

During a recent dinner with USGA CEO Mike Davis, Nicklaus discussed the distance debate.

“Mike said, ‘We’re getting there. We’re going to get there. I need your help when we get there.'” Nicklaus said. “I said, ‘That’s fine. I’m happy to help you. I’ve only been yelling at you for 40 years.’ 1977 is the first time I went to the USGA.”

The USGA and R&A are scheduled to release their annual distance report before the end of the month, but after the average driving distance jumped nearly 3 yards last year on Tour – and nearly 7 yards on the Web.com Tour – many within the equipment industry are already bracing for what could be the most profound rollback in decades.

Stay tuned.

Geographically undesirable. Although this will likely be the final year the Tour’s Florida swing is undercut by the WGC-Mexico Championship, which will be played next week, the event’s impact on this year’s fields is clear.

The tee sheet for this week’s Honda Classic, which had become one of the circuit’s deepest stops thanks to an influx of Europeans gearing up for the Masters, includes just three players from the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and none from top three. By comparison, only the Sony Open and CareerBuilder Challenge had fewer top players in 2018.

On Monday at a mandatory meeting, players were given a rough outline of the 2018-19 schedule, which features some dramatic changes including the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players shifting back to March, and numerous sources say the Mexico stop will move to the back end of the West Coast swing and be played after the Genesis Open.

That should help fields in the Sunshine State regain some luster, but it does nothing to change the fact that this year’s Florida swing is, well, flat.


Missed Cut

West Coast woes. Of all the highlights from this year’s West Coast swing, a run that included overtime victories for Patton Kizzire (Sony Open), Jon Rahm (CareerBuilder Challenge), Jason Day (Farmers Insurance Open) and Gary Woodland (Waste Management Phoenix Open), it will be what regularly didn’t happen that Cut Line remembers.

J.B. Holmes endured the wrath of social media for taking an eternity - it was actually 4 minutes, 10 seconds - to hit his second shot on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines, but in fairness to Holmes he’s only a small part of a larger problem.

Without any weather delays, Rounds 1 and 2 were not completed on schedule last week in Los Angeles because of pace of play, and the Tour is even considering a reduction in field size at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to avoid similar schedule issues.

But all this seems to miss the point. Smaller fields aren’t the answer; rules that recognize and penalize slow play are the only solution.

Tweet of the week: @PaulLawriegolf (Paul Lawrie) “Getting pretty fed up playing with guys who cheat the system by playing as slow as they want until referee comes then hit it on the run to make sure they don't get penalized. As soon as ref [is] gone it’s back to taking forever again. We need a better system.”

It turns out slow play isn’t a uniquely Tour/West Coast issue, as evidenced by the Scot’s tweet on Thursday from the Qatar Masters.