Power Rankings: Waste Management Phoenix Open

By Will GrayFebruary 2, 2016, 6:00 pm

The 2016 fantasy golf season is off and running, as the PGA Tour heads to Arizona this week for the Waste Managemen Phoenix Open. A field of 132 players will tackle TPC Scottsdale, whose raucuous finishing stretch annually makes it one of the rowdiest Tour stops of the year.

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Brooks Koepka won this event last year by one shot over a quartet of players. Here are 10 players to watch in Phoenix:

1. Brandt Snedeker: The hottest player on Tour, Snedeker rolls into Phoenix right off his improbable win at Torrey Pines. Snedeker now has finished T-3 or better in each of his first three starts of the year, and his record at TPC Scottsdale includes three top-10 finishes in the last five years, highlighted by a runner-up showing in 2013.

2. Bubba Watson: Watson has finished second here each of the last two years, including a playoff loss in 2014. He was also T-5 in 2012 and his game appears ideally suited for TPC Scottsdale, a bomber's paradise where birdies are expected in bunches. Will be making his first start since a T-10 showing in Maui.

3. Hideki Matsuyama: The Japanese phenom finished T-4 in his Phoenix debut in 2014, then followed that with a runner-up finish last year. Matsuyama typically hits plenty of greens, a strong trait to lean on this week, but he seems to get an often-balky putter to cooperate in the desert.

4. Kevin Na: He has to get a win at some point, right? Na finished T-3 in Palm Springs, his fourth top-3 finish in six starts this season, and now returns to Phoenix where he has been a regular contender in recent years. Na's record at this event includes four top-5 finishes and no result worse than T-36 since 2012.

5. Brooks Koepka: The defending champ had no trouble adjusting to his new Nike equipment in Hawaii, where he finished T-3 at Kapalua. Koepka won last year in his debut appearance, and displays all of the attributes - length off the tee, accurate approaches and strong putting - that make him a threat to repeat.

6. J.B. Holmes: Holmes earned his first win here in 2006, then hoisted the trophy again in 2008. While his record since has been somewhat spotty - a T-5 finish in 2011 is his only top-40 result since his second win - Holmes has transformed his game over the last two years and finished T-6 last week in San Diego.

7. Martin Laird: The Scottsdale resident lives only a few minutes from this week's venue and often practices on the TPC Scottsdale range. He finished T-5 last year after holding the 54-hole lead, and Laird now returns on the heels of a T-8 finish amid difficult conditions this past weekend at Torrey Pines.

8. Ryan Palmer: Palmer has a penchant for going low, and he came up one shot short behind Koepka here a year ago. He also finished T-5 in 2013, and Palmer typically does much of his damage on the west coast. That remains the case this season, as he followed a T-13 finish at Sony with a T-17 finish in Palm Springs.

9. Rickie Fowler: Fowler's early exit in San Diego was understandable given the jet lag after his win in Abu Dhabi, and he remains a name to watch this week. But his WMPO record outside of a runner-up in 2010 isn't exactly dazzling: T-26, T-46 and a pair of missed cuts over the last four years.

10. Charles Howell III: Still rolling right along. Howell's T-16 finish at Torrey Pines was his seventh top-20 finish in eight starts to begin the wraparound season. He'll look to remain hot in Phoenix, where his past results include a T-4 finish in 2010 and a T-6 finish in 2014.

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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.