Power Rankings: 2017 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2017, 1:36 pm

The 2017 fantasy golf season heads to the mainland this week, as the PGA Tour travels to California for the CareerBuilder Challenge. A field of 156 players will tackle a three-course rotation that includes the Stadium Course at PGA West.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

Jason Dufner won this event last year in a playoff over David Lingmerth. Here are 10 players to watch in Palm Springs:

1. Bill Haas: Haas is always a name to watch, but his solid start to the new season that includes four straight top-20 finishes has him topping the table. Haas has won this event twice (2010 and 2015) to go along with a runner-up in 2011 and a T-9 finish last year.

2. Patrick Reed: Reed quietly got off to a nice start with a T-6 finish in Kapalua, and it was only two years ago that he peeled off three straight rounds of 63 en route to victory in Palm Springs. A week off in between should have helped him boost his energy levels.

3. Charles Howell III: Howell was high on this list last week in Honolulu and tied for third, and there's reason to keep him on the board for another week. The veteran has now compiled four straight finishes of T-15 or better and his record at this event includes a playoff loss in 2013 and a T-11 finish last year.

4. Zach Johnson: Johnson broke out of a mini-slump with his T-6 finish at the Sony, and his record in Palm Springs has had plenty of highs. The veteran finished T-8 in 2012 and T-3 in 2014, results that indicate back-to-back missed cuts the past two years may have been aberrations.

5. Webb Simpson: Simpson finished T-13 last week, and he has a stronger record in Palm Springs than you might expect: five top-25 finishes in seven starts, including a T-7 finish in 2014. While he hasn't won since 2013, the former U.S. Open champ has shown a recent penchant for making the most of his brushes with the leaderboard.

6. Ryan Palmer: Palmer has done everything but win this event, with five top-20 finishes in six trips since 2011. That stretch includes a runner-up in 2014 amid three straight top-10s, and prior to last year's final-round 73 Palmer had broken par in 23 straight rounds in Palm Springs.

7. Jon Rahm: Rahm is due to break through at some point this season, and a course where birdies should fly by the bunches might prove to be just the venue. The Spaniard already has a pair of top-15 finishes this season and has previously thrived at other TPC courses, namely Scottsdale and Summerlin.

8. Emiliano Grillo: The reigning Rookie of the Year closed out last season in strong fashion, with finishes of T-26 or better in each of his last five official starts. While he hasn't played since the Bahamas, Grillo possesses the type of consistent game that should yield plenty of birdie opportunities this week.

9. Phil Mickelson: There's still a chance he won't play at all, but if he does then Mickelson deserves a spot among the possible contenders. The southpaw hasn't played since October and has had a pair of sports hernia surgeries since, but he's won twice here and came out of mothballs last year to finish T-3.

10. Jamie Lovemark: The long-hitting California product closed out 2016 with a T-6 finish and promptly opened 2017 by finishing T-4 at Sony. He also finished T-6 here last year despite a final-round 73 and has been knocking on the door of a maiden PGA Tour win for the last several months.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry