Power Rankings: 2017 Dean & DeLuca Invitational

By Will GrayMay 24, 2017, 12:42 pm

The PGA Tour remains in the Lone Star State this week for the Dean & DeLuca Invitational. A field of 121 players will tackle Colonial Country Club, the famed home of Ben Hogan and site of the "Horrible Horseshoe."

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.

Jordan Spieth won this event last year by three shots over Harris English. Here are 10 players to watch in Fort Worth:

1. Jon Rahm: One poor round at TPC Sawgrass isn't strong enough reason to downgrade Rahm's chances this week. The Spaniard remains on a tear during his first full season on Tour, including a win at Torrey Pines, and was in contention at the Players before ballooning during the third round in an effort that will certainly prove to be the exception rather than the rule.

2. Jordan Spieth: Spieth enters off two straight missed cuts, but Colonial could cure what ails him. It's a venue where he feels comfortable and one where he held on for a much-needed victory last spring. Spieth is back to his old putter after a 36-hole audition with a new weapon, and if a few putts roll in his confidence could rebound quickly amid partisan crowds.

3. Sergio Garcia: The Masters champ won here back in 2001, but he hasn't returned since a pair of top-20 finishes in 2011 and 2012. Garcia has played his way into contention each of the last two weeks only to fade on Sunday, but that final-round trend could end on a layout that should reward his tee-to-green precision.

4. Ryan Palmer: Palmer is a member at Colonial and has come close to winning the event in recent years, with top-5 finishes in three of the last five years. That stretch includes a T-3 finish last year, and Palmer returns home having finished T-11 at the RBC Heritage and T-6 at the Valero Texas Open just a few weeks ago.

5. Kevin Kisner: Kisner is twice a runner-up this season, including a team playoff loss at Zurich, but that coveted second win could come this week on a course where he finished T-5 in 2015 and T-10 a year ago. Kisner is 15th on Tour in strokes gained tee-to-green and should be able to thrive amid the cozy confines of Colonial.

6. Jason Dufner: Dufner has long listed Colonial as one of his favorite tracks, and he's twice a runner-up there including a playoff loss to Adam Scott in 2014. The former PGA champ also finished T-6 at Colonial last year and was T-13 just last week across the Metroplex at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

7. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar made another Sunday climb up the leaderboard last week en route to a T-9 finish at the Nelson, his third such final-round move since the Masters. While he hasn't won in more than three years, he's been a regular contender at this event including a runner-up finish in 2013 and a T-6 finish last year.

8. Tony Finau: Finau may be known for his prowess off the tee, but he showed with a T-5 finish at Innisbrook that he can contend on tight layouts as well. Finau is fourth this season on Tour in strokes gained tee-to-green, battled back from an opening-round 75 to finish T-13 last week and has cracked the top 35 in each of his two prior Colonial appearances.

9. Bud Cauley: Cauley may quietly be the hottest player on Tour. His T-5 finish last week was his fourth straight top-10 finish, a run that also includes a T-9 finish at Harbour Town, a T-10 finish at Valero and a T-5 result at Zurich alongside Justin Thomas. When he last played Colonial, Cauley finished T-14 (2013) and T-21 (2014).

10. Zach Johnson: The two-time major champ has been largely quiet this season, but this is the type of venue that could offer a spark. Johnson won at Colonial in both 2010 and 2012, highlights amid a five-year run where he never finished outside the top 10. He added a T-17 finish last year and tied for 18th three weeks ago at Eagle Point.

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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