Power Rankings: 2017 FedEx St. Jude Classic

By Will GrayJune 7, 2017, 3:38 pm

The PGA Tour heads south this week for the FedEx St. Jude Classic. A field of 156 players will tackle TPC Southwind in the final tournament before the focus shifts to Erin Hills for the U.S. Open.

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.

Daniel Berger won this event last year by three shots over a trio of players. Here are 10 names to watch in Memphis:

1. Brooks Koepka: Koepka has feasted on TPC Southwind in his brief history, with a T-3 finish in 2015 and a runner-up last year. His advantage off the tee is accentuated this week and Koepka has top-20 finishes in five of his last seven starts overall, including a runner-up at the Valero Texas Open.

2. Rickie Fowler: Fowler has barely slowed down since capturing the Honda Classic in February, with top-16 results in seven of his last eight individual starts. Fowler hasn't played this event since 2014, but he tied for 13th that year and he continues to lead the Tour in total strokes gained this season.

3. Billy Horschel: Horschel has a handful of tracks on Tour where he regularly contends, and this is certainly one of them. Buoyed by his recent win at Las Colinas, Horschel now returns to TPC Southwind where he has cracked the top 10 in each of his last three trips, including a T-6 finish back in 2014.

4. Francesco Molinari: Molinari's ball-striking prowess is well-established, and it has translated into success in each of his last two starts. The Italian tied for sixth at TPC Sawgrass and was a runner-up at Wentworth, extending his run of four straight worldwide top-25 finishes. He tied for 34th in Memphis last year.

5. Phil Mickelson: Lefty likely won't make an appearance next week at Erin Hills, but he's still teeing it up in Memphis on a course where he has finished runner-up twice in the last four years. Mickelson also added a third-place showing in 2015 and hasn't finished worse than T-11 since making this stop a regular part of his schedule in 2013.

6. Daniel Berger: Berger turned his Memphis debut into a maiden Tour victory last year, leading by three shots after each of the final three rounds. While his results have largely dried up in recent weeks, he finished fifth at the Shell Houston Open and last year hit 75 percent of the greens in regulation en route to victory.

7. Adam Scott: The Aussie is making a rare trip to Beale Street, as he last played TPC Southwind when he tied for seventh in 2007. But Scott has opted to play his way into majors this year, and his recent record includes top-10 finishes at both Augusta National and TPC Sawgrass. Scott could thrive this week amid a relatively weak field.

8. Ryan Palmer: Palmer will have to wait to see if he'll make the U.S. Open as a sectional alternate, but he returns this week to a course where he cracked the top five in both 2013 and 2014. Palmer has been somewhat inconsistent this season, but he did chase a T-11 finish at the RBC Heritage with a T-6 showing in San Antonio in April.

9. Russell Henley: Henley got back into the winner's circle earlier this year in Houston, and he finished T-7 at this event one year ago. Henley followed that win in April with a pair of top-30 finishes at the Masters and RBC Heritage, and he currently ranks ninth on Tour in strokes gained putting and 11th in total strokes gained.

10. Peter Uihlein: Uihlein qualified for Erin Hills on Monday, the latest in a long line of solid results this season. The former U.S. Amateur champ is making his Memphis debut but is also riding a streak of eight straight finishes of T-33 or better across the PGA Tour and European Tour and dating back to the Tshwane Open in March.

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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