Power Rankings: 2017 Honda Classic

By Will GrayFebruary 22, 2017, 2:24 pm

The 2017 fantasy golf season shifts to Florida this week, as the PGA Tour heads south for the Honda Classic. A field of 144 players will tackle the Champion Course at PGA National, including the daunting finishing stretch known as "Bear Trap."

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.

Adam Scott won this event last year by one shot over Sergio Garcia. Here are 10 players to watch in Palm Beach:

1. Russell Knox: The Scot has come close here before, notably losing a playoff in 2014 and following with a T-3 finish the next year. Knox is familiar with expected conditions as a Florida resident, can drive the ball on a string to avoid penal rough and has top-11 finishes this season on a pair of tight tracks (Sony, Mayakoba).

2. Adam Scott: The defending champ acquitted himself well last week at Riviera, finishing T-11 in his first U.S. start since the Tour Championship. He returns to a course where he could have won in runaway fashion last year, but also one where he finished T-12 in 2014. Last year's title was no fluke, as Scott remains as steady as they come when the conditions get tough.

3. Sergio Garcia: Garcia nearly caught Scott down the stretch last year, instead finishing second for his second top-10 at PGA National in the last three years. The Spaniard won just a few weeks ago in Dubai and this week's layout should only serve to spotlight his strength off the tee.

4. Daniel Berger: Berger was a surprise contender when he lost a playoff to Padraig Harrington here in 2015, but he returns to his de facto home game as a known commodity and PGA Tour winner. Berger boasts plenty of experience at PGA National and finished T-7 in Phoenix in his most recent start.

5. Rickie Fowler: Fowler will be a fan favorite this week, and he usually tends to play some of his best golf at this event. Last year's T-6 finish was his fourth top-25 result in the last five years at PGA National, where his experience in the wind from Oklahoma State can often come into play. A T-4 finish in Phoenix shows good play may be just around the corner.

6. Justin Thomas: Thomas has cooled since his Hawaii double-dip to start the year, but he is plenty familiar with Bermuda greens and finished T-3 at this event last year. Already with three wins this season, Thomas ranks second in total strokes gained and fourth in strokes gained tee-to-green.

7. Paul Casey: This event is known to bring a bit of European flair, a trend embodied by Casey's recent record. The Englishman has cracked the top 12 here three times since 2010, notably a T-3 finish two years ago, and enters off solid showings at two other tricky tracks in Torrey Pines (T-28) and Riviera (T-39).

8. Brendan Steele: Steele continues to set a strong pace following his season-opening victory, with four straight top-20 finishes before last week's T-39 result. Now he heads to a venue where he has cracked the top 15 each of the last two years where his strong ball-striking (ninth in strokes gained tee-to-green) should pay off.

9. Graeme McDowell: The Ulsterman hasn't made much noise in recent months, but he tends to find a way onto the Honda leaderboard regardless of prior form. McDowell's record here includes four top-10 finishes over the last six years, highlighted by last year's T-5 showing, so don't be surprised if the former U.S. Open champ again thrives on a tough course.

10. Thomas Pieters: The Belgian bomber has never played this event before, but after last week's runner-up finish at Riviera don't be surprised if his momentum carries him to another big week. Pieters has the length off the tee to conquer nearly any venue, and a couple of good rounds could see him lock up a PGA Tour card before we get to March.

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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