Power Rankings: 2017 John Deere Classic

By Will GrayJuly 12, 2017, 5:57 pm

The PGA Tour heads to the heartland this week for the John Deere Classic. A field of 156 players will tackle TPC Deere Run, where one spot into The Open remains up for grabs for the top finisher.

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.

Ryan Moore won this event last year by two shots over Ben Martin. Here are 10 names to watch in Illinois:

1. Daniel Berger: A memorable bunker shot from Jordan Spieth was the only thing standing between Berger and back-to-back wins. After successfully defending his title at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, Berger was a hard-luck runner-up to Spieth in Connecticut in his most recent start. He'll make his Deere debut but ranks 16th on Tour in total strokes gained.

2. Brian Harman: Harman earned his first career victory at TPC Deere Run back in 2014, and he returns playing some of the best golf of his career. Harman won the Wells Fargo Championship in May, edging Dustin Johnson in dramatic fashion, and was a runner-up at the U.S. Open last month.

3. Kyle Stanley: Stanley broke a five-year victory drought with his playoff win at the Quicken Loans National, and now he returns to a course where he has three top-20 finishes including a runner-up in 2011. Stanley has three other top-10 finishes on Tour since April, including a T-4 finish at TPC Sawgrass and T-6 at the Memorial.

4. Steve Stricker: Stricker remains the last player to win the same Tour event three years in a row, having triumphed at the Deere from 2009-11. While he plays sparingly these days, he cracked the top 20 at both Colonial and Erin Hills and also notched three straight finishes of T-11 or better at TPC Deere Run from 2012-14.

5. Zach Johnson: Johnson is the only player in the field who can rival Stricker's prowess in this event, having finished third or better every year from 2011-15. Johnson is in need of a spark, given his last top-10 finish in a stroke play event came at the Sony Open in January, but woe to those who bet against the two-time major champ at one of his favorite events.

6. Charley Hoffman: Hoffman hasn't played here since 2013, but his form this year seems to be pointing to another win. Hoffman was a runner-up at Bay Hill, contended into the final round at the Masters and finished eighth at Erin Hills before a T-3 finish at the Travelers Championship in his most recent start.

7. Danny Lee: The Kiwi tied for ninth last week in defense of his Greenbrier title, his fourth top-10 finish in seven starts dating back to the AT&T Byron Nelson. Lee also tied for third in his most recent trip to TPC Deere Run in 2015 and hasn't missed a cut since the Players Championsihp.

8. Kevin Kisner: Kisner surprisingly missed the cut last week at The Greenbrier, but he remains a threat against a relatively weak field this week in Quad Cities. Kisner's record here includes a T-20 finish in 2014 and his win at Colonial, followed by a T-6 finish at the Memorial the following week, remain fresh in the memory bank.

9. Ryan Moore: The defending champ used a two-shot win here last year to spark a run that ended with him clinching the winning point in the Ryder Cup. Moore hasn't played in more than a month because of injury, but there's reason to think he'll knock the rust off quickly on a course where he also finished T-7 in 2014 and T-8 in 2012.

10. Chad Campbell: Campbell's name may not pop off the tee sheet, but he has two top-10 finishes in his last three starts (Greenbrier and Travelers) and has a remarkably solid record at TPC Deere Run. Campbell has made the cut in each of his last eight trips, with four top-15 finishes included among that stretch.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”