Power Rankings: 2017 U.S. Open

By Will GrayJune 12, 2017, 5:34 pm

The PGA Tour heads north this week for the U.S. Open. A field of 156 players will tackle Erin Hills as it hosts a major championship for the first time in its brief history.

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.

Dustin Johnson won this event last year by three shots over a trio of players. Here are 10 names to watch in Wisconsin:

1. Dustin Johnson: Johnson nearly won this event two years ago, and he took care of business emphatically last year at Oakmont. That sparked a torrid 12-month stretch that sees Johnson return this week as defending champ, world No. 1 and an understandable favorite after reeling off three straight wins earlier this year.

2. Rickie Fowler: After a run of six straight first-time major champs, this could be Fowler's turn in the spotlight. A win at the Honda Classic began a stretch of five straight top-16 finishes, and Fowler was a runner-up two weeks ago at the Memorial. At second on Tour in total strokes gained and 11th in strokes gained tee-to-green, he should avoid much of the trouble at Erin Hills.

3. Jon Rahm: Many are waiting to see Rahm prove himself on a major stage, but he clearly has all the attributes to contend. After his breakthrough at Torrey Pines, Rahm compiled five more top-5 finishes including a runner-up at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational. He also tied for 23rd last year at Oakmont as an amateur.

4. Jordan Spieth: The "what's wrong with Spieth?" storyline was deservedly short-lived. Spieth showed at Colonial that he can still flourish when his game is firing on all cylinders, and he is only two years removed from winning at Chambers Bay. The uneven lies expected in the fairways should play to his advantage, but as is often the case his success will be largely dictated by his efficiency on the greens.

5. Jason Day: The Aussie lost in a playoff at the AT&T Byron Nelson last month, and his U.S. Open record includes a remarkable run of four straight top-10 finishes. Day was a runner-up at both Congressional (2011) and Merion (2013) and he seems to successfully embrace the more grueling aspects of the USGA's marquee event.

6. Adam Scott: Scott, like Day, has been consistent in an event where it's hard to come by. Each of the last three years have ended with Scott at T-18 or better in this event, and he tied for 10th last week in Memphis with Steve Williams back on the bag. The pure greens could help mitigate some of Scott's weakness with the putter, and his tee-to-green prowess will likely shine through.

7. Sergio Garcia: The Masters champ will make his first major start as a major winner, and it's in an event where his trademark ball-striking could pay dividends. Garcia tied for fifth last year at Oakmont, and while it's unlikely he can repeat the Spieth double-dip from 2015, don't be surprised if a relaxed Garcia works his way up the standings over the weekend.

8. Justin Rose: Rose had one arm in the green jacket two months ago, and now he returns to an event where he made his major breakthrough at Merion four years ago. The Englishman missed the cut last year, but that ended a run of four straight top-30 finishes in this event and he tied for 12th at Wentworth before heading to Erin Hills early for extra prep.

9. Rory McIlroy: The Ulsterman brings plenty of questions with him to Erin Hills, from his health to his ever-changing equipment. McIlroy hasn't played since re-aggravating a rib injury at TPC Sawgrass last month, and the ailment will limit his prep somewhat this week. But his ceiling is nearly unmatched, and should his new putter begin to cooperate it wouldn't come as a shock to see him contending for major No. 5 come Sunday.

10. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar has been his rock-solid self in this event recently, with four top-20 finishes since 2010 and only one result outside the top 30. He rallied for a T-4 finish at the Masters, one of five top-12 finishes over his last seven overall starts. That run includes a T-12 result at Colonial and a tie for fourth at Memorial his last time out.

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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