Power Rankings: 2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open

By Will GrayJanuary 31, 2017, 3:14 pm

The 2017 fantasy golf season heads to Arizona this week, as the PGA Tour travels to Scottsdale for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. A field of 132 players will tackle TPC Scottsdale, including its famed par-3 16th hole.

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.

Hideki Matsuyama won this event last year in a playoff over Rickie Fowler. Here are 10 players to watch in the desert:

1. Hideki Matsuyama: Despite a middling performance in San Diego, Matsuyama is a clear favorite this week. He has never finished worse than T-4 in three career appearances, chasing a 2015 runner-up with his playoff win last year. The ball-striking prowess that led him to four wins to close out 2016 tends to thrive at TPC Scottsdale.

2. Jordan Spieth: Spieth is making just his second appearance in Phoenix, having finished T-7 in 2015. While the recent headlines have gone to other young players, Spieth hasn't exactly struggled out of the gate in 2017, as he finished third in both Maui and Kapalua. He just might take back some of that spotlight this week.

3. Bubba Watson: Easily the best resume of any player to have never won this event. Watson lost a playoff to Kevin Stadler in 2014, finished T-2 the following year and hasn't been worse than T-15 here since 2012. The title may still elude him, but expect another strong finish from the two-time Masters champ.

4. Justin Thomas: The new "hottest man in golf" returns to action after two weeks off, having won both of his starts in Hawaii. Thomas contended on a sponsor invite at this event two years ago, finishing T-17, and despite a missed cut last year he returns to TPC Scottsdale brimming with confidence and looking for a third straight trophy.

5. Jon Rahm: Last week's winner will now play a home game in front of partisan crowds and just a few miles from where he went to school at Arizona State. Rahm's victory at Torrey Pines was seen by most as a harbinger of things to come, and more success could be in store this week on a course he knows well and where he finished T-5 as an amateur two years ago.

6. Ryan Moore: The Ryder Cup hero has feasted at this event, finishing T-4, T-6, T-17 and T-11 in his last four trips to Arizona. Moore maintained his Hazeltine momentum throughout the fall portion of the new season and finished T-3 in Maui in his most recent start, indicating he doesn't plan to cool off anytime soon.

7. Brendan Steele: A winner at the season's opening event, Steele has remained hot with a pair of top-10 finishes since. He also tends to play well at this particular event, with three straight finishes of T-6 or better from 2012-14. Steele also finished T-17 in Scottsdale last year and appears in store for another strong showing.

8. Phil Mickelson: Mickelson is in the midst of a five-week stretch to start the new season, and the sports hernia injury that sidelined him during the offseason seems to be a non-factor. Mickelson has finished T-21 and T-14 in his first two starts this year and now returns to a course where he has won three times and nearly shot 59 in 2013.

9. J.B. Holmes: It's been a while since Holmes' twin titles in Scottsdale (2006 and 2008), but he still knows how to bomb it around this particular venue. Holmes tied for sixth last year and is coming off another resurgent season that saw his return to the Ryder Cup. A T-33 finish last week ended his offseason break.

10. Keegan Bradley: Bradley struggled through much of last season, notching only two top-10 finishes, but has turned things around in the new campaign. His T-4 finish at Torrey Pines was his third top-10 result in just seven starts, and his TPC Scottsdale credentials include four top-25 finishes over the last five years.

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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