Power Rankings: The Masters

By Will GrayApril 8, 2014, 5:22 pm

This week marks the 22nd event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as the Tour heads down Magnolia Lane for the Masters. A field of 97 players will tee it up this week at Augusta National Golf Club, where the winner of the season's first major will claim the coveted green jacket.

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Adam Scott returns to defend the title he won last year in a playoff over Angel Cabrera. Here are 10 players to watch this week in Georgia:

1. Rory McIlroy: The former No. 1 enters a Tiger-less Masters as the consensus favorite. While his next top 10 at Augusta will be his first, McIlroy has the game to contend here, as he showed in 2011 before his Sunday meltdown. He's shown flashes of brilliance this season - remember the approach to the 72nd hole at Honda? - and closed with a 65 Sunday in Houston. If he's on his game, few (if any) can keep up.

2. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar has become the king of close calls this season, with six top-10 finishes but no wins after squandering a four-shot lead at Shell. He remains one of the Tour's most consistent ball-strikers, though, and his solid play tee-to-green will be a huge asset this week. Kuchar has been T-3 and T-8 each of the last two years at Augusta, which parallels Adam Scott's record before his win here a year ago.

3. Adam Scott: The defending champ hasn't teed it up since blowing a big lead at Bay Hill, but despite that setback he remains a threat to go back-to-back. Like Kuchar, Scott is an elite player tee-to-green, especially at Augusta National. The question will be whether his sometimes balky putter cooperates this week, as it did a year ago. If Scott is making mid-range putts with any consistency, the green jacket will be his for another year.

4. Harris English: Augusta is rarely kind to first-time visitors, but this year's rookie class is exceptional and led by English, who boasts a stat line that could make him a true threat to contend. The Georgia grad has won twice since June and contended on several other occasions, and he currently leads the Tour in GIR percentage. He's also third in birdie average, fourth in scoring and fourth in the all-around ranking - a potent combination indeed.

5. Sergio Garcia: Will the golf gods ever permit the Spaniard to win a major? That remains to be seen, but Garcia has a great chance to end his drought this week. He hasn't been outside the top 20 since August, adding a win in Qatar earlier this year and a third-place finish last week in Houston. Garcia held the first-round lead last year and has finished inside the top 12 each of the past two years.

6. Phil Mickelson: Perhaps no one is more excited about the prospect of a Woods-less Masters than Mickelson, and no one in the field can challenge his track record at ANGC, which includes three wins and 14 top-10 finishes. But Lefty may still be sore from the pulled oblique suffered in San Antonio, and it remains to be seen how his body will respond when he inevitably goes full-bore after a driver on the back - er, second - nine.

7. Keegan Bradley: Bradley remains one of the longest hitters on Tour, and has a myriad of top-20 finishes to his credit this season - seven in 11 starts, to be exact. His runner-up finish at Bay Hill was his best shot at a win, but Bradley has a major title to his credit and has the ability to contend with the greats of the game down the stretch. This could be the week where he upgrades from "in contention" to something bigger, better - and greener.

8. Jason Day: The Aussie was one of the trendy names when he won the WGC-Accenture Match Play two months ago, but a thumb injury has kept him on the sideline ever since. Despite the longer-than-ideal layoff, Day's game appears ideally suited for Augusta National, as evidenced by his T-2 finish in 2011 and third-place finish last year, when he stood on the 16th tee during the final round with sole possession of the lead.

9. Lee Westwood: Westwood has hardly been a name to watch since his near-miss at Muirfield last summer, but he is one of only two men with top-15 finishes each of the last four years at Augusta National. Westwood brings a veteran's savvy into this event, and the Englishman has finished inside the top eight three times since 2010. He quietly notched a T-17 last week in Houston, his best result of 2014.

10. Dustin Johnson: Johnson was seen as a significant contender for this week before he bowed out unceremoniously from Houston, citing a bad back before withdrawing after a first-round 80. Despite the injury questions, Johnson has the length off the tee to remain aggressive at Augusta National, and prior to the W/D he had finished inside the top six in each of his four stroke-play starts in 2014.

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”


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Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

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Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

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Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.

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Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

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List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).