Power Rankings: RBC Heritage

By Will GrayApril 15, 2014, 3:28 pm

This week marks the 23rd event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as the Tour heads to the South Carolina coast for the RBC Heritage. A field of 130 players will tee it up this week at Harbour Town Golf Links, where the winner will receive the tartan jacket.

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Graeme McDowell returns to defend the title he won last year in a playoff over Webb Simpson. Here are 10 players to watch this week on Hilton Head Island:

1. Matt Kuchar: Might be the player of the year if they awarded trophies on Saturday. Kuchar has struggled during the final round in recent weeks, but his T-5 finish at Augusta National was still his third straight top-five result and seventh top 10 this season. Kuchar has finished outside the top 25 just twice in '13-'14 and is currently sixth on Tour in scoring average.

2. Luke Donald: If ever there was a course that could resuscitate Donald's game it's Harbour Town, where the Englishman has finished T-3 or better four of the last five years. Donald notched a pair of top 10s on the Florida swing, and his game appears tailor-made for the cozy confines of Hilton Head.

3. Jordan Spieth: While a post-Masters letdown is entirely possible, Spieth has defied conventional expectation for more than a year. His runner-up at Augusta National was his fifth top-10 finish this season, and ninth top 25 in 12 starts. Spieth tied for ninth in his Harbour Town debut last year

4. Jim Furyk: Furyk won here in 2010 and also has a pair of runner-up finishes to his credit here. While he faded Sunday at Augusta, his T-14 was still his third straight top-20 finish and his fifth top 25 in just seven starts this season. At 19th in driving accuracy, he remains one of the Tour's straightest hitters off the tee, which should come in handy this week.

5. Graeme McDowell: The Ulsterman holed several key putts down the stretch last year en route to victory, and his putter has remained hot in 2014. McDowell leads the Tour in strokes gained putting this season, and has logged five top-10 finishes in just seven starts.

6. Harris English: English missed his first cut of the season last week at Augusta, but should bounce back at Harbour Town. He already has a win among his six top-10 finishes this season, and English is second on Tour in GIR percentage and fourth in birdie average. Tied for eighth here in 2012.

7. Kevin Na: Na has made a remarkable return to form since coming back from the disabled list in October, and has five top-20 finishes in his last six starts. He is seventh on Tour in scoring average and 15th in strokes gained putting, and cracked the top 10 at Harbour Town in both 2011 (T-9) and 2012 (T-8).

8. Pat Perez: Perez has quietly compiled a successful season, with six top 25s, and contended in his last start at the Valero Texas Open before fading to a tie for 11th. His last two Heritage appearances have both been successful ones, as he tied for sixth in 2011 and was T-18 a year ago

9. Kevin Stadler: Stadler was impressive in his Masters debut last week, where his T-8 finish earned him a return trip in 2015. He is eighth on Tour in birdie average this season, seventh in total driving and 19th in GIR percentage, signs of his improved ball-striking. If his putter cooperates, he can contend here, as evidenced by his T-4 finish in 2012.

10. Charley Hoffman: Hoffman has seven top 25s to his credit this season, including three of his last four starts, and has finished T-8 or better each of the last two years at Harbour Town. He's currently 16th in GIR percentage and 18th in birdie average, but will need his driving accuracy to improve (currently 123rd) to contend again this week

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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.”