Power Rankings: Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

By Will GrayOctober 15, 2013, 9:02 pm

This week marks the second week of the PGA Tour's new 2013-14 wraparound season, as a field of 132 players head to Las Vegas for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. TPC Summerlin plays host to the event, where the winning score routinely exceeds 20 under par.

Be sure to join the Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge to test yourself against our panel of experts, including defending champion Charlie Rymer.

Ryan Moore returns to defend the title he won last year by one shot over Brendon De Jonge. Here are 10 players to watch this week in Las Vegas:

1. Brendon de Jonge: This event has a history of crowning first-time winners (Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk among them), so there may be no better place for the Zimbabwean to break through following his strong performance at the Presidents Cup. His runner-up finish last year should provide ample momentum for de Jonge, who led the Tour in total birdies last season.

2. Zach Johnson: The highest-ranked player in this week's field, Johnson is just four weeks removed from his triumph at the BMW Championship. The veteran is making just his second start in Las Vegas, though he managed a T-10 result in his debut in 2008. Since the John Deere Classic, Johnson has seven top-10 finishes in his last eight stroke-play starts.

3. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama was among the names to watch last week at CordeValle and proved why, finishing in a tie for third to net his best career PGA Tour finish. The Japanese sensation has now made seven Tour starts since the U.S. Open, finishing no worse than T-21 each time while turning in a trio of top-10 finishes.

4. Webb Simpson: The former U.S. Open champ is making his first start in Vegas since 2010, when he tied for fourth. Simpson enters on the heels of his fourth-place showing at East Lake and, like Johnson, was a part of the victorious squad at the Presidents Cup earlier this month. Finished last season 13th on Tour in scoring average and 19th in birdie average. 

5. Martin Laird: A winner here in 2009, Laird followed that up with a tie for second in 2010 and clearly feels comfortable at TPC Summerlin. Though he struggled somewhat in the wake of his win at the Valero Texas Open in April, the Scot has carded 67 or lower in seven of his last 12 competitive rounds in this event.

6. Graham DeLaet: The Canadian is playing here for the first time since 2010, when he tied for 18th. Despite coming up short at Muirfield Village, DeLaet shined throughout the FedEx Cup Playoffs and is among the players to watch for a breakthrough win this season – one that could come as quickly as this week.

7. Ryan Moore: The event's defending champion, Moore also tied for seventh in 2009 and finished T-16 in 2005. He quietly had a solid 2013 season, one that included seven top-25 finishes in 22 starts, and tied for 11th at the BMW Championship in his most recent action. A resident of Las Vegas, Moore will likely benefit from a hometown rooting section this week at TPC Summerlin.

8. Scott Piercy: Like Moore, Piercy calls Las Vegas home and should receive some extra support this week as a result. One of the longest hitters on Tour, Piercy notched a trio of top-five finishes last season, including a tie for fifth at the PGA Championship, and has finished inside the top 15 in this event three of the last four years.

9. George McNeill: A winner here in 2007, McNeill also tied for second in 2009 and finished T-14 in 2010. The veteran is clearly comfortable playing desert golf and enters with the momentum of a tie for seventh at CordeValle last week, where McNeill rose up the leaderboard with a Saturday 62. 

10. Spencer Levin: Having missed much of 2013 due to injury, Levin opened his 2013-14 season with a tie for 12th last week at the Frys.com Open, his first PGA Tour start in more than a year. If healthy, the 29-year-old could factor this week in Las Vegas, where he finished T-4 in 2010 and T-5 in 2011, breaking 70 in each of his eight competitive rounds across that two-year span.

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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.”