Power Rankings: Tournament of Champions

By Will GrayJanuary 1, 2017, 9:58 pm

The 2017 fantasy golf season kicks off in Hawaii, as the PGA Tour heads to the Aloha State this week for the Tournament of Champions. A field of 32 winners from last year will gather to tackle the Plantation Course at Kapalua.

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Jordan Spieth won this event last year by eight shots over Patrick Reed. Here are 10 players to watch in Maui:

1. Hideki Matsuyama: There's no better place to start than with the hottest player for the final months of 2016. Matsuyama has won four of his last five worldwide starts, including an easy victory at the limited-field Hero World Challenge last month in the Bahamas.

2. Jordan Spieth: Spieth took things to another level at this event a year ago, reaching 30 under par en route to an eight-shot win. He also finished solo second here in his 2014 tournament debut and clearly has developed an affinity for the Plantation Course, where he'll look to be the first back-to-back winner since Geoff Ogilvy in 2009-10.

3. Dustin Johnson: Kapalua tends to favor the bombers, and few can match the aerial prowess of Johnson, who won this event in 2013 when winds shortened it to 54 holes. Johnson also finished T-6 here in 2014 and enters off a season where he won three times and was named PGA Tour Player of the Year.

4. Patrick Reed: Reed won this event in 2015, then beat everyone not named Spieth last year in his title defense. While he wasn't able to keep pace with the two-time major winner, Reed clearly thrives in Maui and has now carded eight straight rounds in the 60s on the par-73 layout.

5. Jason Day: The world No. 1 would be much higher on this list were he not coming off a lengthy layoff. Day hasn't played competitively since withdrawing from the Tour Championship with a back injury, and he may try to ease his way back into form. But as his final-round 62 in 2015 indicated, the Aussie has all the tools required at Kapalua.

6. Justin Thomas: Thomas didn't fare especially well in his debut last year, but he quietly ended the year on quite a tear. Thomas had four top-10 finishes in his final five starts of 2016, highlighted by his win in Malaysia, and he appears poised for a strong year that could start with a big week in Hawaii.

7. Tony Finau: Finau is one of 11 players making their first appearance at Kapalua, and few players seem more tailor-made for its lengthy layout with plenty of elevation changes. Finau is arguably the longest driver on Tour, and his first career win came in another tropical location at the Puerto Rico Open.

8. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker may not fit the profile of a typical Kapalua contender, but he has finished third at this event in two of his last three starts. That includes a T-3 finish last year when he closed with 65-67, and Snedeker has been under par in each of his 15 competitive rounds here.

9. Branden Grace: The South African has been a fixture on major championship leaderboards for the last few years, and he finally broke into the winner's circle at the RBC Heritage. Grace has plenty of pop off the tee, and while he hasn't played in the U.S. since the BMW Championship he could certainly factor this weekend.

10. Bubba Watson: Watson has hit some of the more memorable shots at Kapalua in recent years, and he has the shotmaking creativity to go low on the Plantation Course. But Watson's T-4 finish in 2013 remains his only top-9 finish in five starts at Kapalua, a surprising stat given his advantage off the tee.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.