Power Rankings: WGC-Accenture Match Play

By Will GrayFebruary 18, 2014, 8:39 pm

This week marks the 14th event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as players head to Arizona for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. A field of 64 players will tackle the Golf Club at Dove Mountain, where the season's second WGC event will test their ability to survive the unpredictability of match play.

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Matt Kuchar returns to defend the title he won last year over Hunter Mahan. Here are 10 players to watch this week outside Tucson:

1. Rory McIlroy: The Ulsterman enters as one of the four top seeds, and his recent form makes him the odds-on favorite to emerge victorious. McIlroy was a runner-up here to Mahan just two years ago, and while he was bounced in the first round last year he's unlikely to make an early exit again. He had promising finishes during the Desert Swing last month and is again showing signs of the player who once topped the world rankings.

2. Jason Day: Day made the semifinals here a year ago as an 11 seed and now should have a considerably easier draw as the 2 seed in the Jones Bracket. The Aussie has compiled more than his fair share of high finishes against elite fields recently and boasts an 8-3 overall record in this event.

3. Dustin Johnson: DJ enters off a pair of near-misses, finishing just short in the last two weeks at Pebble Beach and Riviera. Johnson's record in this event isn't exactly inspiring - four first-round exits in the last five years - but his recent form is. Dove Mountain is a course where his bombing style will be rewarded if he's able to keep things firing on all cylinders.

4. Zach Johnson: Johnson should be well-rested, having taken a few weeks off following his torrid stretch through December and January. The former Masters champ has been one of the best around for nearly eight months, and his world-class wedge play should yield dividends this week. This course often favors the longer players off the tee, but ZJ has the overall game to make a deep run.

5. Jordan Spieth: At some point, the 20-year-old will show signs of regression, but they don't appear to be on the horizon. Spieth contended once again last week, ultimately finishing T-14 at Riviera, and enters this week as one of the most confident players in the bracket. His aggressive style could get him in trouble against a seasoned opponent, but betting against the Texan hasn't exactly been a sound strategy over the past 12 months.

6. Hunter Mahan: A winner here two years ago, Mahan nearly went back-to-back before losing to Kuchar in the finals last year. He clearly enjoys the confines of match play, and his recent record includes a pair of top-10 finishes in 2014. A potential date with Zach Johnson in the second round looms, though, which could knock out one of the stronger players in this week's field.

7. Matt Kuchar: The defending champ saw his lengthy made-cut streak come to an end last week at Riviera, but at least he'll be able to start a new one at Dove Mountain. Kuchar has been a fixture at this event, making at least the quarterfinals each of the past three years and compiling a 15-3 overall record in the process. The former U.S. Amateur champ is another that clearly enjoys the strategic aspect of match play, and a potential third-round matchup with Spieth could be must-see TV.

8. Sergio Garcia: El Nino bringing his game to the U.S. for the first time in 2014, fresh off a strong Desert Swing that included a win in Qatar. As a result, Garcia finds himself in uncharted territory near the top of the world rankings, and a strong showing this week could propel him even higher. The Spaniard has experienced his fair share of first-round flameouts in this event, but did finish fourth here in 2010.

9. Henrik Stenson: The overall top seed won a pair of season-long titles in 2013, but has failed to replicate that dominant form across the first few weeks of 2014. Stenson has battled through a series of injuries in recent months, but the high number of recent rounds for the Swede appears to have taken a toll. He's difficult to beat when he's on his game, but this event has rarely been kind to its No. 1 seed in years past.

10. Bubba Watson: Watson was a runner-up in Phoenix, then finished one better in Los Angeles. The southpaw's game can hardly be described as consistent, but when he's "on" he can be nearly impossible to knock out on a lengthy track like Dove Mountain. Watson currently leads the Tour in driving distance and has compiled a solid 7-4 record across the past three years in this event.

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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