Power Rankings: Zurich Classic of New Orleans

By Will GrayApril 22, 2014, 7:48 pm

This week marks the 24th event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as the Tour heads to the Crescent City for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. A field of 144 players will tee it up this week at TPC Louisiana, where the winner will have to go low to conquer the field.

Be sure to join the Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge to test yourself against our panel of experts, including defending champion Charlie Rymer. Click here for full fantasy assistance, including stats and picks.

Billy Horschel returns to defend the title he won last year by one shot over D.A. Points. Here are 10 players to watch this week in New Orleans:

1. Justin Rose: The reigning U.S. Open champ has a pair of top-15 finishes in his last three starts, including a T-14 result two weeks ago at Augusta National. Rose also has a pair of top-15 finishes in his last two trips to New Orleans, and six of his last eight rounds at TPC Louisiana have been in the 60s.

2. Rickie Fowler: Fowler is making his first start since a tie for fifth at the Masters, and he seems comfortable in the Crescent City. Fowler has cracked the top 40 each of the past three years in this event, including a T-10 finish in 2012 that featured a second-round 65. He also finished sixth three weeks ago at the Shell Houston Open.

3. Graham DeLaet: The Canadian nearly made the cut at Augusta National despite an opening-round 80, and DeLaet tied for fourth in NOLA in 2012. This tournament has been kind to first-time winners, and DeLaet is certainly overdue to enter the winner's circle. Ranks second on Tour in ball-striking and third in GIR percentage.

4. Kevin Stadler: Stadler surprised with a T-8 in his Masters debut, then followed with a solid T-38 at Harbour Town. He's missed only one cut since his breakthrough win in Phoenix, and is now 10th on Tour in total driving and 12th in birdie average. Last year he tied for eighth behind a third-round 65.

5. Keegan Bradley: Bradley surprisingly missed the cut at the Masters, but his 2014 campaign has otherwise been solid, with seven top-25 finishes in 12 starts. He missed the cut at TPC Louisiana each of the last two years but was T-26 in 2011 and currently ranks 11th on Tour in birdie average.

6. George McNeill: McNeill is making his first start since Bay Hill, but comes in off five straight top-20 finishes dating back to February. McNeill tied for sixth in NOLA in 2011 and followed that with a T-24 result the following year, and he is among the Tour leaders in scrambling (15th) and scoring average (19th).

7. Ryan Palmer: Palmer has four top-10 finishes this season, including a pair of runner-ups. He's no stranger to low scores - currently fourth on Tour in birdie average - and tied for fourth at TPC Louisiana in 2012. He's also currently third on Tour in the all-around ranking.

8. J.B. Holmes: Holmes continues to have a strong comeback from the disabled list, and his T-18 at the RBC Heritage was his third top-20 finish in his last four starts. He tied for 13th here in 2012, his most recent appearance in New Orleans, and certainly has the aggressive style and length off the tee to make him a contender this week.

9. Cameron Tringale: His missed cut here last year snapped a recent run of good form at TPC Louisiana, when Tringale went T-28, T-18, T-7 from 2010-2012. He was fourth last month at the Shell Houston Open and has five top-25 finishes to his credit this season.

10. Nicholas Thompson: Thompson contended for his first PGA Tour win last week before tying for 12th, but three of his last four starts have yielded results of T-26 or better. After a slow start to 2014, Thompson has made five of seven cuts since the Tour began the Florida swing and had good weeks at TPC Louisiana in both 2010 (T-7) and 2008 (T-4).

Getty Images

Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

Getty Images

Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

Getty Images

Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."

Getty Images

Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.