Punch Shot: Who is the current Masters favorite?

By Golf Channel Digital, Rex HoggardMarch 11, 2015, 7:00 pm

Rory McIlroy is currently the odds-on favorite to win the Masters Tournament. But should he be? GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with their current favorite to win, with one month to go before the event begins at Augusta National.


Who’s going to forget that great escape at the 10th hole in 2012, when Bubba Watson hit that amazing hook around the trees to save par and beat Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff for his first Masters’ victory.

Or Watson’s towering blast over the trees at the 13th last year, where he cut the corner with that mammoth 366-yard drive  in the final round to set up his second victory at Augusta National.

“This place suits him perfectly,” Rickie Fowler said last year. “He’s able to hit golf shots around here that some guys can’t.”

Bubba Watson makes his way around Augusta National like some caretaker’s son, like the kid who knows all a property’s shortcuts, all its nooks and crannies. We see the comfort he has there, his confident sense of belonging. So do other players. It’s what makes Bubba the favorite to win his third Masters’ title in four years. The belief he takes to that iconic golf course knowing it embraces him as much as he embraces it makes him the man to beat no matter what the oddsmakers say.


An angrily tossed club and more than a sleeve of lost golf balls aside, Rory McIlroy is still the man to beat at Augusta National.

The world No. 1 missed the cut in his first start on the PGA Tour two weeks ago at the Honda Classic and received more attention last week at Doral for throwing his 3-iron into a lake than he did for his game. But as McIlroy has proven in his young career, he is exceedingly adept at turning things around.

Remember, this is the same guy who struggled in 2013 - only to come back and win two majors and a World Golf Championships event in 2014.

At Doral, where he tied for ninth with something well less than his best stuff, McIlroy was particularly concerned with his inability to move the ball from right-to-left in a healthy breeze.

As a result, he will spend this week with his father and New England quarterback Tom Brady looking for answers at Augusta National.

He has plenty of time to cure what ails his long game. But most importantly, he has plenty of motivation to turn things around in time for the Masters – a chance to win the career Grand Slam.


The oddsmakers in Las Vegas still favor Rory McIlroy, but if the Masters started tomorrow I’d give my No. 1 seed to Bubba Watson.

While McIlroy chases the career Grand Slam, Watson is in search of another impressive feat – three green jackets in a four-year span. There’s reason to think that he’ll get it, too, considering the fact that the golf course appears to be tailor-made to suit his arcing ball flight. His recent form doesn’t hurt his cause, either: Watson has a win, a runner-up and a third-place finish already this season, with each of his five starts going for no worse than a T-14 result.

McIlroy has the game to compete and win at Augusta National, but the suffocating pressure that will come with his quest for a third straight major victory will be too much for him this year. He’ll get his green jacket someday – likely more than one – but as Phil Mickelson can attest, chasing the fourth leg of the slam can prove difficult.


Bubba Watson.

You may have seen the stat floated last week: The years Watson has won the Masters (2012, ’14), he also finished runner-up at Doral. Well, the world No. 2 finished third last week at Trump’s Place, so that should portend well for next month’s gathering in Augusta.

Truth is, Watson was the Masters favorite even before he bombed his way around the beastly Blue Monster. His impressive performance there only strengthened our belief.

In his last six PGA Tour starts, Watson hasn’t finished outside the top 15 while winning once and finishing inside the top three on three other occasions. The player who once was the most unpredictable force in the game has become decidedly predictable, in that he contends almost every single week.

That shouldn’t change at the Masters. Until further notice, his nuclear driver, shot-making ability and imagination around the greens will always be a recipe for green-jacketed success. 

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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