Punch Shot: Best world No. 1 for golf?

By Randall Mell, Rex Hoggard, Will GrayJanuary 26, 2016, 10:25 pm

Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler comprise the current top four in the Official World Golf Ranking. But which player would have the biggest impact on the game if he was the clear-cut No. 1? Our writers weigh in:

By RANDALL MELL

Tough call here between Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, because they both possess games with such gravitating charm.

With McIlroy, it’s not just his ability to overpower a course, to wow us with his titanic blasts as the best overall driver in the game today. It’s his candid nature that also appeals, the generosity of insight and judicious opinion that makes you understand him better and feel more invested in what’s he’s doing.

Spieth doesn’t have the power game McIlroy possesses, but he has that magical putting stroke, powerful in its ability to demoralize just as effectively as McIlroy’s majestic drives. Spieth is also generous with his precociously well-formed insights and opinions. Plus, his running dialogue on the course appeals, making us feel more like we’re walking with him than just watching him. This duo’s traits make them both good for golf beyond their physical abilities.

The biggest impact as No. 1? By a hair, the edge here goes to McIlroy based on the belief his overall game makes him more likely to win more majors and more big events on more big stages. It’s the belief that at his best he can dominate in ways no other player today can, that he can break more records and make more history.


By RYAN LAVNER

Jordan Spieth has already shown the impact he can have in the marketplace – he outpaced all of the big names, Tiger and Phil and Rory and Rickie, with $52 million in earnings last year. That trend will continue as long as he wins, and he will, a lot, because it’s all he’s ever done since he was a youngster playing junior golf tournaments in Texas.

Spieth is a marketer’s dream, the total package: all-American, young, attractive, grounded, competitive, humble and popular among his peers. But just because he is exceedingly polite doesn’t mean he is afraid to voice his opinions.

Whether it’s his views on the 18th hole at Chambers Bay, the wind delay at St. Andrews, the Player of the Year vote, slow play or pros wearing shorts, Spieth has spoken with incredible candor on a variety of topics. It’s one of his greatest qualities, and it’s why he’s a press-room favorite. And it’s also why, as his career progresses, he will be able to initiate meaningful change in the game. When he speaks, people listen.  


By WILL GRAY

Sure, Rickie Fowler could get the entire golfing world into flat brims and high tops. And Jordan Spieth could re-invent the game one big-time endorsement at a time. But when it comes to the biggest potential as world No. 1, the answer is Rory McIlroy.

Spieth and McIlroy will probably be neck-and-neck in the coming years when it comes to worldwide wins and the all-important majors category. And after Spieth’s record-setting 2015, it’s easy to forget that he still lags behind McIlroy in both categories.

But McIlroy’s edge is in global appeal, especially if we’re talking about making the biggest impact on the global game. Spieth has the Dallas Cowboys, but McIlroy has Manchester United. McIlroy has a brand awareness in the U.K. and throughout Europe that far outshines Spieth, while his popularity in the U.S. isn’t far behind that of the Texan.

You can’t go wrong with either choice, but I’ll give McIlroy the slightest of edges on this one – for now.

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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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.

@tommyfleetwood_1

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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.

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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."


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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."

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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."


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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."