Punch shot: Four questions for the 80th Masters

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 6, 2016, 9:05 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Who will win, what will he shoot, who will surprise and who will leave devastated? Joe Posnanski, Rex Hoggard, Ryan Lavner and Jay Coffin are all at Augusta National and weigh in on these topics as we inch closer to the beginning of the 80th Masters.

Will the winner be a player ranked in the top 10 in the world?

POSNANSKI: The winner this year is a top-10 player. I actually believe it will be a top-five player. I actually think it will be a top-three player – Jason Day, Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy will win it this year.

HOGGARD: As a rule, Augusta National doesn’t serve up a lot of one-hit wonders and surprise winners. The list of champions reads like a “who’s who” list of greatness, but this year feels different thanks to a foreboding forecast. If the winds whip like predicted, the list of potential winners could extend well down the world ranking.

LAVNER: Yes. Too many top players are peaking for there to be a dud winner. In fact, don’t be surprised if Jason Day, my pick to win, becomes the first world No. 1 since Tiger Woods in 2002 to take the Masters.

COFFIN: Sadly, the winner will not come from the top 10. It makes too much sense that it will, which is precisely why it won’t. So much focus is on the top dogs and they’re all playing well. But it’s been several years since Augusta National has produced an unpredictable winner. We’re due for another.

Who will surprise this week?

POSNANSKI: I don’t know if it will be considered a surprise but I do think that Sergio Garcia contends this year. And Graeme McDowell maybe.

HOGGARD: Every time he rolls down Magnolia Lane Phil Mickelson looks as if he knows something everyone else is missing and this week has been no different. Simply put, Augusta National inspires Lefty and this year his game has shown flashes of the type of form that already delivered three green jackets.

LAVNER: Bryson DeChambeau. He’s as prepared as any amateur ever has been at the Masters, with a dozen practice rounds and priceless conversations about Augusta with many of the game’s legends. Ryan Moore’s tie for 13th in the 2005 Masters remains the gold standard for recent amateurs, but that mark is in danger this year.

COFFIN: Danny Willett, Branden Grace, Hideki Matsuyama. These guys are all world-class players and are hardly underdogs, but none are on the radar this week. Grace finished top-four in two majors last year, Willett is on the cusp of an American breakout performance and Matsuyama finished fifth here last year.

Will there be heartbreak?

POSNANSKI: Since I am predicting that Sergio Garcia will be in contention, he will obviously be the one to have the heartbreak because it always works out that way.

HOGGARD: There’s always heartbreak on Sunday. You can’t have that type of triumph without an equal amount of tears, and it’s increasingly beginning to look like Jason Day has the most to lose. Dubbed the favorite, Day ascended to world No. 1 with his victory two weeks ago at the Match Play and he’s played as well as anyone the last six months. The one title he wants the most, however, will have to wait for another year.

LAVNER: Oh, of course – the back nine always makes or breaks a player’s chances, and this year will be no exception. Pinpointing exactly whose Masters dreams will be crushed is more difficult. Likely candidates are Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson, who are playing well heading into Augusta but have faltered in plenty of big spots before.

COFFIN: There will be heartbreak because there always is, save for last year when Jordan Spieth ran away with it. Rickie Fowler strikes me as a candidate this year. Since his Abu Dhabi victory he’s been close to victory several times and hasn’t pulled it together. I see a major disappointment coming, which ultimately will lead to a major victory later in the year.

Will the winning score be over/under 12 under par?

POSNANSKI: Under because of the weather.

HOGGARD: Under, under, under. After Spieth’s 18-under romp last year the 2016 event was always going to be a tougher test, the powers that be at Augusta National wouldn’t have it any other way.

Add to that increasingly difficult conditions with winds predicted to whip to 30 mph and it has the feel of an 8-under year.

LAVNER: Under. The early forecast calls for morning thunderstorms Thursday and gusty winds of up to 30 mph on Friday and Saturday, with frost delays possible. This year’s Masters already reminds of the 2007 edition, when Zach Johnson won at 1 over par. The winning score will be closer to 8 under – players do most damage on the par 5s, anyway – but it won’t be the shootout that many of us expected going into the week.

COFFIN: Over. Jason Day said it would be 10 to 12 under. I still think the winning score will be lower than 12 under because these guys are just so damn good. Rain won’t cause as many problems as originally thought and Sunday looks beautiful. Marry those two and someone has to get to 13 or 14 under par.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.