Punch Shot: Most likely to play himself into a Ryder Cup automatic berth

By Jason SobelJuly 28, 2014, 11:08 pm

Push is coming to shove when it comes to the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Just two events - this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and next week's PGA Championship - for players to wrap up one of the nine automatic spots on the team. We asked our writers, which player outside the top nine in points has the best chance to play his way in?


Nobody wants to be on this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team more than Keegan Bradley.

OK, so maybe that’s not fair. Maybe there’s no palpable, tangible method for measuring a player’s desire. Maybe other players want it just as much – or even more.

But nobody else outwardly shows it as much, either with their words or their actions. Bradley hardly goes a few sentences without volunteering how much he wants to be part of Tom Watson’s roster at Gleneagles. And he’s put his money where his mouth is, too, flying over to Scotland prior to The Open Championship in order to play the course with the captain and see how it suits his game. (According to Watson, it’s tailor-made for him.)

All of which is well and good, but doesn’t erase the fact that Bradley remains 16th on a points list with only the top nine automatically qualifying.

That could – and maybe should – change this week, as he travels to Firestone Country Club, site of his last PGA Tour win two years ago and a course for which he’s professed his fondness on numerous occasions.

That’s a lot of mojo pointing in Bradley’s favor. For a player who so desperately wants to be on the team, this week looks like an excellent opportunity to make it happen.


OK, so this is a critical stretch for most everyone carrying a PGA Tour card, but it’s especially so for a player like Keegan Bradley. Yes, he’s a former winner at Firestone. Yes, he’s a former winner of the PGA. But the Ryder Cup is coming, now just eight weeks away, and no event in golf jangles his nerves quite like the biennial gathering.

The thing is, Bradley is in danger of missing out. He has played decent this season – a runner-up at Bay Hill, a top 5 at the U.S. Open, a few other top 10s sprinkled in. But he’s winless in the past 104 weeks, and high intensity alone won’t be enough to leapfrog some of the other Ryder Cup contenders.

Bradley knows this better than anyone, which is why he seems most likely to parlay his recent good form – back-to-back top 20s, including a T-4 at the Greenbrier – into an automatic spot. If not, he’ll do enough to warrant a pick. The Americans need as many in-form firecrackers as they can get.


For some, professional golf’s version of the two-minute drill begins with this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

While technically U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson has until Sept. 2 before he will finalize this year’s team with his three captain’s picks, for many hopefuls the real deadline is just a fortnight away.

Players like Brendon Todd, who may be the U.S. side’s hottest player right now, have this week’s World Golf Championship and next week’s PGA Championship to punch their ticket to Gleneagles in September.

It’s not as though Todd isn’t worthy of one of Watson’s picks. The third-year PGA Tour player has finished outside the top 10 in just two of his last seven starts dating back to his breakthrough victory at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

It’s why Todd has the look of a serious 11th-hour qualifier.

Todd will also have extra motivation to earn his spot onto the team considering the tough decisions Watson will likely face. Currently Tiger Woods (70th on the U.S. points list), Phil Mickelson (11th) and Keegan Bradley (16th) are all potential picks.

It’s a reality that could leave Todd as the odd man out, and why he has the motivation, and talent, to play his way onto the U.S. team.


Phil Mickelson is due for a nice little run to salvage a disappointing season, and now’s the time to make it. Yeah, he hasn’t won all year, hasn’t had a top-10 finish in a PGA Tour event, either. If you’re handicapping his chances to make the Ryder Cup team on points, you might not like the way the next two weeks set up. Lefty hasn’t had a top 10 at the WGC-Bridgestone since 2008. It has been just as long since he had a top 10 at the PGA Championship. And that’s perfect. Mickelson seems to deliver best when it’s least expected. A nice little run over the next two months can do more than salvage a season. It can still turn it into a memorable one.


There are several players within reach of the U.S. Ryder Cup bubble heading into the final fortnight of qualification, but the player most likely to play his way into the top nine is Brendon Todd.

After playing the Web.com circuit last year, Todd broke through for his maiden win in Dallas in May and has showed no signs of slowing since. His T-39 finish at Hoylake snapped a string of six straight top 20s dating back to his HP Byron Nelson victory, but at a time when many top Americans are struggling to produce results, Todd is providing plenty of them while putting the finishing touches on a career year.

The 29-year-old has an enviable stat line: third on Tour in strokes gained putting, fifth in scrambling and 10th in scoring average. While Firestone and Valhalla are unfamiliar venues for the Georgia product, his current form trumps his relative inexperience and, as he sits only 200 points out of the No. 9 slot heading into this week, Todd will earn his ticket to Gleneagles by mid-August.

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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