Punch Shot: Player of the Year in 2015?

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 5, 2015, 2:00 pm

Tiger Woods dominated in 2013. Rory McIlroy ruled 2014. Who will be the 2015 PGA Tour Player of the Year? GolfChannel.com's writers weigh in.

By JASON SOBEL

I’d love to step out on a limb here. I’d love to make some off-the-wall prediction, then be able to gloat about it nine months from now.

But sorry, I just can’t do it. I’m picking Rory McIlroy to win another PGA Tour Player of the Year award.

I could sit here and break down all the reasons – he drives the ball like some sort of Byron Nelson/Greg Norman hybrid; his mid-iron trajectory is the equivalent of most players’ sand wedges; and, oh yeah, he makes plenty of big putts.

You knew all of that already, though.

Just as you know that while the best player often doesn’t win on a given week, talent always prevails over the span of an entire season.

McIlroy will always be streaky. He’ll miss a few cuts this year. And he might not repeat that summer stretch which led to the year’s final two major titles. But he’s the world’s best player right now. That will be enough to land him this award for a third time in four years.

It certainly won’t be his last, either.


By RYAN LAVNER

It’s tempting to go cute here: Maybe Bubba Watson will build off his best-ever year, or Jordan Spieth will become a household name in his third season on Tour, or Tiger Woods will remind everyone who is still No. 1.

But chances are, we’re looking at another year of Rory McIlroy claiming the top spot.

We’ve already seen that McIlroy is prone to peaks and valleys in his career (2012-2013), but this time feels different. He’s more confident than he’s ever been on the course, he’s comfortable with his equipment and who he is off the course, and he seems destined to build on his memorable 2014 campaign.  

If Rory can skate through the first few months of the season relatively unscathed – no prolonged court-case drama, no breakdown at Augusta – then he should author another multiple-win season and perhaps a major, too. (Hello, St. Andrews.) On a parity-filled tour that has never been stronger and deeper, that should be more than enough to earn POY honors.


By REX HOGGARD

Observers say that nasty lawsuit will keep him from properly preparing for the year’s first major.

Historians will point out the familiar ebb and flow of his young career and his reliance on that nuclear driver to dominate – you know the drill: live by the long ball, die by the long ball.

But unless Bernhard Langer finds a fountain of youth that passes World Anti-Doping Agency scrutiny, Rory McIlroy is the easy favorite to collect his second consecutive PGA Tour Player of the Year title this season.

While an argument could be made for others to secure the Jack Nicklaus Award, the world No. 1’s play to close out 2014 leaves little room for devil’s advocacy.

Although McIlroy’s ongoing legal row with his former management company may occupy some of his time in the spring, the Northern Irishman has proven himself as adept at compartmentalizing (see Wozniacki, Caroline, 2014) as he is with a 460cc driver in his hands.

Nor does it seem likely McIlroy will lapse into another lull like he did in 2013 when he failed to win on the PGA Tour and didn’t seriously contend in any of the year’s major championships.

The Ulsterman’s 2014 was simply too dominant, too textbook to expect anything other than a repeat performance in 2015.


By RANDALL MELL

Rory McIlroy’s legal dispute with his former management company complicates the question, but if Las Vegas were laying odds he would still be the overwhelming favorite to win PGA Tour Player of the Year for the third time in four years.

With a trial scheduled to start in February, McIlroy, 25, will have some more distractions to contend with as he gets himself ready for the new year. There’s no telling how the suit will unfold and how it will affect him, but McIlroy found his stride through all the distractions this past year and won four times around the world, including two majors.

He’s growing up on and off the course navigating challenges large and small. Through all this there’s the formidable possibility that he grows even stronger mentally and emotionally stiff-arming challenges on his way to a career grand slam and a special place in history.

The bet here is his heart and talent keeps prevailing.


By WILL GRAY

The Rory Era continues in 2015.

McIlroy enters the new year as the undisputed top player in golf, with two of 2014's four biggest trophies on his mantle. With an equipment change and relationship turmoil in the rear-view mirror, expect the Ulsterman to continue to put distance between himself and the rest of the game’s best.

Sure, there will be challenges. Tiger Woods will undoubtedly be better this year than last, as will Phil Mickelson. But when McIlroy is playing at a high level, he is nearly unbeatable regardless of venue. While off-the-course issues will continue in 2015 with his legal action with Horizon, McIlroy has proven in the past an ability to put such issues aside and thrive inside the ropes. Expect a repeat of that in 2015, as well as a repeat for McIlroy as the PGA Tour’s top man.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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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.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


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

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.