Punch Shot: Who will win their first major in 2014?

By Randall Mell, Rex Hoggard, Will GrayJanuary 1, 2014, 4:41 pm

Out of the last 15 major champions, 12 were first-time major winners. As we prepare for another year of golf, our writers select their favorite to be a first-time major champion in 2014. 


If 2013 was any indication the new season could be another banner year for first-time major winners and one should look no further than Augusta National to predict the game’s next first-timer.

Jason Day is a perennial potential party crasher having finished in the top 10 in half of the majors he’s played, including a runner-up outing last year at the U.S. Open, a third-place showing at the Masters and a tie for eighth at the PGA Championship.

But it is at Augusta National where the Australian seems so well suited to score the first of what many believe will be multiple majors.

In three starts at the Georgia gem, Day has finished second twice, two strokes behind Charl Schwartzel in 2011, and last year’s near miss, which included two bogeys over his last three holes.

And there seems to be little chance Day will suffer a letdown this year at the Masters following his individual victory at the World Cup in November at Royal Melbourne, which Geoff Ogilvy calls Augusta National without as much green grass.

Although he has just one PGA Tour victory, no one in the game is bettered prepared to join the major champions club and no place is a better fit for him than Augusta National.


Majors are often won and lost on the greens, and right now there might not be a better putter than Brandt Snedeker.

The former FedEx Cup champ has now contended multiple times on golf’s biggest stages and finished T-17 or better in each of the first three majors in 2013. He’s won twice on Tour in each of the last two years, and his stat line from last season bodes well for future success: fourth in strokes gained putting, sixth in birdie average and 11th in the all-around ranking.

Sundays at the majors have not exactly gone according to plan in the past, but Snedeker appears to be trending in the right direction. If he’s able to stay healthy in 2014, there’s a good chance that he’ll be lifting a major trophy by year’s end.


Love him or hate him, Ian Poulter is primed to win a major championship.

He certainly owns both the talent and desire. We know that already. This is a guy who shows up to the Ryder Cup every other year with the swing of Ben Hogan, the putting stroke of Bobby Jones and the intensity of Ray Lewis. And yes, this is a Ryder Cup year.

All of which should have Poulter more determined than ever. Like his countrymen Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, he finds himself in his late-30s with the window to this opportunity beginning to close ever so slightly.

It may only be a matter of time until Poulter starts pouring in putts at a major like he does at the Ryder Cup. We’ve seen it from him in brief spurts in the past; especially in top-three results in both the 2008 and 2013 editions of the Open Championship. This could finally be his year at Hoylake.

Plenty of players are worthy of consideration in winning their first major. I like the chances of Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Bill Haas, too, but Poulter might be the most ready to pull it off. 


Jason Day isn't knocking on the door to a major championship breakthrough. He's hammering away at it.

Day was top 10 in three of the four majors last year. He tied for second at the U.S. Open and finished third at the Masters. He finished second at the U.S. Open in 2011 and tied for second at the Masters that same year. He's looking comfortable late on the big stages. That's more than half the battle. 

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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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

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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.