Punch Shot: Top-10 player most likely to miss Open cut

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 11, 2014, 7:45 pm

There are lots of serious contenders for the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. But who is more likely to go home early than be the last man standing? Our writers call out one top-10 player most likely to miss the cut this week.


I like Bubba Watson. Like him as a player, think he’s immensely talented and – if I had any say at all – he’d be Player of the Year right now.

But I don’t like him this week.

The U.S. Open is all about patience – and Bubba is about as patient as a honeybee in a flower garden.

Self-diagnosed with ADD, he’s often admitted in the past that he’ll hit certain shots on the golf course out of sheer boredom, just trying them to see if they’ll work. That sort of creativity can pay dividends at Augusta National, where he won the Masters two months ago, but it will likely be a punishable offense at Pinehurst.

Let’s throw in the fact that in his pre-tournament news conference, Bubba sounded like the course was already in his head. He sarcastically called it “fun” and politely referred to the greens as “unfriendly.”

He’s got the talent to win on any course, any week. But if I’m picking an elite talent to miss the cut this week, Bubba is my choice.


He’s the world’s top-ranked player. He’s rich, handsome, a newlywed and just weeks removed from an impressive victory at the Crowne Plaza Invitational.

And when the dust settles on Friday afternoon, Adam Scott will be heading home from Pinehurst.

As counterintuitive as it all may seem, the Australian’s history at the U.S. Open speaks for itself. In a dozen starts in the championship he’s never finished better than 15th place (2012) and he’s missed as many cuts (six) as he’s made.

There is no easy explanation, no clean example of why a player with as much skill and talent as Scott has come up so woefully short at such an important event.

Tee to green there are few in the game as proficient as Scott and while he’s not considered to be one of the game’s best putters, his green jacket from last year suggests he can perform on the most demanding putting surfaces.

As USGA executive director Mike Davis pointed out on Wednesday there are always horses for courses and maybe Open setups just aren’t Scott’s brand of vodka.

For all the reasons to think this week could be different, and there are plenty, Scott’s record speaks for itself.


Rory McIlroy is so hard to figure for this U.S. Open. It wouldn't be surprising to see him win in a runaway by eight shots. It also wouldn't be a stunner to see him miss the cut with another lousy Friday.

We’ve seen how McIlroy can hit the accelerator and separate himself in a hurry when his game’s all there. We’ve also seen of late how he can put it in reverse and back up in a hurry when he's off. There was that 77 in the second round of the Masters, that 76 in the second round of the Wells Fargo and that 78 in the second round of the Memorial.

In a severe U.S. Open setup at Pinehurst No. 2, McIlroy is the top-10 player who looks most like he’s playing on a tightrope.


Sergio Garcia is hurting, and that’s before Pinehurst No. 2 inflicts any more punishment during this week’s U.S. Open.

The world No. 8 has a small edema on the top of his kneecap and also cartilage damage on the left side – the same injury that caused him to withdraw from his most recent tournament, the BMW PGA in Europe. It’s an unfortunate break for the still-majorless 34-year-old, who is No. 5 on the PGA Tour in scrambling and, if healthy, would seem a good pick for Pinehurst, which is so short game-oriented.

Though the heat and humidity may help Sergio’s balky knee, the restored No. 2 is not the easiest walk, and he easily could tweak his leg while hitting from one of the sandy areas. Sergio is not 100 percent. Thus, our hopes aren’t high. 


Jordan Spieth.

I know, I know ... The Kid impressed at Augusta National, and he almost did one better last month at TPC Sawgrass. But Spieth also struggled in the U.S. Open last year at Merion, shooting rounds of 77 and 76 to miss the cut by five shots.

Spieth’s record this year has been stellar, but his results have come in spite of some questionable stat lines: He is only 93rd in GIR percentage this season on the PGA Tour, and ranks just 126th in fairways hit. While his putting stats are solid, overall, one potential flaw could be magnified at Pinehurst No. 2: He is 152nd on Tour in putting from 3-5 feet, missing nearly one out of every six attempts from that distance.

Spieth has shown us before that under the biggest lights, he can sometimes wear his heart on his sleeve. He did it down the back nine Sunday at the Masters, and it cost him a chance at a green jacket. The U.S. Open – especially one played here – is not kind to those who are short on patience, and Spieth could make an early exit as a result.


If Bubba Watson misses the cut this week - and I think that he will - he will become the first golfer in recent memory to miss the cut on a Tuesday. A lot of people came to Pinehurst feeling pretty good about Watson's chances: His Masters performance was so dominating; he can hit shots no one else in the world can hit; he seemed as likely as anyone to tame this wild Pinehurst No. 2.

And then the longest hitter in the world came into his press session and announced that he's planning to curb his aggressiveness. "I'm going to lay back and have a lot longer shots into the holes," he said. And though he gave his reasons, frankly, they didn't make much sense. Talk about being spooked by a golf course. This was LeBron James explaining that he wasn't going to drive to the basket, but instead set up around the three-point line and wait for teammates to pass to him.

If it works, hey, I'll give the guy all the credit in the world for outsmarting the course. But it won't work. And we'll have a weekend without Bubba.

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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.


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.

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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."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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."