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.

By JASON SOBEL

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.


By REX HOGGARD

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.


By RANDALL MELL

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.


By RYAN LAVNER

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. 


By WILL GRAY

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.


By JOE POSNANSKI

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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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.