Punch Shot: Who will surprise, disappoint at Masters

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 5, 2017, 7:40 pm

UPDATE: Dustin Johnson injured his lower back in a fall down a staircase Wednesday at His Augusta rental home. He hopes to be able to play Thursday. More details here.

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Who will win, who will surprise and who will disappoint? Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell, Ryan Lavner and Jay Coffin are all in Augusta National and weigh in on these topics as we inch closer to the beginning of the 81st Masters.

Will the winner be ranked inside the top 10 in the world?

REX HOGGARD: No. Conventional wisdom aside, Danny Willett was ranked 12th last year when he won the Masters, Bubba Watson was also 12th in 2014 when he collected his second green jacket and Charl Schwartzel came from 29th when he won at Augusta National in 2011. There are plenty of clear-cut favorites within the top 10 this week, but those outside that mark have numbers on their side.

RANDALL MELL: Yes. It doesn’t matter that a favorite hasn’t won the Masters since 2005 or that a world No. 1 hasn’t won it since 2002, Dustin Johnson seems immune to trends and patterns. His work on his wedge game and putting will pay more dividends this week. His newfound love of the baby cut won’t hurt him.

RYAN LAVNER: Yes, though Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Paul Casey and Jon Rahm – all ranked 12th or worse – certainly give me pause. That said, too many top-10 players have had a hot spring to see another “off-the-immediate-radar” winner like Danny Willett.

JAY COFFIN: I sure hope so. I love underdog stories, I love when the little guy pulls off an epic feat. But I want the big names winning our game’s biggest events. I’m not crazy enough to think all of them will all be in the hunt, but a couple should, which means odds are great that one of them will take home the green jacket.

Who will surprise?

HOGGARD: Soren Kjeldsen. Winning may be asking a bit much, but don’t be surprised to see his name on Sunday’s leaderboard. The 5-foot-8 Dane tied for seventh last year at Augusta National and advanced all the way to the consolation match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play two weeks ago, a run that included a 2-and-1 victory over Rory McIlroy.

MELL: Jon Rahm. Yes, he’s a first-timer at the Masters, and there hasn’t been a first-time winner since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, but these young guys just don’t know any better. Jordan Spieth started something different.

LAVNER: Jon Rahm. That Masters rookie jinx? It might not stop this kid. All he’s done since turning pro is play well at courses he’s never seen before. In recent years, because of increased TV exposure and course changes, Augusta has been more kind to newcomers. It’s a perfect scenario for Rahm – a big hitter with an imaginative short game – to thrive.

COFFIN: Paul Casey. A fourth-place tie last year and a sixth-place tie two years ago, coupled with good form right now after a solid run at the Match Play, and Casey is primed for another stellar performance here. In fact, Casey has played in 11 Masters and has four top-10 finishes. Something at Augusta National brings out his best.

Who will disappoint?

HOGGARD: Dustin Johnson. He has understandably skyrocketed to the top of nearly everyone’s list of favorites this week, but DJ’s record at Augusta National isn’t the best (two top 10s in seven starts and just 10 rounds under par) and playing your first major as the world No. 1 always brings added pressure, even for Johnson.

MELL: Jordan Spieth. He’s tough and determined and will win more Masters, but a year building to this has to take some toll. Plus, the odds start to work against you when you’ve been in the final pairing three consecutive years.

LAVNER: Dustin Johnson. There’s a reason the world No. 1 hasn’t won at Augusta since 2002. More eyeballs. More hype. Now, DJ has seemed impervious to that stuff in the past, but the course still presents a unique challenge for his game, with an emphasis on course management and short game.

COFFIN: Rickie Fowler. He’s a trendy pick this week, especially since he played well last week in Houston. I’m not buying it. He’s played in six Masters and really has only played well once. Last year there were heightened expectations and he missed the cut after shooting a first-round 80.

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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

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.