Punch Shot: Who will win 2014 Masters?

Can Jordan Spieth make history Sunday as the youngest champion at the Masters? Can Matt Kuchar take the next step in his career and win a major? Will Bubba Watson add a second green jacket to his closet? GolfChannel.com's writers weigh in with their picks to win the 2014 Masters.

BY REX HOGGARD

With apologies to Jordan Spieth’s youthful energy, Rickie Fowler’s panache and Matt Kuchar’s consistency, the 78th Masters will be claimed by the player who has already won a blinking contest with Augusta National’s intense Sunday glare – Bubba Watson.

For all his quirkiness and unorthodox swing mechanics, Watson proved in 2012 that he harbors the intangible trait to shoulder the most pressure-packed situations. Bubba is, at his core and for all the right reasons, a showoff, and there is no better way to dominate center stage than a Sunday shootout at Augusta.

He wasn’t at his best on Saturday.

Watson's third-round 74 opened the door for at least a dozen would-be contenders, but he did what champions do and made two crucial par saves on 17 and 18 to secure a spot in the final pairing.

Watson’s length and ability to move the ball in mind-bending ways get most of the attention. But on Sunday, Bubba will separate the wheat from the chaff with his putter – just like he did in 2012.

Watson has just two three-putts in 54 holes.

But most importantly, Watson will win because he’s done it before. And at Augusta National, experience is king.


BY JAY COFFIN

Jordan Spieth is the story everyone wants to see, but Matt Kuchar is the man who will make history Sunday at Augusta National.

A major victory is the next logical progression for Kuchar, a man who has won a PGA Tour playoff event, The Players and a World Golf Championship. A major, this major, is within grasp.

Kuchar, 35, has long had a love affair with Augusta National. He played here often while attending Georgia Tech, and he made the cut in the Masters twice as an amateur in 1998-99, collecting low-amateur honors in ’98. His recent play has been stellar, too, as he tied for third place in 2012 and tied for eighth place last year.

Despite throwing away the Houston Open last week to Matt Jones, Kuchar has been playing nicely the past month. He tied for 13th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, tied for fourth at the Valero Texas Open and lost to Jones in a playoff last week in Houston.

This is Kuchar’s time. He’s paid his dues. The Masters will be his ultimate payoff.


BY JOE POSNANSKI

Winner: Jordan Spieth.

When the week began, The Augusta Chronicle asked a bunch of writers to pick a winner. I was the only one to pick Jordan Spieth. I don’t say this to brag (well, I do say it PARTLY to brag), but I say this because I think a lot of people WANTED to pick Jordan Spieth but said to themselves; "Nah. He’s just 20. It’s his first Masters. The history is too daunting.”

Thing is, the kid is unaffected by history. He’s unaffected by everything. He’s 20 going on 42, playing balls to the middle of the green, putting the lightning-fast greens like he was born on them and hitting magical shots around the green like only he knows how the trick is done.

While the Masters leaderboard on Saturday bounced around like those ping pong balls in the lottery bowl, Spieth just plowed through, a rock-steady 70, and it’s clear that the old rules just don’t apply. The Spieth coronation happens Sunday.


BY JASON SOBEL

Jordan Spieth is going to win the 2014 Masters Tournament.

Read those words again, because they’re historic.

On Sunday, the 20-year-old Spieth is going to earn his way into one of golf’s most exclusive clubs – and he’s going to do it well before anyone believed possible. Anyone but him, that is.

He’s going to become the youngest major champion in over a century, the youngest in Masters history and the first tournament rookie to win in his first start in 35 years.

Consider it ironic that all of these things are about to happen for Spieth because of his maturity level. He might be 20, but he acts like a 30-year-old, and he plays with the experience of a 40-year-old.

Don't miss a minute of this one. With no Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson on the weekend, this Masters needed a boost. It’s about to receive a tremendous one in the form of an emerging superstar champion.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


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After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.

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Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 12:35 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – 

Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.

Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.

''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''

Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.

''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''

Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.


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Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.

''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''

Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.

''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''

The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.

''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''

Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.

''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.

The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.

''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.

He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.

Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.

''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''

Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.

''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.

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Mickelson 'displeased' with iron play; 10 back

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:18 am

All of Phil Mickelson’s offseason work on his driver has paid off through two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

His iron play? Not as sharp, and it’s the reason why he heads into the weekend 10 shots off the lead.

“I’ve been pretty pleased, overall, with the way I’ve been driving the ball, and very displeased with the way my iron game has been,” said Mickelson, who shot 68 Friday on PGA West’s Nicklaus course. He has hit only 21 of 36 greens so far this week. “Usually my iron play is a lot better than what it’s been. So I’ll go work on it and hopefully improve each round in this tournament and build a solid foundation for the upcoming West Coast events.


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“I feel like if I continue to drive the ball the way I am, and if I got my iron play back to my normal standard, I should have the results that I’ve been expecting.”

Mickelson, of course, is always bullish this time of year, but he has been able to find 10 of 14 fairways each of the past two rounds, including at narrower La Quinta Country Club, which doesn’t always fit his eye.

“This is actually the best I’ve driven it in a lot of years,” he said.

Currently in a tie for 67th, Mickelson will need a solid round on the more difficult Stadium course Saturday to ensure that he makes the 54-hole cut. He hasn’t missed a cut in his first West Coast event of the new year since 2009.