Punch Shot: Who will win Tour Champ., FedEx Cup?

By Rex Hoggard, Ryan LavnerSeptember 23, 2015, 2:00 pm

Given his current form, Jason Day is the favorite to win both the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup. So is the Aussie a shoo-in, or will it be Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler or someone even further back in the standings holding one or both trophies on Sunday in Atlanta? Our writers weigh in.

By RYAN LAVNER

Tour Championship winner: Justin Rose. It’s been a quiet postseason for the Englishman, but now he heads to the friendly confines of East Lake. No worse than sixth in his last three starts there, Rose has shot a sub-par score in 10 of his last 13 rounds in Atlanta. Coming off a rare missed cut in Boston, he finished in a tie for 13th at the BMW, his sixth top-20 in his last seven worldwide starts. There is a convoluted scenario in which he could still win the FedEx Cup with a victory in the season finale, but at No. 12 in the points standings, everything would have to align.

FedEx Cup winner: Jason Day. He is a whopping 45 strokes better than any other player since the Open, and now the newly minted No. 1 arrives at East Lake, where he has recorded a top-six finish twice in the past three years. The most deserving player hasn’t won the cup each of the past four years, but the odds are still in the No. 1 player’s favor. Day has a 28 percent mathematical chance to win, as opposed to 11 percent and 8 percent for Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. Besides, according to PGA Tour projections, Day has a “reasonable” chance to win the FedEx Cup with only a top-five finish. There’s a good chance he can manage that – he has finished outside the top five just twice in his last seven starts.


By REX HOGGARD

No one is playing better than Jason Day right now. No one, which is why, if history is any guide, he won’t win the Tour Championship or the FedEx Cup.

As a rule, the season-long race rarely goes to script – see Haas, Bill 2011, as proof to that reality – which will open the door for Jordan Spieth, who begins the week at second on the FedEx Cup point list and could neatly wrap up both titles with his fifth victory of the season on Sunday.

Although Spieth hasn’t played his best golf in the playoffs – he missed the cut in his first two postseason starts and tied for 13th place last week at the BMW Championship – he has proven over his short career that he’s capable of the quick rebound.

He’s also proven himself adept at playing East Lake, finishing tied for second place in 2013 in his first start on the Donald Ross design.

But most importantly, he’s competitive and will use Day’s inspired run, and a building sentiment that the Australian may win the Player of the Year Award, as motivation to finish what has already been a historic season in style.


By WILL GRAY

The player leaving East Lake with the FedEx Cup trophy (and the Tour Championship title) will be the guy who only recently returned it: Henrik Stenson.

Sure, Stenson hasn’t won yet this season. But his stats show that he has been one of the Tour’s best all year, as the Swede leads in GIR percentage, total driving and total strokes gained. He has been one of the best players in the postseason as well, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-10 result at the BMW.

It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of Jason Day’s ascent to the top of the golfing world, but Day is not the only player peaking at the right time. At No. 4 in the standings, Stenson controls his own destiny and will win the FedEx Cup if he wins the Tour Championship – a double-dip that he pulled off in his first trip to East Lake in 2013.

Unlike the other four players at the top of the standings, Stenson knows what it takes to win at East Lake and his tee-to-green game remains ideally suited for the difficult track. As long as the putter cooperates, he’ll join Tiger Woods as the only multiple winner of the FedEx Cup.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.