Punch Shot: Who wins the Masters on Sunday?

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 9, 2017, 1:30 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia are tied for the Masters lead with 18 holes remaining at Augusta National. But five others are within three shots of the lead in a group that includes Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott. So, who is going to win the 81st Masters? Our team in Augusta predicts the outcome:


Jordan Spieth. Winning any event, particularly a major, is almost as much about attitude as it is aptitude. Sometimes the next guy just wants it more, and on Sunday at the Masters that guy will be Spieth. His record around Augusta National speaks for itself having finished second, first and second in his first three starts; but it’s his desire that will separate him from the pack on Sunday. “Finishing fifth versus 10th doesn't mean much to me, so that frees me up a bit tomorrow,” Spieth said.


Justin Rose. He is one of the game’s big-game hunters, taking titles at Merion, Muirfield Village, Congressional and Doral. He’s a major champion. He’s an Olympic champion. And he played well enough in the 2015 Masters to put a scare into Jordan Spieth. With Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler vying for their first major, and with Spieth two shots behind, Rose is in the driver’s seat. He isn’t likely to fold under pressure, he thrives on a second-shot course like Augusta, his putting has held up so far (ranked 10th in the field), and he’s coming off a Saturday 67 that was the best score of the day.


Jordan Spieth. He won’t be beaten with another 54-hole lead at Augusta National. Yeah, the scoreboard says Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia share the lead, but don’t believe what your lyin’ eyes tell you. Spieth took charge of the Masters Saturday. He took control, turning momentum and confidence his way. He’s 23 years old going on 33 around Augusta National. Yes, he had that epic collapse last year, and another quadruple-bogey in the first round this year, but he’s attacking this course like a guy who has discovered something nobody else knows, something bigger than the fear those failures bring. He played like he knows he’s the man to beat on Sunday.


Justin Rose. Give me a man with a major championship and an Olympic gold medal, who has a share of the lead any day of the week. Maybe the golf gods will give Sergio Garcia a break for once. Perhaps Rickie Fowler goes all Players Championship nuts on the field and wins. Maybe Jordan Spieth continues his Masters dominance. But Rose has three top-10 finishes in his last five Masters starts and, with the lead, and tons of confidence from a Saturday 67, that’s good enough to make a believer out of me.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.