Punch Shot: Who's next for career resurgence?

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 13, 2014, 12:30 pm

Some have struggled for a while. Others have been written off completely. The 2014 season has brought about career revivals for several players, including Michelle Wie and last week's Players champ Martin Kaymer. GolfChannel.com writers make their picks for who may be the next in line for a resurgence. 

By JASON SOBEL

Charles Howell III doesn’t get nearly as much attention these days as he did as a PGA Tour phenom some decade-and-a-half ago, but I think he’s on the verge of a career revival.

Not that he’s so far off. Howell’s five top-10 finishes this season ranks seventh, behind only guys named Kuchar, English, McIlroy, Spieth, Walker and Watson. His 252 total birdies ranks tied for second, down from the top spot a week ago. And he’s a model of consistency, having missed just three cuts in 18 starts.

It’s that last part – the consistency – that leads me to believe Howell’s career arc could mirror that of Kuchar. Which is to say, there’s no reason something can’t click in his mid-30s that elevates him to a guy who contends for two titles a month.

In many ways, CH3 has been the poster boy for everything wrong with the modern game: He owns just two career wins and one career top-10 at a major championship (T-10 at the 2003 PGA Championship) and yet he ranks 26th in career earnings with just over $26 million.  Expect all of those numbers to increase soon enough, though. His other numbers say he’s too good for it not to happen.


By RYAN LAVNER

He’s already been labeled a teen phenom, a global superstar and now a bust. Strong words for a player just 22 years old.

That’s right, he’s still younger than Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed and Harris English. He’s only 14 months older than Jordan Spieth. So, yes, there is plenty of time for Ryo Ishikawa, a 10-time winner in Japan, to blossom into the PGA Tour player that fulfills all those lofty expectations of his teen years.

This has been his most promising season in the States to date, finishing in the top 10 three times already and banking more than $1.2 million. The back injury that plagued his past two years is no longer an issue, and he’s now developing into a well-adjusted young man … or as well as a guy can be after growing up with a camera or microphone constantly in his face. Indeed, each man blazes his own path to the game’s elite. 


By RANDALL MELL

Yani Tseng.

Tseng ruled the Rolex Women’s World Rankings as No. 1 for more than two years, losing the top spot to Stacy Lewis just 14 months ago. She has plummeted to No. 53 in the world today, and she is more than two years removed from her last LPGA victory.

At 25, Tseng owns 15 LPGA titles, including five major championships. Yes, she lost something, and she’s searching to get it back. Yes, there’s mystery in trying to figure out exactly what she lost, but she’s young enough and determined enough to find it.

Tseng should find inspiration in watching Martin Kaymer fight his way back in the men’s game, and in watching Michelle Wie do the same in the women’s game. Once Tseng feels whatever mojo she lost coming back, one big week could bring her name back to leaderboards with regularity in a hurry.


By WILL GRAY

Ryo Ishikawa.

The “Bashful Prince” has largely been seen as a disappointment since he began playing regularly in the U.S., but at 22 years old there is still plenty of time to reverse that trend.

Ishikawa struggled to handle the media, both Japanese and American, while bursting onto the scene as a teenager, but in recent months he appears to have found his footing. He played consistent golf at the inaugural Web.com Tour Finals to regain his PGA Tour status, and this season has continued that momentum, with eight top-25 finishes in 15 starts including a runner-up at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. With more than $1.2 million already in the bank, his playing privileges for the 2014-15 season are virtually assured.

Hideki Matsuyama has taken on the label of “can’t-miss kid” from the Land of the Rising Sun, and the flock of Japanese media that follows him to every event reinforces that notion. No longer the center of attention among golf fans in his homeland, Ishikawa is now freed up to simply play the game – which he has been doing rather well this season. Don’t be surprised if the “Prince” gets his hands on a trophy before too long.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."