Stock Watch: The rise of Rickie; Playoff fatigue

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 8, 2015, 1:05 pm

(Editor’s Note: U.S. Presidents Cup captain Jay Haas selected Phil Mickelson and Bill Haas on Monday night, while Nick Price named Sangmoon Bae and Steven Bowditch to the International team. The article below was published Monday morning, before the announcements.)

Each week on, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Rickie (+8%): The bigger the moment, the better his play. With three dramatic victories this year, he has flipped the script on his ascendant career.  

Big 3 … and a 1/2 (+6%): No, Fowler isn’t yet among golf’s top tier – only a major victory will cement that status. But once he does break through – and he will, soon – you’d be hard-pressed to find a more appealing four players to lead this game.

The Tour Championship (+4%): Spieth, Day and Fowler are assured of being in the top five at East Lake and having a clear shot at the $10 million bonus. Which probably means that this is Charley Hoffman’s year.

Hunter Mahan (+3%): His T-4 in Boston kept alive a rather impressive streak: 35 consecutive playoff starts, dating to the FedEx Cup’s inception in 2007. It’s even more impressive when you consider that Mahan needed to record his first top-10 in a stroke-play event since the Masters to advance.

William McGirt (+2%): Chicago may prove to be the end of the line for this PGA Tour journeyman, but he delivered one of the highlights of the playoffs by dunking his 168-yard second shot on the 71st hole and slipping inside the top-70 bubble.  


Henrik Stenson (-1%): A ball-striker this solid, you wonder how he ever stumbles. That’s two runners-up in a row and four overall this year – and even more scar tissue.  

Jay Haas (-3%): His captain’s picks likely won’t matter in what should be another rout, but the U.S. captain still finds himself in an unenviable position. He is either the man who, A) leaves his son, Bill, off the team, B) stunts the growth of American team golf by bypassing Brooks Koepka, or C) ends Phil Mickelson’s streak of 20 consecutive teams made. Brutal.

Matt Jones (-5%): Needing a third-place finish to make the International team, he started his back nine double-bogey-double and tied for fourth. Now, he’s not a guaranteed pick.

FedEx fatigue (-6%): Stars like Spieth and Day are already gassed, and it’s only the second playoff event. Just wait until next year, when the “postseason” comes after three majors and a WGC in a seven-week span, and the Olympics.   

Grand Slam of Golf (-8%): The showcase for major winners was canceled after failing to secure another venue, but it was a blessing in disguise. This event hasn’t been relevant for years and is in dire need of rebranding.  

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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).

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 phoned 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. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.