Stock Watch: Thomas soars; Stevie flops

By Will GrayNovember 3, 2015, 2:40 pm

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

RISING

Justin Thomas (+8%): Nice little win for #JSGB (that would be Jordan Spieth's good buddy). Following a T-3 finish in Napa, I used this space to write one word about Thomas: soon. It turns out that his maiden title was only one start away, as Thomas put the hammer down over the closing four holes in Malaysia. Thomas always had the game to win at the highest level; now he has the confidence to match.

Youth movement (+6%): If you can rent a car, you're probably too old to win on Tour these days. Thomas' victory makes for four straight winners age 23 or younger, and 11 of the last 13 trophies on Tour have gone to players under 30. Don't expect that trend to end until guys like Jason Day and Rickie Fowler start aging into a new bracket.

Adam Scott's putter (+5%): Perhaps there is life after anchoring, after all. Scott is back to a conventional putter, and he had it working in Malaysia where he finished second after a final-round 63. Sure, he showed flashes of form with the short putter earlier this year only to falter for weeks on end, but this time he appeared much more comfortable on the greens. Scott was never a world-class putter even when anchoring, but if he can upgrade his putting to "decent," all might not be lost after the ban takes effect.

Sei Young Kim (+3%): You may not know the name, but you should probably learn it soon. Kim nabbed a one-shot win in China, her third victory this year on the LPGA, and basically locked up Rookie of the Year honors in the process. She's a force.  

Rory McIlroy (+2%): He didn't win, and he didn't play particularly well on Sunday, but McIlroy still made some clear progress in Turkey. He played 38 holes without a bogey, barely broke a sweat tee-to-green and moved into contention despite a lack of course knowledge and some overall rust. The putter that proved balky in Napa began to cooperate, and it's only a matter of time before the Ulsterman returns to the winner's circle.


FALLING

U.S. Ryder Cup standings (-1%): They're actually staying the same, which is a problem. Despite stellar play, Thomas (T-3, Win) and Kevin Na (P-2, T-2, T-3) are no closer to earning a spot at Hazeltine than Tiger Woods. U.S. Ryder Cup points don't kick in full-time until January, which may seem like a good idea - until it proves to be the difference when a veteran edges out a fresh face for one of the final spots. With the American record over the last 15 years, why protect the status quo?

Ontario housing market (-2%): News broke last week that Glen Abbey, host of 27 Canadian Opens and perhaps one of the best shots ever, may soon be turned into a housing development. While that transformation may be a few years down the line, if and when it comes to pass, it will be a sad day for golf - and not just in Canada.

John Peterson (-3%): The Happy Gilmore swing was a welcome bit of levity, and the only unfortunate aspect is that it will probably bring with it an (undisclosed) fine from Ponte Vedra. But Peterson spent last weekend tweeting about how he much he wanted a spot in Malaysia, then pulled the plug mentally after an opening 80. If you can't have your head in the game, stay home and give the spot to someone who will compete for all 72 holes.

Race to Dubai rules (-4%): The European Tour fashioned the Race to Dubai after the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but it hit an ugly snag this week when Victor Dubuisson won in Turkey - then was denied a spot in the WGC-HSBC Champions because of his prior world ranking. It's hard to spin the four-event stretch as a "final series" when winning one of the tournaments doesn't even earn you a tee time the following week.

Follow-up procedures (-6%): It's never good when the term "bed rest" is used to describe an athlete's recovery. But that's where we stand with Woods, who suffered another setback last week. The lack of details about the procedure, and the prognosis, are certainly a red flag, and his return to competition is anyone's guess. As McIlroy noted over the weekend, the best way to avoid a fifth back surgery is to not have the first one. Sadly for Woods, that ship has sailed.

Steve Williams' word choice (-9%): The guy wants to sell some books. Fine. And this is hardly the first time he has taken a swipe at his former boss. But Williams is 51 years old, and that's old enough to know that "slave" is not a word you can drop to describe any relationship, let alone one between two people of different races. He knew exactly what he was doing - dumping kerosene on a literary fire - which makes the deliberate word choice all the more egregious.

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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.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


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.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


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.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


“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.