Who's hot, who's not heading into Augusta

By Ryan Reiterman April 4, 2017, 5:00 pm

Masters week is finally here, but before the first men's major of the year begins, take a look at how the top players have fared so far this season to see who's hot and who's not heading into Augusta.

Dustin Johnson

World Ranking: 1

2017 PGA Tour Starts: 7

Wins: 3

Top-10s: 6

Missed Cuts: 1

Best Masters Finish: T-4 (2016)

Masters Outlook: Last season’s Player of the Year has kept on rolling in 2017, and he couldn’t be in better form heading into the Masters. Johnson is coming off three straight wins, and he has 16 top-10s in his last 20 starts.


Rory McIlroy

World Ranking: 2

2017 Starts: 4

Wins: 0

Top-10s: 3

Missed Cuts: 0

Best Masters Finish: 4 (2015)

Masters Outlook: With only four starts on Tour in 2017 because of a rib injury, McIlroy heads into Augusta for his second shot at the career Grand Slam rested but not rusty. He finished T-7 in his first start back at the WGC in Mexico, T-4 at Bay Hill and played well at the Match Play despite failing to win his pool.


Jason Day

World Ranking: 3

2017 PGA Tour Starts: 6

Wins: 0

Top-10s: 1

Missed Cuts: 1

Best Masters Finish: T-2 (2011)

Masters Outlook: He started the season at No. 1, but it’s been a rocky 2017 so far for Day. He ended last year by withdrawing from the Tour Championship because of a back injury, and he began the year with a T-12 at Kapalua, MC at Torrey and a T-5 at Pebble. After that it’s been lackluster starts at Riviera and Bay Hill, along with a WD from Mexico (illness) and at the Match Play Day, where he left early to be with his mother, who is battling cancer. He is preparing to play in the Masters.


Hideki Matsuyama

World Ranking: 4

2017 PGA Tour Starts: 8

Wins: 1

Top-10s: 2

Missed Cuts: 1

Best Masters Finish: 5 (2015)

Masters Outlook: Matsuyama closed 2016 with four wins in his final six starts, and he successfully defended his title at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. But since Phoenix, Matsuyama has finished MC, T-25, T-45 and T-51.


Henrik Stenson

World Ranking: 5

2017 PGA Tour Starts: 6

Wins: 0

Top-10s: 3

Missed Cuts: 2

Best Masters Finish: T-14 (2014)

Masters Outlook: The reigning Open champion has cooled off in his last two starts with missed cuts at Bay Hill and Houston. But outside those poor showings and a WD in Mexico (illness), Stenson has seven top-10s in his last 10 starts. Surprisingly, he’s yet to record a top-10 finish at the Masters in 11 career starts.


Jordan Spieth

World Ranking: 6

2017 PGA Tour Starts: 8

Wins: 1

Top-10s: 4

Missed Cuts: 1

Best Masters Finish: 1 (2015)

Masters Outlook: Despite dropping to No. 6 in the world ranking and coming off a missed cut in Houston, there is a legitimate argument that Spieth is the real favorite this week. He’s finished T-2, 1, T-2 in his three career starts at the Masters, but he’ll be looking to move the narrative forward after giving up a five-shot lead on the second nine last year. Spieth hit two balls into the water at the par-3 12th, but he said he’s already exorcised the demons during a couple of scouting trips to Augusta, and he has won three times since last April, including a four-shot win in February at Pebble Beach.


Justin Thomas

World Ranking: 7

2017 PGA Tour Starts: 8

Wins: 2

Top-10s: 3

Missed Cuts: 3

Best Masters Finish: T-39 (2016)

Masters Outlook: He started the season with a bang after wins in Malaysia, Kapalua and the Sony Open. But since then, Thomas has a mixed record of three missed cuts, two T-39s and a T-5 at the WGC in Mexico. Finished T-39 last year in his only Masters start.


Rickie Fowler

World Ranking: 8

2017 PGA Tour Starts: 7

Wins: 1

Top-10s: 3

Missed Cuts: 1

Best Masters Finish: T-5 (2014)

Masters Outlook: Fowler is trending nicely for Augusta. He’s coming off a T-3 in Houston, and Fowler won earlier this year at the Honda. He also recorded solid finishes at Bay Hill (12th), WGC Mexico (T-16) and Phoenix (T-4). After top-5 finishes in all four majors in 2014, Fowler hasn’t been a factor in his last eight major starts.


Adam Scott

World Ranking: 9

2017 PGA Tour Starts: 5

Wins: 0

Top-10s: 1

Missed Cuts: 1

Best Masters Finish: 1 (2013)

Masters Outlook: The 2013 champion has only played in five events and is coming off a missed cut in Houston. The good news is his strokes gained-putting stats have improved this year (129th to 38th), and he has finished out of the top 15 just three times in his last 14 starts.


Sergio Garcia

World Ranking: 11

2017 PGA Tour Starts: 6

Wins: 1

Top-10s: 1

Missed Cuts: 0

Best Masters Finish: T-4 (2004)

Masters Outlook: With only three top-10s in 18 career starts, Garcia and Augusta have not always been on good terms. But the 37-year-old Garcia is a happy camper off the course (he’s engaged), and he captured the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year.


Jon Rahm

World Ranking: 12

2017 PGA Tour Starts: 7

Wins: 1

Top-10s: 4

Missed Cuts: 0

Best Masters Finish: Rookie

Masters Outlook: Besides Dustin Johnson, Rahm has been the story of the year so far. The rookie from Spain won at Torrey Pines, lost to DJ in the final at the Match Play and Rahm has recorded two other top-5 finishes. A Masters rookie hasn’t won since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, but Rahm is certainly the favorite this year to break that streak.


Patrick Reed

World Ranking: 13

2017 PGA Tour Starts: 9

Wins: 0

Top-10s: 1

Missed Cuts: 1

Best Masters Finish: T-22 (2015)

Masters Outlook: The Ryder Cup hero has yet to find his game since leading the U.S. team to victory last October. In 13 events since Hazeltine, Reed only has two top-10s and both were in limited-field events (Hero World Challenge and Kapalua). He also missed the cut last week in Houston after rounds of 77-69.


Justin Rose

World Ranking: 14

2017 PGA Tour Starts: 7

Wins: 0

Top-10s: 4

Missed Cuts: 0

Best Masters Finish: T-2 (2015)

Masters Outlook: Coming off a top-10 in Houston, Rose is also trending well heading into an event where he has some good history. Rose has three top-5 finishes this year after battling a bad back late last season. He tied for 10th last year at Augusta and finished T-2 in 2015.


Danny Willett

World Ranking: 17

2017 PGA Tour Starts: 6

Wins: 0

Top-10s: 1

Missed Cuts: 2

Best Masters Finish: 1 (2016)

Masters Outlook: The defending champion has been up-and-down since winning the green jacket last year. He admitted to being burned out at the end of last year, and 2017 hasn’t been much better with only one top-10 in six starts.


Phil Mickelson

World Ranking: 18

2017 PGA Tour Starts: 8

Wins: 0

Top-10s: 2

Missed Cuts: 0

Best Masters Finish: 1 (2004, 2006, 2010)

Masters Outlook: Lefty is still searching for his first win since the 2013 Open, but he heads into Augusta with some decent form after a T-7 and T-5 in the two WGC events. Mickelson will also be motivated to rebound from a rare missed cut at last year’s Masters.


Bubba Watson

World Ranking: 19

2017 PGA Tour Starts: 7

Wins: 0

Top-10s: 1

Missed Cuts: 2

Best Masters Finish: 1 (2012, 2014)

Masters Outlook: The two-time Masters champion hasn’t won since the 2016 Genesis Open at Riviera, and he hasn’t done much yet in 2017. His only top-10 in seven starts came in his last event at the WGC Match Play, where he lost in the round of 16.

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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.'"


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


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.