Punch Shot: Biggest over- and underachievers

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 4, 2013, 11:00 pm

Dustin Johnson, fresh off his WGC-HSBC victory, has eight career PGA Tour wins, including at least one in his first seven full seasons on Tour. But that's not enough for everyone. Some believe Johnson, with his immense talent, is underachieving. GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with who they believe are the most underachieving and overachieving players in the game.


Overachiever: David Toms

Early in my career I asked Charles Howell III if he considered himself an underachiever. The answer was all at once an indictment of the concept and an enlightening glimpse into the mind of an elite athlete.

“Do you consider yourself an underachiever?” retorted Howell, who is normally as accommodating as they come on the PGA Tour but clearly I had struck a nerve. His point was one’s expectations are entirely homemade and the only benchmarks worth considering come from within.

With that baseline, give David Toms the nod for this generation’s top overachiever. Just twice . . . twice, in a 21-year Tour career has Toms failed to finish inside the top 125 in earnings, a statistical anomaly considering that he’s never ranked higher than 50th in driving distance. In the era of the bomber, Toms won 13 Tour titles and a major despite his distance limitations.

Underachiever: Fred Couples

Conversely, Couples still ranks among the game’s longest and his smooth, effortless swing continues to be the envy of players half his age. While 15 Tour tilts and a major was enough to earn Couples a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame, the King of Cool certainly expected more from himself.

A chronically cranky back cost Couples much of his prime, but that doesn’t change the fact he probably had greater expectations than 15 titles and a single green jacket.


Underachiever: Anthony Kim

At age 28, Kim certainly has the talent to compete at the highest level – his three PGA Tour titles attest to that fact, as do his spots on both the 2008 Ryder Cup and 2009 Presidents Cup squads. The last of those wins, though, came in April 2010 and feels much more distant than that. In the interim 3+ years, Kim has battled multiple injuries while essentially falling off the golf radar. After joining the short list of players with three wins before age 25 – one that includes Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott – Kim hasn’t cracked the top 10 since the 2011 British Open and hasn’t even played on the PGA Tour since withdrawing from the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship.

Overachiever: Zach Johnson

If you saw him warming up on the first tee at your home course, you might think you could get the better of him – then he’d probably drum you 6 and 5. Though diminutive in size and hardly a bomber off the tee, Johnson has found a way to win, and win often. His victory this year at the BMW Championship put him into rarified company of players with 10 PGA Tour wins and a major title, and the Iowan could potentially be headed toward a Hall of Fame induction years from now. His win at the 2007 Masters, one in which he laid up at each of Augusta National’s par-5 holes, shows just how effective Johnson’s game can be, even if he takes the less-traveled route to success.


Overachiever: Henrik Stenson

Stenson is No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Given how his game has taken him to the last outpost to hell on more than one occasion, that's some mighty overachieving. Stenson started playing golf when he was 12, and later worked himself on to the Swedish national amateur team, but by his own admission, he was middle of the pack on that team, until a surge late in his amateur career. As a fledgling pro, he played the South American Tour, the Swedish Tour and the European Challenge Tour. He failed to get his European Tour card his first time through, and he battled through two dizzying spells of lost form, but look at him today. He has already won the FedEx Cup this season and is looking to win the Race to Dubai, too. No player has ever won both. Stenson has won seven European Tour events in his career and four PGA Tour titles, including a World Golf Championship event and The Players Championship. At 37, he has the game to break through and win his first major championship.

Underachiever: John Daly

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s Daly. It’s difficult to consider a guy who won two majors an underachiever, but Daly seemed capable of leaving such a larger mark on the game. He showed his great skills winning the PGA Championship and the British Open in two completely different tests of heart and skill. His personality and his lifestyle brought challenges, distractions and obstacles. He never made a Ryder Cup team. He’s the only player from Europe or the United States to win two majors and not make a Ryder Cup team. Surely, even Daly would concede he was capable of more.


Overachiever: Bubba Watson

Now, I understand that such a question can be taken in a few different ways. Some will translate overachieving as the player who has accomplished the most with the least amount of tangible skills.

Well, that player certainly isn’t Watson. His raw talent may be unparalleled in the professional ranks; his ability to hit sweeping hooks and towering cuts is second to none.

But I consider the 2012 Masters champion an overachiever for a few different reasons than the obvious ones.

One is because he’s gotten to where he is without ever taking a formal lesson. That’s right – while most pros are victims of paralysis by analysis, Watson enjoys a homemade swing that probably couldn’t be taught anyway.

The other is because he had never won a professional event before reaching the PGA Tour. Not on the mini-tours; not anywhere. Check the record books: Back in 2005, he finished 21st on the Nationwide Tour money list, which then promoted its top 20 players to the big leagues. However, because No. 1-ranked Jason Gore had already claimed his card through other means, the circuit extended the offer to the 21st player.

The rest is, quite literally, history.

Underachiever: Charles Howell III

It pains me just to type this name, because if the question instead had been, “Who is the nicest guy on the PGA Tour?” there’s an excellent chance I would have offered the same response.

Stats are stats, though – and the stats show that while CH3 owns 14 career second-place finishes and eight third-place results, he still has just two total victories.

Granted, much of that can be chalked up to bad luck more than underachieving. After all, on 22 separate occasions he was better than some 150 of the world’s best players. So, too, can his uncanny ability to fall one or two spots shy of qualifying for the Masters or U.S. Open or WGCs seemingly every single year.

Simply watch Howell at the driving range and you’d think he was one of the game’s elite ball-strikers. And he is – he ranked 14th in both scoring average and greens in regulation during the 2013 season. He’s hardly a terrible putter, either, placing in the PGA Tour’s top-third in strokes gained-putting.

These numbers can be perceived as underachieving, but they can also be looked at another way: Howell is on the verge of – finally – producing some more victories. The second half of his career could be very much like that of Matt Kuchar, going from underachiever to overachiever in no time at all.

For one of the nicest guys on the PGA Tour, let’s hope it happens.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry