Punch Shot: Who is in the current top 5?

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 12, 2014, 12:10 pm

Patrick Reed believes he’s a top-5 player. Or maybe he thinks he can be one. We’re a little confused. But it did get us thinking: Who are the top 5 players in the world – at the moment? We tossed aside the world rankings, focused on the last few months of play, and here are our writers’ current top 5:

By REX HOGGARD

1. Patrick Reed. It’s a virtual push to determine the game’s hottest player between Reed and Jimmy Walker, but the nod has to go to Reed, whose second victory of 2014 (last week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship) came against the year’s deepest field. It doesn’t hurt that Reed has not finished outside the top 25 in ’14.

2. Jimmy Walker. A missed cut (Farmers Insurance Open) between his two victories in 2014 (Sony Open and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am) is his only blemish and he continues to play consistent golf with top-25 showings in his last three starts.

3. Bubba Watson. After a relatively quiet 2013, Watson has rediscovered his form this season. He already has a victory (Northern Trust Open) and two runner-up finishes (WGC-Cadillac Championship and Waste Management Phoenix Open) with Augusta National looming around the corner.

4. Dustin Johnson. Despite a disappointing finish at Doral (T-4), DJ has finished in the top 10 at every stroke-play event this year including runner-up showings at Pebble Beach and the Northern Trust Open.

5. Harris English. He hasn’t missed a cut this year and has been in the hunt at four of his seven events in 2014, including a fourth-place finish at the Sony Open and ninth-place showings in Phoenix and at the Match Play.


By RYAN LAVNER

1. Dustin Johnson

2. Jason Day

3. Bubba Watson

4. Rory McIlroy

5. Patrick Reed

No one in the game has been better week-in, week-out than DJ, who has finished inside the top 6 in each of his last six stroke-play events on Tour. Not far behind is Day, who has won twice and finished outside the top 25 just once since August. Bubba has two runners-up in his last four starts, while McIlroy has done everything but win so far in 2014. And, yes, rounding out the top 5 is Reed, after recording three wins in his last 14 starts.


By JASON SOBEL

Full disclosure: In my initial draft, the ordering was listed as 1. Tiger Woods; 2 (tie). Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott; 4. Phil Mickelson; 5. Sergio Garcia.

Then I was informed that this is supposed to be our opinion of the most torrid players as of late, not the best or most talented. Sorry, fellas. As course designer extraordinaire Donald Trump would say: You’re fired. (And yes, it pained me to even type that sentence.) So, here are the hottest players, in descending order so as not to ruin the surprise:

5. Jimmy Walker. Three wins before the month of March. The Renowned of the Wraparound (catchy, right?) can put things into cruise control and still make the Ryder Cup team.

4. Harris English. Leads the PGA Tour with six top-10s and hasn’t MC’d since August. Bold prediction: He wins again before he misses another cut.

3. Dustin Johnson. He might be a bad-decision first-ballot Hall of Famer. And yet, things seem to work.

2. Bubba Watson. Last four starts: 2-9-Win-2. Nobody ever thought he could win a Masters, but now lots of people think he could win two. Hmmm.

1. Patrick Reed. Top-five? The brash 23-year-old backed it up. Or maybe he actually held back. According to my list, he could have gone all Muhammad Ali on us: “I am the greatest!”


By RANDALL MELL

1. Bubba Watson: Those pair of 64s on the weekend to win Northern Trust get your attention. So do the T-2s at the WGC-Cadillac and Waste Management Phoenix Open.

2. Patrick Reed: Two wins already this calendar year, enough said . . . Unless, of course, Patrick wishes to expand on these matters.

3. Jimmy Walker: Two wins this calendar year keep him radiating heat.

4. Dustin Johnson: In four stroke-play starts in PGA Tour events this year, he has finished second twice, fourth once and T-6.

5. Jason Day: In three PGA Tour starts this year, he has a win (Accenture Match Play) and a T-2 (Farmers Insurance Open).


By WILL GRAY

Ranking the best players in the game at any given point in time is a soft science if ever there was one, but my current list would be topped by Rory McIlroy. The former world No. 1 is showing signs of returning to that lofty perch, with near-misses in Abu Dhabi and Palm Beach Gardens serving as recent highlights. When he’s in form, few can keep pace, and McIlroy appears to be finding his game just in time for Augusta.

Next on my list would be two of the game’s biggest bombers: Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. Bubba gets the nod over DJ because of his win at Riviera last month, but both have spent nearly all of 2014 inside the top 10, and both contended down the stretch at Doral.

Accenture champ Jason Day would follow in fourth, despite the thumb injury that led to his withdrawal last week in Miami. The Aussie also won the World Cup in his homeland late last year, opened his 2014 campaign with a runner-up finish at Torrey Pines and has clearly demonstrated an ability to contend – and win – against even elite fields.

Rounding out my top five is Zach Johnson, who has been firing on all cylinders since last summer. The 37-year-old has hoisted three trophies since September, including a victory at the winners-only stop in Kapalua to start the year – which he followed with two more top-10s. Johnson is among the best in the game from 125 yards and in, and he’s been able to translate that skill into consistently low scores for several months.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has three runner-up finishes in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''