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:


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.


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.


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!”


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).


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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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.'"

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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.