Punch Shot: Who will win the majors in 2013?

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 3, 2013, 2:00 pm

The 2013 PGA Tour season is almost under way in Kapalua, Hawaii, but it's never too late to start thinking about the majors. In this Punch Shot, GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with their predictions on which players will hoist major trophies this season.

By RANDALL MELL

Picking major championship winners this early isn’t quite as foolhardy as playing darts in the dark, but it’s close. Here goes anyway:

The Masters: Rory McIlroy. The boy wonder had the 54-hole lead at Augusta National in 2011, and he’s a much more polished player now. He hits the ball long and high, and his putter can glow red hot when he gets a sniff of the lead in a major. He’s just 23, but he isn’t lacking course knowledge at Augusta National. He will be playing in his fifth Masters this year.

The U.S. Open: Tiger Woods. Merion won’t be overpowered, and that’s just fine with Woods. He prefers the conservative approach in the game’s biggest events, and he’ll be quite comfortable navigating his way around this historic venue with 3-woods and irons off tees. Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino won at Merion. So will Woods.

British Open: Ian Poulter. With three top-10s in majors last year, and with his inspiring performance at the Ryder Cup, Poulter showed his determination to lift his game in big moments. He’ll lift the claret jug at Muirfield this year.

PGA Championship: Luke Donald. We don’t always give the Englishman his due, in part because he has never won a major, but he goes about his business nobly just the same. A wonderful putter and an equally wonderful attitude helps Donald break through to win at Oak Hill.


BY RYAN LAVNER

Masters: Rory McIlroy. Two years ago, he had a four-shot lead before a Sunday 80. A year ago, he was ill-prepared after a month-long layoff and tied for 40th. This is the year the world No. 1 finally pulls it together and wins the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

U.S. Open: Luke Donald. A claustrophobic, short layout such as Merion should be a perfect fit for Donald, one of the steadiest players in the game. He hasn’t finished worse than third in the Tour’s strokes gained-putting statistic since 2007 – at some point, his stellar short game has to show up on a major stage.

British Open: Tiger Woods. The Open represents Woods’ best chance to win a major because he doesn’t have to be perfect. His record in golf’s oldest championship is outstanding; in 16 career starts, he has 13 top-25s, eight top10s, a pair of third-place finishes and, of course, three victories. Plus, he would have been a factor at Muirfield in 2002 if not for a Saturday 81 in terrible conditions.

PGA Championship: Keegan Bradley. OK, so the sample size is small, but Bradley hasn’t finished worse than T-3 in two starts at the PGA Championship, including a victory in 2011 at Atlanta Athletic Club. A long-and-straight hitter should prevail at Oak Hill, and few players in the game are as brawny as Bradley. He’s ready to break through once again – belly putter and all. 


By JASON SOBEL

Usually when I'm asked to pick major winners so far in advance, I'll answer the question with a few questions of my own: What's the weather going to be like? How is the course playing? Which players are in form entering each one?

It might be easier predicting answers to each of those queries than predicting this year's major champions months in advance, but let's give it a whirl anyway...

Masters: Adam Scott. The golf gods don't owe him anything after last year's loss at Lytham; that was all his own undoing. But the Aussie is too good to remain winless in majors for too long. Only question is whether he'll be using a belly putter or a short stick when it happens.

U.S. Open: Brandt Snedeker. Let's see ... Tight course? Check. Fast greens? Check. Par at a premium? Check. If last year's FedEx Cup winner could build a major venue that suits his game, it would be Merion.

Open Championship: Tiger Woods. This used to be an inarguable fact: Woods is the world's greatest links player. After a few down years overseas, that can now be debated, but he still has the knowledge and talent to thrive on a fast, firm setup.

PGA Championship: Graeme McDowell. After his 2010 U.S. Open win, I thought G-Mac may have been the classic case of a guy who got his major, then relaxed. Instead, the opposite is true. He's driven, inspired and – most importantly – has the game needed to win a few more of 'em.


By REX HOGGARD

Considering last year’s list of major winners – Bubba Watson (Masters), Webb Simpson (U.S. Open), Ernie Els (British Open) and Rory McIlroy (PGA Championship) – it seems the best Grand Slam prognostications are a tad outside the box, so here goes:

Masters: Give us McIlroy in April because he has too much game and karma can’t be that indifferent to his painful history at Augusta National. Forget about that Sunday meltdown in ’11 and weekend rounds of 77-76 last year, the Ulsterman is poised to move one step closer to the career Grand Slam next spring.

U.S. Open: It’s been more than 30 years since the national championship was played at Merion and the under card, new technology vs. classic architecture, will be almost as intriguing as the champion, who will be Rickie Fowler, the star of 2009 U.S. Walker Cup team when it was played at Merion.

British Open: As stunning as Els’ victory last year at Royal Lytham was it should surprise no one that the Big Easy will emerge again at Muirfield. After all, the South African will be the defending champion (2012 Open) and the defending champion at Muirfield, having won the last Open played on the Scottish links.

PGA Championship: Tiger Woods will get off the Grand Slam schneid and it seems apropos that he will do so at “Glory’s Last Shot.” Four of Woods’ 14 majors have been won at the PGA and Oak Hill should be a perfect fit for the new and improved swing.

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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