Punch Shot: Who will win the Open Championship?

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2013, 9:17 pm

GULLANE, Scotland – Lee Westwood leads Tiger Woods and Hunter Mahan by two strokes entering the final round of the 142nd Open Championship. Seven other players are within five strokes of the lead. We asked our writers on-site at Muirfield to pick a winner.


It’s Lee Westwood’s time to win a major championship.

You may view it as the odds are stacked against him. He’s contended so many times that there are bound to be demons floating through his brain down the stretch. Tiger Woods is hot on his heels as he looks for his 15th major championship and his first in more than five years. A balky putting stroke has plagued him in pressure moments for the better part of his career and it’s bound to catch up with him for the first time this week.

I look at it differently. Westwood has so much scar tissue that one more disappointment can’t possibly do more damage. Woods has never won a major championship while not leading after 54-holes. Westwood is leading the field in putts per round, having used 81 swats with the flatstick. And, the best one, Westwood will have the support of all of Great Britain as it attempts to extend its summer of joy following victories from Justin Rose at the U.S. Open and Andy Murray at Wimbledon.

It’s also better that Westwood isn’t in the same pairing with Woods. Westwood stared him down Saturday and bettered him by two shots, but it’s a blessing not to have to do that again. There will be less pressure playing alongside Hunter Mahan.

Lastly, I believe in trends. Adam Scott and Rose were each first-time major winners this year. Makes sense that the Breakthrough Slam will continue here at Muirfield, and it’ll do so with a Brit leading the way.


The record says Tiger Woods is 0-for-16 in majors since that historic 2008 U.S. Open victory. That he’s never won a Grand Slam while trailing after 54 holes. That he’s broken par on Sunday at a major just once in his last six Grand Slam starts.

But all that ignores the stars that are aligned over Muirfield.

Not since 2006 at a similarly brown and bouncy links has Woods been so prepared, in mind and body, to wrest himself out of his major drought.

The rock hard turf lends itself perfectly to Woods’ affinity for hitting fairway wood and long iron “stingers,” a fact that is made all the more relevant given the fact that he has hit driver just once this week (at the par-5 fifth on Saturday).

He’s also controlling his golf ball better than anyone else in the field, “flighting” shots below the wind and playing the bounces like he was born in Scotland.

It’s also worth noting that just four of the top 10 players through three rounds – Adam Scott, Angel Cabrera, Zach Johnson and Phil Mickelson – have a major on their mantel. And all of those would-be contenders are trailing Woods.

If ever there was a place suited for Woods to collect major No. 15, it would be Muirfield.


History suggests Lee Westwood will hoist the claret jug on Sunday. After all, he leads by two shots, and since 1972 the 54-hole leader at Muirfield has gone on to win the Open four of the five times it was played.

But I’m still picking Tiger Woods to win.

The reason is simple, really: He is playing better, tee-to-green, than anyone else in the field. He is T-2 in fairways hit (33 of 42), T-9 in greens in regulation (38 of 54) and T-15 in putts per round (90 putts).

Westwood, by comparison, hasn’t been nearly as sharp with his long game, ranking T-52 in fairways hit (24 of 42) and T-62 in greens in regulation (31 of 54). The difference has been with the flatstick; he has an Open-best 81 putts through three rounds, five better than anyone else in the field. But his revamped putting stroke has never faced major Sunday pressure.

I know, Woods has never won a major when trailing after 54 holes. But the best player of his generation, arguably the greatest of all time, can’t possibly go his entire career bagging majors only from the pole position.

The guess here is that changes Sunday.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.