The Leap: Players making career jumps in 2013

By Jason SobelJanuary 2, 2013, 1:00 pm

Anyone can pick a few professional golfers to find their way onto the leaderboard on any given week. Or as yours truly proved during last year’s fantasy golf season, anyone can repeatedly pick a few to underachieve every single week.

Short-term predictions are one thing, but long-term ones are a whole different animal, requiring a little more insight and a lot more research. Here’s hoping I’ve got some of each.

Welcome to this year’s edition of The Leap in which I’ll pick players to jump to a previously unforeseen level in their careers. Last year’s predictions were a mixed bag, with dead-on calls regarding Jason Dufner and Branden Grace, but a regretfully poor choice in taking Sergio Garcia to win a major. (Wait, that didn’t happen … right?)

This year’s predictions feature an eclectic mix of veterans and rookies, names you know and names you don’t. They’ll each be making a major leap in their careers in 2013. If not, well, I’ll just have to try again next year.

Bill HaasBill Haas

The Leap: Major championship contender

Despite four career victories and a FedEx Cup title two years ago, Haas the younger has never finished better than 12th in 13 career major starts. That changes this year. Wins at East Lake and Riviera prove he’s got the mettle to compete on big-time courses and while this may not be the year he avenges his father’s career-long winless major streak, it will be the season he shows that he’s good enough to get himself onto a late Sunday leaderboard at any of 'em.

Bo Van Pelt at the 2012 AT&T NationalBo Van Pelt

The Leap: Top 10 on Official World Golf Ranking

There are two ways to look at Van Pelt’s career: He’s either a classic overachiever based on a PGA Tour-leading 15 top-10 finishes in the past two seasons or a classic underachiever because of a wealth of success that has translated to just one official victory. With unofficial late-season wins in each of the last two years, the official ones may only be a matter of time – and with them will come a major jump in OWGR status. That said, he won’t need a huge boost, already at 22nd in the world entering the year.

Scott Piercy in the 2012 RBC Canadian Open final roundScott Piercy

The Leap: PGA Tour multiple winner

Of the 16 players who have won official tournaments in each of the last two seasons, perhaps none is more unheralded than Piercy, who followed his 2011 Reno-Tahoe Open win with a Canadian Open triumph last year. What’s to like so much? Start at the end. He finished fifth last season in final-round scoring average. Out here on the thin limb, let’s pick him to win at least two titles – and don’t be shocked if the first of those happens at this week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Graham DeLaetGraham DeLaet

The Leap: Presidents Cup competitor

When it comes to potential International team members, the global job search usually stretches to such locales as Australia, South Africa and all of Asia. This year, though, captain Nick Price will be keeping a careful eye on this Canadian, who after myriad injuries posted three top 10s on the PGA Tour last season. A long hitter, DeLaet may be poised to break through with his first victory soon, which should firmly plant him on the radar screen for the end-of-year competition.

Kevin StreelmanKevin Streelman

The Leap: PGA Tour winner

It wasn’t so long ago that Streelman was looping at a few country clubs to help offset expenses from playing mini-tour golf. That type of background will help develop a pretty strong resolve in a player, and the Duke University product has shown a propensity for playing some of his best golf on Sunday afternoons. After a self-proclaimed “transition year” in 2012, expect it to translate into his first career title this season.

Seung-Yul Noh in the 2012 Deutsche Bank Championship second roundSeung-Yul Noh

The Leap: Tour Championship competitor

Armed with one of the sweetest swings on the PGA Tour, the 21-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough season last year, with 13 top-25 results in 28 starts. He made it all the way to the third of four FedEx Cup playoff events and had success in two of them – T-13 at the Deutsche Bank Championship and T-16 at the BMW Championship. All of which should bode well for his chances to reach the field at East Lake this year, an obvious goal for any young player, because it also comes with an invitation to the Masters.

Luke ListLuke List

The Leap: PGA Tour rookie of the year

One of List’s usual golfing buddies calls him “one of the most talented players I’ve ever seen.” That wouldn’t sound like much until you consider that his buddy is Keegan Bradley, who plays against some pretty decent talent on a weekly basis. As proof, List posted a victory and three other runner-up finishes on the circuit last year to earn his first trip to the big leagues. Tour courses should suit a guy who averages 323.5 yards per drive – yes, that’s not a misprint – and finds the fairway 57 percent of the time.

Harris English and Brian HarmanHarris English/Brian Harman

The Leap: Top 50 on PGA Tour money list

As college teammates and current housemates, the PGA Tour rookies kept their cards together last year, too, as English finished 79th on the money list with Harman not far behind at 87th. They’ll stay attached this season, as well, if not off the course then at least in the standings, as both are primed for a jump into the top 50 on the final money list in their sophomore campaigns.

Morgan HoffmanMorgan Hoffmann

The Leap: Top 100 on PGA Tour money list

A few years ago, two PGA Tour players teed it up in a friendly game with a college kid. Easy money, right? Not exactly. The kid was Hoffman, who calmly made so many eagles and birdies that one of the pros took to calling him Drago after the fictional boxer of “Rocky IV” fame. Well, he’s all grown up now. Without initial status on the Tour last year, he posted seven top 10s in just 13 starts to earn a PGA Tour promotion. Now that he’s there, expect similar consistency, which should allow him to keep his job for many years to come.

Kristoffer BrobergKristoffer Broberg

The Leap: WGC competitor

Simply competing in a World Golf Championship event may not sound like much of a stepping stone, but for a player ranked 1,401st in the world at this time last year, it’s a monumental leap. Now up to No. 79, last year’s three-time winner on the Challenge Tour is climbing by the week, thanks to a runner-up finish already at the Alfred Dunhill Championship. A few more like that and he’ll be teeing it up with the big boys pretty soon.

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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”

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Rory almost channels Tiger with 72nd-hole celebration

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:11 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy’s final putt at the Arnold Palmer Invitational felt awfully familiar.

He rolled in the 25-footer for birdie and wildly pumped his fist, immediately calling to mind Woods’ heroics on Bay Hill’s 18th green.

Three times Woods holed a putt on the final green to win this event by a stroke.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy was just happy to provide a little extra cushion as the final group played the finishing hole.

“I’ve seen Tiger do that enough times to know what it does,” McIlroy said. “So I just wanted to try and emulate that. I didn’t quite give it the hat toss – I was thinking about doing that. But to be able to create my own little bit of history on the 18th green here is pretty special.”

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McIlroy remembers Arnie dinner: He liked A-1 sauce on fish

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 1:06 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Fresh off a stirring victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy offered a pair of culinary factoids about two of the game’s biggest names.

McIlroy regretted not being able to shake Palmer’s hand behind the 18th green after capping a three-shot win with a Sunday 64, but with the trophy in hand he reflected back on a meal he shared with Palmer at Bay Hill back in 2015, the year before Palmer passed away.

“I knew that he liked A-1 sauce on his fish, which was quite strange,” McIlroy said. “I remember him asking the server, ‘Can I get some A-1 sauce?’ And the server said, ‘For your fish, Mr. Palmer?’ He said, ‘No, for me.’”

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

A few minutes later, McIlroy revealed that he is also a frequent diner at The Woods Jupiter, the South Florida restaurant launched by Tiger Woods. In fact, McIlroy explained that he goes to the restaurant every Wednesday with his parents – that is, when he’s not spanning the globe winning golf tournaments.

Having surveyed the menu a few times, he considers himself a fan.

“It’s good. He seems pretty hands-on with it,” McIlroy said. “Tuna wontons are good, the lamb lollipops are good. I recommend it.”

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DeChambeau comes up short: 'Hat’s off to Rory'

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 12:48 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Amid a leaderboard chock full of big names and major winners, the person that came closest to catching Rory McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational turned out to by Bryson DeChambeau.

While Henrik Stenson faltered and Justin Rose stalled out, it was DeChambeau that gave chase to McIlroy coming down the stretch at Bay Hill. Birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 were followed by an eagle out of the rough on No. 16, which brought him to within one shot of the lead.

But as DeChambeau surveyed his birdie putt from the fringe on the penultimate hole, McIlroy put an effective end to the proceedings with a closing birdie of his own to polish off a round of 64. DeChambeau needed a hole-out eagle on No. 18 to force a playoff, and instead made bogey.

That bogey ultimately didn’t have an effect on the final standings, as DeChambeau finished alone in second place at 15 under, three shots behind McIlroy after shooting a 4-under 68.

“I thought 15 under for sure would win today,” DeChambeau said. “Rory obviously played some incredible golf. I don’t know what he did on the last nine, but it was deep. I know that.”

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

DeChambeau will collect $961,000 for his performance this week in Orlando, just $47,000 less than he got for winning the John Deere Classic in July. While he would have preferred to take McIlroy’s spot in the winner’s circle, DeChambeau was pleased with his effort in Sunday’s final pairing as he sets his sights on a return to the Masters.

“For him to shoot 64 in the final round, that’s just, hat’s off to him, literally. I can’t do anything about that,” DeChambeau said. “I played some great golf, had some great up-and-downs, made a couple key putts coming down the stretch, and there’s not really much more I can do about it. My hat’s off to Rory, and he played fantastic.”