Predicting the top 25 Open finishers

By Jason SobelJuly 17, 2012, 11:42 pm

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – He who finds the fewest bunkers wins.

At least, that’s what most of this week’s Open Championship competitors would have us believe. There are 205 total bunkers at Royal Lytham & St. Annes which range from “hazardous” to “like hitting one out of bounds.”

With that in mind, driving accuracy will certainly be a key component to the makeup of this week’s leaderboard, but it’s hardly the only factor. From an ability to shape shots to being creative around the greens to a propensity for holing clutch putts, the course should stand as a stern test throughout the week.

But who will win? As always, the prediction game is an inexact science – and on a venue with so many twists and turns, where a good bounce results in a green light to the flagstick and a bad bounce means a death sentence in a bunker, there’s a lot more “inexact” than “science” at play this week.

With that in mind, here is my predicted order of finish for the top 25:

1. Justin Rose: Fits the mold of recent major champions. Rose is a major talent without a major win. An excellent driver off the tee, he could make it 10 straight first-time major winners.

2. Tiger Woods: Looking relaxed and confident in the days entering this tournament, the 14-time major champion says, “I’ll win major championships” once again.

3. Lee Westwood: If the stars are aligned, this could finally be his week. The Open serves as Westwood’s best chance at a major and his driving prowess should keep him out of too much trouble.

4. Graeme McDowell: His failure to capture a second U.S. Open remains an open wound, but McDowell has proven himself worthy of consideration for any major championship title.

5. Adam Scott: With a major record that is finally starting to look respectable, Scott just turned 32 – prime age for players to start winning these things.

6. Charl Schwartzel: Mark these words: The best player nobody ever talks about will win another major to go along with his Masters title – and it may come sooner rather than later.

7. Rafael Cabrera-Bello: Looking for a serious dark horse who could seriously contend? Look no further, as RCB owns four top-three results on the Euro Tour already this season.

8. Rickie Fowler: Youngster has performed well in what he calls his favorite tournament, with a T-14 and T-5 in his first two appearances.

9. Padraig Harrington: When he’s pessimistic, he plays his best golf. But the two-time champion is optimistic this week. What does it mean? Well, not necessarily the opposite.

10. Jim Furyk: Anytime accuracy is at a premium, expect Furyk to finagle his way onto the leaderboard. Should add to his six career top-10s in 17 starts at this event.

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11. Francesco Molinari: Obviously disappointed by last week’s Scottish Open playoff loss, Molinari should still enter this week with plenty of confidence.

12. Jason Dufner: Time to stop thinking of the world’s seventh-ranked player as an underdog. Dufner owns top-five finishes in three of the last six majors.

13. Ian Poulter: Since finishing runner-up in 2008, he has followed up MC-60-MC the past three years. Simply put, Poulter is too good for that trend to continue.

14. Rory McIlroy: Tough to know which Rory will show up: The one who can dominate tournaments or the one who has appeared complacent at times? If he’s on, he has as much talent as anyone.

15. K.J. Choi: This could be one of those “slow and steady wins the race” type of weeks. If so, keep a close eye on Choi, who can tread water with the best of ‘em.

16. Ernie Els: He isn’t among the best in total driving on the PGA Tour, but leads the Euro circuit, which portends big things with the big stick for the Big Easy this week.

17. Zach Johnson: Fresh off his John Deere Classic victory, the two-time winner this year is obviously in great form and should be comfortable on a course that seems to suit him.

18. Luke Donald: With accuracy so important at this venue, the world’s No. 1-ranked player may struggle to put himself in the right position off the tee every time.

19. Martin Kaymer: The game’s Human Disappearing Act seems like he may be on the verge of reappearing, finishing in the top 30 in four of his last six starts.

20. Hunter Mahan: Would be sweet justice if he could return to the U.K. and avenge that duffed chip at the 2010 Ryder Cup which haunted him for so long afterward.

21. Keegan Bradley: When asked about there being 15 straight different major champs, Bubba Watson said, “We're going to change that this week. Keegan Bradley, he's going to win.”

22. Richie Ramsay: Consider this one a bit of a flier, as the former U.S. Amateur champion doesn’t have a very strong recent results table, but he could sneak his way onto the leaderboard come Sunday.

23. Aaron Baddeley: Another guy who fits the recent major champion profile. Just a good, solid player who may be waiting for his moment in the spotlight.

24. Ben Curtis: Currently third on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, Curtis won’t be able to sneak up on people the way he did nine years ago – but it would still be close.

25. Tom Lehman: Call it a sentimental choice, but elder statesmen have shown a propensity for playing well at the Open and none know this course better than Lehman, who won here in 1996.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."