Predicting the top 25 PGA Championship finishers

By Jason SobelAugust 8, 2012, 5:02 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — It used to be that picking a winner at a major championship was like trying to find the lone orange in an apple orchard.

Now? It's completely fruitless.

And yet, here I am. Still trying to suck that sweet nectar.

I'll spare you the usual rhetoric. You know, potential contenders will need to hit the ball long and straight off the tee, own perfect distance control with their irons and hole lots of putts. Unless this week's PGA Championship is contested on an XBox, it'll be impossible for a single player to prosper in all areas.

If there are a few qualities that supersede all others, they may be distance and trajectory. On a massive 7,676-yard course that will likely be soft and damp throughout the tournament, the ability to hit the ball not only long but high should be a strong determining factor.

As such, my list of this week's top-25 reflects that idea.

Sure, sure. I know: Why listen to a guy who occupies the fantasy game cellar? Well, because just as we've witnessed in majors recently, apparently everyone gets a turn at success. Maybe this will finally be the week my attempts aren't proven fruitless again. 

1. Kyle Stanley: Too young? Too raw? Too inexperienced? Could have said the same things about the last two PGA winners, too. Don't discount the Washington native's reputation as a mudder, either. That could be big.

2. Graeme McDowell: After playing in the final pairing of the final round in each of the last two majors, it would be unwise to think he can't contend again. The more the wind blows, the better his chances.

3. Dustin Johnson: No, this isn't because all 'sandy areas' at the Ocean Course won't be considered bunkers. He has the game to seriously contend and the South Carolina product should have plenty of home state support.

4. Robert Garrigus: Sensing a trend? On a big ballpark, the big hitters should thrive. And this big hitter has been raving about Kiawah being set up for his game ever since first coming here months ago.

5. Matt Kuchar: Coming off a 20-putt, three-chip-in performance Sunday at Firestone, he's in the elite category of players who can contend on any given week, no matter the course.

6. Padraig Harrington: He's healthy, his game is rounding into good shape and he's confident. If Ernie Els can win his fourth major at 42, then Harrington can certainly vie for a fourth at two years younger.

7. Nicolas Colsaerts: His emergence is similar to that of Martin Kaymer prior to this tournament two years ago. Can bomb it with the best of 'em and should be movitated by playing for his Ryder Cup life.

8. Rory McIlroy: Following last year's U.S. Open victory, it didn't seem like he'd be able to do anything quietly again, but McIlroy is playing some sneaky good golf lately without much fanfare.

9. Jason Dufner: No longer an underdog, the world's eighth-ranked player has made huge strides in the 52 weeks since nearly winning the last edition of this tournament.

10. Tiger Woods: Obviously the 14-time major champion can win anyplace, anytime. But he more often thrives on familiar venues, as evidenced by his three wins this year. Despite practice rounds, Kiawah is a great unknown.

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11. Steve Stricker: You know that scene in Happy Gilmore where the lead character says, 'Happy learned how to putt. Uh-oh.' Well, Stricker has always known, but he may have relearned a thing or two last week.

12. Louis Oosthuizen: Earning a groundswell of support as a potential 'dark horse' pick this week. All of which makes sense except the dark horse part. He's got a claret jug and nearly won a green jacket. No underdog here.

13. Adam Scott: If he's haunted by his Open Championship collapse, he hasn't shown it publicly, displaying class, grace and humility in the aftermath of such a gutwrenching conclusion.

14. Bill Haas: Just the type of player who fits the recent major champion mold, as the reigning FedEx Cup winner has triumphed on some very good golf courses.

15. John Senden: It's always befuddling why the game's best GIR guy year after year doesn't almost 'accidentally' win more events. Just hitting greens will be half the battle this week.

16. Nick Watney: Don't look now, but he's starting to emerge from what has largely been a season-long funk. If this game is cyclical – and it is – Watney may be hitting his uptick soon.

17. Bubba Watson: It would be foolish to discount the Masters champion anywhere, especially on a big course like Kiawah. His son Caleb's adoption now finalized, expect him to play with more freedom and fewer distractions.

18. Scott Piercy: The recent Canadian Open champion has been on a tear as of late. His long game should come in handy on a course that should reward distance.

19. Jonathan Byrd: It stands to reason that a few players from semi-nearby Sea Island will thrive in the local environs. Byrd's propensity for getting hot and staying hot will serve him well.

20. Lee Westwood: Hot putters come and go, but solid ball-striking is a staple – and there aren't many better tee-to-green than Westwood, still searching for that elusive major title.

21. Martin Kaymer: Often hasn't played his best golf since winning two years ago, but he's still very young and ultra-talented. He isn't done winning majors yet.

22. Webb Simpson: Hasn't teed it up much since his U.S. Open win and subsequent birth of his daughter, but his rest may win out over his rust going into this week.

23. Keegan Bradley: Upon winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, he talked about trying to go back-back and mentioned that Hall of Fame member Aunt Pat only did it once in her illustrious career.

24. Brandt Snedeker: One way to make up for an inability to bash the ball? Make lots of putts. This guy makes more than just about anyone else.

25. Aaron Baddeley: At the beginning of the year, one PGA Tour veteran said Baddeley would win a major this season. Well, he's only got one more chance to prove his peer right. 

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Rahm (62) takes early lead at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."