Prognosticating The Players

By Jason SobelMay 11, 2011, 3:09 pm

The Players ChampionshipPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Despite the absence of a few heavy hitters in Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy, this week’s Players Championship still lives up to its annual billing as the best field in tournament golf.

And because of that, it’s also the most difficult to predict.

In recent years, this tournament has been won by big hitters (Henrik Stenson), short-knockers (Tim Clark), old guys (Fred Funk), young guys (Adam Scott), superstars (Tiger Woods) and one-hit wonders (Craig Perks).

And yet, let’s try to prognosticate this thing anyway. Just remember: Expect the unexpected.

The Players Championship

1. Jason Dufner: Pick a name, any name. The Year of the Unpredictable Champion continues this week with an underrated ball-striker (pictured above) who’s overdue for a win.
2. Matt Kuchar: Count ‘em up. It’s been exactly 53 weeks since Kooch missed a cut – and that may actually be less surprising than the fact that he “only” has one win.
3. Ben Crane: Three years ago, he was T-6 at this tourney. Two years ago, he was T-5. Last year, T-4. Hmm, anyone else smell a pattern?
4. Matteo Manassero: The uber-talented teen doesn’t hit the ball a long way, but he doesn’t need to on this course, where his exquisite short game will serve him well.
5. Luke Donald: It would be pure folly to leave the world’s greatest short game artist (sorry, Phil) off the list of contenders at any event, but especially this one.
6. Jim Furyk: After a lackluster start, Mr. Consistency has peeled off five straight top-25 finishes and will be playing in his adopted hometown again this week.
7. Francesco Molinari: Yet another ball-striker supreme on the list, this half of the Molinari Bros. finished ninth in his Players debut last year.
8. Adam Scott: Once upon a time, Scott won this event and was thought to be a major champion in the making. Following a runner-up at the Masters, maybe that’s still true.
9. Zach Johnson: So … the course is fast and firm this week? Sounds like perfect Zach-like conditions. Coming off a T-6 at Quail Hollow, his game is in the right shape, too.
10. Phil Mickelson: What will Phil do next? At this event, it’s anyone’s guess. Since winning here four years ago, he hasn’t finished better than 17th in three starts.
11. Bill Haas: A list of the five most underrated players on the PGA Tour wouldn’t be complete without this multiple winner from last season.
12. Rory Sabbatini: With a rumored suspension impending, can you imagine the look of dismay on PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem’s face if he had to hand over the trophy to Sabo?
13. Sergio Garcia: It would be the story of the year – no, the story of any year – if the 2008 champion could win here again following the passing of countryman Seve Ballesteros.
14. Steve Marino: Like last year’s champion Tim Clark, he is currently on the short list of best current players without a PGA Tour victory. Don’t expect him to be there much longer.
15. Rickie Fowler: The new crown prince of the PGA Tour is still searching for his first career win, but would have Ponte Vedra Beach execs swooning if he could pull it off this week.
16. Jonathan Byrd: There won’t be many putts to force a playoff any better than the one stroked by Byrd on the final hole at Quail Hollow last week.
17. Gary Woodland: Four finishes of sixth or better – two of which occurred in the Sunshine State – including a victory at the Transitions Championship prove he’s more than just a big banger.
18. Stewart Cink: He maintains that his new and improved swing still isn’t there, but he’s playing well anyway. When it does click, watch out for big things.
19. Ricky Barnes: This week is a big event, right? Then consider Barnes, who always plays his best golf when the stakes are highest.
20. Camilo Villegas: Call this one a complete hunch. In a dozen starts so far this season, Villegas has made the cut just seven times and has zero top-25 finishes.

Follow Jason Sobel on Twitter @JasonSobelGC
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Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."