Ranking the 2012 Masters field

By Jason SobelApril 4, 2012, 2:21 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – I despise going chalk.

Give me a sneaky underdog over a prohibitive favorite anytime. Give me an under-the-radar guy instead of a headline-maker.

Perhaps that’s why I’m currently DFL and dropping in the GolfChannel.com fantasy standings, but it also speaks to why I feel so badly about myself right now.

In proffering my annual Masters ranking of the entire field, my desire to avoid chalk has finally dissolved, leaving only a chalk outline in its place.

That doesn’t mean I’ll be right, of course. With all of the anticipation leading into the opening round, I see two possible scenarios.

The first is that the tournament is ripe for an undervalued player – not an unknown, since there really aren’t any unknowns at this event – to swoop in and claim the green jacket, much like Charl Schwartzel a year ago.

The second is that this could be an epic Masters. All of the prominent superstars are converging on Augusta National playing their best golf and the leaderboard on Sunday afternoon could read like a who’s who of top-10 talent.

I’m taking a chance on the latter scenario.

The following ranking isn’t based on oddsmaker favorites, but how I think the final leaderboard will shake out. At least, that’s what I think I think.

1. Luke Donald: After last year’s T-4 result, the world’s No. 1-ranked player is ready to be No. 1 at a major, too.

2. Tiger Woods: Could win by double digits or MC, all of which continues to make him the game’s most compelling player.

3. Rory McIlroy: Claims he’s no longer haunted by those demons on the 10th teebox, but actions speak louder than words.

4. Phil Mickelson: Maintains that no matter his recent form, he always feels comfortable making the journey down Magnolia Lane.

5. Brandt Snedeker: Underrated putter who has shown proficiency on these greens in the past.

6. Justin Rose: Recent victory at Doral launched him into world’s top 10 and should likewise be a top-10 favorite here.

7. Adam Scott: Led this tournament late in the game last year before Charl Schwartzel cruised past him on the leaderboard.

8. Bill Haas: Reigning FedEx Cup champion can’t be considered a darkhorse, but keep an eye on a guy most people aren’t talking about.

9. Henrik Stenson: Big sleeper pick here, as the Swede has finished 21st or better in all four appearances this season.

10. Keegan Bradley: No first-timer has won here since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, but the reigning PGA champ could change that.

11. Nick Watney: Has shown the stuff to contend in majors; can he display the proper nerve down the stretch?

12. K.J. Choi: Who says a fade can’t find success at Augusta? Certainly not Choi, who has seen his share over the years.

13. Johnson Wagner: The ‘stache is raking in the cash this year – and there’s no reason to think he’ll stop now.

14. Charl Schwartzel: Defending champion is coming into the week under the radar – just the way he likes it.

15. Angel Cabrera: Always a strong candidate to contend here because he owns one of the highest ball flights in the game.

16. Geoff Ogilvy: Four consecutive birdies on Sunday’s back nine last year were overshadowed by same feat from Schwartzel later on.

17. Graeme McDowell: Lost in Woods’ winning performance at Bay Hill was that GMac also appears ready to win again.

18. Sang-Moon Bae: At 30th in the world, won’t be intimidated playing with Tiger Woods in the first two rounds.

19. Aaron Baddeley: Leads the field in alphabetical order by both first name and last name.

20. Jason Dufner: What happens when a player arrives to Augusta eight days before the tourney starts? We’re about to find out.

21. John Senden: Ball-striker supreme owns an impressive record so far this season; putting remains an issue.

22. Robert Garrigus: Ultra-long hitter is in the field based on a T-3 finish at last year’s U.S. Open.

23. Padraig Harrington: Posting a good number hasn’t been a problem; it’s stringing together a few of ‘em that has been the issue.

24. Trevor Immelman: One-hit wonder? Not so fast. In three appearances since his win, he’s finished top 20 every time.

25. Matt Kuchar: Best finish in this tournament remains a T-21 back when he was a 19-year-old amateur.

26. Steve Stricker: Never count out a guy who rolls his rock, but you’ve got to wonder whether the 45-year-old will ever win a major.

27. Rickie Fowler: If twenty-somethings McIlroy and Bradley can win majors, you’ve got to wonder whether Fowler is far behind.

28. Charles Howell III: There are few people who understand what winning this would mean to him. Maybe just one: Larry Mize.

29. Bo Van Pelt: In the mix last year because he does everything well, as evidenced by high standing in the all-around category.

30. Hunter Mahan: Two wins in last four starts proves he’s in good form, but have to wonder if the tank is near empty.

31. Lee Westwood: Questions remain as to whether he’ll ever claim a major; if he does, it won’t be this one.

32. Paul Casey: Still trying to come back from injury, but his game suits this course when he’s hitting it well.

33. Zach Johnson: Dispelled the notion five years ago that there are only a handful of players who can win this tournament.

34.Vijay Singh: Now healthy and playing better, look for the 2000 champion to climb the leaderboard early before fading on the weekend.

35. Webb Simpson: Masters rookie once posted an 80 on this course … when he was 12.

36. Fred Couples: There aren’t many 52-year-olds who can contend here, but Freddie certainly fits the bill.

37. Martin Laird: If you’re looking for a Schwartzel-ish young player who could make a big name for himself, this could be your man.

38. Lucas Glover: Since winning the 2009 U.S. Open, he’s made the cut in six of 10 major starts with just one top-10.

39. Ian Poulter: Dogged competitor who would definitely bring some energy to the proceedings if he was in the mix come Sunday.

40. Sergio Garcia: One of the world’s best tee to green, but questions linger about his putting under pressure. Rinse and repeat.

41. Brendan Steele: First-time competitor plays well in big ballparks – and this course certainly qualifies.

42. Miguel Angel Jimenez: Too old? Too “interesting”? Maybe not. He’s made the cut in seven straight Masters starts.

43. Ben Crane: Just wondering how a green jacket would look when paired with a helmet and unitard.

44. Jim Furyk: One top-10 in his last seven Masters starts is underwhelming for a player with his talent.

45. Alvaro Quiros: The longer and soggier this course plays, the better the chances for pro golf’s longest hitter.

46. Kyle Stanley: When asked if Augusta suits his power game, his eyes lit up as he nodded his head vigorously. Good sign.

47. Jason Day: Tough to gauge where his game is right now, with three top-20s but in only four starts this season.

48. Peter Hanson: Perhaps the most underrated player from the other side of the pond, he has some major game.

49. Mark Wilson: Perhaps the most underrated player from this side of the pond, he has some major game.

50. Robert Karlsson: Quietly one of the best major performers around, with seven top-20s in his last 13 starts, dating back to 2008.

51. Bubba Watson: Proof that it takes more than distance at Augusta? He’s never finished better than T-20 in three starts.

52. Martin Kaymer: After three MCs, changed his game to suit this course last year. The result? Another MC.

53. Francesco Molinari: One of the better ball-strikers around, if he gets hot, expect plenty of greens in regulation.

54. Ross  Fisher: Where art thou, Ross? In three Euro Tour starts this year, he has yet to finish in the top 40.

55. Kyung-Tae Kim: Proved he has some big-time game during a losing effort at the Presidents Cup.

56. Thomas Bjorn: Once saddled with “demons” that forced him to walk away, he’s enjoying a second-half career rejuvenation.

57. Louis Oosthuizen: The 2010 Open Championship winner was in the mix on Sunday in Houston .

58. Sean O’Hair: Steadily, sneakily regaining his form, with seven made cuts in eight starts this season.

59. Rory Sabbatini: Runner-up finish in 2007 may have been an anomaly; has made cut only two other times in nine Masters starts.

60. Gary Woodland: Claims that swing changes with new instructor Butch Harmon are close to reaping full benefits.

61. Patrick Cantlay: U.S. Amateur runner-up had a magical summer last year, even posting 60 in a PGA Tour event.

62. David Toms: Played well at Augusta the last two years, with T-24 and T-14 finishes in his last two starts.

63. Ryo Ishikawa: There must be plenty of pressure not only playing with a nation watching, but on a special exemption this week.

64. Jonathan Byrd: Best week ever? Could be, with a new baby followed by a green jacket.

65. Stewart Cink: Last season’s struggles have bled into this year, with only one top 25 in eight starts.

66. Paul Lawrie: One of the last men to automatically qualify for the tournament based on current top-50 world ranking.

67. Anders Hansen: Perfect career record at the Masters. Three starts, three MCs.

68. Kevin Na: Last year, missed the cut in each of the first three majors before pulling a T-10 in the PGA.

69. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano: Might be the longest last name to fit onto a caddie bib in quite a while.

70. Y.E. Yang: Remains the answer to an all-time trivia question as only man to chase down Tiger Woods when he was 54-hole leader at a major.

71. Ryan Palmer: Smooth-swinging Texan is back in the field this year after a 10th-place result a year ago.

72. Kevin Chappell: After a strong rookie season, he’s struggled as a sophomore, with no finish better than 24th in nine starts.

73. Fredrik Jacobson: Poor Freddie Yock. Playing with Crane and Na, might want to pack a Snickers. Not going anywhere for a while?

74. Hideki Matsuyama: The only amateur to make the cut last year, he’s since added a pro victory to his resume while remaining an amateur.

75. Harrison Frazar: After 16 long years as a professional, he’ll finally make his first Masters start this week.

76. Tom Watson: Former champion hasn’t been quiet about his distaste for the stretched-out Augusta track.

77. Darren Clarke: Caddie bib numbers are based on the order of when the player registered; he holds the last number in the field this week.

78. Edoardo Molinari: Battling injury, he’s fared well lately, with results of 11th or better in his last two Euro Tour starts.

79. Scott Verplank: Coming off injury, he’s missed the cut in both starts this year, playing a total of just four rounds all season.

80. Scott Stallings: Missed the cut in his only previous major appearance at last year’s PGA Championship.

81. Chez Reavie: Timing is everything. In the field based on a runner-up finish at TPC-Boston last year, which got him into the Tour Championship.

82. Simon Dyson: Middling results in Europe so far this year; five made cuts in six starts, but no results better than T-17.

83. Tim Clark: Still attempting to come back from last year’s elbow surgery, but hasn’t quite found his best stuff yet.

84. Kelly Kraft: Reigning U.S. Amateur champion will turn professional as soon as this tournament is completed.

85. Bernhard Langer: Still one of the best Champions Tour players, he owns two seconds and a third in five starts this year.

86. Jose Maria Olazabal: Two-time Masters champion has missed the cut in each of his last three appearances.

87. Mike Weir: In four starts this season, has yet to make a cut and owns only one round under par in nine tries.

88. Mark O’Meara: Former champion joked this week that he likes his chances at 2,000-to-1 odds.

89. Larry Mize: Augusta native has made the cut in just two of his previous 11 Masters starts.

90. Corbin Mills: Clemson junior was last year U.S. Publinks champion; has never attended the Masters before.

91. Ben Crenshaw: It’s been five years since his last made cut, but you know Gentle Ben will roll in a few impressive putts.

92. Bryden Macpherson: Reigning British Amateur champion recently won the Georgia Cup over Kelly Kraft.

93. Craig Stadler: Will have the honor of hitting the first shot of this year’s tournament – after the official starters, of course.

94. Randal Lewis: Cool story, as the 54-year-old U.S. MidAm champ will make his first career Masters start.

95. Sandy Lyle: Actually had a decent little run here, making the cut in each year from 2007-09.

96. Ian Woosnam: Well, someone’s gotta be last – but at least Woosie will have fun doing it.

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.


Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.

Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.

Here are some other social media posts that have surfaced:

Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''