Nine for the Open

By John HawkinsJune 8, 2010, 11:49 pm
When my next-door neighbor sensed an advantage in a Masters rotisserie pool several years back, I was more than happy to assist Tom with his picks. So imagine his delight when my so-called knowledge carried him to last-place money. This probably happened in 2003, when Mike Weir beat Len Mattiace in a playoff: two singles hitters chasing a green jacket in the ultimate power player's ballpark.

My inability to predict the future is not limited to the season's first major. I can mess up U.S. Opens, too, which is probably why Tom stops by mainly to remind me about that pile of mulch in his driveway – the one we agreed to go halves on back in January.
Zach Johnson
Zach Johnson's best U.S. Open finish came in 2007 (T-45). (Getty Images)
I’m not the only guy with some shoveling to do. As Tiger Woods continues trying to dig his way out of a post-marriage malaise, pro golf's competitive landscape hasn't been this flat, or so it seems, since Christopher Columbus. It's a lot easier to envision Tiger losing by 15 next week in Pebble than to see him winning by five, let alone 15. The historic rout of 2000, perhaps the finest single-week performance ever, was 51 Tour victories, 11 major titles and a couple thousand headaches ago.

Never mind hoisting a trophy – Woods hasn't felt the heat of final-nine contention since last November. Anybody can hit a golf ball. Those who repeatedly do it well while in pressure's grasp are called champions, but winning a tournament is not like riding a bike. You can forget how to do it, and The Dude in the Red Shirt, great memory and all, has accrued a bit of Sunday rust.

So he's not my favorite next week, not even close. I'm sure Tiger is heartbroken over this, but seriously, he shouldn't be. Just ask Tom.

(Note to reader: odds accompanying each player are meant for argumentative purposes, not as an attempt to induce wagering).

Zach Johnson (13-to-1)
Go ahead, call me crazy. Just don't call me (or send an e-mail) after this guy wins another major. Johnson hits it nowhere but in every fairway, and for the fourth consecutive year, he ranks among the PGA Tour's top 10 in driving accuracy. He has jumped almost 50 spots in distance (181st to 133rd) in 2010 and continues to own one of the game's more reliable putters. But it's the way Zach closes fast and takes control of a tournament without anybody noticing that I find so impressive. Winning a Masters was a big surprise. Winning a U.S. Open certainly would not be.

Phil Mickelson (15-1)
His wife's health issues have brought a refreshed sense of purpose to Lefty's loveable life. Forget the missed cut at Colonial – that's like skipping the appetizer. Mickelson will arrive at Pebble rested, ready and rolling off the mojo from his stirring Masters triumph. Here's the only stat you need: Four major titles after a decade of failure, and there's more where those four came from. Big man. Big heart. Big game.

Rory McIlroy (18-1)
It's only a matter of time, folks. This kid can light up any golf course on earth and do it against any field, which makes his commitment to a heavier U.S. schedule all the wiser. McIlroy should feel right at home on Pebble's coastal linksland. No Irishman is afraid of a little three-club breeze, and those small greens will do a nice job separating the men from the boys. This boy is a man, and in 25 years, McIlroy will have evolved into the most important European golfer since Severiano Ballesteros.

Steve Stricker (20-1)
It cost him a fair part of the spring, but Stricker appears to have shaken the shoulder issues that have limited him to four starts since mid-March. He hasn’t shot over par in eight rounds since the Masters, and you know the birdie putts will start falling in soon enough. The win in Los Angeles three months ago was a biggie: west coast, quality field, fabulous venue, more mental ammunition. We're talking about a guy who ranked 178th in driving accuracy two years ago – Stricker is 26th now. Man, I wish my shoulder hurt like that.

Lee Westwood (20-1)
At this point, it’s fair to wonder if Westwood is a major prince in waiting or just another guy with a lousy sense of timing. He has top-3 finishes at all four slammies since the 2008 U.S. Open, and though he coughed up none of them, a man only gets so many trips to Wonderland. Like Stricker, he's a remarkable story with a sexy career trajectory: Good to awful to very good since the mid-1990s. Next week would be a really good time to continue heading north.

Tiger Woods (22-1)
He finished 111th in total ball-striking at the Memorial, so the self-analysis-through-video plan apparently is a work in progress. I watched parts of the 2000 Pebble romp a week or so ago. Woods' swing was art in motion, an exquisite blend of power and control, as close to perfect as the physical act gets. A friend of Tiger's recently told me the guy is really down, really mad at himself for wrecking his marriage and as close to embarrassed as Eldrick Almighty could possibly be. I don’t know if we can blame his poor golf on the mess he made of his personal life, but it’s fair to say Woods appears to be heavily distracted.

Dustin Johnson (30-1)
I’m not sold on this guy nearly as much as some others are. Johnson still goes lengthy stretches without factoring, and though he has won back-to-back Tour events at Pebble, the USGA sees this fabulous piece of property as a chance to merge pretty and punitive. Johnson won’t have much of a shot next week if he’s hitting fewer than 55 percent of his fairways, which has been the case in 2010.

John Hawkins appears on Golf Central every Tuesday at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and on the Grey Goose 19th Hole every Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.

Ernie Els (30-1)
How nice to see the Big Easy playing a weak-field event like the Valero Texas Open, where he finished T-3, but missed cuts at The Players and Memorial are hard to ignore. Els probably needs a bit of weather to win this tourney for a third time next week. His confidence hasn't been this high in a decade, and he did manage to earn a share of second at Pebble in '00 – just two touchdowns and a foul shot behind You Know Who.

Jim Furyk (35-1)
Wins at Innisbrook and Harbour Town revived his top-5 status, but a triumph at Pebble would make this a career year. Forever one of the game's straightest drivers (sixth in 2010) and most dependable putters, Furyk's tenacious competitive mindset is ideal for this championship. Other U.S. Open venues are better suited for his grinding style, but nobody had Angel Cabrera winning at Oakmont, either.
Getty Images

Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.

The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.

There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

Playing with the pros

Tiger, DJ and Faxon

Article: Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

Article: After DJ and Tiger, Trump plays golf with Jack

Rory faces criticism

Article: Rory: Round with Trump about respect for presidency

Article: Rory: Round with Trump not a 'political statement'

President at the Presidents Cup

Video: President Trump makes the rounds at Liberty National

Article: President Trump presents trophy to U.S. team

Article: Stricker: 'Great thrill' to get trophy from Trump

Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham

Article: Senator tweets Trump shot 73 in windy, wet conditions

Article: Graham offers details on Trump's round of 73

Cart on the green

Article: Trump appears to drive cart on Bedminster green

Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open

Article: Trump makes presidential history at Women's Open

Article: Trump supporters, protesters clash near Women's Open

Article: UltraViolet takes protest inside Trump National

Photo gallery: President Trump at the U.S. Women's Open

Trump golf properties


Article: Environmental group vandalizes Trump golf course

Article: Man accused of vandalizing four Trump courses


Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

Article: Eric Trump denies Russia helped fund golf courses

Article: Trump company ordered to pay $5.77M in dues dispute

Reportedly fake TIME covers

Article: Trump clubs display fake Time magazine cover

Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story

Report: Trump's voter fraud claim tied to Langer

Langer: Trump 'apologized' for story mix-up

Pros comment on the president

Article: Players defend Trump at Senior PGA Championship

Article: Trump congratulates Daly; Daly congratulates Trump

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.