Prognosticating the PGA

By John HawkinsAugust 10, 2011, 5:12 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – America’s major drought stands at six, the longest such streak in golf history, and if you’re looking for positive signs that it will end at this week’s PGA Championship, you’ll need a magnifying glass. A European hadn’t won this tournament in 74 years before Padraig Harrington hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy in 2008. Y.E. Yang’s stunner over Tiger Woods in ’09 and Martin Kaymer’s playoff victory last August make the PGA an apt reflection of the game’s shifting power balance.

It might get worse before it gets better. Here are my favorites heading to Atlanta Athletic Club.

Rory McIlroy (12-1): In golf’s what-have-you-done-lately universe, he’s not the hottest player in town, but he is the best. A long, straight ball works just about anywhere, but at this ballpark, it’s an absolute requirement, which is why neither Woods nor Phil Mickelson will be around Sunday afternoon. Is McIlroy ready to get back to the business of winning big tournaments? Guess we’ll have to see, but I suspect he’ll be in the mix with nine holes to play.

Lee Westwood (14-1): You can’t have a favorites list at any major without him on it. Westwood’s putting has cost him dearly at big tournaments over the years, but only recently has he enlisted the help of guru Dave Stockton. It’s not so much that he’s a lousy putter – he just never makes one when he really needs to. Maybe his time will come. Maybe it won’t.

Jason Day (15-1): He keeps knocking on the door at the biggest events, and at some point, the talented young Aussie will finish the job. He drives it too well and makes too many putts not to win a major in the near future. Maybe this isn’t the week, but runner-up finishes at the Masters and U.S. Open suggest he’ll become the first player from Down Under to claim a green jacket. Only a matter of time with this kid.

Dustin Johnson (16-1): Still America’s best hope despite the shank that ended his hopes at the British Open. Johnson drives it straighter than any of the jumbo hitters, and though his low ball flight won’t do him any favors at AAC, it’s hard to imagine the PGA of America letting the greens get too firm in the sweltering Georgia heat. Is there scar tissue from past failures? There has to be. And the guy keeps showing up.

Bubba Watson (25-1): If you’ve got to be really long or really straight to have a chance this week, Bubba’s in the hunt. His towering shapes off the tee will serve him well at AAC, but nobody will winthis tournament from the rough, regardless of how benign it is. The playoffloss to Kaymer at Whistling Straits last year was his first real taste of the highest level, and though a lot of good things have happened since, Watson’s summer has only been so-so. No top 20s since the victory in New Orleans. Needs to keep his chin up when the bad breaks come to get him.

Steve Stricker (30-1): My sense is that AAC won’t be a “putter’s course,” meaning solid tee-to-green play is essential, but Stricker has evolved into a terrific all-around player whose penchant for finding the hole only complements his ballstriking. The numbers across the board are superb: first on the PGA Tour in par-4 performance, first in birdie-conversion percentage, first in GIRs from inside 100 yards. Here’s another stat – Stricker ranks fourth when comes to hitting the green from a fairway bunker. Remember that shot to win the John Deere? AAC has a lot of sand.

Tiger Woods (30-1): A lot of good things would need to happen for Red Shirt to even find a spot in the Sunday hunt. Talk all you want about rust and the wounded leg, but Woods’ return at Firestone was marred by the same problems that have nagged him for years. He doesn’t drive it straight, and though nobody does a better job of escaping trouble, AAC is too long and too buffered to allow much of a Seve impersonation. Tiger’s fairway percentage has dropped below 50 percent, which qualifies as ghastly. Still not enough evidence to suggest Big Comeback starts this week.

Adam Scott (35-1): Wouldn’t have been considered for this list until the victory last week, which was bigger than the 2004 Players because Scott had basically disappeared from the game’s top tier. His putting woes may not be a total thing of the past, but again, you won’t need to hole a bunch of 20-footers to win this PGA. The knock on Scott has always been a faulty short game, but driving the ball has never been an issue. A good tool to have in your arsenal this week.

Ryo Ishikawa (50-1): Last week’s strong performance in Ohio reaffirmed the Bashful Prince’s vast potential – and could go a long way toward turning around what has been a mediocre year on both sides of the Pacific. No question, the tsunami-related devastation in his homeland left a mark on the kid’s psyche. At age 19, Ishikawa has one of the purest and most effective putting strokes anywhere. He has also played in enough premium-field events to know what he’s in for, if not what it takes to walk away with a title. This week, it will require a very robust tee ball and some cold towels.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry