Crystal ball: 2014-15 PGA Tour predictions

By Rex HoggardOctober 5, 2014, 9:23 pm

The PGA Tour awakens from its long offseason slumber this week with the 2014-15 season’s leadoff event at the Open. Seems like just yesterday Billy Horschel was fist pumping his way to the $10 million jackpot at East Lake ...

Before Thursday’s opening day, we peak into the crystal ball to see what awaits the golf world next season.

A rookie will emerge as an elite player: With a monsoon of respect to Chesson Hadley, the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year, last year’s first-timer class wasn’t exactly a blue-chip group. In fact, only two rookies from last year’s original class finished inside the top 125 on the final FedEx Cup points list.

But this year’s class has all the markings of something special. While the Tour’s small print relegated Brooks Koepka and Victor Dubuisson to last year’s class, the duo combined to play just 26 events last season and will be rookies in everything but name. This year’s class will also include the likes of Carlos Ortiz, Justin Thomas and Andrew Putnam from the Tour, who have all been tabbed as potential stars.

The U.S. will win a team competition, but just barely: Although this is hardly a stretch considering that the last time the U.S. Presidents Cup team lost (1998), Jordan Spieth was in kindergarten. 

Just don’t expect another rout.

Nick Price was solid in his captaining debut in 2013 and gets another chance to crack the code late next year in South Korea with an impressive group of young players.

Patrick Reed becomes a top-5 player: The fiery American earned plenty of street cred for his play at the Ryder Cup, and despite a sometimes-gruff demeanor, he won over more than a few fans and Tour frat brothers with his play and passion in Scotland.

Expect Reed to pick up where he left off.

A player (probably Jimmy Walker) will earn a trip to East Lake before Thanksgiving: Consider that through the fall portion of last season’s schedule, Walker had earned 684 points, primarily through his victory at the Open and sixth-place finish at the CIMB Classic, which was nearly enough to secure his spot in the third playoff stop.

Chances are good that someone goes one better this fall.

A player completes the career Grand Slam: No not Rory McIlroy, although the Northern Irishman seems likely to make things interesting next spring when he arrives at Augusta National a green jacket shy of the career accomplishment.

It’s Phil Mickelson, however, who closes out the career foursome at June’s U.S. Open. Many of the expectations Lefty dealt with in 2014 at Pinehurst will be mitigated by arguably his worst n the Tour. But at 44 years old, the southpaw still has something to prove.

Tiger Woods makes history: Still not sure if the often-injured star is able to reach Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18 Grand Slam titles, but after a few months on the DL, it seems likely he can notch major No. 15 next season. If 2013, when he won five times, taught us anything it's that when Woods is anywhere close to 100 percent, he can still be a dominant force.

What makes that potential win historic is that he secures major glory for the first time without a swing coach at his side.

An Australian wins the Masters: After Adam Scott broke the Aussie “duck” at Augusta National in 2013, more players from down under have targeted the season’s first major, but the last Aussie standing next April will be Jason Day, who has two top-3 finishes in four starts at the Masters and should finally be healthy enough to fulfill all that potential.

Billy Horschel receives a captain’s pick: After Horschel’s stellar finish to the 2013-14 season, it doesn’t seem likely he’ll need one of Jay Haas’ captain’s picks to play the Presidents Cup, but the excitable American has a history of streaky play.

Even if Horschel doesn’t have his best stuff this season, there is no way Haas doesn’t make him a pick. Consider it a learning moment after the Ryder Cup.

Dustin Johnson returns from hiatus: And tells anyone who will listen that he wasn’t suspended by the PGA Tour for failing a third drug test, which was reported earlier this year by
But Johnson, who has proven himself adept at playing through distractions, quickly changes the conversation with an early win, marking his eighth consecutive season with at least one Tour victory.

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.