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Punch Shot: Who is in the current top 5?

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Patrick Reed believes he’s a top-5 player. Or maybe he thinks he can be one. We’re a little confused. But it did get us thinking: Who are the top 5 players in the world – at the moment? We tossed aside the world rankings, focused on the last few months of play, and here are our writers’ current top 5:

By REX HOGGARD

1. Patrick Reed. It’s a virtual push to determine the game’s hottest player between Reed and Jimmy Walker, but the nod has to go to Reed, whose second victory of 2014 (last week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship) came against the year’s deepest field. It doesn’t hurt that Reed has not finished outside the top 25 in ’14.

2. Jimmy Walker. A missed cut (Farmers Insurance Open) between his two victories in 2014 (Sony Open and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am) is his only blemish and he continues to play consistent golf with top-25 showings in his last three starts.

3. Bubba Watson. After a relatively quiet 2013, Watson has rediscovered his form this season. He already has a victory (Northern Trust Open) and two runner-up finishes (WGC-Cadillac Championship and Waste Management Phoenix Open) with Augusta National looming around the corner.

4. Dustin Johnson. Despite a disappointing finish at Doral (T-4), DJ has finished in the top 10 at every stroke-play event this year including runner-up showings at Pebble Beach and the Northern Trust Open.

5. Harris English. He hasn’t missed a cut this year and has been in the hunt at four of his seven events in 2014, including a fourth-place finish at the Sony Open and ninth-place showings in Phoenix and at the Match Play.


By RYAN LAVNER

1. Dustin Johnson

2. Jason Day

3. Bubba Watson

4. Rory McIlroy

5. Patrick Reed

No one in the game has been better week-in, week-out than DJ, who has finished inside the top 6 in each of his last six stroke-play events on Tour. Not far behind is Day, who has won twice and finished outside the top 25 just once since August. Bubba has two runners-up in his last four starts, while McIlroy has done everything but win so far in 2014. And, yes, rounding out the top 5 is Reed, after recording three wins in his last 14 starts.


By JASON SOBEL

Full disclosure: In my initial draft, the ordering was listed as 1. Tiger Woods; 2 (tie). Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott; 4. Phil Mickelson; 5. Sergio Garcia.

Then I was informed that this is supposed to be our opinion of the most torrid players as of late, not the best or most talented. Sorry, fellas. As course designer extraordinaire Donald Trump would say: You’re fired. (And yes, it pained me to even type that sentence.) So, here are the hottest players, in descending order so as not to ruin the surprise:

5. Jimmy Walker. Three wins before the month of March. The Renowned of the Wraparound (catchy, right?) can put things into cruise control and still make the Ryder Cup team.

4. Harris English. Leads the PGA Tour with six top-10s and hasn’t MC’d since August. Bold prediction: He wins again before he misses another cut.

3. Dustin Johnson. He might be a bad-decision first-ballot Hall of Famer. And yet, things seem to work.

2. Bubba Watson. Last four starts: 2-9-Win-2. Nobody ever thought he could win a Masters, but now lots of people think he could win two. Hmmm.

1. Patrick Reed. Top-five? The brash 23-year-old backed it up. Or maybe he actually held back. According to my list, he could have gone all Muhammad Ali on us: “I am the greatest!”


By RANDALL MELL

1. Bubba Watson: Those pair of 64s on the weekend to win Northern Trust get your attention. So do the T-2s at the WGC-Cadillac and Waste Management Phoenix Open.

2. Patrick Reed: Two wins already this calendar year, enough said . . . Unless, of course, Patrick wishes to expand on these matters.

3. Jimmy Walker: Two wins this calendar year keep him radiating heat.

4. Dustin Johnson: In four stroke-play starts in PGA Tour events this year, he has finished second twice, fourth once and T-6.

5. Jason Day: In three PGA Tour starts this year, he has a win (Accenture Match Play) and a T-2 (Farmers Insurance Open).


By WILL GRAY

Ranking the best players in the game at any given point in time is a soft science if ever there was one, but my current list would be topped by Rory McIlroy. The former world No. 1 is showing signs of returning to that lofty perch, with near-misses in Abu Dhabi and Palm Beach Gardens serving as recent highlights. When he’s in form, few can keep pace, and McIlroy appears to be finding his game just in time for Augusta.

Next on my list would be two of the game’s biggest bombers: Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. Bubba gets the nod over DJ because of his win at Riviera last month, but both have spent nearly all of 2014 inside the top 10, and both contended down the stretch at Doral.

Accenture champ Jason Day would follow in fourth, despite the thumb injury that led to his withdrawal last week in Miami. The Aussie also won the World Cup in his homeland late last year, opened his 2014 campaign with a runner-up finish at Torrey Pines and has clearly demonstrated an ability to contend – and win – against even elite fields.

Rounding out my top five is Zach Johnson, who has been firing on all cylinders since last summer. The 37-year-old has hoisted three trophies since September, including a victory at the winners-only stop in Kapalua to start the year – which he followed with two more top-10s. Johnson is among the best in the game from 125 yards and in, and he’s been able to translate that skill into consistently low scores for several months.