The Year So Far Best Player Biggest Surprise
The West Coast swing usually sets the tone for the rest of the season, or at least builds excitement as golf heads toward The Players Championship and the Masters. This one had about as much buzz as the United States against Britain for the bronze medal in curling.
Four of eight tournaments were decided by three shots or more, and the Match Play Championship in effect ended with six holes remaining. Nine players won nine tournaments, which is not unusual and certainly not a bad thing, but there were no back-nine duels among the top players.
Then again, the top five players competed against each other only once.
Tiger Woods has played only nine rounds on the PGA Tour this year. Ernie Els did not show up until Riviera, and didn't stick around more than one day at La Costa. Seven of the nine winners were ranked outside the top 25 when the season began, the exceptions being Woods and David Toms.
Maybe the Florida swing couldn't get here fast enough.
Woods is the defending champion in the Ford Championship at Doral, where a year ago he rallied in a scintillating Sunday showdown against Phil Mickelson. Nine of the top 10 players in the world ranking are at the Blue Monster, and Ford didn't even have to pay them this year.
Woods already has won, in a playoff at the Buick Invitational. But even that conjures memories of a West Coast swing that fell flat. He won in somber fashion, after Jose Maria Olazabal missed a 4-foot par putt. Woods' last four wins worldwide have been in playoff, a trend that might age him.
Before moving forward, here are a few trends that emerged from two months on the West Coast:
The guy atop the money list is Rory Sabbatini, with a victory and two second-place finishes. He also has made the most significant climb in the world ranking, starting the year at No. 71 and moving up to No. 18.
But the best player was Chad Campbell.
Sabbatini had a chance to win only one tournament, which he did at Riviera. Campbell was tied for the lead going into the final round of the Sony Open before Toms beat him by five, he won the Bob Hope Classic, and he advanced to the quarterfinals of Match Play by beating Woods.
Jack Nicklaus was the last player to win a PGA Tour event during his tenure as Ryder Cup captain. Tom Lehman played as if he wants to be the next.
Lehman hasn't seriously threatened to win, but he had backdoor top 10s at Pebble Beach and Riviera, and advanced to the semifinals of the Accenture Match Play Championship. He is 10th in the Ryder Cup standings heading into the Florida Swing.
Any week in the Ryder Cup standings.
One reason Lehman as a playing-captain might be forgotten by the end of March is the new system that awards quadruple points this year, plus a 75-point bonus for winning. And those are just regular PGA Tour events.
J.B. Holmes, the 23-year-old rookie, won in Phoenix and was 10th in the standings. Arron Oberholser won his first PGA Tour event at Pebble Beach and moved up to sixth. Chris DiMarco was third at the start of the year, and could be out of the top 10 by the end of the week.
It might not be until after the British Open that Lehman has any idea how his team is shaping up, and whether he needs to worry about his putting or shirt sizes.
It seems ludicrous to raise questions about Phil Mickelson when he has finished in the top 10 at four of his first five tournaments. But Mickelson usually makes his mark on the West Coast swing, and this was only fourth time in his 14 full seasons on the PGA Tour that he didn't have a trophy upon arriving in Florida.
Vijay Singh now has gone 13 consecutive starts on the PGA Tour, his longest drought since 2002.
After winning Q-school straight out of college, J.B. Holmes pounded the TPC of Scottsdale into submission to win the FBR Open by seven shots. The kid is long, no doubt, but his age (23) and pedigree (played on the Walker Cup team last year) make his potential tantalizing.
Mike Weir must be having some serious self-doubts.
The Canadian who showed such grit in winning the Masters has wilted twice in the last three weeks. Tied for the lead at Pebble Beach, all he needed was a mediocre game to put heat on Oberholser, but Weir couldn't find the green with a wedge and stumbled to a 78. He had a 4-up lead with four holes to play on Geoff Ogilvy and appeared a lock to get into the quarterfinals until he missed three putts inside 12 feet to close the match, and lost in 21 holes.
Stuart Appleby made clutch putts on two of the last three holes to get into a playoff against Singh at Kapalua, then beat him with an exquisite bunker shot from behind the 18th green that nearly went in.
If not many remember that sequence, maybe they weren't watching.
And if they weren't watching, maybe it was because Woods, Mickelson and Retief Goosen didn't show up, and Els wasn't eligible for the winners-only event.
They all played together for the first time last week at La Costa, and they are together again at the Blue Monster, along with Singh. Perhaps that's what it takes for people to pay attention to the PGA Tour.
People used to say the tour didn't start until Doral.
This year, that might be the case.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba
Conor Moore is known for his impressions of golfers, and he is back with a new video just in time for The Open.
Moore even got the thumbs up from Ian Poulter.
This is hilarious..— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) July 16, 2018
Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite
Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.
Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.
Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.
Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:
12/1: Dustin Johnson
16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose
20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm
25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods
30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed
40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton
50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick
60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson
80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele
100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen
Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC
If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.
Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.
Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.
There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.
There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.
Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.
John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.
Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.
Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.
Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.
“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”
Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.
“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”
But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.
“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”