Power Rankings: 2014 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

By Will GrayJuly 29, 2014, 5:37 pm

This week marks the 38th event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as the Tour heads to Ohio for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. An elite field of 76 players will tee it up this week at Firestone Country Club, with the season's final major now just one week away.

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Tiger Woods returns to defend the title he won here a year ago by seven shots over Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson. Here are 10 names to watch this week in Akron:

1. Rory McIlroy: No reason to back off McIlroy now that he's making his first start as Open champion. The Ulsterman has finished no worse than T-25 all season long on the PGA Tour, and now he heads to Akron with unlimited confidence. Despite a pedantic record at Firestone, he's the odds-on favorite for a reason this week.

2. Adam Scott: Scott won here in 2011, the highlight of a trio of top-15 finishes since 2010. The Aussie tied for fifth at Royal Liverpool despite getting the short end of the draw, his fourth consecutive top-10 finish on the PGA Tour dating back to his playoff win at Colonial.

3. Jim Furyk: Furyk came agonizingly close to ending his four-year winless drought last week in Canada, but his runner-up finish in Montreal was still his third such result this year and fourth top-five showing in his last seven starts. He has three top-10 finishes in the last four years at Firestone, including T-2 in 2012, and is fifth on Tour in scoring average.

4. Justin Rose: Rose tied for 23rd at the Open, a solid follow-up to back-to-back wins at Congressional and Royal Aberdeen. He was a runner-up at Firestone in 2007 and tied for fifth as recently as 2012. Rose has 10 top-25 finishes in 14 PGA Tour starts this season, and the overall consistency of his game should be rewarded this week in Akron.

5. Rickie Fowler: Fowler notched a second consecutive runner-up finish in a major two weeks ago in England, and is playing with some serious momentum for a player whose last win came in 2012. Fowler has cracked the top 15 in his last four worldwide starts and now tees it up on a course where he tied for second in 2011.

6. Keegan Bradley: Bradley tied for second last year in defense of his Bridgestone title from 2012, and he has broken par in 10 of his 12 competitive rounds at Firestone. His T-19 finish at the Open came on the heels of a tie for fourth at the Greenbrier, and Bradley now has 11 top-20 finishes this season.

7. Jordan Spieth: Spieth is making his first appearance at Firestone, but he's been a model of consistency this season, with eight top-20 finishes in his last 10 starts dating back to his runner-up finish at the Masters. As 2013 showed, a lack of course knowledge is no reason to doubt this 21-year-old.

8. Henrik Stenson: The Swede was a runner-up here a year ago, a result that came in the midst of a torrid stretch that yielded him both the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai titles. While he failed to contend at Royal Liverpool, Stenson does appear to have found his footing after a shaky start to 2014 and enters this week ranked fifth on Tour in total driving.

9. Brendon Todd: While he is making his first appearance at Firestone, Todd may be the hottest American player right now. His T-39 finish at Hoylake was respectable, but it was also his worst finish since May, as the 29-year-old ran off five straight top-20 finishes after his win in Dallas. He enters this week ranked third on Tour in strokes gained putting and fifth in scrambling.

10. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar quietly notched a T-4 finish last week in Canada, his 10th top-10 finish in just 19 starts this season. Kuchar has a solid track record at Firestone, with a pair of top-10 finishes since 2010 and no result worse than T-27 across that stretch.

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1

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Perez (T-3) looks to remedy 'terrible' major record

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 7:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez’s major record is infinitely forgettable. In 24 Grand Slam starts he has exactly one top-10 finish, more than a decade ago at the PGA Championship.

“Terrible,” Perez said when asked to sum up his major career. “I won sixth [place]. Didn't even break top 5.”

It’s strange, however, that his status atop The Open leaderboard through two rounds doesn’t seem out of character. The 42-year-old admits he doesn’t hit it long enough to contend at most major stops and also concedes he doesn’t exactly have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the game’s biggest events, but something about The Open works for him.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I didn't like it the first time I came over. When I went to St. Andrews in '05, I didn't like it because it was cold and terrible and this and that,” he said. “Over the years, I've really learned to like to come over here. Plus the fans are so awesome here. They know a good shot. They don't laugh at you if you hit a bad shot.”

Perez gave the fans plenty to cheer on Friday at Carnoustie, playing 17 flawless holes to move into a share of the lead before a closing bogey dropped him into a tie for third place after a second-round 68.

For Perez, links golf is the great equalizer that mitigates the advantages some of the younger, more powerful players have and it brings out the best in him.

“It's hard enough that I don't feel like I have to hit perfect shots. That's the best,” he said. “Greens, you can kind of miss a shot, and it won't run off and go off the green 40 yards. You're still kind of on the green. You can have a 60-footer and actually think about making it because of the speed.”