Power Rankings: 2015 Masters

By Will GrayApril 7, 2015, 8:05 pm

The first major of the year is upon us: it's time for the Masters. A field of 97 will tackle Augusta National Golf Club this week, where the winner will receive a coveted green jacket.

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Bubba Watson won this event a year ago over Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt. Here are 10 players to watch in Augusta:

1. Bubba Watson: Only three men have ever successfully defended a Masters title, but Watson could become No. 4. The southpaw's game is clearly well-suited for Augusta National, and the wet conditions early in the week should only accentuate his advantages. He has only one round over 71 this season, with no result worse than T-14, and has been one of the most consistent players on Tour this season.

2. Jordan Spieth: Spieth was a runner-up at this event last year and finished second each of the past two weeks in Texas, so perhaps this spot is an appropriate one. Six of his nine starts this year have yielded top-10 finishes, including a win in Tampa, and he ranks third on Tour in scoring average and fifth in strokes gained putting.

3. Jimmy Walker: Walker is the only two-time winner on Tour this season, having lifted the trophy two weeks ago in San Antonio. He finished T-8 in his Masters debut last year, a strong effort from a first-timer, and currently leads the Tour in birdie average while ranking third in strokes gained putting and fourth in par-5 performance. All three metrics will be key to his success this week at Augusta National.

4. Rory McIlroy: The world No. 1 enters in search of the career grand slam, but his play in the weeks leading up to the Masters hasn't been as strong as he would have hoped. Combine that with the palpable pressure he'd face if in contention over the weekend while vying for a third straight major, and this seems like a week when McIlroy records a solid result but doesn't get the elusive green jacket.

5. Jason Day: Day was second here in 2011 and followed with a T-3 finish in 2013, the lone two times the Aussie has been fully healthy at this event. He is in good shape this time around, boosted by his win at the Farmers Insurance Open in February. Day will give himself plenty of chances, but the key to his title run will be getting a balky putter - he is 52nd on Tour in strokes gained putting - to cooperate.

6. Dustin Johnson: DJ doesn't have the best history at Augusta National, but he can counter that with his red-hot current form. His win at Doral highlights a stretch of four top-6 finishes in his last five starts, including a T-6 result in San Antonio when he rebounded from an opening 78. Johnson clearly has the length to handle Augusta National, but success at the Masters requires as much careful strategy as it does brute strength.

7. Henrik Stenson: The world No. 2 enters off a run of three straight top-4 finishes, including a runner-up at Bay Hill when he probably should have won. The Swede has finished T-14 and T-18 each of the last two years at the Masters, but the key to his success will be the area of his game that let him down last month in Orlando: putting.

8. Adam Scott: The Aussie is back to the long putter he used to win here in 2013, which is probably a good idea considering how poorly he putted with the shorter flat stick earlier this year. Scott was also a runner-up in 2011 and hasn't finished worse than T-18 each of the past five years, with only four rounds over par across that span.

9. Patrick Reed: Reed played poorly in his Masters debut last year, but he should fare considerably better this time around. His preferred draw shape is a draw, which bodes well for Augusta National, and he enters off four straight top-25 finishes highlighted by a playoff loss in Tampa. Reed also won in Hawaii in January and won't be lacking for confidence once the competition begins.

10. Justin Rose: This is a nod to past history over current form, as Rose's exemplary Masters record outweighs his poor start to the season. The Englishman has five straight top-25 finishes at this event, highlighted by a T-8 finish in 2012, and while he has missed three cuts in five starts this season, he did show signs of progress with his play last week in Houston.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”