Power Rankings: 2015 RBC Heritage

By Will GrayApril 14, 2015, 3:47 pm

The 23rd event of the wraparound season is upon us, as many of the game's best make the short drive from Augusta, Ga., to the coast of South Carolina for the RBC Heritage. A field of 132 will tackle Harbour Town Golf Links, where the winner will receive the tartan jacket.

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Matt Kuchar won this event a year ago by one shot over Luke Donald. Here are 10 players to watch in Hilton Head:

1. Jordan Spieth: The Masters champ probably hasn't gotten much sleep in the last few days, but his red-hot form can't be ignored. Two wins and a pair of runner-up finishes in his last four starts, and now Spieth tees it up at a course where he has finished T-9 and T-12 in his two prior appearances. The threat of a hangover is real, but he still deserves the top spot.

2. Patrick Reed: While Spieth deservedly grabbed headlines this week, Reed has now compiled four straight top-25 finishes despite tweaking his knee in Houston. He ranks eighth on Tour in total strokes gained and 19th in scoring average, and Reed will likely be motivated to catch up with the newly-anointed rising star of American golf.

3. Zach Johnson: One of the game's more accurate players with a wedge in his hands, Johnson has a pair of T-9 finishes sandwiched around a T-20 result in San Antonio. He has two prior top-10 finishes at Harbour Town, including a runner-up in 2012, and Johnson is 19th this season in strokes gained tee-to-green.

4. Webb Simpson: Simpson has been mostly on the fringe of contention this season, but his stat line suggests that may change this week. A playoff runner-up at this event in 2013, Simpson has two other top-15 finishes here since 2010 and ranks eighth in scoring average, ninth in ball-striking and second in the all-around ranking.

5. Ian Poulter: The Englishman quietly compiled a very solid weekend at Augusta National, going 67-67 while hitting 32 of 36 greens in regulation. He's making just his second trip to Hilton Head since 2006, but his ball-striking is rounding into form as evidenced by his run of four top-25 finishes across his last five starts.

6. Jim Furyk: Furyk enters off his first missed cut in nearly two years, but the veteran usually puts up a solid result at Harbour Town. Furyk has six top-10 finishes at this event since 2005, highlighted by his win in 2010, and he finished T-7 last year. While he has struggled on the greens this season, he still ranks fifth in fairways hit and eighth in strokes gained tee-to-green.

7. Charley Hoffman: Hoffman was the surprise name on the Masters leaderboard over the weekend, but his T-9 finish was his third straight result of T-11 or better. Hoffman has also had some success at Harbour Town, with a T-8 finish in 2012 followed by a T-6 showing in 2013 where he held the 54-hole lead before fading with a Sunday 77.

8. Luke Donald: Donald's spot is a nod to course history over current form. He's in the midst of a mediocre season, with only one top-40 finish in nine starts, but his Heritage record is unparalleled: five top-three finishes over the last six years, including three runner-up results. He appeared in position to win last year before Kuchar's hole-out, and perhaps a friendly venue can spark his return to form.

9. Russell Henley: Henley finished T-6 in 2013 in his Heritage debut, and he followed a fourth-place showing in Houston last week at the Masters, where he finished 21st. Henley has made the cut in each of his 11 starts this season and ranks inside the top 15 in both total driving (14th) and strokes gained putting (15th).

10. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar won this event last year in dramatic fashion, but his typically-consistent form has become a bit rocky in recent weeks. He faded over the weekend in Houston and was never a factor at Augusta National, where he finished T-46. He hasn't had a top-10 finish since January, but he has cracked the top 25 at Harbour Town four times since 2008.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

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

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

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.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

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.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

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.

Full coverage of the 147th Open 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.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”