Power Rankings: 2017 Wells Fargo Championship

By Will GrayMay 2, 2017, 11:50 am

The 2017 fantasy golf season heads east this week, as the focus of the golf world shifts to the Tar Heel State for the Wells Fargo Championship. A field of 144 players will tackle Eagle Point Golf Club, which is hosting the event for the first time.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

James Hahn won this event last year in a playoff over Roberto Castro. Here are 10 players to watch in Wilmington:

1. Dustin Johnson: Johnson makes his much-anticipated return from injury this week and will make his first start since winning the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. He won that tournament of course, just as he did his prior two starts, and deserves to be a favorite in a moderately weak field despite any lingering concerns about rust.

2. Jon Rahm: The Spaniard has been cruising since his breakthrough win at Torrey Pines in January, with no finish worse than his T-27 result at the Masters. After taking three weeks off, he'll get back to action on a venue where his lack of course knowledge is neutralized by a new venue - not that it's exactly slowed him down elsewhere this year.

3. Kevin Kisner: Kisner nearly willed a victory for him and Scott Brown at the Zurich Classic before falling short in a Monday playoff. But he's familiar in the southeast, often plays some of his best golf here and now has contended three times this spring. A runner-up finish at Bay Hill and a T-11 finish at Harbour Town show that another win is close.

4. Phil Mickelson: Lefty has been a mainstay at this event since its inception, but he'll be starting from scratch just like everyone else with the shift to Eagle Point. But he has six top-25 finishes in nine starts since coming back from hernia surgery, a solid run of consistency for a player still looking for his first win in nearly four years.

5. Adam Scott: After Johnson, Scott is the next highest-ranked player in this week's field at No. 11 in the world. His typically strong ball-striking stats have taken a bit of a dip this season, but the Aussie finished T-9 at the Masters in his most recent start and heads to North Carolina rested after three weeks off.

6. Daniel Berger: Berger's missed cut last week alongside Thomas Pieters at Zurich was certainly a surprise given the form with which he entered the week. Berger won last year in Memphis and has top-10 finishes in both Houston and Phoenix this season. He enters this week ranked 15th on Tour in birdie average, so he should have no trouble adding circles to his scorecard.

7. Wesley Bryan: Bryan makes his first individual start since winning the RBC Heritage last month. That victory at Harbour Town was certainly no fluke given his prior opportunities at Riviera and PGA National, and the rookie clearly thrives when tee-to-green proficiency is required. With four top-10s in his last six starts, confidence is clearly not a concern.

8. Paul Casey: The Englishman continues to quietly contend, his latest effort being a T-6 finish at Augusta National. Casey hasn't won on Tour since 2009 but he has been a consistent challenger this season, with T-16 or better in four of his last five starts overall. He boasts a strong stat line that includes 16th in strokes gained tee-to-green and sixth in strokes gained around-the-green.

9. William McGirt: Webb Simpson will get plenty of attention this week as an Eagle Point member, but McGirt may be the local to keep an eye on. He has shown no signs of regression after notching his first win last year at the Memorial, and now he returns to his native state on a run of three straight top-25s that includes a T-22 finish in his Masters debut and a T-3 finish at Harbour Town.

10. Bud Cauley: After injury stalled his early rise as a pro, Cauley appears to have found his footing. Top-10 finishes in each of his last two individual starts show that the former Alabama product is ready to contend, and he made it three in a row last week by teaming with Justin Thomas for a T-5 finish in New Orleans.

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'Get in the squad car!': Fan ejected for heckling Garcia

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 11:46 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Early Wednesday morning at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about fan behavior in recent weeks.

Although Monahan stressed that anything that impacts play inside the ropes would not be tolerated, he did address an incident like what happened a few weeks ago when a fan yelled for Justin Thomas’ ball to “get in the bunker.”

“That’s part of what our players have to accept,” Monahan said. “In any sport, you go to an away game in any other sport and people aren’t rooting for you. Sometimes out here you’re going to have fans that aren’t rooting for you, but they can’t interfere with what you’re trying to do competitively.”

That theory was put to the test later on Wednesday when Sergio Garcia found himself in a similar situation on the 12th hole at Austin Country Club and the fan was removed from the course.

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“The guy obviously was shouting not very nice things at me. So I pointed him out to my [police] officer and then he decided to get him out of the course because he was being disrespectful not only to me but to everyone around,” said Garcia following his Day 2 match, a 2-up victory over Dylan Frittelli.

“Crowds in our game have gotten bigger. So obviously it's not just golf crowds that you get now. And sometimes unfortunately you get one or two guys that are probably having too much fun and a little bit too much liquid and unfortunately it happens.”

Last weekend at Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy suggested the Tour should consider limiting alcohol sales on the course and he was again asked about fan behavior on Thursday.

“What is too much? If they are not shouting in your backswing then it's OK? It all depends,” McIlroy said. “I made my comments last week on St. Patrick's Day when everyone was just a few too many deep. I don't know, I'm all for people coming out here, having a good time. I think what happened to Justin Thomas at the Honda, that went over the line.”

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Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

“I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

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The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

“The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

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Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

“We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

“I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

“I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

“I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

 Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

“Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

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Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

Hey, whatever works.