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Power Rankings: 2018 Wells Fargo Championship

By Will GrayMay 1, 2018, 3:12 pm

The PGA Tour heads to North Carolina this week for the Wells Fargo Championship. A field of 156 players will tackle a difficult test at Quail Hollow Club, which hosted the PGA Championship just nine months ago.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - 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.

Brian Harman won this event last year by one shot over Dustin Johnson when it was held at Eagle Point. Here are 10 names to watch in Charlotte:

1. Rory McIlroy: When it comes to Quail Hollow, McIlroy is an undisputed No. 1. The Ulsterman earned his first Tour win here back in 2010, lost a playoff two years later and blistered the course again en route to win No. 2 in 2015. He racked up six top-10s in seven trips from 2010-16 and finished T-22 at last year's PGA.

2. Justin Thomas: The last time Thomas played the Green Mile, he left with the Wanamaker Trophy. He hasn't slowed down since his major breakthrough at Quail Hollow, and this week has a chance to reach No. 1 in the world. His T-7 finish here in 2015 shows that last year's performance was no outlier.

3. Rickie Fowler: Like Thomas, Fowler has thrived on this course both as a major test and as a regular Tour stop. This is where Fowler got his first career win, back in 2012 in a playoff over McIlroy and D.A. Points, and he finished T-5 or better both in 2016 and at last year's PGA. Making his first start since a Masters runner-up.

4. Patrick Reed: Reed makes his first stroke-play start as a major champ on the course where he cracked the top 10 at a major for the first time just nine months ago. Reed's runner-up at the PGA was a sign of things to come, and he has made the cut every time he's played this event at Quail Hollow while finishing outside the top 35 just once.

5. Jason Day: The former world No. 1 remains in the midst of a return to form, with top-25 finishes in each of four stroke-play starts this year. That includes a win at Torrey Pines and a runner-up at Pebble Beach, and now Day heads back to a course where he finished T-9 in his last Wells Fargo appearance and matched the same result at the PGA despite a disastrous quadruple bogey during the third round that ended his title chances.

6. Phil Mickelson: Mickelson makes his post-Masters return on a course where he has done everything but win, having finished fifth or better a whopping six times at Quail Hollow since 2007. While he missed the cut at the PGA and has largely struggled since his breakthrough win in Mexico, don't be surprised if his name pops up on the leaderboard come Sunday.

7. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama has gotten progressively better in each appearance at Quail Hollow, starting with a T-38 finish in 2014 and peaking at last year's PGA when he tied for fifth and had a chance to win coming down the stretch. He is now three starts into his return from a wrist injury and finished T-19 at the Masters.

8. Louis Oosthuizen: Oosthuizen rounded out his career Grand Slam of major runner-ups at Quail Hollow last summer, and in recent weeks he's quietly been displaying some solid form. He teamed with fellow South African Charl Schwartzel to nearly win last week at Zurich, and his last four stroke-play starts have produced three top-20s.

9. Tiger Woods: Woods is a bit of an unknown this week, but his past success is enough to earn a spot on this list. He returns to Quail Hollow for the first time since 2012 and hasn't played the weekend since 2009, but that year he tied for fourth and Woods won this event back in 2007. Making his first start since the Masters, there's reason to suspect he may contend as he did multiple times in Florida.

10. Webb Simpson: Simpson will enjoy the trappings of a home game this week, as he returns to a course where he is a member and was a runner-up to McIlroy back in 2015. Simpson also finished T-4 back in 2012 and has three top-10s in his last six stroke-play starts, including a T-5 finish at the RBC Heritage three weeks ago.

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HOFer Stephenson: Robbie wants to play me in movie

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 4:20 pm

Margot Robbie has already starred in one sports-related biopic, and if she gets her way a second opportunity might not be far behind.

Robbie earned an Academy Award nomination for her work last year as former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in the movie, I Tonya. She also has a desire to assume the role of her fellow Aussie, Jan Stephenson, in a movie where she would trade in her skates for a set of golf clubs.

That's at least according to Stephenson, who floated out the idea during an interview with Golf Australia's Inside the Ropes podcast shortly after being announced as part of the next class of World Golf Hall of Fame inductees.

"We've talked about doing a movie. Margot Robbie wants to play me," Stephenson said.

There certainly would be a resemblance between the two Australian blondes, as Robbie has become one of Hollywood's leading ladies while Stephenson was on the cutting edge of sex appeal during her playing career. In addition to several magazine covers, Stephenson also racked up 16 LPGA wins between 1976-87 including three majors.

Robbie, 28, has also had starring roles in Suicide Squad and The Wolf of Wall Street.

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Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:44 pm

There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.

Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.

"I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."

Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.

"That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."

When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.

"I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."

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Spieth drops out of top 10 for first time since 2014

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:08 pm

As Brooks Koepka ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, a former No. 1 continued a notable decline.

Jordan Spieth didn't play last week's CJ Cup, where Koepka won by four shots. But Jason Day did, and his T-5 finish in South Korea moved him up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10 in the latest rankings. Spieth dropped from 10th to 11th, marking the first time that he has been outside the top 10 in the world rankings since November 2014.

Since that time, he has won 12 times around the world, including three majors, while spending 26 weeks as world No. 1. But he hasn't won a tournament since The Open last July, and this year he missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. Spieth is expected to make his season debut next week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


Koepka and Day were the only movers among the top 10 on a week that saw many top players remain in place. Sergio Garcia's rain-delayed win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters moved him up four spots to No. 27, while Gary Woodland went from 38th to 30th after finishing second behind Koepka on Jeju Island.

Koepka will tee off as world No. 1 for the first time this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where new No. 2 Dustin Johnson will look to regain the top spot. Justin Rose is now third in the world, with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Day rounding out the top 10.

With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods remained 13th in the world for the fifth straight week.

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Pavin's season nearly ends after slow-play penalty

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 1:50 pm

Corey Pavin's season on the PGA Tour Champions nearly came to an end because of a slow-play penalty.

Penalties for pace are often discussed or threatened, but rarely doled out on either the PGA Tour or the over-50 circuit. But that changed Sunday during the final round of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, where Pavin was told by a rules official after completing his round that he would receive a 1-stroke penalty for slow play.

The penalty was on the surface rather harmless, turning an even-par 72 into a 1-over 73 and dropping Pavin into a tie for 15th. But this was the first event of a three-tournament postseason for PGA Tour Champions players, and only the top 54 in points advanced to this week's Invesco QQQ Championship.


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


Pavin, who has two top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season, barely held on at 53rd place after the penalty was enforced.

Slow-play discussions came up earlier this season surrounding Bernhard Langer at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, but Golf Channel analyst Lanny Wadkins expressed his surprise on the telecast that it was Pavin who got a shot added to his score.

"Of all the things to happen with all the times I have played - I can't even count the number of rounds - I never thought Corey Pavin was a slow player," Wadkins said. "All the guys we know are slow players have never been penalized out here. Where has this been for the last 15 years?"

The subject of the penalty also raised an eyebrow from Stephen Ames, who finished alongside Pavin in 15th place while Langer finished second behind Woody Austin: