Power Rankings: Honda Classic

By Will GrayFebruary 26, 2013, 4:53 pm

This week the PGA Tour heads to the Sunshine State, beginning a stretch of four consecutive events in Florida. First up is The Honda Classic, staged at PGA National and once again boasting a strong field that features four of the game's top six in the current rankings.

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Rory McIlroy returns to defend the title he won last year over a hard-charging Tiger Woods, a victory that propelled him to No. 1 in the world. Here are 10 players to watch this week as the game's best try to tame the 'Bear Trap' in South Florida:

1. Justin Rose: The Englishman has finished inside the top five each of his last two appearances here, including a third-place result in 2010. Rose led the Tour in GIR percentage in 2012, a metric that will be key this week, and showed an ability to win on Florida courses at Doral a year ago.

2. Graeme McDowell: Unlike many on this list, G-Mac had a solid showing at last week's Match Play, and now heads to Honda where he has been inside the top 10 each of the last two years. Now living in Orlando, the Ulsterman has plenty of experience on the Bermuda greens he'll see this week.

3. Charl Schwartzel: Stubbed his toe against Russell Henley at Dove Mountain, but his track record across the last few months is reason enough to keep him high on the list. Finished T-14 in his first Honda appearance in 2011, and improved upon that with a T-5 showing here last year. 

4. Tiger Woods: His closing 62 last year remains the lowest Sunday round of his career, but prior to that round he was just 18th entering the final round. Woods didn't make a bogey in his first-round loss at the Match Play, but is also making just his second appearance in this event at PGA National.

5. Louis Oosthuizen: Making his third Honda start, but surprisingly still seeking his first result after withdrawing due to illness midway through the event in both 2011 and 2012. Already has a win in South Africa this year to his credit, and is approaching the part of the season where he heated up a year ago.

6. Rory McIlroy: The defending champ returns with more questions than answers after a rough start to 2013. One of only two players last year with all four rounds in the 60s, the Ulsterman may still be getting used to his new equipment, having played only three competitive rounds thus far this year.

7. Fredrik Jacobson: One of the hottest players around, Jacobson parlayed top-10 finishes at both Pebble Beach and Riviera into a third-round showing at Dove Mountain. The Swede has been inside the top 30 here in four straight appearances, including back-to-back top-10 finishes in 2009 and 2010. 

8. Lee Westwood: The Englishman is playing in the States for the fourth week in a row, and has been inside the top 10 at Honda two of the last three years. While overshadowed by Woods' 62 a year ago, Westwood fired a 63 of his own in the final round to finish alone in fourth place.

9. Ernie Els: A winner here in 2008, Els had a solid outing in his last stroke-play event (T-13 at Riviera) before a first-round exit in Arizona. The reigning British Open champion has a pair of top-25 finishes here since 2009, including a T-21 showing last year.

10. Charles Howell III: Buoyed by his upset win over Woods at the Match Play, Howell heads to an event where he sandwiched a T-10 finish in 2011 around T-26s in both 2010 and 2012. Currently No. 64 in the world, Howell needs to crack the top 50 by month's end to make it into The Masters.

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Descending into golf's depths, and trying to dig out

By Brandel ChambleeApril 23, 2018, 3:05 pm

Watching Alvaro Quiros finish second this past week in Morocco, I was reminded of just how rare it is for player to come back from the depths of golf hell.

Quiros, a player of immense ability, hype and length, won the Dubai World Championship – his sixth win in four years – to close out 2011 and then went down the rabbit hole of trying to change his golf swing. He would miss 11 cuts in 2012 and either miss the cut or withdraw in another 41 European Tour events over the next four years. Because he hadn’t won a major championship, his epic backwards slide in the world rankings (435th prior to this past week) mostly went unnoticed – but it was far from unusual.

Ian Baker-Finch won the 1991 Open Championship, but just three years later, when he played 20 events on the PGA Tour and missed 14 cuts, he no longer looked anything like a recent major champion. In 1995, he played in 18 events and either missed the cut, withdrew or was disqualified from every one of them. In 1996, he missed the cut in all 11 events he entered on the PGA Tour; and in 1997, he shot 92 in the first round of The Open, withdrew from the championship and stopped playing professional golf.

Like Quiros, Baker-Finch’s downfall came after his biggest win, when he finally thought he had the time, because of the 10-year exemption he received, to change his golf swing.

David Duval won the 2001 Open Championship and just two years later he shot 83-78 in the same event and missed the cut, which was one 16 events he either missed the cut or withdrew from that year. In 2005, he missed 18 cuts in 19 starts. Duval’s competitive demise may well have been precipitated by injuries and an existential malaise after winning golf’s oldest championship, but it was accompanied by queries far and wide as to how to correct his swing and thinking, just like Baker-Finch before him and Quiros thereafter.

These desperate searches for help, like the indelible ink stains on dyer’s hands, are the one common thread amongst those who suffer from the absolute negation of their technical and then creative abilities. Those who take as indisputable the theories of others are, in the deepest sense, wounding their own intuition. They are controverting the evidence of their own senses in such a way that is comforting to the insecure player, but tragic to the artist. To quote Carl Jung: “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.”

As I write this, PGA Tour winners Steven Bowditch (1,885th in the world) and Smylie Kaufman (337th) are in similar downward spirals in their careers and no doubt are desperate for, and susceptible to any suggestion.

One player they can look to who made it back from the frantic madness that accompanies losing one’s game, is Henrik Stenson. He put his trust in one man, Pete Cowen, even though while working with Pete he missed 14 cuts in 2002, followed by 15 missed cuts in 2003, and 11 in 2004. What Stenson did not do was panic and run from teacher to teacher, from shrink to shrink, as the missed cuts piled up.

Stenson, with Cowen’s help, slowly built one of the most reliable swings in the history of the game. A swing that regularly leads events in fairways found and greens hit in regulation. A swing that authored the lowest score ever shot in major championship history. A swing that is a far cry from the OB-launching swipes he was taking in late-2001 and 2002.

Given the soul-eating depths of where he came from, a place from which few have dug themselves out of, I watch Stenson play golf with a far great admiration than I otherwise would, and similarly was pulling for Quiros in Morocco. The same way I am pulling for Bowditch and Kaufman to find their games again.

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Langer skipping Senior PGA for son's HS graduation

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 2:53 pm

Defending champion Bernhard Langer will miss this year’s Senior PGA Championship to attend his son’s high school graduation.

Langer made the announcement Monday, during Senior PGA media day at Harbor Shores in Michigan. The event will be held May 24-27.

“I won’t be able to defend my title this year because my son graduates from high school that very same weekend,” he said. “Family comes first in my life, so I have to be there to celebrate.”

Langer said that his son, Jason, will play golf for the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. Langer and his family live in South Florida.

Langer won last year’s event at Trump National outside Washington, D.C. The 60-year-old has no wins but three runners-up in eight senior starts this season.  

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Landry reaches OWGR career high after Valero win

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:40 pm

After notching his first career PGA Tour win at the Valero Texas Open, Andrew Landry also reached unprecedented heights in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Ranking.

Landry shot a final-round 68 at TPC San Antonio to win by two shots, and in the process he cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time at age 30. Landry started the week ranked No. 114, but he's now up to 66th. The move puts him within reach of a possible U.S. Open exemption, given that the top 60 in the May 21 rankings will automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills.

Trey Mullinax went from No. 306 to No. 169 with his T-2 finish in San Antonio, while fellow runner-up Sean O Hair jumped 29 spots to No. 83 in the world. Jimmy Walker, who finished alone in fourth, went from No. 88 to No. 81 while fifth-place Zach Johnson moved up five spots to No. 53.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

Alexander Levy took home the title at the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II, allowing the Frenchman to move from No. 66 to No. 47. With no OWGR points available at this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Levy is guaranteed to stay inside the top 50 next week, thereby earning a spot in The Players.

Idle since an MDF result at the Houston Open, former world No. 1 Lee Westwood dropped two spots to No. 100 this week. It marks the first time Westwood has been ranked 100th or worse in nearly 15 years, ending a streak of consistency that dates back to September 2003.

The top 10 in the rankings remained the same, with Dustin Johnson leading off at No. 1 followed by Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose. Rickie Fowler remains No. 6 with Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia rounding out the top 10.

With no starts announced until the U.S. Open in June, Tiger Woods dropped two more spots to No. 91 in the latest rankings.

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What's in the bag: Valero Texas Open winner Landry

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 12:34 pm

Andrew Landry won his first PGA Tour event at the Valero Texas Open. Here's a look inside the winners' bag.

Driver: Ping G30 (9 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 65X shaft

Fairway woods: Ping G (14.5 degrees adjusted to 15.5), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 75X shaft; (17.5 degrees), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 85X shaft

Irons: Ping iBlade (3-PW), with Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 105 S shafts

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (52, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts

Putter: Ping PLD ZB-S

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x