Power Rankings: The Masters

By Will GrayApril 8, 2014, 5:22 pm

This week marks the 22nd event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as the Tour heads down Magnolia Lane for the Masters. A field of 97 players will tee it up this week at Augusta National Golf Club, where the winner of the season's first major will claim the coveted green jacket.

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Adam Scott returns to defend the title he won last year in a playoff over Angel Cabrera. Here are 10 players to watch this week in Georgia:

1. Rory McIlroy: The former No. 1 enters a Tiger-less Masters as the consensus favorite. While his next top 10 at Augusta will be his first, McIlroy has the game to contend here, as he showed in 2011 before his Sunday meltdown. He's shown flashes of brilliance this season - remember the approach to the 72nd hole at Honda? - and closed with a 65 Sunday in Houston. If he's on his game, few (if any) can keep up.

2. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar has become the king of close calls this season, with six top-10 finishes but no wins after squandering a four-shot lead at Shell. He remains one of the Tour's most consistent ball-strikers, though, and his solid play tee-to-green will be a huge asset this week. Kuchar has been T-3 and T-8 each of the last two years at Augusta, which parallels Adam Scott's record before his win here a year ago.

3. Adam Scott: The defending champ hasn't teed it up since blowing a big lead at Bay Hill, but despite that setback he remains a threat to go back-to-back. Like Kuchar, Scott is an elite player tee-to-green, especially at Augusta National. The question will be whether his sometimes balky putter cooperates this week, as it did a year ago. If Scott is making mid-range putts with any consistency, the green jacket will be his for another year.

4. Harris English: Augusta is rarely kind to first-time visitors, but this year's rookie class is exceptional and led by English, who boasts a stat line that could make him a true threat to contend. The Georgia grad has won twice since June and contended on several other occasions, and he currently leads the Tour in GIR percentage. He's also third in birdie average, fourth in scoring and fourth in the all-around ranking - a potent combination indeed.

5. Sergio Garcia: Will the golf gods ever permit the Spaniard to win a major? That remains to be seen, but Garcia has a great chance to end his drought this week. He hasn't been outside the top 20 since August, adding a win in Qatar earlier this year and a third-place finish last week in Houston. Garcia held the first-round lead last year and has finished inside the top 12 each of the past two years.

6. Phil Mickelson: Perhaps no one is more excited about the prospect of a Woods-less Masters than Mickelson, and no one in the field can challenge his track record at ANGC, which includes three wins and 14 top-10 finishes. But Lefty may still be sore from the pulled oblique suffered in San Antonio, and it remains to be seen how his body will respond when he inevitably goes full-bore after a driver on the back - er, second - nine.

7. Keegan Bradley: Bradley remains one of the longest hitters on Tour, and has a myriad of top-20 finishes to his credit this season - seven in 11 starts, to be exact. His runner-up finish at Bay Hill was his best shot at a win, but Bradley has a major title to his credit and has the ability to contend with the greats of the game down the stretch. This could be the week where he upgrades from "in contention" to something bigger, better - and greener.

8. Jason Day: The Aussie was one of the trendy names when he won the WGC-Accenture Match Play two months ago, but a thumb injury has kept him on the sideline ever since. Despite the longer-than-ideal layoff, Day's game appears ideally suited for Augusta National, as evidenced by his T-2 finish in 2011 and third-place finish last year, when he stood on the 16th tee during the final round with sole possession of the lead.

9. Lee Westwood: Westwood has hardly been a name to watch since his near-miss at Muirfield last summer, but he is one of only two men with top-15 finishes each of the last four years at Augusta National. Westwood brings a veteran's savvy into this event, and the Englishman has finished inside the top eight three times since 2010. He quietly notched a T-17 last week in Houston, his best result of 2014.

10. Dustin Johnson: Johnson was seen as a significant contender for this week before he bowed out unceremoniously from Houston, citing a bad back before withdrawing after a first-round 80. Despite the injury questions, Johnson has the length off the tee to remain aggressive at Augusta National, and prior to the W/D he had finished inside the top six in each of his four stroke-play starts in 2014.

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”