Power Rankings: Northern Trust Open

By Will GrayFebruary 11, 2014, 8:46 pm

This week marks the 13th event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as players remain in California for the Northern Trust Open. A field of 144 players will tackle Riviera Country Club, home of one of the most iconic clubhouses in the game and one of the most frustrating - and entertaining - par-4 holes around.

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John Merrick returns to defend the title he won last year in a playoff over Charlie Beljan. Here are 10 players to watch this week in Los Angeles:

1. Dustin Johnson: DJ has been feast or famine in this event, with the last five years producing three top-10 finishes along with a pair of missed cuts. Coming off a tie for second at Pebble Beach, though, Johnson doesn't look like a man who lost a step following a month off. He cracked the top five here in both 2010 (T-3) and 2012 (T-4) and is no stranger to playing good golf in the state of California.

2. Jimmy Walker: Good luck trying to bet against Walker right now. After 187 starts without a win, the 35-year-old has three in his last eight starts, including last week's triumph at Pebble. It's hard to find a golfer with more confidence right now than Walker, and he heads to an event where he tied for fourth in both 2011 and 2012.

3. Webb Simpson: Simpson is making just his third start at Riviera, but each of the first two led to top-15 finishes, including a tie for sixth last year. Sparked by his win in Las Vegas to start his 2013-14 campaign, Simpson has been remarkably consistent this season, with four top-10 finishes in five starts including a 10th-place showing last time out in Phoenix. He currently leads the Tour in birdie average.

4. Jordan Spieth: Despite a rocky third round along the coastline last week, Spieth continues to put himself in position to contend and bounced back well with a Sunday 67. Spieth will likely feel comfortable this week at Riviera - two years ago at this same venue, he and his Texas Longhorn teammates captured the 2012 NCAA championship.

5. Hunter Mahan: Mahan tied for eighth at Riviera last year and now has strung together a pair of top-10 finishes in the last two weeks, following his T-4 result in Phoenix with a sixth-place showing at Pebble. Eager to end a winless drought that is approaching two years, Mahan has 18 top-25 finishes in his last 28 official starts dating back to the beginning of last year.

6. Graham DeLaet: Whatever argument existed over who remains the best player without a PGA Tour win was likely silenced last month by DeLaet's back-to-back runner-up finishes at Torrey Pines and TPC Scottsdale. The Canadian led the Tour in ball-striking last season and has picked up right where he left off, meaning it's likely only a matter of time before he's in the winner's circle. Tied for 21st at Riviera a year ago.

7. Keegan Bradley: Bradley lost in a playoff here in 2012, then followed that effort with a T-16 last year. He'll likely be eager to bounce back from a surprising second-round 80 in Phoenix, which led to his first missed cut since the U.S. Open. Prior to that start, the former PGA champion hadn't finished outside the top 20 since August.

8. Justin Rose: The reigning U.S. Open champ is making a rather tardy 2014 debut, having sat out the past few weeks to rest his ailing right shoulder. Rose's last two trips to L.A. resulted in finishes of T-9 (2011) and T-13 (2012), so it appears the Englishman knows his way around Riviera. Rose is no stranger to a truncated playing schedule and should show few if any signs of rust this week.

9. Bill Haas: A winner here in 2012, Haas nearly went back-to-back before missing the playoff last year by a single shot. The former FedEx Cup champ is off to a slow start in 2014, with a T-6 finish at Humana his lone result of note in the new year, but that could all change once Haas returns to a course where he has experienced considerable success since 2011.

10. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar's record at Riviera is solid, albeit unspectacular: five top-40 finishes in his last six starts, though no result better than a T-14 in 2008. The former Players champ made the most of the Aloha swing, with a T-6 at Kapalua followed by a T-8 at Waialae. Now well-rested after more than a month off, Kuchar will look to start his 2013-14 season with a fourth straight top-10 finish this week.

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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.”