Power Rankings: WGC-Cadillac Championship

By Will GrayMarch 4, 2014, 10:38 pm

This week marks the 16th (and 17th) events of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, with each of the top 50 players in the world teeing it up in the WGC-Cadillac Championship (our rankings for the Puerto Rico Open can be found here). A field of 69 players will tackle the Blue Monster at Trump Doral, where Gil Hanse has recently renovated one of the longest-tenured venues on Tour.

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World No. 1 Tiger Woods returns to defend the title he won last year by two shots over Steve Stricker. Here are 10 players to watch this week outside Miami:

1. Rory McIlroy: Despite his late collapse at the Honda Classic, McIlroy is inching ever closer to the form that won him two majors by the age of 23. The newly-renovated Blue Monster will reward his aggressive play off the tee, and McIlroy has finished inside the top 10 each of the last three years here, including a third-place showing in 2012. The Ulsterman has shown before that he has a short memory when needed, and he could put last week's disappointment behind him quickly with a high finish at Doral.

2. Adam Scott: The Aussie will play alongside Tiger Woods each of the first two rounds, and has his sights set on taking the top spot in the world ranking from him by week's end. Scott quietly notched a tie for 12th at PGA National, shooting par or better in each of his four rounds, and has finished T-6 or better twice in his last three starts at Doral. He continues to try to sharpen his form heading back to Augusta, and should take a significant step in that direction this week.

3. Dustin Johnson: Doral tends to favor those that are both long and aggressive off the tee, and that remains the case after the Hanse alterations. Johnson fits both of those categories and has been playing stellar golf of late, with back-to-back runner-up finishes last month at Pebble Beach and Riviera. He was also a runner-up here in 2011, and tied for 12th just a year ago.

4. Tiger Woods: Sluggish start. Bad back. Woods faces a multitude of questions entering this week, but should he opt to tee it up he remains a player to watch on a course where he has experienced great success in years past. Woods won here in relatively easy fashion last year and his final-round withdrawal in 2012 marks the only time he's finished outside the top 10 since the event moved to Doral.

5. Keegan Bradley: Bradley's T-12 at Honda continued his recent stretch of stellar, albeit unspectacular results. While he's not contending for trophies, he is cashing sizeable checks this year, which makes him a viable fantasy option. Bradley has only made two prior starts at Doral, but he's finished inside the top 10 in both instances - a tie for eighth in 2012, followed by a solo seventh last year. Currently fifth on Tour in total driving.

6. Jason Day: The Aussie enters off a confidence-building win at Dove Mountain, having survived the match-play bracket and risen to No. 4 in the latest rankings as a result. Day has long been a contender in top-tier events against some of the world's best, and tied for second in his 2014 debut at Torrey Pines in January. Dating back to his win at the World Cup in November, Day's results are beginning to catch up to his form - a scary prospect for the other 68 players in this week's field.

7. Sergio Garcia: The Spaniard opened with 72 last week at PGA National, but broke par across each of the final three rounds to nab a tie for eighth. It marked his fourth straight top-11 finish to begin the 2013-14 season, a stat that does not take into account his win in Qatar in January. Garcia has never been higher in the world rankings, and now returns to Miami where he tied for third a year ago. Expect another similar result this time around.

8. Jordan Spieth: Spieth is the only player in this week's rankings who has never played in this event before, but that is a stat that has rarely held the 20-year-old back in the past. Spieth has only finished outside the top 20 once in seven starts this season (a missed cut at the Sony Open), a trend he's likely to continue this week at Doral. Aggressive play and frequent birdies have long been a recipe for success at Doral, and Spieth has been known for both during his tear through the world rankings over the past year.

9. Bubba Watson: Watson nearly caught Justin Rose here in 2012, a precursor to his Masters triumph. Now he returns to Doral just three weeks removed from his win at the Northern Trust Open, his first since donning the green jacket. Watson also nearly won last month in Phoenix, and his run through the match-play bracket was only halted by Victor Dubuisson, the eventual runner-up at Dove Mountain. He's now broken par in six of his last eight competitive rounds on the Blue Monster.

10. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar snapped a streak of three straight top-10 finishes in this event with his T-35 last year, but still clearly has an affinity for south Florida golf. A missed cut at Riviera remains the lone hiccup on his 2013-14 ledger to date, as each of Kuchar's other four starts this season have netted a top-10 finish. He remains one of the most solid players tee-to-green, and should he gain a feel for the greens at Trump Doral could certainly contend this weekend.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”