After Further Review: Fowler keeps coming up clutch

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 25, 2016, 2:55 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds:

On Fowler winning in Abu Dhabi ...

Rickie Fowler is looking more and more comfortable in the most uncomfortable position in golf.

He was spectacular beating a terrific field at The Players Championship last spring, playing the final 10 holes, four of them playoff holes, in 8 under.

He was impressive at the Scottish Open last summer, making birdies at three of the final four holes to beat a strong field prepping for The Open Championship.

He was nerveless coming from three shots behind ball-striking machine Henrik Stenson on the final nine holes to win the Deutsche Bank Championship last September.

He didn't flinch on the back nine Sunday to win the Abu Dhabi Championship with Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy getting all the pretournament hype.

Mostly, Fowler is looking more and more equipped to win his first major this year. – Randall Mell


On the state of the game ...

Golf hasn’t been in hands this capable since Jack Nicklaus was collecting his 18 major championships.

This has been building since Jordan Spieth won last year’s Masters, but on Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship the new normal was etched down the leaderboard. In order, world No. 4 Rickie Fowler, No. 3 Rory McIlroy and No. 1 Jordan Spieth were first, third and fifth, respectively.

Spieth won the PGA Tour year lid-lifter in Maui, Fowler cashed the week’s biggest check in Abu Dhabi, McIlroy looked in mid-season form for most of the tournament and world No. 2 Jason Day returns to Torrey Pines on Thursday to defend his Farmers Insurance Open title.

It’s a collective brilliance that leaves the game at an impressive crossroads. – Rex Hoggard


On Rickie vs. Rory ...

As difficult as they are to create in golf, fans pine for rivalries.

Of course, fans aren’t the only ones. Rivalries are pretty good for business around these parts, too. But after months of Rory vs. the world, or Jordan vs. Jason, or (as was the case this week) Jordan vs. Rory, there is a chance we’ve missed one.

Perhaps despite all the other well-discussed options, the true budding rivalry could be Rory McIlroy versus Rickie Fowler.

Fowler now has five worldwide victories, three of which have essentially come at the hands of McIlroy. The Ulsterman’s rally fell short Sunday in Abu Dhabi as he finished T-3, and back in 2012 he watched as Fowler sealed his first PGA Tour win in a playoff over he and D.A. Points at Quail Hollow.

Going even further back, Fowler’s first professional win came in Korea in 2011 over, you guessed it, McIlroy.

Of course, McIlroy has gotten his jabs in as well, notably edging Fowler at both the Open Championship and PGA Championship in 2014. But before we rush to confine golf to the Big (Insert Number), it might be wise to give a Fowler-McIlroy rivalry enough time to spring roots and grow. – Will Gray

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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.”