Punch Shot: Breakout star in 2016

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 3, 2016, 2:15 pm

Daniel Berger and Kevin Kisner were just some of the breakout stars in 2015. Who will make a big splash in 2016? Our writers weigh in.

By RYAN LAVNER

Matt Fitzpatrick.

And yes, if you’re keeping score at home, that’d be back-to-back breakout years for the baby-faced assassin. After ending 2014 at No. 413 in the world, he soared into the top 50 this year on the strength of a European Tour victory and six other top-10s.

The 21-year-old Fitzpatrick didn’t play in a single major this year, but that will change in 2016 because of his top-50 status. His game draws plenty of comparisons to Jordan Spieth, a fellow youngster who won two majors by playing to his strengths – smart preparation, an off-the-charts golf IQ and a superb short game.

Fitzpatrick should make what could be a new-look European Ryder Cup team, and his match-play prowess will make him a tough out at Hazeltine. Don’t be surprised if he’s a top-10 player by this time next year.


By RANDALL MELL

South Africa’s Branden Grace has the resume for a breakout year.

At No. 14 in the Official World Golf Ranking, he is the highest-ranked player without a PGA Tour victory. He was one errant shot onto the railroad tracks on Sunday at Chambers Bay from a possible U.S. Open victory last summer. He followed that up later in the year with a third-place finish at the PGA Championship. He’s only 27, and now for the first time he will be playing as a full-time PGA Tour member. Add in a 5-0-0 week at the Presidents Cup, and this guy’s trending up.

With six career European Tour victories, Grace has more than proven himself overseas. He had his breakout year on the Euro Tour in 2012, winning four times. A victory in the United States could move him among the top 10 in the world rankings, and a major would put him in the mix with all the other young stars rising up in the ranks.


By REX HOGGARD

Perhaps Kevin Kisner already qualifies as a breakout star following breakthrough victory on the PGA Tour at Sea Island in November.

A week prior, he finished second in a deep field at the WGC-HSBC Champions. It was Kisner’s fourth runner-up showing of 2015, a run that began at the RBC Heritage in April when he suffered, on that occasion to a determined Jim Furyk, the first of three playoff losses.

He was beaten for the second time in extra holes at The Players Championship when Rickie Fowler turned in what was arguably the year’s most clutch performance down the stretch.

Another near miss at the Greenbrier Classic in July seemed to solidify Kisner’s fate for ’15 as a perennial bridesmaid, but he never doubted himself.

“This year I saw the strides where I'm leading coming into Saturday or taking the lead early in the week or having a chance on Sunday,” he said following his victory at the RSM Classic. “I knew if I kept playing that way I was going to win one sooner or later.”

It’s the same internal drive that will take Kisner to a new level in 2016.


By WILL GRAY

While he didn’t garner much Rookie of the Year attention, Tony Finau quietly had an impressive debut season and should only continue to improve in the new year.

The Utah product logged 16 top-25 finishes in 31 starts last season, including seven in a row during the summer. What’s more, he saved some of his best play for the biggest stages: a T-14 finish at the U.S. Open in his first-ever major appearance, followed by a T-10 finish at the PGA where his name was on the leaderboard deep into the weekend.

Finau has been one of the longest hitters for years, but he has sharpened other areas of his game in recent months and his results have consequently improved. He finished seventh last season in birdie average and 43rd in FedEx Cup points, barely missing a spot in the Tour Championship.

Finau ended 2015 ranked No. 87 in the world, but you can expect two things in the coming months: that the 26-year-old will land his first PGA Tour win, and that he’ll crack the OWGR top 50 in time to earn a spot at the Masters.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”