Punch Shot: First-time major winner in 2015?

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 3, 2015, 2:00 pm

Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth are the obvious choices to become first-time major winners in 2015. But is there anyone else we might be overlooking? Our writers debate:


Has there ever been a veteran player more primed to win his first major than Rickie Fowler?

OK, you could make the case that a guy like Phil Mickelson, with so many close calls before his 2004 Masters breakthrough, was ready for that moment, but Fowler proved in 2014 that he plays his best golf when the spotlight is shining brightest.

Though he didn’t win, Fowler posted top-five finishes at each of the four majors. That in itself should be considered an impressive leap into the game’s upper echelon.

I’ve long believed that what separated the top tier of players from the next tier is that the former is capable of winning anyplace, anytime. Think about it: How many current players have an equal chance of winning any of the four majors? There aren’t many, but Fowler certainly fits that description. You wouldn’t be any more or less surprised if he won the Masters than the Open Championship.

I still think Sergio Garcia wins multiple major titles – and his first one isn’t far off. Jordan Spieth is going to win one fairly soon; Jason Day will, too. Only one player, though, can be next. Give me the guy who’s come the closest in the last four of 'em.


No one really knows what to expect at this year’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay – after all, the only guys who have played there in competition were the 2010 U.S. Amateur participants. (And Jordan Spieth didn’t even make match play.)

So for a breakthrough major winner, why not a guy who has a proven record at golf’s most grueling major – a player with THREE top fives in the last four years? That’s right, for all of the injury questions surrounding Jason Day, one thing you can almost always count on is a strong performance at the year’s second major.

Overall in majors he already has seven top 10s, not a surprise given the strengths of his all-around game. He’s long off the tee. He hits a lot of greens. He’s a terrific scrambler. And he’s a better putter than given credit for (30th on Tour in 2014).

If Day is healthy come June – not a certainty, of course – then he’s my favorite to win the U.S. Open. 


Although he’s only played in a half dozen Grand Slam tilts – and to be historically accurate, his tie for fourth place at last year’s U.S. Open was little more than a spirited run at “B” flight honors considering Martin Kaymer’s Pinehurst masterpiece – Brooks Koepka is the most complete player vying for his first major championship.

At 24, Koepka arrives on the PGA Tour this season via a winding road that featured stops in Kenya, the Czech Republic and dozens of other points.

On paper, Koepka has all the markings of a major player, including a power game (he ranked sixth last year on Tour in driving distance and 23rd in the more-revealing strokes gained: tee-to-green category) that plays well at most of the modern Grand Slam venues.

He has also shown a surprisingly mature ability to refine the parts of his game that need improvement, particularly around the greens.

However, what will separate Koepka from a deep pack of would-be first-time major winners (a list that includes Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Jimmy Walker) will be a resume forged around the globe.

By taking the road less travelled through the European Tour, Koepka proved he has an added quality that can’t be measured and is crucial at any major championship, the ability to overcome adversity.


Patrick Reed is my pick.

His limited major championship record isn’t so impressive yet. Statistically, he wasn’t great in any category his first two seasons on Tour. But that’s all trumped by his bravado and belief he’s destined for something big. There’s just no fear in him. From his boldly proclaiming he’s a top-five player to his “shhhhh-shing” the gallery at the Ryder Cup, the guy won’t be afraid of the moment. Reed, 24, will be ready to own it when he’s there at the end of a major with a chance to win.

The Masters and British Open at St. Andrews might take more experience, more knowledge, to win, but I wouldn’t put it past Reed to claim one of those. I like him at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, where Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson showed you don’t have to be ultra-straight to have a chance.


After a two-year ascent through the professional ranks that basically wore out his passport, Brooks Koepka is ready to make another leap in 2015 – to the title of major champion.

Koepka has all of the attributes you look for when trying to identify future stars: long off the tee, accurate into the greens. He has performed well under pressure and beat an elite field during the European Tour’s Race to Dubai to cap a successful 2014. More importantly, though, he has the brashness of youth, and at 24 years old will not shy away from the game’s biggest stages.

Koepka is embarking on his first full season on the PGA Tour, one which he began with a pair of top-10 finishes this fall and which will include starts in all four majors. Can he break through where Jordan Spieth fell just short last year and win in his first try at Augusta National? That might be a tall task. But can he overpower a course like Chambers Bay, St. Andrews or Whistling Straits? I like his chances.

Getty Images

S.Y. Kim leads Kang, A. Jutanugarn in Shanghai

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:24 am

SHANGHAI  -- Sei Young Kim led the LPGA Shanghai by one stroke at the halfway point after shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the second round on Friday.

Kim made six birdies, including four straight from the sixth hole, to move to a 10-under 134 total. Her only setback was a bogey on the par-4 15th.

Kim struggled in the first half of the year, but is finishing it strong. She won her seventh career title in July at the Thornberry Creek Classic, was tied for fourth at the Women's British Open, and last month was runner-up at the Evian Championship.

''I made huge big par putts on 10, 11, 12,'' Kim said on Friday. ''I'm very happy with today's play.''

Danielle Kang (68) and overnight leader Ariya Jutanugarn (69) were one shot back.

Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos

''I like attention. I like being in the final group. I like having crowds,'' Kang said. ''It's fun. You work hard to be in the final groups and work hard to be in the hunt and be the leader and chasing the leaders. That's why we play.''

She led into the last round at the Hana Bank Championship last week and finished tied for third.

Brittany Altomare had six birdies in a bogey-free round of 66, and was tied for fourth with Bronte Law (68) and Brittany Lincicome (68).

Angel Lin eagled the par-5 17th and finished with the day's lowest score of 65, which also included six birdies and a lone bogey.

Getty Images

'Caveman golf' puts Koepka one back at CJ Cup

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:12 am

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea – Brooks Koepka, recently named the PGA Tour Player of the Year, gave himself the perfect opportunity to become the No. 1 player in the world when he shot a 7-under par 65 to move to within one shot of the lead in the CJ Cup on Friday.

At the Nine Bridges course, the three-time major champion made an eagle on his closing hole to finish on 8-under par 136 after two rounds, just one stroke behind Scott Piercy, who was bogey-free in matching Koepka's 65.

With the wind subsiding and the course playing much easier than on the opening day when the scoring average was 73.26, 44 players – more than half the field of 78 – had under-par rounds.

Overnight leader Chez Reavie added a 70 to his opening-round 68 to sit in third place at 138, three behind Piercy. Sweden's Alex Noren was the other player in with a 65, which moved him into a tie for fourth place alongside Ian Poulter (69), four out of the lead.

The best round of the day was a 64 by Brian Harman, who was tied for sixth and five behind Piercy.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

The 28-year-old Koepka will move to the top of the world rankings when they are announced on Monday if he wins the tournament.

Thomas, playing alongside Koepka, matched Koepka's eagle on the last, but that was only for a 70 and he is tied for 22nd place at 1 under.

Koepka's only bogey was on the par-5 ninth hole, where he hit a wayward tee shot. But he was otherwise pleased with the state of his ''caveman golf.''

''I feel like my game is in a good spot. I feel like the way I played today, if I can carry that momentum into Saturday and Sunday, it will be fun,'' Koepka, winner of the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, said.

''My game is pretty simple. I guess you can call it like caveman golf – you see the ball, hit the ball and go find it again. You're not going to see any emotion just because I'm so focused, but I'm enjoying it.''

Piercy, who has fallen to No. 252 in the world ranking despite winning the Zurich Classic earlier this year with Billy Horschel – there are no world ranking points for a team event – was rarely out of position in a round in which he found 13 of 14 fairways off the tee and reached 16 greens in regulation.

''Obviously, the wind was down a little bit and from a little bit different direction, so 10 miles an hour wind versus 20s is quite a big difference,'' said Piercy, who is looking for his first individual PGA Tour win since the Barbasol Championship in July 2015.

''It was a good day. Hit a couple close and then my putter showed up and made some putts of some pretty good length.''

Australia's Marc Leishman, winner last week at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, shot a 71 and was seven behind. Paul Casey's 73 included a hole-in-one on the par-3 seventh hole and the Englishman is nine behind Piercy.

Getty Images

Koepka primed for CJ Cup win and world No. 1

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 6:00 am

Brooks Koepka wants a 2-for-1 at the CJ Cup. If he can collect his second non-major PGA Tour victory he can become world No. 1 for the first time in his career.

He’s in great position to accomplish his goal.

Koepka eagled the par-5 18th en route to a 7-under 65 in the second round at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea. At 8 under par, he is one back of 36-hole leader Scott Piercy (65).

"Obviously the wind didn't blow. It was a different golf course than it was yesterday, you were able to take advantage of these par 5s," said Koepka, who opened in 71 on Day 1. "Felt like it was a lot more gettable. I putted so well, great ball-striking day, great putting day and very pleased with it."

Koepka, currently ranked third in the world, began the day three shots off the lead, but rapidly ascended the leaderboard. He birdied four of his first eight holes before finding trouble at the ninth. Koepka hooked his tee shot out of bounds, but the ninth is a par 5 and he was able to salvage bogey.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

Current Official World Golf Ranking

That was his only dropped shot of the day.

The reigning Tour Player of the Year birdied the 12th and 14th holes in his bid to keep pace with Piercy. Koepka was two back as he played his final hole, where he knocked his second shot to 10 feet. He deftly converted the eagle effort to tie Piercy and earn a spot in Saturday’s final twosome. Piercy later pulled a shot ahead with a birdie at the ninth, his final hole of the day.

Koepka has officially won four PGA Tour events, but three of those are majors (2017, ’18 U.S. Open; 2018 PGA). His lone non-major win was the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

"Just keep doing what I'm doing," Koepka said of his plan for the final two rounds. "I'm hitting it well and making putts. I felt like I probably could have shot about 7, 8 under on the front side there, missed a couple. You know, doing everything right and that's what you've got to do and hopefully this wind stays away."

He can still reach world No. 1 with a solo second place, assuming Justin Thomas, currently world No. 4, doesn’t win this week.

That will take a mighty weekend effort by the defending champ.

Thomas also eagled the 18th hole to go from 1 over to 1 under. He shot 2-under 70 in the second round and is seven shots off the lead.

Getty Images

'Go in'? Yes, JT wants an ace at the par-4 14th

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 5:11 am

Justin Thomas didn’t hesitate after hitting his tee shot on the 353-yard, par-4 14th in Round 2 of the CJ Cup.

“Go in,” he immediately said.

“Please go in,” he added.

Thomas’ tee shot was on a great line, but it landed just short of the green. Surprisingly, it took three more shots for his ball to "go in." After birdies on Nos. 12 and 13, Thomas parred the 14th.