Punch Shot: Rookie of the Year in 2017?

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 3, 2017, 11:00 pm

This season's PGA Tour rookie class includes players who have already visited the winner's circle. Who will rise above the rest? Our writers weigh in.

By REX HOGGARD

A class that includes arguably more blue-chip prospects than any other rookie group in recent memory will be led by a true blue-collar player – Andrew “Beef” Johnston.

Although it’s tough not to acknowledge that there are already two rookies with victories on their resumes this season (Mackenzie Hughes and Cody Gribble), the hardware for best first-year player seems destined for Johnston considering his resume and the opportunities he will have in 2017.

Johnston, who earned his Tour card via the Web.com Tour Finals, finished the year inside the top 100 in the world ranking and began his season at the lucrative, no-cut WGC-HSBC Champions. It’s a luxury most rookies won’t enjoy, and his victory late last season at the European Tour’s Spanish Open is proof he can compete at the highest level.


By RYAN LAVNER

It took him a little bit longer than some of the more heralded members of the high school class of 2011, but Ollie Schniederjans has finally landed on the big tour.

A former No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, he has the firepower to hang with anyone on the PGA Tour. The only concern, like with most young players, is consistency. He’s prone to big splashes and even bigger flameouts. Last year on the Web.com Tour, he made only 12 of 20 cuts. He still finished sixth in earnings. Already on the PGA Tour, he’s just 1-for-4, but the lone made cut was a tie for sixth at Sea Island, where he was in contention all four days.

The hatless wonder is a future star on Tour. His 2017 can be made with just a few spectacular weeks. 


By WILL GRAY

This piece of hardware tends to go to players who win in their first season on Tour, giving Cody Gribble and Mackenzie Hughes a decided advantage heading into the new year. But given the choice, I’ll side with Gribble, who has already shown that his Sanderson Farms victory was no fluke.

A former standout at the University of Texas, Gribble finished T-8 at the Safeway Open in his first start as a member and also added a T-15 finish in Mexico after bagging his first trophy. Gribble was on that 2012 Texas team that won a national title and featured a young prospect named Spieth, and Gribble’s strong short game has him ranked fifth this season in strokes gained putting.

Gribble’s win didn’t earn him a Masters invitation, but he’s in the PGA and has qualified for the U.S. Open each of the last two years at sectionals. When the dust settles in August, expect him to have passed Hughes and the rest of the ’17 rookie class.


By RANDALL MELL

Wesley Bryan.

Though Bryan didn’t make a large impression in his four PGA Tour fall starts, he enjoyed a big 2016 season anyway, thanks to his three Web.com Tour victories. He led that tour in putting, was second in birdies per round and third in scoring.

Those numbers bode well for continuing to show there’s more to this player than his viral video trick-shot fame.

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Z. Johnson looks to end victory drought at Valero

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 10:45 pm

Nearly three years after his most recent victory, Zach Johnson has a chance to get back into the winner's circle at the Valero Texas Open.

Johnson started the third round at TPC San Antonio with a share of the lead, and he maintained that position after closing out a 4-under 68 with a birdie on the final hole. At 13 under, he is tied for the lead with Andrew Landry and one shot clear of Trey Mullinax as he looks to win for the first time since The Open in 2015.

"Different wind today. Misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above," Johnson told reporters. "But truthfully, I mean my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities, especially on the back side."

Johnson started slowly, making the turn in even-par 36, before carding four birdies on the inward half. It was a microcosm of his week at TPC San Antonio, where Johnson is even through three trips across the front nine but has played the back nine in 13 under while picking up more than six strokes on the field in strokes gained: putting.

Johnson won this event in both 2008 and 2009 when it was held at nearby La Cantera, but he has only cracked the top 10 once since it shifted venues in 2010. But facing off in the final group against two players who have yet to win on the PGA Tour, the veteran hopes to capitalize on his back-nine prowess this week in order to deliver career win No. 13.

"I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side, and that was give myself opportunities on every hole," Johnson said. "I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well. So it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch."

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Mullinax fires course-record 62 at Valero

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 9:01 pm

Trey Mullinax surged into contention during the third round of the Valero Texas Open, shooting a 10-under 62 that set a new course record on the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio.

Mullinax started the day seven shots off the pace, but his sizzling round left him alone in third place through 54 holes, one shot off the lead. The former Alabama standout caught fire on the back nine, shooting a 7-under 29 despite a bogey after chip-ins for eagle on No. 14 and birdie on No. 16 to go along with an eagle on the home hole.

"It's probably one of the best rounds I've ever had," Mullinax told reporters. "To go out there and shoot 62 on a hard golf course is really good."

Mullinax appeared headed for a missed cut after a 74 in the opening round, but he bounced back with a second-round 68 to earn a weekend tee time and his third-round score broke the previous course record of 63 held by multiple players.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


The 25-year-old finished 137th in FedExCup points last season, leaving him with only conditional status this season. His lone top-10 finish of the year came at the Valspar Championship, where he survived a Monday qualifier and went on to tie for eighth, and this marks only his third start since the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February.

"Obviously I would like to play a little more, but the tournaments I get in, I'm really excited about playing golf," Mullinax said. "I've loved every start I've gotten, and I'm very thankful to be in the position I'm in."

Mullinax holed a putt to clinch a national title for the Crimson Tide in 2014, and he finished T-9 at last year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills. But success has been fleeting among the professional ranks, meaning Sunday's opportunity to notch a career-best finish or breakthrough victory is nothing short of enticing.

"I'm sure you'll be nervous," Mullinax said. "To have a chance to win or just go play good golf is what I came here for, so that's what I'm going to do."

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Quiros maintains one-shot lead through 54 in Morocco

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 7:46 pm

RABAT, Morocco - A birdie on the last hole gave Alvaro Quiros a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Trophee Hassan II.

Quiros' birdie on No. 18 allowed the Spanish golfer to sign for an even-par 72 on Saturday to stay at 7-under par overall and clear of four players in second place.

South African pair Erik van Rooyen and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, France's Alexander Levy, and Finland's Mikko Ilonen were just a shot behind at 6 under heading into the final day at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat.

Quiros is a seven-time winner on the European Tour, but went six years without a victory until last year with his triumph at the Rocco Forte Open in Italy.


Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II


He's seeking a wire-to-wire victory in Morocco after sharing the first-round lead with Bradley Dredge before taking it outright on Day 2.

Quiros had an on-off day in the third round - he said it was ''suddenly great shot, suddenly not so good'' - and carded four birdies and four bogeys to come out even and still hold on to his lead.

Van Rooyen shot 71, Bezuidenhout 68, Levy a 69, and Ilonen the best round of the week so far with his 6-under 66.

Ilonen had seven birdies and just a single bogey - on his first hole - to leap 23 places up the leaderboard and into contention for a first tour title since 2014 when he won the World Match Play Championship.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.