Punch Shot: Who will win the 2014 FedEx Cup?

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 18, 2014, 2:00 pm

He's won his last three starts, including two majors and a a WGC event. So is Rory McIlroy the consensus pick to run through the playoffs and win the 2014 FedEx Cup? Our Golf Channel staff weighs in ahead of The Barclays:

By JASON SOBEL

We often hear players contend after a round that they played great but didn't get anything out of it.

Rickie Fowler could say that about his entire season. Not that top-five finishes in each of the four majors is "nothing," but his trophy case still holds just one career PGA Tour trophy.

That could change very soon.

Since its inception, the FedEx Cup has often had a karmic way of maybe not rewarding the year's best player, but allowing for a champion who is overdue to win something big.

The last part of that statement couldn't define Fowler any better. He'll enter this week's Barclays as the 16th-ranked player on the points list, but as we've found in recent years, that's hardly too much ground to overcome.

Fowler has played his best golf on tough venues under high-pressure situations this season. Continuing to do that could reap a $10 million prize very soon. 


By REX HOGGARD

The $10 million season-long jackpot of (largely) deferred cash and prizes will go to Rory McIlroy, but not for the reasons that have made the world No. 1 the betting favorite for the better part of two months.

That McIlroy cruises into the FedEx Cup playoffs as the regular-season points leader would make him an easy choice for this year’s season-long race. Despite the looming point reset, the Northern Irishman is the undisputed hottest player on the planet right now having won his last three starts.

But it’s McIlroy’s checkered history with the PGA Tour’s post-season party that gives him the advantage.

In short, karma owes the four-time major champion.

Back in 2012 the 25-year-old was fresh off a similarly dominant run when he entered the playoffs.

McIlroy finished tied for 24th at The Barclays, won the Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship and closed out the season with a tie for 10th at the Tour Championship.

For all his hard work McIlroy finished second in the FedEx Cup race to Brandt Snedeker, the victim of the ultimate pencil whipping.

McIlroy should win the playoffs because he is the best player in the game at the moment. That the FedEx Cup math owes him a cosmic make-good, however, makes him a lock.


By RANDALL MELL

Rory McIlroy is a human landslide when he’s playing like this. You’ve just got to get out of the way. His confidence is rolling downhill again, building momentum, wrecking whatever’s in his path.

This is how McIlroy rolls. He wins in giant swaths, and with so many big FedEx Cup events left, don’t expect the landslide to bottom out until after the Ryder Cup and Race to Dubai.

Back in 2012, he made a late-season run like this, winning four times worldwide over four months. He has won his last three starts now, and he seems so much wiser for wear, with hard lessons learned making him capable of even a larger swath of wins.


By WILL GRAY

Listen, we’ve been through this exercise before.

Rory McIlroy entered the FedEx Cup playoffs on top of his game after a major title back in 2012. He even added not one, but two playoff victories that season. Did he leave East Lake with the FedEx Cup? No, that one went to Brandt Snedeker.

While McIlroy is playing the best golf on the planet right now, the volatility of the points race means he’s far from a lock to take home the season-long trophy in four weeks. So don’t be surprised when Jim Furyk takes the FedEx Cup title for the second time.

I know, I know. Furyk isn’t exactly a closer, and he hasn’t won in close to four years. But at No. 5 in points he’s essentially a lock to make it to the Tour Championship, and there’s reason to think he’ll pick up a few good results along the way: he has three runner-ups this year, leads the Tour in scrambling, sits fifth in scoring average and hasn’t finished outside the top 15 since the Memorial.

Furyk knows what it takes to survive this gauntlet, and he’ll do it once again as the victory drought ends at East Lake, where he last lifted a trophy back in 2010.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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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.