Punch Shot: Biggest over- and underachievers

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 4, 2013, 11:00 pm

Dustin Johnson, fresh off his WGC-HSBC victory, has eight career PGA Tour wins, including at least one in his first seven full seasons on Tour. But that's not enough for everyone. Some believe Johnson, with his immense talent, is underachieving. GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with who they believe are the most underachieving and overachieving players in the game.


Overachiever: David Toms

Early in my career I asked Charles Howell III if he considered himself an underachiever. The answer was all at once an indictment of the concept and an enlightening glimpse into the mind of an elite athlete.

“Do you consider yourself an underachiever?” retorted Howell, who is normally as accommodating as they come on the PGA Tour but clearly I had struck a nerve. His point was one’s expectations are entirely homemade and the only benchmarks worth considering come from within.

With that baseline, give David Toms the nod for this generation’s top overachiever. Just twice . . . twice, in a 21-year Tour career has Toms failed to finish inside the top 125 in earnings, a statistical anomaly considering that he’s never ranked higher than 50th in driving distance. In the era of the bomber, Toms won 13 Tour titles and a major despite his distance limitations.

Underachiever: Fred Couples

Conversely, Couples still ranks among the game’s longest and his smooth, effortless swing continues to be the envy of players half his age. While 15 Tour tilts and a major was enough to earn Couples a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame, the King of Cool certainly expected more from himself.

A chronically cranky back cost Couples much of his prime, but that doesn’t change the fact he probably had greater expectations than 15 titles and a single green jacket.


Underachiever: Anthony Kim

At age 28, Kim certainly has the talent to compete at the highest level – his three PGA Tour titles attest to that fact, as do his spots on both the 2008 Ryder Cup and 2009 Presidents Cup squads. The last of those wins, though, came in April 2010 and feels much more distant than that. In the interim 3+ years, Kim has battled multiple injuries while essentially falling off the golf radar. After joining the short list of players with three wins before age 25 – one that includes Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott – Kim hasn’t cracked the top 10 since the 2011 British Open and hasn’t even played on the PGA Tour since withdrawing from the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship.

Overachiever: Zach Johnson

If you saw him warming up on the first tee at your home course, you might think you could get the better of him – then he’d probably drum you 6 and 5. Though diminutive in size and hardly a bomber off the tee, Johnson has found a way to win, and win often. His victory this year at the BMW Championship put him into rarified company of players with 10 PGA Tour wins and a major title, and the Iowan could potentially be headed toward a Hall of Fame induction years from now. His win at the 2007 Masters, one in which he laid up at each of Augusta National’s par-5 holes, shows just how effective Johnson’s game can be, even if he takes the less-traveled route to success.


Overachiever: Henrik Stenson

Stenson is No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Given how his game has taken him to the last outpost to hell on more than one occasion, that's some mighty overachieving. Stenson started playing golf when he was 12, and later worked himself on to the Swedish national amateur team, but by his own admission, he was middle of the pack on that team, until a surge late in his amateur career. As a fledgling pro, he played the South American Tour, the Swedish Tour and the European Challenge Tour. He failed to get his European Tour card his first time through, and he battled through two dizzying spells of lost form, but look at him today. He has already won the FedEx Cup this season and is looking to win the Race to Dubai, too. No player has ever won both. Stenson has won seven European Tour events in his career and four PGA Tour titles, including a World Golf Championship event and The Players Championship. At 37, he has the game to break through and win his first major championship.

Underachiever: John Daly

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s Daly. It’s difficult to consider a guy who won two majors an underachiever, but Daly seemed capable of leaving such a larger mark on the game. He showed his great skills winning the PGA Championship and the British Open in two completely different tests of heart and skill. His personality and his lifestyle brought challenges, distractions and obstacles. He never made a Ryder Cup team. He’s the only player from Europe or the United States to win two majors and not make a Ryder Cup team. Surely, even Daly would concede he was capable of more.


Overachiever: Bubba Watson

Now, I understand that such a question can be taken in a few different ways. Some will translate overachieving as the player who has accomplished the most with the least amount of tangible skills.

Well, that player certainly isn’t Watson. His raw talent may be unparalleled in the professional ranks; his ability to hit sweeping hooks and towering cuts is second to none.

But I consider the 2012 Masters champion an overachiever for a few different reasons than the obvious ones.

One is because he’s gotten to where he is without ever taking a formal lesson. That’s right – while most pros are victims of paralysis by analysis, Watson enjoys a homemade swing that probably couldn’t be taught anyway.

The other is because he had never won a professional event before reaching the PGA Tour. Not on the mini-tours; not anywhere. Check the record books: Back in 2005, he finished 21st on the Nationwide Tour money list, which then promoted its top 20 players to the big leagues. However, because No. 1-ranked Jason Gore had already claimed his card through other means, the circuit extended the offer to the 21st player.

The rest is, quite literally, history.

Underachiever: Charles Howell III

It pains me just to type this name, because if the question instead had been, “Who is the nicest guy on the PGA Tour?” there’s an excellent chance I would have offered the same response.

Stats are stats, though – and the stats show that while CH3 owns 14 career second-place finishes and eight third-place results, he still has just two total victories.

Granted, much of that can be chalked up to bad luck more than underachieving. After all, on 22 separate occasions he was better than some 150 of the world’s best players. So, too, can his uncanny ability to fall one or two spots shy of qualifying for the Masters or U.S. Open or WGCs seemingly every single year.

Simply watch Howell at the driving range and you’d think he was one of the game’s elite ball-strikers. And he is – he ranked 14th in both scoring average and greens in regulation during the 2013 season. He’s hardly a terrible putter, either, placing in the PGA Tour’s top-third in strokes gained-putting.

These numbers can be perceived as underachieving, but they can also be looked at another way: Howell is on the verge of – finally – producing some more victories. The second half of his career could be very much like that of Matt Kuchar, going from underachiever to overachiever in no time at all.

For one of the nicest guys on the PGA Tour, let’s hope it happens.

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First-, second-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 16, 2018, 12:20 pm

Three-time champion Tiger Woods is playing in The Open for the first time since he missed the cut in 2015 at St. Andrews. Woods will begin his first round Thursday in the 147th edition at Carnoustie at 10:21 a.m. ET, playing alongside Hideki Matsuyama and Russell Knox.

Defending champion Jordan Spieth delivered the claret jug to the R&A on Monday at Carnoustie. He will begin his title defense at 4:58 a.m. ET on Thursday, playing with world No. 2 Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

Other notable groupings:

  • Rory McIlroy will look to capture his second claret jug at 7:53 a.m. Thursday. He goes off with Marc Leishman and Thorbjorn Olesen.
  • World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is playing with Alex Noren and Charley Hoffman. They will play at 8:04 a.m. ET in the first round.
  • World No. 2 Justin Thomas goes at 8:26 a.m. with Francesco Molinari and Branden Grace.
  • Masters champion Patrick Reed will play with Louis Oosthuizen and Paul Casey at 5:20 a.m. ET.
  • U.S. Open champion and world No. 4 Brooks Koepka is grouped with Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith (9:59 a.m. ET).
  • Phil Mickelson, the 2013 Open champion, will begin at 3:03 a.m. ET with Satoshi Kodaira and Rafa Cabrera Bello.

Here's a look at the full list of times for Rounds 1 and 2 (all times ET):

1:35AM/6:36AM: Sandy Lyle, Martin Kaymer, Andy Sulliva

1:46AM/6:47AM: Erik Van Rooyen, Brady Schnell, Matthew Southgate

1:57AM/6:58AM: Danny Willett, Emiliano Grillo, Luke List

2:08AM/7:09AM: Mark Calcavecchia, Danthai Boonma, Shaun Nooris

2:19AM/7:20AM: Kevin Chappell, Oliver Wilson, Eddie Pepperell

2:30AM/7:31AM: Ross Fisher, Paul Dunne, Austin Cook

2:41AM/7:42AM: Tyrrell Hatton, Patrick Cantlay, Shane Lowry

2:52AM/7:53AM: Thomas Pieters, Kevin Kisner, Marcus Kinhult

3:03AM/8:04AM: Phil Mickelson, Satoshi Kodaira, Rafa Cabrera Bello

3:14AM/8:15AM: Brian Harman, Yuta Ikeda, Andrew Landry

3:25AM/8:26AM: Si Woo Kim, Webb Simpson, Nicolai Hojgaard (a)

3:36AM/8:37AM: Stewart Cink, Brandon Stone, Hideto Tanihara

3:47AM/8:48AM: Gary Woodland, Yusaku Miyazato, Sung Kang

4:03AM/9:04AM: Ernie Els, Adam Hadwin, Chesson Hadley

4:14AM/9:15AM: Pat Perez, Julian Suri, George Coetzee

4:25AM/9:26AM: David Duval, Scott Jamieson, Kevin Na

4:36AM/9:37AM: Darren Clarke, Bernhard Langer, Retief Goosen

4:47AM/9:48AM: Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Peter Uihlein

4:58AM/9:59AM: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Kiradech Aphibarnrat

5:09AM/10:10AM: Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Chris Wood

5:20AM/10:21AM: Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed

5:31AM/10:32AM: Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jhonattan Vegas

5:42AM/10:43AM: Yuxin Lin (a), Alexander Bjork, Sang Hyun Park

5:53AM/10:54AM: James Robinson, Haraldur Magnus, Zander Lombard

6:04AM/11:05AM: Kodai Ichihara, Rhys Enoch, Marcus Armitage

6:15AM/11:16AM: Sean Crocker, Gavin Green, Ash Turner

6:36AM/1:35AM: Brandt Snedeker, Sam Locke (a), Cameron Davis

6:47AM/1:46AM: Patton Kizzire, Jonas Blixt, Charles Howell III

6:58AM/1:57AM: Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Tom Lewis

7:09AM/2:08AM: Alex Levy, Ryan Moore, Byeong Hun An

7:20AM/2:19AM: Michael Hendry, Kelly Kraft, Lee Westwood

7:31AM/2:30AM: Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood, Jimmy Walker

7:42AM/2:41AM: Matthew Fitzpatrick, Russell Henley, Jovan Rebula (a)

7:53AM/2:52AM: Rory McIlroy, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen

8:04AM/3:03AM: Dustin Johnson, Alex Noren, Charley Hoffman

8:15AM/3:14AM: Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Brendan Steele

8:26AM/3:25AM: Justin Thomas, Francesco Molinari, Branden Grace

8:37AM/3:36AM: Jason Day, Shota Akiyoshi, Haotong Li

8:48AM/3:47AM: Todd Hamilton, Beau Hossler, Jorge Campillo

9:04AM/4:03AM: Ryuko Tokimatsu, Chez Reavie, Michael Kim

9:15AM/4:14AM: Kyle Stanley, Nicolas Colsaerts, Jens Dantorp

9:26AM/4:25AM: Tom Lehman, Dylan Frittelli, Grant Forrest

9:37AM/4:36AM: Lucas Herbert, Min Chel Choi, Jason Kokrak

9:48AM/4:47AM: Padraig Harrington, Bubba Watson, Matt Wallace

9:59AM/4:58AM: Ian Poulter, Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka

10:10AM/5:09AM: Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Shubhankar Sharma

10:21AM/5:20AM: Tiger Woods, Hideki Matsuyama, Russell Knox

10:32AM/5:31AM: Jason Dufner, Ryan Fox, Keegan Bradley

10:43AM/5:42AM: Ryan Armour, Abraham Ander, Masahiro Kawamura

10:54AM/5:53AM: Jazz Janewattananond, Fabrizio Zanotti, Jordan Smith

11:05AM/6:04AM: Brett Rumford, Masanori Kobayashi, Jack Senior

11:16AM/6:15AM: Matt Jones, Thomas Curtis, Bronson Burgoon

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Rahm's Carnousite strategy: 'As many drivers as I can'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 10:57 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In his practice round Monday at Carnoustie, Jon Rahm bashed away with driver on the 18th tee, reducing one of the most intimidating finishing holes in championship golf into a driver-wedge.

Indeed, when it comes to his choice of clubs off the tee this week at The Open, Rahm has one strategy in mind.

“As many drivers as I can,” he said after playing 18 alongside Rory McIlroy. “I just feel comfortable with it.”

Playing downwind, the firm and fast conditions on the 18th have led some players, even a medium-length hitter like Brandt Snedeker, to challenge the burn fronting the green.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Rahm explained Monday why that was the prudent play.

“You can lay up with an iron farther back and have 140 or 150 meters to the front and have a 7-, 8- or 9-iron in,” Rahm said. “But if you hit a good one with a driver, you’re going to have nothing to the green.

“If you hit the rough this year, it’s not as thick as other years. You actually get a lot of good lies, so you can still hit the green with confidence.”

Rahm said that revelation was “quite surprising,” especially after encountering thicker fescue when he played the French Open and Irish Open, where he recorded a pair of top-5 finishes.

“But with this much sun” – it hasn’t rained much, if at all, over the past six weeks – “the fescue grass can’t grow. It just dies,” he said. “It’s a lot thinner than other years, so unless they can magically grow it thicker the next few days, it’s pretty safe to assume we can be aggressive.”

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Remembering Jean, because we'll always remember Jean

By Al TaysJuly 16, 2018, 10:38 am

The thing I remember about the 1999 Open Championship is that for 54 holes, it was boring. I can’t speak for the next 17, because I didn’t watch. I took advantage of a beautiful Sunday morning to play golf. When our group finished, we went into the clubhouse hoping to catch the last few holes or at least find out who won. Instead, we were greeted by an almost deafening buzz. It seemed everyone in the dining room was excitedly talking at once.

The wall-mounted televisions provided the answer. There stood Jean Van de Velde, resplendent in a white visor and blue shirt, and whatever the opposite of “resplendent” is with his trouser legs rolled up above his knees. He was up to his ankles in the burn that winds in front of Carnoustie’s 18th green, hands on hips, holding a wedge. He was staring down into the water the way you’d stare at a storm grate through which you had just accidentally dropped your car keys. You know, the “What the heck am I going to do NOW?” stare.

Van de Velde was the reason I had dismissed this 128th Open Championship as boring. Actually, he was one of two reasons. The first was that Tiger Woods was no factor. The second was that Van de Velde was running away with it, having taken a five-shot lead into the final round. It also didn’t help my interest level that I knew nothing about Van de Velde. I didn’t know Jean Van de Velde from Jean Valjean. The only thing I knew about him was that he was French, and the last great French golfer was … uh, I’ll have to get back to you on that.

As we got caught up on Van de Velde’s predicament – he had gone to the tee of the par-4 18th hole with a three-shot lead, but through a series of calamities now lay 3 … underwater – now my opinion of the guy did a 180. NOW I wanted him to win. It wasn’t going to be easy, though. Surely he would come to his senses and take a drop (4), then pitch onto the green (5) and hope to get that shot close enough that he could make the putt for 6 and claim the claret jug. A 7 – which would have plunged him into a playoff – was not a farfetched possibility.

Not farfetched at all; that’s the score he made, only it didn’t unfold quite as simply as I had envisioned. After taking his drop, Van de Velde hit his next shot into a greenside bunker. He then blasted out to 8 feet and, needing to make the putt to get into a playoff with Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie, he did just that.

You think Leonard’s 45-footer at Brookline that won the Ryder Cup later that year was clutch? I’ll take Van de Velde’s putt eight days a week.

But there would be no happy ending for Van de Velde. In the four-hole, aggregate playoff, he opened with a double bogey and watched Lawrie win his only major.

Van de Velde got roasted in the media for “choking” and “making stupid decisions.” I felt this was unfair. So the next day, in my capacity as a sports columnist for The Palm Beach Post, I wrote this:

“I have a new hero. Jean Van de Velde, The Man Who Gave Away the British Open.” I wrote that Van de Velde had “remained true to himself” and that had he geared down and played the hole safely and won with a double bogey, he would have been quickly forgotten.

As it turned out, because of his tragedy (self-inflicted though it was), he gained far more fame for losing than Lawrie did for winning (which is unfair to Lawrie, but that’s a tale for another time). I’ll also wager that Van de Velde gained far more fans for the grace with which he took his defeat than he would have had he won. See Norman, Greg, Augusta, 1996.

Van de Velde may have made some questionable decisions – hitting driver off the tee, bringing water into play on his third shot when he had a horrible lie – but he had reasons for all of them. Nowhere do you see him saying “I am such an idiot” a la Phil Mickelson, or “What a stupid I am” a la Roberto De Vicenzo.

“Sure, I could have hit four wedges,” he recently told Golf Channel. “Wouldn’t they have said, ‘He won The Open, but, hey, he hit four wedges.’ I mean, who hits four wedges?”

There’s a great scene in the 1991 movie “The Commitments,” about putting a soul-music band together in the slums of Dublin. Against all odds, the band reaches the brink of success before sinking in a maelstrom of arguments and fistfights after its last gig.

Manager Jimmy Rabbitte is trudging home through the gloom, when saxophonist Joey “The Lips” Fagan rides up on his ever-present scooter. Joey tries to get Jimmy to see the bright side.

Look, I know you're hurting now, but in time you'll realize what you've achieved,” Joey says.

“I've achieved nothing!” Jimmy snaps.

“You're missing the point,” Joey replies. “The success of the band was irrelevant - you raised their expectations of life, you lifted their horizons. Sure we could have been famous and made albums and stuff, but that would have been predictable. This way it's poetry.’

That’s what Jean Van de Velde created on that memorable Scottish day in July 1999.


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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 16, 2018, 10:20 am

Tiger Woods is competing in his first Open Championship since 2015. We're tracking him this week at Carnoustie.