Punch Shot: Biggest surprise who hasn't won in 2013

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 28, 2013, 2:15 pm

Tiger Woods has four wins on Tour this season, but his success also serves to highlight other players’ winless campaigns.

So we ask: Which player are you most surprised hasn’t won yet this year?


Keegan Bradley.

I expected huge things from the 2011 PGA champion. He was coming off another stellar campaign, and his spirited Ryder Cup performance helped bolster his reputation as one of the game’s most exciting players.

The only thing the 26-year-old hasn’t done this season is win. OK, so there were the no-shows in the big events – the first-round loss at the Match Play, the 73-73-82 start at the Masters, the MC at The Players.

But there are the close calls, too: the T-4 at the season opener, the runner-up at the Nelson. In all, he is ranked 13th in the world, he has six top-10s, he sits eighth in scoring average (69.96), and he’s ninth in FedEx Cup points, the only player inside the top 10 without a victory.

If Bradley ends 2013 without a win – it could come as soon as this week’s Memorial, or perhaps at the PGA – feel free to bash me upside the head with a belly putter.


I thought this was going to be a big year for Justin Rose. Still do, actually.

At 32, he’s just entering what is generally considered to be the prime of most professional golfers’ careers. He’s a ball-striking machine whose iron and wedge game is among the world’s top five. And he’s coming off a season in which he had 14 top-10 finishes around the world, including his first WGC title.

It just felt like talent and success were going to happily intersect, resulting in Rose hoisting a few more trophies this year.

It hasn’t happened yet, but he’s hardly been a disappointment. Rose has runner-up finishes in Abu Dhabi and at Bay Hill to go along with a pair of other top-10s. Let’s remember the question here: I’m not calling him this year’s most disappointing golfer so far; I’m saying he’s the one I’m most surprised hasn’t yet won.

There’s still plenty of time, though. In fact, Rose’s first PGA Tour win came three years ago at The Memorial Tournament. He’s back at Jack’s place this week and while Tiger Woods remains the prohibitive favorite, Rose could very well erase his name from the non-winners list this season.


Rory McIlroy’s the biggest surprise.

He did, after all, begin the year No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He’s still No. 2 despite a sluggish start to this season. There was a lot going on in his life with all that comes with being No. 1, with his equipment change, with reports he’s about to leave another management company and with speculation over who he will play for when the Olympics come around. Still, it’s surprising that he hasn’t even given himself a chance to win anything other than the Valero Texas Open late on a Sunday this year. 

He’s been here before, though, just last year. The 2012 Memorial marked his third consecutive missed cut, but he ended up going on a tear in August and September, winning three of four starts, including the PGA Championship. 


This season, Keegan Bradley has done everything but win – literally. Among his six top-10 finishes – tied with Brandt Snedeker for the most this year on the PGA Tour – are a second (HP Byron Nelson), a third (Arnold Palmer Invitational) and a pair of fourths (Hyundai TOC and Honda Classic). A year after leading the Tour in the all-around ranking, the former PGA champ is once again near the top of myriad statistical categories: sixth in total driving, 10th in par-4 performance, 11th in scoring average and eighth in the all-around.

The 26-year-old has demonstrated an ability to close out PGA Tour events – see last year’s win at Firestone in addition to his playoff triumph at the 2011 PGA Championship. This year, though, he hasn’t been able to close the deal, coming closest in his most recent start at TPC Four Seasons, where he led much of the week after setting a new course record in the first round, only to be passed on the final day by Sang-Moon Bae. At ninth on the current FedEx Cup points standings, he remains the highest-ranked player without a win to his credit this season.

Through the first five months of 2013, Bradley has demonstrated an ability to thrive on a variety of courses; he’s posted high finishes at Doral and Redstone, when birdies were required in bunches, as well as Riviera and PGA National, where par was often a good score. Though it’s surprising that he hasn’t already hoisted a trophy this season, with his game clearly at an elite level, the prevailing sense is that it’s only a matter of time before he’s back inside the winner’s circle.

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Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.

A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.

The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.

Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.

Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.

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Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”