Punch Shot: Predicting the 2014 major champions

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 2, 2014, 5:45 pm

This year's major rotation is Augusta National, Pinehurst No. 2, Royal Liverpool and Valhalla. Two days into 2014, GolfChannel.com writers are making their preliminary picks to win at each site.


Masters: Tiger Woods. It’s hard to believe that Woods has gone eight years since winning at Augusta, where he slipped into the green jacket four times in his first nine starts as a pro. But it’s not like he’s fallen out of love with the place – in his most recent eight starts, he has only once finished worse than sixth (T-40, 2012). All signs point to the Masters as the major that Tiger resumes his pursuit of Jack.

U.S. Open: Phil Mickelson. Sure, the fairytale has a good chance of flopping at the end (again), but I like a guy who trains and prepares all year for one tournament. Phil will either win that elusive Open at Pinehurst, or try too hard and never factor. For a guy with a flair for the dramatic, I’m betting the former.

British Open: Adam Scott. Stumbled on the back nine again last year at Muirfield, giving him a pair of top-3s in his last two starts at the Open. He’s too good of a ball-striker not to be in the mix at the major that doesn’t require perfect putting.

PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy. The former world No. 1’s end to 2013 was no fluke, and he’s poised for a major bounce-back season. His game is predicated on his mood and his driving, and Valhalla, a big ballpark, presents a great opportunity for him to drive it long and make plenty of birdies. 


Wiping off the crystal ball ...

Wow, maybe this isn’t the future, but a dream season of winners coming through ...

Masters: Let’s see, that’s Tiger Woods slipping into a green jacket. He may not have won at Augusta National since 2005, but here’s his record there since: T-3, T-2, 2, T-6, T-4, T-4, T-40, T-4. He breaks his five-year winless spell in the majors with his fifth Masters title.

U.S. Open: Wow, that’s Phil Mickelson hoisting the trophy, finishing off the career Grand Slam with a poetic breakthrough, winning at Pinehurst, where he couldn’t beat Payne Stewart in ’99 but gets a fairy-tale ending anyway.

British Open: Double wow, that’s Sergio Garcia breaking through to win his first major, claiming it at Royal Liverpool in his 64th start in a major. He tied for fifth behind Woods there in '06.

PGA Championship: It’s another first-timer breaking through major frustration with Lee Westwood claiming his at Valhalla at 41.

That’s a dream season probably too good to be true, a writer's Big Story Slam.


Masters: Jason Day. He's been knocking on the door at Augusta for a few years and now that his buddy Adam Scott has lifted the weight of a nation off their collective shoulders, Day could make it two in a row for the Down Under crowd. Would still like to see a second PGA Tour victory before predicting him for major success, but the talent is certainly there.

U.S. Open: Tiger Woods. All eyes will be on Phil Mickelson's pursuit of a career grand slam this week -- which is just fine with Woods. Maybe better than fine, since keeping Phil out of that exclusive club could serve as extra motivation for Tiger. Having two previous top-three finishes at Pinehurst doesn't hurt, either.

Open Championship: Ian Poulter. You either love him or you love to hate him, but what often gets lost between Poulter's brash persona and flashy clothes is that he's also a heck of a player. We've seen him roll in putts from everywhere at the Ryder Cup; we've seen him make birdies in bunches at two previous Opens. This time it could finally lead to his first major win.

PGA Championship: Adam Scott. Of the 15 first-time major winners in the past five years, there's a good chance that seven or eight of 'em will never win another one. Scott isn't one of those guys. Now that he's tasted major success, expect a few more over the next half-decade. The proverbial floodgates haven't opened, but the door to victory circle certainly has. 


Masters: The year’s first major championship may be the easiest of this year’s Grand Slam outings to predict considering Jason Day’s play at Augusta National.

The Australian has been in contention two out of his three trips down Magnolia Lane, finishing third last year and tied for second in 2011.

Before Adam Scott’s Masters’ breakthrough last year some thought it would be Day who would bring the green jacket to Australia for the first time, but that historic ship has sailed which may be best for Day.

U.S. Open: The U.S. Open is a bit more complicated. Phil Mickelson will arrive at Pinehurst looking to complete the career Grand Slam, but it will be Tiger Woods, who has finished in the top 3 in the last two Opens played at No. 2, who ends his major drought.

Open Championship: Unless Hoylake plays like it did for the last Open Championship, crusty and baked to a golden hue, the stars will finally align for Lee Westwood, who finished tied for third last year at Muirfield.

PGA Championship: The PGA Championship, always a difficult prediction due to the eclectic mix of venues, will go to Keegan Bradley, who plays his best golf during the closing leg of the season having finished in the top 3 in four of his last six starts at the PGA and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”