Punch Shot: Which 'outsider' most likely to win at Sawgrass?

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 7, 2013, 1:34 pm

Since 2000, only four players (Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson)  have been ranked inside the top 10 in the world when they won The Players Championship. In fact, during that span the average OWGR position of a Players winner has been 35.8.

So we ask: Which player outside the top 30 in the world has the best chance to win this week?


Freddie Jacobson.

The Junkman has only one top-10 in nine career starts at TPC Sawgrass, but he’s never been this consistent or sharp with his game. Since missing the cut in his first start of the season in Phoenix, he hasn’t finished worse than 25th, with three top-10s.

Jacobson never will overpower a course – at 284.4 yards per drive, he ranks 103rd in driving distance – and at TPC Sawgrass, he won’t have to. No, what will matter this week is that he’s fourth in putting, sixth in scoring average and 13th in scrambling. Indeed, Jacobson fits the A-to-B, plodder type that has excelled at The Players in the past few years.


It’s pronounced TOR-be-yorn OO-les-en. American golf fans should get used to saying Thorbjorn Olesen’s name because he has all the markings of a Players champion.

Although Olesen, who recently took up special temporary status on the PGA Tour, has gotten off to an eventful start this season – he injured himself riding a camel earlier this year and suffered a second injury when he was in a car crash during the Shell Houston Open – he already has two top-10 finishes (seventh at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a tie for sixth in his first Masters).

He also has the type of complete game that plays well at demanding ballparks like TPC Sawgrass. He’s 24th on Tour in driving distance, 26th in putts inside 10 feet and 45th in eagles.

He also fits the mold of recent Players Championship winners. Think Tim Clark with more power or Henrik Stenson with a better driver.  After a few years of seasoning on the European Tour he also enjoys a level of experience that most “rookies” don’t have.

For the injury-prone Dane, the only thing he has to improve on is his handling of courtesy cars and camel-riding skills. But at No. 33 in the Official World Golf Ranking, U.S. audiences should get used to saying his name – it’s OO-les-en.


Maybe I'm looking too much for The Matt Kuchar Story II, but I see this being a big week for another former phenom whose game fell on some hard times for a while, but has bounced back to become one of the PGA Tour's most consistent players.

My pick to win is Charles Howell III.

It's about time. Nobody in the world is more snake-bitten than Chucky Threesticks. He has only two career wins – the last one coming a half-dozen years ago. But he owns 14 runner-up finishes.

Now, sure, a few of those can be blamed on his own failures down the stretch. But there's a whole lot of bad luck in there, too. You have to be really good to consistently come so close.

So far this season, it's been more of the same. Howell has five top-10s in 13 starts, including one at Quail Hollow this past weekend. It's time for his luck to change. Yeah, I know he hasn't made a cut at The Players since 2007 and has never finished inside the top 30. I don't care. Maybe it takes a course where he's never succeeded for everything to finally go his way.

If it happens, of course, the Augusta native will clinch a return to the Masters next year. And the only thing better than that is not having to answer the incessant questions about trying to get back there again.


I’ll double down on Billy Horschel.

Yeah, he has never played The Players Championship before, but don’t tell him it's a liability. Actually, please do tell him, because it will only make him more determined, and his resolve seems to be his greatest asset.

Horschel, ranked No. 49 in the world, is on a roll with four consecutive top-10 finishes, including his maiden PGA Tour victory in his last start at the Zurich Classic. While Horschel hasn’t played The Players before, he’s hitting a lot of greens these days and that bodes well at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course. In fact, Horschel is doing everything well of late. He’s eighth in ball striking, ninth in total driving, 14th in strokes gained-putting. He just might be No. 1 in confidence right now, if the Tour could measure that.

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Rose leads Koepka, Grillo by four at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 9:06 pm

On the strength of a 4-under 66 Saturday, Justin Rose will take an four-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Emiliano Grillo into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational. Here's where things stand through 54 holes at Colonial Country Club.

Leaderboard: Rose (-14), Koepka (-10), Grillo (-10), Corey Conners (-8), Jon Rahm (-8), Louis Oosthuizen (-8), J.T. Poston (-8), Ryan Armour (-8)

What it means: The fifth-ranked player in the world is 18 holes from his ninth PGA Tour victory and his second this season. Up once to start the third round, Rose extended his lead to as much as five with birdies on four of his first six holes. Through 54 holes, Rose has made XX birdies and just XX bogeys. The 2013 U.S. Open winner and 2016 Olympic gold medalist has a history of winning at iconic venues - Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional - and now looks to add Colonial to the list. He'll be chased on Sunday by Grillo, the young Argentianian who won his first Tour start as a member in 2015, and Koepka, last year's U.S. Open winner who continues to impress in his injury comeback despite ongoing wrist issues.  

Round of the day: Corey Conners and Ted Potter both turned in 8-under 63. Potter was bogey-free and Conners came home in 6-under 29 on the back nine.

Best of the rest: Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen, Brian Harman, and Michael Thompson all signed for 64. Rahm called his six-birdie start the best 10 holes he's played so far this year. 

Biggest disappointment: Jordan Spieth has finished second-first-second in the last three years at this event, but he's yet to find his normal Colonial form through three rounds. Spieth, who said Friday he was capable of shooting "10 or 12 under" over the weekend, shot even-par 70 Saturday. He sits in T-38 at 3 under for the week, 11 back.

Shot of the day: Rory Sabbatini closed out his third round Saturday with this eagle holeout from 134 yards at the 18th. 

His colorful scorecard featured three bogeys, two birdies, a double bogey and that eagle. It added up to a 1-over 71. 

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McCarron closes with only bogey, shares lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 8:49 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Scott McCarron, seeking a second senior major title to go with his 2017 Senior Players Championship, made his only bogey of the third round on the final hole to slip into a tie for the lead Saturday with Tim Petrovic in the Senior PGA Championship.

They were at 13 under par after Petrovic, seeking his first major, shot 65. McCarron has shared the lead through three rounds.

England's Paul Broadhurst, the 2016 British Senior Open winner, matched the best third-round score in tournament history with a 64. He was at 11 under.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, coming off his first major championship last week at the Regions Tradition, shot 65 and was 9 under.

Tom Byrum, who made a hole-in-one in shooting a 67, was in a group at 8 under.

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Watch: Rose one-arms approach, makes birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 7:25 pm

Justin Rose appears to have taken a course in Hideki Matsuyama-ing.

Already 3 under on his round through five thanks to a birdie-birdie-birdie start, Rose played this approach from 143 yards at the par-4 sixth.

That one-armed approach set up a 6-foot birdie putt he rolled in to move to 4 under on his round and 14 under for the week, five clear of the field.

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McIlroy battles back into tie for BMW PGA lead

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 4:09 pm

Rory McIlroy got off to a rocky start on Saturday in the third round of the BMW PGA Championship, including hitting a spectator and making a double bogey. But after that incident on the sixth hole, he didn't drop another shot, birdieing the final hole to shoot a 1-under 71 and tie for the lead.

McIlroy had gone into Moving Day with a three-shot lead, but Francesco Molinari had the round of the day, a 6-under 66. "It was nice keep a clean scorecard," said Molinari, who hasn't made a bogey since the 10th hole on Friday.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

McIlroy and Molinari will be paired in Sunday's final round. They are tied at 13 under par, four shots clear of Ross Fisher, Branden Grace, Sam Horsfield and Alexander Noren.

The Wentworth course ends with back-to-back par-5s, and McIlroy birdied both of them. He got a break on the 18th hole as his drive hit a spectator and bounced into light rough.

"It was a struggle out there today," McIlroy said. "I think when you're working on a few things in your swing and the wind is up and you're stuck between trying to play different shots, but also try to play - you know, make good swings at it, I just hit some loose tee balls on the first few holes. But I'm proud of myself. I stayed patient. I actually - I'm feeling a bit better about myself after today than I was even walking off the course yesterday."