Punch Shot: Who is the second-best American player?

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 5, 2013, 2:00 pm

There's no question who is the best American player right now: Tiger Woods, currently ranked No. 2 in the world. But who is the second-best American? That one isn't so cut and dried. We asked our writers for their picks. 

By JASON SOBEL

It's Phil Mickelson – and I'll let Brandt Snedeker explain why:

“You have to win majors and win tournaments to be recognized as an elite player,” Snedeker said when I asked him Sunday if he fits that profile. “And I haven't done nearly enough of that, you know. I'm playing great right now. I'm as high as I have ever been in the world ranking and all that kind of stuff, but you have to win tournaments to validate that. I haven't done it.”

Snedeker has been great at times in recent months – six top-six finishes in his last eight starts – just as Jason Dufner has been great at times in the past year, and Bubba Watson has been great at times in the past few years.

When we're talking 'best,' though, I take that to mean a combination of most talented and most accomplished. Mickelson wins each of those battles against his competition.

This doesn't stem from one win in Phoenix this past weekend; it's after years of performing at a high level over and over again. Others are very, very good, but if we're talking about the 'best' American player outside of Tiger Woods, only Mickelson fits that profile.


By RYAN LAVNER

Jason Dufner.

Peculiar timing, perhaps, since his missed cut at the Phoenix Open was his first weekend off in more than a year. But before his MC last week, Duf hadn’t finished outside the top 30 since July. Before his MC last week, he hadn’t finished outside the top 20 in his last eight worldwide starts, which saw him in Australia, China, Hawaii and Abu Dhabi.

Over the course of those 22 consecutive made cuts, he has not only become one of the most consistent performers in the biggest events – holding a share of the 36-hole lead at the Masters, finishing T-4 at the U.S. Open, posting respectable finishes at both the British Open and PGA – he has won twice while rising as high as No. 7 in the world.

What’s most encouraging about Dufner is that he continues to improve, particularly on the greens, where his strokes gained-putting improved from 180th in 2010 to 78th last year. Coupled with ball-striking prowess – last year he was third in total driving and seventh in greens in regulation – it’s reasonable to suggest that a major Sunday could be looming for the second-best American player.


By RANDALL MELL

Phil Mickelson.

While you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get with Mickelson, you can bank on getting more wins than any American this side of Tiger Woods.

If you’re looking for the best active American winner besides Woods, then you need not look beyond Lefty.

Mickelson’s victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday was his 41st PGA Tour title. That’s one more than the combined total of the next eight Americans not named Woods. That’s one more than the combined total of Brandt Snedeker (4), Bubba Watson (4), Jason Dufner (2), Steve Stricker (12), Keegan Bradley (3), Webb Simpson (3), Dustin Johnson (7) and Nick Watney (5).

Yes, Phil is closing in on his 43rd birthday early this summer, but he has now won in each of the last 10 seasons, the longest active PGA Tour winning streak. He’s still winning. He wins more than any American not named Woods.


By REX HOGGARD

Not only is Brandt Snedeker the second-best American right now, he’s been the planet’s top player (non-living legend division) the last fortnight.

But even before his consecutive runner-up showings to Tiger Woods (Farmers Insurance Open) and Phil Mickelson (Waste Management Phoenix Open), Snedeker was ascending to star status thanks to the game’s most reliable putting stroke and a new-found confidence in his ball-striking.

The metamorphosis began last fall as pressure mounted for him to play his way onto Davis Love III’s U.S. Ryder Cup team. Although Snedeker came up short – Love made him one of his four captain’s picks – he began the FedEx Cup Playoffs with a runner-up showing at The Barclays and cruised to a three-stroke victory and $10 million payday at East Lake.

Sixth-ranked Snedeker is also fresh off his first off-season in three years that didn’t include a major hip surgery which only seemed to fuel his confidence. No player has earned more world ranking points this season (77) and if not for No. 2 Woods and No. 10 Mickelson’s historic performances he would be a virtual lock to become the first FedEx Cup champion to play the Tour Championship the following season.

The world ranking doesn’t always get it right, but on this the math is unmistakable – Sneds is the second-best American right now.


By WILL GRAY

Brandt Snedeker.

Sure, he only has a fraction of Phil Mickelson’s career wins. And unlike Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley, he doesn’t have a major title to his name. But if you ask me to name the best American golfer after Tiger Woods, in the here and now, I’m going with Snedeker.

It’s easy to overreact to what we’ve just seen. So while I was as impressed as anyone else by Mickelson’s win this past week in Phoenix, I have to balance that both with his significant struggles during the second half of 2012 and questions of how consistently Lefty – at age 43 – can produce the form we saw at TPC Scottsdale. Right now, the American player whose consistency is least in question is Snedeker. His FedEx Cup win has promptly been followed by three top-three finishes early in 2013, and the Vanderbilt alum has quickly ascended to status as the best putter in the game. He’s been inside the top 10 once out of every three times he’s teed it up since 2011 – consistency only Webb Simpson can rival among his American peers. Perhaps most importantly, he appears unsatisfied by runner-up finishes each of the last two weeks.

Admittedly, I may be buying a bit low on Snedeker, basing my view largely on current form but also somewhat on his expected performance over the coming months. But let’s put it this way: if you’re having a “best player not to have won a major” discussion in September, I don’t think Snedeker will be eligible for inclusion.

Getty Images

Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

Getty Images

Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

Getty Images

Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

Getty Images

Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."