Punch Shot: Who will win the majors in 2013?

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 3, 2013, 2:00 pm

The 2013 PGA Tour season is almost under way in Kapalua, Hawaii, but it's never too late to start thinking about the majors. In this Punch Shot, GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with their predictions on which players will hoist major trophies this season.


Picking major championship winners this early isn’t quite as foolhardy as playing darts in the dark, but it’s close. Here goes anyway:

The Masters: Rory McIlroy. The boy wonder had the 54-hole lead at Augusta National in 2011, and he’s a much more polished player now. He hits the ball long and high, and his putter can glow red hot when he gets a sniff of the lead in a major. He’s just 23, but he isn’t lacking course knowledge at Augusta National. He will be playing in his fifth Masters this year.

The U.S. Open: Tiger Woods. Merion won’t be overpowered, and that’s just fine with Woods. He prefers the conservative approach in the game’s biggest events, and he’ll be quite comfortable navigating his way around this historic venue with 3-woods and irons off tees. Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino won at Merion. So will Woods.

British Open: Ian Poulter. With three top-10s in majors last year, and with his inspiring performance at the Ryder Cup, Poulter showed his determination to lift his game in big moments. He’ll lift the claret jug at Muirfield this year.

PGA Championship: Luke Donald. We don’t always give the Englishman his due, in part because he has never won a major, but he goes about his business nobly just the same. A wonderful putter and an equally wonderful attitude helps Donald break through to win at Oak Hill.


Masters: Rory McIlroy. Two years ago, he had a four-shot lead before a Sunday 80. A year ago, he was ill-prepared after a month-long layoff and tied for 40th. This is the year the world No. 1 finally pulls it together and wins the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

U.S. Open: Luke Donald. A claustrophobic, short layout such as Merion should be a perfect fit for Donald, one of the steadiest players in the game. He hasn’t finished worse than third in the Tour’s strokes gained-putting statistic since 2007 – at some point, his stellar short game has to show up on a major stage.

British Open: Tiger Woods. The Open represents Woods’ best chance to win a major because he doesn’t have to be perfect. His record in golf’s oldest championship is outstanding; in 16 career starts, he has 13 top-25s, eight top10s, a pair of third-place finishes and, of course, three victories. Plus, he would have been a factor at Muirfield in 2002 if not for a Saturday 81 in terrible conditions.

PGA Championship: Keegan Bradley. OK, so the sample size is small, but Bradley hasn’t finished worse than T-3 in two starts at the PGA Championship, including a victory in 2011 at Atlanta Athletic Club. A long-and-straight hitter should prevail at Oak Hill, and few players in the game are as brawny as Bradley. He’s ready to break through once again – belly putter and all. 


Usually when I'm asked to pick major winners so far in advance, I'll answer the question with a few questions of my own: What's the weather going to be like? How is the course playing? Which players are in form entering each one?

It might be easier predicting answers to each of those queries than predicting this year's major champions months in advance, but let's give it a whirl anyway...

Masters: Adam Scott. The golf gods don't owe him anything after last year's loss at Lytham; that was all his own undoing. But the Aussie is too good to remain winless in majors for too long. Only question is whether he'll be using a belly putter or a short stick when it happens.

U.S. Open: Brandt Snedeker. Let's see ... Tight course? Check. Fast greens? Check. Par at a premium? Check. If last year's FedEx Cup winner could build a major venue that suits his game, it would be Merion.

Open Championship: Tiger Woods. This used to be an inarguable fact: Woods is the world's greatest links player. After a few down years overseas, that can now be debated, but he still has the knowledge and talent to thrive on a fast, firm setup.

PGA Championship: Graeme McDowell. After his 2010 U.S. Open win, I thought G-Mac may have been the classic case of a guy who got his major, then relaxed. Instead, the opposite is true. He's driven, inspired and – most importantly – has the game needed to win a few more of 'em.


Considering last year’s list of major winners – Bubba Watson (Masters), Webb Simpson (U.S. Open), Ernie Els (British Open) and Rory McIlroy (PGA Championship) – it seems the best Grand Slam prognostications are a tad outside the box, so here goes:

Masters: Give us McIlroy in April because he has too much game and karma can’t be that indifferent to his painful history at Augusta National. Forget about that Sunday meltdown in ’11 and weekend rounds of 77-76 last year, the Ulsterman is poised to move one step closer to the career Grand Slam next spring.

U.S. Open: It’s been more than 30 years since the national championship was played at Merion and the under card, new technology vs. classic architecture, will be almost as intriguing as the champion, who will be Rickie Fowler, the star of 2009 U.S. Walker Cup team when it was played at Merion.

British Open: As stunning as Els’ victory last year at Royal Lytham was it should surprise no one that the Big Easy will emerge again at Muirfield. After all, the South African will be the defending champion (2012 Open) and the defending champion at Muirfield, having won the last Open played on the Scottish links.

PGA Championship: Tiger Woods will get off the Grand Slam schneid and it seems apropos that he will do so at “Glory’s Last Shot.” Four of Woods’ 14 majors have been won at the PGA and Oak Hill should be a perfect fit for the new and improved swing.

Getty Images

Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1

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Perez (T-3) looks to remedy 'terrible' major record

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 7:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez’s major record is infinitely forgettable. In 24 Grand Slam starts he has exactly one top-10 finish, more than a decade ago at the PGA Championship.

“Terrible,” Perez said when asked to sum up his major career. “I won sixth [place]. Didn't even break top 5.”

It’s strange, however, that his status atop The Open leaderboard through two rounds doesn’t seem out of character. The 42-year-old admits he doesn’t hit it long enough to contend at most major stops and also concedes he doesn’t exactly have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the game’s biggest events, but something about The Open works for him.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I didn't like it the first time I came over. When I went to St. Andrews in '05, I didn't like it because it was cold and terrible and this and that,” he said. “Over the years, I've really learned to like to come over here. Plus the fans are so awesome here. They know a good shot. They don't laugh at you if you hit a bad shot.”

Perez gave the fans plenty to cheer on Friday at Carnoustie, playing 17 flawless holes to move into a share of the lead before a closing bogey dropped him into a tie for third place after a second-round 68.

For Perez, links golf is the great equalizer that mitigates the advantages some of the younger, more powerful players have and it brings out the best in him.

“It's hard enough that I don't feel like I have to hit perfect shots. That's the best,” he said. “Greens, you can kind of miss a shot, and it won't run off and go off the green 40 yards. You're still kind of on the green. You can have a 60-footer and actually think about making it because of the speed.”