Ultimate Match Play Championship Round 2 predictions

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 29, 2013, 1:30 pm

GolfChannel.com begins Round 2 of its Ultimate Match Play Championship this week, where you get to vote on who is the greatest of the greats. Our writers weigh in with their second-round predictions. Click here for Ultimate Match Play Championship bios:

Match 9: (1) Jack Nicklaus vs. (9) Gary Player

Mell: Nicklaus – The Golden Bear is on a mission to meet Tiger Woods in the final and the Black Knight is in the way.

Sobel: Nicklaus – Watching the Golden Bear take on the Black Knight again is worth the price of admission and while the latter has a few tricks up his sleeve, Jack proves to be too tough in this one.

Hoggard: Nicklaus – The Black Knight, as he did throughout his career against the Golden Bear, will make a game of it, but golf’s greatest player survives with a clutch birdie at the last.

Lavner: Nicklaus – Certainly not the first time these two titans have squared off, and the advantage, as always, goes to Nicklaus, who powers his way to a 3-and-2 victory.

Gray: Nicklaus – Dressed in all black, Player refuses to back down against Nicklaus, a player with whom he has dueled many times before. As was often the case in their era, though, Nicklaus finds a way to win and the Black Knight is conquered.

Match 10: (4) Bobby Jones vs. (5) Sam Snead

Mell: Jones – Gentleman Jones never named a bridge after Snead at Augusta National, but he will use Snead as a bridge into the semifinals.

Sobel: Jones – It was Jones who spearheaded the cause for Snead’s croquet-style putting to be banned. He could have used it in this one, as great ball-striking and poor putting by Snead gives Jones the win.

Hoggard: Jones – Perhaps the greatest match-play player of all time cruises to another “W.” At this rate someone is going to have to show Jones where the 18th hole is located.

Lavner: Snead – Jones may have a certain aptitude for match play, but Snead’s competitiveness will prevail. On his outstanding body of work, Slammin’ Sammy advances in a taut match, 2 up.

Gray: Jones – Brimming with confidence from his first-round win over Casper, Snead takes his foot off the gas a bit in Round 2. That’s all the opening Jones needs, as he easily ousts the all-time wins leader.

Match 11: (3) Ben Hogan vs. (6) Arnold Palmer

Mell: Hogan – Hogan once insulted Palmer, wondering aloud how Palmer got into The Masters, but Palmer gets his respect putting a scare into Hogan before losing in extra holes.

Sobel: Palmer – It’s no secret that Hogan didn’t pay the youngster much attention, only referring to him as “fella.” Well, this fella gets his revenge here, pulling off a pretty monumental upset.

Hoggard: Palmer – The Elite Eight upset special thanks to Palmer’s ability to recover from any wayward shot and compounded by the Hawk’s inability to sink a putt on the poa annua greens.

Lavner: Hogan – The King will get much of the popular vote, per usual, but the proper choice is Hogan, who has both more PGA Tour titles and major championships than Arnie. Hogan wins, 4 and 2.

Gray: Palmer – The King’s ability to escape from various spots on the course frustrates the consistent Hogan, as he is unable to shake Palmer despite holding a significant edge on the stat sheet tee-to-green. The King makes the putts down the back nine to eke out the upset win.

Match 12: (2) Tiger Woods vs. (10) Tom Watson

Mell: Woods – In a battle of Stanford's best, Woods needs all his powers to eliminate Watson in sudden death.

Sobel: Woods – If the current Ryder Cup captain was thinking about sitting Woods for a few matches next year, he may think again after this performance has him cruising into the semifinals.

Hoggard: Woods – Old Tom landed an upset in Round 1, but he’s no match for a man who won a U.S. Open by 15 strokes at Pebble Beach.

Lavner: Woods – This is an icy matchup, to say the least, which is exactly the type of environment in which Tiger thrives. (Stephen Ames, anyone?) Tiger wins easily, 4 and 3.

Gray: Woods – As Watson showed at Turnberry four years ago, he is able to stand toe-to-toe with just about any player in the game. Just as we saw at Turnberry, though, he’s unable to convert the short putts when he needs to, and Woods escapes with a win.

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Thomas donating to hurricane relief at East Lake

By Jason CrookSeptember 19, 2018, 9:20 pm

Much like in years past, Justin Thomas is using his golf game to help with relief of a natural disaster.

The world No. 4 announced on Twitter Wednesday that he’d be donating $1,000 per birdie and $5,000 per eagle at the Tour Championship to a charity benefiting the victims of Hurricane Florence, which ravaged the Carolinas last week.

At a fan's suggestion, Thomas, who has averaged 4.35 birdies per round this season, also pledged to donate $10,000 for a hole-in-one.

Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday just south of Wrightsville Beach, N.C., and has left much of the area flooded and without power. At least 37 people have died in storm-related incidents.

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Rose realizes his No. 1 ranking is precarious

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:18 pm

ATLANTA – Asked how he would like to be identified when he was finished playing golf, Justin Rose didn’t hesitate – “major champion, Olympic gold medalist, world No. 1.”

He’s had only a week to enjoy the last accomplishment, but the Englishman is aware of what it means to his career to have finally moved into the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“It's a moment in your career that you always remember and cherish,” said Rose, who overtook Dustin Johnson with his runner-up finish two weeks ago at the BMW Championship.

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Rose said he took some time last weekend with family and friends to relish the accomplishment and will play his first event this week at the Tour Championship as the world’s best, but he also understands how tenuous his position atop the ranking is at the moment.

“I accept it's really tight up top. It could easily switch this week,” he said. “I just feel that if I go to [No.] 2 or 3 this week, if Dustin and Brooks [Koepka] both play well, I have an opportunity the week after and British Masters, and going to China and Turkey, there's going to be opportunities to get back there.”

Johnson, Koepka and Justin Thomas could unseat Rose atop the ranking this week depending on their finishes at the Tour Championship.

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Likely ROY Wise not looking past 'special' East Lake

By Rex HoggardSeptember 19, 2018, 8:05 pm

ATLANTA – Much like the PGA Tour Player of Year Award, voting for the Rookie of the Year Award is very much a rubber stamp this season.

Brooks Koepka is a lock to win the Jack Nicklaus Trophy after winning two majors - the U.S. Open and PGA Championship - despite missing a portion of the season with an injury. Similarly, Aaron Wise, who won the AT&T Byron Nelson, is the only rookie this year to advance to the Tour Championship, which is normally the threshold players use for voting for Rookie of the Year.

“I knew with the rookie class that we had it was going to be tough, and the players still have to vote but it’s definitely something that was important to me,” he said on Wednesday at East Lake. “My focus is just finishing strong this week and giving them a reason to vote for me.”

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For Wise, who had four top-10 finishes this season and begins the week 21st on the FedExCup point list, the chance to win the award is gratifying, but being among the best 30 players on Tour, and securing his spot in all four major championships next season, is an accomplishment worth savoring.

“To win Rookie of the Year you have to have a solid season, but to make it to East Lake, so many guys don’t get this far. You really have to have a special season and this is really special,” Wise said.

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Stanford returns home to share Evian celebration

By Randall MellSeptember 19, 2018, 5:33 pm

Angela Stanford’s eyes welled with tears when her flight touched down at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in her return from winning the Evian Championship.

When she lands from the south, as she did Monday, she always looks for the towering grain elevators in her Saginaw hometown. She also always looks for downtown Fort Worth’s skyline.

She got teary with the replica of the Evian Championship trophy in her carry-on in the luggage bin above her seat, knowing she wasn’t bringing it home just for her.

But for her mother, Nan, who’s battling a second bout with breast cancer.

For her father, Steve, who got her started in the game.

For other family and friends.

For Shady Oaks, the club Ben Hogan made famous, where she is a member.

And for TCU, her alma mater.

She realized how empty she felt in so many returns from major championships.

She’s 40 now.

She won in her 76th try in a major.

For so long, Stanford believed she had what it took to win a major, but that only made the string of disappointments harder.

“So I remembered what it felt like coming home from so many disappointments, but not this time,” Stanford said. “This time I got to bring something home for everyone to see.”

When Stanford got off the plane, her parents were among a group of family and friends waiting to greet her. So was her TCU coach, Angie Larkin, who brought along the Horned Frogs mascot, Superfrog.

Tour pros Kristy McPherson, Dori Carter, Kendall Dye and Emory University coach and former tour pro Katie Futcher were all in Fort Worth helping Stanford celebrate.

“It was pretty cool,” Stanford said. “Of course, I asked them all if they wanted to see the trophy.”

She pulled it out of her carry-on and never put it back.

“It’s a heavy trophy, but I told them I’m carrying this everywhere,” Stanford said.

There was a celebration dinner with family and friends Monday night, and another celebration with friends on Tuesday.

“I think it’s just the start of many celebrations with more friends to see,” Stanford said.

Stanford went to work with a new swing coach about a year ago, Todd Kolb, from Sioux Falls, S.D. In her flight home, she thought about how grateful she was for all the help poured into her game, not just the good work Kolb is doing, but the foundation important figures in her life helped to lay. She thought about the lessons and wisdom Amy Fox, Mike Wright and Joe Hallett passed along.

“I’m still using things I learned from my first instructor,” Stanford said. “Amy Fox is a huge reason I’m playing on tour. Mike Wright is a huge reason why I’ve won on tour. Joe Hallett helped me navigate through a tough time in my career.

“They were all important to my winning Sunday. They all gave me building blocks, and they’ve all helped lay the foundation to what I’m learning now from Todd.”

Stanford said being able to share her gratefulness made her return home special.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” she said. “It’s been everything you could imagine it would be.”