The Leap: Players making career jumps in 2013

By Jason SobelJanuary 2, 2013, 1:00 pm

Anyone can pick a few professional golfers to find their way onto the leaderboard on any given week. Or as yours truly proved during last year’s fantasy golf season, anyone can repeatedly pick a few to underachieve every single week.

Short-term predictions are one thing, but long-term ones are a whole different animal, requiring a little more insight and a lot more research. Here’s hoping I’ve got some of each.

Welcome to this year’s edition of The Leap in which I’ll pick players to jump to a previously unforeseen level in their careers. Last year’s predictions were a mixed bag, with dead-on calls regarding Jason Dufner and Branden Grace, but a regretfully poor choice in taking Sergio Garcia to win a major. (Wait, that didn’t happen … right?)

This year’s predictions feature an eclectic mix of veterans and rookies, names you know and names you don’t. They’ll each be making a major leap in their careers in 2013. If not, well, I’ll just have to try again next year.

Bill HaasBill Haas

The Leap: Major championship contender

Despite four career victories and a FedEx Cup title two years ago, Haas the younger has never finished better than 12th in 13 career major starts. That changes this year. Wins at East Lake and Riviera prove he’s got the mettle to compete on big-time courses and while this may not be the year he avenges his father’s career-long winless major streak, it will be the season he shows that he’s good enough to get himself onto a late Sunday leaderboard at any of 'em.

Bo Van Pelt at the 2012 AT&T NationalBo Van Pelt

The Leap: Top 10 on Official World Golf Ranking

There are two ways to look at Van Pelt’s career: He’s either a classic overachiever based on a PGA Tour-leading 15 top-10 finishes in the past two seasons or a classic underachiever because of a wealth of success that has translated to just one official victory. With unofficial late-season wins in each of the last two years, the official ones may only be a matter of time – and with them will come a major jump in OWGR status. That said, he won’t need a huge boost, already at 22nd in the world entering the year.

Scott Piercy in the 2012 RBC Canadian Open final roundScott Piercy

The Leap: PGA Tour multiple winner

Of the 16 players who have won official tournaments in each of the last two seasons, perhaps none is more unheralded than Piercy, who followed his 2011 Reno-Tahoe Open win with a Canadian Open triumph last year. What’s to like so much? Start at the end. He finished fifth last season in final-round scoring average. Out here on the thin limb, let’s pick him to win at least two titles – and don’t be shocked if the first of those happens at this week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Graham DeLaetGraham DeLaet

The Leap: Presidents Cup competitor

When it comes to potential International team members, the global job search usually stretches to such locales as Australia, South Africa and all of Asia. This year, though, captain Nick Price will be keeping a careful eye on this Canadian, who after myriad injuries posted three top 10s on the PGA Tour last season. A long hitter, DeLaet may be poised to break through with his first victory soon, which should firmly plant him on the radar screen for the end-of-year competition.

Kevin StreelmanKevin Streelman

The Leap: PGA Tour winner

It wasn’t so long ago that Streelman was looping at a few country clubs to help offset expenses from playing mini-tour golf. That type of background will help develop a pretty strong resolve in a player, and the Duke University product has shown a propensity for playing some of his best golf on Sunday afternoons. After a self-proclaimed “transition year” in 2012, expect it to translate into his first career title this season.

Seung-Yul Noh in the 2012 Deutsche Bank Championship second roundSeung-Yul Noh

The Leap: Tour Championship competitor

Armed with one of the sweetest swings on the PGA Tour, the 21-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough season last year, with 13 top-25 results in 28 starts. He made it all the way to the third of four FedEx Cup playoff events and had success in two of them – T-13 at the Deutsche Bank Championship and T-16 at the BMW Championship. All of which should bode well for his chances to reach the field at East Lake this year, an obvious goal for any young player, because it also comes with an invitation to the Masters.

Luke ListLuke List

The Leap: PGA Tour rookie of the year

One of List’s usual golfing buddies calls him “one of the most talented players I’ve ever seen.” That wouldn’t sound like much until you consider that his buddy is Keegan Bradley, who plays against some pretty decent talent on a weekly basis. As proof, List posted a victory and three other runner-up finishes on the circuit last year to earn his first trip to the big leagues. Tour courses should suit a guy who averages 323.5 yards per drive – yes, that’s not a misprint – and finds the fairway 57 percent of the time.

Harris English and Brian HarmanHarris English/Brian Harman

The Leap: Top 50 on PGA Tour money list

As college teammates and current housemates, the PGA Tour rookies kept their cards together last year, too, as English finished 79th on the money list with Harman not far behind at 87th. They’ll stay attached this season, as well, if not off the course then at least in the standings, as both are primed for a jump into the top 50 on the final money list in their sophomore campaigns.

Morgan HoffmanMorgan Hoffmann

The Leap: Top 100 on PGA Tour money list

A few years ago, two PGA Tour players teed it up in a friendly game with a college kid. Easy money, right? Not exactly. The kid was Hoffman, who calmly made so many eagles and birdies that one of the pros took to calling him Drago after the fictional boxer of “Rocky IV” fame. Well, he’s all grown up now. Without initial status on the Tour last year, he posted seven top 10s in just 13 starts to earn a PGA Tour promotion. Now that he’s there, expect similar consistency, which should allow him to keep his job for many years to come.

Kristoffer BrobergKristoffer Broberg

The Leap: WGC competitor

Simply competing in a World Golf Championship event may not sound like much of a stepping stone, but for a player ranked 1,401st in the world at this time last year, it’s a monumental leap. Now up to No. 79, last year’s three-time winner on the Challenge Tour is climbing by the week, thanks to a runner-up finish already at the Alfred Dunhill Championship. A few more like that and he’ll be teeing it up with the big boys pretty soon.

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U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 12:29 am

The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.

Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.

"It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.

Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.

Singles results

Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3

Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up

Match 3 —  Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)

Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2

Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2

Match 6 —  Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1

Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up

Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up

Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1

Match 10 —  Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1

Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)

Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up


TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.


-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.

Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos

Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.