Predicting the top 25 PGA Championship finishers

By Jason SobelAugust 8, 2012, 5:02 pm

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — It used to be that picking a winner at a major championship was like trying to find the lone orange in an apple orchard.

Now? It's completely fruitless.

And yet, here I am. Still trying to suck that sweet nectar.

I'll spare you the usual rhetoric. You know, potential contenders will need to hit the ball long and straight off the tee, own perfect distance control with their irons and hole lots of putts. Unless this week's PGA Championship is contested on an XBox, it'll be impossible for a single player to prosper in all areas.

If there are a few qualities that supersede all others, they may be distance and trajectory. On a massive 7,676-yard course that will likely be soft and damp throughout the tournament, the ability to hit the ball not only long but high should be a strong determining factor.

As such, my list of this week's top-25 reflects that idea.

Sure, sure. I know: Why listen to a guy who occupies the fantasy game cellar? Well, because just as we've witnessed in majors recently, apparently everyone gets a turn at success. Maybe this will finally be the week my attempts aren't proven fruitless again. 

1. Kyle Stanley: Too young? Too raw? Too inexperienced? Could have said the same things about the last two PGA winners, too. Don't discount the Washington native's reputation as a mudder, either. That could be big.

2. Graeme McDowell: After playing in the final pairing of the final round in each of the last two majors, it would be unwise to think he can't contend again. The more the wind blows, the better his chances.

3. Dustin Johnson: No, this isn't because all 'sandy areas' at the Ocean Course won't be considered bunkers. He has the game to seriously contend and the South Carolina product should have plenty of home state support.

4. Robert Garrigus: Sensing a trend? On a big ballpark, the big hitters should thrive. And this big hitter has been raving about Kiawah being set up for his game ever since first coming here months ago.

5. Matt Kuchar: Coming off a 20-putt, three-chip-in performance Sunday at Firestone, he's in the elite category of players who can contend on any given week, no matter the course.

6. Padraig Harrington: He's healthy, his game is rounding into good shape and he's confident. If Ernie Els can win his fourth major at 42, then Harrington can certainly vie for a fourth at two years younger.

7. Nicolas Colsaerts: His emergence is similar to that of Martin Kaymer prior to this tournament two years ago. Can bomb it with the best of 'em and should be movitated by playing for his Ryder Cup life.

8. Rory McIlroy: Following last year's U.S. Open victory, it didn't seem like he'd be able to do anything quietly again, but McIlroy is playing some sneaky good golf lately without much fanfare.

9. Jason Dufner: No longer an underdog, the world's eighth-ranked player has made huge strides in the 52 weeks since nearly winning the last edition of this tournament.

10. Tiger Woods: Obviously the 14-time major champion can win anyplace, anytime. But he more often thrives on familiar venues, as evidenced by his three wins this year. Despite practice rounds, Kiawah is a great unknown.

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11. Steve Stricker: You know that scene in Happy Gilmore where the lead character says, 'Happy learned how to putt. Uh-oh.' Well, Stricker has always known, but he may have relearned a thing or two last week.

12. Louis Oosthuizen: Earning a groundswell of support as a potential 'dark horse' pick this week. All of which makes sense except the dark horse part. He's got a claret jug and nearly won a green jacket. No underdog here.

13. Adam Scott: If he's haunted by his Open Championship collapse, he hasn't shown it publicly, displaying class, grace and humility in the aftermath of such a gutwrenching conclusion.

14. Bill Haas: Just the type of player who fits the recent major champion mold, as the reigning FedEx Cup winner has triumphed on some very good golf courses.

15. John Senden: It's always befuddling why the game's best GIR guy year after year doesn't almost 'accidentally' win more events. Just hitting greens will be half the battle this week.

16. Nick Watney: Don't look now, but he's starting to emerge from what has largely been a season-long funk. If this game is cyclical – and it is – Watney may be hitting his uptick soon.

17. Bubba Watson: It would be foolish to discount the Masters champion anywhere, especially on a big course like Kiawah. His son Caleb's adoption now finalized, expect him to play with more freedom and fewer distractions.

18. Scott Piercy: The recent Canadian Open champion has been on a tear as of late. His long game should come in handy on a course that should reward distance.

19. Jonathan Byrd: It stands to reason that a few players from semi-nearby Sea Island will thrive in the local environs. Byrd's propensity for getting hot and staying hot will serve him well.

20. Lee Westwood: Hot putters come and go, but solid ball-striking is a staple – and there aren't many better tee-to-green than Westwood, still searching for that elusive major title.

21. Martin Kaymer: Often hasn't played his best golf since winning two years ago, but he's still very young and ultra-talented. He isn't done winning majors yet.

22. Webb Simpson: Hasn't teed it up much since his U.S. Open win and subsequent birth of his daughter, but his rest may win out over his rust going into this week.

23. Keegan Bradley: Upon winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, he talked about trying to go back-back and mentioned that Hall of Fame member Aunt Pat only did it once in her illustrious career.

24. Brandt Snedeker: One way to make up for an inability to bash the ball? Make lots of putts. This guy makes more than just about anyone else.

25. Aaron Baddeley: At the beginning of the year, one PGA Tour veteran said Baddeley would win a major this season. Well, he's only got one more chance to prove his peer right. 

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Rosaforte Report: A tale of two comebacks

By Tim RosaforteAugust 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Comeback (noun): A return by a well-known person, especially an entertainer or sports player, to the activity in which they have formerly been successful.

Even by definition, the word comeback is subjective.

There is no question that Brooks Koepka has completed his comeback. With two major championship victories that encompassed wins over Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods, Player of the Year honors have already been locked up for the 2017-18 season.

But knowing Koepka, he wants more. A No. 1 ranking, topping his boy D.J., is a possibility. A Ryder Cup is awaiting. By all rights, Koepka could be Comeback Player of the Year and Player of the Year all in one, except the PGA Tour discontinued its Comeback award in 2012. Nonetheless, it’s fun to compare the cases of Koepka and Woods.

What Woods has recovered from is remarkable, but not complete. He hasn’t won yet. With triumphs in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, Koepka has completed his comeback from a pair of wrist injuries that could have been equally as career-ending as the physical issues that Woods had to overcome just to contend in the last two majors.

“There was a question on whether or not I’d ever be the same,” Koepka said Sunday night in the media center at Bellerive, following his third major championship victory in six tries. “Whether I could do it pain-free, we had no idea.”

The wrist traumas occured five months apart, with the initial issue putting him in a soft cast with a partially torn tendon. That cost the reigning U.S. Open champion 15 weeks on the shelf (and couch), including a start in the Masters.

His treatment included injecting bone marrow and platelet-rich plasma. When he returned at the Zurich Classic in April, Koepka revealed the ligaments that hold the tendon in place were gone – thus a dislocation – and that every time he went to his doctor, “it seemed like it got worse and worse.”

Koepka’s second wrist injury of the season occurred on the practice grounds at The Players, when a cart pulled in front of Koepka just as he was accelerating into the ball with his 120-plus mph club-head speed. Abruptly stopping his swing, Koepka’s left wrist popped out. His physio relayed a story to PGA Tour radio in which he advised Koepka before he reset the wrist: “Sit on your hand and bite this towel, otherwise you’re going to punch me.”

Koepka admitted that he never dreamed such a scenario would threaten his career. He called it, “probably the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through, setting that bone back.” But, testament to Koepka's fortitude, four days later he made an albatross and tied a TPC Sawgrass course record, shooting 63.

Woods’ physical – and mental – recovery from back surgery and prescription drug abuse was painful and career threatening in its own way. As he said in his return to Augusta, “Those are some really, really dark times. I’m a walking miracle.”

As amazing as it has been, Woods, by definition, still hasn’t fully completed his comeback. While he’s threatened five times in 2018, he hasn’t won a tournament.

Yes, it’s a miracle that he’s gotten this far, swinging the club that fast, without any relapse in his back. As electric and high-energy as his second-place finish to Koepka was at the PGA, Woods has made this winning moment something to anticipate. As story lines go, it may be better this way.

Coming off a flat weekend at the WGC-Bridgestone, Woods was starting to sound like an old 42-year-old. But instead of ice baths and recovery time, the conversation was charged by what he did on Saturday and Sunday in the 100th PGA.

A day later, there was more good news. With Woods committing to three straight weeks of FedExCup Playoff golf, potentially followed by a week off and then the Tour Championship, that moment of victory may not be far away.

Scheduling – and certainly anticipating – four tournaments in five weeks, potentially followed by a playing role at the Ryder Cup, would indicate that Woods has returned to the activity in which he was formally successful.

There were times post-scandal and post-back issues, that Woods stuck by the lines made famous by LL Cool J:

Don’t call it a comeback
I’ve been here for years
I’m rocking my peers

Not this time. As he said Sunday before his walk-off 64 in St, Louis, “Oh, God. I didn’t even know if I was going to play again.”

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Actor/Comedian Kevin Nealon Joins "Feherty," Monday, Aug. 20 at 9 p.m. ET

By Golf Channel Public RelationsAugust 16, 2018, 1:15 pm

Actor/comedian Kevin Nealon (Saturday Night Live) will join David Feherty on his self-titled, Emmy-nominated series Feherty presented by Farmers Insurance®, Monday at 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel.

Filmed at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles last month, the episode will focus on numerous topics, including:

  • Nealon discussing his start in comedy in Los Angeles, where he worked as a bartender and filled in for comics who failed to show up for their act.
  • Reminiscing about his appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1984.
  • Reflecting on his nine-year run as a cast member on Saturday Night Live.
  • Recounting the time when his golf ball struck Adam Sandler during a round they were playing with filming Happy Gilmore.
  • Recalling time spent with Arnold Palmer during the filming of a commercial a few years ago.

The following Monday (Aug. 27), Feherty will be joined by 20-time LPGA Tour winner Cristie Kerr at 9 p.m. ET, and then on Monday, Sept. 3 (9 p.m. ET), major champion Jimmy Walker will join as a guest for the series’ season finale.

A two-time Emmy-nominated host (Outstanding Sports Personality – Studio Host) Feherty has been described as “golf’s iconoclast,” by Rolling Stone, and “the last unscripted man on TV,” by Men’s Journal. His all-star lineup of golf-enthused and culturally relevant guests feature celebrities from across entertainment, sports and politics. To date, Feherty has sat down with four U.S. Presidents (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump); sports legends Charles Barkley, Nick Saban, Stephen Curry and Bobby Knight; Hollywood icons Matthew McConaughey, Larry David and Samuel L. Jackson; World Golf of Fame members Nancy Lopez, Jack Nicklaus, Annika Sorenstam, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson; and a host of current golf superstars including Paula Creamer, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Michelle Wie. Feherty is produced by Golf Channel’s original productions group, which also oversees production for Driver vs. Driver, Golf Films as well as the network’s instruction platforms.

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Thomas talks Tiger, plays 'Facebreakers' on 'Tonight Show'

By Grill Room TeamAugust 16, 2018, 1:14 pm

Justin Thomas didn't successfully defend his title at last week's PGA Championship, but he did get a guest spot on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon."

Thomas appeared on the talk show Wednesday night and, of course, a primary topic was Tiger Woods' run at the Wanamaker Trophy.

Thomas also played a game of "Facebreakers" with host Fallon, in which both men tried to break panes of glass emblazoned with the other's face with golf shots. Thomas nearly took out the real Fallon on his first shot, and after several uncessful attempts by both men, massive cheating ensued.

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Bhatia loses U.S. Am match after caddie-cart incident

By Ryan LavnerAugust 16, 2018, 2:21 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – One of the hottest players in amateur golf had his U.S. Amateur run end Wednesday under unusual circumstances.

Akshay Bhatia, the 16-year-old left-hander who has been dominating the junior golf circuit over the past year, squandered a late lead in his eventual 19-hole loss to Bradford Tilley in the Round of 64.

Bhatia was all square against Tilley as they played Pebble Beach’s par-5 14th hole. After knocking his second shot onto the green, Bhatia and his caddie, Chris Darnell, stopped to use the restroom. Bhatia walked up to the green afterward, but Darnell asked what he thought was a USGA official for a ride up to the green.

“The gentleman was wearing a USGA pullover,” Darnell explained afterward. “I asked if I could get a ride to the green to keep up pace, and he said yes. So I hopped on the back, got up to the green, hopped off and thought nothing of it.”

Conditions of the competition prohibit players and caddies from riding on any form of transportation during a stipulated round unless authorized.

It turns out that the cart that Darnell rode on was not driven by a USGA official. Rather, it was just a volunteer wearing USGA apparel. A rules official who was in the area spotted the infraction and assessed Bhatia an adjustment penalty, so instead of winning the hole with a birdie-4 to move 1 up, the match remained all square.

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

Even more interesting was what Darnell said happened earlier in the match.

“I had already seen the other caddie in our group do it on the ninth hole,” Darnell said. “Same thing – USGA pullover, drove him from the bathroom up to the fairway – so I assumed it was fine. I didn’t point it out at the time because everything seemed kosher. He had the USGA stuff on, and I didn’t think anything of it.”

Bhatia won the 15th hole to go 1 up, but lost the 17th and 19th holes with bogeys to lose the match. He didn’t blame the outcome on the cart incident.  

“What can you do? I’ll have plenty of opportunities to play in this tournament, so I’m not too upset about it,” he said. “It’s just frustrating because I deserved to win that match. That wasn’t the outcome I wanted, but I can’t do anything about it.”

Bhatia, of Wake Forest, N.C., has been a dominant force in the junior ranks, going back-to-back at the Junior PGA (including this dramatic hole-out), capturing the AJGA Polo, taking the Sage Valley Invitational and reaching the finals of the U.S. Junior.