Ranking the U.S. Open field no small task

By Jason SobelJune 12, 2012, 9:55 pm

SAN FRANCISCO – If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

That could be Luke Donald’s mantra, as the game’s No. 1-ranked player also deals with the Catch-22 that labels him as its current best to never win a major championship.

It might as well be mine, too. Just two months ago, in a similar list ranking the field prior to the Masters Tournament, I placed Donald atop that one – only to see him finish in a share of 32nd place.

That doesn’t change my overall feeling that Donald is primed and ready to win a big one. And so in advance of this week’s 112th U.S. Open Championship, he once again tops the list of 156 competitors.

Where does everyone else rank below him? Here are your answers, complete with a few surprises. Just remember: If this one isn’t completely correct, I’ll just try, try again.


1. Luke Donald Keys to contending at any major: Keep the ball in play, eliminate mistakes and be deadly from 100 yards and in. That’s pretty much an analysis of Donald’s game.
2. Martin Laird Trending in the right direction with a T-2 at The Players Championship and a solid weekend in Memphis, Laird fits the mold of a Charl Schwartzel or Geoff Ogilvy major champion.
3. Tiger Woods He will contend that he enjoys playing tournaments in which the winning score is closer to par, but history shows tough conditions only level Woods with the playing field.
4. Jonathan Byrd Looking for a hot hand? Byrd has finished 12th or better in each of his last four events. Ironically, this Ben Hogan fan could be this week’s Jack Fleck.
5. Bubba Watson Everyone maintains players will have to work the ball both ways at The Olympic Club, and nobody in the game does that better than the reigning Masters champion.
6. Lee Westwood One of the world’s best tee-to-green players, it will all come down to how he’s rolling the rock. A win last weekend in Sweden should give Westwood some confidence.
7. Davis Love III Don’t scoff. The current United States Ryder Cup captain is peaking at the right time, reaching the field through sectionals before a T-3 finish in Memphis.
8. Adam Scott In a season where seemingly every big-name player has enjoyed his week in the sun, Scott is still waiting to see his name atop a leaderboard on a Sunday afternoon.
9. Nicolas Colsaerts Length may not be that much of an advantage on this course, but Colsearts is about more than just bombing the ball. He’s got a pretty solid short game, too.
10. Dustin Johnson Oozing with confidence coming off his victory in Memphis, Johnson will try to break a streak that has never seen a previous week’s winner also take the U.S. Open.
11. Nick Watney
12. Rory McIlroy
13. Steve Stricker
14. Justin Rose
15. Phil Mickelson
16. Bo Van Pelt
17. Zach Johnson
18. Louis Oosthuizen
19. Aaron Baddeley
20. Rickie Fowler
21. Matt Kuchar
22. Jason Dufner By holding a weekend lead during each of the last two major championships, Dufner is quickly establishing himself as a big-time player in big-time events.
23. Bill Haas
24. Geoff Ogilvy
25. Hunter Mahan
26. Kevin Streelman
27. Miguel Angel Jimenez
28. Spencer Levin
29. Sergio Garcia
30. Mark Wilson
31. Jim Furyk
32. Padraig Harrington
33. Keegan Bradley Hard to believe that one year ago Bradley was sitting at home, still two months shy of winning the PGA Championship. His first U.S. Open comes on a course that should suit him well.
34. John Senden
35. Ernie Els
36. Charlie Wi
37. Peter Hanson
38. Ian Poulter
39. K.J. Choi
40. Francesco Molinari
41. John Peterson
42. Graeme McDowell
43. Michael Allen If home course knowledge was everything, this Champions Tour regular and Olympic Club member would be your runaway winner. No one knows this place better.
44. Charl Schwartzel
45. Martin Kaymer
46. Branden Grace
47. Kevin Chappell
48. Kevin Na
49. Vijay Singh
50. Blake Adams
51. Mikko Ilonen
52. Ben Crane
53. Scott Langley
54. Michael Thompson
55. Rafael Cabrera Bello
56. David Mathis
57. Robert Rock
58. David Toms
59. George Coetzee
60. Colt Knost
The answer to a trivia question, Knost has won three USGA events (U.S. PubLinks, U.S. Amateur and Walker Cup) before competing in his first U.S. Open.
61. Y.E. Yang
62. Jason Day
63. Fredrik Jacobson
64. James Hahn
65. Carl Pettersson
66. Charles Howell III
67. Robert Castro
68. Sang-moon Bae
69. Ryo Ishikawa
70. D.A. Points
71. Joe Durant
72. Lucas Glover
73. Thomas Bjorn
74. Matteo Manassero
75. Brian Harman
76. Hiroyuki Fujita
77. Retief Goosen
Once considered the preeminent U.S. Open-type player, Goosen hasn’t finished inside the top-10 at this event since his second of two wins in 2004.
78. Webb Simpson
79. Alvaro Quiros
80. Peter Lawrie
81. Rod Pampling
82. Stewart Cink
83. Soren Kjeldsen
84. Angel Cabrera
85. Robert Karlsson
86. Tim Clark
87. Jason Bohn
88. Shane Bertsch
89. Stephen Ames
90. Trevor Immelman
91. Robert Garrigus In this week’s field based on his T-3 at Congressional one year ago, Garrigus has leveled off lately with sub-70 scores in only three of his last 15 rounds.
92. K.T. Kim
93. Scott Piercy
94. Bob Estes
95. Simon Dyson
96. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
97. Steve Marino
98. Brendan Jones
99. Raphael Jacquelin
100. Joe Ogilvie
101. a-Patrick Cantlay
This week’s contingent of nine amateurs is paced by Cantlay, a UCLA junior who recently won the Ben Hogan Award despite not claiming an individual title this year.
102. Hunter Haas
103. Anders Hansen
104. a-Jordan Spieth
105. Gary Woodland
106. Lee Slattery
107. Chez Reavie
108. Kyle Stanley
109. Toru Taniguchi
110. Kyle Thompson
111. Morgan Hoffmann
112. Alex Cejka
113. Matt Bettencourt
114. Marc Warren
115. Casey Wittenberg
116. Alistair Presnell
117. Edward Loar
118. Justin Hicks
119. Martin Flores
120. Alex Noren
121. Gregory Bourdy
122. Tim Herron
123. Michael Campbell
There aren’t many sadder stories in the game than that of Campbell, who was on top of the golfing world seven years ago, but has seen a major dropoff ever since.
124. Tommy Biershenk
125. Jim Herman
126. Will Claxton
127. Darron Stiles
128. Tadahiro Takayama
129. Nicholas Thompson
130. Jeff Curl
131. Brice Garnett
132. Bill Lunde
133. a-Cameron Wilson
134. Olin Browne
135. Aaron Watkins
136. a-Hunter Hamrick
137. Steve Lebrun
138. Jesse Mueller
139. Casey Martin The best story to come out of sectional qualifying, Martin overcame a degenerative leg condition and will be riding around Olympic Club in a cart this week.
140. a-Beau Hossler
141. Scott Smith
142. Matthew Baldwin
143. J.B. Park
144. Anthony Summers
145. Dong-Hwan Lee
146. a-Brooks Koepka
147. Brian Gaffney
148. a-Nick Sherwood
149. Cole Howard
150. Samuel Osborne
151. Brian Rowell
152. a-Alberto Sanchez
153. Tim Weinhart
154. Mark McCormick
155. Dennis Miller
156. a-Andy Zhang The last man in the field on Monday, this 14-year-old also finished in last place when all competitors were ranked by age and alphabetically.

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Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.

A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.

The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.

Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.

Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.

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Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

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Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”