From Tiger to Sandy: Ranking all 93 Masters players

By Jason SobelApril 10, 2013, 12:15 pm

A wise man once said there are only three certainties in life: death, taxes and ... nobody will ever correctly predict an entire golf tournament.

And yet, here I am. Again.

In what’s become an annual rite of foolishness, I have once again attempted to prognosticate the entire Masters field – from the man who will claim the green jacket to the unfortunate soul who finishes dead last.

If this list isn’t 100 percent correct on Sunday evening, I’ll guarantee your money back. (But here’s a thought: Maybe you’re reading it upside-down?) If it is, well, brace yourself for the next installment of Tigermania.

Either way, here’s hoping this helps with those for-entertainment-purposes-only office pools. Much like a good caddie, I’ll let you take all of the credit, but I’ll shoulder all of the blame – as long as you promise to tip 10 percent for the win.

1. Tiger Woods

Lost amid the hoopla surrounding Woods’ three-win start to the season is this telling stat: On the three previous occasions that he won three times prior to the Masters, he never followed by also winning at Augusta. Clichéd translation? Don’t count your green jackets before they’ve hatched. That said, even though I’m not as bullish about Tiger’s chances as most people, I also can’t find anyone in this field that I’d rank higher. A fifth Masters title – and subsequent pandemonium throughout the golf world – may be just days from taking place.

2. Keegan Bradley

I was recently talking Masters contenders with a PGA Tour pro who knows Bradley’s game well and picked him to win. When I inquired as to whether the former PGA champion has the right ball flight for Augusta, he looked at me funny. “Well, he hits it long and straight and high,” the player said. “That’s the right ball flight for every course.” Duly noted. Also noted is that Bradley has been knocking on the door all year without breaking through it yet.

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3. Rory McIlroy

So let me get this straight: Every top player talks about peaking at the right time to win major championships. But when Boy Wonder failed to peak in the weeks and months before the Masters, he was subject to ridicule for not having his best stuff yet. Well, following a solo second place at the Valero Texas Open this past week, Rory may just have the last laugh. Personally, I often prefer picking players who haven’t yet peaked rather than ones who already have. Hopefully your stockbroker has the same theory.

4. Bill Haas

Bubba Watson won the Masters in his fourth appearance; likewise, Trevor Immelman won in his fourth as a pro. Wanna take a guess as to what number this will be for Haas? After results between 26th and 42nd in his first three starts, he seems primed to contend this week. Bigger question is whether he can win. Despite four victories in the last three seasons, he’s gotten into the final group on a Sunday twice already this year, but has underwhelmed each time.

5. Lee Westwood

Yeah, yeah. I know the knock on Westwood. By now, everyone does. He’s one of the game’s preeminent ball-strikers, but at times looks lost with a putter in his hands. And more often than not, those times are down the stretch in major championships. While his putting statistics don’t show much improvement this season, there could be something about a gradually closing window that could help him finally hole some of those must-make putts in search of his long-awaited first major title.

6. Phil Mickelson

It’s funny. I keep hearing scuttlebutt about Mickelson running out of chances to win this tournament. Umm, he’s won three of 'em – and that last one was just three years ago. On a course where experience may play a bigger factor than anything else, Lefty has finished outside of the top 10 just twice since 1999. He wasn’t happy about not having a similar course to play the week before, but a little downtime prior to the Masters could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

7. Henrik Stenson

Upon reaching the Masters field less than two weeks ago by squeezing into the world’s top 50 just before the deadline, Stenson was thrilled with the result. Not only because he gets to compete in the tournament for an eighth consecutive year, but because – in his opinion – he’s playing better than he ever has before the year’s first major. How much better? Well, he’s first on the PGA Tour in both total driving and greens in regulation percentage. That’s pretty good.

8. Adam Scott

There are two ways to look at Scott’s close call at Lytham last year: Either he doesn’t have the stuff to claim a major down the stretch or he proved that he’s very close. I’ll take the latter and use his T-2 finish at Augusta two years ago as further evidence. If we were giving a grade to Scott for his performance so far this season, though, it would have to be an I for Incomplete. With only four starts under his belt, he’s hoping that translates into extra rest instead of rust.

9. Rickie Fowler

He may have a homemade swing that doesn’t look straight out of an instructor’s assembly line, but that doesn’t mean Fowler’s move at the ball isn’t effective. While distance gets all the glory, trajectory is just as key on fast, firm greens. There is an actual PGA Tour stat called “hang time” which ranks how long shots stay in the air. Rickie ranks third in that category, which should serve him very well on a course that forces plenty of long and mid-irons into its holes.

10. Charl Schwartzel

Just 104 weeks removed from winning this event, Schwartzel hasn’t finished worse than 22nd in his last dozen stroke-play events worldwide. The debate is still open as to whether he or childhood buddy Louis Oosthuizen is the better player. Give me Schwartzel – well, at least this week. If it’s possible for a top-15 player who won two years ago to come to this event under the radar, then that’s exactly what he’s doing. All of which should serve him well during the tournament.

11. Justin Rose

Many are referring to him as a “dark horse” contender. Sorry, No. 3 player in the world is never a dark horse.

12. Matt Kuchar

With just a few holes left to play in last year’s final round, it looked like Kuchar was the guy with an inside track.

13. Hunter Mahan

As always, the key will be his short game around the greens, something he’s worked on in recent years.

14. Jason Day

After sharing second place two years ago, he’s taken a dip in the rankings, but seems to be on the uptick once again.

15. Fred Couples

It’s April; it’s Augusta; it’s Freddie. Even at 53, we’ve come to expect the unexpected from him.

16. K.J. Choi

Showing signs of trending in the right direction and he’s contended at Augusta in the past.

17. Luke Donald

Despite a strong finish two years ago, game is better suited for the other three majors.

18. Jason Dufner

Hmm … wonder what Billy Payne’s official stance would be on Dufnering in Butler Cabin.

19. Louis Oosthuizen

Everyone remembers the albatross, but he held it together with duct tape in last year’s final round.

20. Nicolas Colsaerts

Long-bombing Belgian will contend in the Masters … someday. Just needs a little experience first.

21. Dustin Johnson

His game seems tailor-made for Augusta National, which makes it puzzling why he hasn’t fared better than T-30.

22. Vijay Singh

If you thought the mess surrounding his deer-antler spray confession was big news, just wait 'til he contends this week.

23. Brian Gay

Great putters always have a chance to contend – and Gay is among the game’s best putters right now.

24. Steve Stricker

So far, so good with the part-time schedule. Let’s see if that carries over to the majors.

25. Ian Poulter

If the Masters ever moves to a match-play format, he’ll be No. 1 on this list.

26. Webb Simpson

The reigning U.S. Open champion has proven that he’s good enough to contend anyplace, anytime.

27. Ernie Els

It would be equal parts poetic and ironic if, one year after failing to qualify for the field, Els finally wins a green jacket.

28. Branden Grace

First-timer is looking to follow in the footsteps of Schwartzel and Oosthuizen as next young South African major champ.

29. Graeme McDowell

He wins his second major title this year … I think. But it won’t happen this week … I think.

30. Jim Furyk

Eagle hole-out to finish a strong week in San Antonio had to feel good for the much maligned veteran.

31. Freddie Jacobson

Player nicknamed Junkman can get up and down from everywhere, but that may be better suited for winning a U.S. Open.

32. Padraig Harrington

The bespectacled Irishman has shown signs of life recently, coming off a T-10 in San Antonio.

33. Brandt Snedeker

With a win and two seconds in the year’s first two months, gotta wonder whether he peaked too early.

34. Bubba Watson

Defending champ says his main goal is to make the cut, so he doesn’t have to sit around for two days before putting a green jacket on someone else.

35. Francesco Molinari

Ball-striker supreme somewhat surprisingly – and disappointingly – only owns one top-10 in 16 major starts.

36. Kevin Streelman

Recent winner of the Tampa Bay Championship has the grit and fire to contend at a major someday soon.

37. Peter Hanson

Surprise contender last year won’t be able to sneak up on anyone again.

38. Robert Garrigus

Quietly owns four finishes of 16th or better in eight PGA Tour starts this season.

39. Nick Watney

High-ball hitter has fared well at this event in the past, but hasn’t made much noise so far this season.

40. Bo Van Pelt

In last year’s final round, he netted a hole-in-one and bagged an another albatross, too.

41. Martin Kaymer

Once changed his swing to fit Augusta and it didn’t work. There’d be a lesson if it does work now.

42. Scott Piercy

Big hitter makes a lot of birdies and is the type of guy who could find his way onto a Round 1 leaderboard.

43. Ryan Moore

Ready to start contending at majors, but missed cuts in his last two starts shouldn’t be too inspiring.

44. David Lynn

Granted he lost by eight, but Lynn burst onto the scene here in the U.S. with a runner-up at last year’s PGA, parlaying that into PGA Tour membership.

45. John Merrick

Who says experience matters? Merrick finished T-6 in his initial Masters start two years ago.

46. Sergio Garcia

Remember: It was at Augusta last year where Sergio was quoted as saying that he’s not good enough to win a major.

47. Angel Cabrera

He’s made five of seven cuts this year, but having trouble closing, with just one of 10 weekend rounds in the 60s.

48. George Coetzee

South African failed to make the cut in each of his three major championship starts last year.

49. Russell Henley

Expect the nerves to be rattling a bit for the University of Georgia product and Sony Open champion.

50. Martin Laird

Valero Texas Open champion must feel like he’s playing with house money after receiving an 11th hour invitation.

51. Zach Johnson

Past champion has yet to play his best golf this season, with no result better than T-18 in eight starts.

52. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano

Sneaky good Spaniard will challenge for a major sometime soon and make next year’s Ryder Cup team.

53. Matteo Manassero

Will lose his record this week as youngest player to ever compete in the Masters.

54. Carl Pettersson

In contention at last year’s PGA Championship before touching a leaf with his backswing in a hazard early in the final round.

55. Bernhard Langer

OK, it’s the Champions Tour, but Langer does have a win, two seconds and a third in five starts so far this year.

56. Stewart Cink

After getting into the final pairing in Houston two weeks ago, he’s showing signs of rounding into form.

57. John Peterson

Weird juxtaposition with last year’s U.S. Open contender in this week’s field while still trying to work his way up through the Tour.

58. Marc Leishman

Travelers Championship winner is one of four Aussie players in this week’s field.

59. a-Michael Weaver

According to those in the know, this junior from Cal is the best of the amateur bunch this year.

60. Jamie Donaldson

Making his tournament debut at age 37, the Welshman has competed in seven career U.S. events with just one top-30 finish.

61. Michael Thompson

Returning to Augusta five years after calling a penalty on himself while near the cut line as an amateur.

62. Richard Sterne

Playing good golf coming into this week, with a win and four top-10s in his last seven global starts.

63. Paul Lawrie

Chose to forgo last year’s U.S. Open, but won’t skip the Masters, where he finished T-24 a year ago.

64. Trevor Immelman

His game has hit some hard times in recent years, but the swing still looks as sweet as ever.

65. Y.E. Yang

The man of many hybrids probably has his face on a dartboard at Woods’ house somewhere.

66. David Toms

Bad sign: His first-round exit at the Match Play – good for a T-33 result – is easily his best result of the season.

67. Ben Curtis

It’s been a trying year so far, with just one of 25 total rounds in the 60s.

68. Ryo Ishikawa

At some point, his performance will equal his potential, but we’ve only seen flashes of that so far.

69. a-Alan Dunbar

British Amateur champion recently won the Georgia Cup, giving him a nod over…

70. a-Steven Fox

… the U.S. Amateur champion, who plays collegiately at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

71. Thorbjorn Olesen

Terrific young player, but reportedly still hampered by injuries suffered in a car accident prior to Shell Houston Open.

72.Tom Watson

His name can’t even be mentioned in regard to a major anymore without thoughts automatically turning to the 2009 Open Championship.

73. Lucas Glover

Since winning the 2009 U.S. Open, he has a T-39 at the Masters and two missed cuts.

74. Tim Clark

When you’re as short as him off the tee, every other facet of your game has to be dead on at a course like this.

75. John Senden

Greens in regulation machine owns just one top-25 finish in nine PGA Tour starts so far this season.

76. John Huh

A vestige of the pre-FedEx Cup days, players can still get into the field by making the prior year’s Tour Championship, as Huh did.

77. D.A. Points

No finish better than 63rd in his first nine starts this year, then a victory, then right back to a 53rd last week.

78. Ted Potter, Jr.

This comes under the category of “Just Saying”: Five of the last 10 winners have been lefties.

79. Thomas Bjorn

Nine-time competitor finished in a share of 37th place last year after a four-year Masters absence.

80. a-Tianlang Guan

Call me crazy, but I think the 14-year-old with peachfuzz and a belly putter will exceed expectations this week.

81. Kevin Na

Hasn’t competed since withdrawing with a back injury after the first round of the Puerto Rico Open a month ago.

82. Mark O’Meara

Revealed recently that he checked his cell phone on the course at Augusta when Woods won at Bay Hill. Tsk-tsk.

83. Hiroyuki Fujita

Veteran is world’s 54th-ranked player and has won five times in Asia in the past two years.

84. Larry Mize

The story of an Augusta native winning his hometown event probably doesn’t get enough pub as one of the better sports tales in the past quarter-century.

85. Thaworn Wiratchant

Special invitation hung around the leaderboard at Doral for a few days before finishing in a share of 53rd place.

86. Ben Crenshaw

You know at some point he’ll roll in a 40-footer for birdie to delight the Augusta galleries.

87. a-Nathan Smith

Investment banker from Pittsburgh may have some top pros asking him for advice.

88. Mike Weir

Poor Weirsy. On the 10-year anniversary of his win, his game is at rock-bottom and he’s dealing with injuries.

89. Jose Maria Olazabal

Last year’s Ryder Cup captain could triple bogey every hole and still be smiling about that win at Medinah.

90. Craig Stadler

It’s a shame that he’s never gotten to play this event with his son Kevin, a longtime PGA Tour pro who has never qualified.

91. a-T.J. Vogel

One of the last of the USGA's Amateur Public Links champions, as the tourney will cease to exist after next year.

92. Ian Woosnam

Actually put together a valiant effort with a pair of 77s one year ago.

93. Sandy Lyle

Opening-round 86 last year was three strokes worse than any other score during that week.

Love him or not, Miller's authentic style stood out

By Doug FergusonOctober 16, 2018, 10:11 pm

The comment was vintage Johnny Miller, raw enough to cause most television producers to wince.

Miller was in the NBC Sports booth at Doral in 2004 when he watched Craig Parry hit another beautiful shot to the green. Miller said what he saw. That was his job.

He just didn't say it like other golf analysts.

''The last time you see that swing is in a pro-am with a guy who's about a 15-handicap,'' Miller said. ''It's just over the top, cups it at the bottom and hits it unbelievably good. It doesn't look ... if Ben Hogan saw that, he'd puke.''

Parry got the last word, of course, holing out a 6-iron from 176 yards in a playoff to win.

Except that wasn't the last word.

''I was in Ponte Vedra going back to the Honda Classic, and my phone is blowing up,'' said Tommy Roy, the longtime golf producer at NBC. ''It started percolating down in Australia, and you had radio stations demanding Johnny Miller be fired.''

Miller could make golf more fun to hear than to watch.

''He doesn't have a filter. That's why he's so good,'' Roy said. ''What he's thinking comes out. And 99.5 percent of the time, that was a great thing for viewers, and for me. And 0.5 percent of the time, it was a problem for our PR department and for me.

''And it was worth it.''

Roy was in Wisconsin on Monday night for his first look at Whistling Straits for the 2020 Ryder Cup. It will be the first Ryder Cup since 1989 that doesn't have Miller in the booth weighing in on good shots and bad with thoughts that immediately become words.

He often entertained. He occasionally irritated. He was rarely dull.

Miller is retiring after three decades calling the shots for NBC. His last tournament will be the Phoenix Open, the perfect exit for a Hall of Fame player once known as the ''Desert Fox'' for winning six times in Arizona. Miller was so good for so long that it was easy for younger generations to forget about that other career he had.

Miller to retire from broadcast booth in 2019

Best of: Photos of Miller through the years

And to think that was nearly his only career in golf.

Miller said he wasn't interested when NBC first approached him, but then his wife stepped in and told him it would be nice to have a steady paycheck. Even then, it took time for him to realize his audience was in the living room, not the locker room.

He made his debut at the Bob Hope Classic in 1990 and it didn't take long for him to leave his mark. Peter Jacobsen faced an awkward lie to the 18th green with water to the left.

''The easiest shot to choke on,'' Miller said.

People thought about choking. Miller said it because that's what he was thinking.

''What came into his brain came out of his mouth,'' said Mike McCarley, president of golf for NBC Sports. ''He was the first to really talk about the pressure. It's the most important element of the game, especially in those really big moments. He was doing it at a time when others weren't.''

It wasn't just the word ''choke.''

Phil Mickelson was getting up-and-down from everywhere at the 2010 Ryder Cup when Miller suggested that if Lefty weren't such a good putter he'd be selling cars in San Diego. Justin Leonard and Hal Sutton were losing a fourballs match at the 1999 Ryder Cup when Miller blurted out, ''My hunch is that Justin needs to go home and watch it on television.''

During the 2008 U.S. Open playoff at Torrey Pines that Tiger Woods won in 19 holes over Rocco Mediate, Miller suggested that guys named ''Rocco'' don't get their name on the trophy, and that Mediate looked like ''the guy who cleans Tiger's swimming pool.''

It wasn't all bad.

Roy, who also has produced NBA Finals and Olympics, said he wants analysts who first-guess, not second-guess. The latter is for talk radio. First-guessing means sharing instincts, and Miller had plenty of them.

Woods was playing the final hole at Newport in the 1995 U.S. Amateur when Miller said, ''It wouldn't surprise me if he knocked this thing a foot from the hole.''

And that's just what Woods did.

McCarley remembers how retired NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol used to worry whenever Miller called because he thought it was about retirement. McCarley soon inherited that feeling.

''Every time I'd see Johnny's number pop up on my cellphone, my heart would skip a beat,'' McCarley said. ''Two years ago, he made that call I had been dreading.''

McCarley kept him working a slightly reduced schedule, but no longer. Miller is 71 and has been on the road for 50 years. His 24th grandchild was born on Sunday. He wants to teach them fly fishing in Utah, perhaps even a little golf.

Miller wasn't sure he would last a week when he started. He never imagined going nearly 30 years.

He leaves behind a style all his own.

Most loved it. Some didn't. But everyone listened, and that might be his legacy in the broadcast booth. Roy said what he has heard from viewers he knows is that 70 percent really like Miller, and 30 percent really don't.

''But they all have an opinion,'' he said.

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CJ Cup: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 16, 2018, 9:20 pm

The PGA Tour returns to South Korea this week for the second edition of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges. Here is the key information for the no-cut event, where Justin Thomas is defending champion.

Golf course: Located on Jeju Island, the largest island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, The Club at Nine Bridges opened in 2001 and was designed by Ronald Fream and David Dale. The par-72 layout (36-36) will measure 7,184 yards for this week's event, 12 yards shorter than last year.

Purse: The total purse is $9.5 million with the winner receiving $1.71 million. In addition, the winner will receive 500 FedExCup points, a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and invitations to the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions, Players, Masters, and PGA Championship.

Last year: Thomas defeated Marc Leishman with a birdie on the second playoff hole to earn his seventh career PGA Tour win.

TV schedule (all times Eastern): Golf Channel, Wednesday-Saturday, 10 p.m.-2 a.m.

Live streamingWednesday-Saturday, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. 

Notable tee times (all times Eastern): 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, 8:15 p.m. Thursday: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Sungjae Im; 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. Thursday: Marc Leishman, Si Woo Kim, Ernie Els; 8:25 p.m. Wednesday, 7:15 p.m. Thursday: Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama

Notables in the field: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Ernie Els, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and last week's winner Marc Leishman.

Key stats:

 This is the third of 46 official events of the season and the second of three consecutive weeks of events in Asia

• 78-player field including the top 60 available from the final 2017-2018 FedExCup points list

The field also includes 12 major champions and two of the top five in the Official World Golf Ranking (highest ranked are No. 3 Koepka and No. 4 Thomas)

Thomas and Koepka both have a shot to ascend to No. 1 in the OWGR this week - they will play their first two rounds grouped together

Stats and information provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit

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Els eyeing potential Prez Cup players at CJ Cup

By Will GrayOctober 16, 2018, 6:55 pm

Ernie Els is teeing it up this week in South Korea as a player, but he's also retaining the perspective of a captain.

While the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia is still more than a year away, Els has already begun the process of keeping tabs on potential players who could factor on his International squad that will face an American contingent captained by Tiger Woods. Els played in last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia, and this week received one of eight sponsor exemptions into the limited-field CJ Cup on Jeju Island.

Els played a Tuesday practice round with Presidents Cup veteran and Branden Grace and India's Shubankhar Sharma, who held a share of the 54-hole lead last week in Malaysia.

"It's going to be a very diverse team the way things are shaping up already," Els told reporters. "We've got another year to go, so we're going to have an interesting new group of players that's going to probably make the team."

In addition to keeping tabs on Grace and Sharma, Els will play the first two rounds with Australia's Marc Leishman and South Korea's Si Woo Kim. Then there's Sungjae Im, a native of Jeju Island who led the Tour money list wire-to-wire last season.

"There's so many Korean youngsters here this week, so I'm going to really see how they perform," Els said. "Still a long way to go, but these guys, the young guys are going to be really the core of our team."

Els, who will turn 49 on Wednesday, made only five cuts in 15 PGA Tour starts last season, with his best result a T-30 finish at the Valero Texas Open. While it's increasingly likely that his unexpected triumph at the 2012 Open will end up being his final worldwide victory, he's eager to tackle a new challenge in the coming months by putting together the squad that he hopes can end the International losing skid in the biennial matches.

"The U.S. team is a well-oiled team. They play Ryder Cups together, they obviously play very well in the Presidents Cups against us, so they're a very mature team," Els said. "We are going to be a young team, inexperienced. But that doesn't scare me because I know the course very well down in Melbourne, I've played it many, many times. I feel I have a very good game plan to play the golf course strategy-wise and I'm going to share that with my players."

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CIMB champ Leishman hopes to improve on CJ runner-up

By Will GrayOctober 16, 2018, 6:29 pm

Marc Leishman is back in Korea with momentum on his side, hoping to fare a little better than a year ago.

Leishman nearly took home the trophy in the inaugural CJ Cup, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Justin Thomas. But the Aussie put his approach into the water on the second extra hole, allowing Thomas to wrap up the win a few minutes later.

"Excited to be back in Korea. I have a lot of good memories here at this golf course," Leishman told reporters. "Hopefully I can play well again and go one better than last year."

Leishman's playoff loss kick-started a strong opening stretch to his wraparound season, but he closed it without a victory. That drought ended in emphatic fashion last week, as he cruised to a five-shot win at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia for his fourth career PGA Tour win and his third since March 2017.

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

Leishman told reporters last week in Malaysia that before the week started, his driving was so crooked that he feared his equipment reps might need to add a few golf balls to his locker. Instead, he found his groove en route to shooting 26 under par at TPC Kuala Lumpur and leaving the field in his wake.

"Golf's a funny game. It can change very quickly from bad to good or from good to bad," Leishman said. "It was certainly a goal of mine to win this season, and to win my first event of the season is great. Also to be going back to Maui puts me in a different frame of mind for the whole year. For a lot of reasons, I'm really happy with what last week brought."

Leishman played on the Korean PGA Tour in 2006 while getting his pro career off the ground, but even with that experience he expects a learning curve while going from the steamy conditions of Malaysia to the cool and wet climate that has greeted players this week on Jeju Island.

"It's a big adjustment going from so hot and humid last week to fairly cold and hopefully not wet, but it was wet this morning," Leishman said. "The ball goes different distances, your body's not quite as loose as what it is when it's hot. Just little things like that that you have to adjust to."