Mahan a part of the 'American young talent' conversation?

By John HawkinsFebruary 27, 2012, 3:01 am

So the guy wrongly accused of killing the U.S. rally at the 2010 Ryder Cup is the new WGC-Accenture Match Play champion, beating a Northern Irishman in the finals, no less, making it a week when justice did more than just prevail. It high-stepped its way to the goal line and broke into an end-zone dance.

Hunter Mahan beat three of the top 14 players in the World Ranking en route to his second WGC title, all three of whom he vanquished after the field was reduced to 16. The last of those victories came against Rory McIlroy, who didn't face anyone in the top 30 until drawing Lee Westwood in the semis. Mahan won 31 holes and lost just 12 after surviving Zach Johnson in his opening match. Most impressively, he never trailed an opponent after winning the fourth hole of his second-round bout against Y.E. Yang.

By any measure, it was an exceptional performance by a guy who has drifted in and out of those 'America's best young golfer' conversations that have proven so popular in recent years. Mahan turns 30 in May, and if the common perception is that a shoddy short game has prevented him from becoming one of the game's best players, the statistics do little to support or debunk such a claim.

In 2011, for instance, Mahan had by far his best all-around season, ranking in the top 25 in putting, birdies, greens in regulation and scoring average. He was a respectable 66th in sand saves and 58th in salvaging par from inside 30 yards. He also didn't win a tournament, and for all the FedEx Cup points and millions of dollars he accumulated, success is measured in Ws, not dollars or overnight-shipping digits.

'Ballstriking is a strength of mine, but I have to chip and putt if I want to win,' Mahan said after deposing of McIlroy. It is especially crucial at the majors, where Mahan has underachieved to the point that he is still searching for his first top-five finish. His performance this past weekend will lure some into thinking he’s ready to become a superstar – I strongly suggest we downplay such chatter, if not ignore it entirely.

Mahan is a very good player, strikingly similar to Westwood, if you’ll pardon the pun, in that he excels from tee to green. The ability to economize strokes when you’re not hitting it precisely, however, is a difficult skill to acquire and even harder to rely on consistently. A vast majority of the world’s best being a superb short game with them to the pros – chipping a golf ball is largely a right-brain exercise mastered by those who find the touch at an early age.

Putting, meanwhile, is a maddening mix of confidence and science. Perhaps it’s worth noting that all four Match Play semifinalists use a standard-length putter to get their ball in the hole, which isn’t likely to quell the protests of those who believe long putters should be illegal. The topic led to some provocative discussion during the Golf Channel’s “State of the Game” forum and remains one of the more persistent issues in my live chats for GolfChannel.com.

Maybe it was the 45-foot broomstick bomb made by Bill Haas to win the playoff at Riviera, the strength of the dissenting cry or a mere surge of common sense, but I have gone from somewhat neutral on the matter to strongly in favor of a long-putter ban. We’re not talking about a “competitive advantage” here, per se, but the inarguable notion that anchoring the club ifies the most obvious (and important) physical task required in putting: prudent lateral movement of the arms and hands.

No question, the growing number of prominent young players who use long putters is both alarming and relevant to the issue itself. You simply cannot push or pull a putt if the instrument is braced against your body, and thus, the “diminished skill” factor is something the Royal & Ancient and USGA must address immediately. 

I honestly don’t care if the 16 handicap at my club shows up with a long putter. What bothers me is that pro golf’s competitive landscape absolutely has been affected – that the game’s most significant pressure-related activity is made easier by something that resembles a crutch in both length and purpose. Long putters may not be saving careers, but you can’t look me in the eye and tell me they aren’t compromising the game’s integrity.

On the seventh hole of his quarterfinal match against Matt Kuchar, Mahan hit a spectacular approach from just over 200 yards, stopping the ball about 6 feet from the flag. Kuchar, whose second shot had barely reached the front of the green, pulled out his bellystick and rolled his 50-footer just inside Mahan’s mark, leaving him 5 feet for par on almost the exact same line as his opponent.

When Mahan burned the right edge, life didn’t seem fair – he’d played the hole much better than his foe but was sure to walk away with a halve. Alas, Kuchar also missed wide-right, anchor and all, at which point a tiny little dose of justice had been served. Golf can be like that sometimes.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”