Bunker Shots Chess Match

By Randall MellNovember 3, 2009, 10:53 pm

From China to Japan, we blast into the week ahead ...

Woods, Mickelson headline WGC-HSBC Champions

The silly season will have to wait.

November opens with a serious bang as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson lead a muscle-bound field at the HSBC Champions at the Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai.

With the event gaining a World Golf Championship designation for the first time, Woods immediately vaults to the ultra favorite’s position, not that he wouldn’t be favored anyway. It’s just that Woods plays WGC events better than he plays majors. Since the World Golf Championships started in 1999, Woods has won 17 of the 32 events he has played and has tied for fifth or better in 25 of them.

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The field in the $7 million event is all-star caliber with seven of the top 10 players on the Official World Ranking entered. It’s shaping up as the second strongest field outside the United States this year, trailing only the British Open in world ranking points offered. It’s another big boost for Asian golf, which saw Han Chang-won earn a spot in the Masters winning the inaugural Asian Amateur last week.

Stance: Sergio Garcia is the defending champion this week, but the stars may be aligning for a Woods vs. Mickelson duel. Mickelson won this event two seasons ago. Woods has finished runner-up both times he played it, finishing behind Y.E. Yang in ’06 and David Howell in ’05. The last time Woods and Mickelson played a stroke-play event together was at the Tour Championship, where Mickelson won the tournament and Woods the FedEx Cup.

Takeaway: Of the 39 WGC events previously staged, 27 of them have been played in the United States. That annoys certain international players, who also don’t like the fact that when WGC events are played overseas, so many Americans stay away. That’s the case again this week. The only players missing from the top 10 in the world rankings are all Americans (No. 3 Steve Stricker, No. 8 Kenny Perry and No. 10 Jim Furyk).

Bunker shot:
Mickelson didn’t overwhelm at the Barclay’s Singapore Open last week, but he didn’t exactly stink it up tying for 14th. Mickelson’s driving is better under Butch Harmon’s eye, and his putting is showing great promise under new coach Dave Stockton’s eye. A Mickelson victory this week would add intrigue over the rest of the “offseason” and heighten anticipation that he’s ready to challenge Woods in the new year.



Shin in driver’s seat for POY run

History is there for the taking for Jiyai Shin.

She locked up LPGA Rolex Rookie of the Year honors last weekend with her sixth-place finish at the Hana Bank-Kolon Championship in her native South Korea. As defending champion at the Mizuno Classic in Japan this week, Shin is favored to win her fourth LPGA event of the season. Play begins Friday at Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club. Shin's bid to join Nancy Lopez (1978) as the only players to win LPGA Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors in the same season moves closer to reality with a successful defense. She would be the first South Korean to win the Player of the Year honor.

Shin already leads the LPGA in POY points (141) and official money ($1,664,395).

Stance: Lorena Ochoa is just 10 points shy of Shin in the POY race with 30 points available to this week’s winner. If Ochoa can cut into Shin’s lead, momentum shifts back Ochoa’s way in her effort to win a fourth consecutive POY title. The tour moves to Mexico next week and the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. The season ends the following week at the LPGA Tour Championship in Houston.

Takeaway: Ai Miyazato will have a lot of support in her native Japan this week but there’s pressure that comes with it. Miyazato is fourth in POY points behind Shin, Ochoa and Cristie Kerr. She is trying to become the second Japanese player to win the award. Ayako Okamoto won it in 1987.

Bunker shot: If the Americans end their 0-for-16 streak in tour events this weekend, it will feel like an upset. It will take a strong road effort from a small American contingent in Japan. Just nine Americans are entered in the 78-player field. There isn’t an American in the top 30 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings playing the event. Brittany Lang is the highest ranked American there at No. 33.

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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.”