Golf rankings, capsules - Part 1
The Sports Xchange
By Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange
The Sports Xchange's PGA Tour rankings, selected by TSX Golf Staff, based on performance in 2013-14.
1. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland -- Establishing himself as clearly the best golfer in the world at 25, McIlroy fell three shots behind in the final round of the PGA Championship before playing the last 12 holes in a bogey-free 5 under par to close with a 68 and beat Phil Mickelson by one stroke in near darkness. It was his third victory in as many outings, fourth major title and second in the final major of the year, which he won two years ago at Kiawah Island. ... Rory's victories in the PGA, the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational moved him to the top of the FedEx Cup standings, unseating Jimmy Walker, heading to the PGA Tour playoffs next week. He also leads the Race to Dubai standings on the European Tour, which he won in 2012, giving him a chance to match Henrik Stenson's feat from last year, when the Swede became the first player to claim both titles. He is taking this week off to get ready for the playoff opener, the Barclays. ... McIlroy took a one-stroke lead to the final round at Valhalla with scores of 66-66-67, but he fell three behind with two bogeys on the first six holes before righting the ship with a birdie at No. 7. However, the shot that really turned things around was a laser from 271 yards on the 10th hole to set up a 7-foot eagle putt. Then, after several early misses on the greens, he sank birdie putts of 2 feet on the 13th hole and the clincher from 11 feet on the 17th. McIlroy overcame a double bogey-bogey stretch to start the back nine in round one, when he birdied four of the last five holes. He holed a 30-foot eagle putt on No. 18 to highlight his second round.
2. Adam Scott, Australia -- It took until last year for Scott to claim his first major title, when he became the first Aussie to win the Masters. There were those who thought several more would come his way very soon, but it has yet to happen. He finished with three scores in the 60s last week in the PGA Championship, but all it got him was a tie for 15th. This year he tied for 14th in his title defense at the Masters, tied for ninth in the U.S. Open and tied for fifth in the Open Championship. ... Scott congratulated Rory McIlroy for taking the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Rankings from him, but he said he wants to get it back, and he will have his chances in the FedEx Cup playoffs that start next week. His playoff victory over Jason Dufner in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and seven other top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour have him within striking distance in the playoffs at 14th in the standings heading to the opener next week at the Barclays, which he won last year. ... Scott was under par in the first round last week at Valhalla when he made a bogey 6 on the 18th hole, a cardinal sin for a big hitter. He played the last three days in 69-66-69, but it wasn't enough to catch the leaders. Scott played his best golf in the third round, when he went bogey-free, starting with three birdies in the first five holes and closing with two in the last four, but he couldn't duplicate that the rest of the week.
3. Martin Kaymer, Germany -- Kaymer was playing better than anyone in the world when he captured the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in May and the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, but he struggled since, shooting 70-74--144 to miss the cut by one stroke last week in the PGA Championship at Valhalla. News came out before the final major of the year, which he won in 2011 at Whistling Straits, that he has been bothered by a shoulder injury since the Open Championship last month at Royal Liverpool, where he finished 70th. ... His victories in the Players and the U.S. Open have Kaymer in good position for the FedEx Cup playoffs at 13th in the standings heading into the opener next week at the Barclays, which he played for the first time last year at Liberty National and struggled to a tie for 50th. He also is fourth in the Race to Dubai standings and is another player who could join Henrik Stenson, who did it last year, as the only players to claim both titles, but he will have to get healthy in a hurry. ... Kaymer played the front nine in a bogey-free 2 under par in round one last week at Valhalla, but he carded a bogey on No. 10 and closed his day with eight consecutive pars. Even though he made a double-bogey 5 on the 14th hole after starting on the back nine the next day, he seemed to be on the way to making it to the weekend until he took a double-bogey 7 on the seventh hole. He could manage only two pars at the end to miss the cut a third time in 15 events on the PGA Tour this season.
4. Bubba Watson, United States -- Again struggling in a major not named the Masters, Watson could not break 70 in any of his four rounds in the PGA Championship at Valhalla and wound up in a tie for 65th. He won at Augusta National in April for the second time in three years, but he has only two other top-10 finishes in 28 starts in the Grand Slam events. This year, he also missed the cut in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst and the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, after saying he was better equipped to handle all that goes with being a major champion. ... Bubba's victory in the Masters, a win in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera and three other finishes in the top three, including seconds in the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the WGC-Cadillac Championship, put him third in the FedEx Cup standings behind Rory McIlroy and Jimmy Walker heading to the PGA Tour playoffs. He is taking this week off ahead of the opener, the Barclays, in which he has finished in the top 10 only once in eight starts. ... Watson, who finished ahead of only five other players in the field at Valhalla who played 72 holes, started well enough with a 1-under-par 70, even though he made bogeys on two of the last four holes. His highlight of the week came when he holed an 18-foot eagle putt on the seventh hole in round one, and he was 3 under through 15 holes before his late stumbles. After playing the middle rounds in 72-73, he had another good round going Sunday after birdies on the 10th and 11th holes before carding two bogeys and another double bogey coming home to shoot 72.
5. Justin Rose, England -- By the time Rose finally got it going in the PGA Championship, it was a bit too late, as he played the weekend in 67-67 to finish in a tie for 24th. He still has only two top-10 finishes in the final major of the year, and he does not have a top 10 in the majors since he captured the U.S. Open last year at Merion. However, it is not as if he had a poor year in the Grand Slam events, as he tied for 14th in the Masters, tied for 12th in his title defense in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst and tied for 23rd in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. ... Rosy's playoff victory in the Quicken Loans National and six other finishes in the top 10 on the PGA Tour this season have him in good shape in the FedEx Cup standings at 17th heading to the start of the PGA Tour playoffs next week at the Barclays, in which he tied for second last year at Liberty National. He also is in good shape in the Race to Dubai, at sixth in the standings. He won the title in 2007, when it was simply the European Tour's Order of Merit, and he would seem to have an outside chance to win both with strong play the rest of the way. ... Rose opened with 72-70--142 at Valhalla to make the cut by one stroke when he birdied four of the last six holes, including the last two, to overcome a double-bogey 6 on the 12th hole. He made two bogeys in each of the two final rounds, but he also collected six birdies both days.
6. Henrik Stenson, Sweden -- Again making a bid to become the first Swedish man to win a major golf title, Stenson was in the chase all the way to the finish of the PGA Championship, closing with a 5-under-par 66 that left him in a tie for third, two strokes behind champion Rory McIlroy. It was the second straight year he finished third in the final major of the year, and was his fourth finish in the top four in the Grand Slam events in the last two years, including second behind Phil Mickelson in the Open Championship at Muirfield last year and a tie for fourth in the U.S. Open in June. ... The big Swede became the first player to capture the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai titles, and he did it in the same season a year ago, but he is lagging in the standings on the PGA Tour this time despite his high finishes in the U.S. Open and PGA. He is 67th in the FedEx Cup race heading to the opener next week in the Barclays, in which he has never finished in the top 40. Stenson is much better off in the Race to Dubai, which he won in 2010 after capturing the PGA Championship, as he is at fourth in the in the Euro Tour standings on the strength of seven top-10 results in Euro events. ... Stenson posted three scores of 4-under 67 or better at Valhalla, but his 71 in the second round proved to be costly. Still, he was tied for the lead in the final round after carding five birdies on the front nine, but he made his only bogey of the day by three-putting from 21 feet on the 14th hole, and McIlroy roared past hum.
7. Jimmy Walker, United States -- Walker made a big run up the leaderboard in the final round of the PGA Championship. His 6-under-par 65 left him five strokes back of winner Rory McIlroy in a tie for seventh, the best finish of his career in a major championship. He played in all four majors for the first time this year and showed that he can be a force in the Grand Slam events, tying for eighth in the Masters, tying for ninth in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 and tying for 26th in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. ... Walker led the FedEx Cup points standings for all but one week of the regular season, before McIlroy went past him by winning the PGA. He is enjoying a breakthrough season with three victories among his eight top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour at the age of 35 under the tutelage of instructor Butch Harmon. He will take a much-needed week off ahead of the Barclays, which he will play for the sixth time next week after teeing it up 23 times already this season on the circuit. He is skipping the Wyndham Championship this week after playing it each of the last six seasons, with his best result at Sedgefield a tie for fourth two years ago. ... Walker at least equaled the par of 71 in every round last week at Valhalla, playing the first three rounds in 69-71-68 before really getting it going on Sunday. In the last round, he carded four birdies in a span of five holes through No. 7, and after taking his only bogey of the day on the 10th hole, he added three birdies on the back nine, including two on the last two holes. Walker overcame two rough patches, two bogeys in four holes through No. 4 on Thursday and three bogeys in five holes through No. 14 the next day.
8. Matt Kuchar, United States -- Kuchar withdrew from the PGA Championship before the start of play Thursday, citing a back injury. There was no indication beforehand that he was ailing, as he played well of late, including a tie for fourth in the RBC Canadian Open and a tie for 12th in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He also tied for 54th in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. He teed it up four consecutive weeks before the PGA, and he has played 20 times this season. ... Kooch, who leads the PGA Tour with 10 finishes in the top 10 this season and a total of 57 since 2008, will have a week off for rest and treatment to prepare for the PGA Tour playoffs. His victory in the RBC Heritage in April and those other high finishes put him in great shape at fourth in the FedEx Cup standings heading to the Barclays. He won the playoff opener four years ago and finished second as the defending champion in 2011, and he wound up in the top 10 in the final Cup standings three times in the last four years. ... Kuchar's back problem is another headache for Tom Watson, the United States captain for the Ryder Cup next month at Gleneagles in Scotland. Kooch already is assured of being on the team through the point standings. Watson already lost Dustin Johnson, who took a leave of absence from golf for personal reasons, while Jason Dufner has two bulging disks in his neck. In addition, Tiger Woods has not played well this season, and Watson will have to decide whether to risk a captain's pick on him.
9. Patrick Reed, United States -- Playing in the PGA Championship for the first time, Reed did not break 70 over the four days at Valhalla and wound up in a tie for 59th. He played in all four of the Grand Slam events for the first time this year, and he missed the cut in the Masters and the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, and he tied for 35th in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. After winning three times on the PGA Tour in the past year, the 24-year-old figures to have many more chances. ... While most of the players heading for the FedEx Cup playoff opener next week at the Barclays will take this week off, Reed will be defending his first PGA Tour title in the Wyndham Championship. He led much of the way last year at Sedgefield and closed with a 4-under-par 66 that put him in a playoff with Jordan Spieth. Patrick nearly hit his tee shot out of bounds on the second extra hole, but he hit a miraculous shot from the pine straw under a tree branch to within 7 feet of the hole. After Spieth missed his 10-foot birdie putt, Reed holed the winner, and he added two victories on the PGA Tour this year. ... Reed played solid major championship golf for the first three rounds at Valhalla with scores of 70-71-70, but he stumbled to a 73 on Sunday, when he recorded his only birdie of the round on the final hole. He made his only birdie of the second round on the 10th hole but salvaged his 71 by making an eagle on the 18th hole.
10. Phil Mickelson, United States -- Mickelson almost could taste the sixth major championship of his career when he held a share of the lead on the back nine of the PGA Championship before a bogey on the 16th hole eventually left him in solo second, one stroke behind Rory McIlroy. It was his ninth runner-up finish in a Grand Slam event, including six in the U.S. Open. He came in second in the PGA for the second time, the other coming in 2001 behind David Toms at Atlanta Athletic Club. It was of little consolation that he finally posted his first top-10 finish of the season on the PGA Tour. ... Despite his disappointing season until the PGA, Lefty will make it to the FedEx Cup playoffs, with his 10 results in the top 25 putting him at 42nd in the point standings. After taking this week off, he will make his 13th start in the opener, the Barclays, in which he posted his best finish a year ago when he tied for sixth. His finish in the PGA and continued strong showings in the playoffs will make it easier for Tom Watson to use one of his captain's picks on him for the Ryder Cup next month at Gleneagles in Scotland. ... Mickelson posted four scores in the 60s at Valhalla, including a closing 66 that included four birdies on the front nine and a single bogey at No. 16, where he missed a 10-foot par putt. He still had a chance to catch McIlroy on the final hole, where he lipped out his 71-foot chip shot for an eagle that would have forced a playoff. He settled for his sixth birdie of the round.
11. Tiger Woods, United States -- It appears that Woods' season is over after he shot 74-74--148 to miss the cut by five shots in the PGA Championship at Valhalla, where he captured the final major of the year in a playoff over Bob May in 2000. He said his ailing back was sore, but he tried to play through the pain, only to miss the cut in a major for only the fifth time and for the second time in the PGA, the other coming in 2011 at the Atlanta Athletic Club. ... Tiger captured the FedEx Cup, which began in 2007, in two of its first three years of existence, but he will miss the playoffs for the third time, and injuries were the primary culprit. He was unable to defend his title in 2008 following knee surgery after he won the U.S. Open, and in 2011 he didn't make the top 125 after being hampered by an Achilles tendon injury. He faces a lengthy layoff, and at 218th in the standings, and he might need the time to get his back right. ... Woods did not make a single birdie putt in the first round at Valhalla, chipping in for his only birdie of the day on the 16th hole after starting on the front nine and missing several birdie putts inside 15 feet. He never gave up, making his only two birdies of the second round on the 15th and 18th holes, but they weren't nearly enough to get him through to the weekend. In addition to struggling with the putter, he had a two-way miss going off the tee and hit only 18 of 36 greens in regulation.
12. Sergio Garcia, Spain -- With another chance to end his career quest for a major championship, Garcia didn't come close, breaking 70 in only one of his four rounds and finishing in a tie for 36th in the PGA Championship at Valhalla, fading badly at the finish. He came in with high expectations after finishing second in his last three events on the PGA Tour, including in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool last month. ... Sergio has played so well this season on both sides of the Atlantic that he is another European who has an opportunity to win the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai. He hasn't won on the PGA Tour, but his eight finishes in the top 10, including three seconds and two thirds, have him sitting at seventh in the FedEx Cup standings. He won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on the Euro Tour, where he has five other top 10s, and that has him at second in the Race to Dubai standings. ... Garcia, out of the picture entering the final round at Valhalla, finished with an uninspired 2-over-par 73, carding three bogeys in the last four holes. The only time he had his best stuff came in a third-round 66, when he started with two birdies in the first four holes and added four more on the back nine, where he made his lone bogey of the day at No. 16. Sergio played the first two days in 70-72--142, making the cut right on the number after two late bogeys thanks to a birdie on the 17th hole. Needing some magic on the weekend, he got it in the third round, but then he went out with a whimper with a 73 on Sunday.
13. Dustin Johnson, United States -- Amid rumors that he has a drug problem, Johnson is taking the rest of the season off, missing the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the PGA Championship, the FedEx Cup playoffs and the Ryder Cup next month at Gleneagles Resort in Scotland. He was a lock to be on the United States team, and with veteran leaders Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson struggling, the absence of one of the country's best young players is another problem that captain Tom Watson doesn't need. Johnson's management team, which announced his departure, gave no indication as to any treatment he is undergoing or when he might return to competition. ... Johnson missed tournaments in the last two years because of what were explained as back problems, but now there is speculation that those were simply excuses to cover up his drug use. There were reports that he was suspended because he tested positive for cocaine, but the PGA Tour announced that he is not under suspension, which was a bit extraordinary because it has a policy of not commenting on disciplinary action, one way or the other. ... Despite whatever problems he has, DJ was enjoying a strong season, with a victory in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in November, plus six other finishes in the top 10, including second in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Northern Trust Open at Riviera on successive weeks. Next week, he will miss the Barclays, which he won at Plainfield Country Club to kick off the PGA Tour playoffs in 2011.
14. Zach Johnson, United States -- Johnson didn't break 70 in any of the first three rounds of the PGA Championship last week, but the wheels came off completely on Sunday, when he closed with a 6-over-par 77. That left him in a tie for 70th that included 51-year-old Colin Montgomerie, and he finished ahead of only two golfers who played all 72 holes. The 2007 Masters champion had a miserable major championship season, as he missed the cut in the Masters, tied for 40th in the U.S. Open and tied for 47th in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. ... Despite some uneven play after a strong start to his season, including a victory in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Johnson is in good shape heading to the PGA Tour playoffs. His five top-10 finishes this season, including second in the John Deere Classic and a tie for third in the Humana Challenge, have him at 11th in the FedEx Cup standings. After taking this week off, he will play for the eighth time in the Barclays, the playoff opener, in which he has never cracked the top 20 in seven starts. ... Johnson could not record a single birdie in his final round at Valhalla while chalking up six bogeys, including four on the last seven holes. He needed a birdie on the 18th hole to salvage an opening 70 and seemed to be on his way to a score in the 60s on Saturday before carding a double-bogey 6 on the 16th hole to wind up with another 70. His ball-striking was good enough, as he hit more than 65 percent of the fairways and greens, but he wound up at minus-0.826 in strokes gained putting, near the bottom of the field.
15. Jim Furyk, United States -- Bookend, bogey-free, 5-under-par 66s were not quite enough for Furyk last week in the PGA Championship, and he tied for fifth, four strokes behind winner Rory McIlroy in the final major of the year at Valhalla. His only major championship came in the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields near Chicago, but he has finished in the top 10 a total of 22 times over the course of his career, including six times in the PGA. In the other three Grand Slam events this season, he tied for 14th in the Masters, tied for 12th in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 and finished solo fourth in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. ... Furyk's nine top-10 finishes this season, including seconds in the Wells Fargo Championship, the Players Championship and the RBC Canadian Open, have him in a strong position, fifth, heading into the PGA Tour playoffs. He captured the FedEx Cup by winning the Tour Championship four years ago at Atlanta Athletic Club. He will be making his 19th start in the Barclays, which became the opener when he playoffs were inaugurated in 2007, and he tied for sixth last year to give him five top-10s in the tournament, including second twice. ... Only a 72 in the third round at Valhalla, where he carded bogeys on the 15th and 16th holes to go over par for the first time all week, kept Furyk from being in the four-man race with Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson down the stretch. He carded three bogeys in the third round but made only two more the other three days, on the 10th and 12th holes during a second-round 68.
16. Jason Dufner, United States -- Dufner played 10 holes of his title defense in the PGA Championship at Valhalla and then withdrew because of two bulging disks in his neck. He shot 5 over par on the front nine before making a triple-bogey 8 on the 10th hole, then shook hands with playing partner Keegan Bradley and walked off the course. Bradley beat Dufner in a playoff to win the 2011 PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club, and they subsequently became good friends. ... The Duf said two weeks ago week that he might skip the PGA Tour playoffs because of the bulging disks in his neck in order to be healthy in case he makes the United States Ryder Cup team for the matches next month at Gleneagles Resort in Scotland. He is 55th in the FedEx Cup standings and has another week to decide if he will tee it up in the playoff opener, the Barclays. It is a tournament he might want to miss anyway, having missed the cut in four of his six starts, on four different courses, in the event, but he said before leaving Valhalla that he will wait to see if his condition improves before deciding. ... Dufner carded a double bogey on his first hole of the PGA Championship and added bogeys on the next two holes. He added another bogey at the sixth hole and did not record a birdie in his 10 holes, running his streak to 45 holes without one. After chopping up the 10th hole, he had had enough, and he left with a look of dejection on his face. The prospects of him playing anytime soon do not look good because he said he probably needs six to eight weeks off to become healthy again.
17. Jordan Spieth, United States -- After playing consistently well all season, Spieth went in the opposite direction in his last three tournaments, capped by shooting 71-77--148 to miss the cut by five strokes in the PGA Championship. It was only his third missed weekend of the season and the first since he missed the cut in the Shell Houston Open in April. He needs to turn things around with some big events upcoming late in the season. ... Spieth is going to skip the Wyndham Championship this week, even though he almost won the tournament a year ago, probably because he wants to be fresh for the PGA Tour playoffs after playing 23 times already this season. His nine top-10 finishes in his sophomore season have him at eighth in the FedEx Cup standings heading to the playoff opener next week, the Barclays, in which he tied for 19th last year. In the Wyndham, he closed with a 5-under-par 65 to get into a playoff with Patrick Reed, who beat him with a miracle birdie on the second extra hole. ... Spieth opened with a solid even-par 71 last week at Valhalla, but he didn't have much going in round two. His only birdie came on the 10th hole to halt a skid of three bogeys in a span of four holes, but he added three more bogeys down the stretch and was gone. He drove the ball well enough, but he hit only 14 of 36 greens in regulation and finished at minus-9.49 in strokes gained putting. After tying for second in the Masters, holding the lead at one stage in the final round, he could not crack the top 15 in the last three majors of the season.
18. Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland -- Coming off four consecutive top-10 finishes, including a successful defense of his title in the Alstom Open de France, G-Mac was hoping for that momentum to carry him in the PGA Championship. Instead, he didn't break 70 until he closed with a 2-under-par 69 and wound up in a tie for 47th. Other than a tie for ninth in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, he had a forgettable year in the majors, as he missed the cut in the Masters and tied for 28th in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. ... Following a disappointing start to the season, the good recent results lifted G-Mac to 41st in the FedEx Cup standings with the start of the PGA Tour playoffs only a week away. He missed the cut in the Barclays, the opener, each of the last two years and never finished in the top 10 in five starts in the tournament. He will be looking for a fast start as he tries to make it to the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta for the first time. He is in even better shape in the Race to Dubai, at 11th, thanks to his victory in France and five other top-10 finishes. ... McDowell started with 73-70--143 last week at Valhalla and made the cut right on the number thanks to a birdie on the 17th hole in round two. He played very well in round three, other than one nightmare hole, No. 13, where he carded a quadruple-bogey 8 after hitting two balls into the water. That was the only hole on which he miscued, and he collected five birdies in his closing 69 despite taking two bogeys down the stretch.
19. Webb Simpson, United States -- One of the best players in the early stages of the 2013-14 season, Simpson struggled the past few months, and that trend continued when he shot 73-74--147 to miss the cut by four strokes in the PGA Championship at Valhalla. It was the fifth time he missed the weekend in 20 starts on the PGA Tour this season, all coming in his last 12 starts. ... Webb will try to improve his position in the FedEx Cup standings, in which he currently is 18th, when he plays this week in the Wyndham Championship for the fifth time. He claimed his first victory on the PGA Tour at Sedgefield three years ago, posting four rounds of 3-under-par 67 or better to win by three strokes over George McNeill. He followed that up two weeks later by winning the Deutsche Bank Championship in round two of the PGA Tour playoffs. He needs to play back to his early-season form, when he won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and finished in the top 10 of his first three starts. ... Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, was at even par through 15 holes in the first round last week at Valhalla before he made a double-bogey 6 on the 16th hole, but he completely unraveled the next day. He started with promise, making a birdie on the first hole, but he carded bogeys on three of the next four holes and seven bogeys in all. He tried to save himself with three birdies on the last four holes, but it was simply too late. Simpson hit roughly two-thirds of the fairways and greens, but he struggled with his belly putter, finishing at minus-0.993 in strokes gained putting. End of Part 1 - more to follow
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