Articles By Rob Doster

All taxonomy terms: Rory McIlroy, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-1-rory-mcilroy
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 1: Rory McIlroy

Born: May 4, 1989, Holywood, County Down, Northern Ireland | Career PGA Tour Wins: 11 (12 on the European Tour) | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 4 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,863,312 (7th) | World Ranking: 3

Gary Williams' Take: The former world No. 1 had what he described as a “lost season,” although for most, it would have been a career year — four worldwide wins, including a World Golf Championship win at the Cadillac Match Play. Not being able to defend his Open Championship due to the ankle injury he suffered 12 days beforehand was devastating to him, and you can rest assured that he gets a little agitated when talk of the best player begins with someone other than himself. Even years — 2012 and 2014 — have been very good to him, and I expect him to end 2016 as No. 1 in the world with another major championship on his résumé. That major quite possibly could come at The Masters to complete the career Grand Slam. I polled several players, and the overwhelming majority believe that at his best, McIlroy is the best player in the world. He will prove it this year.


Major Championship Résumé
Starts
: 28
Wins: 4
2015 Performance:
    Masters – 4
    U.S. Open – T9
    British Open - DNP
    PGA Championship - 17
Best Career Finishes
    Masters – 4 (2015)
    U.S. Open - 1 (2011)
    British Open - 1 (2014)
    PGA Championship - 1 (2012, ’14)
Top-10 Finishes: 12
Top-25 Finishes: 18
Missed Cuts: 4

 

Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, April 7, 2016 - 12:29
Path: /golf/best-shots-masters-golf-history-2016
Body:

To celebrate the , we look back at some of the tournament's greatest moments and amazing shots. Here are our favorites.

 

7. Louis Oosthuizen, 2012

Before Sunday 2012, there had been 19,809 rounds at The Masters, but this was a first: a double eagle at No. 2. Had Oostie gone on to win, his shot would rank No. 1; as it is, he'll have to settle for second in The 2012 Masters and seventh on our list.

 

6. Sandy Lyle, 1988

Lyle had a front-row seat for Jack Nicklaus' charge to the 1986 Masters title. Two years later, he made history of his own with an incredible bunker shot on the 72nd hole, using the slope of the green to set up a clinching birdie. This is great execution for a Tuesday practice round; under Masters pressure, it's one of history's greatest shots.

 

5. Bubba Watson, 2012

After a day that included a double eagle and two holes in one, Bubba's shot at 10 will be the one they'll still be talking about at the 2050 Champions Dinner.


4. Jack Nicklaus, 1986

Jack’s near hole-in-one on 16 during his final-round 65 was only one of many magic moments that day — but it was pretty epic.

 

3. Phil Mickelson, 2010

Mickelson’s 6-iron second shot to four feet on the par-5 13th was the kind of hero shot that only he and Tiger Woods would even attempt.



2. Larry Mize, 1987

Playing a few miles from his home, the quiet, unassuming Mize hit the shot of his life, or anyone else’s for that matter, holing an impossible 140-foot pitch shot on the second playoff hole to deny Greg Norman a green jacket.



1. Tiger Woods, 2005

It's a scenario apparently drawn up in the Nike marketing offices — the ball hanging tantalizingly on the edge of the cup, the Nike logo momentarily freeze-framed on our television screens before the ball tumbles into the cup, unleashing an awkward golfer high-five between Tiger and caddie Steve Williams that detracts only slightly from the moment. To answer your question, Verne Lundquist — no, in our lives, we’ve never seen anything like it.

Teaser:
<p> 7 Epic Moments from Golf's Greatest Tournament</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 6, 2016 - 16:27
All taxonomy terms: Jordan Spieth, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-2-jordan-spieth
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 2: Jordan Spieth

Born: July 27, 1993, Dallas, Texas | Career PGA Tour Wins: 6 | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 5 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $12,030,465 (1st) | World Ranking: 2

 

Gary Williams' Take: The 2015 season produced one of the greatest major championship seasons in golf history by the now-22-year-old Texan. Finishes of 1st-1st-4th-2nd in the majors put him in the company of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in terms of the greatest major championship campaigns. Spieth is determined to gain some length off the tee, but his changes are more nuanced than anything close to reconstruction in his swing. For all his short game genius, Spieth is an underrated ball striker and finished 1st on the PGA Tour in proximity to the hole from the rough last season. However, when you make an ungodly percentage (about 28%) of putts from 15-20 feet, it is hard to focus on anything else. Spieth made par sexy again with memorable saves all year, highlighted by his up-and-down par save on the 18th on Saturday at The Masters. His hyper competitiveness should keep him in contention virtually every week. It will be fascinating to see how he backs up his year for the ages.


Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 12
Wins: 2
2015 Performance:
    Masters – 1
    U.S. Open – 1
    British Open – T4
    PGA Championship - 2
Best Career Finishes
    Masters – 1 (2015)
    U.S. Open – 1 (2015)
    British Open – T4 (2015)
    PGA Championship - 2 (2015)
Top-10 Finishes: 5
Top-25 Finishes: 7
Missed Cuts: 3


Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, April 6, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /10-greatest-masters-champions-ever-PGA-history
Body:

The Masters is the world's greatest golf tournament, so it's not surprising that it has produced an elite list of champions. We've identified the 10 greatest, who collectively possess 32 Green Jackets and have provided countless classic moments.

 

1. Jack Nicklaus

Wins - 6
Runner-ups - 4
Top 5 - 15
Top 10 - 22
Notes:
Nobody owns Augusta like Jack. His six wins spanned 23 years of stunning brilliance. In the decade of the 1970s, he never finished lower than 8th. As if to put an exclamation point on his unparalleled career amid the Georgia pines, Jack made one final run in 1998 at age 58, finishing sixth and beating the defending champion, 22-year-old Tiger Woods. Here's a record that may never be broken: Nicklaus made an astounding 37 cuts at Augusta.

 

2. Arnold Palmer

Wins - 4
Runner-ups - 2
Top 5 - 9
Top 10 - 12
Notes:
Arnie came along at the perfect time, the dawn of golf's TV age, and he galvanized an army of fans with his domination at Augusta. Between 1957 and 1967, Palmer won four times and finished in the top 10 every year. He eclipses the No. 3 player on this list only because he made The Masters what it is today.

 

3. Tiger Woods

Wins - 4
Runner-ups - 2
Top 5 - 10
Top 10 - 12
Notes:
Woods' 12-shot demolition of the field at the 1997 Masters was one of golf's signature moments and ushered in the Tiger era in golf. His epic chip-in in 2005 was another classic moment, although that remains his last green jacket to date. Tiger is the all-time scoring average leader at The Masters for players with 50 or more career rounds.

 

4. Phil Mickelson

Wins - 3
Runner-ups - 1
Top 5 - 11
Top 10 - 15
Notes:
Lefty's record at Augusta rivals Tiger's. His 2004 breakthrough was perhaps the most eagerly awaited major championship win in history. Phil still has a shot to move up this list given that he's finished out of the top 5 only five times since 2001 and always seems rejuvenated by the trip up Magnolia Lane.

 

5. Gary Player

Wins - 3
Runner-ups - 2
Top 5 - 8
Top 10 - 15
Notes:
Player made his Masters bones in the 1960s as part of golf's Big Three with Nicklaus and Palmer, but he had some of his greatest Augusta moments in the 1970s, winning in 1974 and charging from seven strokes back in the final round in 1978, shooting 64 to win at age 42.

 

6. Sam Snead

Wins - 3
Runner-ups - 2
Top 5 - 9
Top 10 - 15
Notes:
Slammin' Sammy enjoyed some of his greatest successes at Augusta, winning three Masters in a six-year span, including a playoff win over rival and defending champion Ben Hogan in 1954.

 

7. Ben Hogan

Wins - 2
Runner-ups - 4
Top 5 - 9
Top 10 - 17
Notes:
The great Hogan set a Masters record during his Triple Crown season of 1953 with a 14-under total (it would be broken by Jack Nicklaus in 1965), part of an unparalleled run of golf in which he won six majors in eight appearances. In 1967, at age 56, he shot a 66 and finished 10th. His 17 Masters top 10s are second only to Nicklaus' 22.

 

8. Tom Watson

Wins - 2
Runner-ups - 3
Top 5 - 9
Top 10 - 15
Notes:
Watson's Augusta exploits are overshadowed by his dominance at the British Open, but between 1975 and 1988, no one was better at The Masters — two wins, three runner-ups and 12 top-10 finishes.

 

9. Jimmy Demaret

Wins - 3
Runner-ups - 0
Top 5 - 6
Top 10 - 8
Notes:
One of golf's most colorful showmen, Demaret was the first three-time Masters winner and parlayed his quick wit and flamboyant wardrobe into an appearance on "I Love Lucy."

 

10. Byron Nelson

Wins - 2
Runner-ups - 2
Top 5 - 7
Top 10 - 14
Notes:
Lord Byron's love for The Masters was epitomized by the fact that he kept playing at Augusta even after retiring from competitive golf to run his ranch. He probably would have won one or two more Green Jackets had the tournament been held during World War II.

 

Honorable Mention


• Nick Faldo - A three-time Masters winner, Faldo gets penalized for benefiting from three meltdowns in his three Masters wins — Scott Hoch, who missed a two-foot putt in their playoff in 1989; Ray Floyd, who made a late bogey to fall into a playoff with Faldo and then hit into the water at 11 in Sudden Death; and most notoriously, Greg Norman, who squandered a six-shot lead over Faldo with a final-round 78. Plus, Faldo's three wins were his only Masters top 10s.

 

• Seve Ballesteros - The late, great Ballesteros won twice and finished second twice. He also had the decency to step aside and allow Nicklaus to charge to his sixth Green Jacket in 1986.

 

• Horton Smith - The event's first two-time winner, Smith won Green Jackets in 1934 (the tournament's first year) and 1936.

 

• Ben Crenshaw - Crenshaw's Masters win in 1994, shortly after the death of longtime mentor Harvey Penick, provided one of the most emotional moments in golf history. Crenshaw, a two-time winner, finished in the top 10 11 times. He's announced that the 2015 Masters will be his last.

 

• Jose Maria Olazabal - Less heralded than his countryman Seve Ballesteros, Olazabal was every bit Seve's equal at Augusta, winning in 1994 and 1999 and finishing the top 10 six other times.

 

• Bernhard Langer - Langer had his greatest major success at The Masters, winning twice and posting eight top 10s.

 

• Fred Couples - Couples made 23 consecutive Masters cuts between 1983 and 2008, although he didn't play in 1987 or 1994. He's the only Masters competitor not to miss a cut at Augusta in the 20th Century. He won the tournament in 1992.

 

• Gene Sarazen - His "Shot Heard Round the World" — a double eagle at 15 during the 1935 Masters — put the tournament on the map and helped establish its major bona fides. It also allowed Sarazen to claim a modern career Grand Slam, the first in history.

 

• Raymond Floyd - Floyd won the 1976 Masters by a dominating eight strokes, matching Nicklaus' record 17-under total (which would be broken by Woods in 1997). Floyd finished second at Augusta three times, including a crushingly disappointing playoff loss to Nick Faldo in 1990, and had 11 top-10 finishes.

 

• Bubba Watson - Bubba has won two of the last four Masters. Add another Green Jacket to his closet this year, and Bubba works his way into the Top 10.

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, April 6, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Jason Day, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-3-jason-day
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 3: Jason Day

Born: Nov. 12, 1987, Beaudesert, Queensland, Australia | Career PGA Tour Wins: 9 | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 5 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $9,403,330 (2nd) | World Ranking: 1

 

Gary Williams' Take: After his major championship breakthrough and his FedExCup playoff run, it appears that Day is ready to butt heads with the very best as he enters the true prime of his career, with one hesitation: health. Even in his career year of 2015, he dealt with vertigo (caused by a viral infection in his inner ear) that was on display for the world at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. With few exceptions, Day has had his seasons interrupted with various ailments and injuries. Having come so close at multiple Masters, he will be a betting favorite this week, and his relationship with Tiger Woods is a fascinating study of both men and what advice Tiger can give him as he reaches a new level in the game. It is very possible that four or five players will wrestle for No. 1 in 2016, and no player has a better combination of driving distance and putting prowess than the man who currently holds that spot.


Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 21
Wins: 1
2015 Performance:
    Masters – T28
    U.S. Open – T9
    British Open – T4
    PGA Championship – 1
Best Career Finishes
    Masters - T2 (2011)
    U.S. Open - 2/T2 (2011, 2013)
    British Open – T4 (2015)
    PGA Championship - 1 (2015)
Top-10 Finishes: 10
Top-25 Finishes: 12
Missed Cuts: 2


Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 - 10:35
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/10-amazing-masters-records-could-last-forever
Body:

Consider this the appetizer before the main course. We scoured The Masters record book and found these amazing numbers:

 

10

The record for consecutive under-par rounds at The Masters belongs to Tiger Woods, who shot 10 consecutive rounds under par from the third round in 2000 through the final round in 2002. Not surprisingly, he won the green jacket in 2001 and 2002, after finishing fifth in 2000. Tiger's scoring average for those 10 rounds was 68.5.

 

37 

Among many Masters records held by Jack Nicklaus is his astounding 37 cuts made at Augusta. That's especially remarkable when you consider that Tiger Woods has only been alive 40 years. Between 1960 and 2000, Jack played in 40 Masters, missing the cut twice (in 1967 and 1994) and withdrawing in 1983. Among Nicklaus' other Masters records: He won a record six Masters, was runner-up a record four times, and he finished in the top 5 a record 15 times, in the top 10 22 times, and in the top 25 29 times.

 

23 

Gary Player and Fred Couples share the record with 23 consecutive made cuts at The Masters. Player didn't miss a cut between 1959 and 1982 (he didn't compete in 1973 due to illness). During that span, he won three times and finished in the top 10 15 times. Couples' streak ran from 1983 to 2008, although he didn't play in 1987 or 1994.

 

50 

Arnold Palmer holds a record that will likely never be equaled, playing in 50 consecutive Masters from 1955 to 2004. Thankfully, the King is still a fixture in April at Augusta, although his health will prevent him from hitting a ceremonial tee shot along with fellow legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player this year.

 

66 

That's the record score for a "Senior" player (age 50 or above). Fred Couples shot a 66 at age 50 in 2010's first round; and Ben Hogan, long past his prime at age 54, shot a 66 in the third round in 1967, going on to finish tied for 10th in his final Masters appearace.

 

66 

The lowest score by an amateur was a 66 by Ken Venturi, in 1956's first round. Venturi actually held a four-shot lead entering the final round and was in prime position to become the only amateur winner in the event's history, until a windswept final-round 80 left him one shot behind Jack Burke.

 

-12 

The lowest total by a first-time Masters competitor was a 12-under 276 in 2011 by Jason Day, who finished tied for second, two shots behind Charl Schwartzel.

 

The largest lead lost after three rounds is Greg Norman's 1996 collapse from a six-stroke lead to a five-stroke loss to Nick Faldo following a final-round 78. Coming off the eighth green on that Masters Sunday, Norman was only 1-over par for the day and still held a three-shot lead over Faldo. But three bogeys and two double-bogeys down the stretch doomed Norman to the most painful failure of his star-crossed career.

 

Fred Couples won the 1992 Masters, but here's an interesting distinction for Boom-Boom: He's the only player to have never missed a Masters cut in the 20th Century. Couples first played in the tournament in 1983 and didn't miss a Masters weekend until 2008.

 

340 

The highest 72-hole score in Masters history was a robust 340 by amateur Charles Kunkle Jr., who opened with a 78 that would be his best round of the tournament. He followed that with 82-85-95. This came in the era before a 36-hole cut, so we feel safe in saying this record will last forever.

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-4-justin-rose
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 4: Justin Rose

Born: July 30, 1980, Johannesburg, South Africa | Career PGA Tour Wins: 7 (8 on European Tour) | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 2 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $5,462,677 (6th) | World Ranking: 9

 

Gary Williams' Take: For a perennial top-10 player in the world, I believe Rose is underrated, although not among his fellow players. His name doesn’t get mentioned enough, in my opinion, especially with the new narrative of a “Big Four” with Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler. Rose was the man of the matches at the 2014 Ryder Cup, and his Tour stats in 2015 were outstanding — third in birdie average, sixth in scoring, ninth in greens in regulation. Plus, he loves big moments. His final two swings at the 2013 U.S. Open were legendary, as was his singles victory over Phil Mickelson at Medinah at the 2012 Ryder Cup. The state of Pennsylvania has been very good to him, and I’m targeting the U.S. Open at Oakmont for his second major title. He is quietly building a Hall of Fame résumé, which is how he operates.

 

Major Championship Résumé

Starts: 47

Wins: 1

2015 Performance:

     Masters – T2

     U.S. Open – T27

     British Open – T6

     PGA Championship – 4

Best Career Finishes:

     Masters – T2 (2015)

     U.S. Open - 1 (2013)

     British Open - T4 (1998)

     PGA Championship - T3 (2012)

Top-10 Finishes: 11

Top-25 Finishes: 25

Missed Cuts: 14


Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, April 4, 2016 - 11:18
All taxonomy terms: Adam Scott, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-5-adam-scott
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 5: Adam Scott

Born: July 16, 1980, Adelaide, Australia | Career PGA Tour Wins: 13 (10 on the European Tour) | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $1,382,365 (18th) | World Ranking: 6

Gary Williams' Take: No one was under more scrutiny entering 2016 with the anchored putter ban in place than Adam Scott. The early returns have been spectacular. He putted very well at the Presidents Cup with a conventional length putter and finished the year with runner-up finishes at the CIMB Classic and the Australian Open, and he's been arguably the best player in the world in 2016 with back-to-back wins at the Honda and WGC-Cadillac, which have put him atop the list of Masters favorites. Quite a bit has changed since Scott won his first major at The Masters in 2013, including marriage, the birth of a child, the loss of Steve Williams on his bag (although Steve will be on the bag at Augusta) and now the anchoring ban. If there is anyone who can carry on with grace, it will be Scott, who can rely on one of the finest tee-to-green games in golf. Scott will never have to be the best putter on Tour to win, but if he can be adequate and clutch late in tournaments, he will contend. However, Scott plays a limited PGA Tour schedule, and thus he has fewer chances to win compared to Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, who play seven or eight more events. Winning a second major with a conventional putter would be a big step towards the Hall of Fame for Scott.

 

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 59
Wins: 1
2015 Performance:
    Masters – T38
    U.S. Open – T4
    British Open – T10
    PGA Championship – Cut
Best Career Finishes
    Masters - 1 (2013)
    U.S. Open – T4 (2015)
    British Open - 2 (2012)
    PGA Championship - T3 (2006)
Top-10 Finishes: 15
Top-25 Finishes: 28
Missed Cuts: 16


Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, April 1, 2016 - 10:17
All taxonomy terms: Dustin Johnson, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-6-dustin-johnson
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 6: Dustin Johnson

Born: June 22, 1984, Columbia, S.C. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 9 | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $5,509,467 (5th) | World Ranking: 9

Gary Williams' Take: With a win this year, Johnson will extend the longest active streak of winning at least one event on Tour every season going back to 2008. The difficult losses at majors give fans pause, but the fact that he has been so close so often makes it inevitable that he will break through. He also finished tied for sixth at Augusta last year, marking his best result at a course, tee to green, that is built for him. He rarely misses a cut, and his top 10 production ranks with the best on Tour. He may be the player best conditioned to deal with defeat, because he is virtually oblivious to the consequences while others are busy suggesting that he will never recover. He always does, and with playoff wins, two World Golf Championship victories and a sure spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, it’s time to focus on the details. Johnson and swing coach Butch Harmon are working on his approaches from 50-125 yards and on improving his wedge play. He should have major championship scar tissue, but he never shows it.

 

Major Championship Résumé

Starts: 27

Wins: 0

2015 Performance:

     Masters – T6

     U.S. Open – T2

     British Open – T49

     PGA Championship – T7

Best Career Finishes:

     Masters – T6 (2015)

     U.S. Open – T2 (2015)

     British Open - T2 (2011)

     PGA Championship - T5 (2010)

Top-10 Finishes: 10

Top-25 Finishes: 14

Missed Cuts: 4


Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, March 31, 2016 - 10:16
All taxonomy terms: Bubba Watson, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-7-bubba-watson
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 7: Bubba Watson

Born: Nov. 5, 1978, Bagdad, Fla. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 9 | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $6,876,797 (3rd) | World Ranking: 4

Gary Williams' Take: The enigma wrapped in a riddle. For someone with so many complex layers, who gives the appearance of inconsistency, he is wildly consistent. He misses few cuts, racks up countless top 10s, and wins every year. His performances in the majors in 2015 were very disappointing, with two missed cuts and a tie for 21st at the PGA being his best result. He’s arguably the most unorthodox player and person in the game. He doesn’t work with an instructor, can shape a ball designed not to curve and gives unvarnished views on things that most players shy away from because there is little to gain. His blowout win at the Hero World Challenge in December, in a tiny field against elite players, followed by his win at the Northern Trust Open are simply indications that when his mind is right, he is lethal. He may also be the most entertaining player to listen to during a round of golf. He should remain among the favorites at The Masters for the next 10 years.

 

Major Championship Résumé

Starts: 32

Wins: 2

2015 Performance:

     Masters – T38

     U.S. Open – Cut

     British Open – Cut

     PGA Championship – T21

Best Career Finishes:

     Masters - 1 (2012, ’14)

     U.S. Open – T5 (2007)

     British Open – T23 (2012)

     PGA Championship - 2 (2010)

Top-10 Finishes: 4

Top-25 Finishes: 9

Missed Cuts: 12

 

Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 - 10:42
All taxonomy terms: Rickie Fowler, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-8-rickie-fowler
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 8: Rickie Fowler

Born: Dec. 13, 1988, Murrieta, Calif. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 3 (2 on the European Tour) | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 3 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $5,773,430 (4th) | World Ranking: 5

 

Gary Williams' Take: Last season may ultimately prove to be the most important year of Fowler’s career. He had not won on Tour since May 2012, and despite finishing in the top 5 in all four majors in 2014, there were questions about his ability to finish. His 3-3-2-3 finish on the last four holes of the Players Championship will go down as the most ludicrous closing stretch in tournament history for a winner. Add the fact that he birdied 17 twice more in the playoff, and it becomes a dream sequence. Winning the Scottish Open and the Deutsche Bank Championship in addition to the Players made 2015 the breakout year for Rickie. At 27, he is a strong contender for the title of Best Player Never To Win a Major, and in order for the “Big Four” narrative to gain legitimacy, he will have to get one to join McIlroy, Spieth, and Day. Most importantly, he must win more to legitimize his status and also start winning matches in the Ryder Cup. He has been on two teams and has yet to win a match. He’s had plenty of halves and good play, but that’s a troubling stat for someone destined to be on the U.S. side at Hazeltine.


Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 24
Wins: 0
2015 Performance:
    Masters – T12
    U.S. Open – Cut
    British Open – T30
    PGA Championship – T30
Best Career Finishes
    Masters – T5 (2014)
    U.S. Open - T2 (2014)
    British Open – T2 (2014)
    PGA Championship – T3 (2014)
Top-10 Finishes: 6
Top-25 Finishes: 9
Missed Cuts: 5


Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, March 29, 2016 - 10:32
All taxonomy terms: Henrik Stenson, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-9-henrik-stenson
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 9: Henrik Stenson

Born: April 5, 1976, Gothenburg, Sweden | Career PGA Tour Wins: 4 (9 on the European Tour) | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,755,070 (9th) | World Ranking: 7

 

Gary Williams' Take: Stenson, who turns 40 at the beginning of April, is one of the most accomplished players without a major, generally playing his best from September until the end of the year. Winning both the FedExCup and the European Tour’s Race to Dubai in 2013 was historic stuff, and he has posted recent major championship finishes of second, third and fourth, making it hard to imagine that his career would end without a major victory. Still, winning majors, let alone your first, after age 40 is a rare feat. Stenson's putter can be balky, but his overall stats were greatly improved in 2015, making it hard to fathom why he didn’t win last year.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 39
Wins: 0
2015 Performance:
    Masters – T19
    U.S. Open – T27
    British Open – T40
    PGA Championship – T25
Best Career Finishes
    Masters – T14 (2014)
    U.S. Open - T4 (2014)
    British Open – 2 (2013)
    PGA Championship – 3/T3 (2013, '15)
Top-10 Finishes: 9
Top-25 Finishes: 19
Missed Cuts: 9


Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, March 28, 2016 - 12:27
All taxonomy terms: Brooks Koepka, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-10-brooks-koepka
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 10: Brooks Koepka

Born: May 3, 1990, Wellington, Fla. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 1 (1 on the European Tour) | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,571,900 (19th) | World Ranking: 20

 

Gary Williams' Take: Koepka was on the cusp of representing the U.S. in the Presidents Cup before missing back-to-back cuts at the Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship. After plowing his way into the top 50 in the world in 2014 by competing on the European Tour, he is ready to become a star stateside. He suffered an injury two weeks before The Masters in 2015, and it produced his worst result in the majors for the year, a tie for 33rd. He finished T18, T10, and T5 in the next three majors — very impressive stuff for a player who was exempt in all four majors for the first time in his career. Koepka has the firepower of Jason Day and Dustin Johnson and is a very good putter. This will be his first full season picking his schedule in America instead of globetrotting. He told me in December that winning a major and being on the Ryder Cup team were his primary goals. I expect him to fulfill one or both them, and if he achieves the first then the second is a mere formality.


Major Championship Résumé

Starts: 10
Wins: 0
2015 Performance:
    Masters – T33
    U.S. Open – T18
    British Open – T10
    PGA Championship – T5
Best Career Finishes
    Masters – T33 (2015)
    U.S. Open - T4 (2014)
    British Open – T10 (2015)
    PGA Championship – T5 (2015)
Top-10 Finishes: 3
Top-25 Finishes: 5
Missed Cuts: 2

 

Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, March 25, 2016 - 10:29
All taxonomy terms: Sergio Garcia, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-11-sergio-garcia
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 11: Sergio Garcia

Born: Jan. 9, 1980, Borriol, Castellon, Spain | Career PGA Tour Wins: 8 (11 on the European Tour) | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $2,670,229 (31st) | World Ranking: 14

 

Gary Williams' Take: Now 36, Sergio has spent more than 300 weeks in the top 10 in the world in his career and has finished second in majors on four occasions with an additional six top-5 finishes. So why do we all get cynical when we talk about him? It’s a combination of expectation and attitude. He has been one of the five most talented players in the game for 15 years, but he leaves you wanting more, last winning on the PGA Tour in 2012 at the Wyndham Championship. He has 10 top 5s in majors and 20 top 10s, and he’s been a Ryder Cup linchpin. Questions remain: Will he win a major, and where will his best chance come? The Open Championship seems to be the answer with four top 5s and nine top 10s at golf’s oldest major. He’s beloved in Europe and feels most comfortable on the Open rota’s slower greens. Worth noting: He has an exemplary record in the event with the strongest field in golf, the Players Championship. I’d make him the favorite there and a good horse at Royal Troon to get his first major.


Major Championship Résumé
Starts
: 69
Wins: 0
2015 Performance:
    Masters – T17
    U.S. Open – T18
    British Open – T6
    PGA Championship – T54
Best Career Finishes
    Masters - T4 (2004)
    U.S. Open - T3 (2005)
    British Open – 2/T2 (2007, ’14)
    PGA Championship - 2/T2 (1999, 2008)
Top-10 Finishes: 20
Top-25 Finishes: 31
Missed Cuts: 18

 

Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, March 24, 2016 - 10:50
All taxonomy terms: Justin Thomas, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-12-justin-thomas
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 12: Justin Thomas

Born: April 29, 1993, Louisville, Ky. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 1 | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $2,278,564 (18th) | World Ranking: 33

 

Gary Williams' Take: With a win at the CIMB Classic and a third at the Frys.com Open, Thomas got the 2015-16 season, his second, off to a ripping start. He was a runner-up to Daniel Berger in the Rookie of the Year race in ’15, and I think he’s going to make a quantum leap to USA Ryder Cup team member in 2016. Thomas (145 pounds) is pound for pound the longest hitter on Tour. More importantly, he is a prodigy who has learned to win big at every level, and he has the sincere belief that no one is better than he is. Finishing seventh in the all around ranking category as a rookie is a reflection of someone who not only adapts but also is blessed with world-class talent. If he can improve his make percentage from 15-20 feet, where he finished 154th on Tour in 2015, he will contend even more. A second full year of controlling his own schedule will mean greater comfort and a huge leap in the world rankings by the end of the year.
Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 2
Wins: 0
2015 Performance:
    Masters – DNP
    U.S. Open – DNP
    British Open – DNP
    PGA Championship – T18
Best Career Finishes
    Masters – n/a
    U.S. Open - Cut (2014)
    British Open – n/a
    PGA Championship – T18 (2015)
Top-10 Finishes: 0
Top-25 Finishes: 1
Missed Cuts: 1

 

Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 - 11:04
All taxonomy terms: Patrick Reed, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-13-patrick-reed
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 13: Patrick Reed

Born: Aug. 5, 1990, San Antonio, Texas | Career PGA Tour Wins: 4 | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,590,566 (18th) | World Ranking: 10

 

Gary Williams' Take: After winning the first event of the 2015 calendar year, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Reed appeared destined for a monster season, but that season stalled. He went from March until September without a top 10 on Tour, and his first good chance to contend at a major at the U.S. Open was met with a retreat on the weekend to finish tied for 14th. The great hope for this year is rooted in his final six events of 2015 on the other side of the world: Reed posted five top 10s, including four in the Race to Dubai events on the European Tour. He also finished second at the Hero World Challenge to finish the year ranked 10th in the world and has posted three more top 10s since the calendar turned. Reed does not wow you with stats, and he has more lulls than other top-10 players, but he loves to play and plays as many events as any top-50 player in the world. He will represent the U.S. again on the Ryder Cup team, and he could fulfill his own belief that he’s a top-5 player by the end of the year.
Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 8
Wins: 0
2015 Performance:
    Masters – T22
    U.S. Open – T14
    British Open – T20
    PGA Championship – T30
Best Career Finishes
    Masters - T22 (2015)
    U.S. Open - T14 (2015)
    British Open - T20 (2015)
    PGA Championship - T30 (2015)
Top-10 Finishes: 0
Top-25 Finishes: 3
Missed Cuts: 2

 

Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - 11:24
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-14-zach-johnson
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 14: Zach Johnson

Born: Feb. 24, 1976, Cedar Rapids, Iowa | Career PGA Tour Wins: 12 | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,801,487 (8th) | World Ranking: 15

 

Gary Williams' Take: By adding a second major championship to his résumé with his Open Championship win, Johnson has put himself in a position for a Hall of Fame run as he enters his 40s. To achieve a dozen wins on Tour and two majors in an era of bomb and gouge is a great testament to his grit, but also to his commitment to playing to his strengths. Consider that he won The Masters at Augusta and the Open Championship at St. Andrews, both of which favor bombers, by sticking to a plan and executing it expertly. Like others with similar strengths, he should be expected to continue his production well into his 40s. He accumulated 10 top 10s in 2015, and while other shorter hitters have to focus on places like Colonial and Harbour Town, Johnson has shown that he can contend on courses with four par 5s and courses in excess of 7,200 yards.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 47
Wins: 2
2015 Performance:
    Masters – T9
    U.S. Open – T72
    British Open – 1
    PGA Championship – Cut
Best Career Finishes
    Masters - 1 (2007)
    U.S. Open - T30 (2011)
    British Open - 1 (2015)
    PGA Championship - T3 (2010)
Top-10 Finishes: 8
Top-25 Finishes: 12
Missed Cuts: 16

 

Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, March 21, 2016 - 11:01
All taxonomy terms: Jim Furyk, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-15-jim-furyk
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 15: Jim Furyk

Born: May 12, 1970, West Chester, Pa. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 17 | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,732,664 (16th) | World Ranking: 15

 

Gary Williams' Take: A wrist injury that required surgery has temporarily derailed Furyk, who will miss The Masters, but once he returns, look for him to make up for lost time in this Ryder Cup year. Destined for the World Golf Hall of Fame, Furyk is currently in the top 5 all time in PGA Tour earnings. The value of that is up to each fan to determine, but his insanely consistent production year in and year out is almost unmatched. He is the consummate professional in preparation, his will simply to compete is endearing, and few players are more well respected than Furyk. After his heartbreaking losses of 2012 — including a singles defeat in the Ryder Cup to Sergio Garcia at Medinah — it was reasonable to think he would never appear on another national team, but he has been on every team since. You can expect him to be at Hazeltine, and not simply as a vice captain.


Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 82
Wins: 1
2015 Performance:
    Masters – Cut
    U.S. Open – T42
    British Open – T30
    PGA Championship – T30
Best Career Finishes
    Masters - 4 (1998, 2003)
    U.S. Open - 1 (2003)
    British Open - 4/T4 (1997, ’98, 2006, ’14)
    PGA Championship - 2 (2013)
Top-10 Finishes: 22
Top-25 Finishes: 40
Missed Cuts: 16

 

Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, March 18, 2016 - 10:44
All taxonomy terms: Paul Casey, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-16-paul-casey
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 16: Paul Casey

Born: July 21, 1977, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England | Career PGA Tour Wins: 1 (13 on European Tour) | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 2 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,488,311 (21st) | World Ranking: 26

 

Gary Williams' Take: I’m convinced Paul Casey will have the best year of his career for a number of reasons. First thing, he’s a happy man with a wife and child to play for, and if he can have a completely healthy year, he will win again on the PGA Tour. Secondly, he made a hard choice to renounce his membership on the European Tour in 2015 and made an even harder choice not to renew his membership for 2016, in a Ryder Cup year. Casey was snubbed from the 2010 team by Colin Montgomerie when he was in the top 10 in the world. Despite some changes to the required starts on the European Tour to retain membership, Casey opted to stay committed to the PGA Tour and will be ineligible for the European Ryder Cup team. It would fascinating to see Casey have a career year and what the reaction would be from European fans and media come September when Casey was absent from Hazeltine. That scenario is very possible.

 

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 47
Wins: 0
2015 Performance:
    Masters – T6
    U.S. Open – T39
    British Open – T74
    PGA Championship – T30
Best Career Finishes: 
    Masters – T6 (2004, '15)
    U.S. Open – T10 (2007)
    British Open – T3 (2010)
    PGA Championship – T12 (2010)
Top-10 Finishes: 6
Top-25 Finishes: 12
Missed Cuts: 17

 

Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, March 17, 2016 - 10:36
All taxonomy terms: Branden Grace, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-17-branden-grace
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 17: Branden Grace

Born: May 20, 1988, Pretoria, South Africa | Career PGA Tour Wins: 0 (7 on European Tour) | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 2 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $1,471,160 (69th) | World Ranking: 12

 

Gary Williams' Take: Grace ended 2014 82nd in the world rankings and ended 2015 14th, having since risen to 12th. He is becoming a regular major championship contender as he showed by finishing tied for fourth at the U.S. Open and third at the PGA Championship. The question that remains: Will the lion’s share of Grace’s schedule be played on the European or PGA Tour? He has vaulted ahead of fellow South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel in the world rankings and has stood tall in big moments. Grace’s biggest challenge is finding the right balance between being a global player and peaking for the biggest tournaments, which, with few exceptions, are in the United States.


Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 15
Wins: 0
2015 Performance:
    Masters – Cut
    U.S. Open – T4
    British Open – T20
    PGA Championship – 3
Best Career Finishes
    Masters – T18 (2013)
    U.S. Open – T4 (2015)
    British Open – T20 (2015)
    PGA Championship – 3 (2015)
Top-10 Finishes: 2
Top-25 Finishes: 4
Missed Cuts: 5

 

Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - 11:23
All taxonomy terms: Kevin Kisner, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-18-kevin-kisner
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 18: Kevin Kisner

Born: Feb. 15, 1984, Aiken, S.C. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 1 | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,567,939 (20th) | World Ranking: 22

 

Gary Williams' Take: A player who ended 2014 ranked 238th in the world and in a state of PGA Tour anonymity entered 2016 ranked 17th coming off his first win on Tour at the RSM Classic in November 2015. Kisner had four second-place finishes in 2015 before finally breaking through at Davis Love’s event at Sea Island. Kisner has grinded his way to a prominent spot on Tour working with swing instructor John Tillery, and he told me right after his first win that representing the USA in the Ryder Cup was a career goal he wanted to achieve in 2016. Kisner doesn’t have any stats that jump off the page, but he carries himself as a player with confidence and belief, as evidenced by the second shots he struck on the final holes of the Heritage and the Players Championship. Kisner is now on everyone’s radar, and it’s exactly where he thinks he belongs.

 

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 4
Wins: 0
2015 Performance:
    Masters - DNP
    U.S. Open – T12
    British Open – Cut
    PGA Championship – Cut
Best Career Finishes: 
    Masters - n/a
    U.S. Open - T12 (2015)
    British Open - Cut (2015)
    PGA Championship - Cut (2015)
Top-10 Finishes: 0
Top-25 Finishes: 1
Missed Cuts: 3

 

Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - 10:22
All taxonomy terms: Hideki Matsuyama, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-19-hideki-matsuyama
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 19: Hideki Matsuyama

Born: Feb. 25, 1992, Matsuyama, Ehime, Japan | Career PGA Tour Wins: 2 (6 on Japanese Tour) | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,758,619 (15th) | World Ranking: 14

 

Gary Williams' Take: In the massive rush to declare the next great thing, Matsuyama has managed to come to America after Ryo Ishikawa and eclipse Ishikawa’s accomplishments while assuming the burden of having the throng of Japanese press follow his every waking moment. He turned 24 in late February and already has top 10s in the three of the four major championships and is statistically one of the finest ball strikers on the PGA Tour. He consistently ranks among the best in all the categories that matter most, and by making the choice to play the PGA Tour at an early age, he has already been on two President Cup teams and has a reasonable chance to become the most accomplished Japanese player on the best Tour in the world long before his 30th birthday.
Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 13
Wins: 0
2015 Performance:
    Masters - 5
    U.S. Open – T18
    British Open – T18
    PGA Championship – T37
Best Career Finishes
    Masters - 5 (2015)
    U.S. Open - T10 (2013)
    British Open - T6 (2013)
    PGA Championship - T19 (2013)
Top-10 Finishes: 3
Top-25 Finishes: 6
Missed Cuts: 1

 

Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, March 14, 2016 - 11:34
All taxonomy terms: Rickie Fowler, Golf
Path: /golf/exclusive-qa-rickie-fowler
Body:

After claiming his third PGA Tour victory at last year’s Deutsche Bank Championship, Rickie Fowler lightheartedly called himself a “sneaky fourth” to the widely proclaimed Big Three of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy. But just a few months later, Fowler won again at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship with Spieth and McIlroy in the field. Not so sneaky, especially when you throw in his stirring charge to victory at the 2015 Players Championship.


Now we’re left to wonder what’s next for the ever-popular California native. Although he doesn’t know this year’s major venues too well (aside from Augusta National), he’s nonetheless excited for the chance to continue to carve out his spot among golf’s best.

 

Fowler tells Athlon that he’s playing as well as ever — and he’s also motivated like never before.
 
Does the presence of Jordan, Jason and Rory push you to get better, or is your focus solely on your own game and what you’re able to do?
Well, it’s definitely great motivation having guys like that playing well. Those three guys being the ones in front of me in the World Rankings, and when we play together I feel like it kind of pushes each of us to elevate our games to the next level. I obviously have my own goals, but when those guys are playing well, it definitely, I think, kind of goes in full circle. We’re all motivating each other to become better players.

 

You’ve mentioned your overall goal of getting in contention and giving yourself chances to win. How key is that for you this year?

Well, I know I can’t go out and have a perfect year by any means and have a great week every week. But that’s what the main kind of focus is whenever I’m playing. It’s showing up and making sure I have the best that I can have that week and getting the most out of it.


I may not have played my best golf (at Abu Dhabi), but I was able to manage my game well, stay very patient, and get the most out of it. I feel like that’s something I’ve gotten better at over the past few years, especially working with Butch (Harmon) as well on the swing. I’ve been able to get a lot more out of tournament rounds, and that’s what has really helped me win. I got the most I probably could have gotten out of the round on Saturday at The Players last year, and that’s what gave me the chance to do what I did on Sunday. Then (at Abu Dhabi in Round 1) I wasn’t playing all that great and managed to get around 2-under. That kept me in the golf tournament. So, if I can continue to do that, I’m going to be in the position to be in contention and ultimately have chances to win more golf tournaments.

 

You’ve spoken a lot recently about fine-tuning your game. In what ways are you doing that?
I’m always looking at the statistics and where I can get better and tighten things up. One of the main focuses right now is 150 yards and in. That range is where we’ve found maybe the biggest way to improve right now. Getting the ball closer to the hole from that range. Those are your scoring clubs, and you’re going up against the best players in the world, guys that you’ve got to be on top of your wedge game, 9-iron and down. You’re looking to get the ball in there close and have a good look at birdie. So the more that you can give yourself good quality looks and stay away from making mistakes from that yardage, the better, so we’ll see if we can get some closer and take advantage of that. And then overall, I’m looking at continuing to get better everywhere else.

 

You got ranked in the world’s top 5 after winning Abu Dhabi. What do you do to sustain that level of golf and even improve your position?
Well I’m going to have to get some top-10 finishes and some wins to move up, because the three guys that are ahead of me are not going to move backwards, I know that.


Golf’s in a great spot right now, we’re having a good time.

 

After your new high-tops, will we see any more fashion statements from you in the coming months?
Nothing right now. We’ll see. I’ll try and get something in the works maybe. There might be some fun stuff at The Players. I’ll get some stuff lined up for Augusta, that’s always a good one. 


I like trying to keep having some fun with it and be different with my apparel.

 

You speak a lot about motivation now, is it fair to say you’re as motivated as you’ve ever been?
Oh yeah, definitely. Golf’s in a really good spot right now. A lot of guys are playing well. It’s fun to be considered one of the top players right now. It’s a lot of fun to have players and young guys playing well, and we can kind of feed off each other.

 

In your opinion, are you playing as well as you ever have in your career?

Yeah, I’ve definitely been playing really well through the middle and end of last year to the start of this year. So it’s just good golf.

 

When it comes to the majors, how key are they to constituting a great year for you? Is there any one major that favors your game more than the others?
Winning a major would make a great year, and to continue the way I’ve been playing. I mean, I feel like to be in the same conversation with (Jordan, Jason and Rory) I need to get a major and get that on the résumé to at least have some sort of credentials to be there. I don’t think there’s any major that suits me better. I feel like I can play all of them. I definitely enjoy playing links golf just because of the shots I can hit over there. Links golf is probably my favorite just because of the amount of creativity you can use and different shots available. I love playing Augusta, and we have some great venues this year for the other majors. 

“I feel like to be in the same conversation with (Jordan, Jason and Rory) I need to get a major and get that on the résumé to at least have some sort of credentials to be there.”

My practice round at Baltusrol (site of the 2016 PGA Championship) last year with Jordan was the one time I’d been there.

 

What do you make of the U.S. Open at Oakmont this year? Any familiarity with the course?
No, I haven’t even been there. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve heard a lot of good things. I’ve heard it’s a great U.S. Open venue and that it’s going to be tough.

 

What has your training been like with your trainer Troy Van Biezen? Are there any differences from years past?
I’m definitely trying to ramp it up a bit more moving forward right now. It’s just making sure the body is moving properly and that I’m strong in the correct places, then also continuing to get stronger as I continue on the golf course. The biggest thing for me is injury prevention, making sure that I’m healthy, and making sure I have a long career out here, so that’s the goal with training. 


I’m working on everything. Your core can be as strong as you want, but if there’s nothing else to support it, then it doesn’t matter, so it’s everything all in one.

 

Golf returns to the Olympics later this year. What are your thoughts on that opportunity?
It would be awesome, but it’s a little ways out. There’s a lot of golf before that. But no, it would be an honor to be a part of it, and the Olympics are something that I’ll always shoot for.

 

— Garrett Johnston, @JohnstonGarrett

 

This interview appears in the 2016 edition of Athlon Sports' Golf Annual. You can purchase it

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, March 11, 2016 - 14:30
All taxonomy terms: Matt Kuchar, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-20-matt-kuchar
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 20: Matt Kuchar

Born: June 21, 1978, Winter Park, Fla. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 7 | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $2,774,170 (28th) | World Ranking: 28

 

Gary Williams’ Take: A winless 2015 season for Kuchar still produced seven top 10s and second- and third-place finishes for a player with $33.9 million in career earnings and 56 top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour since 2010. Kuchar is at the top of the list of most accomplished players without a major championship victory to his credit, and he will turn 38 in late June. Statistically Kuchar had a very solid year, finishing 14th in scoring average, eighth in sand save percentage and ninth in the all around category, but there were two stats that contributed to his failure to win. His iron play was not as sharp, as he finished 149th in proximity to the hole, and he went from fourth in first-round scoring to 111th in final-round scoring. Kuchar has a Players title, money title, World Golf Championship, and a FedExCup playoff victory on his résumé, and his productivity should not wane. Plus he’s added John Wood, longtime caddy to Hunter Mahan, to his bag for a fresh perspective on the course.

 

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 40
Wins: 0
2015 Performance:
    Masters – T46
    U.S. Open – T12
    British Open – T58
    PGA Championship – T7
Best Career Finishes
    Masters - T3 (2012)
    U.S. Open - T6 (2010)
    British Open - T9 (2012)
    PGA Championship – T7 (2015)
Top-10 Finishes: 7
Top-25 Finishes: 16
Missed Cuts: 15

 

Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, March 11, 2016 - 11:29
All taxonomy terms: Jimmy Walker, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2016-majors-no-21-jimmy-walker
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2016 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the ’s .

 

No. 21 Jimmy Walker

Born: Jan. 16, 1979, Oklahoma City, Okla. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 5 | 2015 Wins (Worldwide): 2 | 2015 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,521,350 (10th) | World Ranking: 22

 

Gary Williams’ Take: Walker started 2015 the way he played all of 2014 (when he recorded his first three Tour wins), and he appeared to be steamrolling toward another career season with two wins and two second-place finishes before the end of May. Shockingly, Walker did not record another official top 10 the rest of the year. He still produced $4.5 million in official earnings and a spot on the USA Presidents Cup team, but he and instructor Butch Harmon are making some changes. He is working on a new release at impact that will have his head looking a little like David Duval’s, and it’s something that Walker and Harmon have discussed for some time. Walker is not an accurate driver, but he remains one of the longest on Tour, and he was second in strokes gained, putting in 2015. However, his greens hit in regulation slipped from 28th to 101st, and his proximity was 137th on Tour. Expect good results in all the Texas events, where his record is astounding.
Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 14
Wins: 0
2015 Performance:
    Masters – T38
    U.S. Open – T58
    British Open – T30
    PGA Championship – Cut
Best Career Finishes
    Masters – T8 (2014)
    U.S. Open – T9 (2014)
    British Open – T26 (2014)
    PGA Championship – T7 (2014)
Top-10 Finishes: 3
Top-25 Finishes: 4
Missed Cuts: 5

 

Athlon's 2016 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Zach Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. .

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, March 10, 2016 - 10:23

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