Aug 04

Power rankings: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

The PGA Tour offers its final pair of events before the season's final major, with the world's best gathered in Akron, Ohio, for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. 

Defending champion Rory McIlroy won't be a part of the festivities at Firestone C.C. -- and it's increasingly looking like he won't be at the PGA Championship either -- so Jordan Spieth is the headliner on a long, difficult golf course. 

Here's a look at our top five players this week:

1. Jordan Spieth — Spieth was T-49 here in his first start in this event last year. However, Spieth is a different player since then, and he’s ready to give a go to a third major this year. He’s been a winner or close in every pre-major start this year.

2. Adam Scott — Scott has been brilliant since bringing back Steve Williams on the bag. He was the 2011 champion here and has been in the top 15 the last two years.

3. Rickie Fowler — Fowler finished runner-up at the Quicken Loans National and is coming off an overseas win in Scotland. He’s on form, but his Bridgestone Invitational record is somewhat mixed.

4. Jason Day — Day has one top-five finish in four completed starts here (pulling out last year after two rounds with vertigo-like symptoms). However, Day is at the top of his game and is on the verge of a major breakthrough.

5. Justin Rose — Rose is a good pick this week, just as he was a week ago at RTJ. He’s got two top-five finishes here in his last three starts and has been in the top six in three of his last four PGA Tour starts.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Aug 03

Scratch that: Rory McIlroy will not play practice round at PGA host

We don't know if Rory McIlroy will play in the final major of the year, and now we're more confused than ever.

A Monday Reuters report cited a source saying McIlroy will play a Saturday practice round at Whistling Straits, site of next week's PGA Championship. However, a Tuesday report by Irish Golf Desk contradicts that, quoting a McIlroy spokesman saying no practice round has been scheduled.

"Not booked for such a round," said McIlroy spokesman Terry Prone. "Still going through the ankle rehab process."

McIlroy missed the British Open last month at St. Andrews after he suffered a ruptured ligament in his left ankle during a July 4 soccer game. In announcing he would miss the first of two 2015 major title defenses, McIlroy said he wouldn't play again until completely ready.

The four-time major winner is also skipping his title defense at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this week.

McIlroy has never divulged an intended timetable for his return, nor disclosed the true severity of his injury. That has invited a wide range of speculation on when McIlroy might return to the PGA Tour.

McIlroy won last year's PGA Championship at Valhalla in Kentucky by a shot over Phil Mickelson. When the PGA was last contested at Whistling Straits in 2010, McIlroy finished tied for third with Zach Johnson, behind eventual playoff winner Martin Kaymer.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Aug 03

John Daly wants to be U.S. Ryder Cup captain

John Daly thinks he would be the perfect man to lead the U.S. Ryder Cup team into a future biennial match against the Europeans.

The 49-year-old two-time major champion said at last week's Paul Lawrie Match Play in Scotland that he hopes to get a chance to be captain of a team he never played on in his career.

"Hopefully I would one day be a captain, it would be fun," Daly said. "I don't know if I fit the mold. I don't know if I fit what the PGA of America would want. All I know is my team, if I was a captain, we'd have a blast. I'd make sure they had a blast. You don't want to wear a tie, don't wear a tie. Have fun. It's supposed to be fun."

Daly subscribes to the same viewpoint that made Fred Couples so popular with players when he led the U.S. to three consecutive Presidents Cup wins. There's no doubt his would be a fun-first captaincy. That might just be the secret to ending a slide which has seen the U.S. lose eight of the last 10 Ryder Cups.

"I think we just get wrapped up in it," Daly added. "I think when you're favored to win so many years like the Americans have been, I think we get uptight. Even the matches that we are getting killed in, we are favored in.

"I think we put too much pressure on ourselves. Just go out and play golf. It's great to play for your country, but it's still a gentleman's game at the end."

The timing of Daly's remarks is interesting considering that, during the process of the PGA of America's Ryder Cup task force, Daly said Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson would make excellent captains. With their turns certainly coming down the line, it would seem extremely unlikely that Daly would get slotted in line.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Aug 03

Rory McIlroy at Whistling Straits (in a trick-shot video)!

There's a good chance Rory McIlroy won't play in next week's PGA Championship in Wisconsin, missing out on a second consecutive major title defense in 2015. 

However, McIlroy appeared Monday at Whistling Straits, but not to get ready for the year's final major.

The world No. 1 -- at least for now -- guest starred in a video released by the Bryan Brothers, trick-shot artists who have dipped into the sponsored-content game, including this production presented by McIlroy sponsor Bose. 

In the video, McIlroy participates in several of the Bryan Brothers' standard-issue trick shots, including ricocheting a golf ball of several concrete blocks before another person smashes the ball downrange out of midair. The Ulsterman proved rather adept -- and somewhat hooked -- on pulling off some ridiculous shots that require a talent all their own.

Sadly, this video may have to be the consolation prize for McIlroy missing the PGA Championship, but at least we'll have this.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Aug 03

Tiger Woods’ remaining schedule hinges on PGA success

Tiger Woods thinks an 80th PGA Tour win isn't nearly as far away as it looked at the British Open.

“I feel I’m very close (to winning),” Woods said in a Monday teleconference promoting the Deutsche Bank Championship, whose proceeds primarily benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Good thing -- Woods is running out of time to win this season. Deep down in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, Woods has committed to just one of two tournaments remaining in the regular season after this week. As a four-time PGA champion, Woods is in next week's field at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

“Winning my fifth PGA would be nice,” he said.

In the likelihood that he comes up short, Woods' only path to a playoff berth would be a top two finish in the Wyndham Championship, a tournament he's never played as a pro. Woods suggested after his Friday round at the Quicken Loans National, where he finished T-18, that was a possibility.

Meanwhile, Woods' long-suffering world ranking improved after his showing in northern Virginia. Woods jumped four spots this week from No. 266 in the world to No. 262.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Aug 03

Kenny Perry cruises to successful 3M Championship defense

Greg Vara is covering this week's Champions Tour stop, the 3M Championship, for Devil Ball Golf.

BLAINE, Minn. -- Kenny Perry didn’t have his A-game on Sunday, but he didn’t need it.

With a final-round 68 at the 3M Championship on Sunday, Perry became the first player in the 23-year history of this event to successfully defend his title.

TPC Twin Cities just suits Kenny Perry’s eye. Since making his debut at the 3M Championship in 2011, Perry has fared no worse than T-7 and, with his win this week, he’s now finished in the top three in four of his five starts here.

When asked what it is about this course that works for Perry, he said, “The fairways are wide open; my length is a huge advantage."

That advantage off the tee led to shorter irons into greens and, with it, more greens hit. Perry led the field in greens in regulation this week, hitting them at a nearly 89 percent clip.

With his affinity for this course and a long history of success at the 3M Championship, Kenny Perry’s four-stroke lead entering Sunday’s final round seemed almost insurmountable. Perry would have to leave the door open for anyone to catch him.

Kevin Sutherland admitted as much when asked if there was a sense that the field would need help from Perry.

“I think everybody felt that way”, he said, then adding, “this was Kenny’s tournament and he went out and won it."

The outcome wasn’t a forgone conclusion early on, however. Perry started with a bogey, later admitting he felt “unnerved” after needing a 15-foot putt to drop just a shot. It certainly wasn’t how Perry wanted to start. After a Saturday 61, Perry mentioned that he “felt uneasy with the lead and very uncomfortable being the one everyone was chasing."

After Perry's opening bogey, it seemed as though the stars were aligning for Sutherland, who was Perry’s nearest competitor entering the day. Sutherland’s opening birdie created a two-shot swing, cutting the lead to just two.

Sutherland rattled off three more birdies over the next four holes, scaring Perry into gear. Sutherland would get no closer all day than two strokes, and Perry cruised to a comfortable four-stroke victory.

It’s been a bit of struggle this season for Perry on the Champions Tour. He split time to enjoy a farewell junket on the PGA Tour. With that over, now, Perry is fully committed to the 50-plus circuit. 

Aug 03

What To Make Of Tiger?

Doomsayers claim he's washed up. Our author suspects the epic obstinance that has helped the former World No. 1 get into this mess gives him a fighting chance to get out
Posted in Uncategorized
Aug 02

Troy Merritt finishes off first PGA Tour win with rousing birdie

GAINESVILLE, Va. -- In his 96th PGA Tour start, Troy Merritt is a winner.

With a final round 4-under 67 at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, Merritt took the Quicken Loans National for his first professional win since a 2009 breakthrough on the Tour. 

Merritt shot 18-under 266 and finished three clear of Rickie Fowler, the pre-tournament favorite, whose scorecard had plenty of circles and squares on it with six pars, seven birdies and five bogeys. Fowler closed with three birdies in his final five holes to make a late charge at Merritt, posting a closing 69.

Entering the final day, Merritt shared the lead with Kevin Chappell and was being pursued by the likes of Rickie Fowler and Bill Haas, much more accomplished contemporaries seemingly more accustomed to the pressure of closing out PGA Tour wins for seven-figure paychecks. That didn't prove the case on Sunday, however, as Merritt, who turns 30 in October, carried himself like a player who was working his way through a Thursday opener. Merritt made two birdies in the final three holes to lock up the win, including a bonus 35-footer to end the tournament. 

David Lingmerth finished in third at 14 under par, with six players tied for fourth at 12 under par, including Justin Rose, Bill Haas, Danny Lee, Justin Thomas, Jason Bohn and Carl Pettersson.

Tiger Woods, who fell out of contention following a Saturday 74, shot 3-under 68 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 18th place along with Chappell, whose Sunday 78 derailed his hopes for a first PGA Tour win.

The win gets Merritt into next week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the PGA Championship and next year's Masters.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Aug 02

Tiger Woods closes Quicken Loans National with modest 68

GAINESVILLE, Va. -- Tiger Woods gained back the three shots he lost to par on Saturday with a final-round 3-under 68 on Sunday at the Quicken Loans National. However, he lost a shot to eventual first-time winner Troy Merritt, ending his own tournament 10 shots out of first and in a tie for 18th place.

Woods got off to a hot start, making three consecutive birdies after a pair of opening pars. He was 5 under on the day through 10 holes before Woods took three steps back with three bogeys in the next four holes, including a pair of penalty shots for finding water hazards. A final birdie on the 18th wrapped up a modest final round.

"Today I started off well and really hit the ball well and I looked at the whole week in general and felt like I made some big strides," Woods said afterward.

Though Woods wasn't in the thick of it on Sunday, he took positives away from a tournament where he had three very good rounds.

"I changed my patterns ... and now I got to get a feel for it," he said. "My short game starting to come back to where it used to be. Everything kind of trending in the correct direction now."

The problem now for Woods is that his season is likely about to come to a close. Woods needed a win to qualify for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and he has only otherwise scheduled a start in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in two weeks. On Friday, he teased potentially playing for the first time in the Wyndham Championship as a last-gasp effort to make the FedEx Cup playoffs, but he'll have until the Friday of the PGA to decide for sure.

Woods didn't seem so concerned about the here and now, however, waxing philosophically on his long-term prospects to rediscover the winner's circle.

"I've got years ahead of me," he said,"that's how I look at it, not just this season."

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.