Expert picks: 2012 U.S. Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 12, 2012, 8:00 pm

This week the best players in the world head to the Lake Course at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, site of this year's second major. Rory McIlroy is back to defend the title he won in a romp last year at Congressional, but an elite field will challenge for the title. Each week a panel of experts will offer up their picks from four groups of players based on Golf Channel's new fantasy game, Fantasy Challenge. We will also keep track of their scores and standings. The panel consists of: senior writers Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel; contributors John Hawkins and Win McMurry; editorial director Jay Coffin; RotoWorld.com's Rob Bolton; 'Morning Drive' host Gary Williams; and Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.


Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Tiger Woods: He won at Memorial, has a pair of wins this season and is a three-time U.S. Open champion. Good enough for me.

Group 2: Jim Furyk: Furyk is second on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, which will be critical for success at Olympic. He won the U.S. Open in 2003.

Group 3: Colt Knost: The second alternate out of Columbus won the 2007 U.S. Amateur at this venue. He's ninth on Tour in driving accuracy.

Group 4: Roberto Castro: The Georgia Tech product is 18th in greens in regulation percentage and 49th in driving accuracy. It's a good combination in the group of mostly dreamers.


Gary Williams

Group 1: Lee Westwood: Westwood enters the week seeking his first major, but is playing very well. The third-ranked player in the world has won twice in 2012, including last week, and also finished T-3 at the Masters. On top of all that, he finished T-7 in the 1998 U.S. Open at Olympic. I think Westwood wins his first major this week.

Group 2: Zach Johnson: If the conditions are tough, Zach Johnson is a name I always think of. The 2007 Masters champion won earlier this year at Colonial and has runner-up finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Harbour Town. I think he'll be able to maneuver his way around Olympic very well and at the very least record his best U.S. Open finish this week.

Group 3: Branden Grace: Grace is arguable the most underrated performer of 20212 so far as he has won three times on the European Tour, with two wins in South Africa and one in China. He earned his place in the field on Monday by being ranked in the top 60 in the world and is making his first major start in the U.S. An upset win this week would make Grace the story of the year.

Group 4: Brian Harman: Harman played in the 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur at Olympic and made it to the quarterfinals before losing to the eventual champion. That year, he shot 67-66 in stroke play to win medalist honors by eight shots. Considering he shot 64 at Pebble Beach and 61 at PGA National earlier this year, he could surprise many people this week.week.


Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Tiger Woods: The question remains, which guy will show up this week? The guy who missed the cut at Quail Hollow or won Bay Hill by a five spot? The guy who finished T-40 at the Masters and Players or rolled to victory at the Memorial? My gut says the latter.

Group 2: Zach Johnson: The U.S. Open has never been kind to Johnson; his best finish in eight starts is a T-30 last year, but in his last five overall starts he has two second-place finishes and a win. Olympic may be the best fit of all the Open venues for this fairways-and-greens specialist.

Group 3: Davis Love III: This seems like a sentimental pick, but the U.S. Ryder Cup captain is fresh off his best finish of the year (a T-3 in Memphis) and with 22 starts at the national championship, no one has more experience in this week's field.

Group 4: Joe Durant: Always one of the Tour's best ball-strikers, the Olympic Club will fit his game better than most Open venues that reward power over shot-making. He also has some experience on the Lake Course, having finished T-32 at the 1998 U.S. Open.


Win McMurry

Group 1: Tiger Woods: He's back.

Group 2: Jim Furyk: Seven top-25 finishes in his last eight starts; he's in form and certainly has a shot at adding another U.S. Open title to the one he picked up in 2003.

Group 3: Branden Grace: Three wins this year on the European Tour have me not worried a bit that he can contend in his first U.S. Open.

Group 4: Michael Allen: He's gained a lot of confidence with age and performance on the Champions Tour, where he's picked up two wins in 2012.


Jason Sobel

Group 1: Luke Donald: Keys to contending at any major: keep the ball in play, eliminate mistakes and be deadly from 100 yards and in. That's pretty much an analysis of Donald's game.

Group 2: Jonathan Byrd: Looking for a hot hand? Byrd has finished 12th or better in each of his last four events. Ironically, this Ben Hogan fan could be this week's Jack Fleck.

Group 3: Davis Love III: Don't scoff. The current United States Ryder Cup captain is peaking at the right time, reaching the field through sectionals before a T-3 finish in Memphis.

Group 4: Mikko Ilonen: Little-known Euro Tour player is fresh off a T-3 in Sweden at last week's Nordea Masters.


Randall Mell

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Woods seems to really like the creative test Olympic offers, and more importantly, he has the variety of shots again to win here.

Group 2: Sergio Garcia: Olympic Club rewards pure ball strikers, and it will reward Garcia if his putter is working.

Group 3: Steve Marino: Going with Frank Nobilo's feeling that there is some Jack Fleck in Marino.

Group 4: Patrick Cantlay: This is called rooting for the story. It would be historic with an amateur winning the U.S. Open.


Rob Bolton

Group 1: Luke Donald: In a field loaded with talent, I'll take the most consistent performer of the elite. His time is now.

Group 2: Jim Furyk: Not only is his record impressive in the U.S. Open, but his splits across the board and recent results support this endorsement.

Group 3: Davis Love III: I rode him last week in Memphis, so I'm taking another spin on the bandwagon. What matters more isn't that he's playing extremely well again, but that he's healthy and perhaps fresher than most of his opposition as a result of his rest (e.g. Dustin Johnson at the St. Jude).

Group 4: Alex Cejka: In a lot full of fliers, he's one of the safest options. Shared eighth place at the U.S. Open down the road at Pebble Beach two years ago. Also cashed in his last four starts entering this week.

**Join Fantasy Expert Rob Bolton for a live golf chat Wednesday at 12:00p ET at www.rotoworld.com**

Tune in to Golf Channel all week long for coverage of Live From: U.S. Open.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.