Expert Picks: 2014 Memorial Tournament

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 28, 2014, 3:26 pm

This week marks the 29th event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as players head to Columbus, Ohio for the Memorial Tournament. Each week, a panel of experts will offer up their picks from four groups of players, based on Golf Channel's fantasy game, Fantasy Challenge. We will also keep track of their scores and standings. The panel includes: senior writers Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel; contributors John Hawkins and John Antonini; editorial director Jay Coffin; 'Morning Drive' host Gary Williams; staff writer Ryan Lavner and defending fantasy champion Charlie Rymer.


Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Matt Kuchar: It's not always the best idea to pick the defending champion, but after two weeks in the Dallas area with his swing coach Chris O'Connell, Kooch always plays well and in 14 events this year he has nine top-10 finishes.

Group 2: Jim Furyk: Although he stumbled slightly last week at Colonial (T-51) after back-to-back runner-up finishes, he is playing well and has a stellar record at Muirfield Village (a victory in 2002 and a pair of runner-up showings).

Group 3: Chris Stroud: He's been inching toward his maiden PGA Tour victory all season, and was solid again last week with a tie for 14th place.

Group 4: Erik Compton: Sentimental pick here. The two-time heart transplant recipient has played the Memorial before on sponsor exemptions for his courage to overcome his physical challenges, and he's enjoying his most consistent season on Tour.


Jason Sobel

Group 1: Justin Rose: In this year's everyone-gets-a-turn-to-hold-a-trophy golf world, it might be time for Rose, who has won here before.

Group 2: Ryan Moore: Confidential info: I asked Moore a few months ago to name the one tourney he thought best suited his game. Here's a hint: it's this one.

Group 3: Brendon de Jonge: His team might not have fared so well at last year's Presidents Cut, but BDJ showed a special affinity for playing well at Jack's place.

Group 4: Nicholas Thompson: We really weren't too far off from Nick winning Colonial, sister Lexi winning on the LPGA and brother Curtis winning the NCAAs in the same week.


Will Gray

Group 1: Matt Kuchar: Kuchar has finished inside the top 10 more than 42 percent of the time since 2010, and he's done it five straight times at Muirfield Village including a win last year. Don't let the hiccup at Colonial fool you - he'll be back in contention in no time.

Group 2: Luke Donald: The Englishman challenged all the way to the 72nd hole last week in England, and his Memorial record is a strong one, with five straight top 25s. Donald's stellar short game should come in handy once again this week in Columbus.

Group 3: David Hearn: Hearn has been playing some good golf lately, following a T-6 at TPC Sawgrass with a T-21 finish at Colonial where he closed with a 66 on Sunday. The Canadian knows his way around Muirfield Village, with top-25 results in each of his two appearances.

Group 4: Stewart Cink: The veteran hasn't won since the 2009 Open Championship, but he tends to save his best for this event: eight straight top-30 finishes at Muirfield Village, including a trio of top 10s from 2007-2010.


John Antonini

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: He hasn't put four good rounds together in a PGA Tour event this year, but he figured it out last week at Wentworth. If he's not too jet-lagged, he could make it two straight wins this week.

Group 2: Jim Furyk: He's third on the Memorial Tournament's all-time money list, so you know he likes Muirfield Village. A T-51 at last week's Colonial ended a run of three straight top 10s on Tour.

Group 3: Ryo Ishikawa: He's having a career year and should qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs for the first time. He was T-9 at the Memorial in 2012.

Group 4: Brian Davis: Coming off a T-14 at Colonial, Davis was T-8 at Muirfield Village a year ago.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”