Expert Picks: 2016 Wells Fargo Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 4, 2016, 4:32 pm

This week the 2016 fantasy golf season heads to North Carolina, as 144 players tee it up at the Wells Fargo Championship. 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 and Randall Mell; editorial director Jay Coffin; associate editor Will Gray; 'Morning Drive' host Gary Williams; host Charlie Rymer and defending fantasy champion Ryan Lavner.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: It's a good time to claim that first victory of the year, and a good place to do it with good mojo as a defending champ. McIlroy has four top-10s in seven worldwide starts in stroke-play events this year but is still looking for that big Sunday finish. He has two big Sunday finishes at Quail Hollow as memories to draw upon.

Group 2: Hideki Matsuyama: Making his first start since a T-7 finish at the Masters, Matsuyama is making his third career start at Quail Hollow. He was T-20 there last year, but his game's never looked better as he looks to win his second PGA Tour title this season.

Group 3: Patrick Rodgers: Looking for Rodgers to ride the good feelings he should have returning to Quail Hollow, where he tied for second last year playing on a sponsor exemption.

Group 4: Bryson DeChambeau: Expecting a nice bounce back from the MC at the Texas Open. DeChambeau should be rested and ready to build on that T-21 Masters showing and T-4 Hilton Head finish.

Will Gray

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: Too good on this course to pass up, especially if it's wet. McIlroy shot a 62 en route to victory here in 2010, shot 61 en route to victory last year and has only been outside the top 10 once in six starts.

Group 2: Phil Mickelson: Mickelson has done everything but win this event, but his consistency here is noteworthy. He has six top-5 finishes at Quail Hollow and has finished outside the top-11 only once since 2009.

Group 3: Gary Woodland: Woodland finished T-20 last week in Zurich, has the length to handle a tough track like Quail and has cracked the top 20 each of the last two years there, including a T-4 finish a year ago.

Group 4: Geoff Ogilvy: The vet has a strong record at this event, having made the cut in each of his 11 appearances including a trio of top-10 finishes, highlighted by last year's T-7 result.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: This week marks the last time the Northern Irishman won on the PGA Tour, and it will prove to be a highly-motivating factor at Quail Hollow.

Group 2: Paul Casey: His missed cut at the RBC Heritage aside, the Englishman has been a model of consistency lately with three top-10 finishes in his last five starts.

Group 3: Charles Howell III: The veteran has always played well at Quail Hollow (three missed cuts in 13 starts) and is trending in the right direction with top-25 finishes in four of his last five starts.

Group 4: Bryson DeChambeau: After a steady start to his professional career at Hilton Head (T-4), he still has work to do to secure his status on the PGA Tour.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... 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."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.