Expert Picks: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2013, 8:32 pm

This week the PGA Tour heads to Orlando, where a star-studded field will tee it up at Bay Hill with the hopes of notching a key victory as preparation begins to conclude for the season's first major. 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 includes: senior writers Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel; contributors John Hawkins and Win McMurry; editorial director Jay Coffin; 'Morning Drive' host Gary Williams and staff writer Ryan Lavner. They will also be joined by former 'Saturday Night Live' star Norm Macdonald, who will serve as a celebrity guest throughout the fantasy season.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Didn't take him at Doral and lost ground. So this week, without shame I'm putting him on my team. How can you not, when you look at past performance (seven wins here) and recent form? He enters after a week off following his latest win, with the relationship secret off his chest and with a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking in the world. 

Group 2: Jim Furyk: He's coming off his season-best finish, a T-7 in Tampa, which is one of three top-25 finishes this year. He has consistently played well here over the last three years, with two T-11s and a tie for ninth.

Group 3: Jimmy Walker: Having four top-25 finishes this season is something to brag about in Group 3. Walker tied for 24th here last year.

Group 4: Trevor Immelman: Not a stellar season for the South African, with two missed cuts in six starts, but he shines when he comes to Bay Hill. Playing in his backyard, he tied for 11th last year, was T-12 the year before and also T-9 in 2007.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Tiger Woods: This one is easy, with two wins in five starts this season and seven wins in 16 starts at Bay Hill. There may not be a clear favorite for this year's NCAA Tournament, but at the API, Woods is the undisputed No. 1 seed.

Group 2: Jason Dufner: Hasn't been at his best this season, but this was about the time he began to heat up last year and Bay Hill is the type of demanding track where Dufner seems to play his best.

Group 3: David Toms: This weekend's wet forecast doesn't exactly favor Toms, but he has played well at the API in the past (T-3 in 2011) and when he's putting well, he has a tendency of surprising people.

Group 4: James Hahn: The rookie has hit a lull since coming east (missing three consecutive cuts), but has the length to contend on a long and wet golf course. 

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Bubba Watson: Just a hunch that most of my colleagues will pick Tiger. When you're near the cellar, you've got to zig when everyone else zags.

Group 2: Jim Furyk: Hard to believe it's been three years since his last win. The next one may not be too far away.

Group 3: K.J. Choi: That new claw putting grip seemed to be working well in Tampa. He's the best of the bunch in Group 3.

Group 4: Brendan Steele: Should be a good course for the long-hitting Steele, who showed signs of breaking through last week.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Do we really need to give a reason in an event Woods has won seven times?

Group 2: Webb Simpson: Went to Wake Forest on an Arnold Palmer Scholarship. Need we say more? 

Group 3: Jimmy Walker: Good start to the 2013 season, and good vibes coming back after the birth of his child.

Group 4: Sean O'Hair: Wasn't that long ago that he gave himself a chance to win this event.

Ryan Lavner

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Don't be cute here. He's a seven-time winner at Bay Hill. He's motivated to get back to world No. 1. And everyone else will pick Tiger - play defense.

Group 2: Webb Simpson: Overlook his poor record at Bay Hill, with only one top-30 finish. Why? Because he has four consecutive top 20s on Tour.

Group 3: Boo Weekley: Quietly, Boo has had a nice season, and last week's runner-up in Tampa was his third consecutive top-25 finish. Those injury woes are behind him.

Group 4: Billy Horschel: Grew up about an hour from Bay Hill, so he should have lots of friends and family in the crowd. But more importantly, he hasn't missed a cut on Tour since last May.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

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


Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.