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.

Thompson wins Race, loses tournament after short miss

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 8:52 pm

The drama went down to the very last hole in the LPGA's final event of 2017. Here's how things ended up at the CME Group Tour Championship, where a surprising miss from Lexi Thompson opened the door for Ariya Jutanugarn to win in dramatic fashion:

Leaderboard: Ariya Jutanugarn (-15), Lexi Thompson (-14), Jessica Korda (-14), Pernilla Lindberg (-13), Eun-Hee Ji (-13)

What it means: There were scenarios aplenty entering the final round, with nearly every season-long accolade still hanging in the balance. Thompson appeared set to take them all as she sized up a 2-foot par putt on the final hole - a stroke that looked like it would take her to world No. 1 for the first time. Instead, the putt barely touched the hole and allowed Jutanugarn to rally to victory with birdies on the closing two holes. Thompson still took home $1 million for winning the season-long Race to the CME Globe, as it was a reverse scenario from last year when Jutanugarn won the $1 million but not the final tournament.

Round of the day: Sei Young Kim made the day's biggest charge, turning in a 6-under 66 to close the week in a share of 11th at 10 under. Kim made eight birdies during the final round, including five over her first eight holes en route to her lowest round of the week while erasing a third-round 75.

Best of the rest: Jutanugarn seemed like an afterthought as the tournament was winding down, but she kept her hopes alive with an 18-foot birdie on No. 17 and then capitalized on Thompson's mistake with a clutch birdie on the difficult final hole. It capped off a final-round 67 for the Thai who now ends what has been a tumultuous season with a smile on her face.

Biggest disappointment: Thompson faced heartbreak after the penalty-shrouded ANA Inspiration, and she again must handle a setback after essentially missing a tap-in with everything on the line. Thompson can enjoy a $1 million consolation prize along with the Vare Trophy, but a tournament win would have clinched Player of the Year honors as well as her first-ever trip to world No. 1. Instead, she now has the entire off-season to think about how things went awry from close range.

Shot of the day: There were only three birdies on No. 18 during the final round before Jutanugarn laced one down the fairway and hit a deft approach to 15 feet. The subsequent putt found the target and gave her win No. 7 on her young LPGA career.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.