Expert picks: BMW PGA Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2012, 4:30 pm

This week the European Tour holds their flagship event at Wentworth GC. Last year, Luke Donald won both the title and the world No. 1 ranking in a playoff over Lee Westwood, and is back this week to defend against a strong field of contenders. 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;'s Rob Bolton; 'Morning Drive' host Gary Williams; and Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Lee Westwood: Tough pick between Lee and Luke, but Lee is ready to flex his muscles this week and get redemption from a playoff loss to Donald a year ago.

Group 2: Padraig Harrington: He finished T-6 in 2010, showing he can perform at Wentworth after his major run of 2007-2008. Add to it an eighth place finish at the Masters and a T-15 showing last week at the Byron Nelson and he could be a threat to his fellow Europeans ranked No. 1-3 in the world.

Group 3: Ross Fisher: He finished seventh last month at the Ballantine's Championship and 10th here in 2010.

Group 4: Anders Hansen: The two-time winner of this event (2002, 2007) tied for 18th a year ago. In his last four starts (which includes the Masters and two WGC events) he has not finished worse than T-29.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Luke Donald: The defending champion is a stud in this event.

Group 2: Ben Curtis: Will lead the American charge; he's in great form and finished T-6 here in 2009.

Group 3: Ross Fisher: The Englishman was runner-up in 2009, T-10 in 2010 and has never missed a cut here.

Group 4: Thorbjorn Olesen: The next great Dane is a winner this year and ready to break out on a big stage.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Lee Westwood: Last year's runner-up has displayed some fine form already this season.

Group 2: Miguel Angel Jiminez: At 48, still very much in his prime. Must be the stretching routine.

Group 3: Tom Lewis: Hasn't played his best golf lately, but he's a former member at Wentworth.

Group 4: Joel Sjoholm: Georgia State product owns three top-25 finishes already this year.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Luke Donald: Last year's champion isn't as sharp as he was in 2011, but the Englishman is still one of the game's most consistent performers and always plays well at the circuit's flagship event.

Group 2: Paul Lawrie: After being adrift completely since his breakthrough victory at the British Open, the Scot has found his form the last six months and is fresh off a solid week at the Volvo World Match Play where he finished tied for third.

Group 3: Ross Fisher: Although he's still not as explosive as he was earlier in his career, Fisher has been showing signs of life in recent months and could use a good week close to home.

Group 4: Thorbjorn Olesen: Because it would be the week's best headline: 'Thor thumps BMW PGA field.'

Randall Mell

Group 1: Luke Donald: Defending champion; also has a T-2 and T-3 finish to his name in this event.

Group 2: Miguel Angel Jiminez: Despite back-to-back missed cuts at Wentworth, The Mechanic has gotten a lot of mileage out of this event with a win, runner-up and T-3 finish all in the not-too-distant past.

Group 3: Ross Fisher: Finished runner-up and T-10 in his last three starts at this event.

Group 4: Pablo Martin: Three-time European Tour winner has too much talent not to get something going again.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Luke Donald: No reason to over-think this selection. The defending champion has enjoyed success before and after the redesign at Wentworth.

Group 2: Matteo Manassero: Two starts at the BMW PGA; two top-20 finishes. He's also posted top-10s in four of his last five starts worldwide entering this week.

Group 3: Thongchai Jaidee: In a sea of also-rans, I'll take his 8-for-9 record and four top 25s at Wentworth. In his last nine starts worldwide, he's logged three top-25s (including his last two starts) and missed just one cut.

Group 4: Anders Hansen: The two-time champion of this event has seven top-25s in 12 starts at Wentworth. Arrives on the heels of consecutive top-25s dating back to the Masters.

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

Tune in to Golf Channel this Thursday-Sunday from 9AM-12PM ET for live coverage of the BMW PGA Championship.

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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.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.