Expert Picks: Open

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 9, 2012, 8:38 pm

This week the Fall Series continues with the Open, where Bryce Molder returns as defending champion. 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 staff writer Ryan Lavner.

Ryan Lavner

Group 1: Bud Cauley: Four of his six top-10s this season have come in his past seven starts, and he's had success at CordeValle in the past, having finished solo third here a year ago.

Group 2: Brendan Steele: NorCal's own, Steele has been disappointing this season but has posted two top-13 finishes in his past three starts. Also, was T-7 here a year ago.

Group 3: Tim Herron: Opened with 63 last week in Vegas before finishing T-10, his first and only top 10 finish of the season. He's right on the money-list bubble at No. 132, so there's plenty of incentive to play well here.

Group 4: Bill Lunde: Another bubble boy, at No. 128 on the money list, Lunde's solo fifth last week in Vegas - all four rounds in the 60s - perhaps was a sign of things to come.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Vijay Singh: The veteran opened 66-66 last week, and while he fell back over the weekend and has never played here before, he has had a lot of positive momentum at the end of this season. He's had three top-10 finishes in his last ten starts, including an eighth-place finish a few weeks ago at Crooked Stick.

Group 2: Jonas Blixt: This rookie is on a hot streak that I see extending into this week. He co-led over the weekend last week in Vegas and went on to finish third and led the field in strokes gained putting. It was his second third place of the year alongside a T-3 finish at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Group 3: Billy Horschel: He finished T-7 here a year ago and is grinding this week again, a year later, sitting 143rd on the money list. He has had some marginal success this year; his only top-10 finish was a third place at the True South Classic.

Group 4: Shane Bertsch: It's been a rough year for Shane, who has made only five cuts and earned just under $65K this year. He's 211th in the standings and needs a miracle week to keep his card. He did finish T-4 last year in this event, which helped him toward retaining employment status in 2012.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Bud Cauley: Sweet-swinging youngster finished just out of a playoff at this event last year.

Group 2: Ricky Barnes: In a recent discussion of best players without a PGA Tour win, his name wasn't mentioned - but it should have been.

Group 3: Billy Horschel: Now injury-free, he returns to the site of a T-7 result last season.

Group 4: Bobby Gates: No. 126 on last year's money list is determined to finish at least one better this time.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Ernie Els: The Open champion hasn't been particularly sharp since England, but he played well at the Open last year (T-4) and he's rested, having not teed it up since the Tour Championship.

Group 2: Jonas Blixt: The rookie was in the mix until the end in Las Vegas and has been trending in the right direction the last few weeks, finishing T-55 (Wyndham), T-46 (Barclays), T-20 (Deutsche Bank) and third (Shriners).

Group 3: Patrick Cantlay: Last year it was young Bud Cauley who made his mark at CordeValle, finishing third. This week it will be another newcomer playing on familiar California turf.

Group 4: Matt Jones: Although he hasn't had much to celebrate this season, having missed the weekend in eight of his last nine starts, he got off to a solid start last year at the Open with an opening 68 and at 175th in earnings, he desperately needs a solid week.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Bud Cauley: Among the options available, even though he's a rookie, he owns the best combination of recent form and success at CordeValle.

Group 2: Jonas Blixt: Sticking with the hot hand. The rookie co-led last week's stop in Vegas after 36 and 54 holes. Not afraid of going low and leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting.

Group 3: Richard H. Lee: My investment in this rookie last week saved an otherwise forgettable experience. Top-25s in all of his last five starts in PGA Tour-sanctioned events.

Group 4: Bobby Gates: The easy choice in this group. Top-20s in his last two starts and placed T-24 at last year's Open with progressively lower scores in each round (72-70-69-65).

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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.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.