Expert Picks: Hyundai TOC

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 1, 2013, 11:24 pm

This week marks the beginning of the 2013 PGA Tour season, as winners from the previous year have gathered in Kapalua for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. 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.


Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Bubba Watson: No secret here, the Plantation Course at Kapalua is a bomber's paradise. The layout ranked second on the PGA Tour last year in longest drives, and Watson is the quintessential bomber. Enjoy the show.

Group 2: Steve Stricker: Although Stricker likely spent more time in a deer stand than on a practice tee this offseason, he won the opener last year and finished 2012 strong with an eighth-place finish at the World Challenge.

Group 3: Ian Poulter: No, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions did not transition to match play this year, although that would add a measure of intrigue to the opener. But Poults' Ryder Cup romp is still fresh, making the Englishman one of the game's most confident players.

Group 4: Jonas Blixt: He didn't win the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award, but he probably should have. Last year's Frys.com Open winner is poised for a breakthrough season.


Jason Sobel

Group 1: Keegan Bradley: Big hitter on a long course. Most guys limp into Kapalua cold; he'll be ready to go.

Group 2: Ryan Moore: Late-season win may give momentum to produce a big 2013, something we've been waiting on for a while.

Group 3: Scott Piercy: My pick for a breakthrough season and my pick to win this tournament. Watch out, there's lots of talent there.

Group 4: Marc Leishman: Ever since Stuart Appleby was winning here all the time, I've liked going with Aussies playing in what is naturally their summer.


Ryan Lavner

Group 1: Matt Kuchar: Strong close to 2012, with top-11 finishes in each of his last three worldwide starts. Reason to like him at Kapalua, too - he was T-6 in 2011, solo third in '10.

Group 2: Steve Stricker: The 45-year-old is scaling back his 2013 schedule, but he wouldn't dare skip Kapalua. In his past four starts there, he has a win, a runner-up and two other top-10s.

Group 3: Scott Piercy: Impressed with the way he ended 2012, posting four consecutive top-15 finishes. Was T-12 in his first-ever start in Kapalua last year.

Group 4: Jonas Blixt: Another late-season bloomer who had five top 20s in his last six starts, including a win at the Frys.


Win McMurry

Group 1: Matt Kuchar: Kuchar is comfortable on the Plantation Course, where he finished third in 2010 and T-6 in 2011. Scrambling is also key, as four of the last seven winners led the field in the category and Kuch finished 2012 ranked seventh overall in the stat.

Group 2: Steve Stricker: Three times since 2005 a defending champion has won at Kapalua, so it's not such a long shot to predict Stricker to repeat. He already has a runner-up finish on this track in 2008. Proximity to the hole is a nice stat to have on your side this week, considering the sizable greens, and the Wisconsinite led the Tour in it last year.

Group 3: Ian Poulter: The fierce competitor can shine in the elite field this week where he finished T-6 in his only previous appearance (2011). He's been hot in the 'off' season, igniting a run overseas with his win at the WGC-HSBC Champions. I also like that he ranked second in scrambling last year.

Group 4: Jonas Blixt: The first-timer in Maui brings a solid resume to a course that ranked second-longest in proximity to the hole on approach last year. In 2012 he led the Tour in sand saves, was 16th in scrambling, 14th in par-breakers and second in strokes gained putting.


Will Gray

Group 1: Jason Dufner: Perhaps the most consistent player on Tour last year. His all-around game - and high birdie average - should both help him start his 2013 season on the right foot in his first trip to this winners-only event.

Group 2: Dustin Johnson: One of the hottest golfers down the stretch of 2012. Finished second in par-5 birdies or better, which should serve well on a Plantation Course that features five such holes.

Group 3: Scott Piercy: Quietly advanced all the way to the Tour Championship during the FedEx Cup playoffs last year, and his length off the tee will be a strong asset this week.

Group 4: Jonas Blixt: Made a huge jump in 2012 and may be set for an even bigger one in 2013. Will likely spend much of the early season aggressively pursuing a win - and The Masters berth that goes along with it.

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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.