Expert picks: The Masters

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 3, 2012, 8:00 pm

The focus of the golf world now descends upon Magnolia Lane and Augusta National 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 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' hosts Gary Williams and Erik Kuselias; and Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.

Gary Williams

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: After 2011, McIlroy returns to Augusta with something to prove. With the way he has been playing in 2012, I'm excited to see what he will do. In 1952, Sam Snead returned to Augusta National after shooting 80 in the final round and won. We may be hearing more about that story.

Group 2: Bill Haas: Already a winner this year at Riviera, Haas is making his third Masters appearance and I think he will improve on his best finish of T-26 in 2010. The Masters runs in his family as his great uncle Bob Goalby won the green jacket in 1968.

Group 3: Zach Johnson: Johnson won the Masters in 2007 in incredibly challenging conditions by playing his own game and never going for a par-5 in two. While he has not had another great finish here since '07, he has shown that he is tough. If the weather gets challenging, watch out.

Group 4: Fred Couples: The 1992 Masters champion has shown repeatedly that age is but a number, and many of those moments have come at Augusta. He has consecutive top-15 finishes here and was T-3 at the age of 46. When he is healthy, don't bet against this guy.

Erik Kuselias

Group 1: Phil Mickelson: The three-time champ has shown over and over again what he is capable of in big moments. He may be one behind Tiger in terms of green jackets, but in the ten years since the last significant changes to Augusta he has the edge, winning three times to Tiger's two.

Group 2: Keegan Bradley: Yes, I know he is making his first Masters appearance but I like his chances. Prior to Masters Week none other than Phil Mickelson showed him around Augusta and he has not been out of the top 25 in nine starts in 2012.

Group 3: Geoff Ogilvy: Amazing to think that an Australian's never won here, but that drought could be coming to an end. Ogilvy has never missed the cut in six starts at Augusta and was T-4 here last year.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: When I saw Cabrera's name in Group 4, I was shocked! The 2009 champion tends to raise his game in the majors and he is exceptionally comfortable at Augusta. Along with his win, he has four other top-10 finishes including 7th in 2011. 

Win McMurry

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Top picks this week include Phil and Rory, but neither have the history that Tiger does at the Masters. After his win at Bay Hill, the multiple-victory years are ready to return and so is the hunt to beat Jack's record.

Group 2: Bo Van Pelt: He's had a solid year that includes four top-10s in his last five starts and he leads the Tour in strokes gained putting. Always be wary of the ailing golfer, and this one tied for eighth here last year.

Group 3: Jim Furyk: He's been working his way back up the leaderboards lately with three T-11 or better finishes in the last two months. Finished inside the top 25 at the Masters two of the last three years.

Group 4: Henrik Stenson: He's finished inside the top 25 in all four starts on Tour this year, currently stands sixth in scoring average and is first in scrambling. Of the guys in Group 4, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who is entering the first major of the year in better form.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Tiger Woods: He's a four-time winner, won at Bay Hill and was T-4 here the last two years - almost on sheer will.

Group 2: K.J. Choi: Top 10s in the last two years here are a good sign, as well as no missed cuts on the PGA Tour this year.

Group 3: Geoff Ogilvy: In the hunt last year, Ogilvy loves this MacKenzie test and arranging its puzzle pieces.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: The forgotten member of the final group last year. Coming on strong now and a past champion here.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: Through 3 1/2 rounds last year he was dominant and whatever lingering ghosts he had following last year's meltdown on No. 10 have been long vanquished.

Group 2: Brandt Snedeker: After cracking his driver earlier this season, he's finally found a new 'gamer' and few know the course as well or putt better than Sneds.

Group 3: Charles Howell III: It's a home game for CH3, but don't expect him to become overwhelmed by the additional pressure. He's been as consistent as anyone this season and has dreamed of this his entire life.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: Former champion showed signs of life last week at the Shell Houston Open and his record at Augusta is Tiger-like. He's ranked outside the top 10 just once in his last nine rounds at the Masters.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Luke Donald: After last year's T-4 result, the world's No.1-ranked player is ready to be No. 1 at a major, too.

Group 2: Brandt Snedeker: Underrated putter who has shown a proficiency on these greens in the past.

Group 3: Johnson Wagner: The 'stache is raking in the cash this year - and there's no reason to think he'll stop now.

Group 4: Henrik Stenson: Big sleeper pick here, as the Swede has finished 21st or better in all four appearances this season.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: Command with the driver gives him a slight edge on Tiger.

Group 2: Bill Haas: The win at Riviera showed us he's ready for the next step.

Group 3: Geoff Ogilvy: He was right in the mix on Sunday a year ago, and has the experience and nerve to close the deal.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: His form doesn't seem to matter; Augusta National will bring out his best.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Four-time champion coming off a five-stroke victory at Bay Hill, where he's won seven times. Yeah, good enough for me.

Group 2: Keegan Bradley: Firing on all cylinders. The first-timer at the Masters is shattering the mold for the traditional learning curve. Reigning PGA champion.

Group 3: Gary Woodland: Without a clear go-to here, I'll take my chances with the long hitter who placed T-24 in his debut last year. At some point, his swing modifications will click and he'll contend.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: Superb value in this group. The 2009 champ has five top-10 finishes in 12 starts at Augusta National, including last year's solo seventh. Top-25s in two of his last three starts entering the week.

Tune in to Golf Channel all week long for comprehensive Live From: The Masters coverage.

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Furyk tabs Woods, Stricker as Ryder Cup vice captains

By Will GrayFebruary 20, 2018, 9:02 pm

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk has added Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker to his stable of vice captains to aid in his quest to win on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years.

Furyk made the announcement Tuesday in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., site of this week's Honda Classic. He had previously named Davis Love III as his first vice captain, with a fourth expected to be named before the biennial matches kick off in France this September.

The addition of Woods and Stricker means that the team room will have a familiar feel from two years ago, when Love was the U.S. captain and Furyk, Woods, Stricker and Tom Lehman served as assistants.

This will be the third time as vice captain for Stricker, who last year guided the U.S. to victory as Presidents Cup captain. After compiling a 3-7-1 individual record as a Ryder Cup player from 2008-12, Stricker served as an assistant to Tom Watson at Gleneagles in 2014 before donning an earpiece two years ago on Love's squad at Hazeltine.

"This is a great honor for me, and I am once again thrilled to be a vice captain,” Stricker said in a statement. “We plan to keep the momentum and the spirit of Hazeltine alive and channel it to our advantage in Paris."

Woods will make his second appearance as a vice captain, having served in 2016 and also on Stricker's Presidents Cup team last year. Woods played on seven Ryder Cup teams from 1997-2012, and last week at the Genesis Open he told reporters he would be open to a dual role as both an assistant and a playing member this fall.

"I am thrilled to once again serve as a Ryder Cup vice captain and I thank Jim for his confidence, friendship and support," Woods said in a statement. "My goal is to make the team, but whatever happens over the course of this season, I will continue to do what I can to help us keep the cup."

The Ryder Cup will be held Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National in Paris. The U.S. has not won in Europe since 1993 at The Belfry in England.

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Watch: Guy wins $75K boat, $25K cash with 120-foot putt

By Grill Room TeamFebruary 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

Making a 120-foot putt in front of a crowd of screaming people would be an award in and of itself for most golfers out there, but one lucky Minnesota man recently got a little something extra for his effort.

The Minnesota Golf Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center has held a $100,000 putting contest for 28 years, and on Sunday, Paul Shadle, a 49-year-old pilot from Rosemount, Minnesota, became the first person ever to sink the putt, winning a pontoon boat valued at $75,000 and $25,000 cash in the process.

But that's not the whole story. Shadle, who describes himself as a "weekend golfer," made separate 100-foot and 50-foot putts to qualify for an attempt at the $100K grand prize – in case you were wondering how it's possible no one had ever made the putt before.

"Closed my eyes and hoped for the best," Shadle said of the attempt(s).

Hard to argue with the result.

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Tiger draws Sneds, Kizzire at Honda Classic

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 20, 2018, 7:43 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Patton Kizzire and Brandt Snedeker for the first two rounds of the Honda Classic.

The threesome will tee off at 7:45 a.m. ET Thursday off PGA National’s 10th tee, then 12:35 p.m. off the first tee in the second round Friday.

Woods is making his first start at the Honda, his hometown event, since 2014. He tied for second here in 2012, after a final-round 62.

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

This is the first time he has ever played with Kizzire, a two-time winner this season and the FedExCup points leader.

Other notable groups for the first two rounds:

  • Justin Thomas, Sergio Garcia, Daniel Berger: 7:35 a.m. Thursday, 12:25 p.m. Friday
  • Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren, Gary Woodland: 7:55 a.m. Thursday, 12:45 p.m. Friday
  • Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Kevin Kisner: 12:25 p.m. Thursday, 7:35 a.m. Friday
  • Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Padraig Harrington: 12:35 p.m. Thursday, 7:45 a.m. Friday
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The Social: In perfect harmony?

By Jason CrookFebruary 20, 2018, 7:00 pm

Bubba Watson re-emerges in the winner's circle but gets exposed on the hardwood, Mark Wahlberg tunes out Tiger Woods and if John Daly wants a drinking partner, he need look no further than ... John Daly?

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Bubba Watson had himself a week.

The two-time Masters champion hung out with Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres, caught a taping of "The Big Bang Theory," played in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and still found some time to notch his first PGA Tour win in two years.

Watson's third victory at Riviera couldn't have come at a better time for the 39-year-old, with an annual trip down Magnolia Lane right around the corner. But don't let that distract you from the only Bubba highlight that mattered from the weekend:

Welcome to the block party, Bubba. Despite his former professional basketball playing wife's advice to stay out of the paint, Watson decided to challenge Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady at the hoop. You could say his challenge was accepted. And then some.

Watson, who picked up a couple of assists but also shot an air ball in the game, said afterwards that he "was just trying not to get hurt" and even poked a little fun at himself, calling out McGrady for committing a foul on social media.

But if these tweets from a couple of his PGA Tour peers are any indication, it will be a while before he lives this one down.

Sports fans probably take Bubba Golf for granted sometimes, no one plays the game like he does. Lets not make the same mistake with Bubba Basketball.

Want to know how far Tiger Woods has fallen? Sure, you could look at his 544th-world ranking or the current state of his game as he returns from injury, but the most telling sign came from his Wednesday pro-am round at the Genesis Open.

Woods was grouped with Mark Wahlberg for the day, and the superstar actor couldn't even be bothered to take the Apple AirPods out his ears – either one – for the entire round, even wearing them for the picture Woods posted on Instagram himself.

Marky Mark, you don't have to be his thunder buddy but at least show the man some common decency. He's still Tiger Freakin' Woods. Who is supposed to fake laugh at one of Tiger's patented hilarious dad jokes if all of his playing partners suddenly start listening to music during their rounds?

On a related note, guess Tigers are the only animals that Wahlberg won't talk to.

Something tells me this whole criminal thing isn't going to work out for these two.

Drinks were on John Daly Sunday after his hole-in-one at the Chubb Classic. But how many drinks? Well, that depends on who he’s drinking with.

If it’s with U.S. Olympian John Daly, the answer is, A LOT.

That's right, there's an American skeleton (headfirst luge for you newbs) racer competing in PyeongChang, South Korea, with the same name as the two-time major champ, and he couldn't help himself when asked about the similarity, jokingly saying he could keep up at the bar.

Of course, Daly (the golfer) wasn't just going to sit idly by while his name was dragged through the mud, tweeting out, basically, be careful what you wish for.

Somehow, someway, sliding headfirst down a frozen patch of ice with very little protection seems like a better idea than challenging Long John to a drinking contest. Just ask Andrew 'Beef' Johnston how it turned out.

If someone quits Twitter but they don't leave a long, drawn-out message on Twitter about why they're quitting Twitter before doing so, then did they even quit Twitter?

That's the riddle surrounding Lydia Ko's disappearance from the social media platform, one that the South Park Police Department would call, "suspicious."

The former LPGA world No. 1 has gone through all kinds of changes over the last couple of seasons, and added this curious move (on top of switching out her swing coach and caddie to start this season) because she said the app was “taking up [too much] storage on my phone.”

Whatever the reason, whether it be the storage issue she mentioned, or Twitter being a giant cesspool of negativity, here's to hoping it brings Ko happiness and a return to the winner's circle for the first time since 2016.

But we're sad to see her go.

After all, if people aren't freaking out on Twitter, what are we going to focus on here in The Social?

Rory McIlroy said last week after playing with Tiger Woods at the Genesis Open that the 14-time major champ gives up two strokes a tournament dealing with the hoopla that comes with being Tiger Woods.

That hasn't deterred John Peterson, who was on Twitter Monday openly recruiting Woods to play on his team for the Zurich Classic.

The April New Orleans PGA Tour stop switched to a team format last year, with Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith joining forces to win the first title.

Peterson followed up his original tweet by asking how many retweets he'd need to make it happen. We're no experts here, but probably more than the 132 it had at the time of this publication.

Peterson's followers had some fun with the request, applauding his effort as a shooter:

And hey, who knows, stranger things have happened. While the two may seem like an unlikely pairing, they have some stuff in common – Peterson won the 2012 Coca-Cola Walmart Open and Tiger, we think, has heard of an establishment known as Walmart.

So yeah, you could say the two are basically best friends at this point.