Expert Picks: The Masters

By Adam BarrApril 10, 2013, 4:15 pm

This week the PGA Tour heads down Magnolia Lane, as a field of 93 players will vie for the season's first major at the Masters. 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.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Lost amid the hoopla surrounding Woods' three-win start to the season is this telling stat: on the three previous occasions that he won three times prior to the Masters, he never followed by also winning at Augusta. Cliched translation? Don't count your green jackets before they've hatched. That said, even though I'm not as bullish about Tiger's chances as most people, I also can't find anyone in this field that I'd rank higher. A fifth Masters title, and subsequent pandemonium throughout the golf world, may be just days from taking place. 

Group 2: Keegan Bradley: I was recently talking Masters contenders with a PGA Tour pro who knows Bradley's game well, and picked him to win. When I inquired as to whether the former PGA champion has the right ball flight for Augusta, he looked at me funny. "Well, he hits it long and straight and high," the player said. "That's the right ball flight for every course." Duly noted. Also noted is that Bradley hasbeen knocking on the door all year wihtout breaking through it yet.

Group 3: Bill Haas: Bubba Watson won the Masters in his fourth appearance; likewise, Trevor Immelman won in his fourth as a pro. Wanna take a guess as to what number this will be for Haas? After results between 26th and 42nd in his first three starts, he seems primed to contend this week. Bigger question is whether he can win. Despite four victories in the last three seasons, he's gotten into the final group on a Sunday twice already this year, but has underwhelmed each time.

Group 4: K.J. Choi: Showing signs of trending in the right direction, and he's contended at Augusta in the past.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Tiger Woods: The difference between green jacket No. 5 and another also-ran the last seven years has been Woods' putting (he's ranked inside the top 10 in putting for the week just once since 2006). Thanks to pro bono putting guru Steve Stricker's handiwork at Doral, that doesn't seem to be an issue this week.

Group 2: Steve Stricker: The veteran's pedestrian record at Augusta National (he has two top-10 finishes in a dozen starts) is one of the game's great enigmas, but his limited schedule and refreshed attitude suggests his fortunes are poised to change.

Group 3: Nick Watney: It has been a strangely inconsistent year for Watney (one top 10 in nine starts), but when he is on, he has the power and touch to become the next surprise champion.

Group 4: Hiroyuki Fujita: Although he has been limited to just one start this season, Fujita is a machine in Japan, having won four times in 2012, and he has a putting stroke that is perfect for Augusta National. 

Ryan Lavner

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Three wins this season. A scalding-hot putter. A proven track record at this venue. Yes, all signs point to Tiger resuming his climb up Mount Nicklaus this week. 

Group 2: Keegan Bradley: The high-ball hitter finished inside the top 10 in his last four starts, and for the past few months he's had Phil Mickelson, a three-time Masters winner, in his ear on how best to play Augusta. This big-time talent could bag major No. 2 this week.

Group 3: Rickie Fowler: Coming off his best finish of the season (T-3 at Bay Hill), and he's made the cut in each of his first two Masters appearances. No reason to suggest he takes a step back this year.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: Regardless of his form coming in, El Pato has rung up seven consecutive top-40 finishes at Augusta, including the 2009 win. Good news, then: he posted his best result (T-16) of the season in Houston.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Duh!

Group 2: Ian Poulter: A guy who can putt like he does in the clutch at the Ryder Cup can win the Masters.

Group 3: Bill Haas: His game is pointed toward something big.

Group 4: K.J. Choi: K.J. has shown he knows how to make those towering pines shiver at Augusta National.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."