Expert Picks: McGladrey Classic

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 16, 2012, 6:42 pm

This week the Fall Series continues with The McGladrey Classic, where Ben Crane 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.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Jeff Overton: He finished solo eighth last week at the Open, is on a hot streak of seven consecutive rounds in the 60s and tied for sixth a year ago in Sea Island.

Group 2: Michael Thompson: He finished one shot out of the playoff here last year and tied for 13th in Vegas the last time he teed it up in competition. Putting is crucial this week, and he's certainly got the flat stick down, ranking 25th on Tour in strokes gained putting.

Group 3: Nick O'Hern: If you haven't noticed, I bank on recent play and past performance with all of my picks. O'Hern was T-22 last week and tied for sixth here last year. His only top-10 finish this year was at the Fedex St. Jude Classic (T-3) and he certainly could use another as the year winds down.

Group 4: Alexandre Rocha: He lost in a playoff in Reno earlier this season, but is still grinding it out to secure status for next year. He is in form to get it done, coming off his T-4 finish last week. He was T-26 here a year ago.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Zach Johnson: Sea Island resident was T-12 two years ago and played well in the Ryder Cup recently.

Group 2: Chris Kirk: In his last four events, Kirk has a 65.8 opening-round scoring average, but 72.0 in the final round. If nothing else, expect a good start.

Group 3: Heath Slocum: He won the inaugural McGladrey two years ago. When he finds a place he likes, he often tends to play well.

Group 4: Joe Durant: At 7,055 yards, this is not a bomber's course. Durant is short, but keeps it straight.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Jim Furyk: This proud competitor is motivated to end the year with a good taste in his mouth.

Group 2: Sean O'Hair: Too much talent not to catch fire again before the year is over.

Group 3: Nick O'Hern: He will finish off what he started last week with his hot start at the Open.

Group 4: Gavin Coles: Found some magic right about this time last year, winning a Tour event just down the road in Jacksonville.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Zach Johnson: Sea Island resident should be rested after a two-week hiatus and he's played well in his last two starts (T-15 at the Tour Championship and 3-1-0 at the Ryder Cup).

Group 2: Brian Harman: Rookie has played the Seaside Course as much as anyone; in fact, he beat tournament host Davis Love III in a three-hole shootout a few weeks ago at the Sea Island layout.

Group 3: Greg Owen: One of the Tour's best shot makers (25th in ball-striking) will have an advantage if the winds come up in the Golden Isles this week. He was solid (T-22) in his last start at the Open.

Group 4: Alexandre Rocha: Missed a 10-footer for birdie at the last hole of the Open that would have assured him his 2013 Tour card, but he's earned the majority of his money this year in his last four starts and has played well at Sea Island (T-26 in 2011).

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Jim Furyk: First start since the Ryder Cup. Seven top-10s this year - some more notable than others - but he's still chasing his first victory in 2012. Dissected Seaside a year ago en route to a share of 11th place.

Group 2: Chris Kirk: He's a local and he's cashed in nine straight starts. Can't afford to take any zeroes as we come down the stretch.

Group 3: Russell Knox: Wouldn't normally invest in a rookie ranked 157th on the money list, but the Scot is seriously trending. Since a T-7 on the Tour in late September, he's racked up a pair of top-15s on the PGA Tour, including a career-best T-9 at CordeValle on Sunday.

Group 4: Alexandre Rocha: Flashed some swagger en route to a tie for fourth at the Open, his second top-five in four starts. Also ranked T-2 in greens in regulation and second in strokes gained putting at CordeValle.

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Stenson one clear of loaded leaderboard at Bay Hill

By Nick MentaMarch 17, 2018, 10:10 pm

Four of the top 15 players in the world and two men with stellar amateur resumes will do battle Sunday to win Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s how things look through 54 holes at Bay Hill, where Tiger Woods sits five back at 7 under par.

Leaderboard: Henrik Stenson (-12), Bryson DeChambeau (-11), Rory McIlroy (-10), Justin Rose (-9), Ryan Moore (-9), Charley Hoffman (-8), Rickie Fowler (-8), Talor Gooch (-8), Ben An (-8)

What it means:  For the second straight day, Stenson (71) will go off in the final pairing with DeChambeau (72), after both players failed to separate themselves from the field in Round 3, shooting a combined 1 under. Stenson really should have a win at Bay Hill by now. He finished in the top-10 four years in a row from 2013-2016, with three top-5s. The closest he came to victory was in 2015, when he lost to Matt Every by one shot after being put on the clock and three-putting the 15th and 16th greens. If he’s finally going to close the deal Sunday, the world No. 15 will need to hold off challenges from three of the top 13 players in the OWGR – No. 5 Rose, No. 7 Fowler and No. 13 McIlroy – and two men who won both the NCAA individual championship and the U.S. Amateur – DeChambeau and Moore.

Round of the day: John Huh and Austin Cook both made the 1-over cut on the number and shot 66 Saturday to move into a tie for 18th at 5 under.

Best of the rest: McIlroy, Rose and Jason Day (-5) all signed for 67. McIlroy remains in search of his first worldwide win since he walked away from East Lake with the Tour Championship and the FedExCup in 2016.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Biggest disappointment: Fowler was 11 under for the week but dropped three shots in his last two holes. He failed to get up and down from the front bunker at 17 and then had his ball almost fully bury in the lip of a greenside trap at 18. With only a small portion of the ball visible, Fowler took two to get out of the sand and two-putted his way to a double-bogey 6, dropping him to 2 under for the day and 8 under for the championship.

Shot of the day: Woods’ 210-yard 5-iron from the fairway bunker at the par-5 16th:

Quote of the day: "I'm going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow, and probably get a little bit of help. But my responsibility is to go out there and shoot a low one first." – Woods

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TT postscript: Many birdies, but not much momentum

By Tiger TrackerMarch 17, 2018, 10:09 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – There were plenty of cheers for Tiger Woods during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but there’s also still plenty of ground to make up on the leaders. Here are some thoughts and observations after walking and tracking on a steamy afternoon at Bay Hill:

• Let’s start with the good. Tiger birdied a third of the holes Saturday, including a 12-footer on the final green that nearly blew the roof off the place. On a day when he didn’t appear to be firing on all cylinders, it’s yet another encouraging sign that he’s able to put up circles by the handful on a course where he once dominated.

• There is, however, a reason that we’re not talking about a vintage Saturday charge from Woods. His six birdies were countered by three bogeys, including a wobbly effort on the second hole and another dropped shot on the 17th when his ball became plugged in a bunker. It added up to a 3-under 69, and at 7 under he trails Henrik Stenson by five shots heading into the final round.

• The unquestioned shot of the day came on the par-5 16th hole, where Woods found himself up against the lip in a fairway bunker. After initially pulling out a sand wedge to lay up, he went back to the bag and grabbed a mid-iron after deciding he had found a way to skirt the lip on the right side. His shot carried the grass face by inches before flying over a greenside creek and running out 15 feet behind the hole. While he failed to convert on the eagle putt, it’s a risk-reward shot that brought a smile to his face after the round. “I tried to pull it off, and I hit a good one,” he said.

• Heading into what’s likely his final competitive round before the Masters, Woods believes one of the strengths of his sudden resurgence has been his ability to once again rely on feel rather than swing thoughts. “I’m just playing shots, playing the holes, playing angles, where to miss the golf ball,” he said. “All these things are becoming more intuitive.”

• Woods was largely optimistic after the round, explaining that in his mind he both played well and scored well. But the strokes gained numbers indicate he actually lost nearly a half shot to the field around the greens after going only 1 for 4 on sand saves. He converted a tricky up-and-down on No. 5, but couldn’t make mid-range saves on Nos. 2 and 17 and failed to get up and down for birdie on the par-5 12th after a birdie on the previous hole.

• Ever the numbers guy, Woods expected to be trailing by five or six shots after posting 7 under. The deficit is officially five, and while he still holds out hope of a ninth API victory he knows that a strong close may not be enough. “I’m going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow and probably get a little bit of help,” he said.

• Overall, it felt like a middling performance, and a round largely devoid of momentum. But that in and of itself is a testament to how far Woods has come in the last three weeks. Perhaps he’s become a victim of his own hype after a runner-up finish at Valspar turned him into the tournament favorite this week, to the point where anything short of a drought-breaking win will seem disappointing. But a largely solid 54-hole stretch that has him inside the top 10 heading into Sunday would have seemed like a Herculean achievement as recently as a month ago.

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Rose thrives in Tiger's group, shoots 67 at Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 10:05 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose has played plenty with Tiger Woods over the years.

Saturday’s round was just … louder.

The Englishman had a feeling that the third round might be a little different when he was waiting to be introduced on the first hole at Bay Hill.

“Hurry up, Justin!” a fan hollered. “We want to see Tiger!”

That spectator was roundly booed, and Rose proceeded to stripe his fairway wood down the center. In fact, even with the decidedly pro-Tiger crowds, Rose barely missed a shot in shooting a 67 that put him just three shots back of Henrik Stenson.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“It focused your mind,” he said afterward. “I was definitely more nervous today – it took me a hole or two to settle into my round 100 percent, just because there’s more energy out there on the course.

“But for me, Ryder Cups and major championships, those are the types of atmospheres you’ve got to play well in and I enjoy it, so it focuses your mind.”

Rose beat Woods by two shots Saturday, 67-69, in their first Tour round together in five years.

“People are more into this comeback this time around, I think,” Rose said. “It’s fun to play out there, for sure.”  

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Lesson with Faxon gets McIlroy's putting on track

By Ryan LavnerMarch 17, 2018, 9:53 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Two tweaks have Rory McIlroy in position to earn his first PGA Tour title in 18 months.

The first was to McIlroy’s long game.

One of the game’s preeminent ball-strikers and most prodigious drivers, he has struggled over the past few weeks, including a missed cut at last week’s Valspar Championship.

The fix was “a feeling” with his backswing. He said that he’s trying to feel as though he’s making a three-quarter backswing, because when he’s too long he misses both ways.

“I’m just bunting it around,” he said with a smile, but actually he’s ranked first in driving distance this week.

The second fix was to his maligned putting stroke.

Ranked 124th on Tour in putting, McIlroy met with former PGA Tour player and putting savant Brad Faxon for a few hours Monday at the Bear’s Club in South Florida.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I didn’t really hit many putts,” McIlroy said. “It was more of a psychology lesson than anything else.”

The goal was to making McIlroy’s putting more instinctive and reactive, instead of being bogged down with mechanics.

It has worked so far. Through three rounds, he is ranked second in strokes gained-putting, gaining more than seven-and-a-half shots on the field on the greens.

McIlroy’s third-round 67 put him in the penultimate group, just two shots back of Henrik Stenson.

“I can’t really ask for much more,” McIlroy said.