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; RotoWorld.com'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 Frys.com 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 Frys.com Open.

Group 4: Gavin Coles: Found some magic right about this time last year, winning a Web.com 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 Frys.com Open.

Group 4: Alexandre Rocha: Missed a 10-footer for birdie at the last hole of the Frys.com 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 Web.com 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 Frys.com Open, his second top-five in four starts. Also ranked T-2 in greens in regulation and second in strokes gained putting at CordeValle.

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”

Amen.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

Getty Images

Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

Getty Images

Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

Getty Images

List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).