Expert picks: The Memorial Tournament

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 29, 2012, 5:00 pm

This week the PGA Tour heads to Dublin, Ohio where Jack Nicklaus hosts an elite field at Muirfield Village GC. Steve Stricker defends his title against a field that includes Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and new world No. 1 Luke Donald. 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 Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Luke Donald: I can't not pick Donald these days. I took Westwood last week and regretted it after Luke crushed the field at Wentworth en route to defending his title. He also has a history at Jack's Place, with finishes inside the top 15 in his last three starts, including a T-7 showing last year.

Group 2: Jim Furyk: He has one of hte best resumes on this course of all the players in the field. Add to that his solo fourth place finish last week and you can't go wrong with him on your team this week.

Group 3: Harris English: The rookie has been making heads turn since he came onto the scene. Last week he was solid all week, yielding a T-5 at Colonial. He'll ride that momentum into Ohio, the state where last year as an amateur he won the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational on the Scarlet Course at Ohio State.

Group 4: Kyle Reifers: Of all the players in Group Four, he is coming off of one of the best finishes - a T-13 showing last week in Ft. Worth, his biggest payday of the year. He has Ohio roots as well growing up in Columbus and won the Ohio State Amateur in 2004, following in BOTH of his parents' footsteps.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Luke Donald: The world No. 1 won last week, is playing great golf of late and has a good track record at the Memorial.

Group 2: Jim Furyk: The 2002 champion at Muirfield Village has top-10 finishes in two of his last three starts here.

Group 3: Brandt Jobe: A runner-up here last year, Jobe has been in the top four in his last two Memorial starts ('06, '11).

Group 4: Ricky Barnes: Two starts at Jack's place has netted Ricky two top-18 finishes. Not bad.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Luke Donald: He only has two top-10 finishes at Muirfield Village, but the world No. 1 has the look of a man who plans to keep that title for a couple of weeks.

Group 2: Jason Day: The Muirfield Village member caught some unwarranted heat for skipping the Memorial last year, but he's comfortable on the course and finished tied for ninth in his last Tour start.

Group 3: Harris English: We'll stop picking the rookie when he stops making money (15 starts, three missed cuts and six top-25 finishes, including a T-5 last week at Colonial).

Group 4: Stewart Cink: Veteran is starting to show signs of life and after last week's decision to honor his commitment to play the Colonial pro-am, one would expect a cosmic make-good.

Gary Williams

Group 1: Steve Stricker: The defending champion at Muirfield Village is making just his ninth start of hte 2012 season. He has four top-10 finishes in eight starts, including a win in Hawaii. Considering his past success at this course, his quietly strong play in 2012 and his desire to bounce back from a missed cut at The Players, I think Stricker is a smart pick.

Group 2: Jim Furyk: The 2002 Memorial champ has six top-10 finishes in 16 starts here and is playing well after a disappointing 2011 season. He has three top-10s, including a fourth-place finish last week, and has not finished out of the top 30 on Tour in the last three months. I like Furyk a lot this week.

Group 3: Harris English: The rookie has had an eventful month: he played well, then faded at The Players, qualified for the Open Championship and finished T-5 last week at Colonial. I think this young man can ride his momentum to a good finish in the city where he won a Nationwide Tour event last year.

Group 4: James Driscoll: Driscoll has played well this month, finishing T-9 in Charlotte and T-19 at the Byron Nelson - although he missed the cut in his other two starts this month. He has never made the cut in three starts here but I think he's a good pick in this group based on recent performance.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Rickie Fowler: The hottest hand in golf outside of Luke Donald and Jason Dufner. Fowler tied for second at Memorial two years ago.

Group 2: Jim Furyk: Former Memorial champ ('02) is coming off a fourth-place finish and four rounds in the 60s at Colonial.

Group 3: Gary Woodland: Taking a flier here with Woodland not far removed from a wrist injury, but he finished sixth at Memorial last year.

Group 4: Ricky Barnes: Since his tie for third at Pebble Beach, Barnes hasn't made any runs, but Muirfield Village will bring out his best. He was T-18 and T-3 here in his last two starts.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Luke Donald: Steadiest value of the bunch. Breezed to victory at Wentworth last Sunday to successfully defend his BMW title; no worse than T-14 in his last three Memorial appearances.

Group 2: Jim Furyk: Continues to motor. Finished fourth at Colonial where he led the field in greens hit and was the only golfer to card four rounds in the 60s. Won here in 2002, but also finished second in 2009 and T-10 in 2010.

Group 3: Harris English: A calculated flier here as a first-timer at Muirfield Village. Comes off a career-best T-5 at Colonial, which trailed his cakewalk medalist performance at the IFQ-America. his game fits Muirfield Village marvelously.

Group 4: David Hearn: Making his debut at Muirfield Village. I was tempted by both Ricky Barnes and Stewart Cink in this group given their success at the Memorial, but Hearn has cashed in his last five events, posting three top-25s including last week's T-13 at Colonial.

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Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''