Expert Picks: Northern Trust Open

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 12, 2013, 7:55 pm

This week the PGA Tour heads to historic Riviera Country Club outside Los Angeles, where Bill Haas will defend his title at the Northern Trust Open. 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.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Luke Donald: Last year's champion, Bill Haas, ranked first in putting at Riviera for the week and after Brandt Snedeker (who is taking the week off), Donald is the game's best with the flat stick.

Group 2: Peter Hanson: Makes his 2013 PGA Tour debut this week, but has already had a solid start to the season, having finished tied for ninth in Abu Dhabi and T-22 at the Qatar Masters.

Group 3: Geoff Ogilvy: Although his move back to Scottsdale hasn't translated into better results on Tour (he has missed three cuts in four starts), the Australian plays his best on classic layouts like Riviera.

Group 4: John Mallinger: The SoCal resident has never played well in Los Angeles, but he has historically posted his best finishes on the West Coast and is due for a solid week.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Luke Donald: First start of the season doesn't scare me, because I know he's been outworking nearly everyone else during his time off.

Group 2: Hunter Mahan: I was on him last week when he was in contention going into the weekend at Pebble. He's ripe for a West Coast win, and getting to pick him in Group 2 is a steal.

Group 3: Bryce Molder: Really liked the way he finished at Pebble, with four birdies in his last five holes. Look for the momentum to continue this week.

Group 4: Patrick Cantlay: Bargain basement steal of the week with the L.A. kid playing some impressive golf coming into his hometown event.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Bubba Watson: With a T-4 and 15th-place finish this year, added to how he closed out 2012, Bubba has finished inside the top 25 in nine of his last 10 starts on Tour. He has three top 20s at Riviera since 2008, including a T-13 finish last year. Left-handers have fared well here, wiht both Mike Weir and Phil Mickelson going back-to-back for a total of four wins ont he property over the last decade.

Group 2: Jimmy Walker: He's certainly not the biggest name in this group, but he has it all coming into this week at a place where he has finished T-4 the last two years. And this year, he has a T-4 finish at Torrey Pines to go with a T-3 this past week at Pebble Beach.

Group 3: Bryce Molder: He's quietly been putting together a great season thus far and is 12th in driving accuracy and third in strokes gained putting. Three of his four starts this year have resulted in top 25s, including a T-12 finish last week at Pebble. He has played well in the past at Riviera as well, as evidenced by his T-17 result last year and a T-32 finish in 2010.

Group 4: Fred Couples: The sentimental pick here, but of all the guys in Group 4 he has the most consistent recent history here at Riviera, wiht four top 10s in the last 10 years. As recently as 2011, Couples was in contention heading into Sunday before finishing T-7. In his one start this season on the Champions Tour, he finished fourth at Hualalai.

Ryan Lavner

Group 1: Charl Schwartzel: Here's a guy even hotter than Sneds - in his last six worldwide starts, Schwartzel has gone 2nd-1st-1st-2nd-T3-5th.

Group 2: Jimmy Walker: Has top 4s in two of his last three starts, and at Riviera has T-4s in each of his last two appearances. Could get his first win this week.

Group 3: Kevin Stadler: Has a T-11 and T-3 in his last two starts. Decent record at Riviera, too, with top-25 finishes in each of his last three appearances.

Group 4: James Driscoll: Not much to choose from here, but going with Driscoll, who has made the cut in three consecutive starts, including a T-9 finish last week at Pebble.

Norm Macdonald (Celebrity guest)

Group 1: Lee Westwood

Group 2: Chris Kirk

Group 3: Ryo Ishikawa

Group 4: Chad Campbell

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''