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

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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational

By Tiger TrackerMarch 18, 2018, 5:00 pm

Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.

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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course

By Ryan LavnerMarch 18, 2018, 1:50 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.

McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”

This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.

A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.

McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.

“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”

As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.

“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”

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Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders

By Randy SmithMarch 18, 2018, 2:45 am

PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.

She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.

Her confidence is high.

“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”

Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.

Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.

“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.

“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”

Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.

“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”

That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.

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Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2018, 2:09 am

PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.

While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.

But then . . .

“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”

In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.

She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.

With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.

At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).

Park’s back with a hot putter.

That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.

“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.

Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.

“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.

Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.

Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.

They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.

Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.

“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.

“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”

Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.

“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”

Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.

“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”