Expert picks: Travelers Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2012, 8:00 pm

This week the PGA Tour heads to Connecticut as the Travelers Championship takes place across TPC River Highlands. Fredrik Jacobson defends his title against a strong field, including U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson. 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 Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.


Gary Williams

Group 1: Hunter Mahan: Mahan has nothing but great memories of this event as the Travelers offered him one of his first sponsor's exemptions, and then in 2007 was the site of his first career Tour win. From 2006-2009, he went runner-up, win, runner-up, T-4 in this event. He has a pair of wins in 2012 and I think TPC River Highlands could be the site of his third of the year.

Group 2: Ryan Moore: Moore is another player who was invited to play the Travelers Championship early in his career and has since returned year after year. He finished runner-up in his first appearance in 2006 and in the last three years has finished T-4, T-13 and T-2. He has made the cut in each of his last seven Tour starts and while he has three top-10s, he would certainly like another and this could be the place to get it.

Group 3: Blake Adams: The Georgia native has had a quiet year except for notable performances in two events: The Players and the U.S. Open. Adams was T-4 entering the final round last week before shooting a Sunday 75 to finish T-21. Having finished ninth here last year, momentum could be on his side this week.

Group 4: Chris DiMarco: This 3-time PGA Tour winner has not won since 2002 but he has played well in the Travelers Championship, making the cut in each of his last ten starts. After an encouraging start to 2012, DiMarco has been struggling of late but this could be the place where he puts up a strong finish to change his momentum for the season.


Win McMurry

Group 1: Hunter Mahan: Strongly considered Jacobson here but give the edge to the 2007 champion to pick up his third win of the season. While not impressive he did have a solid showing last week, tying for 38th. Couple that with his victory at TPC River Highlands and his two runner-ups here as well and he has the resume to contend.

Group 2: Michael Thompson: In addition to his runner-up finish at the U.S. Open (seemingly out of nowhere) he also finished fourth at the Travelers a year ago. He's been cashing some decent checks in 2012 with five top-25 finishes and ranks fifth on Tour in strokes gained putting.

Group 3: Blake Adams: The Georgia boy made a little noise at the Open before carding a 75 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 21st, one of four top-25s this year. He tied for ninth at last year's Travelers so he comes in with form as well as past success at TPC River Highlands.

Group 4: Kevin Kisner: He tied for 13th at the FedEx St. Jude Classic the week before the U.S. Open and I look for him to continue that form after his week off. 


Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Hunter Mahan: His breakthrough victory (2007) came at TPC River Highlands and his recent short-game work with Mark Roe has already started to pay dividends.

Group 2: Michael Thompson: Bookend rounds of 66-67 at the U.S. Open were no flukes and he played well in Hartford last year, finishing fourth.

Group 3: John Merrick: Was on the bench last week after a runner-up showing in Memphis and according to his swing coach Jamie Mulligan, his results are finally starting to catch up with his game.

Group 4: Brad Faxon: A rare cameo for the senior on the PGA Tour but good putting is ageless and the New England native has had success at TPC River Highlands, winning here in 2005.


Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Hunter Mahan: Hard not to like the 2007 champion here, who boasts a solid overall track record. The problem comes with his lackluster performance the last two years.

Group 2: Ryan Moore: Moore has a pair of runner-up finishes in this event and was T-4 in 2009. He likes the place and is quietly enjoying a good season.

Group 3: Kevin Streelman: Streelman was T-6 here last year and T-10 in 2008. He's never missed a cut here and seems like good value.

Group 4: Mark Anderson: It's a shootout this week and Anderson makes plenty of birdies as he is T-21 on Tour in birdie average. He's missed four cuts in a row, but TPC River Highlands should suit his eye.


Rob Bolton

Group 1: Matt Kuchar: Now that I'm back on top of the Experts leaderboard (for the third time), I'm not going to get cute. Taking the chalk here. He hasn't missed a cut in 20 starts and serves as the most consistent and valuable talent in this group.

Group 2: Ryan Moore: Seemingly always reinventing himself, he's logged four top-15s in six appearances at TPC River Highlands, thus illustrating an infrequent constant over the years. Co-runner-up twice, including last year. 

Group 3: Kevin Streelman: Though he's struggled in recent starts, TPC River Highlands has presented itself as a comfort zone of sorts. He's 4-for-4 with a pair of top-10s, including a T-6 finish in 2011.

Group 4: Vaughn Taylor: Flies in under the radar having missed his last four cuts, but he's cashed in seven of eight visits to TPC River Highlands with a personal-best T-9 two years ago.

**Join Fantasy Expert Rob Bolton for a live golf chat Wednesday at 12:00p ET at www.rotoworld.com**

Tune in to Golf Channel Thursday-Friday from 3P-6P ET for live coverage of the Travelers Championship.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.