Expert Picks: WGC-Cadillac Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 6, 2013, 3:42 pm

This week the PGA Tour heads in two different directions. While a full field will tackle the Trump International Golf Club in Puerto Rico, 65 of the world's best face the TPC Blue Monster Course at Doral for the season's second WGC event. 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: Rory McIlroy: Barring a dental, or mental, issue this week at Doral, the Ulsterman is assured of four competitive rounds (there's no cut at the WGC). Moreso than anything else, the world No. 1 needs reps - well, that and a good dentist.

Group 2: Ian Poulter: No truth to the rumor the WGC-Cadillac Championship has switched formats to match play, but the Englishman was impressive at Dove Mountain. Now it's time for that solid play to transition to a stroke-play event.

Group 3: Bo Van Pelt: He finished 2012 as well as anyone, but wasn't as sharp on the West Coast. Warm weather and Bermuda grass greens should help turn that around.

Group 4: George Coetzee: The South African has emerged as a player to watch every week following his torrid start to the season (T-9 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, T-2 Qatar Masters, T-3 Joburg Open). 

Win McMurry

Group 1: Matt Kuchar: The owner of the first WGC trophy this year doesn't just have that going for him at Doral. His last three finishes here have been T-3 in 2010, fifth in 2011, and T-8 last year. He's 19th in strokes gained putting (better than Donald and Rose) and 16th in scoring average. 

Group 2: Charl Schwartzel: He's first on the European Tour in GIR and has been solid in stroke play over the last few months. He's finished inside the top-10 in each of his last eight worldwide starts, including a T-9 finish at PGA National. Combine that with the fact he was runner up here in 2010 and finished tied for fourth last year and that's too solid to bet against.

Group 3: Jason Day: He was a winner on Sunday at the last WGC event, winning the consolation match. That third place finish was one of three top-10s this year, which also includes a sixth place finish at Pebble Beach. He hasn't contended in his two previous starts at Doral, but he has progressed following his debut's T-45 with a T-20 last year. He's fourth on Tour in the all-around ranking.

Group 4: Tim Clark: He ranks inside the top 25 on Tour this season in both GIR and scoring average. He was runner-up at Sony and made it to the sweet 16 at the Match Play. He tied for 22nd in 2010, his last start here, and tied for 12th in 2008.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Justin Rose: Last year's champioin should be on the short list of elite palyers who could win again this week.

Group 2: Keegan Bradley: Seems to be rounding into form in time for anotehr title contention at another WGC event.

Group 3: Rickie Fowler: Seriously? I know it's a strong field, but this talented kid mired in the middle of Group 3? Sign me up.

Group 4: Padraig Harrington: If his mind is right and his putter cooperates, Harrington could find himself in the mix come Sunday afternoon.

Ryan Lavner

Group 1: Matt Kuchar: Coming off a Match Play win, with a week to rest, and has a great record at Doral - top 8s in each of his past three starts there. 

Group 2: Charl Schwartzel: Another player with a stout record at the Blue Monster - T-4 and second in his past two starts in Miami.

Group 3: Robert Garrigus: Sleeper pick to win this week, and hasn't finished outside the top 25 all season.

Group 4: Russell Henley: Quiet top-15 finish last week at Honda, and possesses the kind of power game that should bode well at Doral.

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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.