Fantasy Island: WGC-Accenture Match Play

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2011, 9:31 pm

GolfChannel.com experts offer up their picks for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Each week a panel of experts will offer up their picks from three 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 and Randall Mell; contributors John Hawkins and Charlie Rymer; editorial director Jay Coffin; 'Morning Drive' hosts Gary Williams and Erik Kuselias; contributor Win McMurry; writer for NBCSports.com's ProGolf Talk, Ryan Ballengee; and RotoWorld.com's Rob Bolton.


You can battle the experts and play along as well. Just click here to get into the game.

2005 WGC Accenture Match Play

*Ranking among the 16 GolfChannel.com experts (Ballengee and Bolton are debuting this week)

Rex Hoggard

Rex Hoggard
Score (Rank*):
2,869,477 (1)
Group A:
Paul Casey

Group B:
Geoff Ogilvy

Group C:
Henrik Stenson

The last time the Englishman failed to make it to the weekend at golf’s only one-and-done event was 2006 and he’s advanced to the finals the last two years. Funny that European skipper Colin Montgomerie still didn’t think he was worthy of a captain’s pick.
 
Australian is on-form, familiar with the sprawling Dove Mountain layout and a former two-time Match Play winner.

Toru Taniguchi’s injured neck may end up hurting world No. 1 Lee Westwood the most. The Swede, No. 65 in the world ranking when the field was set, replaced Taniguchi in the field and will face Westwood in the most likely first-round upset.

Randall Mell

Randall Mell
Score (Rank):
1,265,341 (12)
Group A:
Graeme McDowell

Group B:
Geoff Ogilvy

Group C:
Bill Haas
With an impressive record over his last eight starts, wouldn't want to draw him.

Former champ's due for another win, match play and desert golf suit him.

Strong start to the season pointing to something big again.

Charlie Rymer

Charlie Rymer
Score (Rank):
1,598,765 (8)
Group A:
Graeme McDowell

Group B:
Alvaro Quiros

Group C:
Thomas Bjorn

My impartial Twitter poll indicates a strong confidence in McDowell and I concur.

I really dig Quiros’ sideburns, and I really dig how far he hits the pelota, and I really dig his chances if he survives the second round which will either be against Stewart Cink or Ian Poulter.

Bjorn took down Tiger Woods when Tiger was on top of his game in 2001 in Dubai. If he can do it again in the first round that may give Bjorn the confidence boost he needs to go all the way.
John Hawkins

John Hawkins
Score (Rank):
928,309 (14)
 Group A:
Lee Westwood

Group B:
Bubba Watson

Group C:
Stewart Cink

Westwood's gotta start winning tournaments sooner or later

Watson's length should be a real advantage at this venue

Cink has an excellent history in this event and is a steal among the Cs
Jay Coffin

Jay Coffin
Score (Rank):
1,539,932 (9)
 Group A:
Paul Casey

Group B:
Rickie Fowler

Group C:
Stewart Cink
Couldn’t get past the first round the first four years, but the last four years he’s been as steady as anyone and been in the final twice. He’s a match-play stud.

It’s a bit of a stretch, but if he gets past his first two rounds he could be hard to beat. A potential match-up with Phil Mickelson in Round 2 is key.

I really like Cink for Group C value. He’s played here 11 times and he’s won more than two matches six times. Winning two matches here collects a lot of dough.

Gary Williams

Gary Williams
Score (Rank):
1,278,119 (11)
Group A:
Paul Casey

Group B:
Hunter Mahan

Group C:
Bill Haas

Runner-up the last two years, third round or better in the last four years, and won in Bahrain in 2011. Need I say more?

Has played on last four U.S. Cup teams and has top-6 finishes at Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach in 2011

Two wins in 2010, playing great in 2011, and could win in his first appearance like Geoff Ogilvy in 2006

Erik Kuselias

Erik Kuselias
Score (Rank):
2,835,534 (3)
Group A:
Rory McIlroy

Group B:
Nick Watney

Group C:
Bill Haas
He has seven top-12 finishes in his last seven worldwide starts and he made it to the quarterfinals in his first appearance in 2009

Reached the third round in his first appearance in 2010 and has three top-6 finishes in three starts in 2011

Has four top-12 finishes in his first five starts in 2011 and is making first appearance in an event where experience matters the least

Win McMurry

Win McMurry
Score (Rank):
2,837,053 (2)
Group A:
Ian Poulter

Group B:
Miguel Angel Jimenez

Group C:
Ryan Moore
The defending champion has no intention of giving back this title. Poults consistantly excels in the match play format. He's raring to go too after some time off.

This Ryder Cup stalwart knows match play and regularly impresses. While we don't see him much in the States, this is a very comfortable week for the Spainard with all the international flavor at Dove Mountain.

Although we haven't seen him compete in match play much as a professional, as an amateur he was tough to beat. Moore has some West Coast swing momentum coming into the WGC event as well.

Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee
Score (Rank):
NA (NA)
Group A:
Paul Casey

Group B:
Geoff Ogilvy

Group C:
Bill Haas
The Englishman is playing well, has a win in Bahrain in 2011 and has consecutive runner-up finishes in this event. Seems like the perfect storm of conditions for him to go deep again this year.

Until proven otherwise, Geoff Ogilvy is the gold standard in this tournament. He's twice a winner and nearly invincible in the format.

Not sure what my life would be like if I didn't say to myself, 'Bill Haas is in contention again this week.' Taking a bit of a flier, though, since Haas has never played in this event.

Rob Bolton

Rob Bolton
Score (Rank):
NA (NA)
 Group A:
Paul Casey

Group B:
Justin Rose

Group C:
Martin Laird
Twice a bridesmaid at the Ritz-Carlton. Comes out of the bottom half of the Snead bracket, where three of the eight are returning from various maladies (Ernie Els, neck; Tim Clark, elbow; Camilo Villegas, back).

Epitome of consistency at a high level for months now, with seven consecutive top 25s, including a T9 at Riviera, where he was under par in every round.

Toyed with Bill Haas here, but he’s in the same bracket as Casey. Laird has all the tools, not to mention three top-25s in four starts this season. He’s in the Jones bracket, which is arguably the most difficult.


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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


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Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET


Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.


Notables in the field:

Tiger Woods

• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.


Rickie Fowler

• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 


Rory McIlroy

• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

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Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''


Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.

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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.