Expert Picks: Open


This week the Fall Series continues with the Open, where Bryce Molder returns as defending champion. 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;'s Rob Bolton; 'Morning Drive' host Gary Williams and staff writer Ryan Lavner.

Ryan Lavner

Group 1: Bud Cauley: Four of his six top-10s this season have come in his past seven starts, and he's had success at CordeValle in the past, having finished solo third here a year ago.

Group 2: Brendan Steele: NorCal's own, Steele has been disappointing this season but has posted two top-13 finishes in his past three starts. Also, was T-7 here a year ago.

Group 3: Tim Herron: Opened with 63 last week in Vegas before finishing T-10, his first and only top 10 finish of the season. He's right on the money-list bubble at No. 132, so there's plenty of incentive to play well here.

Group 4: Bill Lunde: Another bubble boy, at No. 128 on the money list, Lunde's solo fifth last week in Vegas - all four rounds in the 60s - perhaps was a sign of things to come.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Vijay Singh: The veteran opened 66-66 last week, and while he fell back over the weekend and has never played here before, he has had a lot of positive momentum at the end of this season. He's had three top-10 finishes in his last ten starts, including an eighth-place finish a few weeks ago at Crooked Stick.

Group 2: Jonas Blixt: This rookie is on a hot streak that I see extending into this week. He co-led over the weekend last week in Vegas and went on to finish third and led the field in strokes gained putting. It was his second third place of the year alongside a T-3 finish at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Group 3: Billy Horschel: He finished T-7 here a year ago and is grinding this week again, a year later, sitting 143rd on the money list. He has had some marginal success this year; his only top-10 finish was a third place at the True South Classic.

Group 4: Shane Bertsch: It's been a rough year for Shane, who has made only five cuts and earned just under $65K this year. He's 211th in the standings and needs a miracle week to keep his card. He did finish T-4 last year in this event, which helped him toward retaining employment status in 2012.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Bud Cauley: Sweet-swinging youngster finished just out of a playoff at this event last year.

Group 2: Ricky Barnes: In a recent discussion of best players without a PGA Tour win, his name wasn't mentioned - but it should have been.

Group 3: Billy Horschel: Now injury-free, he returns to the site of a T-7 result last season.

Group 4: Bobby Gates: No. 126 on last year's money list is determined to finish at least one better this time.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Ernie Els: The Open champion hasn't been particularly sharp since England, but he played well at the Open last year (T-4) and he's rested, having not teed it up since the Tour Championship.

Group 2: Jonas Blixt: The rookie was in the mix until the end in Las Vegas and has been trending in the right direction the last few weeks, finishing T-55 (Wyndham), T-46 (Barclays), T-20 (Deutsche Bank) and third (Shriners).

Group 3: Patrick Cantlay: Last year it was young Bud Cauley who made his mark at CordeValle, finishing third. This week it will be another newcomer playing on familiar California turf.

Group 4: Matt Jones: Although he hasn't had much to celebrate this season, having missed the weekend in eight of his last nine starts, he got off to a solid start last year at the Open with an opening 68 and at 175th in earnings, he desperately needs a solid week.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Bud Cauley: Among the options available, even though he's a rookie, he owns the best combination of recent form and success at CordeValle.

Group 2: Jonas Blixt: Sticking with the hot hand. The rookie co-led last week's stop in Vegas after 36 and 54 holes. Not afraid of going low and leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting.

Group 3: Richard H. Lee: My investment in this rookie last week saved an otherwise forgettable experience. Top-25s in all of his last five starts in PGA Tour-sanctioned events.

Group 4: Bobby Gates: The easy choice in this group. Top-20s in his last two starts and placed T-24 at last year's Open with progressively lower scores in each round (72-70-69-65).