Expert Picks: JT Shriners Open


This week the Fall Series gets underway with the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, where Kevin Na 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.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Vijay Singh: Just when you're ready to write the Fijian off, he rallies with an eighth-place finish at the BMW Championship to narrowly miss the Tour Championship. Singh is rested, having sat the last three weeks, and he has had success in Vegas in the past, having posted top-40 finishes in his three starts in Sin City. 

Group 2: Tommy Gainey: Two Gloves has had a solid year, but at 102nd on the money list there are no guarantees. Las Vegas seems like the likely spot for him to make his move following his tie for third at last year's event.

Group 3: Jhonnatan Vegas: Keep the cliches to yourself; Vegas was solid in...well, Vegas last year, finishing tied for fifth after a first-round 63. He also has a history of playing well in the desert (see 2011 Bob Hope Classic). 

Group 4: Brendon Todd: This will be the last year to dissect the money list with next year's conversion to a qualifying system looming, and Todd is the quintessential bubble boy. After a fast start to the season, he missed eight cuts in nine events and will have to perform in the fall or head back to Q-School, which he won last year.

Ryan Lavner

Group 1: Robert Garrigus: Back-to-back top 10s to close out the FedEx Cup playoffs. Has never missed a cut in Vegas.

Group 2: Chris Kirk: Hasn't missed a cut since early July, and his results improved each week in the FedEx Cup playoffs, culminating with a T-12 at the BMW.

Group 3: William McGirt: Was T-16 last year at TPC Summerlin, and he has three top-10s in his past seven starts on Tour.

Group 4: Kevin Kisner: Four consecutive cuts made, and he should be well rested after missing the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Nick Watney: Like his chances if he decides not to rest and conserve his energy on Saturday afternoon like the Ryder Cuppers who beat him out to make the American team.

Group 2: Sean O'Hair: With the Irish name, maybe he should try to win this one after just rolling out of bed and arriving 10 minutes before his Sunday tee time.

Group 3: Chad Campbell: Former UNLV player should be feeling good in Vegas, unless he had a big bet on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. 

Group 4: Tim Herron: With a little Ian Poulter fashion makeover, Lumpy couldn't lose!

Win McMurry

Group 1: Ryan Moore: He was a star coming out of UNLV, so he revisits good vibes when he returns here to Las Vegas. He has three top-25s in six starts here, which includes a T-7 in 2009. Looking at recent form, he had a great run in the playoffs where he went T-24, T-10, T-10 and closed with a T-3 at the Tour Championship.

Group 2: Tim Clark: The last time he played the event was in 2009 and he finished T-27. Despite lackluster performances in his last two starts during the playoffs, he was on a hot run of four consecutive top-15 finishes, including a runner-up at the Wyndham Championship. I believe he finds that form again.

Group 3: William McGirt: He finished T-16 last year and has had three top-10s in his last seven starts, including a T-10 at The Barclays and a runner-up finish at the RBC Canadian Open.

Group 4: Tim Herron: It's been since the Wyndham Championship that he last pegged it in competition, but he comes into the Vegas event with confidence from last year when he finished T-5 here.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Robert Garrigus: Seven top-10s this season, including a pair to close the FedEx Cup playoffs. Started the year with a co-runner-up in the desert at the Humana Challenge. Inside the top 10 on the PGA Tour in both greens hit and par breakers.

Group 2: Chris Kirk: Picked up his fifth top-15 of the year in his last start at Crooked Stick (T-12). Hits nearly two-thirds of his greens in regulation - a split that's certain to rise this week - and ranks 12th in par breakers. 

Group 3: David Hearn: Eight top-25s this year. Recorded his career-best finish in 84 starts at last year's JT Shriners (T-5) and led the field in greens hit for the week.

Group 4: Richard H. Lee: The rookie has top-25s in each of his last four starts - two on the PGA Tour and two on the Tour. That included a co-runner-up in Boise where he carded a second-round 62. Strengths in his game match up well with TPC Summerlin.