Expert picks: Players Championship


This week the PGA Tour has a home game in Ponte Vedra Beach, as one of the best fields in golf assembles for The Players Championship, contested across the famed Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. 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' hosts Gary Williams and Erik Kuselias; and Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: TPC Sawgrass often doesn't yield the best results from the best players. That changes this week.

Group 2: Ernie Els: These close-but-no-victory-cigar finishes may not help his resume, but they'll pad your fantasy totals.

Group 3: Ryan Palmer: Solid player on tough golf courses - especially if (or in this case, maybe when) the wind blows.

Group 4: Heath Slocum: Strong final round at Quail Hollow should have him brimming with confidence.

Jay Coffin

Group 1: Lee Westwood: Just a gut feeling that this could be his week.

Group 2: Zach Johnson: Hasn't missed a cut this year, and he hasn't missed one at The Players.

Group 3: Spencer Levin: Tied for 12th here last year and playing better now.

Group 4: Davis Love III: Hoping he feels good and feeds off good vibes here.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Hunter Mahan: The only man with two trophies to his name for 2012, Mahan will look to improve on his T-6 finish here from last year. He currently ranks fifth on Tour in greens in regulation percentage and eighth in driving accuracy, a great combination for the Stadium Course.

Group 2: Ben Crane: It's been a banner year for the Golf Boys, and now it's Crane's turn to follow in the footsteps of Watson, Fowler and Mahan by getting into the winner's circle. He's cooled off a bit from his hot start on the West Coast, but solid finishes at Augusta and Quail Hollow show that he can contend this week.

Group 3: Spencer Levin: Has yet to regain the form we saw from him earlier this year in Phoenix, but Levin does have three top-40 finishes in four starts since a W/D in Houston. He finished T-12 here last year so he has the ability to play well on this course, and I think he demonstrates that this week.

Group 4: James Driscoll: I like what I saw out of him last week at Quail Hollow, where he notched his second top-10 finish in a little over a month. I expect the good play to continue.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Lee Westwood: TPC Sawgrass has a tendency of rewarding great ball-strikers with suspect short games and no one in the game is hitting the ball as well as the Englishman right now. Check and check.

Group 2: Jason Day: The Australian's tie for ninth at last week's Wells Fargo Championship is a good sign he's recovered from the ankle injury that forced him to withdraw from the Masters. He finished T-6 here last year in his second Players start.

Group 3: Ryan Moore: Slowed last week by a curious ruling on Friday, there's no way he's that unlucky two weeks running, and in five Players starts he's never missed a cut.

Group 4: Tim Clark: This may be a wishful thinking pick, but the South African is slowly emerging from injury and the fairways-and-greens specialist stunned the status quo in 2010 with his victory at TPC Sawgrass.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Luke Donald: Love Rory McIlroy any other week, but I'll stick with experience over youth at TPC Sawgrass. Donald has a pair of top-fives in nine starts at the host track. Also coming off a solo third in New Orleans two weeks ago.

Group 2: Jason Day: He's rounding back into form. Tied for ninth at Quail Hollow last week. Shared sixth place at last year's Players in what was just his second appearance.

Group 3: Chris Stroud: I'm plugging him back in despite last week's missed cut. He loves himself some TPC Sawgrass, evidenced by two top-15s in as many starts. Seven top-25s in 12 starts this year.

Group 4: Kevin Stadler: Above-average value in this group, even in what is the deepest field of the year. Three top-10s and another three top-25s this season. Shared 15th place in his debut at TPC Sawgrass in 2008.

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

Tune in to Golf Channel this Thursday-Friday from 1-7PM ET for live coverage of The Players Championship.