Expert picks: Reno-Tahoe Open


While many of the top-ranked players in the world head to Akron, the PGA Tour is also holding a full-field event in Reno. Players this week will look to accrue valuable FedEx Cup points as the Playoffs near. 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; staff writer Ryan Lavner; and Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Chris Kirk: He's posted top-10 finishes in his last two starts (T-10 at the True South Classic and T-4 at the Canadian Open) and at 81st in FedEx Cup points he needs a few good weeks to set the stage for a playoff run.

Group 2: John Merrick: Undone in his last two events by closing 73s, Merrick finished a shot behind eventual champion Scott Piercy last year in Reno. If he finds an answer for his final-round blues he could be dangerous.

Group 3: Gavin Coles: Thin mountain air will help mitigate a distance disadvantage for the Australian and following a tie for 19th in Canada he's putting better than he has in years.

Group 4: Will MacKenzie: He began the weekend last year in Reno a stroke out of the lead but faded with rounds of 74-75. The 2006 champion could use a spark to get his season going.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Chris Kirk: He's notched consecutive top-10 finishes and is an aggressive player.

Group 2: Troy Matteson: He's been in contention very recently and seems to thrive amid these types of fields.

Group 3: Mark Anderson: He's not been spectacular this year, but Anderson makes birdies.

Group 4: Patrick Reed: Mr. Monday is due for a good Sunday.

Gary Williams

Group 1: Spencer Levin: Levin has had some strong performances in 2012 but he has yet to earn his first Tour win. He finished third in Phoenix and was T-4 at the Memorial but with the Modified Stableford scoring system in play, Reno could be the site of his first triumph.

Group 2: Kevin Chappell: Chappell has not had as good a year of 2012 as he had in 2011 but his one top-10 finish was a big one: T-10 at the U.S. Open. Needing a win to earn a spot in the PGA, you know that he is motivated to get back onto that major championship stage.

Group 3: Gary Christian: This Tour rookie has not had the year he hoped for up to this point, but he has played well over the last several weeks. He has top-20 finishes in four of his last five starts, including a T-10 last week in Canada.

Group 4: Patrick Reed: The two-time NCAA champion from Augusta State has been one of the most interesting stories of 2012, having successfully Monday qualified on several occasions this year. He has made the cut in five of his eight starts this year, and I think he will play well this week in a format that encourages aggressive play.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Seung-yul Noh: Cashed in 12 straight starts, seven going for top-20 finishes. Scored in the 60s in 19 of his last 24 rounds. Ranks high in all relative splits, including 44th in par breakers, more relevant than ever in the Modified Stableford scoring system.

Group 2: Josh Teater: Calculated leap of faith as he rolls into Reno with top-10s in his last two starts. Tied for 10th at Montreux last year, and his metrics favor a continuation of form with the tournament's new format.

Group 3: Vaughn Taylor: Previous success as a two-time champ at Montreux is nice, but he's still a mild birdie machine. Put those dynamics together and it's understandable why he stands out in this crowd.

Group 4: Jason Gore: Sigh...Group 4 of an opposite event. The goal is simply to make the cut. The big fella - although not as hefty as years gone by - has grinded through injury scares over the last 12 months, yet he's still cashing checks. His latest on the Tour was a T-21 at the True South Classic where he started the final round inside the top five.