Expert picks: Transitions Championship


The PGA Tour heads to Innisbrook in Tampa this week for the Transitions Championship as the Florida Swing hits the homestretch. 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.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Nick Watney: After a lackluster California swing, he finished T-9 in the Match Play and T-17 at Doral, including two sub-70 rounds over the weekend. He tied for 13th here last year, one of three straight top-15 finishes on this track.

Group 2: Peter Hanson: He enters this week with great form. He finished T-4 at Doral and shared 15th at Innisbrook last year.

Group 3: Brendon de Jonge: Had a strong finish here a year ago (T-5). While he's struggled some of this year, the Charlotte resident plays well on the Copperhead course that more resembles a Carolina layout than one you'd see in Florida.

Group 4: Blake Adams: He tied for ninth last week in Puerto Rico and while he's a streaky player, he can get hot - as evidenced by his T-2 in 2010 at the Byron Nelson and his T-3 in Reno last year.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Charl Schwartzel: The Masters champion is getting no respect and has been on fire in his last dozen worldwide starts.

Group 2: Martin Laird: In the fight last year, Laird is a long hitter and accurate. He should have a great week at Innisbrook.

Group 3: John Huh: Huh hung in at PGA National, usually a week where a winner slacks off a bit. He'll find a way to make some money.

Group 4: Rod Pampling: The Aussie has a pair of top-15 finishes this season, cashed last week and finished T-8 at Innisbrook in 2008. 

Gary Williams

Group 1: Charl Schwartzel: Masters champion has not finished out of the top 17 in five worldwide starts in 2012 and has top-5 finishes each of the last two weeks. I see no reason why he won't be in contention this weekend.

Group 2: Paul Casey: Made his first start of 2012 last week and it was good to see him back on the course. Has had previous fast starts at Innisbrook; if he can break 70 on Thursday I can see Casey contending this weekend.

Group 3: John Rollins: Three top-10 finishes in 2012, including a 3rd place finish at Torrey Pines. This could be a quiet Group 3 pick that works out well.

Group 4: Jamie Lovemark: While injured much of the last year or so, we know how good he can play. Finished T-20 last week in Puerto Rico after tweeting that he felt lost with his golf game, hopefully he will keep the momentum going this week.

Erik Kuselias

Group 1: Luke Donald: Finished T-6 at Doral and will return to the world No. 1 ranking with a win this week. He finished T-6 in his last Tampa appearance and I can see a switch at the top of the rankings this week.

Group 2: Bo Van Pelt: Bit of a quiet pick but the fact is, BVP is having a great 2012 and has finished T-8 in 3 of his last 4 starts. He has also played well at Innisbrook, finishing T-3 in 2005 and T-8 in 2009.

Group 3: Padraig Harrington: Three top-10 finishes in 2012, including a 3rd place finish at Torrey Pines. This could be a quiet Group 3 pick that works out well.

Group 4: Jamie Lovemark: 2010 Nationwide Tour Money List winner has struggled with injuries and bad play since joining the PGA Tour in 2011. Showed signs of life in Puerto Rico with a T-20 finish; I'm rooting for him to continue his good play this week.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Webb Simpson: Gotta like that runner-up finish at Innisbrook last year. It's about time for another run.

Group 2: Peter Hanson: Strong showing at Doral last week (T-4), and good showing at Transitions last year (T-15).

Group 3: George McNeill: Just riding the hot hand here after last week's win in Puerto Rico.

Group 4: Chris Couch: The big man from Florida is off to a rough start this season, but he was T-5 at Innisbrook last year. Good memories will get him going again. 

John Hawkins

Group 1: Webb Simpson: Strong finish at Doral, lost in a playoff here last year.

Group 2: Ernie Els: Playing for a spot in the Masters; needs a very high finish or perhaps even a win to qualify.

Group 3: John Huh: My new philosophy with lower classes is to take guys who have already won. Huh qualifies.

Group 4: Matt Jones: Squandered opportunity late in Puerto Rico, should be hungry to atone for the lapse.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Luke Donald: Improved with each round at Doral and his T-6 finish suggests the Englishman's slow start to the season was not a trend. Donald will only be motivated by the added intrigue of retaking the top spot in the World Golf Ranking.

Group 2: Charles Howell III: A cash machine this season, CH3 has missed just one cut in eight starts but has yet to put together a solid Sunday. Howell is one good Sunday away from his first Tour victory since 2007.

Group 3: Harris English: Just two of the rookie's last 12 Tour rounds have been at or over par, and he seems to have the ideal combination of power and precision. He's ninth on Tour in driving distance and eighth in greens in regulation.

Group 4: Boo Weekley: The man from Milton, Fla., has been on a competitive slide but his tie for third at last week's Puerto Rico Open was his best finish since he won the 2008 Heritage. Innisbrook is a good fit for the solid ball striker.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Charl Schwartzel: The first-timer at Copperhead is on a crazy kind of run, with top-5 finishes in seven of his last 11 starts worldwide.

Group 2: John Senden: Decision to curtail schedule and devote more time to family has paid dividends with three top-10s already this season. Runner-up finishes at this event in 2007 and 2008.

Group 3: Harris English: In his only start in the last four weeks, he played in the final group at the Honda but faded to T-18 with a 77. Chalking it up as a learning experience. Three top-20s, zero missed cuts this year.

Group 4: Garrett Willis: The resident of nearby Dade City finished T-15 in last year's edition. Held the 18-hole lead at Copperhead in 2010.

You can watch complete coverage of the Transitions Championship Thursday-Friday live on Golf Channel from 3PM-6PM ET.