Expert picks: Zurich Classic


This week the PGA Tour heads to the bayou as Bubba Watson returns to action to defend his title at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. 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: Luke Donald: Simple reasoning here. After he last lost the number one ranking at the Honda Classic, he came back and won in his next start at Transitions to reclaim the top spot. He surrendered the top ranking again last Monday to McIlroy, and in this, his next start, I see him taking it back.

Group 2: Cameron Tringale: I'm sticking with my pick this week after his T-8 in San Antonio, his second T-8 finish in a row. He has solid performance stats this year and tied for 18th at this event in 2011.

Group 3: Matt Every: I'm staying with Every this week as well. His runner-up finish was his best of the season and his fourth top-8 this year. He missed the cut here last year, but enters the week this year in a much better place.

Group 4: Kyle Reifers: Last time he played TPC Louisiana, in 2007, he set the course record with a 64. That record still stands as he returns with his Tour card in hand, hoping to secure it again for next season with a good week here.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Jason Dufner: He's been in the top 10 the last three years in New Orleans, including a top-3 finish last year.

Group 2: Greg Chalmers: Cashed in five of his last six stroke-play starts. He has two consecutive top-8 finishes in this event.

Group 3: Bud Cauley: Still feels like a steal. Cauley was T-18 last week and in the top 20 in four of his last five starts.

Group 4: Jason Bohn: A past winner here, Bohn has cashed in his last three PGA Tour starts.

Erik Kuselias

Group 1: Luke Donald: I know he didn't play well at The Masters or the RBC Heritage but we all saw what happened when Rory McIlroy took the world No. 1 ranking in March - Luke won the Transitions Championship two weeks later. It's been two weeks and Donald comes to a place where he finished T-8 in 2011.

Group 2: Peter Hanson: Quietly putting up a very impressive season with a runner-up finish in Qatar, T-3 in The Masters, T-4 in the WGC-Cadillac Championship and T-5 at the WGC-Accenture Match Play. He missed the cut here in 2011 but especially after he hosted Morning Drive with me, I am feeling good about this Swede.

Group 3: Bud Cauley: I know it seems like I say this every week, but I am very excited about this young man. He's made his last five cuts and makes his first appearance in New Orleans coming off of a T-18 finish in San Antonio, where he closed with a 68 on a very tough course.

Group 4: Cameron Beckman: Beckman is making his first New Orleans start in four years but this 3-time PGA Tour winner has been showing signs of strong play lately. Seems to have one great round every week, and if he can build on that round he is in line for a great finish.

Gary Williams

Group 1: Jason Dufner: Dufner is one of those guys who quietly turns in some great golf, and that is especially true in New Orleans. He has three straight top-10s at TPC Louisiana, including a third place finish in 2011.

Group 2: Charles Howell III: Although he's never won here, Howell tends to play well in this city. He was runner-up in this event in 2005 and in 2009 and finished T-13 in 2011. He has only missed one cut in 11 starts in 2012 and has not finished outside the top 30 in the last two months.

Group 3: Bud Cauley: Cauley has been my guy among the rookies on Tour this year and he has shown everyone that he has the potential to win on Tour. As an Alabama kid, he would take extra pleasure winning in the state of rival LSU.

Group 4: Cameron Beckman: This guy has quietly won three times on the PGA Tour and in 2012 has shown signs of playing well. If he can maintain the momentum of a solid round (like his opening 68 in San Antonio), he will play well.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Luke Donald: Englishman finished tied for eighth last year and is motivated to retake the top spot in the World Golf Ranking with a solid finish this week.

Group 2: Charles Howell III: He's off to the best start of his career and always plays well in New Orleans, with two runner-up finishes and not a single missed cut in nine starts.

Group 3: Andres Romero: Wishful thinking pick here. Although the Argentine has struggled mightily this season, he's won at TPC Louisiana before (2008) and finished tied for eighth here last year.

Group 4: Greg Owen: On his way to victory last year, Bubba Watson led the field in GIR and driving distance, which is Owen's forte. If the Englishman has a halfway decent week with the putter, he could win by five.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Graeme McDowell: So many choice options this week, but I keep going back to his return to consistency and statistical splits. Renewed focus is evident.

Group 2: Charles Howell III: About as close to a sure thing as it gets in fantasy golf. No wins at this event, but he's 9-for-9 and sits second in all-time event earnings. Five top-25s this year and only one missed cut in 11 starts.

Group 3: Bud Cauley: Changed his mind late to compete. The PGA Tour rookie has posted top-20s in his last eight starts this season, too. 

Group 4: Greg Owen: Plugging in the Brit for my last pick. Owen has finished in the top 20 here in his last two trips, and he's posted top-20 finishes in two of his last three starts this season, too.

 **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 3-6PM ET for live coverage of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.