Expert Picks: AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 4, 2014, 9:30 pm

This week marks the 12th event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season as many of the game's best tee it up alongside celebrities at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Each week, a panel of experts will offer up their picks from four groups of players, based on Golf Channel's fantasy game, Fantasy Challenge. We will also keep track of their scores and standings. The panel includes: senior writers Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel; contributors John Hawkins and John Antonini; editorial director Jay Coffin; 'Morning Drive' host Gary Williams; staff writer Ryan Lavner and defending fantasy champion Charlie Rymer.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Jordan Spieth: We've officially reached the point where it doesn't matter the course our the tournament, Spieth is a legit candidate to contend.

Group 2: Pat Perez: He's been knocking on the door the last two weeks and would love to avenge that loss from Pebble his rookie year.

Group 3: Russell Knox: Someone Who Knows Things told me recently that Knox is coming along ahead of schedule and might be ready to win very soon.

Group 4: Scott Langley: Reportedly playing with Peyton Manning might bring more attention, but expect the sophomore to thrive under pressure.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Jason Day: Coming off a T-2 at Torrey Pines and off a sixth-place finish at Pebble last year. Just feels like it's going to be a big year for Day.

Group 2: Jimmy Walker: Confidence should be high. Won at Sony last month, finished T-3, T-9, T-9 in his last three starts at Pebble.

Group 3: Aaron Baddeley: Pebble inspires him T-12, fourth, T-6 in his last three starts there.

Group 4: Chad Collins: Off to a solid start this year, including an eighth-place finish at Humana.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Dustin Johnson: He already has a victory in the 2013-14 season (WGC-HSBC Champions), two wins on the Monterey Peninsula (2009 and ’10) and one heartbreaking near miss at the 2010 U.S. Open played at Pebble Beach.

Group 2: Jimmy Walker: Not sure how a guy that has two victories this season falls into Group 2, but we know a steal when we see one.

Group 3: John Peterson: He has struggled in his last few events after a quick start to his season, but he has the game and attitude to compete every week.

Group 4: Davis Love III: The soon-to-be senior hasn’t exactly been sharp to begin 2014, but he’s won the Clambake twice and still has enough length to compete on the PGA Tour.

John Antonini

Group 1: Jordan Spieth: He handled the quirks of this tournament (slow play, amateurs, multiple courses) admirably a year ago when he was still just Jordan Spieth. Now that he's JORDAN SPIETH, we expect substantial improvement on that T-22 finish.

Group 2: Chris Kirk: The runner-up a year ago has already won once this season on Tour (McGladrey) and was second at the Sony. He's not in over his head.

Group 3: Brendon Todd: He was T-9 in 2012 when, like everyone else on the leaderboard, he was way-laid by Phil Mickelson's final-round 64. Todd's solid GIR and scrambling stats make him a strong pick this year.

Group 4: Briny Baird: Is it too much to ask that one week after Kevin Stadler won in his 239th PGA Tour start, that Baird wins in his 369th? Maybe so, but Baird's another player who hits plenty of greens and is strong in the scrambling stats. He's not a reach in Group 4.

Ryan Lavner

Group 1: Jason Day: Nine consecutive top 25s overall. Four top 10s in a row. A pair of T-6s in four career starts here.

Group 2: Jimmy Walker: FedEx Cup leader has two wins and four other top 25s in his last eight starts.

Group 3: Jason Kokrak: When he makes the cut, he makes it count - all four made cuts have been T-20 or better, including last week's T-15 in Phoenix.

Group 4: Hudson Swafford: Big believer in his talent, but he's a hit-or-miss kind of pick. He has three missed cuts and two top 25s in his last five starts.

Getty Images

Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

Getty Images

Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

Getty Images

Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

Getty Images

Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”