Expert picks: Crowne Plaza Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2012, 5:00 pm

This week the PGA Tour heads to Colonial CC for the Crowne Plaza Invitational. David Toms defends his title against a field that includes Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler among others. 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; and Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Zach Johnson: He has two runner-up finishes in his last three starts, and he has three top-10s in his last three starts at Colonial, including his win in 2010 where he set the tournament record.

Group 2: David Toms: The defending champion again enters Colonial in good form. Off a T-10 finish at The Players, Toms is primed to capture his fourth top-15 finish here in five starts.

Group 3: Kevin Stadler: Solo seventh a year ago, he's had a solid season for a Group 3 pick, with three top-10 finishes. He also enters the event off a T-25 showing at TPC Sawgrass.

Group 4: John Mallinger: He made the cut and finished T-40 a year ago, but look back another year and you'll see a T-13 at Colonial. He has had a decent year, with a runner-up finish a few months ago as well as a T-24 last week at the HP Byron Nelson.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Zach Johnson: The 2010 champion just finished T-2 at the Players and loves Colonial.

Group 2: David Toms: He's a safe play this week. He won last year and has only one MC here since 1998.

Group 3: Harris English: Likely to be a popular pick this week because of his 60 in British Open qualifying, English thrives on tree-lined tracks.

Group 4: Rod Pampling: A mixed bag this season, Pampling has five top-12 finishes here in his last seven starts.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Zach Johnson: The 2010 champion is the prototypical player for Colonial, with his fairways-and-greens game and steady putting, and he's been on an impressive roll lately having finished runner-up in two of his last three starts.

Group 2: David Toms: He made magic last year following his heartbreak at The Players and is playing well again, having finished T-10 at TPC Sawgrass.

Group 3: Harris English: Not sure which player will show up this week, the guy who struggled on the weekend at The Players (79-77) or the one who scorched Monday's British Open qualifier (60-63). But if there's any chance of the latter, you have to pick him.

Group 4: Andres Romero: The Argentine's game is still a work in progress, but he was solid on Monday at the Open qualifier (T-3), tied for 29th last week at the Byron Nelson and has the kind of ball-striking game that plays well at Colonial.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Bo Van Pelt: Five top-10 finishes this year and a solo third here last year should mean another big week.

Group 2: Ben Crane: Last five starts at Colonial - MC, T-3, T-46, 5th, T-4. Home cooking should help.

Group 3: Chad Campbell: Texas native is a ball-striker extraordinaire on a course that suits him.

Group 4: William McGirt: Playing his second-favorite PGA Tour course (Quail Hollow is first) makes him a solid underdog pick.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Rickie Fowler: Colonial is a ball-striker's course, and Fowler's ball-striking was razor sharp in winning Quail Hollow and contending at The Players. He'll work the ball nicely around Hogan's Alley.

Group 2: Ben Crane: With all the focus on slow play, Ben Crane gives us comic relief, emerging to put the struggle for speed into a humorous perspective.

Group 3: Pat Perez: The Arizona kid plays well in Texas, and plays well at colonial. He's a good driver of the ball and that bodes well at Hogan's Alley.

Group 4: Tim Clark: Yeah, it's a flier, but Clark looked like he was coming around at The Players with a T-25 finish. He's still a straight and true driver of the ball.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Zach Johnson: No-brainer pick. Co-runner-up finishes in two of his last three starts entering this week. Top-10 finishes in his last three appearances at Colonial, highlighted by a win in 2010. Owns the tournament record of 21-under 259.

Group 2: David Toms: The defending champion is coming off a T-10 finish at The Players. He's cashed in his last eight starts at Colonial, where his tee-to-green talent shines.

Group 3: Harris English: No chance I'm not all-in after his brilliant performance at International Final Qualifying-America at Gleneagles on Monday. The hook is that he loves courses with fairways flanked by trees.

Group 4: Tim Clark: There are a couple of other temptations in this group, but the South African shared 25th place at The Players for his first top-25 finish since returning from elbow surgery. He's also a two-time runner-up at Colonial (2008, 2009).

 **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 Crowne Plaza Invitational.

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of [Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Watch: Na punctuates caddie tiff with hole-out

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 24, 2018, 11:10 pm

Microphones captured a fascinating and testy exchange between Kevin Na and his caddie, Kenny Harms, on Na's final hole of the first round of the Fort Worth Invitational on Thursday.

Na was in the right rough, 185 yards from the ninth green, which was guarded by water. He vacillated between a hybrid and an iron, but with either club he would have to hit "a 40-yard cut," as Harms termed it.

"Over the green's dead," Harms warned.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"It's not gonna go over the green, Kenny," Na replied.

Na finally settled on an iron and said to Harms, "As long as you're OK with this club."

"I'm not," Harms replied. "I'm not OK with either one of them."

"I'm going with this," Na ended the discussion.

He missed the green with his approach shot, but avoided the water. After taking a free drop away from the grandstand, he had 92 feet 3 inches to the cup and of course, holed the pitch shot for a birdie-3, a 62 and a one-shot lead at the end of the first round.