Expert Picks: Open

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 9, 2012, 8:38 pm

This week the Fall Series continues with the Open, where Bryce Molder returns as defending champion. 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 staff writer Ryan Lavner.

Ryan Lavner

Group 1: Bud Cauley: Four of his six top-10s this season have come in his past seven starts, and he's had success at CordeValle in the past, having finished solo third here a year ago.

Group 2: Brendan Steele: NorCal's own, Steele has been disappointing this season but has posted two top-13 finishes in his past three starts. Also, was T-7 here a year ago.

Group 3: Tim Herron: Opened with 63 last week in Vegas before finishing T-10, his first and only top 10 finish of the season. He's right on the money-list bubble at No. 132, so there's plenty of incentive to play well here.

Group 4: Bill Lunde: Another bubble boy, at No. 128 on the money list, Lunde's solo fifth last week in Vegas - all four rounds in the 60s - perhaps was a sign of things to come.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Vijay Singh: The veteran opened 66-66 last week, and while he fell back over the weekend and has never played here before, he has had a lot of positive momentum at the end of this season. He's had three top-10 finishes in his last ten starts, including an eighth-place finish a few weeks ago at Crooked Stick.

Group 2: Jonas Blixt: This rookie is on a hot streak that I see extending into this week. He co-led over the weekend last week in Vegas and went on to finish third and led the field in strokes gained putting. It was his second third place of the year alongside a T-3 finish at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Group 3: Billy Horschel: He finished T-7 here a year ago and is grinding this week again, a year later, sitting 143rd on the money list. He has had some marginal success this year; his only top-10 finish was a third place at the True South Classic.

Group 4: Shane Bertsch: It's been a rough year for Shane, who has made only five cuts and earned just under $65K this year. He's 211th in the standings and needs a miracle week to keep his card. He did finish T-4 last year in this event, which helped him toward retaining employment status in 2012.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Bud Cauley: Sweet-swinging youngster finished just out of a playoff at this event last year.

Group 2: Ricky Barnes: In a recent discussion of best players without a PGA Tour win, his name wasn't mentioned - but it should have been.

Group 3: Billy Horschel: Now injury-free, he returns to the site of a T-7 result last season.

Group 4: Bobby Gates: No. 126 on last year's money list is determined to finish at least one better this time.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Ernie Els: The Open champion hasn't been particularly sharp since England, but he played well at the Open last year (T-4) and he's rested, having not teed it up since the Tour Championship.

Group 2: Jonas Blixt: The rookie was in the mix until the end in Las Vegas and has been trending in the right direction the last few weeks, finishing T-55 (Wyndham), T-46 (Barclays), T-20 (Deutsche Bank) and third (Shriners).

Group 3: Patrick Cantlay: Last year it was young Bud Cauley who made his mark at CordeValle, finishing third. This week it will be another newcomer playing on familiar California turf.

Group 4: Matt Jones: Although he hasn't had much to celebrate this season, having missed the weekend in eight of his last nine starts, he got off to a solid start last year at the Open with an opening 68 and at 175th in earnings, he desperately needs a solid week.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Bud Cauley: Among the options available, even though he's a rookie, he owns the best combination of recent form and success at CordeValle.

Group 2: Jonas Blixt: Sticking with the hot hand. The rookie co-led last week's stop in Vegas after 36 and 54 holes. Not afraid of going low and leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting.

Group 3: Richard H. Lee: My investment in this rookie last week saved an otherwise forgettable experience. Top-25s in all of his last five starts in PGA Tour-sanctioned events.

Group 4: Bobby Gates: The easy choice in this group. Top-20s in his last two starts and placed T-24 at last year's Open with progressively lower scores in each round (72-70-69-65).

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.