Expert Picks: The Masters

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 9, 2013, 8:48 pm

This week the PGA Tour heads down Magnolia Lane, as a field of 93 players will vie for the season's first major at the Masters. 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 includes: senior writers Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel; contributors John Hawkins and Win McMurry; editorial director Jay Coffin; 'Morning Drive' host Gary Williams and staff writer Ryan Lavner. They will also be joined by former 'Saturday Night Live' star Norm Macdonald, who will serve as a celebrity guest throughout the fantasy season.


Jason Sobel

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Lost amid the hoopla surrounding Woods' three-win start to the season is this telling stat: on the three previous occasions that he won three times prior to the Masters, he never followed by also winning at Augusta. Cliched translation? Don't count your green jackets before they've hatched. That said, even though I'm not as bullish about Tiger's chances as most people, I also can't find anyone in this field that I'd rank higher. A fifth Masters title, and subsequent pandemonium throughout the golf world, may be just days from taking place. 

Group 2: Keegan Bradley: I was recently talking Masters contenders with a PGA Tour pro who knows Bradley's game well, and picked him to win. When I inquired as to whether the former PGA champion has the right ball flight for Augusta, he looked at me funny. 'Well, he hits it long and straight and high,' the player said. 'That's the right ball flight for every course.' Duly noted. Also noted is that Bradley hasbeen knocking on the door all year wihtout breaking through it yet.

Group 3: Bill Haas: Bubba Watson won the Masters in his fourth appearance; likewise, Trevor Immelman won in his fourth as a pro. Wanna take a guess as to what number this will be for Haas? After results between 26th and 42nd in his first three starts, he seems primed to contend this week. Bigger question is whether he can win. Despite four victories in the last three seasons, he's gotten into the final group on a Sunday twice already this year, but has underwhelmed each time.

Group 4: K.J. Choi: Showing signs of trending in the right direction, and he's contended at Augusta in the past.


Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Tiger Woods: The difference between green jacket No. 5 and another also-ran the last seven years has been Woods' putting (he's ranked inside the top 10 in putting for the week just once since 2006). Thanks to pro bono putting guru Steve Stricker's handiwork at Doral, that doesn't seem to be an issue this week.

Group 2: Steve Stricker: The veteran's pedestrian record at Augusta National (he has two top-10 finishes in a dozen starts) is one of the game's great enigmas, but his limited schedule and refreshed attitude suggests his fortunes are poised to change.

Group 3: Nick Watney: It has been a strangely inconsistent year for Watney (one top 10 in nine starts), but when he is on, he has the power and touch to become the next surprise champion.

Group 4: Hiroyuki Fujita: Although he has been limited to just one start this season, Fujita is a machine in Japan, having won four times in 2012, and he has a putting stroke that is perfect for Augusta National. 


Ryan Lavner

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Three wins this season. A scalding-hot putter. A proven track record at this venue. Yes, all signs point to Tiger resuming his climb up Mount Nicklaus this week. 

Group 2: Keegan Bradley: The high-ball hitter finished inside the top 10 in his last four starts, and for the past few months he's had Phil Mickelson, a three-time Masters winner, in his ear on how best to play Augusta. This big-time talent could bag major No. 2 this week.

Group 3: Rickie Fowler: Coming off his best finish of the season (T-3 at Bay Hill), and he's made the cut in each of his first two Masters appearances. No reason to suggest he takes a step back this year.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: Regardless of his form coming in, El Pato has rung up seven consecutive top-40 finishes at Augusta, including the 2009 win. Good news, then: he posted his best result (T-16) of the season in Houston.


Randall Mell

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Duh!

Group 2: Ian Poulter: A guy who can putt like he does in the clutch at the Ryder Cup can win the Masters.

Group 3: Bill Haas: His game is pointed toward something big.

Group 4: K.J. Choi: K.J. has shown he knows how to make those towering pines shiver at Augusta National.

Getty Images

Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

Getty Images

Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery

 


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.