Expert picks: The Masters

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 3, 2012, 8:00 pm

The focus of the golf world now descends upon Magnolia Lane and Augusta National for the season's first major. 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.

Gary Williams

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: After 2011, McIlroy returns to Augusta with something to prove. With the way he has been playing in 2012, I'm excited to see what he will do. In 1952, Sam Snead returned to Augusta National after shooting 80 in the final round and won. We may be hearing more about that story.

Group 2: Bill Haas: Already a winner this year at Riviera, Haas is making his third Masters appearance and I think he will improve on his best finish of T-26 in 2010. The Masters runs in his family as his great uncle Bob Goalby won the green jacket in 1968.

Group 3: Zach Johnson: Johnson won the Masters in 2007 in incredibly challenging conditions by playing his own game and never going for a par-5 in two. While he has not had another great finish here since '07, he has shown that he is tough. If the weather gets challenging, watch out.

Group 4: Fred Couples: The 1992 Masters champion has shown repeatedly that age is but a number, and many of those moments have come at Augusta. He has consecutive top-15 finishes here and was T-3 at the age of 46. When he is healthy, don't bet against this guy.

Erik Kuselias

Group 1: Phil Mickelson: The three-time champ has shown over and over again what he is capable of in big moments. He may be one behind Tiger in terms of green jackets, but in the ten years since the last significant changes to Augusta he has the edge, winning three times to Tiger's two.

Group 2: Keegan Bradley: Yes, I know he is making his first Masters appearance but I like his chances. Prior to Masters Week none other than Phil Mickelson showed him around Augusta and he has not been out of the top 25 in nine starts in 2012.

Group 3: Geoff Ogilvy: Amazing to think that an Australian's never won here, but that drought could be coming to an end. Ogilvy has never missed the cut in six starts at Augusta and was T-4 here last year.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: When I saw Cabrera's name in Group 4, I was shocked! The 2009 champion tends to raise his game in the majors and he is exceptionally comfortable at Augusta. Along with his win, he has four other top-10 finishes including 7th in 2011. 

Win McMurry

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Top picks this week include Phil and Rory, but neither have the history that Tiger does at the Masters. After his win at Bay Hill, the multiple-victory years are ready to return and so is the hunt to beat Jack's record.

Group 2: Bo Van Pelt: He's had a solid year that includes four top-10s in his last five starts and he leads the Tour in strokes gained putting. Always be wary of the ailing golfer, and this one tied for eighth here last year.

Group 3: Jim Furyk: He's been working his way back up the leaderboards lately with three T-11 or better finishes in the last two months. Finished inside the top 25 at the Masters two of the last three years.

Group 4: Henrik Stenson: He's finished inside the top 25 in all four starts on Tour this year, currently stands sixth in scoring average and is first in scrambling. Of the guys in Group 4, you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who is entering the first major of the year in better form.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Tiger Woods: He's a four-time winner, won at Bay Hill and was T-4 here the last two years - almost on sheer will.

Group 2: K.J. Choi: Top 10s in the last two years here are a good sign, as well as no missed cuts on the PGA Tour this year.

Group 3: Geoff Ogilvy: In the hunt last year, Ogilvy loves this MacKenzie test and arranging its puzzle pieces.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: The forgotten member of the final group last year. Coming on strong now and a past champion here.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: Through 3 1/2 rounds last year he was dominant and whatever lingering ghosts he had following last year's meltdown on No. 10 have been long vanquished.

Group 2: Brandt Snedeker: After cracking his driver earlier this season, he's finally found a new 'gamer' and few know the course as well or putt better than Sneds.

Group 3: Charles Howell III: It's a home game for CH3, but don't expect him to become overwhelmed by the additional pressure. He's been as consistent as anyone this season and has dreamed of this his entire life.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: Former champion showed signs of life last week at the Shell Houston Open and his record at Augusta is Tiger-like. He's ranked outside the top 10 just once in his last nine rounds at the Masters.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Luke Donald: After last year's T-4 result, the world's No.1-ranked player is ready to be No. 1 at a major, too.

Group 2: Brandt Snedeker: Underrated putter who has shown a proficiency on these greens in the past.

Group 3: Johnson Wagner: The 'stache is raking in the cash this year - and there's no reason to think he'll stop now.

Group 4: Henrik Stenson: Big sleeper pick here, as the Swede has finished 21st or better in all four appearances this season.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: Command with the driver gives him a slight edge on Tiger.

Group 2: Bill Haas: The win at Riviera showed us he's ready for the next step.

Group 3: Geoff Ogilvy: He was right in the mix on Sunday a year ago, and has the experience and nerve to close the deal.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: His form doesn't seem to matter; Augusta National will bring out his best.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Four-time champion coming off a five-stroke victory at Bay Hill, where he's won seven times. Yeah, good enough for me.

Group 2: Keegan Bradley: Firing on all cylinders. The first-timer at the Masters is shattering the mold for the traditional learning curve. Reigning PGA champion.

Group 3: Gary Woodland: Without a clear go-to here, I'll take my chances with the long hitter who placed T-24 in his debut last year. At some point, his swing modifications will click and he'll contend.

Group 4: Angel Cabrera: Superb value in this group. The 2009 champ has five top-10 finishes in 12 starts at Augusta National, including last year's solo seventh. Top-25s in two of his last three starts entering the week.

Tune in to Golf Channel all week long for comprehensive Live From: The Masters coverage.

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Watch: On 59 watch, Sneds dunks approach for eagle

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

Brandt Snedeker was having a good day in Round 1 of the Wyndham Championship. And then he reached the green a the par-4 sixth at Sedgefield Country Club and his day got even better.

Snedeker holed a 7-iron from 176 yards, on the fly, for an eagle-2. Playing his 15th hole of the day, Snedeker vaulted to 9 under par for the tournament.

With Sedgefield being a par 70, Snedeker needed two birdies over his final three holes to shoot 59 and he got one of them at the par-3 seventh, where he hit his tee shot on the 224-yard hole to 2 feet.

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Rosaforte Report: A tale of two comebacks

By Tim RosaforteAugust 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Comeback (noun): A return by a well-known person, especially an entertainer or sports player, to the activity in which they have formerly been successful.

Even by definition, the word comeback is subjective.

There is no question that Brooks Koepka has completed his comeback. With two major championship victories that encompassed wins over Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods, Player of the Year honors have already been locked up for the 2017-18 season.

But knowing Koepka, he wants more. A No. 1 ranking, topping his boy D.J., is a possibility and a goal. A Ryder Cup is awaiting. By all rights, Koepka could be Comeback Player of the Year and Player of the Year all in one, except the PGA Tour discontinued its Comeback honor in 2012. Even without an official award, it’s fun to compare the cases of Koepka and Woods.

What Woods has recovered from is remarkable, but not complete. He hasn’t won yet. With triumphs in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, Koepka has completed his comeback from a pair of wrist injuries that could have been equally as career-ending as the physical issues that Woods had to overcome just to contend in the last two majors.

“There was a question on whether or not I’d ever be the same,” Koepka said Sunday night in the media center at Bellerive, following his third major championship victory in six tries. “Whether I could do it pain-free, we had no idea.”

The wrist traumas occured five months apart, with the initial issue, which occured at the Hero World Challenge in December (in which he finished last in the limited field), putting him in a soft cast with a partially torn tendon. That cost the reigning U.S. Open champion 15 weeks on the shelf (and couch), including a start in the Masters.

His treatment included injecting bone marrow and platelet-rich plasma. When he returned at the Zurich Classic in April, Koepka revealed the ligaments that hold the tendon in place were gone – thus a dislocation – and that every time he went to his doctor, “it seemed like it got worse and worse.”

Koepka’s second wrist injury of the season occurred on the practice grounds at The Players, when a cart pulled in front of Koepka just as he was accelerating into the ball with his 120-plus mph club-head speed. Abruptly stopping his swing, Koepka’s left wrist popped out. His physio relayed a story to PGA Tour radio in which he advised Koepka before he reset the wrist: “Sit on your hand and bite this towel, otherwise you’re going to punch me.”

Koepka admitted that he never dreamed such a scenario would threaten his career. He called it, “probably the most painful thing I’ve ever gone through, setting that bone back.” But, testament to Koepka's fortitude, four days later he made an albatross and tied a TPC Sawgrass course record, shooting 63.

Woods’ physical – and mental – recovery from back surgery and prescription drug abuse was painful and career threatening in its own way. As he said in his return to Augusta, “Those are some really, really dark times. I’m a walking miracle.”

As amazing as it has been, Woods, by definition, still hasn’t fully completed his comeback. While he’s threatened four times in 2018, he hasn’t won a tournament.

Yes, it’s a miracle that he’s gotten this far, swinging the club that fast, without any relapse in his back. As electric and high-energy as his second-place finish to Koepka was at the PGA, Woods has made this winning moment something to anticipate. As story lines go, it may be better this way.

Coming off a flat weekend at the WGC-Bridgestone, Woods was starting to sound like an old 42-year-old. But instead of ice baths and recovery time, the conversation was charged by what he did on Saturday and Sunday in the 100th PGA.

A day later, there was more good news. With Woods committing to three straight weeks of FedExCup Playoff golf, potentially followed by a week off and then the Tour Championship, that moment of victory may not be far away.

Scheduling – and certainly anticipating – four tournaments in five weeks, potentially followed by a playing role at the Ryder Cup, would indicate that Woods has returned to the activity in which he was formally successful.

There were times post-scandal and post-back issues, that Woods stuck by the lines made famous by LL Cool J:

Don’t call it a comeback
I’ve been here for years
I’m rocking my peers

Not this time. As he said Sunday before his walk-off 64 in St, Louis, “Oh, God. I didn’t even know if I was going to play again.”

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Actor/Comedian Kevin Nealon Joins "Feherty," Monday, Aug. 20 at 9 p.m. ET

By Golf Channel Public RelationsAugust 16, 2018, 1:15 pm

Actor/comedian Kevin Nealon (Saturday Night Live) will join David Feherty on his self-titled, Emmy-nominated series Feherty presented by Farmers Insurance®, Monday at 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel.

Filmed at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles last month, the episode will focus on numerous topics, including:

  • Nealon discussing his start in comedy in Los Angeles, where he worked as a bartender and filled in for comics who failed to show up for their act.
  • Reminiscing about his appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1984.
  • Reflecting on his nine-year run as a cast member on Saturday Night Live.
  • Recounting the time when his golf ball struck Adam Sandler during a round they were playing with filming Happy Gilmore.
  • Recalling time spent with Arnold Palmer during the filming of a commercial a few years ago.

The following Monday (Aug. 27), Feherty will be joined by 20-time LPGA Tour winner Cristie Kerr at 9 p.m. ET, and then on Monday, Sept. 3 (9 p.m. ET), major champion Jimmy Walker will join as a guest for the series’ season finale.

A two-time Emmy-nominated host (Outstanding Sports Personality – Studio Host) Feherty has been described as “golf’s iconoclast,” by Rolling Stone, and “the last unscripted man on TV,” by Men’s Journal. His all-star lineup of golf-enthused and culturally relevant guests feature celebrities from across entertainment, sports and politics. To date, Feherty has sat down with four U.S. Presidents (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump); sports legends Charles Barkley, Nick Saban, Stephen Curry and Bobby Knight; Hollywood icons Matthew McConaughey, Larry David and Samuel L. Jackson; World Golf of Fame members Nancy Lopez, Jack Nicklaus, Annika Sorenstam, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson; and a host of current golf superstars including Paula Creamer, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Michelle Wie. Feherty is produced by Golf Channel’s original productions group, which also oversees production for Driver vs. Driver, Golf Films as well as the network’s instruction platforms.

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Thomas talks Tiger, plays 'Facebreakers' on 'Tonight Show'

By Grill Room TeamAugust 16, 2018, 1:14 pm

Justin Thomas didn't successfully defend his title at last week's PGA Championship, but he did get a guest spot on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon."

Thomas appeared on the talk show Wednesday night and, of course, a primary topic was Tiger Woods' run at the Wanamaker Trophy.

Thomas also played a game of "Facebreakers" with host Fallon, in which both men tried to break panes of glass emblazoned with the other's face with golf shots. Thomas nearly took out the real Fallon on his first shot, and after several uncessful attempts by both men, massive cheating ensued.