Expert Picks: Qatar Masters

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 31, 2012, 8:30 pm

This is another double week for fantasy players! GolfChannel.com experts offer up their fantasy choices below for the CommercialBank Qatar Masters, and their selections for the Waste Management Phoenix Open can be seen here. 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; RotoWorld.com's Rob Bolton; 'Morning Drive' hosts Gary Williams and Erik Kuselias; and Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.


Win McMurry

Group 1: Sergio Garcia: Believe it or not, he is looking for his sixth top-12 finish in a row dating back to the PGA Championship. Plus, he was in the top-10 here a year ago.

Group 2: Thomas Bjorn: He shared third place last week and won it all in Qatar last year.

Group 3: Stephen Gallacher: T-12 last year and comes in off a solid finish last week in Abu Dhabi.

Group 4: Soren Hansen: The Dane finished T-6 last year and has consistently played the weekends in Qatar for the past five years.


Jay Coffin

Group 1: Lee Westwood: Two top-fives in the last four years works for me. 

Group 2: Francesco Molinari: He seems to pop up on big leaderboards from time to time.

Group 3: Tom Lewis: This is a shot in the dark, but we know he has major game.

Group 4: Simon Khan: Couldn't pick him out of a lineup. Not many people could.


Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Sergio Garcia: El Nino 2.0 continues to evolve and he's always played wellin Qatar. In six starts he has three top-10s and just a single missed cut.

Group 2: Thomas Bjorn: The Dane has the perfect combination of good form (he finished tied for third last week in Abu Dhabi) and history (he won in Qatar last year).

Group 3: Henrik Stenson: The Swede continues to struggle but he always plays well in the desert - pick a desert, any desert will do - and Ryder Cup years bring out the best in him.

Group 4: Peter Uihlein: The former U.S. Amateur champion makes his European Tour debut as a professional this week in what may turn out to be a trailblazing path to global status.


Jason Sobel

Group 1: Robert Karlsson: Lost in the Tiger/Rory/Rock hoopla last week was yet another solid performance by Karlsson.

Group 2: Nicolas Colsaerts: This man from Belgium is on the verge of winning a big one - and soon.

Group 3: Jbe Kruger: Relatively unknown in the U.S., but finds his way onto leaderboards almost every week.

Group 4: Peter Uihlein: Why not? In a group that includes retreads like Michael Campbell and Todd Hamilton, go for some young blood.


Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Alvaro Quiros: Runner-up here the last two years and a lover of desert golf.

Group 2: Thomas Bjorn: The defending champion had a good week in Abu Dhabi last week and should play well again.

Group 3: Tom Lewis: He likes desert golf and is among the best in form in a sparse Group 3.

Group 4: Gareth Maybin: He was in the top-15 last week to start the season, and can represent the Ulster front.



Randall Mell

Group 1: Lee Westwood: Despite a MC last year, Westwood has come close at Doha before, with a T-3 and 5th over the last four years.

Group 2: Thomas Bjorn: Defending champ should enjoy good vibes. He got his three-win season started in Doha last year.

Group 3: Bradley Dredge: The Welshman has finished T-12 and T-5 in Doha the last two years.

Group 4: Victor Dubuisson: The 21-year-old Frenchman and former European Amateur champ made some noise here with a T-9 last year.


Rob Bolton

Group 1: Lee Westwood: Unlike a year ago when he missed the cut, there's no rust now. Two wins in his last four starts worldwide.

Group 2: Retief Goosen: Back in a groove with four top-20s in his last five starts, including a runner-up two weeks ago in South Africa.

Group 3: Ricardo Gonzalez: Top-20s here each of the last two years. Nine top-25s in the last 13 months.

Group 4: David Drysdale: Cashed in nine of his last 10 starts, including a T-3 at the Joburg Open. Finished T-12 here last year.


You can watch complete coverage of the CommercialBank Qatar Masters Thursday-Friday on Golf Channel from 9AM-1PM ET and Saturday-Sunday from 8:30AM-12:30PM ET.


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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.