Expert picks: RBC Heritage

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 10, 2012, 6:00 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.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Luke Donald: Englishman lost in a playoff last year at Harbour Town and after a slow start last week at Augusta National, he finished strong with a 4-under 68.

Group 2: Stewart Cink: Former Heritage champion had bookend rounds of 71 (Thursday) and 69 (Sunday) at the Masters. it was his middle efforts - Friday and Saturday (75-81) - that are concerning but Cink is starting to show signs of life.

Group 3: Brian Gay: Light-hitting ballstrikers with smooth putting strokes seem to do well at Harbour Town and Gay is the prototype champion. He won the Heritage by 10 in 2009 and at seventh in total putting, he's an easy pick.

Group 4: Boo Weekley: As reclamation projects go Weekley may not be the easiest pick, but consider that the two-time Heritage champion has shown glimpses of his former self in recent weeks (T-3 in Puerto Rico and T-14 in Houston) and after Bubba Watson's victory last week he's looking to keep the run going for Milton, Fla.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Jim Furyk: He has all the components of what I look for in a winner - recent form and past success. Won this event in 2010 and also has a pair of runner-up finishes here, as well as strong recent performances at the Masters, Bay Hill and Transitions.

Group 2: Bryce Molder: He's had a solid season so far (six top-20 finishes in eight events) and it's gone relatively unnoticed. With the way he's performing with his irons this season, I think he finds his form and hangs around near the top this weekend.

Group 3: Brian Gay: What a clinic he put on here three years ago en route to his 10-stroke romp of the field. Channeling confidence here this week would certainly bring his season back in the right direction, and his impressive scrambling and sand save percentages also give him an edge.

Group 4: James Driscoll: He comes in off a T-8 in Houston and I am drawn to the stats in which he currently leads the Tour. He's first in approaches from 75-110 yards and first in putting from 5-10 feet, which are great stats for a short Harbour Town course with small greens.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Luke Donald: Finished off the Masters with a solid 68, lost in a playoff here last year and is a fixture in the top three at Harbour Town.

Group 2: Brian Davis: Consecutive top-5 finishes make him a hot player and, because of his honesty here in the 2010 playoff against Jim Furyk, this place owes him one.

Group 3: Harris English: English told me last year that he likes tree-lined courses. Well, this is about as tree-lined as it gets on Tour.

Group 4: Brian Harman: Harman is 13th in the all-around ranking and has bounced back nicely after each of his two prior poor starts this year.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Luke Donald: In his last three Harbour Town appearances, Donald's finished second, T-3 and T-2.

Group 2: Ricky Barnes: Just one strong finish so far this year (third at Pebble Beach), but Harbour Town inspires him (T-4 and T-5 finishes here).

Group 3: Brian Gay: Hey, he's won at Harbour Town before (2009) and has another top-10 finish.

Group 4: Vaughn Taylor: Steady efforts this year, looking for a peak performance this week.

John Hawkins

Group 1: Jim Furyk: 2010 Heritage champion only a few weeks removed from a playoff loss at Innisbrook and had a great showing at Augusta last week.

Group 2: Brian Davis: Coming in off of back-to-back top-5 finishes at Bay Hill and Houston. After a rules infraction cost him in a playoff two years ago, this course may owe him a good finish.

Group 3: Henrik Stenson: Backed him last week and it nearly paid dividends; Stenson is clearly a streaky player as evidenced at Augusta but I think he'll finish well this week.

Group 4: Boo Weekley: The two-time Heritage winner is on the upward swing. After solid finishes in Puerto Rico and Houston do not be surprised to see his name on the board on Sunday.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Luke Donald: No. 1-ranked golfer in the world has finished second twice and third once in the last three years at Harbour Town. Come get some.

Group 2: Brian Davis: T-4s in his last two starts this season. Unfinished business from his unfortunate rules infraction here in 2010 when he lost in a playoff.

Group 3: Brian Gay: Chalk pick. Perfectly suited for Harbour Town. Owns the tournament record at 20-under 264 in 2009.

Group 4: Boo Weekley: Two-time champion has another two top-15s in five starts here. Playing consistently well of late.

 **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 3:00p-6:00p ET for live coverage of the RBC Heritage.

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Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 10:55 pm

While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):

7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.

8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.

8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.

12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.

12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.

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Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?

By Randall MellAugust 20, 2018, 10:00 pm

We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.

Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.

I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.

That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.

In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.

My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.

Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.

It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.

So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?

We hope it isn’t his back.

Or his neck.

Or his knees.

Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.

Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.

Competitively, it’s all that matters.

Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.

We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?

The game soars to yet another level with that.

A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.

So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.

The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.

They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.

They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.

Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.

And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.

The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.

Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.

For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.

There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.

Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.

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Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work

By Grill Room TeamAugust 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.

"Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.

Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.

Lynch was not questioned about the swing by members of media afterwards, although there's a pretty good chance you already know how he would've answered.

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Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener

By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 5:41 pm

Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.

Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.

A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.

The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.

"It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."

The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.

Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.

Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.