Expert picks: Reno-Tahoe Open

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 1, 2012, 1:00 pm

While many of the top-ranked players in the world head to Akron, the PGA Tour is also holding a full-field event in Reno. Players this week will look to accrue valuable FedEx Cup points as the Playoffs near. 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; staff writer Ryan Lavner; and Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Chris Kirk: He's posted top-10 finishes in his last two starts (T-10 at the True South Classic and T-4 at the Canadian Open) and at 81st in FedEx Cup points he needs a few good weeks to set the stage for a playoff run.

Group 2: John Merrick: Undone in his last two events by closing 73s, Merrick finished a shot behind eventual champion Scott Piercy last year in Reno. If he finds an answer for his final-round blues he could be dangerous.

Group 3: Gavin Coles: Thin mountain air will help mitigate a distance disadvantage for the Australian and following a tie for 19th in Canada he's putting better than he has in years.

Group 4: Will MacKenzie: He began the weekend last year in Reno a stroke out of the lead but faded with rounds of 74-75. The 2006 champion could use a spark to get his season going.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Chris Kirk: He's notched consecutive top-10 finishes and is an aggressive player.

Group 2: Troy Matteson: He's been in contention very recently and seems to thrive amid these types of fields.

Group 3: Mark Anderson: He's not been spectacular this year, but Anderson makes birdies.

Group 4: Patrick Reed: Mr. Monday is due for a good Sunday.

Gary Williams

Group 1: Spencer Levin: Levin has had some strong performances in 2012 but he has yet to earn his first Tour win. He finished third in Phoenix and was T-4 at the Memorial but with the Modified Stableford scoring system in play, Reno could be the site of his first triumph.

Group 2: Kevin Chappell: Chappell has not had as good a year of 2012 as he had in 2011 but his one top-10 finish was a big one: T-10 at the U.S. Open. Needing a win to earn a spot in the PGA, you know that he is motivated to get back onto that major championship stage.

Group 3: Gary Christian: This Tour rookie has not had the year he hoped for up to this point, but he has played well over the last several weeks. He has top-20 finishes in four of his last five starts, including a T-10 last week in Canada.

Group 4: Patrick Reed: The two-time NCAA champion from Augusta State has been one of the most interesting stories of 2012, having successfully Monday qualified on several occasions this year. He has made the cut in five of his eight starts this year, and I think he will play well this week in a format that encourages aggressive play.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Seung-yul Noh: Cashed in 12 straight starts, seven going for top-20 finishes. Scored in the 60s in 19 of his last 24 rounds. Ranks high in all relative splits, including 44th in par breakers, more relevant than ever in the Modified Stableford scoring system.

Group 2: Josh Teater: Calculated leap of faith as he rolls into Reno with top-10s in his last two starts. Tied for 10th at Montreux last year, and his metrics favor a continuation of form with the tournament's new format.

Group 3: Vaughn Taylor: Previous success as a two-time champ at Montreux is nice, but he's still a mild birdie machine. Put those dynamics together and it's understandable why he stands out in this crowd.

Group 4: Jason Gore: Sigh...Group 4 of an opposite event. The goal is simply to make the cut. The big fella - although not as hefty as years gone by - has grinded through injury scares over the last 12 months, yet he's still cashing checks. His latest on the Tour was a T-21 at the True South Classic where he started the final round inside the top five.

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Aiken, Waring tied at Nordea; Olesen three back

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 5:45 pm

MOLNDAL, Sweden – Paul Waring of England and Thomas Aiken of South Africa share the lead, three shots clear of their rivals, after the third round of the Nordea Masters on the European Tour on Saturday.

Waring was tied for first place with Scott Jamieson after the second round and shot a 1-under 69.

While Jamieson (75) slipped down the leaderboard, Aiken caught up Waring after shooting 67 - despite three straight bogeys from No. 15. He bounced back by making birdie at the last.

Thorbjorn Olesen (67) and Marc Warren (66) are tied for third.

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Koepka: 'Surreal' Woods waited to say congrats at PGA

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 3:47 pm

Brooks Koepka was moved by the respect shown when Tiger Woods waited for a half hour at scoring last Sunday to congratulate Koepka for his PGA Championship victory at Bellerive.

While Koepka stands as an example of the new athletes Woods has attracted to the game, he laughs hearing people compare his body to an NFL player’s.

Those were among the observations Koepka shared Friday on "The Dan Patrick Show."

“That was surreal,” Koepka said of Woods waiting to congratulate him. “To hang around on 18, I wasn’t expecting it. It was probably the coolest gesture he could have done.”

Koepka credits Woods for drawing him to the game.

“He’s the reason I am playing,” Koepka said.

Koepka said playing with Woods in contention was a noisy experience that went beyond the roars Woods created making birdies in front of him.

“Even when he makes contact, you know what shot he’s hitting,” Koepka said. “That’s how loud people are.

“When they are putting [his score] up on the leaderboard, you hear it three holes away.”

About those NFL player comparisons, Koepka said his parents wouldn’t let him play football when he was growing up.

“I wasn’t big enough,” he said.

Koepka said he marveled meeting former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

“To be compared to them, it makes me laugh,” Koepka said. “I’m about the size of a cornerback, maybe a free safety.”

Koepka said he’s just over 6 feet tall and weighs 208 pounds.

“I saw Brian Urlacher give an interview,” Koepka said. “It was kind of funny. He said he was impressed at how big I wasn’t ... If I stand next to Justin Thomas, I’m going to look big. Golf doesn’t really have many big guys.”

Koepka told Patrick he is impressed at the athletes just now coming into golf.

“I see the young guys coming out of college,” Koepka said. “They are bombing it past me. They hit it so far, they are leaving me in the dust. It’s hard to think of, because I’ve been one of the longest hitters on tour.”

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McIlroy skipping first FedExCup playoff event

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 3:19 pm

Rory McIlroy committed to playing the FedExCup Playoffs opener at The Northern Trust, the PGA Tour announced after The Open Championship last month.

But McIlroy left the PGA Championship last week saying he might need to skip the opener to regroup, and that’s just what he is doing.

McIlroy wasn’t on The Northern Trust field list published Friday on the PGA Tour’s website.

“I need to assess where I'm at,” McIlroy said leaving Bellerive last week. “I think the best thing for me to do right now is just sort of take a couple days off, reflect on what I need to do going forward.

“The best thing might be to take that first FedExCup week off and work on my game and come back, hopefully, in a better place for Boston.”

McIlroy also skipped the FedExCup opener in 2015, choosing to make his start in the playoffs at Boston that year. It appears he will do the same this year.

“Historically, the first FedEx playoff event hasn't been my best event of the four,” McIlroy said. “I've played well in Boston. I've played pretty well in the other two.”

McIlroy left Bellerive saying he would do some work on his game and see if he felt ready for the playoffs opener as part of a run of big events leading into the Ryder Cup.

“There's a lot of room for improvement,” McIlroy said. “My swing really hasn't been where I want it to be. It was pretty good at the start of the year. I had a couple of months to work on it, but it's just sort of regressed as the season went on and you start to play tournaments, you start to fall back into some of the habits that you don't want to fall back into."

McIlroy has won once over the last two seasons – at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last March – but he has given himself other chances this year with some frustrating finishes. Overall, he has five finishes of third or better in 2018. He got himself in the final pairing with Patrick Reed at the Masters but stumbled to a T-5 finish. He tied for second at The Open last month.

“Inconsistency with the swing has been the big area,” McIlroy said. “If you look at my statistics, especially with approach play on my irons, and even my driving, even though it's been OK, there's been a two-way miss, with sort of everything throughout the bag, and that obviously isn't a good thing. So that's something I need to work on.”

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Watch: Wagner saves season with walk-off eagle dunk

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 18, 2018, 2:45 am

Johnson Wagner kept his FedExCup Playoff hopes alive on Friday at the Wyndham Championship ... and he did it in dramatic fashion.

Needing a birdie on his final hole of the day to make the cut on the number, Johnson used a 9-iron from 153 yards out to dunk his approach for eagle to get inside the cut line.

Johnson's eagle at the last gave him a 66 for the day and earned him two more rounds to try and get inside the FedExCup top 125 for next week's start of the postseason, The Northern Trust.