Expert Picks: Sony Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 11, 2012, 3:07 pm experts offer up their fantasy choices for the Sony Open. 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: K.J. Choi: Won here in 2008, tied for fifth last week and was a rare bright spot for the International Team at the President's Cup.

Group 2: Davis Love III: Captain America may say he has no interest in playing this year's matches, but he burns to make another Ryder Cup team.

Group 3: Jimmy Walker: Fresh off his best year on Tour and finished fourth last year in Hawaii.

Group 4: Jason Bohn: Plenty of experience at Waialae and looking for a rebound year. Plus he still may be celebrating Alabama's win in the BCS Championship.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Webb Simpson: Let's not over-think this; he contends every week. Take a sure thing when you can get it.

Group 2: Charles Howell III: Five top-10s at Waialae in 10 career starts. That first Sony Open win is coming soon.

Group 3: Chad Campbell: Owns three finishes of 13th or better at this event in the last four years. The other time? He forgot to register.

Group 4: Billy Hurley: While stationed at Pearl Harbor, former Navy man played Waialae a handful of times.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: K.J. Choi: Hoping my competition leans on Steve Stricker and Webb Simpson here. Choi won the Sony in 2008.

Group 2: Charles Howell III: Chalk. He's 10-for-10 with five top-fives here.

Group 3: Brian Gay: Top-25s in his last three trips to the Sony. Splits fairways and saves pars.

Group 4: Stephen Ames: Wide-open selection. Putting my stock in five top-20s in seven starts at Waialae.

Jay Coffin

Group 1: KJ Choi: He's won here, has three top-10s and played well at Kapalua last week.

Group 2: Mark Wilson: If the defending champ is in Group 2 I think you have to take a chance on him.

Group 3: Jason Kokrak: A lot of people are high on this rookie; we'll see what he's made of right away.

Group 4: Jason Bohn: No real strategy here, just a gut feeling.

Gary Williams

Group 1: Webb Simpson: Possibly the most consistent American in the world right now and recorded a solid third place finish last week at Kapalua.

Group 2: Charles Howell III: Whenever you look at someone's record and see five top-fives in 10 starts, it is bound to get your attention.

Group 3: Cameron Tringale: Might be overlooked with two missed cuts at Waialae, but jumped from 179th to 68th on the money list in 2011 behind solid play.

Group 4: Russell Knox: First start of his rookie season after finishing 12th on the 2011 Nationwide Tour money list. Will look to start the next phase of his career strong.

Erik Kuselias

Group 1: Steve Stricker: Seems like a no-brainer. The man won last week and has played well at Waialae, with 6 top-10s in 12 Sony Open starts.

Group 2: Charles Howell III: After a solid 2011, Chuckie Three Sticks is looking for a hot start in 2012. This course seems to fit his eye.

Group 3: Brian Gay: Waialae CC is not a long course and requires driving accuracy and a strong short game. Gay seems to fit that bill.

Group 4: Russell Knox: After watching him in 2011, I know this guy can play and think he will get his PGA Tour career off to a great start this week.

 Win McMurry

Group 1: Webb Simpson: Surprised me with a nice finish at Kapalua. Combine that confidence with a little experience and I think Simpson will add another trophy to his quickly-growing collection.

Group 2: Steve Marino: Tough choice here but I give the edge to Marino based on his pure percentage of success here: three top-10s in four career starts.

Group 3: Chad Campbell: Solid record here with T-13 and T-8 finishes the last two years. He has two other top-10s here as well since 2006.

Group 4: Kyle Reifers: The Wake Forest grad doesn't have experience on his side, but does have the ability to hit fairways - a necessity this week and common thread among past champs.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Steve Stricker: Last week's winner has an outstanding record at Waialae, including three top-4 finishes in the last five years.

Group 2: Charles Howell III: Since 2005, he has finished everywhere in the top 5 but first.

Group 3: Chad Campbell: Has a good track record at the Sony Open, and had his second-best finish here last season.

Group 4: Russell Knox: Got to the PGA Tour, in part, with a high-pressure win as a Nationwide Tour Monday qualifier. Lots of pressure this week, too.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Webb Simpson: Showed some terrific ball-striking in last week's T-3 finish at Hyundai. Putter should be warmed up this week to complete the mission.

Group 2: Kevin Na: Liked that 64 he put up in the second round at Kapalua. Also like his Sony showings of T-5 in 2009 and T-4 in 2008.

Group 3: Paul Goydos: His Sony victory five years ago still resonates despite three missed cuts since.

Group 4: Matt Bettencourt: That T-5 last year gets your attention, and he should have good vibes in his return this week.

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Twice winner Kizzire on missing U.S. Open: 'Fuel to my fire'

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:59 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Based on recent form, there likely wasn’t a more decorated player watching last week’s U.S. Open from home than Patton Kizzire.

Kizzire is in the midst of a breakthrough season that has already included two wins: a maiden victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November, and a marathon playoff triumph over James Hahn at the Sony Open in January. While those titles got him into the Masters and the PGA Championship, they didn’t mean an exemption to Shinnecock Hills.

Kizzire got as high as 51st in the world rankings after his win in Honolulu, but his game started to turn shortly thereafter. A T-12 finish at the WGC-Mexico Championship is his lone top-25 finish in 12 starts since his Sony victory, and he missed four straight cuts from the Masters to The Players Championship.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

The U.S. Open grants exemptions to the top 60 in the world at two different cutoff points close to the tournament. But in the midst of a cold streak, Kizzire was 63rd and 65th at each of those deadlines. He attempted to earn a spot at sectional qualifying in Columbus, only to find that his score of 5 under was one shot too many.

“I guess just adding a little fuel to my fire, adding insult to injury,” Kizzire said. “Just to have narrowly missed several different ways of qualification was disappointing. But I just tried to spin it as a positive. I got two weeks off, and I did watch those guys struggle a little bit. I wasn’t struggling at home, we’ll just say that.”

Kizzire hopes to put the disappointment behind him this week at the Travelers Championship, where he finished T-53 a year ago. And while his pair of trophies didn’t get him a tee time last week – or guarantee him a berth in The Open next month – they put him in prime position to make the season-ending Tour Championship, which would mean spots in the first three majors of 2019.

The combination of two recent wins and a ranking outside the top 60 isn’t one that comes up often on Tour, but Kizzire maintains a balanced perspective as he looks to get back to playing the kind of golf that will ensure he doesn’t miss any more majors in the near future.

“If I would have played better in between the U.S. Open and my last win, I would have gotten in. So my play was the reason I wasn’t in,” Kizzire said. “You certainly could look at it and say, ‘This guy’s got two wins, he should be in.’ But I’m not making too much of it.”

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Masters, Players and U.S. Open champs grouped at Travelers

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:50 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Fresh off a second straight U.S. Open victory, Brooks Koepka is getting right back to work at the Travelers Championship.

Koepka has stood by his commitment to tee it up at TPC River Highlands, becoming the first U.S. Open champ to play the following week on the PGA Tour since Justin Rose played the Travelers after his 2013 win at Merion. Koepka will play the first two rounds alongside Masters champ Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson, who captured The Players Championship last month.

Here’s a look at some of the other marquee, early-round groupings for a star-studded field outside Hartford (all times ET):

7:50 a.m. Thursday, 12:50 p.m. Friday: Jason Day, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger

Day is making his second straight Travelers appearance, having missed the cut both last year in Cromwell and last week at Shinnecock Hills. He’ll be joined by reigning Rookie of the Year Schauffele and Berger, who took home ROY honors in 2015 and last year was on the losing end of Jordan Spieth’s playoff dramatics at this event.

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

8 a.m. Thursday, 1 p.m. Friday: Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson

Koepka is making his third tournament appearance overall, but his first since a T-9 finish in 2016, before he had either of his two U.S. Open trophies. Reed has become a regular at this event and enters off a fourth-place showing on Long Island, while Simpson cruised to victory last month at TPC Sawgrass and tied for 10th last week.

12:50 p.m. Thursday, 7:50 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Russell Knox

This was the tournament that turned things around last year for Spieth, who took home the title in his debut thanks to one of the most dramatic shots of the year in a playoff against Berger. He’ll start his title defense alongside a pair of past champs, as Leishman won here for his first Tour title back in 2012 and Knox was a winner two years ago when the tournament was played in August.

1 p.m. Thursday, 8 a.m. Friday: Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

This group should get plenty of attention in the early rounds, with Thomas entering as the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 2 and joined a pair of players who will launch drives all across TPC River Highlands. Watson has feasted on this layout, winning in both 2010 and 2015 among five top-10 finishes, while McIlroy tied for 17th last year in his tournament debut but missed the cut last week at Shinnecock.

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Travelers Championship: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2018, 5:30 pm

There will be plenty of star power this week in Hartford as the PGA Tour moves north for the Travelers Championship. Here is the key info for this week's event.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3:30-6:30PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Purse: $7 million

Course: TPC River Highlands (par 70, 6,841 yards)

Defending champion: Jordan Spieth. Defeated Daniel Berger with a birdie on the first playoff hole.

Notables in the field

Jordan Spieth

• Missed last two cuts (the Memorial, U.S. Open) entering this week

• 188th on PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting (4th in strokes gained: tee to green)

• Only player to win Travelers Championship back-to-back: Phil Mickelson (2001-02)

Brooks Koepka

• Making third career start in Travelers Championship (last start: T-9 in 2016)

• First player to play Travelers week after U.S. Open win since 2013 (Justin Rose)

• First player to win U.S. Open back-to-back since 1988-89 (Curtis Strange)

Justin Thomas

• Fifth career start in this event (MC, T-3, MC last three years)

• Second on PGA Tour this season in strokes gained: tee to green (+1.49)

Rory McIlroy

• Second career start in Travelers Championship (T-17 last year)

• Missed cut last week at U.S. Open (shot 80 in opening round)

Jason Day

• Fourth career start in Travelers Championship (best finish: T-18 in 2014)

• Leads PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting this season

Patrick Reed

• Earned second-most world ranking points of any player in 2018

• Finished fourth at U.S. Open last week (three shots behind Koepka)

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Day 'disappointed' in USGA's handling of course, Phil

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 5:16 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Jason Day had the weekend off following a missed cut at the U.S. Open, but that didn’t prevent the Aussie from keeping an eye on all the drama that unfolded at Shinnecock Hills.

The former world No. 1 found it “disappointing,” – with “it” being both the deterioration of a major championship setup and the fallout from Phil Mickelson’s putter slap during the third round.

Day is hoping to bounce back from an early exit at this week’s Travelers Championship, but before turning his attention to TPC River Highlands he shared that the brunt of his disappointment stemmed from the USGA’s inability to keep Shinnecock playable during the third round and their subsequent decision to water it down for the tournament’s conclusion.

“It’s more the course, about how they set it up. Because Saturday was a total, it was like two different golf courses, practically, on the greens Saturday versus Sunday,” Day said. “I just wish they would leave it alone and just let it go. Not saying to let the greens go and let them dry out and make it unfair, I’m just saying plan accordingly and hopefully whatever the score finishes, it finishes, whether it’s under par or over par.”

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

But Day’s frustration also tied back to Mickelson’s head-turning decision to hit a moving ball on the 13th green during the third round, and the USGA’s subsequent ruling that the actions merited a two-shot penalty but not a disqualification.

“It’s obviously disappointing to see what Phil did,” he said. “I think a lot of people have mixed reviews about what he did.”

USGA officials explained over the weekend that Mickelson’s actions explicitly fell under Rule 14-5, which called for a two-shot addition and turned his score of 8 into a 10, rather than Rule 1-2 or Rule 33-7 that could have resulted in disqualification for a “serious breach” of the rules.

Day felt it was unfortunate that all of Saturday’s drama deflected attention from a world-class performance from Brooks Koepka en route to a successful title defense, but when it comes to the handling of the Mickelson controversy he believes the USGA could have made good use of a mulligan.

“It’s just unfortunate that it happened at the USGA’s tournament, where they enforce the rules, like the R&A. And I think they may have, they probably should have enforced a different outcome for Phil,” Day said. “But it is what it is. It’s done. It’s just disappointing that that is overshadowing the winner of the whole week. I think if they had it back again, they may have chosen a different outcome.”