Expert picks: Travelers Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 19, 2012, 8:00 pm

This week the PGA Tour heads to Connecticut as the Travelers Championship takes place across TPC River Highlands. Fredrik Jacobson defends his title against a strong field, including U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson. 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; and Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.

Gary Williams

Group 1: Hunter Mahan: Mahan has nothing but great memories of this event as the Travelers offered him one of his first sponsor's exemptions, and then in 2007 was the site of his first career Tour win. From 2006-2009, he went runner-up, win, runner-up, T-4 in this event. He has a pair of wins in 2012 and I think TPC River Highlands could be the site of his third of the year.

Group 2: Ryan Moore: Moore is another player who was invited to play the Travelers Championship early in his career and has since returned year after year. He finished runner-up in his first appearance in 2006 and in the last three years has finished T-4, T-13 and T-2. He has made the cut in each of his last seven Tour starts and while he has three top-10s, he would certainly like another and this could be the place to get it.

Group 3: Blake Adams: The Georgia native has had a quiet year except for notable performances in two events: The Players and the U.S. Open. Adams was T-4 entering the final round last week before shooting a Sunday 75 to finish T-21. Having finished ninth here last year, momentum could be on his side this week.

Group 4: Chris DiMarco: This 3-time PGA Tour winner has not won since 2002 but he has played well in the Travelers Championship, making the cut in each of his last ten starts. After an encouraging start to 2012, DiMarco has been struggling of late but this could be the place where he puts up a strong finish to change his momentum for the season.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Hunter Mahan: Strongly considered Jacobson here but give the edge to the 2007 champion to pick up his third win of the season. While not impressive he did have a solid showing last week, tying for 38th. Couple that with his victory at TPC River Highlands and his two runner-ups here as well and he has the resume to contend.

Group 2: Michael Thompson: In addition to his runner-up finish at the U.S. Open (seemingly out of nowhere) he also finished fourth at the Travelers a year ago. He's been cashing some decent checks in 2012 with five top-25 finishes and ranks fifth on Tour in strokes gained putting.

Group 3: Blake Adams: The Georgia boy made a little noise at the Open before carding a 75 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 21st, one of four top-25s this year. He tied for ninth at last year's Travelers so he comes in with form as well as past success at TPC River Highlands.

Group 4: Kevin Kisner: He tied for 13th at the FedEx St. Jude Classic the week before the U.S. Open and I look for him to continue that form after his week off. 

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Hunter Mahan: His breakthrough victory (2007) came at TPC River Highlands and his recent short-game work with Mark Roe has already started to pay dividends.

Group 2: Michael Thompson: Bookend rounds of 66-67 at the U.S. Open were no flukes and he played well in Hartford last year, finishing fourth.

Group 3: John Merrick: Was on the bench last week after a runner-up showing in Memphis and according to his swing coach Jamie Mulligan, his results are finally starting to catch up with his game.

Group 4: Brad Faxon: A rare cameo for the senior on the PGA Tour but good putting is ageless and the New England native has had success at TPC River Highlands, winning here in 2005.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Hunter Mahan: Hard not to like the 2007 champion here, who boasts a solid overall track record. The problem comes with his lackluster performance the last two years.

Group 2: Ryan Moore: Moore has a pair of runner-up finishes in this event and was T-4 in 2009. He likes the place and is quietly enjoying a good season.

Group 3: Kevin Streelman: Streelman was T-6 here last year and T-10 in 2008. He's never missed a cut here and seems like good value.

Group 4: Mark Anderson: It's a shootout this week and Anderson makes plenty of birdies as he is T-21 on Tour in birdie average. He's missed four cuts in a row, but TPC River Highlands should suit his eye.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Matt Kuchar: Now that I'm back on top of the Experts leaderboard (for the third time), I'm not going to get cute. Taking the chalk here. He hasn't missed a cut in 20 starts and serves as the most consistent and valuable talent in this group.

Group 2: Ryan Moore: Seemingly always reinventing himself, he's logged four top-15s in six appearances at TPC River Highlands, thus illustrating an infrequent constant over the years. Co-runner-up twice, including last year. 

Group 3: Kevin Streelman: Though he's struggled in recent starts, TPC River Highlands has presented itself as a comfort zone of sorts. He's 4-for-4 with a pair of top-10s, including a T-6 finish in 2011.

Group 4: Vaughn Taylor: Flies in under the radar having missed his last four cuts, but he's cashed in seven of eight visits to TPC River Highlands with a personal-best T-9 two years ago.

**Join Fantasy Expert Rob Bolton for a live golf chat Wednesday at 12:00p ET at**

Tune in to Golf Channel Thursday-Friday from 3P-6P ET for live coverage of the Travelers Championship.

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Match-by-match: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 1

By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 6:32 pm

Here is how things played out on Day 1 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play:

Group 15: (15) Pat Perez vs. (50) Si Woo Kim, halved: The first match of the day ended up in a draw, as the top seed rallied from a deficit to salvage half a point. Kim won three of the first six holes and held a 3-up lead with seven holes to go, but Perez fought back with four birdies over the next six holes to draw even.

Group 15: (24) Gary Woodland vs. (37) Webb Simpson, halved: This group remains entirely up for grabs since nothing was decided on the opening day. Woodland took a 3-up lead at the turn, but Simpson rallied by winning four of the next seven holes, including a birdie on No. 17 that brought him back to all square for the first time since the third hole.

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Watch: Thomas saves par from impossible position

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 5:18 pm

Luke List was just hoping for an opening in his Day 1 match against Justin Thomas at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Thomas cracked the door on the par-4 ninth, but then quickly slammed it shut. Thomas, 3 up through eight holes, was in terrible shape after two shots at No. 9. But his third shot was a beauty, and a heartbreaker for List.

Thomas made the putt to halve the hole and make the turn 3 up.

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LPGA's new Q-Series to offer deferrals for amateurs

By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 4:36 pm

The LPGA’s new Q-Series, which takes the place of the final stage of Q-School beginning this year, will come with a revolutionary new twist for amateurs.

For the first time, the LPGA will offer deferrals that will allow amateurs to win tour membership in December but delay turning pro until the following June or July, tour commissioner Mike Whan told

It’s a notable change, because the deferral will allow a collegiate player to earn tour membership at the end of this year but retain amateur status to finish out her collegiate spring season next year, before joining the tour.

“We haven’t done that in the past, because we didn’t want an onslaught, where every player in college is trying to join the tour,” Whan said.

The way it worked in the past, a collegian could advance through the final stage of Q-School, but if that player earned the right to a tour card and wanted to take up membership, she had to declare after the final round that she was turning pro. It meant the player would leave her college team in the middle of the school year. It was a particularly difficult decision for players who earned conditional LPGA status, and it played havoc with the makeup of some college teams.

Whan said the revamped Q-Series format won’t create the collegiate stampede that deferrals might have in the past.

“It will take a unique talent to show up at the first stage of Q-School and say, ‘I’ll see you at Q-Series,’” Whan said. “There won’t be a lot of amateurs who make it there.”

Under the new qualifying format, there will continue to be a first and second stage of Q-School, but it will be much harder to advance to the final stage, now known Q-Series.

Under the old format, about 80 players advanced from the second stage to the Q-School finals. Under the new format, only 15 to 25 players from the second stage will advance to the Q-Series, and only a portion of those are likely to be collegians.

Under the new format, a maximum of 108 players will meet at the Q-Series finals, where a minimum of 45 tour cards will be awarded after 144 holes of competition, played over two weeks on two different courses. The field will include players who finished 101st to 150th and ties on the final LPGA money list, and players who finished 11th to 30th and ties on the final Symetra Tour money list. The field will also include up to 10 players from among the top 75 of the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and the top five players on the Golfweek Women’s Collegiate Rankings.

“We feel if you make it to the Q-Series finals as a college player, you are probably among the best of the best, and we ought to give you the opportunity to finish the college year,” Whan said.

University of Washington coach Mary Lou Mulflur said she would prefer amateurs not be allowed to compete at Q-School, but she called this a workable compromise.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Mulflur said. “It’s better than the way it’s been in the past. That was hard, because it broke up teams.”

Mulflur said she disliked the tough position the former policy put college players in at the final stage of Q-School, where they had to decide at event’s end whether to turn pro and accept tour membership.

“I can’t imagine being a kid in that position, and I’ve had a couple kids in that position,” Mulflur said. “It’s hard on everybody, the player, the family and the coaches. You hear about coaches standing there begging a kid not to turn pro, and that’s just not the way it should be, for the coach or the player.”

Mulflur agreed with Whan that the new Q-Series format should limit the number of collegians who have a chance to win tour cards.

“I believe it’s a good compromise, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out going forward,” Mulflur said. “Kudos to the commissioner for giving kids this option.”

University of Miami coach Patti Rizzo, a four-time LPGA winner, applauds the deferral option. Two years ago, Rizzo lost her best player, Danny Darquea, who turned pro in the spring. It hurt Miami’s team.

“That was probably our best chance in seven years to win the nationals,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo said her concerns seeing a player turn pro go beyond how it affects her team.

“What all these girls need to realize now is that a degree is more important than ever,” Rizzo said. “In my day, it was like, 'My chances are pretty good. I will get my card.’ But it’s so much more competitive now. And financially, it’s hard to make it. I think it’s so much harder than it ever was. So many girls aren’t making it, and they need a backup plan.”

Darquea is playing the Symetra Tour now, but Rizzo said she is also back in Miami taking classes to finish up her final semester and get her degree.

“It’s great she is doing that, but it would have been better if she could have stayed in college three more months and got her degree and then turned pro,” Rizzo said. “I think this deferral option is great, and I would think all the college coaches will think so, too.”

Whan said collegians who take deferrals will be counseled.

“We will sit down with them and their families and explain the risks,” Whan said. “If you take a deferral and start playing on July 15, you might find yourself back in Q-Series again later that year, because you may not have enough time.”

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Tour still focused on security after death of suspected Austin bomber

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 4:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Although the suspect in the wave of Austin-area bombings was killed early Wednesday, the PGA Tour plans to continue heightened security measures at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

According to various news outlets, Mark Anthony Conditt has been identified as the bombings suspect, and he was killed by an explosion inside his car in Round Rock, Texas, which is 19 miles north of Austin Country Club.

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“We do not comment on the specifics of our security measures, but we are continuing to work in close collaboration with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Austin to ensure the safety of our players and fans at this week’s tournament,” the Tour said in a statement. “Regardless of the recent developments, our heightened security procedures will remain in place through the remainder of the week.”

Authorities believe Conditt is responsible for the five explosions that killed two people and injured five others in Austin or south-central Texas since March 2.

Play began Wednesday at the Match Play.