Expert picks: True South Classic

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2012, 5:55 pm

With the British Open in England, the PGA Tour tees it up in the opposite-field True South Classic in Madison, Miss. 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.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Brendon de Jonge: Finished tied for 13th last year in Mississippi and would be a leading candidate for “best player without a Tour title” following top-20 finishes in three of his last four starts.

Group 2: Heath Slocum: Something of a home game for an original son of the South and he’s won at Annandale Golf Club before (2005).

Group 3: Brendon Todd: After a fast start, the second-year PGA Tour player has cooled, missing 13 cuts in 21 starts, but he finished strong at The Greenbrier Classic and, as a former University of Georgia player, could follow Chris Kirk to the winner’s circle in LA (Lower Alabama).

Group 4: Jason Gore: This would count as a heart, not a head, pick, but after a dismal season on the PGA Tour (he’s 0-for-6 in cuts made), the big guy would be a true Cinderella story ... again.

Jason Sobel

Group 1: Tommy Gainey: Not having the greatest season, but it’s about time Gainey started contending.

Group 2: Roberto Castro: Rookie has been coming on strong lately, should benefit from weaker field.

Group 3: Lee Janzen: Two-time U.S. Open champ is attempting to regain his PGA Tour card.

Group 4: Luke Guthrie: Recent Illinois grad is showing he can hang with the big boys.

Jay Coffin

Group 1: Bud Cauley: Believe it or not, one of the highest-ranked players in the field. It's one he can win.

Group 2: J.J. Henry: Seems like a J.J. Henry-type week doesn't it? Former Tour winner could find form.

Group 3: Duffy Waldorf: Just because I like to type Duffy Waldorf. Makes me happy.

Group 4: Shaun Micheel: Just hoping to collect some cash with a trip to the weekend.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Ken Duke: Believe it or not, Duke has six top-10s this year, five of them T-7s, the most recent at The Greenbrier Classic. Last year he finished tied for eighth at this event.

Group 2: Colt Knost: He hasn't made a cut in nine starts and won't extend that streak to double digits. His game can't be too far from reach; he had two third-place finishes earlier this year and has not suffered injury.

Group 3: Billy Horschel: He tied for 18th last year and has chased four consecutive PGA Tour paychecks. 

Group 4: Will MacKenzie: If the 2008 winner can channel his game this week he wins what's most important or him these days, a return trip to play full-time on the PGA Tour. It's time this motivation works to his advantage.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Ken Duke: Aggressive veteran has recorded a top-10 in six consecutive months. Strong record at Annadale includes a pair of top-11 finishes.

Group 2: Dicky Pride: Continues to maximize on his limited playing time. Last week’s T-25 at the John Deere was his fifth top-25 in 11 starts this season. He’s also logged four of his 18 career top-10s at this week’s host track.

Group 3: Lee Janzen: In addition to last week’s T-8 at the John Deere, he’s posted a trio of top-20s in his last five trips to Annandale.

Group 4: Luke Guthrie: He’s off to the races as a touring pro, with two top-20s in as many starts. Low non-winner at the John Deere Classic, tying for fifth place.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Blake Adams: Remarkably consistent this year, Adams is due for a breakthrough.

Group 2: Dicky Pride: His best finishes this year have come when scoring goes double digits under par. That'll be important this week.

Group 3: Billy Horschel: With limited opportunities, Horschel has cashed an awful lot this season.

Group 4: Luke Guthrie: Taking a chance on the new guy. He finished T-5 at the Deere in just his second pro start.

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Molinari reflects on beating Woods at Ryder Cup, Open

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 9:11 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Francesco Molinari might be a useful resource for the European Ryder Cup team.

He’s already beaten Tiger Woods, head to head, at a Ryder Cup and a major.

Molinari was in the anchor match at the 2012 Ryder Cup when Woods conceded on the final hole to give the Europeans an outright victory in the incredible comeback at Medinah. He said the last hole was a “blur,” and it remains the last Ryder Cup that both Molinari and Woods played.

“I’ve improved a lot as a player since 2012,” said Molinari, who lost his previous singles match against Woods in 2010, 4 and 3, “and I hope to show that on the course this week.”

The proof is the claret jug that he now keeps at home.

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To win his first major he needed to not only endure the circus that a Woods group brings, but he needed to outlast the 14-time major champion and a host of other worthy contenders to prevail at Carnoustie.

Reflecting on that momentous day Tuesday, Molinari said he initially was dreading the final-round date with Woods.

“If I’m completely honest, I wasn’t exactly hoping to be paired with Tiger, not because I don’t like to play with him, but because, obviously, the hype and with him being in contention in a major, it’s going to be noisy and it’s going to be a lot of people," he said. 

“So the most challenging part was probably that moment when the draw came out, but then I quickly managed to think, You know, whatever. I don’t really care. I’m here to do a job, and they can’t really influence how I do my job.”  

To thrive in that situation gave Molinari a lot of confidence – especially heading into a pressure-cooker like the Ryder Cup.

Asked whether it’s more pressure trying to win a major or a Ryder Cup – since he’s now done both – Molinari said: “You won’t believe me, but it’s nowhere near. Carnoustie was nowhere near Medinah or in any matching ways. It’s hard to believe, but it’s probably because you play for a team; you play for a continent in our case, and you know about the tradition and what players have done in the past.”

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Woods 25/1 to break Nicklaus' record by age 50

By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 9:05 am

With his victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods crept closer to Sam Snead's all-time PGA Tour wins mark. But he also got fans thinking about whether golf's most famous record is once again in play.

Woods has been stuck on 14 career major titles since the 2008 U.S. Open, although he had a pair of close calls this summer. But now that he's again a winner on Tour, oddsmakers at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook created bets on where Woods' career major haul will end up.

The line they drew in the sand? Dec. 30, 2025 - when Woods, now 42, will turn 50 years old.

According to the Westgate, Woods is a -150 favorite to win at least one more major by that time. He's 2/1 to win at least two more, 5/1 to win at least three more and 12/1 to win at least four more. But it'll take five more majors to break Nicklaus' record haul of 18, and the odds on Woods doing that by age 50 are set at 25/1.

There are also odds on Woods' 2019 major prospects, as he's already the betting favorite for the Masters at 9/1. Woods' odds of winning any major next year are listed at +225, while the pessimists can wager -275 that his major victory drought will extend to at least 2020.

There's even a bet for those expecting some serious history: the odds of Woods sweeping all four majors next year at age 43 are 200/1.

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All 12 Europeans have history at Le Golf National

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:55 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The European team has plenty of experience at Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National, which has been the longtime host of the French Open.

The question this week is whether it’ll matter.

The only American player to compete in this year’s French Open was Justin Thomas. Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau and Bubba Watson all got a look at Le Golf National before The Open.

Not surprisingly, the European team has a proven track record here – all 12 players have seen the course at some point. Alex Noren won in July. Tommy Fleetwood is a past champion, too. So is European vice captain Graeme McDowell. Francesco Molinari and assistant Lee Westwood also have runners-up here.

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“I definitely think it’s a help to us, for sure,” Ian Poulter said. “It’s probably the most-played venue as a Ryder Cup venue for all of the European players that have played. So we definitely have a feel of how this golf course has played in very different weather conditions. I definitely think we have an understanding of how this golf course can play.”

Of course, this setup is no different than what players typically experience as they prepare for a major championship. They’ll play 18 holes each of the next two days, then maybe nine holes on Thursday, as they get a feel for the layout.  

“When it’s the best players in the world, and we play on golf courses week-in and week-out where we have to learn a new golf course, it’s difficult to say how much of an advantage it will be,” Fleetwood said. “It can only be a good thing, or it can’t do any harm that we know the course better or that we’ve played it more times.

“Knowledge can only be a good thing. Maybe it’s a little advantage, but it’s the best players in the world that are out here, so it’s not something to look at too much.”

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First-tee grandstand 'biggest you'll ever see'

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 25, 2018, 8:27 am

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The first-tee nerves could be even more intense this week at the Ryder Cup.

If only because of the atmosphere.

The grandstand surrounding the first hole at Le Golf National is unlike anything that’s ever been seen at this event – a 6,500-seat behemoth that dwarfs the previous arenas.

“It’s the biggest grandstand you’ll ever see at a golf tournament,” Tommy Fleetwood said.

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“It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t had to hit that tee shot before,” Ian Poulter said. “When I think back (to my first Ryder Cup) in 2004, the stand is nothing like what we have today. So it really is going to be quite a special moment Friday, and it’s going to be very interesting to see.”

Poulter said it’ll be his job to prepare, as best he can, the team’s rookies for what they’ll experience when the first ball goes in the air Friday morning.

“The No. 1 thing I’ve pictured since the Ryder Cup became a goal is that first tee shot,” Fleetwood said. “But nothing prepares you for the real thing. The grandstand is pretty big – there’s no denying that.

“It’s something that everybody wants in their career, so as nerve-wracking as it is, and whatever those feelings are, everybody wants that in their life. So you just have to take it on and let it all happen.”