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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Reed: 'Back still hurts' from carrying Spieth at Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:48 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s marquee match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who are both undefeated in pool play, just keeps getting better and better.

Following his 1-up victory over Charl Schwartzel on Thursday, Reed was asked what makes Spieth, who defeated HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, so good at match play.

“I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, who teamed with Spieth at Hazeltine National.

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The duo did go 2-1-1 at the 2016 Ryder Cup and have a combined 7-2-2 record in Ryder and Presidents Cup play. Reed went on to explain why Spieth can be such a challenging opponent in match play.

“The biggest thing is he's very consistent. He hits the ball well. He chips the ball well. And he putts it really well,” Reed said. “He's not going to give you holes. You have to go and play some good golf.”

The winner of Friday’s match between Spieth and Reed will advance to the knockout stage.

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Reed vs. Spieth: Someone has to go

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 10:11 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – The introduction of round-robin play to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was a necessary evil. It was needed to stem the tide of early exits by high-profile players, but three days of pool play has also dulled the urgency inherent to match play.

There are exceptions, like Friday’s marquee match between Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, which is now a knockout duel with both players going 2-0-0 to begin the week in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

That the stars aligned so perfectly to have America’s most dominant pairing in team play the last few years square off in a winner-take-all match will only add to what promises to be must-see TV.

Sport doesn’t always follow the script, but the pre-match subtext on this one is too good to dismiss. In one corner, professional golf’s “Golden Child” who has used the Match Play to wrest himself out of the early season doldrums, and in the other there’s the game’s lovable bad boy.

Where Spieth is thoughtful and humble to the extreme, Reed can irritate and entertain with equal abandon. Perhaps that’s why they’ve paired so well together for the U.S. side at the Ryder and Presidents Cup, where they are a combined 7-2-2 as a team, although Spieth had another explanation.

“We're so competitive with each other within our own pairing at the Ryder Cup, we want to outdo each other. That's what makes us successful,” Spieth said. “Tiger says it's a phenomenon, it's something that he's not used to seeing in those team events. Normally you're working together, but we want to beat each other every time.”

But if that makes the duo a good team each year for the United States, what makes Friday’s showdown so compelling is a little more nuanced.

The duo has a shared history that stretches all the way back to their junior golf days in Texas and into college, when Reed actually committed to play for Texas as a freshman in high school only to change his mind a year later and commit to Georgia.

That rivalry has spilled over to the professional ranks, with the twosome splitting a pair of playoff bouts with Reed winning the 2013 Wyndham Championship in overtime and Spieth winning in extra holes at the 2015 Valspar Championship.

Consider Friday a rubber match with plenty of intrigue.

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Although the friendship between the two is genuine, there is an edge to the relationship, as evidenced by Reed’s comment last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational when he was denied relief on the 11th hole on Sunday.

“I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said.

While the line was clearly a joke, Reed added to Friday’s festivities when he was asked what makes Spieth such a good match play opponent. “I don't know, my back still hurts from the last Ryder Cup,” smiled Reed, a not-so-subtle suggestion that he carried Spieth at Hazeltine.

For his part, Spieth has opted for a slightly higher road. He explained this week that there have been moments in the Ryder Cup when his European opponents attempted some gamesmanship, which only angered Reed and prompted him to play better.

“I've been very nice to [Reed] this week,” Spieth smiled.

But if the light-hearted banter between the duo has fueled the interest in what is often a relatively quiet day at the Match Play, it’s their status as two of the game’s most gritty competitors that will likely lead to the rarest of happenings in sport – an event that exceeds expectations.

Both have been solid this week, with Speith winning his first two matches without playing the 18th hole and Reed surviving a late rally from Charl Schwartzel on Thursday with an approach at the 18th hole that left him a tap-in birdie to remain unbeaten.

They may go about it different ways, but both possess the rare ability to play their best golf on command.

“I’m glad the world gets to see this because it will be special,” said Josh Gregory, Reed’s college coach who still works with the world No. 23. “You have two players who want the ball and they aren’t afraid of anything. Patrick lives for this moment.”

 Where Reed seems to feed off raw emotion and the energy of a head-to-head duel, Spieth appears to take a more analytical approach to match play. Although he admits to not having his best game this week, he’s found a way to win matches, which is no surprise to John Fields, Spieth’s coach at Texas.

“Jordan gave us a tutorial before the NCAA Championship, we picked his brain on his thoughts on match play and how he competed. It’s one of those secret recipes that someone gives you,” Fields said. “When he was a junior golfer he came up with this recipe.”

Whatever the secret sauce, it will be tested on Friday when two of the game’s most fiery competitors will prove why match play can be the most entertaining format when the stars align like they have this week.

It was a sign of how compelling the match promises to be that when asked if he had any interest in the Spieth-Reed bout, Rory McIlroy smiled widely, “I have a lot of interest in that. Hopefully I get done early, I can watch it. Penalty drops everywhere.”

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Watch: Bubba casually hits flop shot over caddie's head

By Grill Room TeamMarch 22, 2018, 9:20 pm

We've seen this go wrong. Really wrong.

But when your end-of-year bonus is a couple of brand new vehicles, you're expected to go above and beyond every now and then.

One of those times came early Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott let his boss hit a flop shot over his head.

It wasn’t quite Phil Mickelson over Dave Pelz, but the again, nothing is.

And the unique warm-up session paid off, as Watson went on to defeat Marc Leishman 3 and 2 to move to 2-0-0 in group play.

Hey, whatever works.

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Spieth explains why he won't play in a 'dome'

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 9:01 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – No one at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was as excited about Thursday’s forecast as Jordan Spieth.

Winds blew across Austin Country Club to 20 mph, which is typical for this time of year in Texas, and Spieth put in a typical performance, beating HaoTong Li, 4 and 2, to remain undefeated entering the final day of pool play.

The windy conditions were exactly what Spieth, who never trailed in his match, wanted. In fact, demanding conditions factor into how he sets his schedule.

“I have, and will continue to schedule tournaments away from a dome, because it's just unusual for me. I like having the feel aspect,” said Spieth, who attended the University of Texas and played Austin Country Club in college. “Places with no wind, where it's just driving range shots, it's just never been something I've been used to. So I don't really know what to do on them.”

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Spieth used the CareerBuilder Challenge as an example. The Coachella Valley event rarely has windy conditions, and as a result he’s never played the tournament.

“I played in a dome in Phoenix, and I didn't strike the ball well there. Actually I've had quite a few this year, where we didn't have very windy conditions,” said Spieth, who will face Patrick Reed in his final pool play match on Friday. “I don't go to Palm Springs, never have, because of that. Look at where you can take weeks off and if they match up with places that potentially aren't the best for me, then it works out.”