Expert picks: Wells Fargo Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 1, 2012, 5:00 pm

This week the PGA Tour heads to Charlotte for the Wells Fargo Championship, where an elite field will tackle one of the toughest courses on Tour - Quail Hollow Club. 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.

Gary Williams

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: I think his T-40 at Augusta was an aberration, not the start of a trend. Prior to that the 2010 Wells Fargo champion had 12 straight top-11 finishes in starts that counted toward the OWGR and he has a chance this week to regain the top ranking with a strong finish.

Group 2: Johnson Wagner: Not only does Wagner call Charlotte home these days, he also calls Quail Hollow his home course. He's had an unbelievable 2012 so far and although he hasn't played that well at this event in the past, his four top-10 finishes in 12 starts this year suggest he has a lot of good golf in him at his home course this week.

Group 3: Henrik Stenson: After a period where his game seemingly went into the abyss, Stenson has shown signs of life. He has four top-21 finishes in six starts on Tour this year and he would have been better than T-40 in the Masters if not for a final round 81. This former Players champion has shown he can succeed on tough courses.

Group 4: David Duval: Just like the Journey song, don't stop believing in David Duval because I haven't. He has played well at Quail Hollow and his two made cuts in 2012 came in his last two starts. Duval is a major champion and a Players champion so he has shown he can compete on demanding courses.

Erik Kuselias

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: It doesn't matter what the OWGR says, McIlroy is the best player in the world right now and I am not holding his T-40 finish at Augusta against him. Before that aberration, McIlroy had 12 consecutive top-11 finishes in events that count toward the OWGR, and I think he is motivated by losing his No. 1 ranking to Luke Donald.

Group 2: Retief Goosen: Goosen got off to a strong start in 2012 with a pair of top-3 finishes in his native South Africa and although he has cooled off a bit recently, he has shown he can play well at Quail Hollow. Goosen finished T-10 here in 2006 and T-11 in his last appearance here in 2009. Don't bet against this guy.

Group 3: Pat Perez: Perez started 67-65 in this event last year before weekend rounds of 70-75 dropped him to a T-6 finish. That, along with a T-12 finish here in 2008, shows he can play well on this Charlotte course. He has five top-25 finishes in 10 starts on Tour this year, including a T-12 showing in Houston.

Group 4: Billy Mayfair: Mayfair has quietly put together a couple strong finishes in 2012 with a T-12 finish at the Mayakoba Golf Classic and a T-4 finish at the RBC Heritage. He has a pair of tenth place finishes here in 2005 and 2007 while in 2010, he held a two-stroke lead after 54 holes before a Sunday 76 dropped him to T-14. I think he is a sneaky strong Group Four pick.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Phil Mickelson: When you look at the illustrious list of names this tournament boasts as champions, Mickelson is one key name that is missing. He's been close, though, with six top-10s in eight starts. Lefty loves this place.

Group 2: Cameron Tringale: You're probably sick of me touting Tringale for three weeks in a row now, but why wouldn't I? He keeps delivering top-10 finishes. Last week's T-7 was his third in a row and fourth overall this year. He survived the cut on this difficult course in 2011, and I think he's going to break through soon.

Group 3: Bobby Gates: While this event sees names you typically know well rise to the top, Gates managed to tie for sixth last year. Add to that a finish just inside the top 25 last week and you have a solid selection for Group Three.

Group 4: J.J. Henry: For a pick in Group Four, Henry should have no issue making money this week. He finished T-33 in Charlotte last year and T-52 last week. One of the best past performance/current success combos in the final category of players.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Phil Mickelson: He has already won this year. in eight Quail Hollow starts, he has six top-10 finishes.

Group 2: Kevin Na: Had been on fire before withdrawing in San Antonio. He was fifth here a year ago.

Group 3: Pat Perez: Perez was excellent through 54 holes here a year ago before a Sunday 75. He has been very consistent to start the year.

Group 4: David Mathis: Riding a hot hand here, as Mathis has gone T-18 and T-10 in his last two starts.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Phil Mickelson: Lefty shows he's still the hottest lefty in the game by winning Wells Fargo. He has finished in the top 10 the last three times he has played Quail Hollow.

Group 2: Jonathan Byrd: This is his part of the country, and he looks comfortable at Quail Hollow. Finished 2nd there last year and T-5 three years ago.

Group 3: Ken Duke: The man keeps dancing into contention...

Group 4: Jason Bohn: That third-place finish at Quail Hollow four years ago is still in the memory bank.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Phil Mickelson: In eight starts at Quail Hollow, Lefty has a place (runner-up in 2010), a show (T-3 in 2007) and six top 10s. The only thing missing is a 'W' and after the way he performed at Augusta, it's difficult to imagine that breakthrough is far off.

Group 2: Jonathan Byrd: Last year's runner-up was solid from the first tee in 2011, opening with a 66 and holding the third-round lead before Lucas Glover forced extra holes. The Carolina native plays his best golf in the south.

Group 3: Pat Perez: Tour's preeminent bad boy was nearly perfect through three rounds at Quail Hollow last year before unraveling with a closing 75. He's off to the most consistent start of his career (just two missed cuts in ten starts).

Group 4: Vaughn Taylor: Veteran has pieced together a solid spring and he has played well in Charlotte in the past (top-10 finishes in 2005 and '06).

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Rory McIlroy: Despite a tie for 40th in his last start (Masters), he's been the most consistently strong golfer over the last six months. Plus, he's won at Quail Hollow and owns the course record.

Group 2: Kevin Na: Not worried about his withdrawal in San Antonio, where he's more of a punch line than a fighter. He had posted three consecutive top-15 finishes entering that week and he finished fifth at last year's Wells Fargo.

Group 3: Chris Stroud: Rolls into Charlotte having cashed in his last six starts, a stretch that includes five top-25s. Also love how he matches up with Quail Hollow. His short game is sublime, and that will matter considerably this week.

Group 4: Mark Anderson: Leaning on his eight consecutive cuts made, which is a valuable resource in this group. The PGA Tour rookie plays an aggressive game that he backs up with above-average putting.

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

Tune in to Golf Channel this Thursday-Friday from 3-6PM ET for live coverage of the Wells Fargo Championship.

USGA/Chris Keane

Even with broken driver, Salinda beats Hagestad at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 17, 2018, 2:52 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – With a trip to the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals on the line, and with the Pacific Ocean staring him in the face, Isaiah Salinda piped a 330-yard drive down Pebble Beach’s 18th hole.

Not a bad poke with a replacement driver.

Salinda’s Round of 16 match against Stewart Hagestad got off to a rocky start Thursday afternoon with an awkward tee shot on the second hole.

“The ball came out weird, with no spin,” said Salinda’s caddie and former Stanford teammate, Bradley Knox. “He said, ‘Yeah, that felt weird.’”

Salinda looked at the bottom of his Callaway Epic driver and noticed a crack.

Worried that they'd have to play the rest of the round with only a 3-wood, Knox called a Callaway equipment rep, told him the issue, and was relieved to hear he'd meet them at the back of the third tee. Salinda teed off the next hole with a 3-wood – he’d taken driver there all week – and wound up in a tricky spot, on the side of a mound, leading to a bogey.

“Then they came over and cranked the driver,” Knox said. “It was like a NASCAR pit crew.”

The replacement driver was nearly identical – same head, same loft, same weighting – except for the lie angle. The new one was a degree flatter than his gamer, which led to a few more pulled shots than usual.

“It took a little while to recover the mindset that we’d had the rest of the week,” Knox said.

Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos

Salinda downplayed the equipment malfunction – “I just had to adjust, and it wasn’t really a problem” – but he didn’t play well early. After trailing for just one hole during his first two matches, he was 4 over par and 2 down through 10 holes against Hagestad, the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who’d finally made match play after eight previous failed attempts.

On 11, Salinda finally got going, stuffing a wedge shot to 10 feet and recording his first birdie. He followed with three clutch pars before another good approach on 15, leading to a conceded birdie to square the match.

On the home hole, Salinda bombed his drive about 30 yards past Hagestad and had 220 yards to the flag. It was a perfect 4-iron distance, and he sent a rocket into a blinding sunset.

“I never saw it,” Salinda said. “I told my caddie: ‘Where is that? I have no idea.’ But it felt good.”

A lone voice shrieked as the ball landed on the green. They knew the shot had to be tight. Years ago, Stanford senior Chris Meyers had made an albatross on 18 for a walkoff victory with Lee Janzen at the PGA Tour Champions’ First Tee Open. Knox thought they’d come close to duplicating the feat.

“Probably almost had a Chris Meyers,” Knox said, chuckling, as they walked up the fairway.

The shot never had a chance to drop – turns out the spectator was well-lubricated – but it still was only 35 feet away, for eagle. Salinda cozied his putt to a few feet and could only watch as Hagestad’s last-ditch 25-footer stopped a rotation short of the cup.

The Round of 16 victory continued a breakout summer for Salinda. His 15th-place showing at the NCAA Championship kick-started a three-month stretch in which he’s finally taken his game to the next level.

“He’s shown flashes of brilliance before,” Knox said, “and he’s had the game. But now he has the consistency and the confidence that it’ll come back time and time again.”

Salinda shot 62 in the third round and won the Pacific Coast Amateur, which boasts one of the strongest fields of the summer. Then he finished third in stroke play at the Western Amateur before a quarterfinal loss in match play.

Now he’s one step closer to his biggest victory yet – even with a backup driver.

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Salas (62) leads LPGA's Indy Women in Tech

By Associated PressAugust 17, 2018, 12:50 am

INDIANAPOLIS - Lizette Salas' waited 77 minutes to line up her 4-foot putt to take the lead Thursday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

She refused to let the weather delay get to her.

When the 29-year-old California player returned to the course, she quickly rolled in the birdie putt, finished her round with another birdie at No. 18 and took a two-shot lead over Angel Yin and Nasa Hataoka with a course record-tying 10-under 62.

''I didn't even think about it the entire time,'' Salas said. ''I was hanging out with Danielle (Kang) and she was giving me her silly dad jokes. So it definitely kept my mind off of it. I was really excited to be back and to finish off with a birdie, from off the green, was the icing on the cake.''

It's the lowest score by a female player at the Brickyard Crossing.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson opened last year's inaugural tournament with a 63, one shot off of Mike McCullough's 62 in the PGA Champions Tour's 1999 Comfort Classic.

But the way the saturated 6,456-yard course played Thursday, Salas needed virtually every putt of her career-best round to reach the top of the leaderboard.

The morning starters took advantage of overnight rain by shooting right at the pins.

And nobody made a bigger early splash than Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who finished second in last year's rookie of the year race.

She opened with five straight birdies and shot 8-under 28 on the front nine. Only a par on No. 6 prevented her from becoming the sixth LPGA player to shoot 27 on nine holes. South Korea's Mi Hyang Lee did it most recently at the 2016 JTBC Founders Cup.

Yin also tied the third-lowest nine-hole score in relation to par in tour history.

Her only bobble came with a bogey on No. 13 and she closed out her best career round with a birdie on No. 18.

Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship

''I have never done that before,'' she said. ''I had nine putts, I think, on the front nine, which is incredible. I've never had that many little putts. But it just felt good. Everything was working.''

Last year's runner-up for rookie of the year has never won an LPGA Tour title in her home country though she did win in a playoff at Dubai on the Ladies European Tour.

Everybody seemed to find their groove Thursday.

Eighty-eight of the 143 players shot under par and 54 were 3-under or better.

And with more rain in the forecast Thursday night and Friday, the scores could go even lower as a star-studded cast chases down Salas, Yin and Hataoka.

Four players, including Kang and Jane Park, are three shots behind.

Seven players, including last year's tournament runner-up Lydia Ko, are four shots back. Ko was tied with Yin for the lead - until she knocked her tee shot on the par-4, 16th into the water. She wound up with a double bogey and birdied the final hole to finish with 66.

After taking a monthlong break to recover from physical and mental exhaustion, Thompson looked relaxed and comfortable in her return to the course. She shot 68.

''It was hard for me to take the break because I didn't want to show weakness,'' she said. ''But at the same time, it takes a lot of strength to acknowledge that you need that kind of break and just take time for yourself, especially when you're in the spotlight like this.''

Salas, meanwhile, started fast with an eagle on the par-5 second and finished with a flurry.

She birdied three straight holes on the front side to get to 5-under, added birdies at Nos. 12 and 14 to get to 7-under and then birdied the final three holes - around the approaching storm - to put herself in contention for her first title since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.

''I have been just striking the ball really well this entire year, and just glad some more putts dropped today,'' she said. ''I was really refreshed. I didn't practice at all last week, and I was just really eager and excited to be back.''

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Sordet opens with 62 to grab lead at Nordea Masters

By Associated PressAugust 16, 2018, 11:23 pm

GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Clement Sordet opened with four straight birdies to shoot 8-under 62 and take the first-round lead of the Nordea Masters on Thursday.

Sordet says ''I wasn't really focusing on the score, I was just enjoying it.''

The Frenchman, who shot his lowest European Tour round, has a two-stroke lead over Scott Jamieson of Scotland and Lee Slattery of England.

Hunter Stewart is the highest-placed American after a 5-under 65 left him on a four-way tie for fourth with Christofer Blomstrand, Tapio Pulkkanen and Richard Green.

Defending champion Renato Paratore's hopes of becoming the first player to successfully retain the title look in doubt after the Italian shot 9-over 79 at Hills Golf Club.

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Peterson confirms plans to play Finals

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2018, 9:17 pm

After flirting with retirement for much of the summer, John Peterson confirmed that he will give it one more shot in the upcoming Tour Finals.

Peterson, 29, had planned to walk away from the game and begin a career in real estate in his native Texas if he failed to secure PGA Tour status before his medical extension expired. His T-13 finish last month at The Greenbrier appeared to be enough to net the former NCAA champ at least conditional status, but a closer look at the numbers revealed he missed out by 0.58 points in his last available start.

Full-field scores from Wyndham Championship

Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos

But Peterson was buoyed by the support he received from his peers at The Greenbrier, and when he got into the Barbasol Championship as a late alternate he decided to make the trip to the tournament. He tied for 21st that week in Kentucky, clinching enough non-member FedExCup points to grant him a spot in the four-event Finals.

Last month Peterson hinted that he would consider playing in the Finals, where 25 PGA Tour cards for the 2018-19 season will be up for grabs, and Thursday he confirmed in an Instagram post that he will give his pro career "one last push."

The Finals kick off next week in Ohio with the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship and will conclude Sept. 20-23 with the Tour Championship. Peterson will be looking to rekindle his results from 2013, when he finished T-5 or better at each of the four Finals events while earning fully-exempt status as the top money earner.