Expert picks: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 31, 2012, 10:00 pm

The PGA Tour heads to Akron this week for the third WGC event of 2012, with many of the world's best players looking for a high finish leading into the season's final major next week. 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; staff writer Ryan Lavner; and Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Tiger Woods: 'Red Shirt' has done pretty good this season going back to places where he has had success in the past (Bay Hill, Muirfield Village, Congressional) and he has now gone nine events without an injury-induced withdrawal, which may be one of the best signs of progress to date.

Group 2: Jason Day: The Australian is rested after missing the Open Championship for the birth of his first child, has played solid at Firestone in the past (T-4 last year) and is still searching for his first 'W' of 2012.

Group 3: David Toms: Former PGA champion plays his best golf in the late summer and at 28th on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list he will need a solid fortnight to make his fourth team.

Group 4: Yoshinori Fujimoto: Quick history lesson, Fujimoto has finished inside the top 20 in six of his seven starts on the Japan Golf Tour this season and was on the leaderboard early in his first major at Lytham. Nothing lost in translation here: sneaky good.

Ryan Ballengee

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Seven-time winner here. Auto-pick.

Group 2: Jason Day: Was T-8 in his last start at the AT&T National, likely beaming as a new dad.

Group 3: Scott Piercy: Riding the hot hand here. He said he likes to hit driver; he can do that this week.

Group 4: Retief Goosen: Finished T-10 at the Canadian Open. Most seasoned in the group.

Gary Williams

Group 1: Tiger Woods: While I'm aware that Tiger has had his worst finishes in this event in each of the last two years, I'm also aware that he's won here seven times in his career. The odds of him winning are much better than repeating his performance of the last two years.

Group 2: Rickie Fowler: Finished runner-up here last year and returns very motivated because he is outside of the top 8 on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list. If he plays well the next two weeks, he'll earn a spot on his second Ryder Cup team, something he has called important on many occasions.

Group 3: John Senden: Senden has five top-10s on Tour this year, including T-10 at the U.S. Open and fourth at the John Deere Classic three weeks ago. He is making just his second appearance at Firestone but I think this Australian could surprise a lot of people this week.

Group 4: Ryo Ishikawa: Finished T-4 here last year and returns still looking for a win in 2012. While it has been a quiet year, Ryo can change all of that with a win this week on a course where he has played well.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Tiger Woods: The seven-time winner of this event is ready to return to dominance here after a couple years out of the picture. With three wins this year he's not 'on his way back,' he is back.

Group 2: Rickie Fowler: He shared runner-up honors here last year and boasts five top-10s on Tour this year. He ranks 11th in total driving, something that is a valuable asset to have at Firestone.

Group 3: Fredrik Jacobson: He's finished inside the top-20 in three of his last six starts this year. A year ago he finished T-11 thanks to having the flat stick going: T-5 in putting and 22 total birdies (a shared-best for the week).

Group 4: Ryo Ishikawa: He tied for fourth a year ago and is playing alongside fellow young gun Rory McIlroy, so expect dueling displays of youthful showmanship that should work to Ryo's advantage. While he's been streaky this year, he does have four top-25 finishes.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Tiger Woods: Got burned taking passes at the AT&T National and the British Open. Not happening this week. Gunning for No. 8 at Firestone.

Group 2: Steve Stricker: Wish he was rolling the rock a tad better but I'll take his level of consistent success here as often as possible.

Group 3: Nick Watney: Coming around of late. No cut this week also allows him to freewheel it a bit more than usual. It also increases the chances for one of his patented birdie binges. Top-25s at Firestone in each of the last two editions.

Group 4: Retief Goosen: Posted T-10s at the U.S. and Canadian Opens. Last week's effort included a bogey-free 63 in the third round. Also posted top-fives in two of his last four appearances at Firestone.

@bubbawatson on Instagram

Bubba gets inked by Brooks, meets Tebow

By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 5:40 pm

Bubba Watson missed the cut at Shinnecock Hills following rounds of 77-74, but that didn't stop him from enjoying his weekend.

Watson played alongside Jason Day and eventual champion Brooks Koepka in Rounds 1 and 2, and somehow this body ink slipped by us on Thursday.

Got autographed by defending @usopengolf Champ @bkoepka!! #NeverShoweringAgain

A post shared by Bubba Watson (@bubbawatson) on

And while we're sure Bubba would have rather been in contention over the weekend, we're also sure that taking your son to meet the second most famous minor-league baseball player who ever lived was a lot more fun than getting your teeth kicked in by Shinnecock Hills over the weekend, as just about everyone not named Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood did.

Already in Hartford, Watson will be going for his third Travelers Championship trophy this week, following wins in 2010 and 2015.

Getty Images

Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

“The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).

Getty Images

Ryder Cup race: Mickelson out, Simpson in

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

There's a new man at the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup race following the U.S. Open, and there's also a familiar name now on the outside looking in.

Brooks Koepka's successful title defense vaulted him to the top of the American points race, up four spots and ensuring he'll be on the team Jim Furyk takes to Paris in September. Dustin Johnson's third-place finish moved him past Patrick Reed at No. 2, while Webb Simpson entered the top eight after a a tie for 10th.

While Bryson DeChambeau remained at No. 9, Phil Mickelson dropped two spots to No. 10. Tony Finau, who finished alone in fifth, went from 16th to 13th, while Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 37.

Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Jordan Spieth

6. Rickie Fowler

7. Bubba Watson

8. Webb Simpson


9. Bryson DeChambeau

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Matt Kuchar

12. Brian Harman

On the European side, England's Tommy Fleetwood took a big stride toward securing his first Ryder Cup appearance with a runner-up finish that included a Sunday 63 while countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick snuck into a qualifying spot after tying for 12th.

Here's a look at the updated Euro standings, with the top four from both points lists joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Tommy Fleetwood

4. Francesco Molinari


5. Thorbjorn Olesen

6. Ross Fisher

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Rory McIlroy

3. Alex Noren

4. Matthew Fitzpatrick


5. Ian Poulter

6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello

@jenamsims on Instagram

Koepka autographs local kids' 'Go Brooks' sign after win

By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 2:30 pm

Brooks Koepka is a two-time U.S. Open winner, but that doesn't mean he's now too big to go sign a couple pieces of cardboard in somebody's front yard in the middle of the night.

Koepka's girlfriend, Jena Sims, posted two pictures to her Instagram story on Sunday of "Go Brooks" signs she says were put up by some local kids in the area where Koepka was staying for the week.

The first is dated prior to Koepka's final-round tee time.

The second is from Sunday night.

And here, separately, for no reason in particular (other than the fact that she posted it) is a video of Sims running over a parking cone at last year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

Speaking of kids, just feels those two are gonna make it.