Fantasy Island: Travelers Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 21, 2011, 5:30 pm experts offer up their picks for the Travelers Championship. Each week a panel of experts will offer up their picks from three 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 Charlie Rymer; editorial director Jay Coffin; 'Morning Drive' hosts Gary Williams and Erik Kuselias; contributor Win McMurry; writer for's ProGolf Talk, Ryan Ballengee; and's Rob Bolton.

You can battle the experts and play along as well. Just click here to get into the game.Compete against the experts and other fans in our Fantasy Challenge.

In parentheses, next to the names, are the participants' 2011 points earned and ranking among the 17 Fantasy Challenge 'experts.'

Rex Hoggard

Rex Hoggard (7,100,865; 5th)

Group A: Zach Johnson: Tough weekend at Congressional aside (72-74) he’s playing as well as anyone with an American passport at the moment.

Group B: Brandt Snedeker: Another American certainly trending in the right direction.

Group C: Kyle Stanley: If Bubba Watson’s victory last year was any indication, the biggest asset at the Travelers is a big driver..             

Randall Mell

Randall Mell (4,535,889; 16th)

Group A: Nick Watney: Americans have plenty of motivation to shut up detractors. Watney is hope for red, white and blue future.

Group B: Padraig Harrington: Irish eyes are smiling, why not Paddy? He will keep the party going over there.

Group C: Patrick Cantlay: Just became the first amateur to finish at or under par in a U.S. Open since Jack Nicklaus in 1960. Riding his momentum and confidence.

Jason Sobel

Jason Sobel (N/A, N/A)

Group A: Ian Poulter: Interesting choice to play in this event, but those 'interesting' ones often pay off.

Group B: Bo Van Pelt: Your current leader in U.S. Ryder Cup points? None other than BVP - through two events.

Group C: Justin Leonard: He rarely makes headlines anymore, but Leonard is enjoying a nice season so far.

Charlie Rymer

Charlie Rymer (6,576,613; 7th)

Group A: Bubba Watson: I predict a repeat ... or one might say, a 'Dubba-Bubba!'

Group B: Padraig Harrington: Trying to steal a little limelight from the Northern Irish guys.

Group C: >Boo Weekley: He's due, as long as he doesn't have to stop and ask for directions.

John Hawkins

John Hawkins (6,158,288; 9th)

Group A: Zach Johnson: Made some weekend noise at Congressional.

Group B: Brandt Snedeker: Quietly having a pretty good year.

Group C: Kenny Perry: Seems to stick out among the Cs

Jay Coffin

Jay Coffin (7,142,793; 4th)

Group A: Nick Watney: Got some rest after an MC at the U.S. Open. May be the best player in the field.

Group B: Padraig Harrington: If there is a three-time major winner in Group B, I'll take him nearly every time.

Group C: Tim Herron: Tied for third two weeks ago at the FedEx. I'll take my chances.

Gary Williams

Gary Williams (6,104,549; 10th)

Group A: Hunter Mahan: He wins or he contends. How can you not pick Hunter?

Group B: Bendon de Jonge: Shot a second-round 63 here last year en route to a T-9.

Group C: Kris Blanks: Was T-26 in '09 and T-9 in '10 at TPC River Highlands.

Erik Kuselias

Erik Kuselias (6,089,347; 11th)

Group A: Hunter Mahan: He won in '07 and has four top-4s in his last five starts here.

Group B: Bo Van Pelt: Good finishes in big events this year and a couple of top-10s here.

Group C: Kenny Perry: Won in 2009 and has five top-10s here in his last nine starts.

Win McMurry

Win McMurry (9,251,359; 1st)

Group A: Hunter Mahan: He missed the cut a year ago, but before that was money here with four consecutive top-4 finishes.

Group B: Brandt Snedeker: Took him last week at Congressional where he finished T-11 and am riding his momentum into Connecticut.

Group C: Nick O'Hern: Returns after a year away from the Travelers to a site where he finished solo third in 2007.

Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee (4,601,820; 16th)

Group A: Bubba Watson: Defending champion and this Hartford course should be one he simply can overpower at will.

Group B: Fredrik Jacobson: Seems like the Swedes are starting to turn things around on the PGA Tour of late.

Group C: Kenny Perry: The 2009 champion of this event did so in unbelievable fashion, which might be a good sign of things to come this week.

Rob Bolton

Rob Bolton (6,254,719; 8th)

Group A: Hunter Mahan: All-time money leader at Travelers.

Group B: Webb Simpson: Leads the PGA Tour in All-around.

Group C: Tim Herron: Six top-20s here. Coming off a T-3 in Memphis.

For more in-depth fantasy golf coverage, visit Rotoworld powered by NBC Sports.RotoWorld


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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”