Fantasy Island: Zurich Classic of New Orleans

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2011, 7:49 pm

GolfChannel.com experts offer up their picks for the the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. 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 and Randall Mell; contributors John Hawkins and Charlie Rymer; editorial director Jay Coffin; 'Morning Drive' hosts Gary Williams and Erik Kuselias; contributor Win McMurry; writer for NBCSports.com's ProGolf Talk, Ryan Ballengee; and RotoWorld.com's Rob Bolton.

You can battle the experts and play along as well. Just click here to get into the game.

 

2007 Zurich Classic

*Ranking among the 16 GolfChannel.com experts

Rex Hoggard

Rex Hoggard
Score (Rank*)
5,665,901 (2)
Group A:
Luke Donald

Group B:
Spencer Levin

Group C:
Cameron Tringale

“Luke Donald Disease” may not produce a lot of “Ws,” but five top-10 finishes in six Tour events this year is fantasy gold.

Near-misses in Mexico and Bay Hill only make former wild child want to win that much more.

Tour sophomore proved at Texas Open (T-5) he can put himself into contention, now he has to learn how to convert on a Sunday.

Randall Mell

Randall Mell
Score (Rank)
3,252,432 (13) 
Group A:
Luke Donald

Group B:
Jeff Overton

Group C:
Kevin Sutherland
This is all about riding the hot hand and believing Donald remains highly motivated with No. 1 within reach.
 
After a sluggish start to the year, Overton's due to heat up with summer's approach, and he's got some good history in New Orleans.

With the confidence of a good showing in his last start in Texas, and good vibes returning to New Orleans, Sutherland's primed to play well.

Charlie Rymer

Charlie Rymer
Score (Rank)
3,854,314 (10) 
Group A:
Nick Watney

Group B:
Tommy Gainey

Group C:
Boo Weekley
I'm feeling like it's time for Nick Watney to get it going again, after all it's been something like a month since he won.

Tommy Gainey has secured his card for 2012 now he can play like he's on house money, which he is. 

Ol' Boo Weekley hit it great last week. He just needs to find a flat stick that works. Maybe he'll find the heart of a lightning struck cypress tree he can fashion into a putter shaft in Roy Hobbs fashion?
John Hawkins

John Hawkins
Score (Rank)
3,842,883 (11) 
Group A:
Graeme McDowell

Group B:
David Toms

Group C:
Andres Romero



Best player in the field who didn't lose in a playoff last week.

Hometown guy, quietly having a decent year.

He's a past champ. In Group C, that counts for something.

 

Jay Coffin

Jay Coffin
Score (Rank)
3,874,375 (9) 
Group A:
Nick Watney

Group B:
K.J. Choi

Group C:
John Rollins

He's won this event before and he's still one of the best players in the world. Masters performance was a little surprising but he'll jump back on the horse nicely.

I think Choi is a good value pick here. He plays well in New Orleans and was in the hunt at Augusta National. I'd be surprised if he doesn't contend.

By my calculations, he's the best ranked player in this group and he's finished T-21 and T-13 respectively here the last two years.

Gary Williams

Gary Williams
Score (Rank)
4,490,314 (5) 
Group A:
Nick Watney

Group B:
K.J. Choi

Group C:
Tim Petrovic
He won at TPC Louisiana in 2007 and despite a lackluster Masters is one of the best players in the world in 2011.
 
He won in New Orleans in 2002 and played well albeit inconsistently at TPC Louisiana. Strong play in 2011 makes him my B Pick.
 
I am going with three winners at TPC Louisiana this week and Petrovic is someone who has played well at this course along with his win in 2005.

Erik Kuselias

Erik Kuselias
Score (Rank)
4,834,435 (4)
Group A:
Luke Donald

Group B:
Brandt Snedeker

Group C:
Tim Petrovic


I know he is making his first appearance in New Orleans, but when one has five straight top-10s and a chance at world No. 1, you have to pick him.
 
I did not pick Brandt last week because he had not played well at Harbour Town. But when you are hot, you're hot and I am picking him this week.
 
He won at TPC Louisiana in 2005 and has two other top-11 finishes there. Could sneak up on the field.

Win McMurry

Win McMurry
Score (Rank)
7,087,438 (1)
Group A:
Steve Stricker

Group B:
Charles Howell

Group C:
Cameron Tringale

While I believe 2007 champion Nick Watney and last week’s runner-up Luke Donald are good picks this week, the edge goes to Stricker who has a T-7 and a T-11 here since the event moved to TPC Louisiana.
 
He finished runner-up here a couple years ago and despite a MC last week, he has six top-25s this season.
 
In one previous start in NOLA, Tringale tied for 28th and he’s had a good start to his sophomore year on Tour where he’s already surpassed his earnings from last year. He has two top-25s, including a T-5 at the Valero Texas Open.

Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee
Score (Rank)
1,526,826 (16) 
Group A:
Steve Stricker

Group B:
Brandt Snedeker

Group C:
Michael Allen
Didn't play last year, but has two top-12s in his last three NOLA starts. His game seems to be coming around after a long Wisconsin winter.

Won last week and has five top-10s this season. He's also the first guy in his 30s to win on Tour in seven weeks.

This event has a history of producing some rather surprising winners. Would Michael Allen finally winning on the PGA Tour at age 52 be surprising enough for you?

Rob Bolton

Rob Bolton
Score (Rank)
3,505,685 (12) 

Group A:
Justin Rose

Group B:
Charley Hoffman

Group C:
Matt Every

He’s cashed in all nine starts this year, with three top-10s and a T11 in his last start (Masters). Also leads the PGA TOUR in greens hit.
 
Rested after a co-runner-up in San Antonio, where he led the field in birdies.
 
Took peeks at Tim Herron (T4 at The Heritage), Boo Weekley (third in GIR) and Jarrod Lyle (3-for-3 here; T10 last year), but I love that Every is making his final start via his Minor Medical Extension. Needs a three-way T5 or solo sixth to secure his card.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He will return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finished worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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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, GolfChannel.com 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.