Monday, January 30, 2012

2012 PGA Tour Preview

"This is big.  You can spend the rest of
your life smokin' menthol cigarettes
and eating Kobe beef or writing a
blog from your parents' basement."
No more false promises, hollow threats or drawing lines in the sand. I've been putting this off like painting the porch or unjamming all of the goddamn storm windows when this is supposed to be the Catalina fuckin' Wine Mixer of the Fantasy Golf Report.  So I've finally hunkered down with the wife out for the night, a $7 bottle of wine and the first "A" list field of the season playing at Torrey Pines. (Note: I wrote this passionate introduction on Thursday night.  It is now 4:30 on Monday.  Suffice it to say that the storm windows are still jammed).  (Catalina Wine Mixer - Deleted Scene).           

One of the great things about golf is that the season runs for nine months from January through the end of September (there are four tournaments after that called the "Fall Series" but those don't count because well, they literally don't count) and there is a four day event played every week.  The problem from a preview perspective, however, is that the players trickle in from January through April like college kids showing-up at the dining hall for Sunday morning breakfast.  (Reason No. 271 why college life is taken for granted: You could just roll out of bed and go to a place on campus that had unlimited food, coffee and soda but most of the time you couldn't make it there on Sunday morning when you needed it most.  If I had known there would come a day when three miniature people would walk into my room on a rough Sunday morning and demand pancakes, and that I would actually get up and accommodate their request, I might have made that trip to the dining hall a little more often . . . oh who am I kidding?  No I wouldn't).

"I don't know if it'll make any
change, but I figure it's time for
me to start writing about golf."
Writing a golf preview in December (when I started this freakin' thing) is like writing an NFL preview in August if the Packers, Eagles, Steelers and Chargers had bye weeks through November. It's like trying to write about Tuesday. It has no feel. Google "PGA Tour Preview" and check out the limited selections, all of which are odes to the obvious. For example, PGATour.com had ten writers predict which players will finish 1st through 5th in the 2012 FedEx Cup race. The choices for first place were Luke Donald (4), Rory McIlroy (2), Tiger Woods (2), Phil Mickelson (1) and Jason Day (1). For the record, that's (a) last year's leading money winner, (b) the defending U.S. Open champ, (c) the greatest golfer of all-time, (d) the second best active golfer of all-time and (e) Jason Day. Zzzzzzz.

But what are they supposed to write about? I mean here is how I ranked my preseason Top 5:

1. Jason Day
2. Tiger Woods
3. Matt Kuchar
4. Nick Watney
5. Rory McIlroy

"Hey, my name's Donald too."
I had Luke Donald 6th because these rankings were for a league where you draft six players (we'll call it the "Pick 6 League") and end-up hanging-on to your top picks for the whole year (unless something goes horribly). I did not want to spend 2012 rooting for Luke Donald because (a) his game has about as much flair as a Bill Belichick press conference and (b) I don't think he has the stones to win a major. He won two tournaments last year. One was the match play where you only have to beat one player at a time and, at the other, the trophy was presented to him by a guy wearing a Donald Duck suit.

I don't need the aggravation of watching Donald play his way into contention at all four majors only to fade to a tie for 6th as I'm sitting there wondering why they're not showing him anymore until they inevitably cut to the highlight with, "if you were wondering what happened to Luke Donald . . ."  I've got my own golf game to supply that disappointment.

"Kent, Lonny, I'd like you to meet . . .
Mohammet, Jugdish, Sidney and Clayton."
OK, now that I've somehow made you less interested in a 2012 PGA Tour preview than you were when you started reading, let's get down to the really nerdy stuff.  I did have one semi-legitimate excuse for sitting on this thing until we were four tournaments into the season which was that I didn't want to give any intel to my fantasy golf competition prior to draft night where I have been known to get a little surly in response to even the most benign requests for information ("Do your own fucking research!").

In addition to the Pick 6 Leagues, I'm taking my first run at a high stakes pick one player per tournament format so we should have lots to talk about this season.  (Good Lord this thing has as longer intro than Fly Like an Eagle).  So without further ado, the official FGR 2012 PGA Tour Preview:

The Top Ten

The draft results from my two leagues would indicate a consensus Top 3 of (1) Tiger Woods, (2) Luke Donald and (3) Rory McIlroy.  From there it gets pretty subjective.  Players are drafted primarily based on who will earn the most prize money and secondarily, who will perform best at the majors and the other prestigious events.  This is the first year Tiger Woods has been eligible since he went medieval on the Tour in 2000 (his accomplishments that year are to voluminous to squeeze into this paragraph so I've listed them below to remind everyone what a total badass he was at his peak).  The mere specter of that 2000 season has kept him out of the league for over ten years because he is the one guy who has the potential to destroy the competitive balance.  This year you have to pick him #1 because if you don't, he will somehow know that you disrespected him and will make you pay even though he has cuff links that he cares more about than your existence on this Earth.  Here are the average draft positions for the Top 10:

1. Tiger Woods (1st, 1st)
I couldn't find a picture of Jason Day
but did find this one of his wife, Ellie,
who appears to be a little confused
about where her target is located.
2.  Luke Donald (2nd, 3rd)
3.  Rory McIlroy (4th, 2nd)
4.  Webb Simpson (5th, 6th)
5.  Matt Kuchar (6th, 8th)
5.  Nick Watney (7th, 7th)
7.  Phil Mickelson (9th, 5th)
8.  Jason Day (3rd, 14th)
8.  Lee Westwood (13th, 4th)
10.  Dustin Johnson (8th, 9th)

And here was my Top 10:

1.  Jason Day
2.  Tiger Woods
3.  Matt Kuchar
4.  Nick Watney
5.  Rory McIlroy
6.  Luke Donald
7.  Webb Simpson
8.  Adam Scott
9.  Hunter Mahan
10. Dustin Johnson

In the interest of full disclosure, if I had gotten the first pick in either draft, I don't think I could have prevented the words "Tiger Woods" from coming out of my mouth.  One of the main reasons you do these leagues is to have something to watch and root for during the dog days of sports from February through August so you might as well pick the guy who gets more air time than Jim Carrey in The Truman Show.  (They actually did a poll a few years ago where the majority of respondents said they would rather see coverage of Tiger leaning on his putter than another player hitting a shot.  In a related story, Jersey Shore was the highest rated cable show last week narrowly edging two episodes of Pawn Stars).

In the end, I got Jason Day with the 3rd pick in Draft 1 and could've had him with the 7th pick in Draft 2 but hedged my bet and took Matt Kuchar instead.  As I've said before, I like to have players who look like they want to win as much as I want them to win and Jason Day definitely fits that profile.  This also explains why I took Spencer Levin at least one round too early.  Spencer has the kind of passion I want to see in my squad.  (Case in Point).  The same philosophy prevented me from drafting Ryan "Whatever" Moore in addition to the fear that one more direct hit with the remote is going to finally crack my flat screen.  Here are what two rosters in a 15 team league might look like if you see the 2012 golfing landscape through my eyes (two leagues = twice the fun):

"Don't sweat it Jerkstore.  I got this"
The Jerkstore

Jason Day
Zach Johnson
Spencer Levin
Sean O'Hair
Cameron Tringale
Scott Piercy (who has since been replaced by free agent Ernie Els in the hopes that he makes some headway in the 8th year of his 3 year plan to claim the No. 1 Ranking).

Kaos Theory 

Matt Kuchar
Zach Johnson
Bo Van Pelt
Kevin Na
Vijay Singh
Scott Piercy

Team 2 is named after my new favorite post-golf draft hang out, "Kaos Grill and Gentlemen's Club" which it turns out is conveniently located ten minutes from my house.  Kaos has been described by the Baltimore City Paper as "the place to be in Towson" (they left off ". . . for bounty hunters and meth lab equipment reps.")  I'm not sure about "the place to be" but I will tell you that if you walk in without a limp and flash a full set of teeth, you will get VIP treatment.

At least it wasn't "Cherish."
Horrible song, great video. 
The two guys I would've liked to have found spots for but couldn't were Gary Woodland and Brandt Snedeker. I wouldn't be surprised if both of them play their way onto the Ryder Cup team. I probably had Snedeker slotted a little low based on his tearful post-Masters press conference in 2008. When I say I want passion on my team, I mean rage, not tears which should be reserved for those nights when you plow through a bottle of red wine and inadvertently find yourself watching the end of Steal Magnolias (I saw Tom Skerritt and thought it was Top Gun and, before I could change it, they were pulling the plug on Julia Roberts. It wasn't quite as bad as the time when I was driving back from Florida by myself, got a case of white line fever and caught myself belting out Borderline like I was auditioning for The Voice).

Who Will Win What

"That's pretty arrogant considering the
company you're in. I like that in a nerd."
Despite playing fantasy golf since 1997, I've never played in a league where you pick one player per week and can't use the same guy twice.  It always seemed like there was too much luck involved and I subscribe to the the Phil Helmuth poker theory that, "if there weren't luck involved, I'd win every time."  I also prefer the idea of having a group of players to root for throughout the season as opposed to a flavor of the week.  But if you're going to write something called the Fantasy Golf Report, sometimes you have to make sacrifices so here are my preseason tournament picks for the majors and World Golf Championships (along with the picks for the ones that have already been played):

Hyundai: Decided to use a good player early and went with Bill Haas who finished 20th behind such PGA Tour icons as Chris Kirk, Scott Piercy and D.A. Points.  Bill Haas is dead to me.

Hopefully, Johnson earned
enough to pay-off his bookie
so he can ditch the disguise.
Sony: Bounced back when rolling the dice on Charles Howell, III paid off with a tie for 2nd.  Fortunately, due to the fake moustache, no one saw Johnson Wagner coming so he went unpicked.

Humana: Made the rookie mistake of deviating from the game plan which is never, ever leave your wing . . . no that's not it.  It's stick with the big names and don't get cute by picking a guy like Brian Gay.  Paid for it with a tie for 42nd.

Farmers:  Back to the game plan last week with Brandt Snedeker.  I feel REALLY bad about Kyle Stanley's struggles on 18 yesterday but if you're 77 yards from the hole and you know you have five shots to work with and still can't get it done, you don't deserve to win.  That was worse than Jean Van de Velde because there were no adverse conditions to deal with other than the ones in his head telling him to finish by sticking it close.  As Stanley's overly aggressive wedge shot was spinning back into the water, I imagine his caddie was muttering the same words the Russian sonar operator said to his captain in The Hunt for Red October right before his sub was destroyed by its own torpedo, "You arrogant ass.  You've killed us!"

As for the rest of the season, I don't think you can map out the whole thing but I do think you can outline the majors (where we get to pick two players) and some of the other events.  For instance, you almost have to pick Steve Stricker for the John Deere Classic which he's won three years in a row unless you figure that a run like that is due to end and you should use him in a major (crap, now I've got to rearrange the whole spreadsheet).  Here are two picks each for the majors, the Players and the Match Play:
Adam Scott makes good choices.

Accenture: Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer

Players: Nick Watney and Hunter Mahan

Masters: Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott

U.S. Open: Jason Day and Lee Westwood

British Open: Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson

PGA: Matt Kuchar and Sergio Garcia

Notice I don't have Mickelson on that list.  The only one of those events he contended in last year was the British and there's no way you're picking him for that.  Not to mention, his putting is currently so bad that Vijay can't even bear to watch it.  (He should never have switched to the long putter which is the golfing equivalent of asking the Godfather for a favor on his daughter's wedding day.  You'll get what you asked for, but at a steep price).  If you're a Mickelson guy and you want to get him in the major line-up, put him in for the Masters, move Adam Scott over to the Players and save Hunter Mahan for the Bridgestone Invitational (I think I may have just revised my own strategy.  I love talking it out).  The other two glaring omissions are Webb Simpson (Wells Fargo) and K.J. Choi (kind of unpredictable but pretty solid at the Northern Trust and maybe the AT&T National).  That still leaves a lot of talent including Zach Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Gary Woodland, Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson, etc. and I've got most of them tentatively slotted but that information has to remain confidential in case anyone in my league has actually made it this far without losing consciousness.              

Bold predictions for 2012

Let's wrap this thing up (so soon?) with a few random predictions for the season: 

1.  Tiger will win three tournaments including a major.  I like the British because if he doesn't win the Masters or the U.S. Open, he is going to will himself to a victory at Royal Lytham where only the best have won (Duval, Lehman, Ballesteros, Player, Jacklin, etc.).  Tiger will also have an epic outburst at some point.  I'm really looking forward to a Tiger who has high expectations and a tarnished image that is not as worth protecting as it used to be.  I can only hope that he's seeking Michael Jordan's counsel.   

2.  Sergio Garcia will win his first major and set the record for the lowest attendance ever at a championship trophy presentation.   

3.  Trevor Immelman is healthier than he's been in years and ready to disappoint.

"I want me mum."
4.  Jason Day will win a major (he better).   

5.  I've picked three of the four major winners so why not the last one . . . Rory McIlroy will exercise his demons at Augusta though it won't be easy with this image dominating the week.

At this point, I'm as weary as Marge Simpson at the end of her lengthy recitation of Homer's faults during marriage counseling:  "He drinks out of the carton.  He never changes the baby.  When he goes to sleep, he makes chewing noises.  When he wakes up, he makes honking noises.  Oh, oh, and he scratches himself with his keys.  I guess that's it . . . oh, no, wait.  He kicks me in his sleep and his toenails are too long . . . and yellow."  If there are any questions I've left unanswered, feel free to email me and we'll get a Bill Simmons mailbag rip-off going.  In the meantime, I'll leave you with a breakdown of Tiger's epic 2000 season:
  • Three major wins (U.S. Open, British Open and PGA) and a 5th at the Masters (tell me that one doesn't haunt him);
  • Six other wins including three of the six most prestigious non-majors (WGC-NEC Invitational, Mercedes Championship and the Memorial);
  • In the other three most prestigious non-majors, he finished second (WGC-Accenture Match Play, the Players Championship and the Tour Championship);
  • He had 17 Top10's in 20 tournaments (his three non Top 10's were an 11th, an 18th and a 23rd);
  • $9,188,321 in prize money (Mickelson was 2nd on the money list with $4,746,457.  Mickelson also had four wins including the Tour Championship and finished no worse than 16th in a major and he doesn't even register as a footnote that season).
Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com and follow us @fantasygolfrep.