Friday, February 10, 2012

The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Preview

"Must be a nice change from
writing about the dreary old NFL."
With the NFL finally out of the way, we can now get back to the core business of the Fantasy Golf Report which is to relate stories of my own buffoonery interspersed with random commentary on the PGA Tour.  This week would normally be a dead spot in the schedule between the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am if not for the performance of FGR favorite Spencer Levin last Sunday.  When we last saw Spencer, he was drop kicking his hat as he exited the green during the AT&T National last year (glad to see AT&T isn't cutting back in the sponsorship department.  Besides, if you're going to sponsor one in California, you have to even it out with one on the east coast so all of the mid-level execs in New York have somewhere to get hammered for five days in the name of marketing).


This is going to end badly.
Fast forward to last Sunday when Levin started the day with a six shot lead, posted the worst score of anyone in the top 60 and lost by two strokes thanks primarily to his Van de Veldean course management of the reachable par-5 15th hole (I'm on a mission to add "Van de Veldean" to the golf vernacular).  Before we break it down, it must be noted that Levin had rinsed two balls on the same hole earlier in the week, one on a tee shot and the other on a second shot, so you would think he would have had a different game plan for it in the final round (you would think).  When he reached the 15th tee on Sunday, he was tied for the lead and was playing in the last group.  He could have hit a hybrid and then a mid-iron leaving a wedge to set up a potential birdie to take the lead outright but instead Levin decided to take one more aggressive run at his nemesis like Danny Larusso going after Johnny Lawrence on the beach . . . with similar results.


The game plan for Sunday was apparently to provide a demonstration of the definition of insanity by taking the same approach and expecting a different result.  His tee shot with the driver flew way right where it landed safely away from the water but under a cactus.  He then used his putter to rake it back about 15 yards into the first cut of rough from which he promptly hit a fat 5-iron into the water, made a double and lost by two shots.  CBS of course kept the camera on him expecting an outburst but all Spencer gave us was the standard "hold the club behind your head" in anguish pose.  I personally felt cheated.  If I had hit that shot under those circumstances, some inanimate object would have paid dearly.  Can't we please just once have a golfer go completely Lou Piniella ballistic on camera after he screws-up?  You know they want to.  Maybe they've been repressed for so long that they're not sure exactly how to express themselves (except for Tiger).  If that's the case, I'm here to help with some suggestions from my personal meltdown catalog.  In reverse order of seismic magnitude:
"Keep it together Spencer . . .
SPENCER . . . SPENCER!!!"


4.  I was in high school and had probably played 8 rounds of golf in my life so I shouldn't have had any expectations for my game much less high expectations but that didn't stop me from losing my mind after topping a 3-wood.  My ensuing goal was to launch the offending club down the fairway in the direction of the ball but I somehow managed to hang onto it a second too long and pulled it deep into the swamp to the left of the tee.  I never found it.  I guess I shouldn't have been surprised considering the trail of broken tennis rackets that led to that moment.  This might also explain my tendency to slash the shit out of every defensemen who took the ball from me.  What a great stress reliever it would be in golf if, after you hit a bad shot, you could walk over to your opponent and crack him in the ribs with your driver?  It would definitely spice-up the Ryder Cup.


3.  This one actually happened on a PGA course so the pros could copy it verbatim.  It was the first and last time I was invited on a client golf trip.  We were playing the 10th hole of the Blue Monster at Doral which is a 530 yard par 5 with water running all the way down the left side.  I hit a good drive and had about 265 left so I decided to lay-up with a 5 iron which I promptly pulled into the water.  This time there would be no errant throw as I took dead aim and helicoptered the 5-iron in the direction of the splash with the instruction, "you hit it in there, you fucking find it."  I think the clients were really impressed.  I've since been banned from golf trips and relegated to playing the annual company outing with the guys from the warehouse. 


"You . . . get in the goddamn game!
And you . . . get me a defibrillator!"  
2.  It was the first round of the club championship and I hit a sloppy 8-iron on a par 3.  As I walked off the tee box, I decided to take it out on the rest of my clubs by giving my bag a healthy whack (I like to call this a "Gary Williams" in honor of his tendency to scream at players on the bench for mistakes made by players on the court). When I reached for my 3-wood on the next hole, only the severed top half of it came out.  I would go on to win the match but I had to borrow a 3-wood from the pro for the next round against the defending champ.  I made it through 17 all square in part because I was killing the borrowed club down the middle all day.  Despite the fact that 18 was a dog leg right and I draw (hook) the ball, I decided to hit the new 3-wood because I had so much confidence in it.  (I never would've hit my old 3-wood there).  In front of about 50 spectators, I promptly shanked it into the hazard on the right, made bogey and lost.  That was six years ago and I still find myself going into a trance, drifting back to that moment and hitting a 4-iron off tee.  Sometimes in the dream, I shank the 4-iron too.  Brutal.          


1.  My personal favorite.  I was about 24 years old and playing enough that my game had progressed to the point where I could occasionally put together a string of about 12 holes at even par so of course I expected this to happen all the time (some things never change).  I don't know what the circumstances of the round were but I know I was walking off the green having a temper tantrum and I took a swipe at my walking bag with my putter.  For a second, the bag just stood there like a guy in a samurai movie who's just had his head cut off but doesn't realize yet.  And then, almost in slow motion, one of the legs on the bag gave way and it slowly collapsed to the ground followed shortly thereafter by my playing partners who went down in hysterics.  They then proceeded to snicker every time I went to put the bag down and the one healthy leg would stick out (it looked like one of the Rockettes) before I would have to lay it down sideways.  After about five holes of that, I ripped the other leg off and threw it in a pond. The snickering nevertheless continued.        


(Editor's note:  In case you were thinking of throwing a random golf invitation my way and the last four paragraphs have given you pause, fear not.  That type of behavior is in my past.  Now when things go wrong, I just mutter a never-ending stream of F-bombs under my breath and stop talking to everyone for 20 minutes so, while I still might not be the ideal guest, at least I won't embarrass you).    


No Spencer . . . you're the man.
Now for the preview part of The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Preview (What preview?  It started yesterday).  This tournament has a polarized history of being won by the Tour's best (Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Tiger and Davis Love, III) or a guy who sneaks into first class from coach (D. A.  Points, Aaron Oberholser, Matt Gogel).  If you were just picking a winner without restrictions, you'd have to go with D.J. but I don't have that luxury because I want to save him for later in the season so I'm looking at the second tier guys who've done well here before and are playing well now.  That pretty much narrows it down to Spencer Levin and Bryce Molder.  Molder is probably the safer pick because Levin is a head case coming off a devastating loss but if I don't pick Levin and he pulls a Kyle Stanley, then I'll spend Sunday evening muttering a never ending string of F-Bombs and stop talking to my family and I can't risk that.  So Levin is the pick, you know, for the kids.