Thursday, August 30, 2012

The FedEx Cup Preview

It wouldn't be a true FGR preview edition unless I went all 10th grade book report and turned it in a week late. I was pretty confident that I would at least have it out by the middle of the Barclays but my first fantasy football draft of the season kind of got away from me last Thursday night and then I spent all weekend in the middle of the Pennsylvania mountains coaching soccer.* I can assure you that if Leo Tolstoy wrote War and Peace while coaching his daughter Sophia's little league luge team, it would have been 200 pages tops. To maintain some integrity, I'm going to stick with my original picks as evidenced by the fact that I have Andres Romero going to the Tour Championship (his season ended when he missed the cut last Friday so I'm off to a fast start).

I just went back and looked at the preview I did for the FedEx Cup playoffs last year.** It was a three part series and I hope you enjoyed and appreciated the in-depth nature of the reporting because I must have been hopped-up on Alex P. Keaton happy pills when I wrote it. This year's preview is going to be more of a stream of consciousness and will be based on a few more hunches (kind of like that 10th grade book report - "and then all of the kids in Lord of the Flies were rescued and everyone lived happily ever after").  Let's start cranking-out some verbiage*** and see where this leads us.

The Preview

"There's obviously something
wrong with him. He's taken off
his shoes and one of his socks."
History tells us that about six players who start the playoffs in the top 30 won't make it to the Tour Championship. A few guys from just outside will creep in with solid play and then you'll have your Chez Reavie/Heath Slocum party crasher who comes out of nowhere with a win or a second place finish and scores a golden ticket to East Lake. Let's take a look at the current top 30 and see who's most likely not to have a shot at the $10,000,000 payday. The top 7-8 guys are pretty safe unless they have a complete Richie Tenenbaum meltdown (and the way Hunter Mahan has been playing lately, I'm not ruling that out). I see these six guys taking a slide.

Six Out:

30. Mark Wilson - He's been struggling since his 3rd place finish at the Match Play with six missed cuts and only one finish higher than 45th. Not to mention, he's on the fantasy roster of the team I'm trying to catch so I need him gone.

29. Ben Curtis - His tie for 11th at the PGA followed three missed cuts, a tie for 34th and a tie for 56th. He'll hang around before slipping back to somewhere between 31-40 and then disappear for another three years.

22. Kyle Stanley - Remember back when Stanley blew the Farmers and then came back to win in Phoenix and we all had him figured for greatness (at least I did)? Well that was in February and since then he's missed eight cuts. I guess hitting a 7-iron 220 yards ain't all it's cracked-up to be.****

"Yeah I got room for two more."
20. Johnson Wagner - Another early bloomer who hasn't made any noise since a tie for 4th at the Arnold Palmer in March. Unless you count the noise coming from the new power boat he bought with his winnings called Moustache Rides.

15. Scott Piercy - Here's a guy who's actually been playing great but someone has to go and it might as well be the guy that I had the foresight to draft in two leagues and then prematurely drop (I'm not bitter).

14. Phil Mickelson - Not winning the Masters really took the wind out of Phil's sails as he still thinks he was wronged by that grandstand that deflected his ball the wrong way. Since withdrawing from the Memorial in early June, he's gone T65, cut, cut, T43 and T36. At least he's trending-up but this doesn't feel like his year. I just hope he finds his mojo before the Ryder Cup or he's going to ruin the mornings of a couple alternate shot partners.

. . . . and here are the six that will take their spots:

32. Adam Scott - The choke at the Open clouds the fact that he's had a solid year including top 15 finishes at all of the majors. Not to mention, if he doesn't get his act together and start pulling down some fat checks, Stevie Williams is going to can him.

33. Sergio Garcia - He's coming off a win at the Wyndham and is usually solid in the playoffs. I've almost come full circle on Sergio and reached a point where I think he's tortured himself enough so that I'm starting to like him. I hope he rectifies that by making the Ryder Cup team and annoying the crap out of me for 72 straight hours.

"Hey . . . I'm 12 and
three quarters."
35. Bud Cauley - We'll ignore the missed cut at the PGA and focus on the 4th, T4th and 3rd he posted in his other three most recent tournaments and the fact that it would be cool seeing a 12 year old in the Tour Championship.

51. Lee Westwood - He's been struggling since his tie for 10th at the U.S. Open but he's still one of the ten best players in the world. I'm going to treat his lost ball in the tree as a sign that the game owes him one.

54. Tim Clark - He's healthy and trending-up coming of a T15th, T11th and a 2nd at the Wyndham and beware the roaming gnome when he's healthy because he will mess you up with his wedge game.

93. Andres Romero - I have to take a longshot and Romero has the game to pull-off the top 3 finish in one of the tournaments that it will take to make the 60+ spot leap. (The operative word there was "tournaments" (plural) which did not happen because he missed the cut last week).

And here is how I see it all shaking-out when the last putt drops in Atlanta.

The Final 30

1. Bubba Watson
2. Dustin Johnson
According to her website, Blair O'Neal
is a golfer and a model. We'll take
her word on the golfer part.
3. Jason Duffner
4. Rory McIlroy
5. Sergio Garcia
6. Luke Donald
7. Zach Johnson
8. Lee Westwood
9. Matt Kuchar
10. Adam Scott
11. Steve Stricker
12. Tim Clark
13. Webb Simpson
14. Tiger Woods
15. Bo Van Pelt
16. Carl Pettersson
17. Keegan Bradley
18. Brandt Snedeker
19. Justin Rose
20. Ernie Els
21. Bill Haas
22. Graeme McDowell
23. Jim Furyk
24. Marc Leishman
25. Bud Cauley
26. Rickie Fowler
27. Andres Romero
28. John Huh
29. Hunter Mahan
30. Robert Garrigus

So that's it. No big wrap-up paragraph this week. We hit all of the major FGR talking points - bold predictions, moustache rides and hot chicks. Have a great holiday weekend and look for the 2012 Fantasy Football Preview sometime late next week.


* And by "coaching soccer" I mean yelling at 8 year old kids to "STOP KICKING IT IN FRONT OF OUR GOAL!" and "STOP STEALING THE BALL FROM YOUR TEAMMATE!"

** Here is the link to Part I - The Playoff Preview: Part I. You can find the rest from there.

*** I'm not sure what the real definition of "verbiage" is but I like to think of it as a fancy word that people use to describe fancy words as in, "here's my draft of the letter . . . please add some verbiage to make it sound more official."

**** Yes, I'm just jealous.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Barclays Preview

I bet this sign plays well on Long Island.
(Grabbing crotch) "Yeah, I gotcha
highly skilled golfer right heeya." 
The tour returns to vaunted Bethpage Black this week for the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs. We know Bethpage is tough because the sign on the first tee tells us so and we also have the evidence from the grueling 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens. My enduring memories of those two tournaments was that they were total grinds with Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover crawling across the finish line after not so much beating the rest of the fields but outlasting them.* (In 2009, third round leader Rickey Barnes shot 76 in the final round and lost by 2 shots to Glover who shot 73 . . . scintillating). Thus is the nature of A.W. Tillinghast courses which seem to be designed to steal a bit of your soul every time you play them.**

I assume that they're going to set the course up a little easier which is going to favor bombers like Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley while putting guys like Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk at a disadvantage. Last year I picked Adam Scott to win the FedEX Cup at the start of the playoffs. I'm not sure if I'm going to pick him again but I'm pretty confident that he's going to finish higher than he did in 2011 and it will start at Bethpage which is a good fit for his game. Not to mention, it's been weeks since we've had an Ana Ivanovic sighting on the FGR.

You two kids better
stay together.
The Barclays Top Ten

1. Adam Scott
2. Bubba Watson
3. Keegan Bradley
4. Tiger Woods
5. Dustin Johnson
6. Sergio Garcia
7. Bo Van Pelt
8. Lee Westwood
9. Louis Oosthuizen
10. Bud Cauley


*There was actually some excitement towards the end of the 2009 Open because Phil Mickelson, who had taken a brief sabbatical due to his wife's cancer treatment, reemerged and got everyone all jacked-up by going birdie-eagle on 12 and 13 before killing the buzz with bogeys on 15 and 17 and fading to a tie for second with, of all people, David Duval. (Yes, David Duval finished second in a major three years ago).

**My home course is a "Tilly" and, every time I walk 18, I don't feel quite like I've just played a round of golf as much as I've survived one. I don't know if this is one of his trademarks but on my course there are huge elevation changes starting on the 14th hole and going all the way through 18. (This is why you will often see me chugging a beer on the 14th tee because I don't want to sherpa that extra payload down the stretch). By the time you're hitting your approach on 18, your legs are jelly so of course he gives you one of the smallest greens on the course as a target. Not exactly what you'd expect from a good-time Charlie like Tilly who never graduated from any of the schools he attended and, in his teens, played a lot of cricket and "belonged to a cadre of wealthy, flashy and heavy drinking playboys." - The Life and Times of A.W. Tillinghast. Then again, slide No. 7 may offer some insight into why he designed such brutal golf courses as the phrase, "circumstances necessitated their marriage" is not something with which a "heavy drinking playboy" ever wants to be associated. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Aren't We Getting a Little Old for This Sh..?

"Holy shit that reference is tired
even by your standards."
I had planned to devote last week to falling on my sword for not only leaving Rory McIlroy out of my top 10 for the PGA Championship,* but making the fact that I was leaving him out the centerpiece of my tournament preview.** But then I wandered down a different path and started rehashing my traditional August weekend on Maryland's Eastern Shore which over the past two summers*** has turned into my personal Sodom and Gommorrah.**** (Warning: I am about to obliterate the FGR Endnote record so when I hit the quintuple asterisk mark, I'm going start using "+" signs and THAT'S why the guys in my car club call me "The Cruiser"). 

Regular readers of the FGR will recall that every year in August I hook-up with a group of old friends for a 36 hour bender interrupted by what could loosely be described as a round of golf. The rest of the crew actually goes for about 56 hours but I usually pull the ripcord early because there is no golf tournament to sustain the adrenaline rush that keeps my liver operating at a rate exceeding manufacturer's guidelines and, more importantly, when you're the instigator and you're giving away 30-100 pounds to every other member of the group, your odds of ending-up in the hospital increase exponentially by the hour. 

This year's event had a few distinguishing features that were inevitably going to change the dynamic: (1) We were staying in a hotel instead of the home of our host's mother which introduced a variety of outside factors that I will get to in a minute, (2) it is an election year and this group loves to talk themselves some politics (and I use the word "talk" loosely as not one of them has an "inside" voice) and (3) I was rolling-in with a nasty sinus headache+ which was going to make No. 2 brutal.++    

The first night was fairly uneventful until I decided to slide out the backdoor of the bar (via the kitchen which is always dicey considering you're trespassing in a place where literally everyone is holding a blade). I hit Burger King and was headed back to my hotel room with the vision of nothing but me, my Whopper and the Olympics but as I exited the elevator I could hear the din all the way down the hall and it kept getting louder as I got closer until I was standing right outside and there was no longer any doubt that the entire seven man crew was in there. NOOOOO!!!!!!! I immediately reversed field and headed back downstairs where I dined in peace on one of the hotel's outside tables as I gauged the temperature and debated sleeping in my car.

"No, seriously man you can
have the key to my room."
When I got back to the room, it was actually worse than I had anticipated. There was a cooler on the floor and everyone was lounging on the beds except the biggest member of the group (we'll call him "the Bear" though he has a better nickname than that but you get the picture) who was careening and gesturing wildly with one of those small hotel bathroom glasses full of bourbon in his hand. Somehow he was doing this without spilling a drop even when three other guys tackled him on my bed. It wasn't until the fourth guy hit his arm that he dumped the entire glass on my pillow at which point I requested the key to another room and, to my surprise, someone obliged. (The difference between being in your 40's and being in your 20's is that if you make that request in your 20's, you might get a "fuck you" if you get any response at all. When you're in your 40's, however, everyone else in the room knows that could just as easily be him).

I woke-up around 2:00 a.m. when the Bear came rolling-in and fortunately landed on the open bed (note to self, when you're the first guy in the room, never take the bed by the door). At about 2:15, he got up and went out on the balcony to have a cigarette and I remember thinking, "we don't have a balcony" (turns-out he was standing on the roof). The snoring started around 2:45 and was on and off until about 3:30. At 5:00, I was dead asleep when I heard, "I'm fucking starving. Be right back . . . I'll get you something." I remember saying "thanks" and went back to sleep until he rolled back in around 6:00. It looked like he had walked into a 7-11, pointed to the right half of the store and said "give me that."   
"Dats me boys."

The next day was fairly typical. Woke-up around 8:30, had a slice of 7-11 pizza and a few beers while we waited for the rain to stop. Played a sloppy round of golf with a couple of 30+ handicaps, one of whom announced that he hated golf after every shot until I told him to stop playing because he was starting to make me feel the same way. By that point, we were listening to music while debating the all-stars at every band position+++ and we'd switched to vodka so the golf shots had really become incidental (as if they hadn't been the whole round). When I got back to my room, a letter from the hotel had been slipped under the door and I wasn't quite sure of its purpose until I got past the niceties to the second paragraph which concluded, "we will therefore be forced to charge you a $250 additional cleaning fee." Sweet. Long story short, I negotiated it down to $125, got a few bucks from the Bear and chalked it up to a sign that we were at least still young enough to trash a hotel room.

A few more beers that night devolved into another politicized shouting match on the van ride home and the next thing I knew I was back in my adopted room laughing at the always entertaining sound of "drunk guy with little to lose" arguing with "hotel security guy with little leverage." Unfortunately, that inevitably dovetails into "drunk guy with a lot to lose" mollifying "local policeman with a ton of leverage . . . and a gun" and this night would be no exception. Funny how interactions with the Po-Po evolve as you get older and the prospect of getting handcuffed doesn't seem quite as cool and rebellious.    

"Look mutherfucker, if you keep
telling me the cocktail sauce was
on the rug when you checked-in,
we're gonna be here all night."
The next morning at breakfast I faced a moment of truth as the Screwdriver orders were going in and I sat squarely on the fence. On one side, I had a day of barstools and good times that would inevitably end on a couch about an hour from my house followed by me waking-up the next morning and scrambling to make my 9:40 a.m. tee time but only after an awkward stop at home to tell everyone I'd see them five hours later (at which point I would almost immediately crash on the couch . . . "SHHHH, daddy's sleeping"). On the other side, I had a turkey club sandwich by the pool with the family and a full night's sleep in my own bed with no snoring roommate, no bourbon on my pillow and little to no threat of arrest.

I remember laboring over a similar decision during my first summer after college. I was sitting on the deck of a beach club overlooking the Atlantic Ocean about 250 miles from home drinking beers on a Sunday afternoon and debating the merits of either going back that night so I could be at work on Monday for the crappy office job that I had had for a week or staying one more night. After about 15 minutes, someone at the table finally put it in perspective and said, "oh my God the new guy isn't coming in today . . . what are we gonna to do?" Suffice it to say I stayed another night and quit the job four days later. What does that have to do with my decision last weekend? Nothing really because I packed my bags and went home to my family and my club sandwich. I just thought that was a pretty good line.


* If the FGR is accomplishing nothing else, it is redefining the term "loud wrong".

** Past two summers?!? Wasn't that den of iniquity you called a college located on the Eastern Shore? . . . Ah yes, the voice of reason makes a valid point. In the second sentence above, please change the word "two" to "twenty-five" and the word "summers" to "years".

*** I've always wondered if the descendants of Gommorrah felt short-changed because the legend of the Sodomites lives on today while no one's ever heard of a Gommorrahite when I'm sure they partied just as hard. Speaking of which, did anyone see George Michael perform one of my favorite songs that I would never admit that I liked***** at the closing ceremonies of the Olympics? That wasn't a guy who just lost his fastball. That was a guy who might not be able to scale the mound anymore. It looked like they shot him with a tranquilizer dart because he threatened to take his pants off as he was heading for the stage.   

"Suck it up you wuss."
***** You learn all kinds of random crap while doing research for a fantasy golf website like the fact that the video for Freedom 90 was directed by David Fincher who is arguably the best film director of the last twenty years (Se7en, Fight ClubThe Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Also, the model in the video that I always thought was the hottest was not Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington or Linda Evangalista but the other one and I never knew her name was Tatjana Patitz. (Turns out Naomi was saving her best work for later - Campbell and MJ . . . this was right about the time we started asking, "do you notice anything weird about Michael?").

+ And of course you can't tell anyone you have a sinus headache because then you're basically an antelope hobbling across the Serengeti in a walking boot.  

++ I have the rather unique political perspective of both spending lot of time hanging-out in places where rich white guys congregate and being related by marriage to a person who spent a significant part of her professional career as an inner city social worker in one of the places that pops into the minds of television producers when they think, "we need to depict hopelessness." With that background, I've heard pretty much all of the arguments and the only thing I can say with absolute certainty is that the extremes have reached that same point that doomed marriages reach when the two sides can't even remember why they're yelling at each other. All they know is that they hate each other's guts. At the risk of politicizing the FGR (despite the fact that I am taking no position on any issue), let me suggest the following guidelines to help turn up the heat on an already thermonuclear debate: (1) When debating an issue, always remember that the side you favor is indisputably 100% in the right economically, ethically and especially morally; (2) calling the opposing candidate on either side an idiot is a great comeback in the rare case that someone manages to puncture a hole in your argument (ignore the fact that he has graduate degrees from universities that you dream about your kids attending . . . he got those through nepotism or affirmative action because Harvard law professors are suckers for those shortcuts); and (3) physical contact like a sharp finger jab to the chest or a patronizing hand on the shoulder is a great way to emphasize your point just like increasing the volume of your voice is a great way to communicate with someone who does not speak the language you are using.     

+++ In my opinion, the battle for every position is wide open except one as John Entwistle was to bass players what Jerry Rice was to wide receivers. I am 100% right on that (I am jabbing my finger into your chest right now).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Wyndham Preview

"Hey buddy, I get that you're
banged-up but could you stop
sticking the tweezers up my ass?!?"
We're going with a brief preview for the Wyndham today because the third perfect storm to hit Maryland in the past two months* knocked out my iMac last night and it turns out that trying to do actual work like drafting contracts and writing an internet column on an iPad is like trying to play Operation when you're hammered.

This is a bit anti-climactic for because my season of picking one player per week ended at the PGA Championship (hopefully more on that coming tomorrow**). Not to mention, the Wyndham finds itself in the somewhat awkward spot of being sandwiched between a major and the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs meaning that a lot of guys don't show-up and you can't be too sure about the commitment of the ones that do. With that being said, if you're still playing at this point and have Jason Dufner at your disposal, use him. If not, pick one of these other guys. There endeth the preview. Like I said, "brief."

1. Jason Dufner
2. Carl Pettersson
3. Tim Clark
4. Ryan Moore
5. Webb Simpson


* I keep picturing Kevin Bacon in front of the stampede at the end of Animal House.

** Including an account of my annual trip across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge but it's not close to being ready and I am way too chafed right now at the prospect of a 19 year old kid with no social skills telling me that my $1,500 computer is now a small coffee table to finish writing it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The PGA Championship Preview

I periodically wonder why I devote several hours a week to writing this column* and then I come across an item like the following piece from the Associated Press last Thursday glorifying the United States basketball team's annihilation of Nigeria in which they set a bevy of meaningless records while running-up the score to 156-73. (Stay classy Coach K). The story starts with "[t]he last group in England with this many records was the Beatles."** Wow. That one made the writers for the Hollywood Squares wince.*** It's not so much that comparing the U.S.A. Basketball team to the Beatles was a bad idea, it's the half-assed effort that followed. I mean if you feel committed to that analogy, at least smarten it up a bit and say something like, "the last group in England with this many records had bowl cuts and practiced transcendental meditation." (That's still pretty lame . . . it might not be salvageable after all).

"I would have called it the
'Goddamn Beatles Record
Standard' OH! OH! OH!"
In the end, articles like that inspire me and, from this point forward, the level of journalism achieved by the A.P. last Thursday will be known on the FGR as the "Beatles Record Standard."**** Our mission statement will be to attempt to exceed that standard every week. (Keeping with the recent Olympic theme, we're starting with a low bar). Now let's move on to the business at hand.  

The PGA Championship Preview

I swear I made my top two picks before Rob Bolton posted his Power Rankings on and went with the same two guys - Louis Oostuizen and Jason Dufner. Then again, it's hard to pick against players who currently seem to be standing in the middle of the fairway every time the cameras find them. My theory approaching this tournament is that it's going to have a British Open feel so I've had Oosthuizen penciled into that top spot since he reappeared briefly at Royal Lytham a few weeks ago. His top 5 finish last weekend only made me feel better about the pick. Dufner is something of a no-brainer at this point as it's not a matter of if he's going to win a major but when. The rest of the list is filled with bombers who have won majors or come very close (D.J., Watson and Bradley) and guys who have the game and patience to survive on a brutally frustrating course (Harrington, Rose, Schwartzel and McDowell). And then there is Luke Donald in the 9th spot which is about where he will finish by shooting a 68 on Sunday to move from out of contention into the top 10.

The frustrating nature of the course and the unpredictability of the weather keep Tiger and Rory out of my top 10. I just don't see a good week coming for either one of golf's divas as neither of them have thrived lately when the conditions have been tough. Remember, this is the course that made Mark Calcavecchia cry in the 1991 Ryder Cup after he blew a 4-up lead with 4 to play against Colin Montgomerie by making a double on 16 and a triple on 17 ('91 Ryder Cup - note at about the 1:47 mark when the announcer says, "you wouldn't like to play medal around this course." Uh oh). The player who wins this week is going to have to deal with a few ugly holes, just say "fuck it" and move on and I don't think Tiger and Rory have that in them right now.

The PGA Championship Top Ten

Alas, new FGR favorite Alison Stokke
did not make the U.S. Olympic team.
Hopefully see you in 2016 Alison.
1. Louis Oostuizen
2. Jason Dufner
3. Dustin Johnson
4. Padraig Harrington
5. Justin Rose
6. Bubba Watson
7. Keegan Bradley
8. Charl Schwartzel
9. Luke Donald
10. Graeme McDowell

Last Week's Report Card: C-

1. Tiger Woods - T8th
2. Dustin Johnson - T19th
3. Lee Westwood - 70th
4. Luke Donald - T8th
5. Bo Van Pelt - T8th
6. Hunter Mahan - T55th
7. Franceso Molinari - T40th
8. Retief Goosen - T29th
9. Bubba Watson - T19th
10. Zach Johnson - T40th

For those who actually rely on these rankings for gambling purposes and want to smash a Volkey wedge over my head for last week's performance, I don't blame you. If it makes you feel any better, I pretty much torpedoed my one and done team by going with Hunter Mahan and Peter Hanson after deciding to save Keegan Bradley and Louis Oosthuizen for the PGA Championship (ouch . . . actually that doesn't do it justice, that was more like a toe striking a brick followed by an OUCH, SHIT, FUCK THAT REALLY HURT! . . . (10 seconds later) . . . fuck, fuck, fuck). To be honest, I never considered putting Bradley in my top 10. He was just one of the best players I hadn't used yet and Furyk's performance came a little out of nowhere so I never had him in the mix either but shame on me for not having Dufner (7th) and Oostuizen (4th) in there. I'm not making the same mistake this week.


* I refuse to call it a blog because that would make me a blogger and I am not a blogger, I am a writer dammit!
Kobe has entered the "Nick Young
Zone" by averaging  a dismal 0.8
assists per game in the Olympics.

** Here is the link to the whole article which goes on to say that "[t]he U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team beat Nigeria 156-73 Thursday night, an epic blowout that answered the Americans’ detractors." (AP - USA Crushed Nigeria). It didn't answer this detractor who then watched them struggle to beat Lithuania a few days later because Kobe refuses to pass to any of the 9-10 players on the team who are now better than he is and everyone out there other than Tyson Chandler fancies himself a 3-point shooter. They could cruise to the gold medal if they focused on defense and started Chris Paul, Andre Igoudala, LeBron, Kevin Durant and Tyson Chandler with Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and (if they really need more scoring) Carmelo Anthony coming off the bench. Just tell Kobe, James Harden, Deron Williams and Anthony Davis to chill at the hotel until the medal ceremony. (Sorry for the tangent but the fact that any of these games are close in the second half is a joke).

*** And I'm referring to the unwatchable new version of Hollywood Squares with Bruce Vilanch, not the hilarious classic version hosted by Peter Marshall with Paul Lynde, George Gobel and Jonathan Winters - Hollywood Squares.

**** I'm getting very close to needing a glossary of terms for this site along with a better way of handling the endnotes so I can ditch all of these ridiculous asterisks.

Email the FGR

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Member Guest Wrap-Up

Editors Note: I started writing this thing about six weeks ago but, like that one time in your college career when you attempted to start writing a paper way before it was due, I have stopped and started at least three times completely killing my momentum and putting more distance between me and the foggy memories I'm trying to write about. Now I'm getting ready to hang-out with some of the same guys in the story (and the same guys from The Golf Trip to the Sun 2) so I'm setting an informal due date of tomorrow at which point (to continue with the analogy), I'm going to hit the print button, run across campus to the faculty mail boxes and drop it off no matter what it looks like.*

"Just take this Sharpie
to remember me by."
A few weeks ago I boarded a plane for South Carolina to play what would be my final Member-Guest tournament of the season (barring any looming invitations of which I am not aware - I can be reached at Email the FGR). My plan when I got back from the trip was to bang-out a tight timeline of the events of that weekend and sum up my May-June tournament season in the process. The problem was that, by the time I got home, I was done with golf. To paraphrase Loyd Dobler, I didn't want to play golf, watch golf or write about golf. I didn't want to watch golf I played or write about golf I watched and I certainly didn't want to write about golf I had played. I didn't even see my clubs for two weeks and for the first five days of that, I actually thought about quitting the band.

But now, after three and half weeks of playing tennis, swimming laps and drinking Coors Lite (yes it was that bad), I feel like I'm ready to get back in the game. I think it just took some time off and the approach shot I hit to 4 feet on the 18th hole with a 1-up lead** to bring me back around. That and the fact that if I changed the name of this thing to the Fantasy Tennis Report, even fewer people would read it. So let's turn the clock back a few weeks and reminisce about the beginning of summer and its endless possibilities.    

Thursday, June 14th

This is an actual picture of the
bar from their website. I would 
be the guy on the far left.
As part of my game plan, I was going to resist the urge to start drinking on the 8:20 a.m. flight down . . . but I never said anything about the airport and that was before I got to my gate and discovered an Obrycki's Bar sitting right next to it with about a third of the stools already taken. I looked at the bar, then I looked at the people sitting at the gate on the iPads and iPhones, then I looked back at the bar and decided that none of the people sitting there could be doing anything less important than what I was going to be doing that day so I grabbed a seat and ordered-up a bloody.

I'm not a big traveler and it's rare that I find myself alone on a plane for an hour so I didn't have a game plan. I did have a new iPad so I figured I might spend some time familiarizing myself with it (translation: spend an hour playing Angry Birds). That plan quickly went by the wayside when what appeared to be the first three Amish dudes to ever fly in a machine took the three seats closest to me and immediately began a painfully detailed discussion of backwoods musical theory. I felt like I had walked into a scene from A Mighty WindThe last words I heard before I donned my headphones and checked-out were, "a lot of people out my way play the 5-string banjo but what makes me different is that I do it while performing a one-man country line dance." I did not make that up.*** 

"So do we need to build the plane first?"    
When I removed my headphones for landing, the guy next to me was explaining the nuances of blowing into a jug so the moment we hit the ground, they went right back on. I used to scoff at people who would walk through the airport wearing headphones primarily because, when you fly with kids, you are the leader of a team responsible for the extraction of individuals hell bent on leaving everything they own on the plane and doing whatever it takes to sidetrack your mission so you need to maintain complete awareness of your surroundings at all times. On this day, however, I realized that I didn't have to interact with anybody and, even better, I could avoid being subjected to other families yelling their post-flight strategies across the seats to each other ("I said I'll get the bags and YOU GET THE CAR!!!" . . . hey could you speak-up, they didn't hear you at the Sbarro on Concourse D). And then right on cue as I hit the gangway I had one of those iPod moments that tells you good things are in store as Eric Clapton's The Core kicked-in and provided the theme music for my walk through the terminal. (I cannot overstate how much I love when shit like that happens - The Core). 

"Hey! Put some fookin'
clothes on . . . I got my
 fookin' kids ova heeya."
The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful. We played a practice round, then something called the "Three Hole Challenge" which was an alternate shot competition with the winner receiving an automatic spot in the overall tournament playoff (this was ten times more entertaining than I thought it would be even though we never really gave ourselves a shot to win it). That night we bought our team in the Calcutta, solved a few world problems sitting on the porch drinking beers and shut it down at a reasonable hour.

At this point I should note that my partner for this event was the same guy from The Blue Monster and someone with whom I may have, along with a few others, stayed-up until dawn with on the morning of his wedding and then walked down a public boat ramp into Hempstead Bay dressed like the guys at the end of The Full Monty. (I used to feel bad for the unsuspecting kids who had to witness that but then I realized that (a) we gave them a story they can tell for the rest of their lives and (b) they were from Long Island so, in the grand scheme of their childhood development, watching a few naked guys walk down a boat ramp was the least of their problems). On this night, however, my partner was all business and, with the prospect looming that I might actually get some sleep during this tournament, I went to bed thinking, "we could win this fucking thing."    

Friday, June 15th

Thanks to Thursday night's training rules, I woke-up Friday morning feeling great (note to self . . . nothing in particular, just try to make a note of that for future reference). We hit the course early, had a relaxing warm-up and then went inside for some breakfast where they had a fully stocked self-service Bloody Mary bar. If they had had membership applications on it, I might be writing this from a different state.

"Let me guess, I'm auditioning
 for the bad guy again. What
is it? The black turtleneck?"
For our first match on Friday, we were playing the overall tournament favorites (as determined by the wagering) and we caught a break when one member of the team ditched his warm-up for ten more minutes of sleep in an air conditioned car (been there) and frankly, his partner didn't look much better. They played the first three holes in a coma, my partner was solid and, after five holes, we had 3 and 1/2 points so the first mission of overcoming my predictably terrible starts had been accomplished. Then I dropped a bomb on the 6th hole for a birdie and a 3 point lead with 3 to play which seems huge in a 9-hole match until you finish loss-halve-loss and only win 5-4. At the beginning of Steven Seagal's one great movie, Above the Law, he has a stand-off with consummate bad guy Henry Silva and, as he's being escorted away he says, "if I don't cap him now, he's gonna do me later." That's how I felt after this match.

I had shot 44 on the first nine which is awful for a 6 handicap but it was right on schedule for my traditional 44-39-36 first day 9-hole sequence. Then things got weird as I started ringing-up pars in our second match and it became clear that I was ahead of schedule. Could this be the tournament where I actually find my game before it's too late and make a difference? Apparently so because I went on to shoot 37 with another birdie putt from a different zip code (not many better feelings than doing that in a match play tournament) and we picked-up 5 and 1/2 points along the way. We were cruising and I was smelling the cash.

But it turned out that wasn't cash I was smelling, it was the stink of the nine holes we were about to play. The trouble started early in the next match. Literally five minutes after I told my partner that I was ready to focus and grind, I picked-up my ball mark not knowing that I had a ten foot putt to win the hole. (I had the dreaded half stroke which always seems to screw me when my opponent has it and now I had just found a way to screw myself with it). On the second hole, I hit a wedge over the green, made double and lost and then on the third hole my partner and I both turned chicken salad drives into chicken shit, made double and lost to a double-bogey/net bogey (not many worse feelings than doing that in a match play tournament). By the time we reached our 8th hole, we were down 5-2 and on pace for a combined 9-hole score of about 94. At that point, however, we found the smelling salts and I made a par for a win followed by my partner sticking it to 6 inches for a birdie on our last hole. We gave away a lot of ground with the 5-4 loss but, thanks to our earlier success, we still had a shot.

Saturday, June 16th

"Rubbin' is
racin' baby!"
I'd like to tell you what happened in our two matches on Saturday but I can't. You see up until that morning, I had avoided the many pitfalls that I feared may come into play with me being left unattended and without fear of arrest, divorce or expulsion from my home club. Maybe it was because I had made it 48 hours without seriously offending anyone or embarrassing my host (as far as I knew) but when I arrived at the course on Saturday morning, let's just say I left the restrictor plates in the garage.

I know my partner won the first hole with a par and then I won the second with a pretty sick up and down from a bunker where I landed it on a slope 20 feet past the hole and had it come back down to 4 feet and then drained the putt. From that point on, things start getting a little dicey but I'm pretty sure we won the match and were feeling confident that we still had a shot until we got to the scoreboard and saw that the mercenaries from our first match had rolled another team to take a 4 point lead meaning that our final nine would be for second place money.

It turned-out to be a blessing as we went into a flat spin over the last five holes (and I mean that the course was literally spinning). At one point my 8-iron felt so heavy on my backswing that it almost got stuck there. We came to the final hole thinking we needed a win to secure second place which would at least get us paid. I made a ten footer for par and then we watched both of our opponents 3-putt culminating with one of them missing a 2-footer which made for some very chilly handshakes. (We would later discover that we had actually taken second place by 3 points so we could have given him the 2-footer. Oops).  

By the time the round was over, so was I. Thank God we didn't win our flight because I would have looked like this guy trying to get from the cart to the first tee Too Much Gravity. I spent the next two hours sitting in the clubhouse watching the U.S. Open while alternately nursing a Gatorade and a water. We were going out to dinner with a bunch of people that night and I was determined to answer the bell even if it meant wearing sunglasses at dinner and sleeping between courses.

"Hey I know you . . . we
played golf today."
When we got to the restaurant, everyone I had met over the past three days was there with their wives and I proceeded to greet each of them with some variation of "hey man" and, for the ones I still recognized, I probably added a two-handed shake or even a half-hug. Then things started to improve as they always do in those situations when you couple a change of venue with a nice meal. You're still hammered, but it's like you're hammered on a different day.

The conversation was cordial and entertaining until one of the guys from the team that beat us sat down at our table and, for reasons I cannot now nor will I ever be able to recollect, the topic turned to who would win a 2-on-2 basketball game between our respective teams. By the time we were done about an hour later, I think the wager was $1,000 per man on a game to 50.**** Not long after that, I was dropped-off at the airport hotel and eight hours later in what felt like one of those blurry hostage transportation sequences, I was landing in Baltimore on Father's Day morning. The one thing I distinctly remember is picking-up my clubs at baggage claim and feeling like a dad picking his son up from jail. I just kind of looked at them in disgust, shook my head and said, "come on . . . let's go."

Email the FGR


* The most ridiculous part of that process was that, by the time I got the paper back with a grade, I had always convinced myself that I worked really hard on it and was shocked when I saw the inevitable "C+" (it would have been a "D" but one of the benefits of being a future "professional" writer was that I could make it look good enough so that professor's wouldn't realize that I hadn't done any research until about page three).

** Then again I hit this shot after missing a 3-footer on 17 that would have won the match. We'll discuss my putting another time. Let's just say that lately I've been finding myself standing on the 7th tee dreading the 3-foot putt I could potentially have on the 18th green. I think sports psychiatrist Bob Rotella describes that condition in one of his books as "not a good thing." 

*** Are planes always stocked with that many oddball characters or is my impression skewed because I'm always flying to places like Greenville, SC and not business destinations like Chicago and Dallas and wherever else those guys wearing gray suits must be heading? I always seem to end-up next to one of three people: (1) guys like the aforementioned frontier musicians who probably got stopped at security for trying to get through with a gallon of homemade pickles, (2) the guy in jean shorts and a Yankees' jersey who has no inside voice, or (3) the the guy who opens a book as soon as he hits the seat and reads so intently for the entire trip that you think he's in some bizarre version of Speed where if he takes his eyes off the page, the plane will explode.  

**** This game will never happen but I liked our chances in a match-up that would feature the classic contrast in middle aged styles of their team comprised of two guys who, by all local accounts, were both "great" high school basketball players (that was 25 years and, I'm guessing, a combined 50+ pounds ago) against our team comprised of two college lacrosse players who are still in shape. I lobbied to play full court but I don't think I got very far with that.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Bridgestone Preview

One of the problems with having an affluent readership like that of the FGR is that the majority of your audience basically spends the end of July and the first three weeks of August laying on the beach reading the Cape Cod Times or some dog-eared Dean Koontz paperback they found under a coffee table.* (Or some other book that, when you finish it and someone asks you, "how was it?", you respond, "I don't know . . . I honestly don't know" because the reading experience generated absolutely no emotional response). At least that's how I explain my sliding numbers. Now I understand why the television networks don't have sweeps week in August.

"I was reading the FGR on the can
and the next thing I knew . . ."
Then again, I have to shoulder some of the blame because frankly the product has been a little spotty lately. It was only going to get worse this week as I had actually planned to pull a Charlotte Bobcats and completely bottom out by posting nothing but the updated FGR Rankings, the Bridgestone picks and last week's report card but then I watched the U.S. Women's gymnastics team wipe the floor with the Russians last night and I woke-up inspired.**

And then I went back to sleep and woke-up again at 9:17 a.m. wondering what in the hell I was going to write about and whether these overcast skies were going to mess with my pre-lunch swim. You see when I started this endeavor back in June of 2011, I thought, "this will be great because golf is a year round sport so there will never be any shortage of material" not realizing that, if I was going to write something about every tournament, that would mean at least a post a week from the beginning of January through the Ryder Cup at the end of September. Then somewhere in the middle of football season, I decided it would be fun to start picking games and, not just selected games, but every freakin' game.*** (I finally capitulated in Week 17 when I refused to pick the Colts-Jags and three other toilet bowl floaters based on principal and laziness).

So now I find myself on the eve of a top ten tournament with a major to follow, then the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the start of football season and the Ryder Cup and I'm a little short on mojo but you know what they say . . . when life hands you lemons, get yourself some iced tea and vodka and you have the ingredients for one delicious cocktail (seriously, it's called an Ice Pick and I highly recommend it). Not to mention, I really want to get a few laps in before lunch so let's get on with this.  

The Bridgstone Preview

Remember before the British Open when I said that "if you want a site that advises you to pick Tiger every week, then we're wasting each other's time?" Well technically we're already wasting each other's time because I'm writing about fantasy golf and you're reading about it so forget all that. I'm putting Tiger at the top of the Bridgestone rankings based on the fact that, if nothing else, he's shown that he can still dominate at his favorite non-major venues. (He's won at Bay Hill and Muirfield Village this year and he has seven career wins at Firestone against the best players in the world). If you haven't used him yet, well played.

As for the rest of the field, if I were drafting a team for the remainder of the season, Dustin Johnson would be in my top 5 so he gets the second spot. Even if defending champion Adam Scott thought he was over the British Open, that's going to change when he's reminded about it everywhere he goes this week ("hey, tough break at the British Adam") so he doesn't make the cut. My dark horse is Retief Goosen who shot 63-69 on the weekend in Canada to finish in a tie for 10th and usually plays Firestone well. Noticeably absent from this list is Rory McIlroy who, in his last four tournaments on American soil, has three missed cuts and a tie for 7th at the FedEx St. Jude where he completely melted down on the 72 hole. It's still early, but if this continues into the start of next season, people are going to start making David Duval**** comparisons which is not a good thing. (I think you just did).

The Bridgestone Top 10

In case you needed another reason to look
forward to the start of track and field,
Leryn Franco throws the javelin for Paraguay.
I don't know if she's any good and I don't care.
1. Tiger Woods
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Lee Westwood
4. Luke Donald
5. Bo Van Pelt
6. Hunter Mahan
7. Francesco Molinari
8. Retief Goosen
9. Bubba Watson
10. Zach Johnson

Last Week's Report Card: C

1. Matt Kuchar: T34
2. Hunter Mahan: T48
3. Bo Van Pelt: T7
4. Brandt Snedeker: T34
5. Seung-Yul Noh: T15

It was looking promising when Kuchar birdied his first five holes of the tournament. Unfortunately, he played the next 67 at -1 in an event that turned into a birdie fest. We were treated to another late Sunday afternoon of guys playing with their hands around their throats as Scott Piercy, William McGirt and FGR favorite Robert "Panama Red" Garrigus all pulled out the machetes on the reachable par 5 17th hole and just started hacking away like it was a thrashing swordfish in the back of their boat. Garrigus and McGirt then followed that up by leaving their putts to tie for the lead on 18 short. Garrigus would later say that he should have won by 7 strokes. He then stared at the setting sun for an hour and said "that was fucking beautiful man" before asking "do they have Taco Bell in Canada" and driving away in his courtesy car singing "back to back, chicken shack . . . son of a gun, better change your act."


* I bet the publishers of the duPont Registry have the same problem and we'd find a direct correlation between the number of hits on the FGR site and August sales of used Lamborghinis.

** If you didn't see it, you missed the U.S. women bringing an Olympic "A" game for the ages and intimidating the Russians right out of the arena. It was fitting that the Russian women finished on the balance beam because they were literally teetering throughout their routines and one of their best almost landed her dismount on her ass before stumbling sideways off the mat, halfheartedly acknowledging  the judges and blowing-off the patronizing hugs from her coaches and teammates. I love the fact that she handled that moment like any other big time athlete would. It was almost enough to make me think that gymnastics isn't creepy anymore (almost).

"Two winning teams with
Pro Bowl quarterbacks?
Well what's fun about that?"
*** One thing I learned is that writing about the bad games is a lot more fun than writing about the good ones. I could go on all day about a Cardinals-Browns match-up but what in the hell are you supposed to say about a Week 15 Falcons-Saints game with the division on the line other than, "we've got a Falcons-Saints game with the division on the line?"

**** In 2001, Duval won the British Open and finished 2nd at the Masters along with five other top 10 finishes. In 2003, he made 4 cuts in 20 events and hasn't been heard from since other than a random tie for second at the 2009 U.S. Open which should have been won by Rickey Barnes but was won by Lucas Glover (like I said, random).