Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fantasy Golf Preview: The Honda Classic

At one point on Wednesday during a weather delay of the Golf Channel's coverage of the Accenture Match Play, Kelly "The Cheese Fountain" Tilghman (God love her) was killing time as she always does by stringing together as many consecutive overly crafted comments as possible when she signed-off with "Father Time is negotiating with Mother Nature." I don't really have any idea what she was talking about but, running with her concept, Father Time must have just told Mother Nature that her jeans made her butt look fat because it was snowing so hard in Arizona that I thought I was watching a preview of the 2014 Super Bowl (BAM . . . suck on that Goodell). This latest weather intrusion meant that the PGA Tour had to cram 64 matches into four days instead of five which wouldn't have been a problem except that, with the compressed schedule, by the time we looked-up on Thursday, Tiger, Rory and the weekend TV ratings were gone.

Please tell me this is one of
those marketable wise-cracking
Irish guys like Darren Clarke.
I had a feeling there were going to be upsets early this year but I (along with just about everyone else) greatly underestimated that trend. There was a point in the second round when Bubba Watson went to extra holes against Jim Furyk battling to be the only player ranked in the top 10 to make it to the sweet sixteen. At that point, multiple executives at NBC Sports (which was handling most of the weekend coverage) were laying awake at night revising their resumes in their heads and mumbling the names of a potential final four that could have included Shane Lowry, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Tim Clark and Fredrik Jacobson. Can you say Spurs-Nets NBA Finals?

It didn't turn-out to be that bad as we ended-up with a final four that included about half of the best players in the world never to win a major.* In the end it was Matt Kuchar who continued to complete all of his prerequisites by adding a WGC title to the Players Championship he won last year. Based on those credentials, he may currently hold the dubious best player to never win a major title with a slim lead over the likes of Brandt Snedeker, Luke Donald, Dustin Johnson, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Adam Scott.** The problem with Kuch is that last year's tie for 3rd at Augusta was his first top five in his last 15 majors so you wonder if that stage may be a bit too big for him like it has been for Donald, Scott and Johnson when they've been close. Remember that he also led the 2010 PGA Championship through two rounds before shooting 73-72 and dropping to a tie for tenth, only to be outdone by Nick Watney who shot 81 on Sunday to drop from a 3 shot lead to a tie for 18th in one of the most underrated collapses in golf history.***

But enough reminiscing. We've got a loaded field this week playing an entertaining course where Rory held-on to win last year despite Tiger's closing round 62. And don't forget about the "Bear Trap" comprised of holes 15-17 (actually you won't be able to forget about it as Dan Hicks will utter the words "Bear Trap" no less than 173 times and, just when his voice is about to give-out, they'll bring Jack Nicklaus into the booth to pound it into the ground. For the FGR's version on how the "Bear Trap" came to be named, click here). My theory is that Rory is still getting used to his new sticks so he gets a slight downgrade in favor of a couple guys who have been playing lights-out lately (if you exclud the Match Play aberration). If you want to hang-on to the big guns for Augusta and beyond, Freddy Jacobson is a solid choice because he's coming off of three straight top 10's and solid finishes at the last four Hondas.
Really no relevance here other than the
fact that I finally watched Ted last week.

The Overall Top Five

1. Charl Schwartzel
2. Justin Rose
3. Rory McIlroy
4. Tiger Woods
5. Fredrik Jacobson

The One and Done Top Five

1. Fredrik Jacobson
2. Graeme McDowell
3. Lee Westwood
4. Keegan Bradley
5. Rickie Fowler

Last Week's Report Card: C

Final Four: Tiger Woods, Keegan Bradley, Charl Schwartzel and Ian Poulter.

OK, so three of my final four picks got knocked-out in the first round but for the first time all year my own one and done team has a faint pulse as I went with Poulter and he paid-off with a $500,000 4th place finish.*** I actually called McIlroy, Donald and Oosthuizen all being gone by the 3rd round but I didn't foresee the overall magnitude of the bloodbath. I mean how am I supposed to make picks in a golf world where Charles Howell, III goes birdie-birdie on 15 and 16 to closeout Tiger Woods in match play? I need Robin Williams to give me a hug and repeatedly assure me that it's not my fault.

Endnotes

* We forget that Jason Day finished tied for 2nd at the 2011 Masters and 2nd alone at the 2011 U.S. Open. This resulted in SOME people picking him ahead of Rory McIlroy last year in season long formats not knowing that he was basically going to take a year of maternity leave. Who knew there was a guy out there who plays golf for a living who wouldn't tell his wife in the middle of the third week, "honey, I really need to get back to work?" Even guy's featured on Dirty Jobs do that to get the hell out of the house for Chrissake.

"You know it's been twelve years
since I was the subject of a pop
culture reference. Thanks man." 
** Has there ever been a time with this many players who seem due to win a major. You can add the following players: Hunter Mahan, Nick Watney, Lee Westwood, Jason Dufner, Bill Haas, Steve Stricker and possibly Sergio Garcia in the lifetime non-achievement category. The bummer for those guys is that there are fourteen of them and not all of them are going to get one because there are also 13 major winners still playing well enough to be ranked in the top 30 and a whole new crop of fearless young studs like Russell Henley bursting onto the scene like Parker Stevenson in Stroker Ace. Somewhere, Colin Montgomerie is nodding ruefully.

*** No one remembers it because it was the same year that Dustin Johnson grounded his club in the sand on 18 and missed the playoff proving that "most painful to watch moments in golf history" trump "greatest collapses in golf history" on the historical significance scale. If you really want to be remembered, do both at the same time while also taking your shoes off and standing in a stream for a few minutes a la Jean van de Velde.

**** I had two picks and used the other one on Keegan Bradley. As if to absolutely convince me that I haven't shaken this 2013 curse yet, Bradley came into 18 one down against Marcus Fraser and promptly hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker. Fraser opened the door for him by blowing his second shot way right and then Bradley said "is that the best you got?" and hit a fat pitching wedge that landed in the middle of a desert bush 30 yards short of the green leading to his sixth bogey of the day. After everything Bradley has done for my fantasy golf concerns over the past two seasons, all I could think after that was "et tu, Keegan?"