Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fantasy Golf: The Houston Open Preview

So apparently we've entered knee-jerk reaction season where the Ravens' success will be short-lived, Florida Gulf Coast University was way under-seeded and Tiger is the top ranked golfer in the world again. Those would all be perfectly reasonable and defensible positions if you arrived on Earth at some point around last Tuesday but here at the FGR we shoot for more of a historical perspective so let's review a few facts and see if we can plant them in the path of these three story lines.

The Ravens

"Take a chance and sign some crap."
Every year after the Steelers, Giants, Packers or Saints win the Super Bowl, the experts all reach a consensus on the correct way to build an NFL champion: (1) Find a quarterback, (2) build through the draft, (3) don't waste your salary cap dollars on aging players and (4) seriously, find a quarterback. Then we hit free agency in mid-March and all of that logic goes out the window. There has never been a better example of that than this year as everyone keeps asking, "what are the Ravens doing?"

The answer of course is that they're following the universally agreed upon formula for remaining consistently competitive. We'll go into this in greater detail as we get closer to the draft but for right now, just think of Ozzie Newsome as Navin Johnson during his weight guessing gig at the carnival and Ed Reed, Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger as eight pencils, two hula dolls and an ashtray.* Trust me. If you think Ozzie is doing it wrong . . . you're wrong.

Florida Gulf Coast

I actually heard someone in the sports media business who knows what he's talking about 99% of the time say that Florida Gulf Coast being a #15 seed was unfair to Georgetown who they thumped in the first round.** Before we become too mesmerized by all of the shiny alley oops we saw from Brett Comer and company, let's take a look at how the Eagles earned their #15 seed and see how badly the selection committee really screwed this up. Hey look at that . . . right off the bat they beat Miami which is a # 2 seed in the tournament. Ok, so it happened way back in early November when the players were still breaking-in their shoes but still that, combined with what must have been a solid regular season performance in their conference*** would warrant at least a #12 seed. Right?
With all that being said,
where in the hell did these
guys come from?

So tell me, did they pretty much run the table? Uh no. They lost to the accounting firm of Stetson, Mercer and Lipscomb (those are actually three different schools . . . and they lost to Lipscomb twice). They also lost to East Tennessee State and to Maine which finished 6th in an America East Conference that features perennial powers such as Stony Brook, Hartford and Albany. So despite all of the evidence we have from watching them play 80 minutes of basketball over the course of three days, you can't really say that they were under-seeded. Besides, if you've got five guys who can dribble, a coach, a clipboard and a mascot, you're supposed to beat Georgetown in the first round of the tournament. BOOM!

Tiger Woods

And that brings us to Tiger who regained the top spot in the World Golf Rankings with his 8th career Arnold Palmer Invitational victory. I'm not going re-hash the whole basis for the creation of the FGR Rankings (you can read about it here) but the underlying principle is that we judge golfers based on major wins and, to a lesser extent, contending in majors. The same goes for tennis players and the theory can be extended to quarterbacks who are judged (and paid) based on Super Bowl and NBA players who are judged based on titles won. I was pretty sure we were all in agreement on this.

So how is a guy who hasn't won a major since 2008 and has only been competitive in two of them over the last two and a half years ranked ahead of a guy who has won two of the last seven? And don't talk to me about Tiger's six other wins over the last two years. No one cares about Roger Federer's fifty-nine titles that aren't majors just like no one cares about Jim Kelly's four runner-up finishes in the Super Bowl. Admittedly, this position is getting more difficult to defend but let's see him win the Masters against maybe the most loaded field that tournament has ever seen with guys like Phil, Bubba, Rory, Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker and Justin Rose making it their mission to keep him from putting on a another green jacket, then we'll talk.

The Shell Houston Open

On to this week's picks. At this point, using Steve Stricker is never a bad idea, just depends on where you think he has the best chance of winning. I see a better opportunity down the road at the John Deere Classic, however, if you're at a point in the season where you're really jonesing for a top five finish, Stricker's your guy.     

The Overall Top Five

1. Hunter Mahan
Anyone could give you the Maxim cover but when the
FGCU coach's wife was described as a "super model," you
knew there had to be more and the FGR is here for you. 
2. Rory McIlroy
3. Steve Stricker
4. Keegan Bradley
5. Chris Kirk

The One and Done Top Five

1. Hunter Mahan
2. Steve Stricker
3. Keegan Bradley
4. Chris Kirk
5. Jimmy Walker

Last Week's Report Card: C-

1. Ian Poulter - T21
2. Bubba Watson - T14th
3. Peter Hanson - W/D
4. Lee Westwood - T63
5. Sergio Garcia - W/D

Hopefully you read between the lines last week when I said, "I'm still holding Justin Rose out for a major in my one and done league but I'm very tempted to start him here" because I ended-up starting him. My luck seems to be changing as I resisted the urge to butcher the pick at the last minute by switching it to Peter Hanson who pulled-out with a sore neck. That's what the February FGR would have done. The March FGR seems to have pulled his head out of his ass.


* Don't get me wrong about Ed Reed who is a first ballot hall of famer and maybe the most popular Raven of all-time. But at age 35 and earning $6M in the first year of his new contract, he's eight pencils.

** The FGR refuses to call the play-in games the "first round." It's just one of the many things I refuse to do as a matter of principle. For example, in light of its position on certain social/political issues, I refuse to eat at Chick-fil-a (more than four times a week).

". . . and the 'knowledge' you shall
find in the classroom."
*** It's the Atlantic Sun Conference in case you were wondering. A few other fun facts about FGCU: (1) It was established in 1991 meaning I couldn't have attended because it didn't exist when I graduated from high school, (2) it's motto is "Truth, Knowledge, Wisdom" and school president Wilson G. Bradshaw sports brass knuckle style jewelry on each hand that says "TRUTH" and "WISDOM" and (3) the school's endowment is $57.1M which puts it only $31,942,900,000 behind fellow tournament competitor Harvard University.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fantasy Golf: The Arnold Palmer Preview and FGR Rankings Update

With two WGC events already in the books this season and coming off another tournament won by some guy named Kevin, Scott or Michael, it's a good time for a FGR Rankings Update. Before we get to the current standings, I need to point out what I hope to be the final tweak to the system which is to add bonus points for winning PGA Tour and European Tour events that were not already included in the formula.* I initially wanted to avoid this because it would move the FGR ranking formula closer to that of the World Golf Rankings (the "WGR") but I couldn't continue to discount the quality non-major wins that Tiger and Rory have been racking-up since the start of 2012. When you're beating strong fields like those at the Memorial, the Farmers and the FedEx events, you deserve some credit. (Tell 'em Rock). I guess what I'm trying to say is that, if I can change and you can change . . . EVERYBODY CAN CHANGE.

We've been pushing beads
back and forth all morning
to make the numbers work.
Without boring you with a lot of fancy statistical analysis that you would need an abacus to understand, I will tell you that the effect of this change was that Tiger picked-up 12 points moving him from 8th in the rankings to 4th. It was not enough, however, for him to catch Keegan Bradley and Adam Scott who have far outperformed Tiger in Majors over the past two years and he's not even within shouting distance of Rory who is still undisputedly the best player in the world if we resist the urge to base that title on just what we've seen over the past eight weeks (more on that below). Here are the updated rankings:                      

         FGR Rankings            World Golf Rankings

1.McIlroy 154 McIlroy 11.47
2. Scott 91 Woods 10.48
3. Bradley 91 Donald 7.08
4. Woods 78 Snedeker 6.56
5. Kuchar 69 Rose 6.53
6. Donald 69 Oostuizen 6.23
7. Rose 67 Scott 6.00
8. Westwood 67 Stricker 5.93
9. Els 64 Kuchar 5.44
10. Schwartzel 64 Mickelson 5.41
11. Hanson 64 Westwood 5.36
12. Mickelson 60 Poulter 5.24
13. Day 59 B. Watson 5.12
14. McDowell 59 Bradley 5.06
15. Poulter 58 McDowell 4.98
16. B. Watson 57 Schwartzel 4.96
17. Dufner 56 Garcia 4.94
18. Simpson 55 Dufner 4.84
19. Oosthuizen 52 Simpson 4.69
20. Stricker 44 Hanson 4.48

Remember that the FGR ranking formula is weighted to award points based on the following order of importance: (1) winning majors, (2) winning WGC events, (3) finishing in the top ten in majors, (4) winning the Players, (5) finishing in the top ten in WGC events and (6) winning regular tour events, the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai. So before you bash the current rankings for placing Tiger 4th, remember that he would trade all five of his wins over the past two seasons for one major and then consider that he only has two top 10's in the last eight majors (3rd at the 2012 British and 4th at the 2011 Masters). Not only that, his only other top ten in a WGC event besides his recent win at Doral was a tie for 8th at the 2012 Bridgestone. Those are Justin Rose numbers.

Yeah that's great Keegan but can
you bring home the Canadian Open?
During that same span, Rory McIlroy has two major wins (2011 U.S. Open and 2012 PGA Championship) and six top 10's in WGC events. Adam Scott has four top 10 finishes in majors including two 2nd's (2011 Masters and 2012 British Open) to go with his win at the 2011 Bridgestone. And Keegan Bradley, who may be the most underrated player by the WGR, has a win at the 2011 PGA Championship and a 3rd at the 2012 PGA Championship to go along with his win at the 2012 Bridgestone and top 10's in the last two WGC Cadillac events.**

So who is currently overrated by the WGR? How about Brandt Snedeker who is 4th despite the fact that his only top 10 in a major since 2010 was a tie for 3rd at the British Open where he started the third round leading eventual winner Ernie Els by 7 strokes and lost to him by 4 after shooting 73-74 on the weekend. His strong run to the FedEx Cup title and his ridiculously hot start this year may be a signal that he's ready to emerge but I generally like to see my top five players in the world contend for at least one major before granting them that status. But hey, that's just me.  


On those rare occasions when Tiger doesn't own this tournament, we're still usually treated to a respectable champion like Ernie Els, Vijay Singh or Phil Mickelson so look for (and pray for) this year's winner to be one of the best players in the world to help bust us out of this recent Michael Thompson - Kevin Streelman - John Merrick funk we've slipped into. As of this moment, I'm still holding Justin Rose out for a major in my one and done league but I'm very tempted to start him here. Same goes for Graeme McDowell but I have this image of him haunting me later with another U.S. Open win and a new line of cardigan sweaters.
Lindsey and Tiger? It took 30 years but we finally found
something more high maintenance than the Fiat Spider.

The Overall Top Five

1. Tiger Woods
2. Graeme McDowell
3. Justin Rose
4. Ian Poulter
5. Bubba Watson

The One and Done Top Five

1. Ian Poulter
2. Bubba Watson
3. Peter Hanson
4. Lee Westwood
5. Sergio Garcia

Last Week's Report Card: B

1. Jason Dufner - 21st
2. Webb Simpson - 17th
3. Sergio Garcia - 7th
4. Luke Donald - 4th
5. Jason Day - 43rd

That's a pretty solid outing last week, especially by recent FGR standards. I went with Sergio and he was right in the hunt as one of the announcers noted that we could be heading to another playoff this year. Then I crashed on the couch and had a weird dream in which Kevin Streelman was standing on the 18th tee with a two shot lead and Boo Weekley shot 63 to finish second. I guess one man's dream is NBC Sports' nightmare. Let's hope that this week's loaded field inspires a slightly more intriguing finish.


* This would include all tournaments that are not majors, WGC events or the Players but not events that are played simultaneously with those tournaments like the Puerto Rico Open and the Reno-Tahoe Open. And don't bust my chops for continuing to rig my ranking system. They've been tinkering with the FedEx Cup for years and it's still the most ridiculous playoff system in sports that's not called the Chase for the Cup.

** And that doesn't include Bradley's awesome Ryder Cup performance when he almost surely would have made the difference if he wasn't left on the bench for what turned-out to be the pivotal match (more on that here). I guess his "problem" in the eyes of the WGR is that he only gets up for the big games.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fantasy Golf: Tampa Preview and Why Going to the Rihanna Concert is Good for Your Marriage

We need a rating scale for the level of devotion a man has to his wife based on the concerts he is willing to attend with her (just bear with me on this one) and it can only apply to concerts. Going to movies like Beaches, Steel Magnolias and anything from the Twilight series aren't as telling because the tickets are a fraction of the cost, the time commitment is less and there are rarely parking hassles. Not to mention, if a movie is that unwatchable, you can always sleep through it. You get a little more credit for attending chick-driven Broadway musicals like Mama Mia and Chicago but frankly, those usually end-up being pretty entertaining and the theatre crowd is generally tolerable as long as you steer clear of anyone in a beret and/or a turtleneck. Concerts, however, are work and if you're down on (as opposed to "down with") the performer, they're as bad as Walmart on Black Friday. But some are worse than others and for that, we "need" a scale. 
Oh my God that leg literally
stretches up to heaven.

It should run from 1-10 with a 1 being a show that you would never think to see on your own but that you don't find immediately objectionable when it's first pitched to you. For me, this was the Black Eyed Peas which I actually ended-up enjoying because (a) it turns out that I already knew and liked some of their songs, (b)'s medley included Don't Stop Believin' for which I am always a sucker and, most importantly, (c) we saw them in Baltimore where nothing except Crack the Sky concerts and monster truck shows sell-out so we spent most of the show five feet from the runway watching Fergie redefine the word "strut" for the better part of two and half hours. 

A 10 on this scale would be a show where if your wife said, "we're going to this together or it's over," you'd say, "all I want is my golf clubs, my car and the 60" plasma." This concert would have to be so bad that the only reason your wife would even ask you to go would be because you did something so wrong that it would elicit a response from Homer Simpson along the lines of "man, that's messed-up." The performer that immediately jumps to mind as a 1 on this scale is Justin Bieber.** If you get home from work one day and your wife says, "great news, I just scored us two floor seats for Justin Bieber on StubHub for only $825 each," you're going to need to stifle your initial response of "what the f--k?!?" and quickly pivot to a more attractive commitment that you previously had scheduled for that night like an appendectomy. 

What does all of this have to do with anything? Well tonight I will be in attendance at the second show of Rihanna's Diamonds World Tour. So the question is, where does the Rihanna concert fall on our devotion scale? Well the picture below alone means that it's not a 10*** for the same reason that seeing Madonna in her prime wouldn't have been a 10 (though it's creeping that way with each passing year . . . emphasis on the word "creeping"). I expect the production value to be pretty strong and the crowd should be relatively young and predominantly female so that's two more in the plus column. If I'm breaking this down honestly, that probably means I'm looking at something in the range of a 3.**** To put that into perspective, here is the complete scale based on my limited knowledge of current pop music:
Don't underestimate the train
wreck potential for these two.

1 - Black Eyed Peas
2 - Britney Spears 
3 - Rihanna
4 - Madonna (circa 1993)
5 - Justin Timberlake
6 - Beyonce
7 - Maroon 5
8 - Madonna (circa 2012)
9 - John Mayer
10 - Justin Bieber    

I actually think a Britney Spears show would have enough unintentional comedy value to make it bearable and I'd be very curious to see what her 2013 concert crowd would look like. Just one guy in a cut-off flannel shirt dropping his facade and going full trance dance during Womanizer would make it all worthwhile. You can add Coldplay somewhere in that 7-8 range and put the Jonas Brothers alongside Justin Bieber. You'd have to shoot me with a tranquilizer dart to get me to one of those shows and even then I would count on my subconscious to roll me out of the back of the van and into the safety of a drainage ditch until I came to. Any other ideas for this list? Email them to the FGR here and I'll follow-up with something more comprehensive later (says the guy who still hasn't published the second half of the Super Bowl Timeline as of March 12th). 

There's really no easy way to segue into fantasy golf picks from this topic but I'll give it a shot. Ummmm . . . check-out these fantasy golf picks. They're really cool.       

The Overall Top Five
Explain to me again why strip clubs get a bad rap. 

1. Jason Dufner
2. Adam Scott
3. Webb Simpson
4. Sergio Garcia
5. Luke Donald

One and Done Top Five

1. Jason Dufner
2. Webb Simpson
3. Sergio Garcia
4. Luke Donald
5. Jason Day   

Cadillac Report Card: B

1. Charl Schwartzel - 16th
2. Graeme McDowell - 3rd
3. Steve Stricker - 2nd
4. Justin Rose - 8th
5. Matt Kuchar - 35th
6. Luke Donald - 43rd
7. Adam Scott - 3rd
8. Hunter Mahan - 25th
9. Nick Watney - 49th
10. Tiger Woods - 1st

I seem to be developing quite a knack for picking the guy who catches fire on Friday and Saturday only to go down the tubes on Sunday. This week it was Charl Schwartzel who came up as short as his first name with a closing round 75. That was the highest Sunday score of anyone in the top 20 besides Bubba Watson and, in a related story, the top two picks on one of my two fantasy teams this year were Bubba and Charl. To make matters worse, my one and done picks for the week were Charl and Nick Watney who shot 77-74 on the weekend and appears to be dragging his slump into year number two (more on this in the FGR Rankings Update later this week). Meanwhile, Tiger is starting to look freaky comfortable on his favorite courses again as he is now the defending champ at Torrey Pines, Doral, Bay Hill, Muirfield and Congressional. Unfortunately, they didn't play a major at any of those courses over the last twelve months so for me, the jury is still out.


* This whole thing started as a simple endnote and then it got away from me to the point where it took over the entire post. Sorry for the lack of golf analysis but (a) it's not like we're previewing the British Open this week (last year this tournament was named after the modern version of Ambervision sunglasses), and (b) I'll make it up to you later in the week with a comprehensive FGR Rankings Update.

** Don't confuse this with taking your kids to a Justin Bieber concert which is a completely different animal as evidenced by the fact that I've seen the Wiggles in concert more times than I've seen my favorite band of all-time (The Who). I will add that, after seeing the Wiggles four times over a six year span, it's pretty clear that, whether you're trashing hotel rooms with Keith Moon or Wags the Dog, life on the road takes its toll. 
"OK Boys and Girls, who can tell me
what's in a Long Island Iced Tea?"

*** In case you were wondering, the band that gets a 10 on the female version of this scale is Rush. I've been to two Rush concerts in the last two years and I've only seen seven women at both shows combined. The sound of Geddy Lee's voice is apparently a taste only men can acquire . . . kind of like the taste of beef jerky and malt liquor.    

**** A 3 actually defeats the whole point of this exercise which was to build me up as a devoted husband for not only buying the tickets but agreeing to go. Doh!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fantasy Golf Preview: The Cadillac Championship

I feel like I've been on a hiatus because it's been nearly a month since I've covered anything except golf* despite the fact that we've had a variety of worthy topics to write about ranging from the Oscars to meteorites pelting the Earth to the erasure of any remaining chance that you'll ever catch me on a cruise ship (not that there was really any remaining chance but at least now I have the Carnival cruise disaster to point to if anyone ever invites me).

Please join us for an impromptu
production of Lord of the Flies
now playing on the Aloha deck.
For the record, I thought Seth McFarlane nailed the Oscar hosting gig. Anyone who downgraded him because he missed on a few jokes clearly wasn't judging him in comparison to the lackluster performances of the more recent hosts. A good rule of thumb is that when you're criticizing comedy and you start sounding a lot like Bruno Kirby and J.T. Walsh from Good Morning Vietnam, you might want to just shut-up and go back to watching Mind of Mencia** reruns.

But enough with the warm-ups, we've got a big time golf tournament looming that has never failed to deliver since moving to Doral. The six winners at the current venue have been Justin Rose, Nick Watney, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy and Tiger Woods. Last year's top ten featured Rose, Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Peter Hanson, Charl Schwartzel, Luke Donald, Keegan Bradley, Matt  Kuchar, Steve Stricker and Bo Van Pelt. That's more studs than Magic Mike (see what I did there with the movie thing? . . . Sometimes it's just like weaving a basket).

So we've got a loaded field and six different winners in the last six years. How do you make a pick out of that? (Seriously, I'm asking - Email the FGR). I love Schwartzel here. It looks like he started to get his U.S. legs under him last week at the Honda with a tie for 9th and he's got a tie for 4th at Doral in 2012 to go along with his 2nd place finish in 2010. After that, you could go with any of about a dozen players. I originally had Kuch penciled into that #2 spot but it is extremely rare for a player to take down to high profile events in the space of three weeks unless that player is 1999-2000 Tiger (who was just silly business).

As I look at the list again, I'm wondering how I could have left off Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley and even a guy like Charles Howell, III who is playing great right now but who do you bump out of there? McDowell has looked very sharp the last few weeks despite the worst cardigan since The Cosby Show. Stricker looks like he's going to make every event on his limited schedule count. Rose is the defending champ and playing great and I could go on. The one glaring omission is obviously Rory McIlroy and I would not be surprised if he shocked us by showing-up and playing well like Tiger did after he withdrew from this event last year and then won at Bay Hill two weeks later. But Rory is clearly not Tiger as evidenced by the fact that he hasn't even learned to fabricate an injury BEFORE he walks-off the course. And a toothache? Don't they have dentists in Northen Ireland? (Actually, I'm going to ask for some help with that one too - Email the FGR). I better stop there before someone accuses me of offending both Irish dentists.  

Good thing Jennifer Lawrence won because
 Emmanuelle Riva is not really FGR material.
The Cadillac Top Ten

1. Charl Schwartzel
2. Graeme McDowell
3. Steve Stricker
4. Justin Rose
5. Matt Kuchar
6. Luke Donald
7. Adam Scott
8. Hunter Mahan
9. Nick Watney
10. Tiger Woods

Last Week's Report Card: B

1. Fredrik Jacobson - T25th
2. Graeme McDowell - T9th
3. Lee Westwood - T9th
4. Keegan Bradley - T4th
5. Rickie Fowler - T13th

I thought I had finally struck gold with my personal pick of Lee Westwood who entered the final round two shots out of the lead trailing only a rookie and a guy who had never won before but that was before I discovered that he's actually worse at putting than I am at making small talk with the other parents at my kids' school.*** You watch Westwood stripe it down the middle for nine straight holes and hit every green and you wonder how he's never won a major. Then you watch him miss the hole by two inches on a three foot putt and you wonder no more.


* The last non-golf piece I wrote was The Super Bowl Timeline: Part I. You'd be justified if you took a title like that as an indication that The Super Bowl Timeline: Part II would be soon to follow. (This was always the part of the conversation where I would just shrug my shoulders, look at the floor and wait for the teacher to realize that I was too lazy to even make-up an excuse for flat out blowing-off an assignment).

** Mind of Mencia was a show built around comedian Carlos Mencia. If you don't know who Carlos Mencia is, Google "unfunniest comedians" and scroll past Yakov Smirnoff.

"That is humor . . .
I recognize that."
*** If you were to rank my personal skills from 1 to infinity, hitting fairway woods and writing business letters designed to piss-off the recipient without sacrificing professionalism would be near the top and making small talk would rank near the bottom between ice skating and singing. (Much to the chagrin of the person who lives in my house to whom I am related by marriage, I really like to sing and, in my head, I think I sound a lot like Roger Daltrey).