Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fantasy Golf: The Wells Fargo Preview

A few things you may want to consider when making your pick this week: (1) Webb Simpson lives in the Quail Hollow development where this week's Wells Fargo Championship will be played, (2) Webb Simpson finished 4th in this tournament last year after holding the 54 hole lead, and (3) Webb Simpson finished second in the last PGA Tour event he played. The pick is so obvious that I almost feel like someone is messing with and I should go in a different direction. But if I do that and then Simpson wins, I'll spend Sunday evening pounding nails into the floor with my forehead and I don't want to risk spending Sunday evening pounding nails into the floor with my forehead so I'm picking Simpson. Everyone else on the top five list has either won or finished second at Quail Hollow except for Bill Haas but I'm pretty sure that, based on this home movie footage of Bill and Jay, they grew-up in a small town nearby so they've got some local knowledge.

Judging by all of the people who found
their way to the FGR last week unsuccessfully
searching for Billy Horschel's wife/girlfriend,
he's apparently in the market. Anyone know
what Amanda Beard is up to these days?
The Overall Top Five

1. Webb Simpson
2. Bill Haas
3. Rickie Fowler
4. Lucas Glover
5. Sergio Garcia

Last Week's Report Card: B

1. Jason Dufner - T42nd
2. Justin Rose - T15th
3. Billy Horschel - 1st
4. Jimmy Walker - T8th
5. Brendon DeJonge - Cut

As chafed as I was for not making Horschel my pick despite anguishing* over it, I'm glad I went with Dufner to get his sad sack ass out of the way. Just when you thought no one could make playing golf seem less enjoyable, along comes 2013 Dufner who looks like he's working in a diaper recycling plant. It's no coincidence that everyone who picked him in a preseason draft shares the same expression.**


* Sadly, "anguishing" is not an exaggeration. Now every time I see Horschel's winning celebration, I can't keep from muttering a stream of expletives until the FGW asks me what's wrong and I have to say "nothing . . . I'm just a jackass."

** My apologies for the brief effort this week but I've got a trip to a couple of marquee courses on the East Coast of Florida lined-up this weekend and, like Kramer in his brief stint as an executive, I'm just trying to get ahead. Oh yeah, I also finished tied for 40th in the Maryland State Two-Man Championship today. My partner and I shot a 74 that had all of the excitement of watching Jason Dufner eat a bowl of tomato soup. The high round of the day was an 88 shot by two single digit handicaps who made 7 bogeys and 5 doubles. My guess is that at least one of them is known around his home club as "the ATM."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The 2nd Annual FGR NFL Mock Draft

I've been carrying my iPad around trying to cobble this thing together in 20 minute spurts for the better part of a week. Parts of this have been written in my car, my kitchen, a locker room and a Chick-fil-A and even with all of that, I still ran out of time because at 5:30 last night I heard those words that every man fears, "it's time to leave for the Rihanna concert." At that point, I had completed the "analysis" of 22 of the 32 picks and I would say that about 14 of those were worth publishing. I had fully intended on completing the assignment when I got home but that went out the window when I woke-up on the couch at 3:15 a.m. snuggling a half-eaten bag of Tostitos.* When I woke-up the second time at 5:45 a.m., I was not exactly "shining bright like a diamond."**

The Santa Claus of April.
Cut to 9:30 a.m. on the day of the draft and it didn't make much sense to publish a mock draft after the fact so I was going to have to take a few short-cuts. Fortunately, the picks were already done courtesy of a sampling from Todd McShay and Mel Kiper's work with a couple of FGR audibles thrown in for good measure. The problem was finding something to put in the voids next to some of those names and then I remembered that I had spent the better part of the previous night's concert entertaining myself by tweeting my observations and, since no one who reads the FGR has a Twitter account, all of that material would be fresh. Upon review, I had generated 14 tweets before my phone died and most of them were better than the crap I'd written for the mock draft so they made the cut. You'll recognize the tweets by the #.

1. Kansas City Chiefs - Luke Joeckel: The Chiefs appear to have solved the quarterback problem they created by trading a high second round draft pick to the Patriots' for back-up Matt Cassel by trading a high second round draft pick to the 49ers for back-up Alex Smith. (At this point, it just seems appropriate to write the words "institutional memory" and let them dangle there). The good news for the Chiefs is that they have positioned themselves to keep picking at the top of the draft until they hit one with a franchise quarterback. In the meantime, they'll take the best offensive tackle to ensure that Alex Smith hits his projected stats of 3,200 yards with 19 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars - Dion Jordan (DE/OLB): When addressing a dire quarterback situation in the face of a weak free agent market and an even weaker draft, there are two approaches: (1) The Chiefs' approach (see above) and (2) the Jags approach which apparently goes something like, "sometimes the best move is the one you don't make" which would be ok unless the move you weren't making was replacing Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne as your starting quarterbacks.

3. Oakland Raiders - Dee Milliner (CB): "Last three shows I've seen in this venue: Rush, The Wiggles and Rihanna." -
"Like I said, I'm not here
to talk about the past."

4. Philadelphia Eagles - Star Lotulelei (DT): The Eagles are banking on Chip Kelly being the next Pete Carroll and it's looking good so far as Kelly followed Carroll's exit strategy to perfection by staying one step ahead of the NCAA posse. In fact, Kelly may have taken it to a new level by moving all the way across the country making his denials seem that much more plausible ("how am I supposed to know? I'm 3,000 miles away").

5. Detroit Lions - Ezekiel Ansah (DE): After exceeding expectations in 2012, the Lions reverted back to the Millen mean in 2012 highlighted by coach Jim Schwartz's conniption fit at the end of the 49ers game. In their ongoing effort to tongue tie the offensive line coach's of their opponents, the Lions will start defensive lineman Ezekiel Ansah alongside Ndamakong Suh.

6. Cleveland Browns - Sharrif Floyd (DT): "Sharrif don't like it . . . Rock the Casbah, Rock the Casbah" (sorry). Here's a tweet to make-up for that: "The security guard for our section is no fun." -  

7. Arizona Cardinals - Eric Fisher (OT): When you trade for Carson Palmer, you better start drafting offensive linemen in bunches because you're going to need a nine man wall to protect him while Larry Fitzgeral tries to get open against quadruple coverage.

8. Buffalo Bills - Ryan Nassib (QB): I had to go to the fourth Google search result for "Bills Depth Chart" before I could find one that had a quarterback and the name in that slot was T. Jackson which I am assuming is Tavaris Jackson who might (and I stress the word "might") be one of the fifteen best BACKUP quarterbacks in the league. That can't be acceptable, even by Bills' standards. There will be at least one quarterback taken in the top ten and I'm guessing it's Nassib here because he played for new Bills coach Doug Marrone at Syracuse and that seems like the kind of logic the Bills would use to make their first round pick.

9. New York Jets - Barkevious Mingo (DE/OLB): "Judging by the body language, there are at least 35 rappers in this Rihanna crowd who think they're better than the opening act." -

10. Tennessee Titans - Chance Warmack (OG): Drafting a run blocking guard might be enough to push Chris Johnson back into the first round of some fantasy drafts this year. It won't be a problem for me, however, as I've already hired someone to shoot me with Taser gun if I even mention the words "Chris Johnson" within 72 hours of the draft.

11. San Diego Chargers - Jonathan Cooper (OG): You basically pick a guard if you were considered one of the most disappointing teams of 2012 and you (a) don't really know why, (b) don't know who to pick and (c) just hired a new coach and general manager who don't want to answer a lot of tough questions on draft day. Picking a guard is like ordering the chicken. No one ever asks you why you ordered the chicken (except Alan Arkin . . . "every night it's the fuckin' chicken!).
Hey, don't say Tannehill
unless you got some.

12. Miami Dolphins - Tavon Austin (WR):  And so begins five wasted years for the Dolphins as they try to assemble a team around Ryan Tannehill. This is your fate when you spend a first round pick on a more likable version of Jay Cutler.

13. New York Jets - Matt Barkley (QB): This is the pick the Jets received from Tampa Bay in exchange for one of the greatest cornerbacks of all-time who could still be in his prime. The only way it could elicit more boos from the crowd is if they picked another USC quarterback so, it may be wishful thinking, but here you go. Speaking of the Bucs, the clock is ticking on head coach Greg Schiano who may have one season left before his players pull a Niedermeyer on him which begs the question, "has Rutgers ever hired a coach who wasn't a chafing asshole?"

14. Carolina Panthers - Sheldon Richardson (DT): The Panthers are owned by Jerry Richardson so I assume this is his son. Holy nepotisim. Let's supplement that with a tweet: "The FGW just asked if I know any of these songs. Really?" -

15. New Orleans Saints - Jarvis Jones (LB): Most experts agree that the Saints' position of greatest need is "anyone who can play defense" so this is a logical choice.

16. St. Louis Rams - Cordarrelll Patterson (WR): Todd McShay notes that, "his route-running, like the rest of his game, is raw." Sounds like the perfect guy to draft when your relatively immobile quarterback is on his way to being the next David Carr.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers - Tyler Eifert (TE): Eifert is a big white tight end who can play opposite Heath Miller thereby creating match-up problems for defenses that have never seen an NFL team start two big white tight ends before (a/k/a "The Notre Dame Package").

18. Dallas Cowboys - Sylvester Williams (DT): For years I have been a proponent of teams with turnover prone quarterbacks putting a defensive lineman next to him in the 4th quarter to tackle him anytime he tries to do something like throw off his back foot or across his body. No one throws more soul-crushing interceptions than Tony Romo so if the Cowboys use this pick on a defensive tackle, I'll know someone finally listened.

19. New York Giants - Desmond Trufant (CB): This is a no-brainer because guys named Desmond and Dezi and Dez are always fun to be around and, when your starting quarterback is Captain Poopy Pants, you're always looking for guys who can brighten-up the locker room. Think about it. When was the last time you said, "oh no, Desmond is here." Never right? There you have it.
"Yeah, I was saying 'Fluker'
you stupid mutherf-ckers."

20. Chicago Bears - D.J. Fluker (OT): Another prudent chemistry move. Now when Jay Cutler is calling his linemen "mutherf-ckers," the coach can say, "no, no, no . . . he was saying 'Fluker.'"

21. Cincinnati Bengals - Alec Ogletree (LB): "Ogletree is less reliable off the field as he was suspended for the first four games of the 2012 season for a violation of team rules." - NFL.com. Alec Ogletree . . . meet the Cincinnati Bengals.

22. St. Louis Rams - Kenny Vaccaro (S): This is one of the picks the Rams received when the Redskins traded-up to get RG, III last year. To make matters worse, Rams coach Jeff Fisher felt so good about the move at the time that he ended the call by telling Mike Shanahan, "black jack no trade back" meaning that it now can't be undone. It just goes to show, NEVER use "black jack no trade back" unless you are 100% sure that you won the trade.

23. Minnesota Vikings - Bjoern Werner (DE): First the Desmond thing, then Fluker followed by the suspended kid to the Bengals and here the Vikings have a shot to draft a guy named "Bjoern?" This is the easiest mock draft ever. I'm going to be very disappointed if they don't hand him a helmet with horns on it as he walks to the podium.

24. Indianapolis Colts - Xavier Rhodes (CB): "There is at least a 30 percent lower chance I will get in a fight here v. a Coldplay concert." - #stabbing #nowitnesses

25. Minnesota Vikings - Manti Te'o (LB): I just hope someone picks him before the Ravens are up. Let's bulk this one up with a tweet as I'm running out of steam: "Rihanna just said 'Baltimore' for the 8th time and 'fuck' for the 4th time." -

26. Green Bay Packers - Menelik Watson (OT): "I just yelled 'Fuck yes Question 6' and got three free Daiquiris." -

27. Houston Texans - Robert Woods (WR): "I feel underdressed." -

28. Denver Broncos - D.J. Hayden (CB): Mel Kiper, Jr. notes that "Champ Bailey can't play forever." Judging by his performance against Torry Smith in the playoffs last year, Mel might want to change "forever" to "anymore." 

29. New England Patriots - Justin Hunter (WR): "The FGW just lamented her diminutive booty." -
In hindsight, the Tri-Lams
didn't make-out too badly.

30. Atlanta Falcons - Cornellius Carradine (DE): I'm assuming that Cornellius is one of the Kung Fu Carradines and not a Lambda Lambda Lambda Carradine. Tweet time: "David Coverdale's back-up band just played some inspired solos." -

31. San Francisco 49ers - John Jenkins (DT): Jenkins weighs 346 pounds which means an opposing coach or player would need very long arms to land a punch on Jim Harbaugh's jaw with Jenkins standing between them.

32. Baltimore Ravens - Jonatahn Cyprien (S): "Holy crap the keyboard player just ripped-off the rif from Baba O'Reilly." -  #timetogo

That's about when my phone ran out of gas so I wasn't able to comment on (1) "the lack of partitions between the urinals." - #stayclassyBaltimore; and (2) "half the crowd bailing before the encore and then rushing back to their seats when it started." - #bushleaguemove. All in all, not an entirely unenjoyable concert experience but it was no Wiggles show. Then again, what is? Toot toot chugga chugga big red car . . .***


* Truly a "someone call the SPCA because there's a cat in my mouth" situation.

** This is the song Rihanna closed with. I think the words "shine bright like a diamond" were the only ones she didn't lip-sync. 

*** I wrote that from memory.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fantasy Golf: The Zurich Classic Preview

OK let's go ahead and dispense with this thoroughly unpredictable tournament so we can get back to completing work on the 2nd Annual FGR NFL Mock Draft. Let's face it, the last five winners of this thing (Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson, Jason Bohn, Jerry Kelly and Andres Romero) don't exactly establish a trend or a winner's type. At least Dufner has a T3rd and a T7th to go along with his 2012 win in Louisiana so we'll make him the pick, throw-in a shot of a random hottie and get back to figuring-out which poor bastard will be holding-up a Brown's jersey on Thursday night and asking Roger Goodell under his breath, "how long are rookie contracts again?"
"Bring on the mock draft y'all."

The Overall Top Five

1. Jason Dufner
2. Justin Rose
3. Billy Horschel
4. Jimmy Walker
5. Brendon De Jonge

Last Week's Report Card: B

1. Luke Donald - T3rd
2. Matt Kuchar - T35th
3. Billy Horschel - T9th
4. Boo Weekley - T42nd
5. Stewart Cink - T24th

At least I was smart enough to avoid Brandt Snedeker who was a popular pick last week despite the fact that (a) he's more emotional than Dick Vermeil and (b) he had just blown his best shot at a major with a +3 back nine at Augusta. Sneds is going to need a little time to process that one. I just hope he recovers for the British Open where I have him slotted with Ernie Els. For that matter, it'd be nice to see Ernie make a top 10 between now and then. Crap. I may need to reevaluate that strategy altogether.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fantasy Golf: The Masters Update and Heritage Preview

When I sat down to watch the final round of the Masters on Sunday, I had fully intended to pull-out the iPad and crank-out the second annual comprehensive timeline for what was shaping-up to be another epic finish. Then I started exchanging texts about maybe going out to meet a few friends for "a beer" and then getting back to the solitude of the FGR cave for the back nine but it took an hour before we finally decided to jump, just when the leaders were making the turn (our first mistake).

When we arrived at the bar, the crew was a little larger than expected and the vibe was strong* which almost made-up for the fact that they were playing music instead of Nantz, Feherty and company. I took that as a positive, however, as it was going to make it easier to get out of there after a couple pops. My exit would also surely be hastened by this group's golf IQ which was not particularly high as evidenced by the fact that they were unknowingly watching the "final group only" coverage on one of the CBS Sports cable channels instead of the main broadcast. (A good rule of thumb is that, if you've been watching the Masters for an hour without seeing Tiger hit a shot and he is anywhere on or near the golf course, something is amiss).
"Ian, is that a range finder in your pocket or
are you thinking about the Ryder Cup?"

By this time, I'd already achieved my prescribed two drink maximum but I felt like we'd just gotten there. And besides, my ideal finish from a kids' college fund standpoint was Adam Scott  first and Jason Day second** which was starting to look like a real possibility as the inevitable Brandt Snedeker meltdown*** was underway and Tiger was stuck in neutral. So we decided to stay for a couple more holes (our second mistake).

By now the beer was flowing like wine and all of the early twenty somethings from the "Spring Kickball League"**** were flocking away like the salmon of Capistrano. The only people left were us and a few other casual golf fans who were digging our stinging commentary (or so we thought until we were chided by the bartender on the way out for being crass - my word, not hers). At this point, it was clearly going to come down to Scott, Day or Angel Cabrera and, according to Nick Faldo, Cabrera was starting to lose his balance (nice call Nick).

It was Day who stumbled next by choosing to putt on 16 instead of chipping with several feet of wet fringe between his ball and the green. Pros chip that because it takes the guess work out of judging the speed of the wet fringe, however, nervous players putt it because there is no chance for catastrophe with a putt. Day made the tentative play and it cost him a stroke. He then hit a weak second shot on 17 into the front bunker and he was done. He played 16-18 a combined four over on Saturday and Sunday without hitting a bad tee shot. He should go ahead and put a television on the ceiling above his bed because he's going to spend a lot of time staring in that direction over the next few months.

So it was down to Scott and El Pato and the Duck knows how to do two things, win majors and rip cigarettes . . . and it appeared he was about out of cigarettes. Even when Scott made the amazing birdie putt on 18, I knew it was more likely than not that Cabrera would answer, which of course he did . . . in style. When his short putt dropped to force a playoff, someone announced that Irish Car Bombs were in order and who could argue? (Our fourth and final mistake). We had overtime at Augusta, Irish Car Bombs and I had a horse in the race. It was so on.

And then El Pato just started chucking darts at my money PiƱata. The first one actually missed by a mile as his second shot on 18 (from almost the same spot where he had stuck it half an hour before) came-up well short. Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief, however, he almost holed the chip, followed by Adam Scott leaving his three feet short forcing a putt about which I was clearly more nervous than he was. (Isn't gambling fun?) Then, on the second playoff hole, Cabrera hit the best putt of the year that didn't go in since Mickelson's lip-out for 59 in Phoenix. That one threw me for such a loop that I barely recovered in time to fly off my stool when Scott drained his for the win.

I've been doing this fantasy golf thing for 16 years and that was the 4th time I've had the Masters winner (NERD ALERT!!!). I had Tiger for his first one in 1997, Phil Mickelson for his first in 2004 and Mike Weir who beat Len Mattiace in a playoff in 2003 (holy crap, Len Mattiace almost won the Masters?) so they've all been pretty sweet but this was the first time I picked the Masters winner in January and then drafted him specifically because I thought he was going to win the green jacket. So despite the train wreck my season has been from a prognosticating standpoint so far, I have two things to say to all of those people (two, maybe three) who've been calling me out this spring: (1) The season doesn't officially start until April, and (2) Eat it!.            

Adam Scott's win yields
nothing but FGR positives.
Last Week's Report Card: B+

1. Phil Mickelson - T54th
2. Tiger Woods - T4th
3. Adam Scott - 1st
4. Rory McIlroy - T25th
5. Matt Kuchar - T8th
6. Justin Rose - T25th
7. Keegan Bradley - T54th
8. Charl Schwartzel - T25th
9. Lee Westwood - T8th
10. Sergio Garcia - T8th

Two words: Freakin Phil. On Friday, he was standing on the 9th tee at -2 preparing to play a back nine on which he had made four birdies the previous day and I was thinking "here we go." Only it didn't turn-out to be the kind of "here we go" where the little dog brings you a beer. It was more like the kind of "here we go" when someone decides that Thanksgiving dinner would be a good time to discuss the pros and cons of Obamacare. Over the next 45 holes, Phil would make 13 bogeys and 3 doubles including so many balls in the water that you would have thought that Rae's Creek was his passed-out college roommate's mouth.*****

The Heritage Preview

Let's make quick work of the the Afterthought Invitational (nice tournament . . . bad timing). I love Jim Furyk here but he just seems like such a great fit for the U.S. Open this year that I think he's worth saving. Same with Snedeker and the British Open but that's more of a crap shoot so, if you think he can bounce back from the Masters disappointment, you have my blessing. Boo Weekley is an intriguing choice if you're looking to go a bit off the grid to try to make-up some ground:

Have I mentioned you
look great in tartan? 
The Overall Top Five

1. Jim Furyk
2. Brandt Snedeker
3. Luke Donald
4. Matt Kuchar
5. Billy Horschel

The One and Done Top Five

1. Luke Donald
2. Matt Kuchar
3. Billy Horschel
4. Boo Weekley
5. Stewart Cink


* This bar did not serve Mount Gay rum and we had a serious Mount Gay rum drinker among us. Instead of letting this setback knock him off his game, however, he decided to prove the theorem that 1 Mount Gay and tonic = 2 Tanqueray and tonics. He appeared to be well on his way to being right until the ratio hit about 5 to 10 and then things started to break down.  

** I had three wagering angles on this year's Masters: (1) Season long team (Scott and Day), (2) one and done which was a two and done for the Masters (Scott and Mickelson), and (3) a parimutuel where I had all of the Australians (so even Marc Leishman had my interest but he was clearly walking away with this year's "Peter Hanson Just Happy to be Here Award").

*** Shane Ryan wrote a decent but somewhat half-assed final round diary for Grantland in which he noted about Snedeker, "and this should teach us an important lesson: Before a golfer with a bad track record of performance under pressure actually performs well under pressure, let's just stop assuming he's going to perform well under pressure. Because he probably won't." I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he didn't jack that theory from the March 20th FGR where I wrote of Snedeker, "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." So in the words of Tony Kornheiser, I believe I had that. 

**** Look, I get why people play in these post-college coed pseudo athletic social leagues (actually I don't) but kickball? A word of advice from someone who's been around. If you're spending your spring Sunday afternoons in a bar wearing a kickball jersey/t-shirt with a number on the back, you are basically establishing your ceiling somewhere around a Dodge Stratus and family spring breaks on a Carnival Cruise Ship. Kickball?!? Come on man. You're only 27 years old. Don't give up yet.

***** There goes my press pass for the 2014 Masters but I think it was worth it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Fantasy Golf: The Masters Preview

A friend of mine walked up to me at a party* on Saturday night and said, "your head must be spinning . . . this is a huge week coming up." He was right. I've been a hardcore follower of professional golf for over 20 years and can't remember anxiously anticipating a tournament as much as the 2013 Masters. At some point, I'm going to have to take a look back at how I've spent the last 20 years but, for now, I've got no choice but to go with it so let's take a spin through the storylines and try to come-up with some cheesy New York Post style headlines starting with the back page stuff and working our way to the cover. (Warning: I was slightly impaired when I made the final edit on this so judge accordingly).

First Times the Charm

"I'm telling you John, it's
gonna be the Godfather II
of dance movies."
Before Ernie Els' British Open win last year, we had a run of nine straight majors won by first timers. Part of that can be attributed to Tiger pulling the greatest career prime meltdown since Bobby Fischer or John Travolta but it had more to do with the overall rising tide of talent on tour as those nine winners weren't schlubs. Every one of them was a Ryder Cup/President's Cup caliber player and they were all deserving winners. So are we ready for another one at Augusta? Seven years ago I would have said no because chalk used to rule at the Masters but the last six winners include four guys who've only won one major - Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel, Trevor Immelman and Zach Johnson (with the Immelman/Johnson wins coming in 2007-08 a/k/a golf's dark ages when Padraig Freakin' Harrington won three majors).

Half of my top ten for 2013 have never won a major and no one would be too surprised if any of these guys who already have a Masters top five to their credit walked with a green jacket this year: Adam Scott (2nd), Matt Kuchar (3rd), Justin Rose (5th), Lee Westwood (2nd) or Sergio Garcia (4th) .** Out of those five, I'd give Scott and Kuchar the best chance as no European player has won at Augusta since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999. (That is a completely irrelevant fact but it's the kind of thing you always see in these golf preview pieces and I really had no other way to wrap-up this section so . . . um . . . suck it).

Whither the Bubba?

I have no idea if I used "whither" correctly there but you get the picture. Despite his defending champion status, Bubba Watson is a 35-1 shot to win this year which puts him 12th in the odds rankings. He seemed to have gotten over his Masters hangover last year by the Tour Championship where he finished 5th but his only top five in 2013 is a tie for 4th at the limited field Hyundai. Maybe a return to Augusta will fan the fire but there would appear to be a lot of guys who want it more right now. Not to mention, Bubba never met a microphone or TV camera he didn't like and there are always plenty of those distractions to go around for last year's winner. Look for Bubba to spend Saturday and Sunday cruising up and down Washington Road in the General Lee pretending like he's not trying to draw attention to himself.

 McIlroyally Unpredictable

With all of that being said, I still need
a little more distance from this image
before I can pick Rory at Augusta.
Remember last year when Rory missed the cut at the U.S. Open and then tied for 60th at the British Open and many were writing him off as a total head case? Then he tied for 5th at the Bridgestone and followed that by shooting 67-66 on the weekend at Kiawah to blow away the PGA Championship field by 8 strokes and everyone said "well he is indisputably the best player in the world." Then he solidified that status with two wins during the FedEx Cup. This was followed by winter when golf fans tend to go into a memory erasing hibernation.

So when Rory had the audacity to accept $200,000,000 from Nike to play their clubs and then took some time to adjust to them while Tiger was winning three tournaments, all of the sudden his two blowout majors and the two wins at the end of last season were long since forgotten. Well guess who just shot 66 in San Antonio on Sunday and would have won if Martin Laird hadn't pulled a 63 out of his ass? (No, not Sonja Henie). That's right, the man who is still the undisputed best player in the world per the FGR Rankings. Just don't pick him this week (see photo).
The Tiger in the Room

Some are calling this Masters the biggest tournament of Tiger's career and, despite the fact that I'm not sure I agree with them, I can certainly see what's motivating them to say it. There have been 18 majors won by 16 different players since Tiger won his last one at the 2008 U.S. Open and he hasn't won at Augusta since 2005, finishing 6th or better from 2006-2011 before falling to 40th last year. But now he appears to have his dominating game back along with its accompanying swagger. The problem with golf is that when you cross swagger with expectation, you usually end-up with a melange of frustration and disappointment. If you're someone who plays the game, you'll recognize this from those 9 out of 10 times where you think you're bringing your "A" game to a great course or to a competitive environment and your desire to succeed disables your ability to execute (please tell me this doesn't just happen to me).***

My point (to the extent I have one) is that those six wins over the past year plus have Tiger feeling great about his game as they should because they were all solid but he wasn't craving any of those titles. He would have been just as happy with a win at this year's Honda Classic as he would have with the win at the Farmers (maybe even more happy because he's never won the Honda Classic). To say that he is craving a win at the 2013 Masters is an understatement. Augusta is where it all really started for him with his record breaking win back in 1997 and every reasonable right minded golf fan acknowledges that it stands alone as golf's greatest title. Every year he doesn't win is another precious green jacket lost and that is absolutely on his mind. When you add what I believe is the toughest Masters field in history, it's just too much to ask. There's a 75% chance Tiger wins a major in 2013, it just won't be this one.

Not to mention, I think this whole
Lindsey Vonn thing may have
just re-energized Elin's curse.
The Masters Top 10

1. Phil Mickelson
2. Tiger Woods
3. Adam Scott
4. Rory McIlroy
5. Matt Kuchar
6. Justin Rose
7. Keegan Bradley
8. Charl Schwartzel
9. Lee Westwood
10. Sergio Garcia

Why Mickelson? Well in the words of John Blutarsky, "(belch) . . . Why not?" But for one really errant tee shot and a bad bounce, he probably would have won last year. Since 2004, he's won three green jackets and has three other top five finishes at Augusta. This season he had a dominating win in Phoenix where he lipped-out for a 59 and he tied for 3rd at the WGC Cadillac. His most recent two competitive rounds were 67-68 in Houston and since then he has been off the radar and I'm going to assume that he has been devoting all of this attention to winning this week. Oh yeah, no one would love to stick it to Tiger more than Phil and a fourth green jacket would put them in a three-way tie for second most all time with Arnold Palmer behind Jack Nicklaus' six which would irk Tiger to no end. That form of motivation speaks to me so I'm envisioning Mickelson in Butler Cabin.


* I do in fact have friends and, as the FGW's spouse, I get invited to a fair amount of parties. However, most of the personal invitations I receive are to smaller gatherings of thick-skinned guys where the definition of "socializing" is binge drinking for 5-6 hours while trading verbal barbs. It's kind of like a Rutgers basketball practice without all of the physical contact, homophobic references and impromptu dodgeball games.

** Well maybe Sergio would be a surprise. By the way, Sergio has apparently paid his dues because I was sitting around talking with a bunch of golf junkies a few weeks ago and we all agreed that he was no longer detestable and for Sergio, "no longer detestable" means he's come a long way.

*** The reverse of this explains why you often play your best rounds when you feel like you're gestating an alien or you're convinced that your game is in the crapper. Who knew a simple sport of whacking a ball into a hole would become such a colossal mind-fuck?

Friday, April 5, 2013

"Falling Down 2: The FGR Story"

When trying to pinpoint when my anger management issues started, it is probably helpful to consider that my first favorite athlete was John McEnroe and it wasn't because I liked the way he acted on the court . . . it was because I understood why he acted the way he did on the court. This clip from Wimbledon in 1981 shows McEnroe at what was probably the peak of his volatility. After that outburst, everyone said that he would never win tennis' biggest tournament until he got himself under control, especially considering his main rival at the time was the calm, cool and collected Bjorn Borg. I remember thinking that they were wrong. The ONLY way he could win was by periodically unloading that angst and then using the residual heat to motivate himself. He beat Borg in the finals that year for the first of the three Wimbledon titles he would win over a four year span proving that you could be a raging hot head and still be good at a finesse sport like tennis.* It made perfect sense to me. (Hold that thought).

Hey do me a favor and hit me in
the skull with that when you're done.
Falling Down is a 1993 classic movie starring Michael Douglas as William Foster, "an unemployed defense worker frustrated with the various flaws he sees in society who begins to psychotically and violently lash out against them" (description courtesy of IMDB.com). I'm frankly surprised that it hasn't been remade once per decade incorporating updated sources of annoyance. You could make a 2013 version based entirely on a guy who goes over the edge and starts exacting punishment on annoying cell phone users and the people responsible for the painful Lowes commercial where the guys are high-fiving and doing touchdown dances while building a deck. (Hold that thought too).

That brings us to this. I'm not sure exactly when last weekend turned into my own personal Falling Down sequel. Maybe it was on Friday morning when I played golf and had what seemed like 42 putts and then went home, turned on the television and watched my pick of the week, Hunter Mahan, half-assedly gag a two footer that basically sealed his missed cut fate. Or maybe it started the night before when we went out to dinner and our waitress seemed to be playing a game called, "let's not write anything down and just let the cook guess what they ordered."  

All I know is that by Saturday morning it was on like Donkey Kong because as the FGK's and I were exiting the FGR compound through the rarely used back gate, I noticed a hose hanging over my fence which, upon further inspection, turned-out to be pumping water from my neighbor's pool into my backyard. This actually came as no surprise as these particular neighbors are what I like to call "assholes." Now ten years and three kids ago, I almost surely would have cut the hose in half and then knocked on the assholes' door to return the severed part adding something like, "I found this in my yard and I think it's yours . . . you're welcome." But considering that I had the FGK's in tow, I just threw the hose back over the fence and moved on. The level of pride I felt for not turning the situation into a full blown border war is probably a sad comment on the past and present state of my psyche.

"Hey Dykstra . . . I think
you dropped something."
About an hour later, I was at the local high school watching a lacrosse game against some prep school from Philadelphia when a Coke can rolled down the steps and landed at my feet. (No surprise there as we were sitting in the visitor's section and, as I said, the other team was from Philly). A few minutes later, I got up to throw my hamburger wrapper away and picked-up the can. As I was heading-up the steps, the person to whom said can obviously belonged but who never made any effort to pick it up half-heartedly put his hand-out and said "thanks." Not wanting to give him the satisfaction, I gave him a disapproving look and said, "that's ok, I got it." I'm not sure what happened after that but I assume he went back to Philly, ate at a diner, got in a fight and passed-out fully clothed on his parents' couch while holding a bag of Funyuns.** The rest of Saturday passed without further incident.

And then came Easter Sunday. Without going into detail, let's just say that it started about as well for the FGR as it did for the Florida Gators against Michigan. You know when I grab the Easter eggs and say "I'm going to hide the eggs" and no one volunteers to go with me, everyone recognizes that we are dealing with a "Contents Under Pressure: Handle with Care" holiday situation. (Turns-out that hiding Easter eggs can be very therapeutic). As far as I'm concerned, Easter is the one holiday that always comes up to bat down 5 runs in the bottom of the first because (a) it's already on a day you have off and (b) it starts in the morning and never seems to go anywhere. At least last year we had the final round of the Masters and I had an excuse to plant myself in front of the T.V. for five hours because I "had to" write the Masters Timeline. (That last sentence is really only in there to plug one of my personal favorite posts).  

By the time I got home around 3:00 p.m., the compilation of weekend encounters with the "assholes," the guy from Philly and the Easter bunny (we're just going to go ahead and make the rabbit the fall guy for the whole morning) had made me about as edgy as any character in the last hour of Reservoir Dogs (except the psychotic Mr. Blonde and fortunately, I hadn't reached that point . . . yet). I can generally be managed in one of two ways when in this condition: (1) inflamed with alcohol or (2) diffused with exercise. In yet another sign of my burgeoning maturity, I chose the latter so the FGW, FGK3 and I went to the gym.***

"I said I WILL BE hiding the eggs."
As expected, when we arrived there was only one other person there. I'd been on the bike for five minutes when FGK3 needed help with the laptop so I left my iPod conspicuously placed on the machine and walked the fifteen feet across the wide open gym to where she was sitting. (Starting to get an idea of where this is headed?) During that time, two more people entered, a middle-aged man and a teenage kid. In an effort to maintain some objectivity from this point forward, we'll refer to the middle-aged guy as "The Bigger Man."

While I was assisting FGK3 with the video, I could see The Bigger Man fussing around the bike that I had been using two minutes earlier but I couldn't tell what he was doing until I got back over there and discovered that he had taken the liberty of moving my iPod over to the adjacent recumbent bike.*** Now I have convinced myself that I would have just moved-on if, as I was removing my iPod and glaring at him, The Bigger Man would have just said something to the effect of, "I'm sorry, were you still using this?" But he didn't which led to the following exchange (note that FGK3 was wearing headphones throughout this part of the story):

"Now go get on that
f---ing elliptical."
FGR: "I was still using that."

TBM: (Unapologetically) "Oh I didn't know if you were coming back."

FGR: (Pointing to where I was sitting) "I was right over there."

TBM: "Well if it's that big a deal to you . . ."

FGR: "Forget it."

(And then I was about half way across the gym when I couldn't resist pulling a Billy Batts).


(And now it was on).


(And now it was really on).

"You know we're living in a society!!!"

(I may have have crossed the line there).



And then I walked over and punched him right in the face.*****

And that's where it ended. (If you want to see the whole episode played-out as two minutes of gripping television drama, click here). I was fueled by the exchange and what was going to be a somewhat half-assed bike ride turned into a 25 minute hardcore run looking straight ahead as The Bigger Man was somewhere behind me over my left shoulder (fortunately, I had the FGW watching my back). By the time I was done, he was gone (some workout). Having witnessed the entire exchange, the FGW would later comment that I tend to make my life far too difficult and she's probably right especially when you consider that, by the time we resolved our dispute, The Bigger Man and I had reached a settlement where neither one of us ended-up riding the bike. However, when all was said and done, I had the pleasure of a good venting followed by an invigorating workout and by Sunday night I was in a great mood so who's to say? Maybe I know exactly what I'm doing.

Email the FGR


* To be fair, a slightly more mature and mellow McEnroe would play the greatest tennis match I ever saw in the 1984 Wimbledon Final when he simply eviscerated Jimmy Connors 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. Back then, if you loved McEnroe, you hated Connors and they appeared to hate each other (check-out the post match handshake) so this two hour beatdown was very satisfying to watch. (If you loved tennis during that era, check-out just a few seconds of this clip and be reminded of how cool it was to wake-up on those July Sunday mornings to watch these classic matches).   

** Hey, don't look at me. I learned everything I know about Philadelphia from one trip to the Vet for a Cowboys-Eagles game and by watching Silver Linings Playbook (a B- movie that I have a feeling will get bumped to a B+ on the re-watchablitiy scale).

*** A couple of background items that will be key to the next part of the story: (1) It's a country club gym that is usually empty on the weekend afternoons and (2) people often bring their kids who can sit and watch a movie or play video games while their parents work-out. Is it exemplary parenting? No. Do sacrifices sometimes have to be made? Yes. And, for the good of the family as a whole, this was one of those times.

*** A recumbent bike is basically a cross between a stationary bike and a Lay-Z-Boy and is a great form of exercise if you're looking to burn about as many calories as you would during a game of Jenga.

***** Just kidding.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fantasy Golf: The Texas Open Preview

You know it's a dead week on the PGA Tour when a picture of Jason Dufner slumped against a world map in an elementary school classroom grabs more headlines than last Sunday's winner.* But that's acceptable when we're inside of ten days until they tee off at what could be an epic Masters (more on that next week). This week we've actually got a "B" level field which means there are a couple of top tier guys trying to work-out some kinks before Augusta (McIlroy and Schwartzel) along with some grinders who have no problem playing the week before a major (Kuchar, Jacobson and Furyk). I'm going to avoid the former and ride the latter along with Brendan Steele who seems as comfortable with the layout of the TPC San Antonio (win in 2011 and T4th last year) as he is with his decision to eschew the life of a porn star that his parents had envisioned on the day they named him.

We're just doing one list this week as there is no one on there who you would feel compelled to save for a major unless you had your heart set on watching Jim Furyk ruin your Fathers' Day at Merion.  

The Overall Top Five
Second biggest golf story of the week?
Holly Sonders' spread in Golf Digest.
Way to hold that finish Holly.

1. Freddie Jacobson
2. Matt Kuchar
3. Jim Furyk
4. Cameron Tringale
5. Brendan Steele

Last Week's Report Card: D

1. Hunter Mahan - M/C
2. Steve Stricker - T38
3. Keegan Bradley - T10
4. Chris Kirk - T22
5. Jimmy Walker - T50

Ouch. I caught about 20 minutes of Friday afternoon's action but that was just enough to see Mahan miss a 2 foot birdie putt on the par-5 13th hole. Nothing special there. Mahan was simply joining Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson as 2013 high profile picks who have failed the FGR this year. The odds of picking those four guys in the same season and having them yield zero dollars have to be higher than picking ten Keno numbers and missing on all of them.** Then again, the grade is probably fitting considering the picture to the right of it.


"Jason would you please move
your head as we're trying to
discuss the Falklands War."
* Considering that my demographic is made-up of predominantly middle-aged dudes with just enough understanding of social media to get by at work, I'm going to assume that most of you were unaware that this photo has spawned a Twitter trend of celebrities "Dufnering" a la "Tebowing."

** The one time I played Keno, that was the bet I kept making which I guess is a sign of pessimism. Speaking of pessimism, Mahan, Fowler, Johnson and Watson teed it up 84 times last year and missed a total of 11 cuts. Excuse me, but I'll be over here Dufnering as I ponder my lost 2013 season.