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

Endnotes

* 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.