Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The Memorial Preview

I have to confess that my weekend was structured in such a way that I forgot there was even a professional golf tournament going on until I was checking NBA scores on my phone Monday morning (because I forgot those games were going on too) and discovered that Adam Scott had won in a playoff. My primary distraction* was the two day, two round, two man, two headed, two timing, no good, son of a . . . sorry . . . stroke play tournament I played on Saturday and Sunday. After keeping the extracurriculars under control for the Friday practice round and ensuing festivities, things got a little weird when the competition kicked-in. I'm sure it had something to do with the weather which was off the charts and the fact that this tournament always seems to have a more festive feel (at least it does for me). That group love feeling is derived at least in part from the fact that you're playing against the entire field which makes for a lot of people to root against.

Despite the fact that (a) I haven't been playing much this spring (by my standards), (b) I haven't been practicing at all (by even Allen Iverson's standards) and (c) I had a horrible warm-up round on Friday where I finished with three consecutive doubles, I came in feeling unjustifiably optimistic. That optimism began to grow when we parred the always nerve-racking first two holes. Then we made a sloppy bogey on the third and, from that point forward, I proceeded to beat the living shit out of my optimism with my putter like it was a rabid raccoon in my kitchen. I didn't make a putt over three feet until my ten footer for par on 18 caught the edge and mercifully fell in the side of the hole to give us a better ball score of even par . . . net. My round could best be described as "forgettable."

Things weren't looking much more promising on Sunday when I had three very different styled putters in my hand (including the night stick from the day before) ten minutes before we were set to tee off. When the starter called us over, I had only narrowed it to two so I hit one more fifteen footer, it went in and that was the winner. Twenty minutes later and we were taking on water again as we started with a bogey and then my tee shot on #2 wound-up nestled against a tree like it was getting ready to take a nap (and who could blame it?). But then we began to right the ship thanks to some steady play from my partner and, by the time we got to #6, we had managed to battle our way to -2 for the day.** Then things started to get interesting as I went birdie-bogey-birdie (real birdies . . . and a real bogey, as in a REALLY sloppy bogey with a gap wedge in my hand for the approach which I hit hat and then tried to bite in half). Suddenly the clubs were feeling less like cattle prods.

By the time we were done, I had made two more natural birdies and we had brought home a 63. Of course this is the 2014 FGR so that was just good enough to lose the ice buckets by a stroke but at least my game registered a pulse just as the nurse was putting her hand on the shoulder of the doctor who was madly administering CPR and said, "there's nothing more you can do." And that's a good thing because I might not touch a club again until the second week of July and, to paraphrase House of Pain, I really didn't want to go out like some punk bitch.

Get me out of Texas and up to Ohio.
The Memorial Favorites

1. Rory McIlroy - 8 to 1
2. Adam Scott - 11 to 1
3. Matt Kuchar - 16 to 1
4. Justin Rose - 16 to 1
5. Dustin Johnson - 22 to 1
6. Luke Donald - 22 to 1

The FGR One and Done Picks

1. Charl Schwartzel
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Bill Haas
4. Luke Donald
5. Jordan Spieth
6. Matt Kuchar

Suffice it to say I was a week too early on Jason Dufner and two weeks off on Adam Scott. That would seem to indicate a strong week coming from last week's pick, Zach Johnson, but he's not in the field so look for another top player that's already let me down this year to come through. If you're currently shorting the FGR (which you should be), Justin Rose, Bill Haas and Keegan Bradley would seem to be logical choices.

I don't know if Eva Mendes is affiliated
with Ohio St. or if this is even her . . .
Last Week's Report Card: D+

1. Zach Johnson - T73rd
2. Jordan Spieth - T14th
3. Ryan Palmer - T5th
4. Jim Furyk - T51st
5. Matt Kuchar - M/C
6. John Senden** - T5th

The Hit Me with a Ball-Peen Hammer Report

Hyundai: Gary Woodland - $130,000
Sony: Chris Kirk - $604,800
Humana: Charles Howell, III - $12,198
Farmers: Bill Haas - $20,740
WM Phoenix: Billy Horschel - M/C
Pebble Beach: Russell Knox - $46,860
Northern Trust: Dustin Johnson - $723,600
Match Play: Hunter Mahan - $148,000
Honda Classic: Graeme McDowell - $15,600
. . . and I don't care.
WGC-Cadillac: Rory McIlroy - $76,000
Valspar: Harris English - $23,940
Palmer: Justin Rose - M/C
Texas Open: Kevin Chappell - M/C
Houston Open: Keegan Bradley - $18,374
Masters: Matt Kuchar - $342,000
Heritage: Jim Furyk - $187,050
Zurich: Graham DeLaet - $44,200
Wells Fargo: Webb Simpson - $28,980
The Players: Adam Scott - $38,000
Byron Nelson: Jason Dufner - $17,327
Colonial: Zach Johnson - $12,416

Season Total: $2,490,085


* My secondary distraction was the fact that, in the Baltimore area, Memorial Day weekend sports chatter is dominated by the NCAA Lacrosse Final Four, especially when it's loaded like it was this year with Duke, Notre Dame and Maryland. In what has to be the greatest scandal bounce back since Jordan Belfort, Duke won it's second title in a row (a fairly apt analogy considering the general disdain they share).

** Again, these scores are all net unless otherwise noted as we were playing for logo ice buckets and shop credit at this point. (Hmmmm . . . "Ice Buckets and Shop Credit" . . . I smell book title).

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Fantasy Swimming Report Part 2: The Background

When the topic of my quest to swim across the Chesapeake Bay comes-up in conversation (hey, who wants to talk about me?), the first question is always, "how far is that?" and the second question is always, "why?" The answer to the first question is easy - 4.4 miles. The answer to the second question is, however, a little more complicated as it starts sometime back in the late 1970's when television was being dominated by Happy Days and its multiple spin-offs, the music scene was at a crossroads* and we were in the midst of the greatest run of movie comedies ever (Animal House, Caddyahsck, The Blues Brothers, etc.). Oh I remember it like it was 35 years ago (picture a blurring TV screen to indicate travel back in time).

When I was two years old my parents came into the ownership of a house on a river in Maryland (I'm not going to use the word "fleece" but there was an old lady involved) so, from the time I can remember, I could see the Chesapeake Bay from my front door. (Note: People who live on the water like to call the side of their house that faces the water the "front" and the side that faces the road the "back." It seemed perfectly normal to me until the day I realized how douchy it is).

Yep . . . that pretty much sums-
up the Thanksgiving of '93. 
Living on the water meant a lot of time spent on boats but I always enjoyed jumping-off them more than being on them. This probably had something to do with my constant desire to escape a tumultuous family situation which was analogous to David Spade's car in Tommy Boy. I used to throw things overboard so I could volunteer to go in after them. The key was to throw something that floated and was worth retrieving by your parents' standards but that you could also afford to lose if the mission failed - like a half a bottle of Mount Gay rum or a pack of cigarettes.  

Before I move on, here's some relationship advice. If you find yourself in one that is not on solid ground, avoid spending a lot of time on boats with your kids. The ingredients of (a) constant motion, (b) alcohol, (c) being surrounded by water and (d) the ever present fear of someone drowning from the combination of (a), (b) and (c) does not make for a marriage healing recipe. And neither does confinement. No one ever said, "I just need some space . . . let's go sailing." Case in point (and a true story): the dysfunctional family that lived next door to us thought it would be a good idea to sail around the world with their three kids, two of whom were teenage girls. (I know, what could go wrong?) They made it about halfway at which point the mom flew home with the kids and the dad kept going in what me and the other neighborhood smart asses would later describe as a Fletcher Christian and the native island girl type situation. A few months later we had new next door neighbors.**

But I digress (which, along with a lot of parentheticals, is what happens when you're trying to cut-back on the footnotes). So as a kid I was spending a lot of time swimming in the river and jumping off of boats in the middle of the bay. By the time I was fourteen, I had access to a motor boat that was fast enough to do serious bodily harm when used improperly and we would get it going full speed and then leap off the side while striking a long jumper pose in midair before crashing into the water. Two years later we were doing that and even more simple minded stunts under the influence of Milwaukee's Best, Schaeffer and Natty Boh. So the fact that I'm not already dead makes the prospect of swimming across the bay under the watchful eye of trained rescue personnel seem a little less intimidating (famous last words).

As to why I want to do it . . . I'm not really sure. I'm not an especially strong swimmer as we will discover when I write about the training aspect of this. It's certainly not the inherently anti-social nature of the sport that draws me to it - it's not easy to hold a conversation with someone swimming next to you and it's damn near impossible to enjoy a Bud Light or seven when you're alternating between submerging your face in water and gasping for air. Ultimately, the real reason I want to do it is the same reason people want to climb or cross anything . . . because it's there and, in my case, because it's always been there.


I'm not sure we can honestly
call forty million records a "fad."
* Take a look at the top selling albums of 1978. The soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever was the runaway winner but you also had Darkness on the Edge of Town (Bruce Springsteen), Some Girls (The Rolling Stones), Who Are You (The Who) along with significant releases by Billy Joel, Talking Heads, Foreigner, Bob Seger and The Village People. Not to mention, we had debut albums by two of the bands that would dominate the 80's in Van Halen and The Police. So disco was still hanging-on while rock luminaries were churning-out some solid stuff and we were just getting introduced to the transcendent talents of Sting and Eddie Van Halen. (Obviously this is all a matter of personal taste so if you don't revere Sting's singing ability and Eddie Van Halen's guitar playing excellence, that's your problem).

** Feel free to use that story for one of your commercials DIRECTV because it's clear that you've run out of original ideas.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The Colonial Preview

Um, golf, can we talk for a minute? You see, the thing is that this 2014 season is at about the halfway point and so far your signature moment is Matt Kuchar's bunker shot on 18 the week AFTER Bubba Watson plied us with turkey and cough syrup before singing us to sleep at the Masters. Your most recent event was a snooze fest won by the latest of what has become a growing list of newcomers not named "Jordan Spieth." Yeah keep laughing NBA . . . you're six games from a Spurs-Pacers final before launching the "Summer of Sterling" which is going to be more awkward than watching Schindler's List with your friend Klaus. And I'd wipe that smile off your face hockey because lacrosse is coming with a whole lot more scoring and kids practice fields that you don't have to share with birthday parties and ice dancers.

But today we're talking about your failings golf. The result of the Byron Nelson was another thoroughly unpredictable winner though I will say that I lugged Brendon Todd on my season-long roster for several unproductive weeks in February based on his stats and a decent start to the season before cutting him like the poor bastard who is going to find himself battling for the final roster spot with Michael Sam (heyooo).* His recent run of T43-T38-Cut couldn't have had a lot of people dialing him up at the Byron Nelson. By my count, Todd is the 12th player in 21 tournaments since the start of 2014 to avoid radar detection before his win which wouldn't be so bad if  guys like Tiger and Phil weren't avoiding radar detection altogether. Break's over golf. You've got three weeks to gather some momentum leading up to the U.S. Open and the clock is ticking.    

Last Week's Report Card: C-

1. Jason Dufner - T48th
Here we've been back in Texas for a week
and a half and I've completely ignored the
cowgirl angle. That's just sloppy journalism.
2. Charl Schwartzel - T11th
3. Jimmy Walker - T37th
4. Jordan Spieth - T37th
5. Matt Kuchar - T7th
6. Brian Harman - T29th

The Walking with a Severe Limp Report

Hyundai: Gary Woodland - $130,000
Sony: Chris Kirk - $604,800
Humana: Charles Howell, III - $12,198
Farmers: Bill Haas - $20,740
WM Phoenix: Billy Horschel - M/C
Pebble Beach: Russell Knox - $46,860
Northern Trust: Dustin Johnson - $723,600
Match Play: Hunter Mahan - $148,000
Honda Classic: Graeme McDowell - $15,600
WGC-Cadillac: Rory McIlroy - $76,000
Valspar: Harris English - $23,940
Palmer: Justin Rose - M/C
Texas Open: Kevin Chappell - M/C
Houston Open: Keegan Bradley - $18,374
Masters: Matt Kuchar - $342,000
Heritage: Jim Furyk - $187,050
Zurich: Graham DeLaet - $44,200
Wells Fargo: Webb Simpson - $28,980
The Players: Adam Scott - $38,000
Byron Nelson: Jason Dufner - $17,327

Season Total: $2,477,669

This week we head about 30 miles down Route 30 from Irving to Fort Worth which is pretty much walking distance by Texas standards. (Have you ever driven across the wide part of Texas? Jesus, now I know how Napoleon felt trying to get to Moscow). Zach Johnson has won this thing twice in the last four years and holds the tournament scoring record at -21. The only reason you wouldn't pick him is because (a) you already have or (b) he's been in a relative funk for the last three months but recent quality of play does not seem to be an indicator any more (see: Todd, Brendon) so I wouldn't let that dissuade you. The fact that I'm picking him on the other hand . . .

The Colonial Favorites
"The next mutherfucker who asks, 'how
much longer?' can walk back to Paris."

1. Matt Kuchar - 12 to 1
2. Zach Johnson - 12 to 1
3. Jim Furyk - 14 to 1
4. Adam Scott - 16 to 1
5. Jordan Spieth - 18 to 1
6. Dustin Johnson - 25 to 1

The FGR Colonial Picks

1. Zach Johnson
2. Jordan Spieth
3. Ryan Palmer
4. Jim Furyk
5. Matt Kuchar
6. John Senden**


* For the record, I am pro Michael Sam, anti Donald Sterling and still on the fence about the Old Spice commercials with the moms singing about their sons growing-up. I'm going to stop talking now.

** When the FGR picks include Kuchar and Spieth, they go six spots deep because those guys are locks so we need to add a wild card. If only they were married to former strippers.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The Byron Nelson Preview

"I've got a special purpose!"
Before we get to a quick recap of the Players, how about a review of the FGR's NFL mock draft performance which was actually somewhat respectable. We're going to evaluate this by how many players in the first rounds I correctly matched with the teams that picked them because of course that casts me in the best light. Here is what I had right: Texans - Jadeveon Clowney, Rams - Greg Robinson, Browns - Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel, Raiders - Khalil Mack, Falcons - Jake Mathews, Giants - Odell Beckham and the Chargers - Jason Verrett. I was also right about a team trading back into the first round to grab Teddy Bridgewater.* So maybe I'm not a complete moron like my golf picks would suggest (then again, maybe you are).

But enough about football. We actually had what I would imagine was a pretty entertaining golf tournament last weekend if you hadn't sold your soul to the devil that is fantasy golf and gone in armed with the likes of Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar and Ryan Palmer. (And those were my guys who actually made the cut - hope you had a lovely weekend Hunter Mahan, Graham DeLaet, Nick Watney, Brian Harman and Will Mackenzie . . . sons a bitches). I figured Scott would at least provide me with a relaxing Thursday-Friday experience as he shot a couple of scores in the 60's putting him in position to win or at least threaten the Sunday leaderboard with his presence. Then he went out on Thursday and made a bunch of doubles and by Friday morning he had to birdie three of the last four holes just to make the cut. To put it bluntly, this shit is really starting to ruin my weekends and I've quit paying jobs that were less aggravating than this.

I need to get back to my roots.
Last Week Report Card: C

1. Adam Scott - T38
2. Jim Furyk - 2nd
3. Luke Donald - T38
4. Matt Kuchar - T17
5. Rory McIlroy - T6th
6. Martin Laird - M/C
7. Kevin Na - T38
8. Kevin Streelman - M/C
9. Jonathan Byrd - M/C
10. Ben Crane - M/C

The Cotter Pins are Loose Report

Hyundai: Gary Woodland - $130,000
Sony: Chris Kirk - $604,800
Humana: Charles Howell, III - $12,198
Let's go a bit further back.
Farmers: Bill Haas - $20,740
WM Phoenix: Billy Horschel - M/C
Pebble Beach: Russell Knox - $46,860
Northern Trust: Dustin Johnson - $723,600
Match Play: Hunter Mahan - $148,000
Honda Classic: Graeme McDowell - $15,600
WGC-Cadillac: Rory McIlroy - $76,000
Valspar: Harris English - $23,940
Palmer: Justin Rose - M/C
Texas Open: Kevin Chappell - M/C
Houston Open: Keegan Bradley - $18,374
Masters: Matt Kuchar - $342,000
Heritage: Jim Furyk - $187,050
Zurich: Graham DeLaet - $44,200
Wells Fargo: Webb Simpson - $28,980
The Players: Adam Scott - $38,000

Season Total: $2,460,342

Ah but this week brings a new tournament and a renewed but waning hope for improvement. I went out of my way to pick a guy we haven't heard from in a while a la Martin Kaymer. Other than the fact that Jason Dufner won the Byron Nelson a few years ago, there is absolutely no reason to believe he will play well in Texas. He hasn't had a top five since the first week of January and his stats are fair to poor to awful (167th in strokes gained putting). If I was Billy Beane discussing this with my scouts, it would go down something like this:

FGR: We're going with Dufner this week.

Scout: But he can't putt.

FGR: Exactly . . . sounds like an FGR pick already.

(I am finding it way too easy to mock my own "expertise" these days).

The Byron Nelson Favorites

1. Matt Kuchar - 12 to 1
"Oh yeah, he's not hitting any greens either."
2. Jordan Spieth - 12 to 1
3. Jimmy Walker - 20 to 1
4. Dustin Johnson - 20 to 1
5. Keegan Bradley - 22 to 1
6. Martin Kaymer - 22 to 1

The FGR Byron Nelson Picks

1. Jason Dufner
2. Charl Schwartzel
3. Jimmy Walker
4. Jordan Spieth**
5. Matt Kuchar***
6. Brian Harman****


* And I would have been right about the Texans being that team if they hadn't let the Vikings trade into the spot ahead of them and steal Bridgewater at the end of the first round. That must have been a fun morning call to the owner who probably went to sleep twenty minutes after the Clowney pick. The Texans are the early front-runners for fewest Redzone Channel coverage minutes in 2014 ending what has been quite a sustained run by the Jaguars . . . unless Blake Bortles has something to say about that, which I think he might.

** Spieth is in the top five every time he tees it up until further notice.

*** So is Kuchar.

**** A reader recently suggested that I should cut-back on the footnotes and I am currently sucking at that as well. I am the complete package right now.

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

The FGR's 3rd Annual NFL Mock Draft

Judging by the mock drafts out there, teams finally seem to be catching-on that it's all about (a) the quarterback, (b) hitting the quarterback and (c) protecting the quarterback as the top 20 is loaded with passers, pass rushers and offensive linemen. The difference between the good and bad teams now is down to which ones reach for Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder versus which ones wait for Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. Some teams with a recent history of futility have changed coaches and management so I'm going to have to determine whether that will make for better draft day decisions or if those teams suffer from institutional incompetence (the Browns, Jags and Raiders). 

Last year I used an amalgamation of the mock drafts produced by Mel Kiper and Todd McShay to make the picks and then supplemented the comments with tweets from my people observing adventures at the Rihanna concert. This year I plan to use the same formula but, unfortunately, I haven't taken the FGW to any tweet worthy concerts lately so I'm going to need to manufacture some other type of filler. Let's see where this goes.

Five of my favorite words,
"Houston is on the clock."
1. Houston Texans - Jadaveon Clowney (DE): It's been twelve years since the Texans did what everyone agreed they should do and take David Carr as the number one overall pick only to see that lead to five consecutive losing seasons and about 732 sacks. Apparently, the Texans are still a bit gun shy because the consensus is that they pass on what are generally considered the two top tier quarterbacks (Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles) and go with Clowney instead. For their sake, they better be right because if Manziel ends-up being a star, head coach Bill O'Brien and GM Rick Smith are going to be about as popular around town as a vegetarian bull roast (heyooooo . . . don't worry, it gets better).

2. Cleveland Browns (via trade from the St. Louis Rams) - Johnny Manziel (QB): The more I thought about this, the more I became convinced that some team within striking distance of this pick was going to move-up and take Manziel. The Raiders, Bucs and Vikings are logical choices but the Browns are tired of representing the Factory of Sadness and Manziel is the one player in this draft that could transform a franchise overnight. Also, there are enough rumors out there about the Jags taking him to warrant trading a 3rd round pick to move-up two spots. With that being said, watch the Browns stay at #4 and then take another future All Pro lineman to protect Brian Hoyer as they go 6-10.*

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Sammy Watkins (WR): With Manziel gone, the Jags go with the next most exciting player on the board. Watkins is a freak and he may actually help sell a few tickets next year. Some of those ticket buyers might even be Jags fans.

4. St. Louis Rams (via trade from the Browns) - Greg Robinson (OT): The Rams end-up getting their man anyway and solidify the offensive line of arguably the least inspiring offense in the league. I am more convinced than ever that Sam Bradford is either the owner's secret nephew or he stole a VHS tape from Jeff Fisher's house labeled "Moustache Rides!!!"

5. Oakland Raiders - Khalil Mack (LB): The Raiders won't make the move to get Manziel because they've convinced themselves that Matt Schaub is the answer (to the question, "why will the Raiders continue taking on water through at least 2015?").

6. Atlanta Falcons - Jake Matthews (OT): The Falcons were able to overcome a rash of injuries in 2013 thanks to the leadership of coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan. With that kind of solid nucleus, they are just a couple of players like Jake Mathews away from finally winning a playoff game. Wait what? 4-12 are you sure? But I thought Matty Ice was supposed to be . . . um, never mind.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Aaron Donald (DT): McShay and Kiper have the Bucs taking wide receiver Mike Evans here but they just hired Lovie Smith and I'm wagering that he's either going defense or offensive line with his first pick. Considering that he didn't seem to have any problem watching Jay Cutler get treated like a bad guy in a Steven Segal movie while he was in Chicago, it's probably not going to be an offensive lineman.

8. Minnesota Vikings - Taylor Lewan (OT): The Vikings are another team that just hired a defensive minded head coach and he's going to use his first pick on a project quarterback named Blake Bortles? I don't think so. Let the Blake Bortles Green Room watch begin as we don't get to another team desperate for a quarterback until the start of the second round because teams like the Titans and Cardinals don't realize how desperate they should be. But the bigger issue is the name. Brady, Manning, Brees, Rodgers and "Bortles"? I'm not feeling it.

9. Buffalo Bills - Mike Evans (WR): OK, I'm completely going off the Kiper/McShay rails here but all of the offensive linemen are gone, Evans is the best player available and the Bills number one receiver is Stevie "Oops" Johnson.

10. Detroit Lions - Darqueze Dennard (CB): Both Kiper and McShay go out of their way to explain why the Lions will not pick a cornerback here but I'm not buying it. Especially McShay's theory that "the Lions have used a lot of high picks on defenders recently so they can afford to go with an offensive playmaker here." Their defense is terrible, they need to beat Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler to win the division and they already have Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush for keyreist sake. Take a cornerback you morons.

We do have an ulterior motive for
wanting to see Bortles drafted tonight. 
11. Tennessee Titans - Blake Bortles (QB): I was fully prepared to let Bortles drop and then I looked at the Titans depth chart and it said: 1. Jake Locker, 2. Charlie Whitehurst and 3. Tyler Wilson. Ken Whisenhunt just watched that movie in Arizona for three years starring John Skelton, Derek Anderson and Kevin Kolb and it was worse than Grown Ups 2. ("We don't have a joke for this scene . . . wait, let's have Shaq break a diving board and then piss in the pool. We can segue to just about anything from that").

12. New York Giants - Odell Beckham, Jr. (WR): Eli Manning led the league by a mile with 27 interceptions last year so wide receiver seems to be the logical choice. By the way, that's the most picks since Brett Favre had 29 in 2005 but Favre was a "Gunslinger" whereas Eli is more of a "Kid Who is Told to Run and Get the Sheriff" in the wild west analogy department so his interceptions are less excusable.

13. St. Louis Rams - HaHa Clinton-Dix (S): This is about the point where I start running out of things to say as the quality of the teams gets better and the players they're drafting get less familiar so in honor of HaHa, I'm just going to start inserting random Mitch Hedberg** lines where necessary starting with this one: "I want to hang a map of the world in my house and then put pins in all of the places I've traveled . . . but first I'm gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won't fall down."

14. Chicago Bears - Calvin Pryor (S): I guess now that the Bears have figured-out how to score a whole bunch of points they want to figure-out how to stop other teams from scoring a whole bunch of points and a new safety is a good place to start. Mitch? "I haven't slept for ten days . . . because that would be too long."

15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Zack Martin (OT): As much as I would like to see the pounding of Ben Roethlisberger continue with the Steelers ignoring the offensive line here, I think even they have noticed that that the inebriated women who used to be hanging-on to Ben have been replaced by 300 lb men. (That cheap shot was brought to you by Hines Ward).

16. Dallas Cowboys - C.J. Mosley (LB): The Cowboys defense was as comically bad as Tony Romo's 4th quarter game management. Along those lines, "every book is a children's book . . . if the kid can read."

17. Baltimore Ravens - Eric Ebron (TE): This is the guy the Ravens really want and the Ravens tend to get what they want in the draft. Sometimes it's an Ed Reed and other times it's a Kyle Boller (but more often it's an Ed Reed).

18. New York Jets - Brandin Cooks (WR): When you're pretty confident that you don't have an NFL caliber quarterback on your roster what do you do? Well, if you're the Jets, you go out and sign Chris Johnson and then back that up with a first round wide receiver. NOW LET'S GO EAT A GODDAMN SNACK!

19. Miami Dolphins - Morgan Moses (OT): I seem to remember the Dolphins having some issues along the offensive line last year. And you know what else? "I had a paper route as a kid. I was supposed to go to 2,000 houses . . . or two dumpsters."

"Alcoholism is a disease . . . but it's the only
one you can get yelled at for having."
20. St. Louis Cardinals - Anthony Barr (LB): Kiper has the Cards taking quarterback Derek Carr here but I think Mel's going for an "I told you so" pick that no one will remember when it doesn't play out that way. Oh Mel. You are quite full of shenanigans.

21. Green Bay Packers - Ryan Shazier (LB): When you've got Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, all you need to do is make sure the other team scores less then 24 points so why not load-up on defense? Or, as Mitch Hedberg would say, "I had one anchovy . . . and that's why I didn't have two anchovies."

22. Philadelphia Eagles - Jordan Matthews (WR): I was going to go down an uncomfortable path involving Riley Cooper and DeSean Jackson here but the FGR is more about mocking social issues than tackling them so let's just point-out that "an escalator can never break . . . it can only become stairs."

23. Kansas City Chiefs - Marquis Lee (WR): I'm putting Lee here because that's the consensus but the last time we saw the Chiefs they were getting run over by the Colts in the playoffs to the tune of 45 points so I would think a defensive back might be attractive in this spot but what do I know? I'm just a golf writer.

24. Cincinnati Bengals - Kyle Fuller (CB): Andy Dalton's playoff futility has masked the fact that the Bengals are pretty much loaded at every other position so I speak for the entire AFC North when I say, sign that man. Mitch, what's your take? "My belt holds-up my pants and my pants have belt loops that hold-up the belt. What in the hell is going on down there? Who is the real hero?"

25. San Diego Chargers - Jason Verrett (CB): Don't you get the feeling that no matter what the Chargers do, their destiny is always a disappointing playoff loss? Mitch, anything along those lines? "The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how good I get, I'll never be as good as a wall."

26. Cleveland Browns - Justin Gilbert (CB): This is the pick the Browns stole, um, I mean received from the Colts for Trent Richardson and is also the first sign that they may be on the verge of a George Costanza landing his dream job type metamorphosis.

27. New Orleans Saints - Cody Latimer (WR): The Saints continue to maintain that Jimmy Graham is not a wide receiver so they don't have to pay him like a wide receiver despite the fact that he led the team in receptions, targets, yardage, yards per catch and touchdowns last year. By drafting Latimer, they can now enhance their argument by saying that Jimmy Graham is so much not a wide receiver that they had to draft a new wide receiver. Makes perfect sense to me.

28. Carolina Panthers - Davante Adams (WR):  The Panthers continue to disrespect Steve Smith by first having the audacity not to sign the 34 year old receiver to a lucrative contract and then by drafting his replacement. He is so going to make them pay for that by running his routes extra fast and trying really hard to catch the passes thrown to him when the Panthers come to Baltimore on September 28th.

29. Houston Texans (via trade with the Patriots) - Teddy Bridgewater (QB): This is where the following exchange occurs in the Texans draft room:

One Guy: "Do we think Matt Schaub has gotten over all of those pick sixes?"

Other Guy: "Who cares? We traded him to the Raiders."

First Guy: "Oh yeah, well then who's our quarterback now?"

Other Guy: "Case Keenum."

Both Guys: "Get Belichik on the phone."

And of course the Patriots will trade out of this spot because Bill Belichik can beat your first round picks with his second round picks all day . . . right up until about the third week of January.

30. San Francisco 49ers - Stephon Tuitt (DE): In honor of what has become a very touchy relationship between head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke, "I don't have a girlfriend. I just know a girl who would get really mad if she heard me say that."

"Get out of the road idiot!"
31. Denver Broncos - Cyrus Kouandjio (T): If you're the Broncos, you have to believe that the Super Bowl was right there for the taking but for the 8 points you scored and the fact that Peyton Manning's day in the pocket reminded me of this one . . . "when I was on acid, I would see things like beams of light and I would hear things that sounded an awful lot like car horns."

32. Seattle Seahawks - Gabe Jackson (G): One last one from Mitch that seems especially appropriate for the Seahawks. "I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to too."


* At this point, you would have to bet that it's going to be business as usual for the Browns who hired head coach Mike Pettine AND THEN admitted that they later pursued an arrangement with the 49ers that would have landed them Jim Harbaugh. Pettine's daughter was clearly on to something when she tweeted the following after his first interview: "he said the interview went well and he's going back for a second! It's the Browns . . but hey, still pretty cool!" (The best part is that I didn't have to make that up).

** If you're not familiar with Mitch Hedberg, he was a comedian who peaked around the turn of the century and then ran into the wrong combo of cocaine and heroin at the age of 37. If you like the jokes, you need to hear them delivered his way. Here is a sample.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The Players Preview

I've been kind of hard on the Players Championship over the years* but you have to consider that at about the time I started writing the Fantasy Golf Report, we were coming off a six year stretch that featured wins by ratings machines like Tim Clark, Fred Funk, Stephen Ames and Henrik Stenson (back when Henrik was just a James Bond thug looking character with a decent golf game). But the landscape has shifted a bit lately with Tiger winning a thoroughly entertaining Players last year thanks to Sergio's late Sunday meltdown and Matt Kuchar winning in reasonably exciting fashion the year before. Those results give me hope that the "A" listers are going to reappear this week and put on the show we were hoping to see at the Masterzzzzzzzz.

On the other hand, we could be looking at a reversion to the mean. Especially considering the spate of new and inexperienced winners we've had since the start of 2014. Here's a fun and depressing fact. The only players who have won this year** and had more than two career wins when they did it were 
(career wins including most recent): Zach Johnson (11), Matt Kuchar (7) and Bubba Watson (6). Compare that to ten years ago when, by the second tournament in May, the following players had already won: Tiger Woods (40), Phil Mickelson (22 and 23), Vijay Singh (16, 17 and 18), Ernie Els (13), Mike Weir (7), Stuart Appleby (5) and John Daly (5).*** Oh what Tim Finchem wouldn't give for a John Daly "distraction" this week to at least get the Players coverage bumped ahead of Sportscenter reports on the texture of California Chrome's morning constitutional.

I am, however, going to remain optimistic that Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar or some other intriguing character (Phil?) can rescue us from this malaise so the picks have been front loaded with a lot of chalk. The back half features five players who have had success at Sawgrass including Ben Crane who has an unlikely four top tens since 2008 including a tie for 8th last year so if you're looking for a sub ocean depth sleeper, he could be your guy. But being this is the Players Championship with a $10M purse and it could make or break your season, you've got to ask yourself a question, "do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya . . . punk?

The Favorites

1. Adam Scott - 14 to 1
I know we've been remiss on coverage of the
Golf Digest Gretzky spread but why such a big
deal about these pictures when they followed . . .
2. Rory McIlroy - 14 to 1
3. Matt Kuchar - 18 to 1
4. Luke Donald - 22 to 1
5. Justin Rose - 25 to 1
6. Sergio Garcia - 25 to 1
7. Bubba Watson - 28 to 1
8. Henrik Stenson - 28 to 1
9. Phil Mickelson - 28 to 1
10. Jordan Spieth - 30 to 1

The FGR Players Picks

1. Adam Scott
2. Jim Furyk
3. Luke Donald
4. Matt Kuchar
5. Rory McIlroy
6. Martin Laird
7. Kevin Na
8. Kevin Streelman
9. Jonathan Byrd
10. Ben Crane

Webb Simpson showed signs of life last week as he entered the final round at -5 and, if he could have matched Jim Furyk's 65, he would have climbed into contention. Alas, the converging trends of the FGR's rocky season and Webb Simpson's two month slump brought a Sunday 75 and a tie for 38th. That's why I'm pushing my chips to the middle with Adam Scott this week. I was going to save him for the WGC Bridgestone but now it looks like Tiger could be healthy by then and my season needs a good hard slap across the face . . . or the ass . . . depending on what motivates you.

Last Week's Report Card: C+

1. Webb Simpson - T38th
. . . these pictures. (Sorry Arnie but
we just couldn't fit you in the shot).
2. Rory McIlroy - T8th
3. Jim Furyk - 2nd
4. Robert Karlsson - M/C
5. Chesson Hadley - M/C

The Struggle Town Report

Hyundai: Gary Woodland - $130,000
Sony: Chris Kirk - $604,800
Humana: Charles Howell, III - $12,198
Farmers: Bill Haas - $20,740
WM Phoenix: Billy Horschel - M/C
Pebble Beach: Russell Knox - $46,860
Northern Trust: Dustin Johnson - $723,600
Match Play: Hunter Mahan - $148,000
Honda Classic: Graeme McDowell - $15,600
WGC-Cadillac: Rory McIlroy - $76,000
Valspar: Harris English - $23,940
Palmer: Justin Rose - M/C
Texas Open: Kevin Chappell - M/C
Houston Open: Keegan Bradley - $18,374
Masters: Matt Kuchar - $342,000
Heritage: Jim Furyk - $187,050
Zurich: Graham DeLaet - $44,200
Wells Fargo: Webb Simpson - $28,980

Season Total: $2,422,342


* My basic theory was that if Tiger Woods has played your tournament a dozen times and only won it once, then your golf course stinks. He then screwed that theory up by winning the Players for a second time last year thus adding another chapter to our love/hate story.

** Note that I am defining "this year" as 2014. Those fall events don't count as they could have played them with 15 inch cups and no one would have noticed (rest assured that I will be addressing that issue at a later date).

*** Of course noting that John Daly has five PGA Tour wins totally buries the lead on his career which is that he has entered 65 majors, won two of them (British and PGA), tied for 3rd in one (Masters), not made any other top tens and missed the cut or withdrew from 30 others. He is the professional equivalent of a 12 handicap with the capacity to shoot 75. (At least he used to be. Now he's just the guy zipping around in the cart by himself on Tuesday mornings ripping butts and drinking enough diet coke to paint the clubhouse). 

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Monday, May 5, 2014

The Promised Land - Part 3

I need to put a bow on this Pine Valley tale but I'm not really sure where to go with it because I make a lousy golf course critic as my rating criteria for a round of golf goes something like this (in order): (1) Am I playing for something worthwhile, preferably the opportunity to get my name on a board or plaque located in a locker room, pro shop or bar for perpetuity? (1)(a) Do I like the people with whom I am playing? (This was (2) until last year when the people with whom I was playing sucked so much of the life out of my game that it ruined my shot at getting my name on a new board somewhere so it has been elevated to (1)(a) status). (3) Are the greens and fairways in premium condition? (Because I don't care if I'm playing Pebble Beach - if the greens are bumpy, it's not going to be fun). (4) Is it a "great" golf course?

For the purpose of discussion, let's say that any course that's been ranked in the Golf Digest Top 100 multiple times is by definition "great." That's a lot of courses and I have only played seven of them* so maybe I just don't have enough perspective on the matter but one of those seven is my home course which I've played at least 100 times while two of the others I've played a half dozen times each over the last three years and I can't definitively tell you that I like one more than the other. I guess I'm just not a connoisseur ($7 bottle of Pinot Grigio anyone?).**

And this leads me to Pine Valley which is the "greatest" course I've ever played by the numbers and it certainly did not disappoint because it is spectacular. If I was going to boil it down to just a couple of words it would be "natural" and "varied." Nothing feels the least bit manufactured which is aided by the fact that it's a self-contained oasis. It has to be one the most perfect pieces of non-coastal land on which anyone has ever built a course and I'm not sure I hit every club into a green, but I know I used a 3-wood, 5-wood, sand wedge, lob wedge (to five feet for my lone birdie) and a lot of clubs in between (though it should be noted that the FGR is no Dalai Lama when it comes to distance). There were simply no letdown holes from a challenge or enjoyment standpoint.

I know I parred this sucker from
  about 215 with a shot I wouldn't
want to have to hit over again.
By the time we were done I had scraped-out a 78 thanks to hitting eleven or twelve fairways*** but no thanks to the fact that I didn't make any putts. I blame my caddie who had just driven-up from Medalist the day before and apparently didn't have his "A" game back.**** (When in doubt, blame the caddie, right Bubba?) So if I was to rate my first Pine Valley experience, it would look something like this:

(1) Competition: C (I think we played a $10 Nassau)
(2) People: A (Good dudes . . . many laughs)
(3) Conditions: B+ (Greens showed signs of being aerated)
(4) Course: A+ (Hey, it was Pine Freakin' Valley

When you throw-in the fact that we had perfect weather, I got to sit in the backseat and pound beers while someone else drove and I made it back for my previously planned evening festivities to stay in the good graces of the old lady, it was an A+ afternoon.


* Back in the summer of 1999 I was unemployed after walking-out on my first lawyer gig which involved working for a guy who regularly put in 90 hour weeks and expected me to do the same when I was being paid for roughly a 27 hour week. After eleven months of trying to make that doomed marriage work, I walked into the managing partner's office and said, "homey don't play that." Three weeks later I was teeing off at National Golf Links in Southampton, N.Y. (No. 11 on the Golf Digest list) with my former college roommate and his buddy who was the best player I had ever met (I think he shot 70) so I was feeling pretty good about my decision. Cut to a fateful Tuesday afternoon in December when I was working as a delivery driver to pay the mortgage and found myself taking a two hour lunchbreak in a movie theater with two other lost souls watching Fight Club. Let's just say that when Fight Club speaks to you as a completely viable career path, it's time to start setting the alarm clock again and showering everyday.          

"We should totally start
blowing shit up."
** Also completely lost on me: art galleries, opera and the color of walls. You could put me in a room by myself for five hours and then ask me what color it was and I would have no idea. Suffice it to say that I am a useless resource when the FGW consults me on paint colors but it doesn't stop her from asking me . . . God freakin' love her.

*** I caught a pretty good buzz as the staff was very accommodating with the beverages so some of the specifics escape me but I do know that I played the same ball all day and didn't make any big numbers.

**** Or it may have had something to do with the fact that on about the fifth hole I needed a club and yelled "Stan . . . Stan . . . STAN!" before my partner reminded me that our caddie's name was "Randy."

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