Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The Quicken Loans Preview

The Fantasy Golf Report is going to be a little thin for the next few weeks because the FGR has left the country (without giving it away, I may or may not have played shirtless Bocce with the Molinari brothers last night).The conundrum that this presents is that I have the time and the freedom of mind and spirit to get some serious writing done. That is, however, being countered by some technological obstacles and a deep desire to not do jack squat all day and night other than drink copious amounts of wine and sleep. The result will probably be some random posts that have little or nothing to do with golf. Fortunately we are in one of the bigger lulls of the season between the U.S. Open and the British Open and not even to return by Tiger would move the needle at this point (he wait ... what?). Um, like I said, the Fantasy Golf Report is going to be a little thin for the near future.

But before we check out for the day, let's at least the basics for a complete tournament preview starting with a brief review of a return to middling picks last week. If you're a glass half full guy, the rankings were solid as they implicitly advised you to avoid Matt Kuchar who was two for a below average performance at best (he tied for 31st.) If you're a glass half empty guy, you might focus on the fact that I went chalk with my top three picks and they all tied for 31st. The result was a bright glistening "C".

Last Week's Report Card: C

We made ​​them put their clothes back
on for the trophy ceremony. I thought
the gold jackets were a little much.
1. Bubba Watson - T31st
2. Keegan Bradley - T31st
3. Dustin Johnson - T31st
4. Marc Leishman - T11th
5. Ryan Moore - T5th

Back to Reality 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 Hörschel - 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
Here's me renting a Fiat. 
Best Avis agent ever.
Valspar: Harris Inglese - $ 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
Memorial: Charl Schwartzel - $ 167,400
FedEx St. Jude: Lee Westwood - M / C
U.S. Open: Jason Day - $ 326,310
Travelers: Bubba Watson - $ 32,296

Season Total: $ 3,016,391

This week we head to the Congressional which is right down Route 95 from FGR headquarters. It's too bad that I'm not there because with Tiger's return and an otherwise solid field, it may not have been worth a visit to one of the cooler venues spectating I've encountered (assuming you get access rooftop patio overlooking the 10th tee of course.) The last two winners were Bill Haas and Tiger with Roberto Castro and Bo Van Pelt taking the runner-up spots. The two years before that, this event was held at Aronimink so those results kind of go out the window to the extent they would have been instructive. Congressional demands a solid all-around game with a premium on ball striking as evidenced by Rory McIlroy's blistering of the course at the U.S. Open. Brendon Todd has been on a roll since his win at the Byron Nelson and he should be relatively fresh after taking last week off. And speaking of taking time off, that's about all I have in me this morning as I have a firm appointment to do nothing for two hours starting in twelve minutes. 

The Quicken Loans Favorites
"... Avis We Try Harder." . . indeed.

1. Jason Day - 15 to 1
2. Jordan Spieth - 15 to 1
3. Tiger Woods - 16 to 1
4. Justin Rose - 16 to 1
5. Brandt Snedeker - 26 to 1
6. Keegan Bradley - 29 to 1

The FGR One and Done Picks

1. Brendon Todd
2. Jason Day
3. Jordan Spieth
4. Justin Rose
5. Brandt Snedeker
6. Horschel Billy 


* One byproduct of writing in my current location is that I'm dealing with an auto-correct situation that wants to capitalize the first letter of every other freaking word, rearrange my sentences and change all of the commas to periods in my numbers. (Note the previous section that I fixed results about seven times before giving up). Come on Google, get your head out of your ass.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The Travelers Preview

Bubba Watson won the Travelers Championship in 2010 and he should have won it again last year but he finished two shots back after dumping his tee shot into the water on 16 and making a triple bogey. Judging by his reaction, it was his caddie's fault for helping him pick the club that he used to hit his ball into the water. I was on the fence about Bubba until that moment. I am not anymore but I never let my personal preferences impair my picking ability (yeah right) so Bubba has a chance to redeem himself in my eyes this week. I'm sure that's just the motivation he needs. By the way, we're giving Matt Kuchar the week off even though he refuses to take one himself. If he was your coworker, you'd be telling him to slow down and stop making everyone else look bad by now.

The Travelers Favorites
"Why didn't you tell me that would
come-up short if I hit it thin?!?!"

1. Matt Kuchar - 12 to 1
2. Bubba Watson - 12 to 1
3. Dustin Johnson - 14 to 1
4. Jason Day - 16 to 1
5. Sergio Garcia - 22 to 1

The FGR One and Done Picks

1. Bubba Watson
2. Keegan Bradley
3. Dustin Johnson
4. Marc Leishman
5. Ryan Moore

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* In an effort to accomplish something that is not immediately clear, the Golf Channel occasionally tacks-on a European or women's event to its weekly fantasy game. This week they have included the women's U.S. Open so the picks in the sidebar include the FGR's selections from the Golf Channel's four categories for that event. I actually spent five minutes doing research on it so don't ever say I'm not here for you . . . because I am.

Fantasy Golf: The U.S. Open Wrap-Up

The U.S. Open wrap-up is going to be a bit brief because, between you and me, I didn't watch the final round past the 9th hole. What can I say? It was a beautiful day, I was hanging with my kids and it was pretty obvious how the back nine was going to play-out. I did record it with the intention of speed watching it later but by 8:30 the basketball game was on so I asked my son to check my phone and tell me whether anyone finished within three strokes of Martin Kaymer. I figured three strokes would at least make it worth a cursory look at halftime but he took a glance at the leaderboard and said "nope . . . he won by eight" and that was that.

Poor golf just can't get out of its own way these days. Pinehurst No. 2 looked spectacular on TV and was ready for survival of the fittest on Sunday but someone dropped a pirahna into the exotic fish tank. Take a look at the list of players who would have finished within three shots of the lead if that sandbagging son of bitch Kaymer hadn't shown-up: Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton at -1 . . . Keegan Bradley, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson at +1 . . . Adam Scott, Jimmy Walker and Brandt Snedeker at +2. Considering that those are all "A" list players other than Compton who has had not one but two heart transplants and Koepka who would have played Cinderella, and that would have made for the kind of epic Sunday that golf so desperately needs in the wake of Tiger's absence and Phil's swoon. But just like the Spieth/Watson duel we were supposed to get at Augusta, it was not meant to be.

And before we move on, a few words to the golf purists who are bitching all over talk radio and the internet about how we wouldn't have called that tournament boring if it had been Tiger Woods giving the field an eight shot wedgie. You're right and shut up. Tiger is arguably the most iconic and dominant athlete of all-time. If he's not, then he's certainly in the top five with Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and whomever you want to put in the other two spots (because we're not having that discussion today).* So yeah, we do stop and take notice when he's at the top of his game because his best is the best there ever was. Martin Kaymer played phenomenally well at Pinehurst and he is showing signs that he could win two or three more majors which would make him a historically significant player like Ernie Els and Raymond Floyd but today he's just a guy with one less major than Padraig Harrington so spare me the outrage.

While the tour was pulling-down TV ratings that would have made the WNBA cringe,** the FGR was actually having a pretty good week. Maybe we're the Rickie Fowler of fantasy golf websites in that we only play well on tough courses and we're charming. Our top pick, Jason Day, was solid throughout and wound-up tied for 4th thanks to a final round 68. We also had Kaymer ranked 6th and went so far as to say "[t]hen you have guys like Martin Kaymer and Graham DeLaet who currently rank 4th and 5th in total driving (I like them both this week . . .). Of course DeLaet missed the cut but what do you want from me? Blood? The way my season's going, I'm surprised I didn't have ball swapping Hunter Mahan and Jamie Donaldson in my top ten. (That sounds a bit suggestive so allow me to clarify that they hit each other's balls on Friday . . . I mean they got their balls mixed-up . . . you know what I mean).

This week's Fantasy Golf Report 2014 summer
movie preview features Deliver Us From Evil
starring FGR favorite Olivia Munn and . . . 
Last Week's FGR Report Card: B+

1. Jason Day - T4th
2. Matt Kuchar - T12th
3. Jim Furyk - T12th
4. Sergio Garcia - T35th
5. Rory McIlroy - T23rd
6. Martin Kaymer - 1st
7. Adam Scott - T9th
8. Graham DeLaet - M/C
9. Bubba Watson - M/C
10. Victor Dubuisson - T28th

The Second Half Momentum 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
. . . um, Olivia Munn.
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
Colonial: Zach Johnson - $12,416
Memorial: Charl Schwartzel - $167,400
FedEx St. Jude: Lee Westwood - M/C
U.S. Open: Jason Day - $326,310

Season Total: $2,983,795


* Everyone has a different formula for the greatest athlete of all-time but mine is a combination of individual greatness, titles, breathtaking athleticism and someone who would impress your kids if you told them that you got to see him/her play live. Unfortunately, Bo Jackson never won anything as a pro and his career was cut short by injury because, from a breathtaking athleticism standpoint, he would be a runaway number one. The rest of my top five would include Pelé and either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. Sorry but boxers, baseball players and swimmers just don't do it for me from a "breathtaking athleticism" standpoint but, like I said, we're not having this discussion today. 

** The overnight rating for the final round was a 3.3 - down 46 percent from Justin Rose's win last year. That's not much better than the 2.8 for the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship where Tiger finished tied for 25th (the last time he played four rounds). It goes back to one of my favorite polls ever in which it was revealed that the majority of viewers would prefer coverage of Tiger leaning on his putter over that of any other playing actually hitting a shot. Sad? Yes. But also true.  

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The U.S. Open Preview

This will serve as initial notice that I survived Sunday's bay crossing and we will certainly have a full recap of that fool's errand soon but this website is first and foremost devoted to promoting and demeaning the game of golf and we have a major looming so first things first. We're going to abandon the traditional FGR preview format this week because frankly my picks stunk last week (I'm sure I was not alone) and I don't want that to taint what could be an epic weekend at Pinehurst (we're certainly due for one).

Pinehurst No. 2 is not your typical U.S. Open course where the fairways are lined with six inch deep unplayable rough from which a player is forced to "take his medicine" and gouge the ball back into play with a wedge. This course set-up has apparently been inspired by the other built-in obstacles at Pinehurst including sandy waste areas and some extremely challenging greens - both to hit and to putt. It may also have something to do with the fact that the USGA does not want a return to the days when a player like Lee Janzen, Andy North or Scott Simpson would put his hazards on, pull into the right lane and drive 52 m.p.h. straight into the winner's circle. Those three combined to win five of the most boring U.S. Opens of all-time but only thirteen other PGA Tour events. Only once did any of them ever finish top ten at a Masters or a British Open (Simpson tied for 7th at the '90 Masters) so I'm not sure the USGA was accomplishing much in the way of identifying the best player by eliminating everyone who couldn't hit 75% of the fairways. Good for them for realizing that there is more to the game than hitting 270 yard drives down the middle.

The book on Pinehurst this year is that it's set-up for shot makers to make shots based on how much they want to gamble when attacking some of the most elusive greens in the world. That immediately conjures-up images of Bubba and Phil slashing all manner of recovery shots from behind, under and around bushes in waste areas. But remember, every one of those miracle recovery shots takes its toll on a man's patience and psyche and in Bubba, we're talking about the guy who just gave away the Memorial because he decided to hit driver on a par five (that he could have reached with 3-wood + 5-iron) where there was really no place for him to land it so he flailed it out of bounds to the right and lost by one.

An all too familiar pose.
And in Phil, well you know . . . driver on No. 18 at Winged Foot, three quarter pitching wedge from about 100 yards over the green on No. 13 at Merion, etc. Everyone loves Phil this week because of his short game but he's at his best when he's hitting it relatively consistently and making putts while only having to make the occasional miracle up and down. This is still the U.S. Open so the winner is going to have to hit some fairways and greens. If you think Phil has that in him this week, then by all means jump aboard.

Let's take a spin through the other favorites. Rory McIlroy can't put four rounds together and decision making is not his strong-suit. Adam Scott has never finished better than tied for 15th at a U.S. Open - probably because his short game and putting have been weak but this year he's 15th in putting and 3rd in sand saves so he could be in the mix. Jordan Spieth is not ready. Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose just don't seem sharp this season though Stenson's game would seem to be a great fit for the course.

Then we get to some guys who are worth a look in Matt Kuchar, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson. If you believe in the logical progression of a golf career, then Kuchar is the next guy due for a major with Day not far behind. If you also believe that some players are doomed to never win one, well then I give you Sergio and D.J. both of whom have the talent to do it but also an uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. If I hadn't used Kuch at the Masters, he might top my list at Pinehurst and if I was throwing some money down, he'd definitely be worth a look at 28 to 1. Here is how the bookies see the top 15.    

The U.S. Open also marks the beginning of
summer movie season.* Happy Father's Day.
The U.S. Open Favorites

1. Rory McIlroy - 10 to 1
2. Adam Scott - 14 to 1
3. Phil Mickelson - 16 to 1
4. Bubba Watson - 18 to 1
5. Jordan Spieth - 25 to 1
6. Henrik Stenson - 28 to 1
7. Justin Rose - 28 to 1
7. Matt Kuchar - 28 to 1
9. Jason Day - 33 to 1
9. Dustin Johnson - 33 to 1
9. Sergio Garcia - 33 to 1
12. Hideki Matsuyama - 40 to 1
12. Luke Donald - 40 to 1
12. Lee Westwood - 40 to 1
12. Martin Kaymer - 40 to 1

So those are the favorites but what else ya got? Well let's start with an obvious one like Jim Furyk who has been rock solid this year and has a U.S.Open win to go with his two ties for 2nd and a tie for 4th. Then you have guys like Martin Kaymer and Graham DeLaet who currently rank 4th and 5th in total driving (I like them both this week - we had a New Zealander win the last time we were here, why not a Canadian?). For a longer shot, I'd take a look at Victor Dubuisson who is going to make a couple of mind blowing up and downs. I then spent a good half hour trying to make a case for a deep sleeper considering everyone from Geoff Ogilvy to Brian Stuard to Hudson Swafford but I can't in good conscience recommend any of them (I really wanted to go with Swafford because he looks so much like the guy with the Jamaican accent from the Volkswagen commercial). The contenders this week are going to come from the top 50 (he says optimistically).  

So where does that leave us? Well, in the spirit of keeping it somewhat fresh, we're going to follow the same pattern that we used at the Masters where we went chalk for the top five and then mixed in some longer shots down the list. Remember, the no. 1 spot is influenced by players I have already used this year so Kuch, Stenson and Furyk among others are not eligible. I normally avoid guys with even a hint of an injury issue like I avoid interacting with women when I've been drinking (it's just better for everyone that way) but in this case I feel like we have a course that matches-up perfectly with a particular player's skill set. Brace yourself for a slew of cheesy "Father's 'Day'" headlines on Monday.

The FGR One and Done Picks
"But ay've meest four
street cuts mon."

1. Jason Day
2. Matt Kuchar
3. Jim Furyk
4. Sergio Garcia
5. Rory McIlroy
6. Martin Kaymer
7. Adam Scott
8. Graham DeLaet
9. Bubba Watson
10. Victor Dubuisson

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* Allow me to introduce "actress" Irina Shayk. Her acting credits include, Exposure: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2011MTV Europe Music Awards 2011 and Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit 2009. Prior to that I believe she spent four years studying at Juilliard. This summer she will be getting her big break starring alongside Dwayne Johnson in Hercules. I think she's going to be great.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Fantasy Swimming Report Part 3: The Training

Believe it or not, there are actually more people who want to swim across the Chesapeake Bay than there are available spots for said masochists so there is a lottery process to determine the "winners." I took my first shot at the lottery in 2013 and was denied which was a blessing disguised as a large neon sign that said, "YOU'RE GETTING AHEAD OF YOURSELF BIG BOY!" (And as usual, the neon sign was right). So I went looking for some other opportunity to satisfy my sudden and inexplicable desire to swim across bodies of water also known as "aquaphilia" which, depending on the Wikipedia link you click, can either mean (a) a love of water sports or (b) a form of fetishism that involves sexual activity under water. Obviously definition (a) applies here. I will be wearing a full body wetsuit so definition (b) will only come into play if I run into a frisky dolphin with a switchblade.

"Why would I crawl into a bathtub
to hide from a swim? I should
have thought this through."
The event I found last year was a three mile swim to benefit cancer research which took place in a relatively calm body of water off a local river. I trained my ass off for it and as a result, completing it turned-out to be relatively easy. (Holy shit did you actually just reach-out and touch the money?) Based on that experience, I took another crack at the Bay Swim lottery and on January 6th I received an email that made me start sweating like a functional heroine addict at work on a Monday. "Congratulations! Your Name is Selected for 2014 GCBS 4.4 Swim Entry. Please Proceed." Please proceed with what? Shaking? Vomiting? Curling-up in a ball in the bathtub and weeping like the dad from Say Anything?

The "proceed" part was about actually signing-up for the race which was their way of saying, "are you sure you really want to do this?" Apparently I did because I plunked-down my somewhat hefty entry fee and signed on the dotted line. It was five months and two days before the swim. Plenty of time to ramp-up the training but I had done enough swimming at that point to identify my limitations and to recognize I was going to need some help. So I did what any golfer would do in that situation (after changing drivers and putters three times), I hired a coach.

Before we get to the training, however, let's set this up by more clearly defining exactly what my limitations are beginning with the fact that, from a physical standpoint, I am the anti Michael Phelps. Here is the tale of the tape (boxing expression):

"Would you be so kind as to
direct me to the locker room
so I may don my Speedo."
Dimensions: Phelps is 6'4" with the wingspan and torso of a man who is 6'7" which means he has (a) extra pulling power with his arms and (b) relatively shorter legs which give him a stronger kick. The FGR is 5'9" (really more like 5'8" and three quarters) with scrawny arms and legs which seem best suited for sitting and eating a turkey club sandwich. ADVANTAGE PHELPS.

Hands and Feet: Phelps has huge hands which catch large amounts of water and his size 14 feet act as flippers. The FGR wears a men's small golf glove (cadet small at that) and has size 8.5 feet that barely pivot at the ankle anymore thanks to more sprains than I care to remember . . . mostly from playing basketball, another sport they didn't envision for me while I was on the genetic drawing board. As a result, my progress moving across a pool with a kickboard is barely perceptible . . . kind of like the progress of my writing career. ADVANTAGE PHELPS.

Flexibility: Phelps is double-jointed which means he has a far greater range of motion with his arms and legs than the average person. The FGR is single-jointed and I've reached the point where at least 50% of my back is inaccessible with my own hands meaning I can no longer do my own manscaping. ADVANTAGE FGR (because screw range of motion, double-jointed people are creepy).

On top of all of those limitations, I am also not blessed with what many people refer to as "great physical strength" which tends to come in handy when trying to pull your body through water. To the extent that I am good at any sports, it's because I have decent hand-eye coordination and a deep subconscious and irrational belief that I am better than everybody at everything. Based on my size, the word "Napoleonic" might come to mind and I'd be hard-pressed to fight you on that one (though I'm confident I'd win if it came to that).

So that is what I presented to my new swimming coach (we'll call her "Annie" because her name is "Annie") - a man of slightly below average size with way below average sized extremities, poor flexibility and no chance in hell of bench pressing his own weight even once. And those are just the physical limitations she could detect after observing one lap. It would take several more sessions for her to appreciate the full package including the short attention span, the reluctance to follow directions and the complete inability to ever just "let it go."

I will admit that not every passing swimmer
was necessarily an unwelcome distraction.
In between twice a month training sessions with Annie, I would swim three to four days per week at the staph infection factory that is the indoor pool at the small college near my house. Training at a pool frequented by a lot of dedicated swimmers can be a humbling experience because, unlike going for a long run and getting passed by a faster runner one time, a faster swimmer passes you over and over and over and over again and each passing comes as a not so subtle reminder that "you sir are slow." You just need to remember that (a) the guy blowing by you is twenty years younger than you are, (b) he's probably wasted his whole life in a pool training to be a swimmer while you've wasted your whole life practicing to be above average at a variety of sports and (c) you are in it for the long . . . holy shit where in the hell did that old lady come from? Who is she . . . Ryan Lochte's freakin' grandmother? Oh the demoralization.

When you finally settle down to the point where you can ignore the other swimmers, your mind wanders all over the place - from work to family to whether you remembered to re-sequence your Netflix queue which is good because it distracts you from uncomfortable thoughts like, "is the fart bubble that's rolling around in my Speedo visible to all of the moms on the bleachers watching their kids take swimming lessons?" (Swimming Tip: always try to fart right before a turn because it presents the best chance for a full release). Other similarly troubling thoughts are "what if someone dropped a running hair dryer in here?", "is the top of my crack showing?" and "is everybody pointing and laughing at me?"

At some point when training for an outdoor swim, you need to leave the relative comfort of the indoor pool and actually swim in the open water. When you live in Maryland, you have a myriad of choices for swimming venues ranging from rivers to lakes to reservoirs and even Baltimore Harbor if you don't think the HAZMAT suit will be too cumbersome. The obstacle is that you really shouldn't go swim a couple miles in a river by yourself which means that you need to find some swimming buddies. Unfortunately, I've spent the past twenty years accumulating golf buddies, none of whom could swim to the bottom of the country club pool to retrieve their car keys as far as I can tell. So short of asking the FGW to get in a rowboat and follow-me, I was at a bit of a loss for outdoor training opportunities.

Then a few weeks ago I caught a bit of a break as I met a guy swimming in the lane next to me who invited me to join a group that gathers periodically to swim outside. (One of the rare times when breaking my rule against making small talk with strangers paid off). Next thing I know I'm on a mailing list for swimming fanatics who gather several times a week with volunteer kayakers to keep an eye on them. Perfect. The final piece of my training puzzle had fallen into place . . . or so I thought.

"I swam the 50 freestyle at the 1990
Pan Am Games . . . yeah that's it."
My first encounter with the swimming fanatics was at a river with the goal of going out and back for a mile and a half. Bear in mind that I had never met these people and my only communication with them was a couple of emails where I validated my ability to keep a respectable pace (I may have taken a few liberties with that one). When I arrived, brief introductions were made, we threw-on our wetsuits and in we went. The woman who ran the group and appeared to be in her sixties agreed to swim with me and "keep an eye on me" which was good because if we had been a herd of antelope being chased by a cheetah, I would have been dinner.

I have experienced all different varieties of tired. Two a day lacrosse practice in the heat tired. Last three miles of a marathon tired. Two week trial where you're making your case up as you go along because you have no idea what you're doing tired. And of course, three day bender tired but on this particular evening, I found a new kind of tired. Swimming with a bunch of strangers and being the anchor tired. When we made the turn, I was gassed from trying to keep-up and it was clear that I was expending twice as much energy as the next slowest swimmer. When they stopped to regroup on the way back, I just kept going to build a cushion which quickly evaporated. It was clear that I was in over my head (pun intended) and that this was going to do nothing for my confidence. I was either going to have to learn to swim faster or abandon this particular group. I chose the latter because with only three weeks until the race, it was no time to take the honorable Ned Stark route and face a similar fate (guess who finally just started watching Game of Thrones?). It was time to cut and run.

So for the past couple of weeks it's been back to the pool but, with the thankful arrival of Memorial Day, at least I've been able to escape the Turkish baths and swim outside. I've devoted my time to breaking-in the new wetsuit and convincing myself that this is doable for me. I've solicited advice from multiple sources on everything from course strategy to where to park. At this point there's really nothing left to do but try to get a good night's sleep (yeah right) and then walk into the Bay tomorrow morning and start swimming. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to spend a few minutes in the bathtub chewing on my nails.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The St. Jude Preview

The countdown clock in the right-hand column has ducked under 5 days which means that golf has slid to the backburner as I keep having flash forwards about trying to swim through a horde of flailing arms and kicking legs just so I can get to the middle of the Bay and think, "holy crap am I tired." I'm going to hit the most crowded public pool in Baltimore City on Saturday and do laps up and down the middle of it to prepare - it will be my version of pumping heavy metal music into practice to get ready for a road game against the Seahawks. But we'll get to a final pre-swim entry later in the week. For now, let's gin-up some golf chatter.

This is the last event before the U.S. Open and it's always interesting to see which guys like to compete the week before versus those who take the week off or head to Pinehurst early (and by "interesting" I mean "borderline noteworthy"). Matt Kuchar has decided to grind himself into a pulp as this will be his fifth consecutive event* dating back to when he stuck his first tee in the ground at Sawgrass on May 8th. That feels like overkill to me. I'm putting a couple of guys at the top who (a) have been playing well lately, (b) took last week off and (c) have a solid history in Memphis. Lee Westwood won this thing in 2010 and Ryan Palmer finished 4th last year and 3rd the year before so they're my guys. Not to mention, Westwood is the king of winning the week before it really matters. Your dark horse is David Toms who used to dominate on this course back in the last decade . . . you know, when he was good at golf. (Making friends fast this week).    
Are you sure Megan Fox is from
Tennessee? OK . . . if you say so.

The St. Jude Favorites

1. Matt Kuchar - 12 to 1
2. Dustin Johnson - 16 to 1
3. Phil Mickelson - 18 to 1
4. Lee Westwood - 20 to 1
5. Ryan Palmer - 22 to 1
6. John Senden - 28 to 1

The FGR One and Done Picks

1. Lee Westwood
2. Ryan Palmer
3. David Toms
4. Dustin Johnson
5. Harris English
6. Matt Kuchar

The blind squirrel theory was in effect for me last week as I went to to punch-in my Charl Schwartzel pick only to discover that I had already burned him at the Byron Nelson a few weeks ago. That left me scrambling a bit as I had already used all of the other players in my top six except for Luke Donald and Luke Donald is not the guy you pick when you're trying to bust-out of a funk. So I semi-randomly picked Hideki Matsuyama and the next thing you know I'm jumping from 67th to 33rd in one and done league "A".** This could be the sign of a dramatic turnaround as I picked Matt Kuchar to win the Memorial in the same league last year and it sparked a run into the top five . . . until everyone and their brother picked Jason Dufner to win the PGA Championship and I got blown out of the water (and the money) like a flounder on the wrong-end of a South Carolina blast fishing trip.

Um . . . I think you got him.
Last Week's FGR Report Card: B

1. Charl Schwartzel - T8th
2. Dustin Johnson - T46th
3. Bill Haas - T8th
4. Luke Donald - T49th
5. Jordan Spieth - T19th
6. Matt Kuchar - T15th

The Blind Squirrel 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
I'm not that into fishing . . .
what else ya got? . . . Thanks.
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
Colonial: Zach Johnson - $12,416
Memorial: Charl Schwartzel - $167,400

Season Total: $2,657,485


* I wrote this before Kuchar withdrew this week and adding this footnote was a lot easier than rewriting the whole damn thing.

** I'm in two leagues which we will call "A" and "B". If you win the "A" league, you make enough money to buy a 2014 Chevy Impala. If you win the "B" league, you make enough money to fly to Wisconsin and see Ginger, the baby Impala that was born at the Milwaukee County Zoo last year. I am currently on pace to make less money in both leagues in 2014 than the guy who cleans Ginger's cage makes in ten minutes.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Updates from the Road Redux Part 1

Fourteen years ago last January, the FGW and I pulled a Lost in America* and dropped out of the world for six months to travel across the United States for eight weeks and backpack through Europe for sixteen more with a break in the middle to hit the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York City followed by a bus ride to Atlantic City for me to hit a bachelor party in progress (because all marital bliss and no male bonding shenanigans makes the FGR a dull boy). We did this primarily because six months prior to that, I had walked into the office of the law partner for whom I was working at the time and announced that I was leaving the firm. The conversation went something like this:

"Irish Car Bombs for lunch anyone?"
FGR: "I'm leaving the firm."

LP: "Where are you going?"

FGR: "I don't know but I can't keep coming here."

LP: "Will you give us two weeks?"

FGR: "Of course. I want to leave on the best of terms."

After which I proceeded to come to the office everyday for two weeks arriving around 9:30 a.m. to play Euchre online for six hours before telling my secretary, "I'll be right back" and going home for the day. What difference did it make? The day after I quit I handed all of my five cases off to some other sucker anyway. I think the only reason they kept me on was because they didn't want to have to lie and tell my replacement that the guy who worked for the shitty partner that he was about to start working for walked out without saying goodbye like the guy before I did (I guess that made me the sucker at the table). 

I spent the next six months sort of trying to get another law job while dabbling in pharmaceutical sales rep interviews because everyone doing that seemed to be making a ton of dough while working two days a week. Then I discovered that there was an actual sales component to it and I had to face the reality that I couldn't sell a solar powered space heater to an Eskimo so then I didn't know what to do. Regular readers of the Fantasy Golf Report may recall that this eventually led to a medical delivery job that ended with me pulling the equivalent of a John Winger from Stripes pulling over on the George Washington Bridge and throwing the keys to my cab in the river. ("I don't think I want to take your abuse anymore ... and I know I don't want to take your blood sample to the lab).

"Hey babe, watching the Godfather trilogy
for the third time this week inspired
me to go out and get us a pizza."
What made ​​matters worse was that the FGW was working from home doing a real grown-up job so she was there to bear witness to my downward career/life spiral. Either she sensed that it needed to be headed off at the pass or she got tired of me coming home from the video store every day with three hour movies like Gandhi and Nixon but whatever it was, at some point she suggested that we take advantage of this "opportunity" and travel. The next thing I knew, we had rented our house, bought a bunch of maps and were driving south on a budget of $ 70 per day including lodging  (welcome to the Red Roof Inn next to the overpass ... please excuse the crime scene tape across the door of room 217).

It was a life changing experience in many ways but it was most important as it relates to the Fantasy Golf Report in that it was the first time I ever wrote (a) for other people and (b) for fun. Remember, this was the year 2000 so the only way we had to communicate was good old fashioned email and to get access to that you had to walk into an Internet cafe and buy an hour at a screen and in some cases a cup of coffee which was their version of a one drink minimum. 

So about once every three weeks, the FGW and I would carve a few bucks out of our very tight budget and buy some online time to email our friends and family about what we were doing. Eventually we realized that, to economize our internet time, it made ​​sense to send out what we now call an email blast with the FGW recounting our journey as I hammered the keyboard with the occasional embelishment. These posts came to be known as the Updates from the Road and what we discovered was that after a couple months they had taken on a viral quality because we started getting responses back from people we didn't know asking to be added to the mailing list. If only I had thought to call them "friend requests" or "followers", I'd be freakin 'rich.

Those updates were the trailblazers for what would become the Fantasy Golf Report. One day when I hit the big time, I'll publish them in their entirety but for now I'm going to rekindle the idea as the entire FGF is in Italy for a three week journey that is now six days old so we'll pick-up with the trip to date in Part 2 and, at some point, we'll get to a recap of the bay swim but oh that seems so long ago as I sit on my ass stuffing myself full of cheese, pasta and Chianti. By the time I get home I'm going to need flippers and water wings to make one trip across the pool.


* Lost in America is a mid 80's semi-classic starring Albert Brooks and Julie Haggerty about a couple who quits their jobs and travels across the country in a Winnebago. Hilarity ensues (really - but only if you like Albert Brooks who is not for everyone).