Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The Bridgestone Preview

Let me start by laying-out my approach for this week so you can make an educated decision as to whether you want to follow my advice: (1) my 2014 fantasy golf season has pretty much gone the way of Val Kilmer's career after Heat, (2) I have nothing left to lose, and (3) I haven't used Tiger yet. It's basically the equivalent of Taylor Kitsch and his new Japanese friend dragging the U.S.S. Missouri out of retirement to save the world in Battleship (and we thought Peter Berg had maxed-out his unreality scale by having smoking hot Connie Britton play the wife of an itinerant high school football coach).

The one thing we know about Firestone CC where the Bridgstone is played every year is that certain guys play it really well on a regular basis and one of the things we know about golf is that, when your game is looking a little ragged, sometimes the best medicine is to return to a course where you feel all warm and fuzzy. (This is where I subtly note that I had five birdies at Kinloch Golf Club* in Richmond, Virginia last week and was -3 walking off the 15th green before finishing . . . but I digress). Tiger has played this tournament fourteen times on this course. He has won EIGHT of them (including last year), finished second once and fourth twice.  That means his winning percentage is .571 and his top five percentage is .786. I'll take those odds (said the dead man walking).

If you're not on board with my Tiger pick and/or you're not as desperate as I am, there are plenty of other players with great track records at Firestone including Keegan Bradley (won in 2012, T2nd in 2013), Jim Furyk (nine top 10's in fourteen starts), Jason Dufner (7th in 2012 and T4th in 2013) or you could just go with the best golfer in the world right now (no, not Adam Scott . . . get those ridiculous World Golf Rankings out of here). I could easily see Rory McIlroy tear-off three wins from now through the Tour Championship, he's got three top 10's in five starts at the Bridgestone and I already wasted him at Doral. Sounds like a winning formula to me.  

The Bridgestone Favorites
Mid-major college coach's wife at worst.
Texas high school football . . . no way.

1. Rory McIlroy - 13 to 2
2. Adam Scott - 11 to 1
3. Tiger Woods - 12 to 1
4. Justin Rose - 18 to 1
5. Jim Furyk - 20 to 1
6. Keegan Bradley - 22 to 1
7. Rickie Fowler - 22 to 1
8. Henrik Stenson - 22 to 1
9. Sergio Garcia - 25 to 1
10. Matt Kuchar - 28 to 1

The FGR's One and Done Picks

1. Tiger Woods
2. Rory McIlroy
3. Adam Scott
4. Rickie Fowler
5. Steve Stricker
6. Jim Furyk
7. Jordan Spieth
8. Jason Dufner
9. Justin Rose
10. Henrik Stenson

Another week, another calamitous first round pick as the Golden Mullet (why didn't someone tell me he cut his air?) whiffed on the cut by a stroke . . . only his second missed cut of the year I might add. At least if you read between the lines in last week's preview, you would have known that I only went with Hoffman over Furyk because I had to. The bottom line, however is that Hoffman was my sixth missed cut this year. You almost have to be trying to accomplish the level of futility. Almost.  

Last Week's Report Card: C-
Nice try but that picture is not helping my mood . . .

1. Charley Hoffman - M/C
2. Jim Furyk - 2nd
3. Charl Schwartzel - T43rd
4. Hunter Mahan - M/C
5. Russell Knox - T29th

The Damage 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
. . . but that one is.**

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
Quicken Loans: Brendon Todd - $237,250
Greenbrier: Jimmy Walker - M/C
John Deere: Steve Stricker - $112,800
British Open: Henrik Stenson - $36,253
Canadian Open: Charley Hoffman - M/C

Season Total: $3,402,694

Footnotes

* Going to Kinloch is what I will from now on call a "JSY" experience as in, if someone asks you to play there, just say yes and then figure-out the rest later. At this point, there is a long list of family functions I would blow-off just to drive down for the steak sandwich.    

** I received a specific request for Lucy Pinder this weekend. As always, send your requests along with your comments, questions and recipes to the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The Canadian Open Preview

To quote Phil Mickelson, "I'm such an idiot." On the one hand, we had a major where all indications were that birdies and eagles would abound based on a favorable weather forecast AND the fact that the winning score the last time they played this year's course was 18 under (second lowest major score ever). On the other hand, we had a player who has something of a history of dominating majors played on easy tracks and who had been showing recent signs of a return to ball-striking greatness with an opening 63 at the Memorial and an opening 64 at the Scottish Open last week. Maybe I was spooked about the second round debacles (78's at both of the aforementioned events) or maybe the memories of 2013 (Cut) and 2012 (T60th) were still fresh in my mind but for whatever reason, I didn't even put Rory McIlroy in a top ten where I found room for the likes of Danny Freakin Willett (and yes, that is his real full name).

The result was another disastrous week that has me one step closer to standing in front of Dean Wormer's desk as he reads off my putrid grade point average for the season. In my two one and done leagues, I sit 41st out of 74 teams in one and 31st out of 45 teams in the other. In the first league, I am fittingly right behind a team called "Shank." In the other league, I am even more fittingly behind a team called "Frazier" which calls to mind the Cheers episode when Frasier Crane returns from Italy and describes the fallout from Diane leaving him at the altar . . . "now in Italy when a soccer player attempts to kick the ball, misses and falls down, it's called a 'Frasier' . . . if that player then loses consciousness, it's called a 'Frasier Crane.'" My season is therefore a "Frasier" and well on its way to becoming a "Frasier Crane." Here's the damage report:

Last Week's Report Card: D
"And now, 25 years later I've got some wise-ass
reminding me of it on something called a blog."

1. Henrik Stenson - T39th
2. Adam Scott - T5th
3. Sergio Garcia - T2nd
4. Justin Rose - T23rd
5. Martin Kaymer - T70th
6. Victor Dubuisson - T9th
7. Brandt Snedeker - T58th
8. Danny Willett - M/C
9. Matt Kuchar - T54th
10. Francesco Molinari - T15th

The Frasier Crane 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
Sticking with with the Miss Universe theme from
last week . . . meet Miss Canada of 2006. Nothing
says Canada quite like a bamboo backdrop.
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
Travelers: Bubba Watson - $32,296
Quicken Loans: Brendon Todd - $237,250
Greenbrier: Jimmy Walker - M/C
John Deere: Steve Stricker - $112,800
British Open: Henrik Stenson - $36,253

Season Total: $3,402,694

Now we head north for the Canadian Open which is a tricky one to call because they're always moving it around and this year they're playing a course they haven't seen since Scott Verplank won it in 2001 (Scott Verplank?!?). Add to that the fact that I've already used all of the guys I really want to pick this week (Furyk, Schwartzel, Mahan, etc.) and I'm left in a little bit of a pickle that has me going with the Golden Mullet (that's my new nickname for Charley Hoffman). Then again, picking the guys I've wanted to pick hasn't gotten me nowhere so maybe this is a blessing in disguise . . . but somehow I doubt it so what do you say we just look at another hot chick from Canada because even I can't screw that up.

The Canadian Open Favorites
"Ohhhhh Canada, our home and native
smoking hot babe . . . wait, that's not it."

1. Dustin Johnson - 12 to 1
2. Matt Kuchar - 12 to 1
3. Jim Furyk - 12 to 1
4. Graeme McDowell - 16 to 1
5. Charl Schwartzel - 20 to 1

The FGR One and Done Picks

1. Charley Hoffman
2. Jim Furyk
3. Charl Schwartzel
4. Hunter Mahan*
5. Russell Knox

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com.

Footnote

* Remember that the Canadian Open is where Hunter Mahan withdrew last year with the 36 hole lead to go home and be with his wife who was about to give birth. So if you want to score some points this weekend, tell your wife that story and then say that you would have absolutely done the same thing. Then call Tiger a jerk. That should at least get you to Monday. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The British Open Preview

Fact: The last major to be decided by less than two strokes happened over a year ago and the drama involved a chain smoking fat guy from Argentina who's nickname is "The Duck" and a Burbury model from Australia with a caddie who lacks an appreciation for the art of photography.

Fact: Three of the last four British Opens have been decided by three or more strokes including snoozers in 2010 (Louis Oosthuizen by 7) and 2011 (Darren Clarke by 3).

So we have converging trends indicating that we are freakin' due for some excitement on Sunday. (I'm going to keep predicting it until it happens dammit). The question before us now is therefore who will provide it? I'll be forthright with you mate, I don't feel particularly good about any of the favorites. This golf season has been so random. Every time you think a player is getting hot and coming to a course where he has had success in the past, he falls on his face and a guy like Brendon Todd, Steven Bowditch or Matt Every walks over him to collect the trophy. Why would we think this week will be any different? Especially considering that it's the British Open where Todd Hamilton, Ben Curtis and past their primes Ernie Els and Tom Watson happen. On the other hand, we have been on a decent run of quality major winners dating back to Keegan Bradley's PGA Championship win in 2011 (remember, he was just a relative unknown at that point with a really annoying pre-shot routine as opposed to the credentialed player with the really annoying pre-shot routine that he is now).

It's still too soon isn't it?
So what to do? Well, with that run of quality major winners and all of the high caliber players floating around, you'd be kind of foolish not to pick one so I'm sticking with the FGR strategy of stocking the top five and then sprinkling 6-10 with some longer shots. Remember that I don't put the same player at the top twice so Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Justin Rose aren't available but even if they were, I'd go with Henrik Stenson who has found his form coming off a string of three straight top fives. He also has a 2nd and two 3rds in his last six British Opens.

As for the alternatives, it appears that Adam Scott will be a consistent threat at every major for the foreseeable future. Justin Rose has been on fire the past few weeks though his British Open track record is very spotty, a fact often overlooked because (a) he is British and (b) he had that amazing run as an amateur . . . 16 years ago. Martin Kaymer has been the best player in the world since he won The Players in May and backed that up with a blowout at the U.S. Open. They would all be shrewd picks that would have you bubbling with optimism at 4:00 a.m. EST on Thursday to the extent that you can be bubbling with anything at that hour other than the symptoms of a Red Lobster all you can eat shrimp dinner gone horribly wrong.

The Brits appear to have stepped-
up their Miss Universe game.
And then there is Sergio Garcia, the guy we all dislike but now can barely remember why. Here is all you need to know about how generally disregarded Sergio has been for the last five years. He is rarely mentioned anymore in the "best player never to win a major" discussion that currently includes Stenson, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day, Jordan, Spieth, Dustin Johnson, etc. despite the fact that he has a whopping eighteen top tens in those events including a run of six in the British Open from 2001 through 2007. And remember, the British Open is also the Redemption Open as it's the only one Greg Norman ever won, it's where Darren Clarke finally got his and it's where Phil Mickelson was able to partially recover from the Merion fiasco. Sergio is also playing great this year with a tie for 2nd at the Travelers, a 3rd at The Players and a 3rd at the Houston Open. In his last event, he shot 65 in the final round to finish three shots off the lead at the BMW International. After that rundown, I've almost talked myself into picking him but if I'm going to risk having my weekend ruined, it's not going to be by Sergio taking the lead into Sunday and then tanking with a 75.

If you're looking for some slightly longer shots, I like Victor Dubuisson because he has the kind of scrappy game that is going to score him some top tens in majors over his career. For the part of the inevitable young European upstart, I'd go with Danny Willett who is on a nice run of T3, T8 and T11 over his last three events and he finished tied for 15th at the British last year so it's not his first rodeo. I also have a hunch about Francesco Molinari this year. Maybe it's because I just spent the past week molesting the Italian language while trying to order dinner and buy bus tickets so I've got a lot of "ini" and "ari" on the brain.*

OK, it's getting punchy. Let's move on to this week's picks and the requisite photo montage that causes half of you to skip this inspired writing anyway . . . you horny sons a bitches.         

Well played Britain. 
The British Open Favorites

1. Justin Rose - 14 to 1
2. Adam Scott - 16 to 1
2. Rory McIlroy - 16 to 1
2. Henrik Stenson - 16 to 1
5. Tiger Woods - 22 to 1
5. Martin Kaymer - 22 to 1
7. Sergio Garcia - 25 to 1
7. Phil Mickelson - 25 to 1
9. Graeme McDowell - 28 to 1
10. Dustin Johnson - 33 to 1
10. Jordan Spieth - 33
12. Jason Day - 35 to 1
13. Matt Kuchar - 40 to 1
14. Bubba Watson - 40 to 1
15. Rickie Fowler - 40 to 1

The FGR British Open Picks
Well played indeed.

1. Henrik Stenson
2. Adam Scott
3. Sergio Garcia
4. Justin Rose
5. Martin Kaymer
6. Victor Dubuisson
7. Brandt Snedeker
8. Danny Willett
9. Matt Kuchar
10. Francesco Molinari

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com.

Footnote

* As an American, it is very difficult to order dinner in Italy without recalling the classic rant by Paul Dooley in Breaking Away (arguably the greatest movie dad of all-time):

"No I don't feel lucky to be alive . . . I feel
lucky I'm not dead. There's a difference." 
Dad: What is this?

Mom: It's sauteed zuchini.

Dad: It's "itey" food. I don't want no "itey" food.

Mom: It's not. I got it at the A&P. It's like squash.

Dad: I know "itey" food when I hear it. It's all of them "eenie" foods . . . zucchini and linguine and fettuccine. I want some American food dammit! I want French fries!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The John Deere Classic Preview

Today my liver stepped back from center to call timeout partly because it looked over at my credit card which had just taken a knee. Clearly it's time to come home and, after one more day of traipsing through Venice trying to stay one step ahead of the throngs of cruise ship refugees being dumped into St. Mark's Square, that is exactly what I will do. (You can always tell the people who just jumped-off the cruise ship for a three hour power tour because they have a look in there eye that says, "is this what I'm supposed to be seeing at this stop before I return to my cubby?") 

I promise that this will be the last intentionally half-assed FGR post and I also promise that I've been writing some entertaining (at least to me) posts about my travels but I don't like doing final edits when I've been embibing which means there really hasn't been a final edit opportunity since June 19th. The good stuff will therefore have to wait. These golf prediction posts on the other hand are an exception because they kind of write themselves - especially when I plan to gloss over last week's debacle and this week's pick was made so obvious by Steve Stricker's decent showing last weekend on top of the fact that he owns the John Deere Classic (we're going to conveniently ignore the final round 74 which dropped him out of contention at The Greenbrier). The FGR will return to its usual erratic standards by next week because being erratic is at least better than being consistently bad.

Last Week's Report Card: D+
"Hey Bob, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is
behind you. You're videotaping a flagpole."

1. Jimmy Walker - M/C
2. Brendon Todd - T4th
3. Marc Leishman - M/C
4. Bill Haas - T23rd
5. Brendan Steele - MDF
6. Scott Langley - T26th

The Sweaty Traveler 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
Suffice it to say that casting Angelina
Jolie in The Tourist was a stretch . . 
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
Travelers: Bubba Watson - $32,296
Quicken Loans: Brendon Todd - $237,250
. . . but we'll try to keep an open mind.
Greenbrier: Jimmy Walker - M/C

Season Total: $3,253,641

The John Deere Favorites

1. Jordan Spieth - 9 to 1
2. Zach Johnson - 10 to 1
3. Steve Stricker - 12 to 1
4. Ryan Moore - 20 to 1
5. Harris English - 20 to 1
6. Chris Kirk - 28 to 1

The FGR One and Done Picks

1. Steve Stricker
2. Zach Johnson
3. Jordan Spieth
4. Billy Hurley, III
5. Ryan Moore
6. Chris Kirk

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The Greenbrier Classic Preview

The Italians have totally checked out on sports since they got bounced from the World Cup and as a result, I'm only getting about half of the coverage soccer. When they do actually televise the games, we get an Italian announcing team that sounds like the Howard Stern Show complete with the random insertion of sound effects and music clips. For instance, everytime Mexico did anything against Brazil, they would play La Cucaracha or Tequila. (Makes those allegations of racist slurs at Italian soccer games kind of hard to believe doesn't it?) We're keeping our fingers crossed for coverage of USA-Belgium tonight if for no other reason, I want to hear what they play to mock us. If I don't hear James Brown at least once, I'm going to be very disappointed. 

And if the soccer coverage is spotty, you can forget about a PGA Tour event. Therefore I did not catch a single shot of Justin Rose's overtime win at Congressional but maybe some absence from the game is what I needed as FGR pick Brendon Todd finished a solid 5th. This week we head to the Greenbrier for some resort living and a bunch of biridies. I've been hanging-on to Jimmy Walker for this event because he loves the course and has pretty much established himself as one of the ten best players on tour so now is the time to let him rip. 

Last Week's Report Card: B +

The three stages of the Italian World
Cup experiance. Step 1 - "Euphoria"
1. Brendon Todd - T5th
2. Jason Day - M/C
3. Jordan Spieth - T11th
4. Justin Rose - 1st
5. Brandt Snedeker - T21st
6. Horschel Billy - T11th

The Lost in Italy 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 H├Ârschel - 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
Step 2 - "Anguish"
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
Quicken Loans: Brendon Todd - $ 237,250

Season Total: $ 3,253,641

The Greenbrier Classic Favorites

Step 3 - "Acceptance"
1. Jimmy Walker - 12 to 1
1. Bubba Watson - 12 to 1
3. Webb Simpson - 22 to 1
3. Bill Haas - 22 to 1
5. Brendon Todd - 25 to 1
6. Keegan Bradley - 28 to 1

The FGR One and Done Picks

1. Jimmy Walker
2. Brendon Todd
3. Marc Leishman
4. Bill Haas
5. Brendan Steele
6. Scott Langley