Friday, October 31, 2014

The FGR's Ode to the Pumpkin Farm

Being a parent presents a never-ending dilemma where you spend half your time wishing that your kids would never grow-up and the other half counting the days until they outgrow certain aspects of childhood. First it's diapers which is followed by teething, the terrible twos, car seats, homework, puberty, boyfriends/girlfriends, college applications and finally that awkward conversation that begins with "we're selling the house so you're going to have to find somewhere else to live."* Along the way, you have more direct kicks to the parental nether regions like trips to the emergency room, car accidents, arrests, etc. (For the record, I was never technically arrested though I often seemed to find myself around people who were . . . note to self: stop hanging-out with criminals).

And then you have the subtle self-inflicted annoyances that we foist upon ourselves in an effort to create Facebook moments. The most obvious example would probably be the attempt to take your too young kids to a sporting event and then spending three hours plying them with food and soda to keep them interested. One of the greatest testaments to my own obliviousness and stupidity was thinking that my kids could sit through an entire football game when I can't even sit through an entire football game. Inevitably in that situation, you start rooting for a moving clock more than you root for the home team and every timeout feels like an eternity. At least when you take your kids to a baseball game, you can just wait for the end of an inning when the players run off the field and tell them the game's over. (I would never do that as far as you know). 

I'm not talking about a place like this, I'm 
talking about this actual place as I have 
bathed in those sweaty Hungarian waters. 
But that's not the experience I want to discuss today for there is a much more worthy target this time of year and it is the blunt force trauma to the head that is the Halloween trip to the pumpkin farm. If you have yet to experience this, allow me to explain and, if you've been through it already, prepare to commiserate. Allow me to paint the scene and I will preface this by saying that, of all the settings this world has to offer, the farm ranks near the bottom for me along with some more random scenes in which I have found myself like a public bathhouse in Budapest and a sightseeing boat in Mexico.**

So first you find yourself a farm. If you're lucky, you find one owned by a rich stock broker who always wanted to be a farmer but then realized how much work it really is so he compensates by bringing in some borderline carnies once a year to run a little Halloween gig. If that's the case, your kids might get to pet farm animals that don't look like they've been mauled by coyotes and the corn maze might actually be made of real live growing corn. In this scenario, your greatest fears are mad cow disease, your kid getting impaled on some kind of Chuck Norris style protruding corn stalk death trap or your wife deciding she wants to decorate the entire goddamn porch with gourds at ten bucks a pop. If we call this Scenario One, let's just say that the worst case version of Scenario One is still better than the best case version of Scenario Two.

FUCKIN' GOURDS!!!
In Scenario Two you find yourself at a farm in the middle of a more populated area. (I don't know that these exist outside of Baltimore but I'm going to assume they do anywhere urban sprawl has encroached on what used to be farmland). Here you'll find a maze made of two foot high hay bales and you'll pay three bucks for your kid to make one left turn and then climb over them because, you know, your kid's not an idiot. With the exception of your departure, that will be the highlight of your visit because it's a steady decline from there.

Next you'll wander over to the petting zoo to spend ten minutes waiting for the goat who looks like he's been living off of crabgrass and Marlboro Lights for the last six months to snap your kids left index finger off. After briefly interacting with something that is either a really grungy sheep or a really ugly poodle, you take the whole family for a lengthy Purell decontamination shower (if you've seen Silkwood,*** this will seem familiar). And finally, just when you're high as a kite on Halloween spirit, it's time to stand in line for half an hour waiting your turn to get towed around by a John Deere tractor because nothing says the sweet aroma of fall like the smell of diesel fumes being pumped into your lungs from three feet away. Forty-five minutes later and you're a broken man pulling a wagon full of pumpkins through a checkout line. You get suckered into a nine dollar jug of apple cider at the register and then you get the fuck out of there before someone sees the sign for the gift shop and decides that they want to try some pumpkin jerky and buy a t-shirt to commemorate the occasion.  

Depending on how many kids you have, this experience can repeat itself anywhere from about five to ten times. Then one day you wake-up wait for the announcement that it's time to go the pumpkin farm but that announcement never comes and it is at that moment that you know your debt to the pagan gods has been paid in full . . . and you are thankful.

Footnotes

* My personal version of this is slightly different in that it involved my dad waking me up at 11:00 a.m. on a Tuesday to tell me he was selling "my" car. In a rare moment of 22 year old restraint, I did not say what immediately came to mind which was "then how in the hell am I supposed to get to the golf course?" I called his bluff by stretching my unemployment deep into the fall and then it turned-out he wasn't bluffing, just slow-playing it because one morning I looked out the window and someone else was driving away in "my" car.

** We actually narrowly escaped this one as, just when the boat was about to cast-off, I told the guy at the gangplank that the FGW was about to toss her tacos (literally) and he was more than happy to excuse us from the tour and give us our money back. So now when she tells the FGK's that they should never lie, I always chime-in with, "unless you're fleeing a Mexican tour boat!" 

Ah the 80's. Twas a much simpler time.
*** Silkwood is a movie about people who are contaminated with nuclear stuff. It's actually less uplifting than it sounds. Here is one of the shower scenes but I will warn you that it makes the shower scene from Psycho look like the shower scene from Flashdance.





Thursday, October 30, 2014

The FGR Week 9 NFL Picks

We're going to go ahead and clear-out the Week 9 picks to make room for some funny ass shit in the Friday morning edition. Yeah that's right, I'm calling my shot. Go hard or go home . . . or you can hang-out here on the couch until your ride gets here. I don't want to be rude.

Just keeping it clean and simple this week.
Miami by 2 over San Diego: The Pick - Dolphins
Cinci by 11 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Jags
Cleveland by 6.5 over Tampa: The Pick - Browns
Minnesota by 2 over Washington: The Pick - Skins
Philadelphia by 2 at Houston: The Pick - Eagles
Kansas City by 9.5 over N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Jets
Dallas by 3.5 over Arizona: The Pick - Cardinals
San Francisco by 10 over St. Louis: The Pick - 49ers
Denver by 3 at New England: The Pick - Broncos
Seattle by 15 over Oakland: The Pick - Raiders
Pittsburgh by 1 over Baltimore: The Pick - Ravens
Indianapolis by 3 at N.Y. Giants: The Pick - Colts

Last Week: 5-10 . . . Season Record: 55-64-1


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

The FGR Week 9 Thursday Night Pick

So last week's formula of focusing on the writing and making the picks an afterthought worked-out pretty much as expected and all of that hard work to recover from my disastrous start went right out the window with a 5-10 week. That's the bad news. The good news is that my almost perfect Thursday night record improved to 7-1 so I've got that going for me . . . which is something . . . I guess.

New Orleans by 2.5 at Carolina: The Pick - Panthers

Not to mention, we haven't
really given the TopCats
their due this season. 
This is quite the enigma game. Both teams are headed for a finish somewhere between 7-9 or 9-7 which, for the Panthers, probably means 7-8-1 thanks to their gift of a tie with the Bengals. So in a game rife with uncertainty, here is what we do know: (a) both of these teams can completely show-up or not show-up at all in any given week so picking games that involve them is like trying to staff a taco stand with guys on work release . . . unpredictable; and (b) NFC South intra-divisional games tend to be pretty close. Based on that shaky intel, I'm taking Riverboat Ron, Cam Newton, home field and the points against Rob Ryan's defense.

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

The FGR's 2014 Quarterback Rankings

As complicated as the NFL has become of late with its read-option offenses, its elaborate defensive schemes, it's make it up as we go personal conduct policy and its campaign to raise breast cancer awareness by selling pink stuff and then pocketing most of the profits,* it's ultimately a very straight-forward league with one simple question at the heart of it. "Do you have a quarterback who can win the Super Bowl?" Well, do you? Let's run through all thirty-two teams and see who's set at the most important athletic position on Earth and who's stuck on the Jay Cutler Roller Coaster from Hell. From the top Maestro!

I WAS JUST THERE THREE YEARS AGO . . . DUH

Eli gets a spot at the adult table
until he retires. Deal with it.
Right out of the gate we're going to grandfather in everyone who has been to the Super Bowl over the last three years because (a) if you've made it there, you're probably capable of winning it (and in fact, everyone in this group has except Colin Kaepernick), (b) you've been so recently that you probably have enough in the tank to go again and (c) that's as far back as we could go before running into Ben Roethlisberger (we'll get to him later). This group includes Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco, Kaepernick, Eli Manning and Tom Brady. If you have one of these guys, you may not be going on your dream date but you know you've got a shot. You also know that no one in the next group will be available so you've really got nowhere else to go (and no, I will never pass-up an opportunity to insert that clip).

OOOOOOHHHH . . . SHINY

Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and (without a ton of conviction) Drew Brees . . . This category was going to be reserved for the players who would be included in the discussion of "if you could have any quarterback to start your team with today, who would it be?" and then I realized I hadn't found a spot for Brees so I snuck him in through the kitchen. Rodgers is obvious because he just won a Super Bowl four years ago with a seriously clutch performance, he's at the top of his game right now and he's only thirty years old which means that you probably have at least a five year window. Luck is equally as obvious because, unless you put him on a team that is clueless in the fine art of drafting and signing men who are good at football (currently the Jets, Raiders, Jaguars and Buccaneers . . . and by "currently," I mean since 2011), then he is going to take you to the playoffs at least four out of every five years and the more you go, the better shot you have to pull-off a winning run (no, I am not a scientist . . . I just know things like that). As for Brees, let's say that if the window is still open, it's just enough so the dog can get some air while you run into 7-11 for smokes and a Slurpee.** Out of respect for the ring he's already won and the fact that he's one of the few quarterbacks in the league who can outscore having Rob Ryan coach his team's defense, we'll continue to rank him among the elite.

WELL IF BRAD JOHNSON AND TRENT DILFER COULD DO IT

Alex Smith and Nick Foles . . . Johnson and Dilfer proved that, if you support your quarterback with a lights-out defense and a decent running game, all you really need from him to win the Super Bowl is the threat of being successful without the reality of turnovers. In their two wins, Johnson and Dilfer combined for 3 touchdown passes, 1 interception and 368 yards while their defenses created a combined 10 turnovers and held their opponents to 3 points that mattered. (The Raiders scored first against the Bucs to take a 3-0 lead and then proceeded to fall behind 34-3 before they scored again. The Ravens defense actually shut-out the Giants who only scored on a relatively meaningless kickoff return touchdown). Smith and Foles are better quarterbacks than Johnson and Dilfer ever were but they would have to be because they don't have those dominating defenses and they each have a historical burden to overcome. For Smith, it's Andy Reid and for Foles it's being the quarterback of a team that everyone fully expects to blow it in the end . . . especially its own fans.

MAYBE . . . OK . . . YES . . . WAIT . . . I MEAN NO . . . SHIT, I DON'T KNOW

Tony Romo and Phillip Rivers . . . Rivers and Romo are currently ranked 2nd and 3rd in QBR (the ESPN concocted quarterback rating system that has become all the rage among ESPN NFL analysts but, for some reason, doesn't seem to be catching-on elsewhere). Rivers has actually been on some Super Bowl caliber teams and come-up short for a variety of reasons, most notably Marty Schottenheimer and Norv Turner who could have coached the '85 Bears to a first round upset. 
"Told you we shouldn't draft
Johnny Football heh heh heh."

Romo may actually belong in the next category but for some reason I see him as this generation's Steve Young (note that I wrote that before looking-up the fact that Young's career passer rating was 96.8 and Romo's is currently 96.3 . . . maybe I am a scientist). Let's put it this way, you don't give-up on a quarterback who has been as consistently solid as Romo with the suspect offensive lines they've given him before this year. Even Jerry Jones recognizes that which means it's fairly obvious.   

And that covers the quarterbacks who currently give their team a shot. Sorry if your guy's name hasn't come up yet.

HIS FITNESS REPORT SAYS IT ALL

Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton . . . We could also have called this group all kinds of things inspired by their collective abilities to not win playoff games but I never pass-up the opportunity for a Top Gun reference especially when I just introduced the next generation to it a couple weeks ago (mixed reviews with a big thumbs-up from FGK2 and early departures by FGK1 and FGK3. We'll excuse the latter because she is a seven year girl and probably not the intended target audience for a 1986 movie about Navy fighter pilots). If for some inexplicable reason you haven't seen Top Gun or worse, you've forgotten the exchange, here's how it went down:

Jester: Fitness report says it all. He's a wild card. Completely unpredictable.
(Some non-relevant dialogue that doesn't help prove my point).
Viper: Tell me, if you had to go into battle, would you want him with you?
Jester: I just don't know.   

Pretty much sums-up the five quarterbacks in this group right? I see Jay Cutler as the poster boy, especially after last week's debacle against the Dolphins. His enduring legacy will be the guy who was thrown into the most fantasy football trade offers to make them look better than they really were. "OK, but what about T.Y. Hilton AND Jay Cutler for Marshawn Lynch?" To paraphrase Gordon Gecko (staying with the 80's movie theme) Ryan, Dalton, Stafford and Newton might be a shade better than Cutler but really they're just dogs with different fleas. 

JIMMY KEY? . . . WHAT'S HE LIKE 45?

Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer . . . This category is for the guys who have either won a Super Bowl or at one time had dreams of Lombardi Trophies dancing in fans' heads but have since lost their fastball. (The reference in the title is to my favorite This is Sportcenter ad of all-time which you can check-out here). Roethlisberger looks like a heavyweight boxer hanging-on for one too many paychecks and watching Palmer play is like watching your kid ride a bike down a steep hill for the first time. "JESUS WATCH THE POTHOLE!!!"   

I DON'T THINK SO BUT GET BACK TO ME

Might want to return that call from
Maxim while you're still relevant.
Ryan Tannehill . . . This is only Tannehill's third season and he hasn't quite shown the bust potential of the crew we're about to get to in our next category but he ain't Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson either. Then again, he is married to Mrs. Ryan Tannehill so we're going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

WE'LL JUST BE OVER HERE

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Orton, Mike Glennon and Brian Hoyer . . . These guys are like seat fillers at the Oscars and, in most cases, the team and the fans know it. They're either waiting for a recent draft pick to get his shot or for next year's draft to yield new hope. The exception of course is Hoyer because anytime the Browns stumble onto a quarterback who can throw a five yard pass on 3rd and 9 AND chew gum at the same time, they convince themselves they've found their savior. (See also: Derek Anderson, Brandon Weeden, Colt McCoy, Charlie Frye and Kelly Holcomb).

THE JOB CREATORS

RG, III, Sam Bradford, Jake Locker, E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith . . . Every time a head coach is fired for putting his life savings on the rookie quarterback roulette wheel spot and coming-up empty, a new head coaching job is created. Thanks to these five young quarterbacks, Mike Shanahan, Steve Spagnuolo and Mike Munchak are already gone while Doug Marrone and Rex Ryan will not be far behind. Coaches who don't fall ass backwards into a Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers like John Fox and Mike McCarthy did often find themselves in a Catch-22 where the general manager who drafts a crappy quarterback then has to cover his ass and, because he can't fire the quarterback he just drafted (because that would be an admission of failure), he fires the coach. That was one of the reasons the end of the Shanahan era in Washington was so entertaining. He picked and coached the quarterback and, when things went south, he basicallly did everything but start calling Dan Snyder "shorty pants" to get himself fired so he could keep the $5M or so left on his deal and watch the current Redskins train wreck from a beach somewhere. There's a lesson in there somewhere about hiring 60+ year old coaches who already have two Super Bowl rings and a year round tan.

TOO SOON

Blake Bortles, Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater . . . So far, none of these three newbies have shown the instant gravitas that we felt with Wilson, Luck and Kaepernick but that doesn't mean they won't one day rise into the Alex Smith/Nick Foles category. If there is one lesson that we should be learning, however (other than the 60 year old tan coach lesson), it is that you don't want to draft a quarterback with a spindly/fragile base a la RG, III, Sam Bradford and Jake Locker which does not portend well for Bridgewater who looks like he could get broken in half on every play. Remember kids, 80% of life is just showing-up and every team in the league is one hit away from being 4-12 so durability counts (cut to every Redskins fan nodding). Come to think of it, after accuracy and arm strength, there may not be a more critical scouting component for quarterbacks than "looks fat in those jeans."

Conclusion

So that's thirteen out of thirty-two teams that have the goods under center to win the title. Even if you moved a few more borderline guys like Roethlisberger, Newton and Stafford into that category, that would still only be half the league. For the rest it's back to the scouting trail to try to find the next Wilson, Rodgers or Brady. Well except for the Browns who will continue to prove Segal's law that the team with one starting quarterback has a starting quarterback while the team with two starting quarterbacks has none.***

Footnotes

Come on NFL . . . your
moral compass is now
actually spinning.
* According to this Business Insider article, only about 8% of the money collected through the sale of NFL pink merchandise actually goes to cancer research while about 87.5% of the money goes to the retailer and the manufacturer of the merchandise. That doesn't seem too egregious until you consider the amount of NFL merchandise that is sold by the NFL making them the "retailer" in that scenario. Oh NFL, you've done it again.

** Is there a more underrated "refreshment" than the Slurpee? Ten times better than a crappy Sno-Ball, lighter than a milkshake and more satisfying than a soda. Maybe it would have enjoyed greater success if its name didn't sound like a porn search term.

*** Segal's law is actually that a man with one watch always knows what time its is while a man with two watches is never sure but you get the picture.

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The FGR Week 8 NFL Picks

Last week's 10-5 shindig partially dislodged the writer's block and inspired some real content which will appear in Friday's edition of the FGR. Today, however, we'll take care of the administrative side and see if we can continue climbing-out of our early season crater.

Who's excited for a Sunday
night shootout? I am.
Denver by 7.5 over San Diego: The Pick - Broncos 
Detroit by 4 over Atlanta: The Pick - Lions
Tampa Bay by 2.5 over Minnesota: The Pick - Bucs
New England by 6.5 over Chicago: The Pick - Bears
Kansas City by 6.5 over St. Louis: The Pick - Chiefs
Seattle by 4.5 at Carolina: The Pick - Seahawks
N.Y. Jets by 3 over Buffalo: The Pick - Bills
Miami by 5.5 at Jacksonville: The Pick - Jags
Houston by 1 at Tennessee: The Pick - Titans
Cincinnati by 1.5 over Baltimore: The Pick - Ravens
Arizona by 2.5 over Philadelphia: The Pick - Eagles
Indianapolis by 3 at Pittsburgh: The Pick - Colts
Cleveland by 7 over Oakland: The Pick - Browns
New Orleans by 1.5 over Green Bay: The Pick - Pack 
Dallas by 9.5 over Washington: The Pick - Redskins

Last Week's Record: 10-5 . . . 
Season Record: 50-54-1.

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


Sunday, October 19, 2014

The FGR Week 7 NFL Picks

This week's version of the FGR's latest feature, "The Excuse of the Week" is a two day golf junket to New Jersey which wiped-out about 65 hours of potential writing time between the event, the prep and the recovery. The result is another week of low-rent NFL picks, a Philadelphia area Carrabba's* busboy rocking a pretty sweet RLX golf jacket and the staff of the host club shipping a pair of shoes to me that have now spent more time traveling from country clubs to my house via FedEx than they have on my feet. Many of you will recognize this as the classic George Costanza move of leaving something behind to ensure that you will be invited back. (The similarities between George Costanza and myself are really starting to pile-on. Come to think of it, I may have eaten part of a chocolate eclair off the top of a trash can when I was away . . .or maybe it was a fried shrimp).

So here comes another round of dry picks. The only analysis I could manufacture for any of these games was that (a) the Bengals v. Colts match-up kind of feels like a playoff game which is bad news for Andy Dalton and the Bengals and (b) we need to take a breath before we get too carried away about the Browns' resurgence (I'm looking at you Peter King). They've got close wins over the Saints who might actually be terrible and the Titans who actually are terrible. Last week they crushed the Steelers who show all of the signs of a team with a crumbling foundation. The truth is we may not know how good or bad the Browns really are until they go to Cincinnati on November 6th because they have the NFL's version of a three week kiddie coaster ride upcoming against the Jags, Raiders and Bucs. If there is any rhyme, reason, order or logic left in this league, they'll drop one of those games so we can get back to the business of ignoring them.

Nothing says, "we've got things
heading in the right direction" like
being 5.5 underdogs to the Redskins.
Indianapolis by 3 over Cincinnati: The Pick - Colts
Washington by 5.5 over Tennessee: The Pick - Redskins
Chicago by 3 over Miami: The Pick - Bears
Cleveland by 5.5 at Jacksonville: The Pick - Jags
Seattle by 7 at St. Louis: The Pick - Seahawks
Green Bay by 7 over Carolina: The Pick - Packers
Baltimore by 7 over Atlanta: The Pick - Ravens
Buffalo by 5.5 over Minnesota: The Pick - Vikings
Detroit by 3 over New Orleans: The Pick - Saints
San Diego by 4 over Kansas City: The Pick - Chiefs
Dallas by 6.5 over N.Y. Giants: The Pick - Cowboys
Arizona by 3.5 at Oakland: The Pick - Cardinals
Denver by 6.5 over San Francisco: The Pick - Denver
Pittsburgh by 3.5 over Houston: The Pick - Texans

Footnote

* We stopped at a Carrabba's on the drive home to catch the last few innings of the inevitable buzz kill that was the O's-Royals game 4. After dropping an entire pizza and a couple glasses of the finest house Cabernet on top of what had already been a fairly debaucherous couple of days, I left without my jacket while feeling bloated and depressed. At least in that moment, I had to acknowledge the wisdom that Dean Wormer bestowed upon Kent Dorfman . . . "hellooooo."

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The FGR Week 7 Thursday Night Pick

New England by 9.5 over N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Patriots

It's all smiles in New England until
their inevitable January demise.
It's time to stop this ridiculous death/rebirth cycle that we've been projecting onto the Patriots for about the past five years. As long as they have Tom Brady and the rest of the AFC East continues to flounder with the likes of Geno Smith, Kyle Orton and Ryan Tannehill, the Pats will keep winning it before eventually running into a playoff opponent who beats them up (Ravens) or outguns them (Broncos). They continue to be who we thought they were. An 11-5 team in a bad division or the NFL's version of the one-eyed man in the land of the blind. Rex Ryan will have the Jets up but they're only averaging 16 points per game and they've only cracked 20 once. That's not going to cut it. This looks like another Thursday night massacre in the making.  

Last Week's Record: 6-8 . . . Season Record: 40-49-1


Sunday, October 12, 2014

The FGR Week 6 NFL Picks

The following scenario pretty much sums-up the current state of the NFL. At some point as last week's one o'clock games were all in the third quarter, every single FGR pick except one was either covering or, in the case of the Steelers (playing the hapless Jags), on their way to covering. The one outlier was the Browns who were getting manhandled by the Titans, arguably the worst team in football. This prompted me to say out loud, "serves me right for missing a shot at running the table because I picked the freakin' Browns." What happened next proves that the NFL has overshot parity and reached a point where we have the Seahawks at the top, the Raiders, Jaguars and Titans at the bottom and in the middle there are twenty-eight different shades of carpet stain. Let us review.
  • The Bears had a 21-7 lead over the Panthers with two minutes left in the first half and then played the last thirty-two minutes with their hands around their necks (which was not easy because their heads were up their asses at the time) and lost the game 31-24.
  • The Falcons led the Giants 20-10 halfway through the third quarter. Matty "Ice" and company would not score again and lost 30-20. (I think that nickname is actually starting to fit . . . just not the way it was originally intended).
  •  The Lions were at home and led the Bills 14-3 with two minutes left in the third quarter before losing 17-14. Oh yeah, the Bills quarterback was Kyle Orton. And oh yeah, the Lions are still a joke in the mellowed post Jim Schwartz era.
  • The Eagles led the Rams 34-7 with thirty seconds left in the third quarter. With 1:19 left in the game, the Rams had the ball at midfield down 34-28 after Austin Davis' 43 yard pass to Brian Quick. That was Davis' 97th NFL completion and Quick's 50th NFL catch so we're not exactly talking about Montana to Rice. The Eagles managed to hold-on for the win but blew the cover on the 6.5 point spread. Sons a bitches.
  • If not for the game below, the Saints-Bucs would have taken the cake as first the Saints gagged away a 13-0 first quarter lead before the Bucs gagged a 31-20 fourth quarter lead to eventually lose 37-31 in overtime. Fortunately for the FGR, the spread was 10.5 and I'm on an anti-Saints campaign until they start playing like a team that's at least half as good as they think they are. (Cut to another sideline shot of Rob Ryan playing the role of the worst coordinator in football).
  • And then we had the Browns at the Titans. Cleveland spotted the home team a 28-3 lead with 2:44 left to play in the first half. From that point forward it was 26-0 Cleveland on the strength of three Brian Hoyer touchdown passes, a safety and a Billy Cundiff field goal (and I can tell you from experience, if Billy Cundiff is beating you, it's not your day).
So that is the current NFL environment in which "experts" like myself are forced to pick games. With that being said, ground has been gained over the last few weeks and, with another Thursday night win, Mount .500 is no longer a speck in the distance . . . now it's more of a daunting summit towering over me, daring me, almost taunting me to climb it. (This is the Michael Jordan approach of convincing yourself that your opponent is disrespecting you so you'll be motivated to not just beat him but destroy him. Jordan was like a really angry Sun Tzu). One step at a time. Here we go.

Denver by 9.5 at N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Broncos

I know this is a trap game with a number that high but to cover, the Jets are going to have to score more than 14 points and I just can't see it . . . wait . . . nope, still can't see it.

Cleveland by 2 over Pittsburgh: The Pick - Browns

Forget the spread. One of these teams is going to win 13-10 and not even God knows or cares which one but what he and I do agree on is that there is no way these two teams are going to combine for 47 points. (Psssst . . . take the under). 

Tennessee by 4 over Jacksonville: The Pick - Jags

When I first wrote the lines down on Thursday, this number was 5.5 and then people started trying to concoct scenarios under which the Titans could beat anyone by almost a touchdown. Now it's down to just over a field goal and the scenarios are not much more plausible, even against the Jags. Yikes.

Atlanta by 3 over Chicago: The Pick - Falcons
This just never gets old.

I watched Top Gun for the 47th time the other night and one of my favorite underrated lines is when Viper gets chewed-out by the guy from the tower after Maverick buzzed him and made him do a spit take with his coffee. As he walks by Maverick and Goose, Viper says, "that just about covers the fly-bys" meaning that no more discussion on the topic is warranted. I think we can say the same about the Falcons and the Bears Super Bowl chances in the Matty "Ice" Ryan and "Smokin'" Jay Cutler eras. 

Green Bay by 3.5 at Miami: The Pick - Packers

I'm pretty much locked in on the Packers (and by the Packers, I mean Aaron Rodgers) unless they're more than a seven point favorite on the road against a decent team. The Dolphins' March to 8-8 begins in earnest now.

Detroit by 1.5 at Minnesota: The Pick - Vikings

I would love to make this a one word analysis but I can't figure-out a way to say, "the Lions suck" in one word. TheLionsSuck. Hey, I did it.

Cincinnati by 6.5 over Carolina: The Pick - Bengals

The Bengals probably thought they were hot shit after starting 3-0 and then they came off their bye week and got trounced by the un-killable zombies out of Boston. I still think they're pretty good and now they're pissed . . . or in Marvin Lewis' case, really darned perturbed you guys. 

New England by 3 at Buffalo: The Pick - Patriots
"Want to split some nachos or somethin'."

The Bills have had a nice run off of their new ownership's "WE'RE STAYING IN BUFFALO FOREVER" campaign. Unfortunately, the reality has now set-in for the players that, "we're staying in Buffalo forever."

Baltimore by 3 at Tampa: The Pick - Ravens

Ravens fans who've been through all of the ups and downs know that Joe Flacco and company are good for at least one manure spreading performance on the road (like last week against the Colts) but they rarely have those games back to back. It's going to be a long day for Mike Glennon. 

San Diego by 7 at Oakland: The Pick - Chargers

The Raiders are 0-4 with an average margin of defeat of 13 points per game. The Chargers are 4-1 and their four wins have come by an average of over 17 points. So I guess the number is 7 because this is a rivalry game?

Seattle by 8 over Dallas: The Pick - Seahawks

I had the Cowboys covering here until I remembered that they practically invented the art of convincing people to think that they're good before parking the car in the front lawn, traipsing through the flowerbed and then waking-up the neighbors because they went to the wrong house (not that that makes them bad people).

Arizona by 3.5 over Washington: The Pick - Redskins
"Go Jimmy from the
accounting department!"

I'm going with the Redskins here solely based on the theory that neither of the two guys the Cardinals would prefer to have at quarterback (Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton) will finish the game meaning that it's going to be close, ugly and barely watchable. 

Philadelphia by 3 over N.Y. Giants: The Pick - Giants

Always take the points in an NFC East game unless you have a very good reason not to like it involves Tony Romo trying to secure a playoff spot which is not the case here. 

San Francisco by 3.5 at St. Louis: The Pick - 49ers

So now everyone in the 49ers organization from the owner to the players can't stand Jim Harbaugh. It's funny how when you're so close to someone, it limits your ability to see who they really are, until it hits you in the face like a frying pan. The good thing for the Niners, however, is that they seem to be playing better as the hate meter rises into the red.

Last Week's Record: 8-6-1 . . . Season Record: 34-41-1. 

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

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Week 6 Thursday Night NFL Pick

Indianapolis by 3 at Houston: The Pick - Colts

"GO YOU %#$*& NERD!!!"
After stumbling out of the gate (pun intended), the Colts have gotten their act together with blowout wins over the hapless Jags and Titans followed by a grinder over the Ravens. Meanwhile, the Texans have proven to be a feisty bunch by going 3-2 despite having Harvard's own Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback but their wins have come against the Raiders, Redskins and Bills (with E.J. Manual at quarterback) a/k/a the dregs of the NFL. This will be the first Thursday night game of the season where the losing team keeps the score within twenty, but not by much. Colts - 31 . . . Texans - 17.

Last Week's Record: 8-6-1 . . . Season Record: 34-41-1. (Thursday night record: 4-1).

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The 2014-15 PGA Tour Preview (sort of)

Since the next PGA Tour season technically starts on Thursday, I feel obligated to generate some kind of preview despite the fact that last season literally ended sixteen days ago. I'll be honest, when I look at the tour schedule page for the rest of 2014, I can't tell you with a whole lot of certainty which tournaments are legit and which ones are fluff.  I will assume that if you're starting your fantasy golf season now: (1) you are probably basing your league on FedEx Cup points which will be awarded from the Frys.com Open through the OHL Classic in November before they take a holiday break until the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and (2) you should probably be writing this post instead of me because you are clearly more invested at this point than I am. (Yeah right, a guest writer . . . good one).

I hereby nominate Dianna Agron to
play you know who's wife in the
movie. Just seems like a good fit.
The most valuable tool for evaluating the upcoming season is probably last season's regular season FedEx Cup standings before the playoff results started screwing with them. You then have to account for players who came on strong like Billy Horschel and Chris Kirk. And then you have to find a place for wild cards like Tiger, Dustin Johnson and Jason Dufner but, word to the wise, nothing will crush a fantasy golf squad like injuries, drugs, crazy chicks and, worst of all, complacency (right 2013 Bubba?).

So the way I'm going to handle this is to list my top thirty
based on how I see them finishing the 2015 regular season. Remember that it's tough to accumulate points when you play somewhere else so guys like Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Martin Kaymer are at a disadvantage. On the other hand, if you're playing lights-out, it doesn't really matter how many times you tee it up as Rory and Sergio proved. The number in parentheses is where they finished in 2013-14 FedEx Cup regular season points.

1. Rory McIlroy (1): The best player in the world. End of story.

2. Sergio Garcia (7): He's having fun and I expect a big year but do you want to root for him?

3. Jordan Spieth (8): Two seasons and a Ryder Cup under his belt. Now it's time to win more.

4. Matt Kuchar (4): Take him and relax. Picking Kuch is like buying a Subaru.

5. Adam Scott (14): No more Stevie Williams on the bag = no more inferiority complex.

6. Tiger Woods (218): Because this is where you go all-in with pocket tens.

7. Jimmy Walker (2): The Ryder Cup and three wins last season proved he's the real deal.

8. Dustin Johnson (6): Because this is where you go all-in with pocket eights.

9. Rickie Fowler (16): T5, T2, T2 and T3 in the 2014 majors . . . yes please.

10. Justin Rose (18): The U.S. Open hangover should be gone and a second major is imminent.

11. Billy Horschel (69): Playing as well as anyone on the planet (Earth that is).

12. Jim Furyk (5): He'll keep finding a way to threaten the top ten without winning.

13. Chris Kirk (10): He's a lock for the 10-15 spot. The Ryder Cup snub should be a motivator.

14. Henrik Stenson (70): Betting that 2014 was an anomaly and not the start of a tend.

15. Hideki Matsuyama (22): Great all-around game and took home the 2014 Memorial title.

16. Zach Johnson (11): Can't imagine him finishing much lower. God won't allow it.

17. Patrick Reed (9): He'll keep succeeding just to stick it in your face . . . bitch.

18. Keegan Bradley (23): Two year winless drought. He's due for at least one hot week.

19. Jason Dufner (57): Set to play later this month but neck injuries are scary . . . like spiders.

20. Brendon Todd (12): Great putters like Todd tend to lurk around the top 20.*

21. Jason Day (34): Was ready to re-enter the picture and then only played eleven times. Huh?

22. Cameron Tringale (61): My first of three breakthrough picks. Just has the look of a player.

23. Martin Kaymer (14): I could see him finishing in the top five or around fifty-five.

24. Ryan Moore (19): He's going to land around this spot and he's yours if you want him.

25. Ryan Palmer (30): Can bomb it and finally started showing signs of consistency.

26. Brooks Koepka (N/A): Breakthrough No. 2. Finished 12th in the All Around stat category.

27. Hunter Mahan (62): Prime candidate for another baby related slump. Waiting on more intel.

28. Bubba Watson (3): Could be another version of 2013. See above re: "complacency."

29. Phil Mickelson (45): Put some heat on himself at the Ryder Cup which is a good thing.

30. Russell Knox (48): Breakthrough No. 3. Gut feeling. He's from Scotland so he must be good.

So there you have it. We'll revisit this list before the Tournament of Champions when you should be starting your fantasy league anyway (kids today . . . harumph). In the meantime, we'll have the chance to gather a little data to load into the FGR super-computer as I try to keep a low profile while hanging onto the back of the Orioles' bandwagon. 

Footnote
But I am smiling.

* And in Todd's case, I do mean lurk. Let's hope his highly successful 2014 season gives him enough clout to upgrade that PGATour.com profile picture.

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

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Week 5 NFL Picks . . . O's-Tigers Game 2 Timeline

Let's take the opportunity that the NFL picks present to pump-out a quick timeline from what was an eventful Friday for the FGR because clearly I still have nothing insightful or useful to say in support of my football predictions. We'll preface this with a scene from my office on Thursday as I not so subtly broadcast that I was planning to take my kids to Game 2 of the Orioles-Tigers series but "I STILL DON'T HAVE TICKETS YET." Suffice it to say that four seats materialized, otherwise this would be a really boring story about me taking my kids to see The Boxtrolls.

Carolina by 2.5 over Chicago: The Pick - Bears

Friday at 9:00 a.m.: The FGW departs for the Jersey Shore on a girls weekend leaving me alone with the three FGK's and the Fantasy Golf Dog (the "FGD"). T-minus two hours until we head to Camden Yards and t-minus two hours and ten minutes until I start yelling at people "SETTLE DOWN BACK THERE!"

Tennessee by 1.5 over Cleveland: The Pick - Browns

11:57 a.m.: It takes half an hour to drive the last mile to our parking spot. Here are the three requirements to get a job directing traffic in Baltimore City: (1) You can blow a whistle; (2) Your natural look can be described as "disinterested"; and (3) You can lose a game of checkers in three moves or less because you have absolutely no fucking clue what you are doing.

Philadelphia by 6.5 over St. Louis: The Pick - Eagles

12:07 p.m.: We get to our seats just in time for the first pitch and the stadium is all orange. There appear to be only a couple hundred Tiger fans. Then again, Verlander is pitching so one of those fans is Kate Upton. Advantage: Push.

N.Y. Giants by 4 over Atlanta: The Pick - Falcons

OK, so maybe we bring
some of it on ourselves.
12:52 p.m.: No score, Verlander is dealing and BOOM, Nick Markakis just hit a two-run shot over the right field wall. That finally woke-up a crowd that was still hungover from last night's beatdown. Did I mention that the start time for this game was 12:07 p.m.? Because you know, that's the kind of national respect that Baltimore engenders. Whenever they do an overhead shot of one of our two magnificent stadiums and the nearby inner harbor, I half expect one of the announcers to say, "you know, there's probably a good chance we're filming a real live murder right now."

New Orleans by 10.5 over Tampa Bay: Bucs

1:15 p.m.: The Tigers turn it around and take the air out of the building with five runs in the top of the 4th. This is right about the time that everyone who was at last night's game looks at their fifth Bud Light and thinks, "man, I'm feeling a bit bloated." (Oh and I'm done picking the Saints until they freakin' show-up for the 2014 season. I don't care who or where they're playing).

Dallas by 6.5 over Houston: The Pick - Texans

1:38 p.m.: The O's scratch-out a run in the bottom of the fourth to remind everyone that it's a long game. Speaking of long games, at this point you may have noticed that the two teams have been playing for over 90 minutes and have only completed four innings which puts them on pace for a nine inning game that will take 3:23. Way to get your arms around that pace of play problem Bud Selig. To compound the problem, we have a Baltimore version of Peter Gammons and Thomas Boswell sitting behind us. Only if Gammons and Boswell were racists with triple digit vocabularies and a penchant for profanity. The highlight was when one called Miguel Cabrera something that rhymes with ducking slick. I guess he thought the three people sitting next to me were midgets. Stay classy Section 220, Row 4.

Detroit by 6.5 over Buffalo: The Pick - Lions

1:40 p.m.: We're between innings, my ass hurts and I'm about to doze-off on the burly chap sitting next to me. FGK3 (the most reliable of the bunch even though she's only seven years old) asks if we can go to the batting cage. Brilliant! I promise FGK1 that we can be back by the start of the 8th inning which, at the game's current pace, means we could probably squeeze in nine holes down the road at Carroll Park (extremely local reference . . . bring it).

Indianapolis by 3.5 over Baltimore: The Pick - Ravens

It's my team so I have to give this game some love and explain that I fully expect it to be the one where the Ravens fumble two kickoff returns, drop behind by 17 and then make a furious comeback only to fall 3 points short when they run out of time because John Harbaugh wasted a timeout challenging a play purely on moral grounds.

Thanks for coming Kate.
Don't let the door hit ya.
Pittsburgh by 6 at Jacksonville: The Pick - Steelers

1:57 p.m.: At some point while the kids were hitting wiffle balls, Verlander got pulled which means that Kate Upton probably left her seat and walked right passed us. So for the 2014 record, I was in Rome on the same night the Rolling Stones did an outdoor show at Circus Maximus and I was in Camden Yards at the same time as Kate Upton . . . and I missed them both because I wasn't paying attention! Son of a . . .

Denver by 7.5 over Arizona: The Pick - Broncos

2:47 p.m.: We return to our seats just in time to catch the end of a scoreless 7th inning so it's 5-3 heading into the top of the 8th. I would describe the crowd as being in an optimistic malaise. There is hope but not much evidence to support it. Especially when the Tigers add a run to make it 6-3.

San Francisco by by 5 over Kansas City: The Pick - Chiefs

3:01 p.m.: Enter the evidence to support hope in the form of Joba Chamberlain. Considering that Chamberlain was a major contributor to the O's scoring frenzy the night before and the home fans are cheering his entrance like Cal Ripken just hit a game winning grand slam with Eddie Murray, Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson on base,* I'm guessing the Tigers have some bullpen issues. It's almost enough to make me feel sorry for Verlander. Almost.

San Diego by 6.5 over N.Y. Jets: The Pick - Chargers

3:07 p.m.: After getting the first batter out, it's Joba time as he promptly hits Adam Jones in the butt (at which point the fans boo?). Then Nelson Cruz and Steve Pearce single scoring Jones and setting the O's up with men at first and second and one out. Joba, we hardly knew ya'. Enter Joakim Soria who promptly walks J.J. Hardy to load the bases. Buck Showalter then pinch hits for light hitting Ryan Flaherty with Delmon Young who smokes the first pitch he sees down the left field line for a double. Then this happens. Bedlam.

Cincinnati by 1 at New England: The Pick - Bengals

3:14 p.m.: I was at the game when Maryland's Grevis Vasquez almost singlehandedly beat Duke in his last home game against them to help give the Terps a piece of the ACC title and that was the closest thing I've ever experienced to the euphoria that was now all around me. But that was made-up in large part of college kids who were passing through town to burn a couple coaches and flip a few cars on their way to bigger and better things. Orioles fans aren't just in it for life, it is their life. When the O's win, their fans feel like one of their kids just won and, when they win a game like this, they feel like one of their kids just won an Olympic gold medal. I would never disrespect a true O's fan by saying that I am one of them because I am not. I was late to the party as a mid-twenties transplant so I just married into the family of the gold medal winner but that's still pretty cool.

Seattle by 7 at Washington: The Pick - Seahawks

3:41 p.m.: When Eugenio Suarez grounds out to end the game,** there is one more outburst from the crowd (louder than the Joba Chamberlain reaction but not by much). And then no one leaves. And I mean no one. It's not for a long time, maybe a minute or two but everyone just stands there taking a moment to reflect on what had just happened. It's the kind of game you can't wait to get home and tell your kids about unless they were there with you . . . which just makes it that much sweeter.

Footnotes
Grown Ups 2?!? What does
that piece of crap have to do
with . . . oh, never mind.

* I know this never would have been possible seam heads because some of those careers did not overlap. Just work with me people.

** Total time to play an eight and a half inning baseball game . . . three hours and forty-one minutes. That would have made it the seventh longest American movie ever made, just behind Gone with the Wind at three hours and forty-six minutes and two hours longer than Grown Ups 2.

Last Week's Record: 8-5 . . . Season Record: 26-35. 

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







Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Ryder Cup Post Mortem

This is going to be a little awkward because I revere Tom Watson as a player. His chip-in to beat Jack Nicklaus at the '82 U.S. Open is probably my oldest vivid memory of watching golf on TV and his heartbreaking loss to Stewart Cink at the 2009 British Open is probably my most vivid memory of watching golf on TV period. I can still put myself in that condo at the beach on a Sunday afternoon in July when he he was 59 years old and one slightly misguided club choice kept him from pulling-off the greatest single feat in golf history. When it didn't happen, I remember being as emotionally affected as I had ever been about the outcome of a sporting event.*

So I was already a big Tom Watson fan when he arrived at my home course later in 2009 for the Senior Players Championship. I had my whole family there on Friday when he shot 68 after shooting 66 on Thursday to take control of the tournament.** When my 8 year old son asked if we could get his autograph, I told him we could give it a shot but I wasn't sure if he would be signing after his round. So we stood outside the scoring booth and waited for him along with the usual bunch of adult autograph seeking yahoos who sacrifice their dignity to step-over kids so a famous person will sign their hat. When Watson emerged, he was immediately surrounded and he started declining requests so I thought that was that. Then he cleared the first wave, saw my son holding-out his hat, grabbed it, asked his name and signed it. He then signed for a couple other kids before moving on. To me, there is no better way for an athlete to show he gets "it" than to blow-off the autograph slobs and take care of the kids. In my eyes, Tom Watson the player is therefore above reproach.

That build-up makes it very hard for me to put a big chunk of the blame for the latest U.S. Ryder Cup fiasco on the captain but I'm going to do it anyway. And this is not all 20/20 hindsight as I've been bashing the Webb Simpson pick to anyone who would listen since I heard Watson announce it live on the Golf Channel in one of the weirdest made for TV events I've ever seen. I was sitting in a hotel room with the FGW at the time and blurted-out "you have to be fucking kidding me" when the words came out of his mouth. Apparently Simpson's two primary credentials were that he (a) won the 2012 U.S. Open and (b) he went 2-2 in the 2012 Ryder Cup. That's 2012 . . . as in two years ago. OK, but what have you done for us lately Webb? Check out this major run since that U.S. Open win - DNP, Cut, Cut, T32, T64, T25, Cut, T45, Cut and Cut. Note the three missed cuts in 2014 majors. That's lamer follow-up work than what Dexy's Midnight Runners gave us after Come on Eileen. If you have any doubt about how screwed-up Watson's process was for filling the final spot, check-out this article by the Golf Channel's Jason Sobel about how Webb Simpson's 11th hour lobbying effort probably landed him the final spot . . . and cringe.    

So who should Watson have picked instead? Well the obvious answer would have been Chris Kirk who had just won the Deutsche Bank Championship after being paired with Rory McIlroy on Saturday and Sunday. Kirk matched McIlroy's 64 on Saturday and then backed it up with a 66 to McIlroy's 70 on Sunday. One word comes to mind after that performance . . . "onions" which is what you need to compete at the Ryder Cup. But alas, Watson passed-on Kirk and it was probably because Kirk would have been a "Ryder Cup rookie" (don't get me started, or do).*** The other viable option would have been Ryan Palmer who had finished 5th at the PGA Championship and was 9th in 2014 birdie average with almost four per round. I advocated this approach in my 2012 Post Mortem about the last Ryder Cup disaster. When in doubt, apply the Moneyball approach but instead of runs = wins, it's birdies = wins.

What I don't want to hear is that Watson should have picked FedEx Cup winner Billy Horschel because the selection deadline occurred before Horschel's late season wins and the final pre-deadline image we had of him was hitting a fat 3-wood on the 72nd hole at the Deutsche into the shizzle to hand the tournament to Kirk. Prior to that, Horschel's season had been a train wreck so there was no way he was making the team. However, what it does indicate is that the selection deadline is too early. Watson had to announce his picks over three weeks before the Ryder Cup started and, in this case, that proved to be critical because it turned-out that Horschel was the best golfer in the world in September and he would have been a huge asset with the energy he brings. On the other hand, given more time to make his choice, I'm still not sure Watson would have picked him and they probably needed that three weeks to get the uniforms custom fit because, if you're going to wear ridiculous looking clothes, you at least want them to hang right (Patrick Reed's red pants notwithstanding).

"Pairings?!? Pairings?!? I've been
too busy over at Polo picking out
fabrics to worry about pairings."
Now let's get to the matches and how the U.S. team was captained/coached and I'm going to start with the post-game press conference because it was very telling if you watch the whole thing and not just the sound bites. I highly recommend it as one of the most entertaining half hours on TV this year and easily one of the top five sports press conferences of all-time along with Allen Iverson's "we talkin' about practice" performance of 2002 and Jim Mora's "playoffs?!?" mini-rant of 2001. Let's just say that Phil sitting at the far end of the podium as far away from Watson as possible couldn't have been better directed by Martin Scorsee for dramatic effect.

If you just read Phil's quotes, you'd be apt to think that he spontaneously threw Watson under the bus in the heat of the moment. That is not, however, the way it went down. Early in the press conference Watson puts the entire responsibility for the loss on the players responding to a question about what the U.S. team has to do to break Europe's hold on the Cup thusly, "the obvious answer is that our team has to play better, that's the obvious answer and they do . . . I think they recognize that fact . . . somehow, collectively, twelve players have to play better." If only we could have had a split-screen at that point to see Mickelson's expression as he and his teammates were being torched. Clearly it would have been too much for Watson to acknowledge his gaff of putting Simpson on the team and how the Friday morning round screwed-up his plan when he realized that he had to bury Simpson until the singles but come on Tom, to some extent, the captain has to go down with the ship especially when he didn't give his crew the best chance to win.

Which leads us to Watson's strategy. He actually opened strong and you could find very little fault with the Friday four ball line-up (other than Simpson) but then it started to slide. If Watson was only going to play his "A" team of Mickelson and Keegan Bradley twice, then why not play them in the four ball matches where they can both be as aggressive as they want to be? It was clear from the opening shots that Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed were going to be a match play force. They were also the youngest players on the team so run them out there for 36 on Friday and then gauge their energy levels that night based on how many holes they played and the intensity of their matches (they won 5 & 4 in the morning so they probably would have been fine regardless of the afternoon result). Instead Watson put wild driving Mickelson and Bradley back-out together on a course with eight inch rough and, as un-luck would have it, they ran into the alternate shot buzz saw of Victor Dubuisson and Graeme McDowell (to no one's surprise, that pair of assassins won its foursome matches 3 & 2 and 5 & 4).

Then on Saturday, Watson had his Captain Queeg missing strawberries moment when he inexplicably benched Mickelson and Bradley for the morning four ball round which was the same mistake that pretty much cost the U.S. the Cup back in 2012 when Captain Davis Love, III made the exact same mistake. Mickelson and Bradley have now played two Ryder Cup four ball matches and two President's Cup four ball matches over the last three years and they are 4-0 with wins over McIlroy/McDowell, Els/De Jonge, Schwartzel/Oosthuizen and McIlroy/Garcia. Talk about overthinking a decision. And that doesn't even take into account the benefit of giving Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, who had played 36 high pressure holes on Friday, Saturday morning off or sitting Bubba Watson who's body language indicated that he enjoyed the Ryder Cup about as much as he would have enjoyed sitting through Madam Butterfly at the Royal Opera House. Tom Watson responded to a question at the press conference about his tactics by saying, "overall my vice captains and I made the right decisions." Um no Tom, you didn't. And again, that's not hindsight talking because any captain in his right mind (other than Davis Love, III) would have started planning his line-up by plugging the Mickelson/Bradley team into the four ball slots and then built off of that.

"I'm smiling because I'm French, I'm
sexy and I'm about to kick your ass."
The Cup was essentially over after the Saturday afternoon Waterloo for the Americans in the foursome matches which they lost three and a half to a half. I believe that would have turned-out differently had a fresher version of Fowler/Walker been sent out to play (they were +4 when their match ended on the 14th hole) or if Matt Kuchar had been given the morning off but that's highly speculative so I'll leave it at that. Just know that playing an alternate shot match after having played 54 holes of full grind golf in the last 36 hours was a lot to ask of those guys. Especially considering they had to play Dubuisson and McDowell who got both mornings off (hmmm, I smell a European game plan . . . let's revisit that in a bit).

Back to the press conference and the comments made by Mickelson that sent everyone into a tizzy. Now that we've established the backdrop of him being benched on Saturday and then sitting there for the first ten minutes listening to Watson say "hey, don't look at me, I didn't miss any putts," let's review what happened. Here is the question that Phil was asked verbatim, "Phil, can you put your finger on what worked in '08 and what hasn't worked since?" Fair question under the circumstances and certainly posed to the right guy because Phil, unlike Jim Furyk who spent the press conference whispering, "please don't call on me . . . please don't call on me," was not going to waffle or dodge with his answer. And that answer boiled down to two points: (1) "he (Captain Paul Azinger) got everyone involved in the process" and (2) "he had a gameplan." Should Phil have evaded the question and said something politically correct like "I don't think this is the right forum to discuss that?" Maybe, but that's why many of us love Phil . . . because he's not afraid on or off the course. And I don't know this for a fact because I obviously wasn't in the room but I'm pretty sure that he had made these comments before and they were falling on deaf ears so he said "screw it, if Tom Watson and the PGA of America are going to blow me off, I'll just tell the world."

And oh by the way, Phil was spot-on and by going public with his frustration, he drastically improved the U.S. team's chances in 2016 because now some changes that have been long overdue will likely be made. Foremost among those changes is to stop making the captain's position a ceremonial gig and make it a job. Paul McGinley has played in 29 majors, missed the cut in 14 of them and never finished higher than a tie for 6th yet the European players fought for him to be their captain because they knew his unspectacular career as a player didn't mean jack squat when it came to winning the Ryder Cup.

"Maybe Phil was right about not sending
my entire army up the middle."
Meanwhile, the PGA of America continues to handout the Ryder Cup captain job likes it's the ambassadorship to Fiji. That has to stop and while we're at it, let's take the captain's picks out of the hands of one guy so we can avoid having him swayed by another 4:00 a.m. text campaign. NFL teams have dozens of people involved in the drafting of 6-10 players every year and the NCAA has an entire committee to assemble the tournament bracket. Can't the PGA of America get at least five to seven knowledgeable people (odd number for voting purposes) in the room including the captain, one or two former captains and the two most experienced players who qualified on points. I mean how many times do we have to arrogantly waltz in like Longshanks' army in Braveheart and get our asses kicked before we decide to fix this thing?
  
Footnotes

* For me, that just means really bummed-out . . . not quite on the verge of throwing myself off a balcony or breaking a glass over someone's head. I have never reached Premier League soccer fan or SEC football fan levels of emotional attachment to sports which is a good thing because for me, that would end somewhere between a whole bunch of stitches in my forehead and incarceration (or both).

** When he shot 64 on Saturday, we REALLY thought he had taken control of the tournament. Then he semi-gagged on Sunday with a 70, Jay Haas passed him with a 64 including a ridiculous closing birdie on the hardest hole on the course and another Tom Watson redemption story was dashed.

*** Can we please bury the term "Ryder Cup Rookie" along with the corpse of the 2014 U.S. team? Patrick Reed won the 2014 WGC Cadillac against one of the best fields in golf, Jordan Spieth finished 2nd at the Masters, Jimmy Walker finished top ten in three majors this year and they all have at least one PGA Tour win. The word "rookie" is highly misrepresentative of them and just comes off as more and more stupid as first time players like them, Dubuisson and Jamie Donaldson continue to rack-up key points.  

I may have found our next captain.
They're not rookie NFL quarterbacks learning to read coverage or rookie NBA point guards getting accustomed to the speed of the pro game. They are golfers and they play the same game in the Ryder Cup that they do at Augusta, Doral and Pinehurst. Sure there might be a little more pressure but, to paraphrase Sergeant Hartman, "Reed, Spieth and Walker are new and inexperienced but they've got guts and guts is enough."  

Email the FGR at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com.
   

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The FGR Thursday Night Pick

Does anyone know what happened to Bill Simmons' NFL picks last week? Oh that's right, he was suspended by ESPN for saying what the rest of their talking heads had been implying for weeks - that Roger Goodell lied about seeing the Ray Rice video before the rest of us did. (I'm almost ready to let it go . . . but not quite yet). Let's sgo ahead queeze in the Thursday night pick before we get on to the inevitable Ryder Cup Post Mortem which is coming tomorrow.

Green Bay by 9 over Minnesota: The Pick - Packers

In fairness to Rodgers, there was
also a new off-field distraction that
probably took some adjusting to.
I'm prepared to give the Packers a pass on their middling start because they've already had to play at Seattle, Detroit and Chicago so we should have expected that they were going to go somewhere between 2-1 and 1-2 in those games anyway. Now they get a home night game against an opponent that will rely heavily on a scrawny rookie quarterback with a bum wheel. I know that 9 is a big number but I feel like Aaron Rodgers is finding his groove and I smell chum in the water (and it's gross).

Last Week's Record: 8-5 . . . Season Record: 26-35. 

WE CAN BUILD ON THIS!!!