Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Golf Trip to the Sun

For those not familiar with Maryland’s climate, it is diverse, especially in its eastern half where the winters can bring blizzards that deliver two feet of snow and the summers regularly unleash 95+ degree days with humidity so thick that, when you go outside, you feel like you chugged a bottle of prescription cough syrup and put on a wet wool sweater.  (Meteorologists will tell you it’s due to our proximity to the Chesapeake Bay and other topographical conditions.  Personally, I think Lord Baltimore built his city on an Indian burial ground and the rest of us are paying for it in perpetuity).  You get used to it after a few years and some even justify living in it by saying how much they love the dramatic "changing of the seasons" which is like justifying prison life by saying you thrive in a "structured environment."  The oppressive July weather is just Mother Nature's way of bringing her quality stuff to the mound and we lifelong Marylanders can scratch out a few runs against her on those days.  What she brought last Friday, however, was some no-hit cheese with which we were previously unfamiliar. 

Ah the ignorant bliss of
unlimited possibilities.
Fortunately for me and 15 other unsuspecting rubes, we had committed to a two day golf trip on Thursday and Friday to Maryland's Eastern Shore.  (Think of a breezeless marshy low country with minimal tree cover).  By the time we teed off on Thursday at 2:00 p.m., the thermometer was pushing 100 but we were all riding the high that comes with the start of a 24+ hour stretch where jobs and families give way to booze and laughs.  Picture the toast on the roof at the start of The Hangover and hang on to that reference. 

My partner for Day 1 was a casualty right out of the gate as he either had a legitimate conflict, a vulnerability to heat stroke or an ounce of common sense.  As the man riding solo, I was given the cooler as my co-pilot and made good use of it on the front nine but we were so far ahead of the other groups that access was an issue so I left it on the 10th tee and filled a plastic bag with ice and a few cold ones for the back nine.  By the 11th tee, the ice was gone.  By the 12th tee, the cold ones were warm and I first said to myself, “holy crap it’s hot” (the fact that I needed to drink a warm beer to tell me that is well…sad).  The forecast for Friday was worse, much worse.  But hey, how bad could it be?

That night we followed the perfect pregame regimen for a round of golf in Death Valley…if our goal was to die.  We started with a feeding frenzy at a seafood restaurant including crabs, shrimp, oysters, fried clams, French fries, Bud Light and a shot of Absinthe (defined as a recently legalized highly alcoholic beverage).  Considering the conditions forecasted for the next day, the training table was a little heavy on salt, alcohol and uncooked bottom dwelling creatures and noticeably light on things like water, vegetables, foresight and prudence. 

Irish Gatorade
After dinner, six of us splintered off and poured a few more beers and more than a few Irish Car Bombs onto the smoldering dumpster fire.  (I don’t know where the rest of the group went but, judging from appearances on Friday morning, many followed a different but similar path).  When we got back to the hotel, we decided to continue chasing the night and asked the doorman where we could go for “one more.”  He gave us directions that no one listened to and pointed in the general direction of nowhere in particular and off we went. 

At this point, it was 1:00 a.m. and we were aimlessly wandering the streets of Easton, Maryland, a sleepy historic town that had closed-down almost 2 hours ago.  After about ten minutes, the reality that this night was over was just starting to dawn on me.  At that point, two of us were relieving ourselves on the side of a building when a bright spotlight hit us from the end of the alley.  It was at that point that I first regretted wearing my May I Suggest the Sausage t-shirt. 

That's not me in the picture.
I don't wear a bracelet and
my arms are hairy.
We must have struck just the right note of contrition and lucked into an officer in no mood to do paperwork at that hour because we were sent in the direction of our hotel along with a fairly stern warning.  That was when someone got the clever idea that we should take advantage of the deserted streets and run through the town…barefoot.  So we started running through the uninhabited center of Easton like members of the Tarahumara Tribe and I have to admit it was pretty cool until we turned a corner and BAM! Turns out the town was not completely deserted…“YOU GUYS AGAIN?!?”…“uh hello officer…we were just running back to the hotel and we must have taken a wrong…”  Now I was sure we were going to jail and I was really regretting the t-shirt.  Fortunately, the officer was in a giving mood and this time we accepted his charity and closed it down.      
The next morning I slept through the 8:30 a.m. wake-up call and was startled by a pounding at the door (which I initially thought was the cops) and then someone yelled what I thought was “MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA. YOU KILLED MY FATHER. PREPARE TO DIE!” but it turned out to be the guy who my roommate had promised to drive back to pick-up his car from the night before.  Better him than me because it only took one cracked eyelid to realize that at least two of the items I had chosen to consume the night before were engaged in a hotly contested divorce somewhere in my stomach.  I’m guessing it was the third Irish Car Bomb against the raw oysters with their girlfriends the fried clams in the background egging them on.  “You gonna take that from that drunk Irish pig?!?”  Without getting graphic, my shower was interrupted a couple of times before the dispute was resolved.  As I packed to leave, I realized I had no footwear because my flip-flops were laying in an alley somewhere in town.  Nothing says “Stay Classy Easton!” like checking out of a hotel barefoot (except maybe wearing a May I Suggest the Sausage t-shirt).

When I arrived at the course in Queenstown, Maryland for Day 2, I was pretty sure a sausage egg biscuit and a Bloody Mary were all I needed to get me back on track.  That theory was quickly discarded as I gave-up on both of them about halfway through and headed for the course.  It was 10:30 a.m. and it was hotter than anything I’d ever encountered outside of a sauna - the only difference being, there is no cruel, unrelenting sun in a sauna.  The comedian Larry Miller calls the sun in these situations “God’s flashlight.”  Apparently I wasn’t getting off scot-free for pissing in the alley.    

The booze and laughs from the day before had now given way to water and silence.  I think we were afraid that talking would make us hotter.  An hour into the round and you couldn’t even drink Gatorade as it just turned your spit orange and made you feel bloated (if that’s what PMS feels like, now I get it).  I don’t think anyone ate lunch at the turn as the mere thought of food was revolting.  One guy tried to eat a peanut butter cracker and said it was like trying to swallow sand.  By the 12th hole I think I started hallucinating because I could have sworn a marshal who looked exactly like Burton Gilliam drove-up wearing a cowboy hat and said “Come on, boys! The way you're lollygaggin' around here with them drivers and them putters, you'd think it was a hundert an' twenty degrees.  Can't be more than a hundert an' fourteen.”  By the 15th hole, I felt like I could ignite at any minute and, at that point, spontaneous combustion was looking like an attractive way out.  We didn’t so much putt out on 18 as we surrendered.         

 A Queenstown Beatdown
By the time everyone finished, we each looked like the guy on the roof at the end of The Hangover and collectively we looked like the cast of Cool Hand Luke.  We’d pass each other wandering through the clubhouse with expressions that said “what in the hell was that?”  It turns out that the temperature in Baltimore had hit a record high of 107 that day.  Mother Nature had gone Nolan Ryan on us and we could do little more than charge the mound like Robin Ventura only to end-up in a headlock taking a series of right hooks to the forehead.  Some ordeals make you feel more alive just for having survived them.  That, however, was not one of them.  Thanks for nothing Lord Baltimore. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Canadian Open Update

The Canadian Open at Shaugnessy G&C proved to be a major caliber test.  Unfortunately, the major caliber players weren’t up to it and we ended with a war of attrition that left only Sean O’Hair and Kris Blanks standing.  The playoff hole told the whole story as Blanks went from the left rough to the right bunker to the rough behind the hole to 6 feet above the hole before handing the tournament to O’Hair with a double.  He looked like he was trying to close-out the 7th flight of the Shaugnessy Member-Guest after a double Mount Gay and tonic at the turn.   

This tournament has been in a rut since Jim Furyk edged Vijay Singh in 2007.  The sponsors were praying for Rickie Fowler not to do his usual weekend fold job and for Luke Donald not to spend the first three rounds building a comfortable deficit that would free him up to go low on Sunday but they both stayed true to form.  That left intriguing long shots like John Daly and Adam Hedwin who stayed in the mix through Sunday but couldn’t close.  Sean O’Hair is a nice story but he doesn't move the needle and the Canucks were left longing for a finish like they had in 2000 when Tiger won it with this ridiculous shot:          

"I'm telling you O'Hair got lucky. 
Do you want to beat Kris Blanks? 
I can get you past Kris Blanks."
It was a big win for O’Hair who had only made 3 of his last 12 cuts before coming to Canada.  Apparently it took some time to get his old swing back after dropping Sean Foley as his swing coach in May.  Foley must have been cringing at the repeated mention of that fact by the announcers considering his other students, Tiger, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose have combined for zero wins this year.  He’s letting most of Tiger’s calls go to voicemail these days until he gets out of firing mode. 

I’m officially naming my unscientific process for picking winners “The Blutarsky Method” after going on a hunch with Andres Romero and then watching him make it to the 18th tee on Sunday with a share of the lead before chopping his way to a solo third.  Of course when it came to adding a player to my own roster, I went safe with the defending champion, Carl Pettersson, who missed the cut by four.  The logic of picking the defending champion kind of goes out the window when they change courses - especially when they move it from a birdie fest like St. George’s Golf & Country Club to Canada’s version of Pine Valley.  It’s kind of like picking a guy to win in Vancouver because he grew-up in Seattle.  Look for the chunky Swede to fare a little better this week at the Greenbrier where there were scores of 59, 60 and 61 last year and the breakfast buffet is rumored to be off the charts.

"Are you kidding me Romero?"
Light update this week as I’ve got a more entertaining story on deck from my day playing on the surface of the sun last week.             

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Canadian Open Preview

Trying to pick the winner of a golf tournament like the Canadian Open is a frivolous endeavor.  Consider that two “experts” on listed Ryan Moore as a favorite this week and both cited the fact that he grew up in Seattle, Washington as a basis for their pick.  The Canadian Open will be played at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club in Vancouver this year.  Their rationale is that Seattle is so close to Vancouver that this is essentially a “home game” for Moore.  We’re basically talking Francis Ouimet walking across the street and winning the 1913 U.S. Open. 

The only problem is that Vancouver is about 140 miles from Seattle and in a different country.  I’m guessing that Moore and his high school buddies probably passed on the two and half hour drive, the border crossing and the fact that most country clubs have a fairly strict walk-on policy (especially for non-members) and instead played more rounds at Jefferson Park where Fred Couples honed his game.  If the tour was playing at Jefferson Park this week, I’d give you the home field advantage argument but not so much at Shaughnessy G&C. 

"Holy Hockey Night! 
Where's that shot going?"
So how do you pick the winner of a tournament that has recently been won by the likes of Nathan Green and Chez Reavie and is being played on a course that has not hosted it since 2005?  Well, let’s start by figuring out who would be really motivated to win the Canadian Open.  Canadians!  The only problem is that Mike Weir is (was) the only big time Canadian golfer and he’s made the cut in 2 out of 14 tournaments finishing T70 and T77.  If anyone can explain what’s happened to Weirsy, let me know.  He was 29th in the FedEx Cup standings in 2009 and through 31 tournaments this year he has 2 points which puts him 1 point ahead of Skip Kendall and 1,796 behind Nick Watney.  Did he switch to right-handed and not tell anybody?

Stephen Ames doesn’t count because he was born in Trinidad & Tobago.  Sadly I know this because I carried him on my fantasy roster for weeks one season wondering why he never played only to find out that he was having visa problems and couldn’t get into the country.  Just another reason fantasy golf is great (and they are innumerable).  You’d never see Reggie Wayne listed as “Out – Visa Issues.” 

Matt McQuillan is a true Canadian and he finished T3 at the John Deere and T34 at the Viking Classic so he’s playing well.  The only problem is that he missed the cut in his 10 events before that and in two Nationwide events so I’m not sure he’s ready but let’s pencil him in for a feel good top 10.  David Hearn is another possibility but he hasn’t finished higher than 38th since the Houston Open in April.  So there are no upper echelon Canadian golfers right now which I found unbelievable until I looked it up and saw that Canada only has about 35,000,000 people which is less than California.  No wonder they’re so happy.  Look at all of the elbow room they have up there. 

But I digress and need to pick winner.  I’m not going with any of the favorites because they just flew 4,700 miles from a tournament that they really wanted to win but didn’t.  The only guy making that trip with a positive vibe was Rickie Fowler because he played pretty well and I have to believe that life as Rickie Fowler on a private jet coming back from the British Open would be pretty good but he’s too obvious.  So without anymore futile analysis, I’m going to go with Andres Romero.  Why Romero?  In the words of John Blutarsky, “(belch) why not?” 

Monday, July 18, 2011

The British Open Update

The Tournament

"It's almost 10:00 a.m. We 
should really think about 
heading back to the office."
The British Open is like Mad Men set on a golf course.  It seems like everyone including the kids in the gallery are smoking cigarettes, the announcers make a drinking reference every fifteen minutes and the winner essentially declares during his acceptance speech that he’s going to get pissed drunk that night. It’s the cool major.* The problem is that the last several Opens have been won by the squares in accounting instead of Don Draper and Roger Sterling.  Fortunately, that all changed yesterday.                 

Let’s get one thing straight. Darren Clarke is not an “everyman.” An “everyman” is someone we can all identify with because he’s like us and he allows us to imagine ourselves in his shoes doing larger than life things like winning the British Open. Ben Curtis is an “everyman.”  Darren Clarke owns three Ferraris which are three more than most people will ever see in their lifetime so let’s ditch the “everyman” label and just admit that we like Darren Clarke because he’s cool.  You know that if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in his company, you are going to be (a) drinking, and (b) laughing. There’s a reason that one of his sponsors is paying him a $3.2M bonus for yesterday’s win. He’s a sponsor’s dream and he even went out of his way to thank them during his acceptance speech (after saying he was going to chug Guinness out of the Claret Jug of course).

Clarke was recruited by Wake Forest in 1985 but apparently when he got there, coaches told him that he had to quit drinking, smoking and staying out late, so he left the next day.  I’m guessing that’s Clarke’s side of the story and he left out the part about sitting through an 8:00 a.m. lecture on "Intro to English Lit" and thought “screw this.” (If you want to see this scene played-out dramatically, watch Friday Night Lights – Season 4, Episode 1 in which Tim Riggins makes it through about five minutes of his first class at San Antonio St. before throwing all of his books out of his pick-up truck on his way back to Dillon, Texas. Nothing says “I’m dropping-out” like throwing your books out of a moving vehicle).

I’ve been a fan of Clarke’s since the 2000 Andersen Consulting Match Play when he played Tiger Woods in the final. At that point, both players were being coached by Butch Harmon who, recognizing his meal ticket, spent the entire warm-up time on the range with Tiger. When Tiger went to the putting green, Harmon started walking to the other end of the range to check on Clarke who started laughing and said, “no need to come down here Butchie, I’m hitting it perfect.” Clarke birdied 12 out of 33 holes and won 4&3. I love that story.

Who wouldn't want to
party with this guy.
Clarke didn’t have to play that well yesterday as everyone kept clearing the path for him. After tying for the lead, Mickelson three-jacked 11. As he was walking off the green, Bones put a hand on his shoulder and offered some sage advice after which Phil bogeyed three of his next five holes and then hit his second shot on 18 twenty rows into the grandstand on the right. Apparently Bones gave Phil the old 18th hole at Winged Foot pep talk with similar results.

Dustin Johnson got within two and then appeared to make a classic “what exactly am I trying to accomplish with this 2-iron from 250 into the wind” swing on 14 and he was done.  Are we sure that Joe LaCava was the right guy to put on the bag for Johnson?  LaCava caddied for Fred Couples, one of the most talented, long hitting and laid back players for a 15 year period (sound familiar). During that stretch, the only major Freddie won was the ’92 Masters where his closest pursuer was a 49 year old Raymond Floyd. Couples’ other claim to fame is being the greatest silly season player of all time so look for Johnson to clean-up in the Skins game and Shark Shootout over the next few years. 

No one else got close so Darren Clarke was able to coast to the title of Champion Golfer of the Year (even that title is cool in its pure arrogance) and then he did what the rest of us would have done. He jumped into his yellow Ferrari with a trophy full of Guinness and his former Miss Northern Ireland fiancĂ© and went to pick-up his $3.2M check.      

The Coverage

The novelty added for this year’s coverage was that the announcers referred to all of the groups or pairings as “games” because that’s apparently what they’re called in England.  I’m guessing this decision was made by the same guys who shut down Pirate Radio and almost drowned Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the North Sea.  It wasn’t as bad as calling fans “patrons” but it sounded pretty forced at times like the producer was repeating in Mike Tirico’s ear “it’s a game not a pairing…it’s a game not a pairing.”  I don’t ever remember Peter Alliss calling pairings “games.”

"But you see I was only
intending to make fun
of the portly chap."
Speaking of Alliss, he was noticeably absent from the coverage. I wonder if it had anything to do with this recent interview where he said, “Yes, we liked to lubricate the tonsils [on the air] with a bit of Bollinger, but only in a medicinal way” and, on being accused of ridiculing a spectator in a wheelchair he explained “that was all misconstrued. There was someone very obese standing there when the picture came up. I started talking, and he moved away and showed the wheel-chair.” In other words, I was making fun of the fat guy, not the disabled guy.  
My only other beef with the coverage was that ABC had too many random un-choreographed voices.  You should never have Curtis Strange bumbling you into a commercial break and a non-golfer (I don’t know who it was) should not be calling Dustin Johnson’s second shot on 14 a shank (because it wasn’t).  And why would you try to make Scott Van Pelt and Sean McDonough golf announcers?  They are both great at what they do but it’s not announcing golf tournaments.  Van Pelt sounded like a 17 year old wise-ass trying to impress his parent’s friends (“I’m taking all AP classes this year and I lettered in squash”) and McDonough is a baseball/basketball play by play man (I kept waiting for him to tell me the count).  They couldn’t find a couple of semi-retired snarky European players to stick in those booths?  This kind of stuff never happens on CBS because they still fear a profanity laced reaming from Frank Chirkinian even though he’s been dead for four months.           


Until a better one comes along, I will
swear that this is the best Ferrell movie.
While we’re labeling, the Masters is the stuffy major – the winner would never sit in Butler Cabin and tell Jim Nantz and Billy Payne that he was going out that night to get sideways while wearing nothing but his green jacket; the U.S. Open is the bully – at least it was until this year; and the PGA Championship is the other major - like Will Ferrell driving a Prius holding a wooden dummy pistol.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

British Open Preview

Prior to 1995, the British Open was the reliable major.  From 1959 through 1994, Tom Watson won it five times; Nicklaus, Ballesteros, Player and Faldo each won three; and Palmer, Trevino and Norman took two each.  That’s 23 out of 36.  When those hall of famers weren’t winning it, it was guys like Nick Price, Johnny Miller, Tony Jacklin and Tom Weiskopf.  During that 36 year stretch, the only two winners who made you go “huh?” were Bill Rogers in ’81 and Mark Calcavecchia in ’89 and even those two had some credibility as Rogers finished second in the ’81 U.S. Open and Calch had finished second in the ’88 Masters.

"I'm so sellin' this and
buyin' my wife two
new Claret Jugs."
So what tectonic event occurred in 1995 to shift the Open away from its traditional course of rewarding golf’s best players with the Claret Jug?  John Patrick Freakin’ Daly, that’s what happened.  Still rocking the mullet from his PGA Championship win at Crooked Stick, he beat Constantino Rocca in a playoff to become arguably the most unlikely multiple major winner in history. (He has one more than Jim Furyk, Davis Love, III and Fred Couples and one less than his number of ex-wives to date).  The finish of the ’95 Open was classic including Daly hugging his soon to be second ex-wife before it was over followed by his reaction to Rocca’s clutch putt where he looked like someone had just taken his last Marlboro and left the empty pack in his golf bag.                                  

Since Daly’s win, Tiger has won it three times and Padraig Harrington has won two (one without Tiger in the field).  Other solid but less than thrilling players have won it like Tom Lehman, Justin Leonard and Stewart Cink (yawn) and then you have the “how in the hell did those guys even get into the British Open” trio of Ben Curtis, Todd Hamilton and Paul Lawrie who make Bill Rogers and Mark Calcavecchia look like Walter Hagen and Harry Vardon.  You can’t play enough bagpipe music behind highlights of those three to make them intriguing.   

Now we’re coming off the most uninspiring Open of recent memory with Louis Oosthuizen taking a four shot lead over Paul Casey into the weekend (and a seven shot lead over his nearest legitimate contender, Martin Kaymer) and ultimately winning by seven.  It was over by the 2nd hole on Sunday when Casey made bogey and inevitably started going backwards (Casey’s game has a built-in “lead detector” that sets off an alarm and generates bogeys when he’s within four shots and triple bogeys if he’s closer than that).  Not even the cool commentary of Peter Alliss could keep it interesting and he could make a WNBA game interesting (he couldn’t really because no one could but how great would it be to bring back Ben Wright and pair them in the booth for WNBA games with Alliss dropping lines like the one he did about Duffy Waldorf on a humid day, “ah there’s Duffy…looking sweaty in the paddock” – they’d be off the air by halftime).     

The bottom line is that we are due for a great British Open with some combination of three of these players battling down the stretch on Sunday:          

Rory McIlroy:  He’s the favorite but he recently admitted that after breaking-up with his girlfriend at the beginning of the year he “had to do a lot of begging and groveling to get her back.”  He apparently did this before being forced to do it by sleeping with a slew of porn stars and pancake house waitresses and getting caught.  He clearly lacks Tiger’s focus and single mindedness (euphemisms for being an a-hole) and is therefore not ready to win back to back majors.     

Lee Westwood:  He should have been in the playoff with Watson and Cink in ’09 but butchered 18 on Sunday.  I’m not sure playing on his home turf and having Darren Clarke and Ian Woosnam keeping him out all night is a recipe for success.  He is starting to look like a one major guy and I think it’s the PGA which is the major to win when you’re winning just one.  (As opposed to Schaefer beer which is “The Beer to Have When You’re Having More than One”).   

Luke Donald:  As far as I can recall he’s never really contended in a major as he always gets off to a slow start and then plays well when the pressure’s off.  Kind of like the English Hunter Mahan.  We’ll give him a shot this week because he went to Northwestern and should be smart enough to find the flat spots on RSG’s quirky fairways.  If he doesn’t win, he can always paint a picture of himself holding the Claret Jug. 

Martin Kaymer:  He’s not winning 2 out of 4 majors unless half the field starts inexplicably grounding their clubs in all of the pot bunkers. 

Phil Mickelson:  If Phil ever wins a British Open (which is unlikely), I see it happening when he’s about 54 years old and he only tees off with a 1 iron because he envisioned himself winning that way while in a glazed donut induced food coma. 

Steve Stricker:  He has a game suited to the British Open but he also looks like a one major guy and I think it’s a U.S. Open.  Hey look, the U.S. Open is in Wisconsin in 2017.  In the words of Sean Connery on Celebrity Jeopardy on the sound a doggy makes, “Mooo.”       

Nick Watney:  I know he’s had a couple of clutch finishes this year but when I look into his eyes I still see that “oh s—t!” look from the final round of last year’s PGA when he shot 43 on the front nine.                    

Charl Schwartzel:  South Africans have won three of the last fourteen majors, second only to the four won by Americans.  I blame the inspiring performances of Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman in Invictus, a claim that would carry even more weight if I’d actually seen the movie.  I took a pass when I read that the guy Damon was playing, Francois Pienaar, is 6’ 3” and 230lbs.  A math savant from Southie is one thing but an NFL linebacker sized rugby player…come on.    

Matt Kuchar:  I’m running out of players so we’ll throw Kuch into the mix.  Not much gets him down so the crazy bounces at RSG shouldn’t bother him like some guys….

Sergio Garcia: Not on this course.  Too many adverse conditions for him to blame but I do think he’s going to win one of these in the next few years.  Say what you will about Sergio but he can smack the crap out of the ball through the wind and I think he’s almost to the point where he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him anymore which might be his final hurdle to winning a major.  Hopefully for Sergio, if that day comes, he will be in the final group with Rory Sabbatini so a few fans will be rooting for him. 
Is that the bottom?  MERDE!

Thomas Levet:  The Frenchman added his name to the list of contenders by winning the French Open two weeks ago and then promptly removed it by jumping into a lake and breaking his shin.  No truth to the rumor that Martin Kaymer chased him in there and a group of American fans rescued him.     

Jason Day:  He’s a couple of years away but I hope he’s in contention so the lovely Mrs. Day gets a little air time. 

Graeme McDowell:  He strikes me as a rich man’s Michael Campbell.  He’s not going to fall off the map like Campbell did after winning his U.S. Open but he doesn’t have another top ten in a major - his 1996 Ulster Boys Championship notwithstanding.

We’re running out of players and we need someone to add some flavor to the final round because Donald and Kuchar battling for a major on Sunday would be weaker viewing than Franklin & Bash.  How about…

Ian Poulter: He’s been relatively quiet on and off the course this year but he’s still ranked 16th in the world.  It’s been almost 20 years since Faldo was the last Englishman to win the British Open and 42 years since Tony Jacklin was the last to do it on a course in England so the home crowd would go nuts if he won it and it would give the Brits another excuse to have “Stupid Hat Day.”  The world is a more entertaining place when Ian Poulter has a microphone in front of him and that will only be more true if he actually has something to justify his arrogance.  We’ve had too many Bjorn Borgs win lately, it’s time for a McEnroe.  

So there it is.  Luke Donald, Matt Kuchar and Ian Poulter going down to the wire for the Claret Jug.  Just as long as it’s not Chris Tidland hanging on to beat Gary Boyd with a two putt bogey on the 72nd hole.  We don’t need to make it that hard on Peter Alliss.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The John Deere Update

It’s hard to root against Wisconsin, America’s leading producer of cheese.  Fonzie, Richie, Joanie, Chachi, Ralph Malph, Potsie, Lenny, Squiggy and the Big Ragu all lived in Wisconsin.  The Onion was created in Wisconsin.  When John Winger was trying to convince Russell Ziskey to take the EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle into Czechoslovakia, his argument was “We're not going to Moscow. It's Czechoslovakia. It's like going into Wisconsin.”  Even Brett Favre was somewhat likable when he played for the Packers.  (Somewhat).  On its Wikipedia page, it is noted that “the Wisconsin Tavern League is a strong political force and the state legislature has been reluctant to raise the alcoholic beverage tax” and in 2009 Wisconsin had only 144 murders in the whole state (Baltimore City averages about 300 per year and then complains that The Wire is not an accurate portrayal.  Right).  So for the record, Wisconsinites make lots of cheese, like to drink beer and they don’t kill each other much.                    

Steve Stricker is from Wisconsin and is generally reported to be one of the five nicest people on the planet so I was a little conflicted on Sunday rooting with all of my heart for him to hit his second shot on 18 into the water.  That’s the beauty of fantasy sports.  If you were in a fantasy Olympic hockey league in 1980 and you had the Russians, you would have been pissed.  Actually, you would have been more pissed if you had Finland because after the U.S. took out the Russians, you had to figure you had a good shot.  Damn you Herb Brooks!    

If you didn’t see it (and I am guessing that the 4th round of the John Deere Classic falls somewhere in the ratings behind a Family Ties rerun and just ahead of an infomercial for the “Ab Rocket”),  you missed the drama that we need from one of the remaining two majors.  Kyle Stanley made a bunch of birdies on the back nine to go up by two before giving one back by chopping it around 18 like a rookie trying to win his first tournament while nursing a one shot lead, which he was.  Meanwhile, Stricker was treading water before making birdie on 17 to close the gap to one.  He then hit his tee shot on 18 into the left side of the left fairway bunker meaning he would have to hit his second shot off a downhill lie with one foot out of the bunker about 175 yards almost all of which was carry over water needing par to force a playoff.  After taking his stance a half a dozen times, Stricker hit a six iron that landed on the middle of the green and rolled off the back.  He then rubbed it in by smiling and fist bumping the fans along the 18th fairway.  To quote John Winger again, “Don’t you think this guy’s overdoing it a bit?”  Tiger would have hit that shot and then told Stevie Williams to go over and punch a random cameraman.  Stricker, that cold-blooded son of bitch, then calmly rolled in the 25 foot putt from off the green for the win.  If you haven’t seen the sequence, it’s definitely worth three minutes of your time (see link below).  Suffice it to say, Stricker’s win was detrimental to my gambling cause. 

On Sunday, CBS continued its ill-fated feature called “Eye on the Future” where they profile a young up and coming star on tour.  The producer apparently picks a young player in the field who scored well on Thursday and Friday and then does a piece on that player’s bright future.  Last week’s feature was on Rickie Fowler and we saw how well that played-out on Sunday.  This week, they chose FBR favorite Steve Marino who was in second place after two rounds before shooting 73-78 on the weekend and falling into a tie for 65th.  By the time they aired the thing on Sunday, Marino had shot 41 on the front and probably had four unbroken shafts left in his bag.           

"You might as well hit driver sir.  You're
going to make double anyway." 
The FBR loves Steve Marino because of quotes like the one he recently gave in a Sports Illustrated article on jobs players had before they made it on tour, “I worked as a caddie at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Lake Manassas, Va., during my last year of college.  I hated caddying because everybody sucked.  They were bad.  It took forever.” I think they just took Marino’s picture off the wall in the men’s grill at RTJ.  My dream foursome now includes, Marino, Spencer Levin and we need one more.  Ben Crane is a possibility and then we could play it on a Saturday morning in July on a packed public course just to watch Marino have a conniption fit and yell “JUST HIT THE F---ING BALL CRANE!!!”

Jameson moves back to the top of the standings thanks to Stricker’s win.  How Stricker and his guaranteed $6M+ in earnings made it to the 6th pick in the draft, I have no idea.  For those who are reading this blog and are not in the league but for some reason care about the standings, I’ve added the rosters.  We’ve had some shuffling since the draft including the unprecedented dropping of two first round picks (Els and Ogilvy) before the U.S. Open.  I recently swallowed my pride and added Davis Love, III who had previously been on the list of players who I would never allow to taint my roster.  However, Love is playing well and is just the kind of random guy who could make some noise at the British Open – especially at Royal St. George’s which is known for giving the Claret Jug to the winner of a secret pre-tournament lottery.  More on that in the British Open preview later this week.               

Link to Stricker’s closing shots:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The AT&T Update

As the CBS crew was spending the better part of three hours on Saturday genuflecting before the athletic phenomenon that is Rickie Fowler’s golf swing, those of us with a wagering interest in Rickie’s ability to close on Sunday were pretty sure that even the 2nd place set of steak knives was a remote possibility.  The announcers were too busy pimping the Konica Minolta bizhub SwingVision and taking turns asking each other “could you pull-off that swing [Nick, Gary, David, Peter]?” and then universally responding, “maybe… but I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed the next day [laughter all around],” to note that Rickie’s 4th round scoring average this season is 71.82 which ranks him 129th in that category right behind Kent Jones.  That’s about two full strokes higher than this weekend’s winner, Nick Watney, who ranks 6th.  Coffee’s for closers Rickie.      

By the back nine on Sunday, Rickie looked like an orange traffic cone that someone was moving around in the background as they cut back and forth from Watney to Choi.  My second favorite part of the weekend telecast was when the announcers collectively speculated about what Rickie needed to do to beat guys like Rory McIlroy.  Rory McIlroy?!?!?  Fowler’s currently sitting right behind Kevin Chappell and Kevin Streelman on the money list and McIlroy’s sitting in the Royal Box on Sunday at Wimbledon trying to remember half of the names of the players in the women’s draw that he bedded during the fortnight.  If we’re counting on getting the better part of that match-up in the next 10 Ryder Cups, Europe’s going to have to give us Australia.   At this stage of his career Rickie Fowler is nothing more than the second coming of Sergio Garcia.  Let’s just be thankful he isn't a prick. 

Sponsors love it when you
kick their hat on camera.
The highlight of the weekend was Spencer Levin punting his hat after missing a 5 footer for par on 12 in the third round.  Here’s the clip of the actual punt (not a drop-kick as the hat never hit the ground before he kicked it):  My Man Spencer.  The video doesn’t do it justice.  After Spencer putted out for bogey and picked the ball out of the hole you could almost hear the bipolar theme music from Me, Myself and Irene start to play.  

To his credit, he made it off the green and past the microphone before going Sean Landeta but the director had the good sense to hang with him because he knew something was coming.  “Stay on Levin….wait for it….wait for it….OHHHHH!!!!”  I’m taking Spencer in the first round next year because I can’t imagine not having him on my team.

Robert Garrigus recently admitted in a Golf Digest article that in 2002 he smoked pot in the Porta Johns during Nationwide Tournament rounds.   "I had a very high tolerance, and I didn't know that it wasn't helping me.”  In 2002 Robert Garrigus entered 21 events on the Nationwide Tour.  He made the cut in 8, missed the cut in 11 and withdrew from 2 including one where he failed to post a first round score.  His earnings for the year totaled $15,357.  You could look at that and say the weed was making him delusional or you could figure that, including practice rounds and warm-up time, he probably put in about 600 hours that year meaning he was making a little more than twenty-five bucks an hour.  That’s F/U money for a pothead who made it through one year at Scottsdale Community College.

Watney setting the course record is great but my favorite stat is that he beat Paul Goydos on Saturday by 17 strokes. I’m picturing Watney with his perma grin bopping through the locker room after his round and bumping into Goydos, “hey Paul, did you hear I shot the course record?  How’d you do?” with Goydos responding, “eat s—t Watney.”  Pretty good field at the John Deere Classic this week including defending British Open champ Louis Oostuizen who must really need a free tractor.