Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Tour Championship Preview

The finial - it taint the cup
and it taint the base.
Thirty players are heading to Atlanta this week to play for a big pile of money and a “sterling silver spun cup that is 15 inches in diameter and balanced on a solid titanium finial that has been dimpled to symbolize a golf ball.” (I think the definition of “finial” is “a trophy’s taint”). But what does it all mean? Keegan Bradley is the only one of the thirty who won a major this year and he spent the last month plummeting from 5th in the standings down to 20th leaving himself almost out of contention. The only other major winner eligible to win the Titanium Taint was Charl Schwartzel and he missed the Top 30 due in no small part to the fact that he skipped the first tournament of the playoffs because he either, (a) didn’t care about winning $10M, (b) thought he was a lock for the Top 30 after winning the Masters, or (c) asked Ernie Els and Trevor Immelman if they thought it was a good idea and they said “sure mate, you’ll make it anyway.” (Do South Africans call each other mate? I checked Lethal Weapon 2 but I’m not sure that’s the most accurate portrayal of South Africans. At least I hope not).  
"Are you sure Anthony
Edwards won't even
do a cameo?"
So we’re left with Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Matt Kuchar controlling their own destinies and guys like Brandt Snedeker, Nick Watney and Chez Reavie having an outside shot. That’s a great set of names if you’re creating frat house characters for Revenge of the Nerds V: We’re Still Two Behind Police Academy but I’m having a hard time finding a story worth rooting for in there (this may have something to do with the fact that my boys ZJ, Rickie, Ryan and Spencer combined for one Top 10 finish in the playoffs and are now all dead to me – well maybe not my man Spencer). Considering most of those guys have contended in majors on Sunday and have never been able to close the deal, it will probably come down to who can avoid throwing-up on his shoes. In a related story, the FedEx lawyer who drafted the sponsorship deal and didn’t include an out clause if Tiger doesn’t play in consecutive years is now driving a delivery truck in Kabul.

Regardless of who wins this weekend, we are likely looking at the first PGA Player of the Year without a major title on his résumé since Corey Pavin in 1991 (he won his U.S. Open in ’95) which says about all you need to know about the strength of the performance of the PGA Tour players on golf’s world stage in 2011. 1991 was actually a lot like 2011 in that is was mostly forgettable other than the PGA Championship where John Daly pumped some life into a season that featured pulse quickening multiple winners like Billy Andrade, Mark Brooks, Andrew Magee and Tom Purtzer. It was no coincidence that Tiger Woods was invited to play in the L.A. Open as a 16 year old the following year and Earl Woods mysteriously won a Cadillac Coup de Ville despite never entering a contest. 

So who’s going to win the Taint? At the start of the playoffs, I picked Adam Scott who then scuffled through the next three tournaments and dropped to 19th. Now he needs to win and have Webb Simpson finish 13th or worse and I don’t think those two things are going to happen. Let’s start with the premise that Simpson is not going to finish lower than 9th which eliminates everyone currently sitting between 16th and 30th. Now let’s take out Brandt Snedeker, Chez Reavie, John Senden, Gary Woodland and Mark Wilson because FedEx will do a live reenactment of the plane crash from Castaway on the 18th green before it hands one of those guys a check for $10M. 

Next we can eliminate Steve Stricker and Justin Rose under the theory that this event will have major tournament pressure where coffee is for closers. Mickelson checked-out after the British Open and I think this is the year of the near miss for Jason Day. Luke Donald has talked openly about wanting to win the title, the money and player of the year yet he’s only won eight times in his entire ten year career and five of those were in Europe so he’s still the Tour’s paper tiger. Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar have been lousy on this course in the past so they’re out which leaves Nick Watney and Webb Simpson.

Watney would need to win the tournament and have Simpson and Johnson both finish 3rd or worse. That would actually be a fitting end to the nine months of torture I've endured since taking Zach Johnson ahead of him so he's my guy. The lesson as always, don’t pick short hitters in the first round and don’t show-up to the bar three hours before the draft.

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