Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The U.S. Open Update/Travelers Preview

"Hi, I'm Roger but you
can call me the walking
sexual harassment suit."
There are some weeks when writing the FGR is a ten foot uphill putt for birdie on a par 4 after you've given your opponent his bogey. Other times it's more like a 30 yard pitch shot to a back pin with plenty of green to work with - not easy, but certainly manageable. And then there are those weeks when it's like a 20 yard bunker shot off the downslope to a tight pin with the green running away where if you just get it on the green, you're going to be rewarded with the double-edged, "best you could do from there" call. This has been one of those weeks. We're going to merge a U.S. Open follow-up with a preview of the Travelers this week only because the Open is a major and I feel compelled to write about it even though it created about as many lasting memories as a night spent at your spouse's office Christmas party.

I actually sat down Sunday evening with the intention of writing a timeline of the events for the final round along the lines of The Masters Update I did back in April. It became quickly apparent, however, that this endeavor was doomed to fail for a variety of reasons:

 (1) A final round timeline of the Masters is easy to write because everyone is so familiar with the setting that it's like doing color by numbers. When a player hits his ball into the water on the 12th hole, I don't have to add that "it's a 160 yard par 3 with a shallow green and swirling winds" because everyone in my target demographic knows that. In other words, to paraphrase George Costanza when he offered what could be the FGR's mission statement - "I don't have to dumb it down for some bonehead mass audience"*;

(2) With all of its birdie, eagle and double bogey possibilities, Augusta National is the perfect stage for the final round of a major. Five minutes after I turned on the Masters this year, Louis Oostuizen made a double eagle and I spent the next five hours on the edge of my seat. They at least tried to create that with a reachable par 4 and a reachable par 5 at the U.S. Open but, other than Ernie Els who eagled No. 7, no player in contention was able to take advantage of them. Webb Simpson had a nice birdie run in the middle of the round but then made par on the last 8 holes to hang on for the win like a cyclist who raced out to a lead and then had to withstand a late charge by the peloton. Only in the case of the U.S. Open, it was a guy who worked his way to the middle of the pack and then stayed upright while all of the riders in front of him crashed. That would make for a thrilling bike race but I think by the time Graeme McDowell's putt missed by a foot on 18, most golf fans were just relieved that they could finally go to bed which put this year's U.S. Open in the same category as cleaning-up after a dinner party (and that's not a good thing);

I'm pretty sure no one has
ever won a golf tournament
after striking this pose.
(3) I screwed-up my picks for the week. After spending the better part of the last month writing about what a great fit Olympic was for Jim Furyk's game, I did what I always do and over thought it which somehow led me to picking Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood instead. This left me in the position of rooting for Furyk to butcher the final round so I didn't have to spend the following week banging my forehead on a variety of hard surfaces. (A position made slightly easier due to the fact that Furyk is a Steelers fan). The Mickelson pick was a classic gambling error. I had subbed Tiger for him at the Masters at the last minute so I was going to make-up for that by using Phil at the U.S. Open even though the course was a terrible fit for his game. The Westwood over Furyk pick was actually looking good early as Westwood started strong but then his ball literally got stuck in the top of a tree along with my hopes of enjoying the final round. Ironically, the exact same thing happened to Lee Janzen when he won at Olympic in 1998 but, after about five minutes, his ball fell. After showing the 1998 highlights, Dan Hicks excitedly pointed out that both players are named "Lee." You can always count on Hicks to find the true essence of the story but at least it reminded me that I had several hours of the always entertaining NBC crew ahead of me so maybe this wouldn't be a lost cause after all;

(4) At about 7:30 p.m. I realized that Peter Jacobson hadn't said anything worth mocking yet and, unless it happened before I tuned in, it appeared that NBC was not going to cheese-up a major with an always hilarious edition of Jake's Takes.** At that point, I gave-up my search for inspiration and shut the laptop;

(5) To be fair to NBC, the USGA and Olympic Club, none of the foregoing factors were the primary reasons why I couldn't generate any momentum on Sunday evening. You see when I wrote the Masters timeline I wasn't coming off of three days away from the FGW and the FGK's (think about it) at an out of town tournament with fully stocked bars on the course tended by dead ringers for Alyssa Milano and Minka Kelly. Let's just say that if I was a swimming pool, I got a little over chlorinated on Saturday. Combine that with a 7:00 a.m. flight home on Sunday morning and you have the writing version of a downed power line (more on that whole experience later).


We've got a pretty strong field for the Travelers including a lot of guys who made the cross-country trip from San Francisco like Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan but last weekend looked so grueling that I'm going with four guys who didn't play and one guy who appeared to show-up just so he could be announced on the tee as "2012 Masters Champion" before taking Saturday and Sunday off. I don't know what it means that I'm putting Ryan Moore at the top of my list after I wrote the following about him after this tournament last year, "Ryan Moore just made the list of players who I will never draft again under any circumstances along with guys like Sergio Garcia (I used to be the best player never to win a major), Paul Casey (I almost got close to being the best player never to win a major but no one actually thought I was going to win a major) and Geoff Ogilvy (Phil Mickelson gave me a major and then I kind of stopped trying)." Then again, that was back on the 6th day of the FGR (someone's got a birthday coming-up) when I would write three paragraphs in twenty minutes and hadn't really mastered the art of screwing-up a well thought out gambling strategy but, after about a year, I'm almost an expert on that so here you go.

"A double Ketel One Transfusion and
a pack of cheese boobies please."
The Travelers Top Five

1. Ryan Moore
2. John Rollins
3. Brian Davis
4. Bubba Watson
5. Andres Romero

Last Week's Report Card: B

1. Lee Westwood - T10th
2. Phil Mickelson - T65
3. Tiger Woods - T21
4. Jim Furyk - T4th
5. Jason Dufner - T4th
6. Peter Hanson - M/C
7. Justin Rose - T21st
8. Luke Donald - M/C
9. Matt Kuchar - T27
10. Dustin Johnson - M/C

I really like the way Mickelson came out on Sunday and removed any doubt as to whether he was going to try to make a miracle run into contention. I know he was 8 over at the time but there was always the chance that +4 could have won it which means he could have shot 66 and been right in the mix (there was a 67 and three 68's so it was doable). Instead, he opened with a par and then alternated pars and bogeys for the next eleven holes dropping 23 spots on the leaderboard in the process. I guess the only good thing about his performance is that he did exactly what I expected him to do. Honorable mention to Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy who combined to shoot 16 over par in the first round taking the tournament (and the cut for that matter) out of play. I'm really starting to miss the days when the best players in the world actually played like the best players in the world and didn't pull hook 3-woods with the U.S. Open in the bag. (Yeah I went there. Like I said, he's a Steelers fan so the normal rules of decorum don't apply).  


* The full epic line came in response to Elaine's criticism of the jerk store zinger when she said, "see, there are no jerk stores. It's just a little confusing is all" to which George replied, "[I]t's smart. It's a smart line, and a smart crowd will appreciate it and I'm not gonna dumb it down for some bonehead mass audience!" That was Seinfeld at its absolute zenith.

** Speaking of bonehead mass audiences, I offer you Jake's Takes, David Feherty's wardrobe and Chris Berman being allowed anywhere near a microphone during a golf tournament. I now live in mortal fear of hearing following words come out of my TV, "Welcome to Fox's live coverage of the British Open from St. Andrews . . . I am Ryan Seacrest and, along with my partner in crime Brian Billick, we will be with you for the next five hours of . . . ." Aaaahhhhh!!!!!!!!

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