Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fantasy Golf: The Memorial Preview

The Memorial is a tournament that deserves more than I'm going to give it here* based on its stellar field and a list of world class players who have won it multiple times: Tiger Woods (5), Jack Nicklaus (2), Tom Watson (2), Greg Norman (2) and Hale Irwin (2).** (It also produced one of the most amazing winning shots ever when Paul Azinger drained this bunker shot in 1993). Those five wins by Tiger are pretty much everything you need to know about this week as Muirfield is clearly on his list of preferred courses along with Bay Hill and Torrey Pines. If it's not going to be Tiger (and he's got to stumble at some point right . . . right?), stick with another top ten caliber player because for every Bart Bryant who wins the Memorial, there are multiple Steve Strickers, Jim Furyks and Justin Roses.

We're going ten deep because the field is so strong and I needed to create a little more space to accommodate the artwork:

This Week's Top Ten
Tiger's return to form has given a huge
boost to the tour . . . and the FGR.

1. Tiger Woods
2. Matt Kuchar
3. Keegan Bradley
4. Webb Simpson
5. Justin Rose
6. Adam Scott
7. Brandt Snedeker
8. Jason Day
9. Zach Johnson
10. Luke Donald

Last Week's Report Card: B

1. Charl Schwartzel - M/C
2. Tim Clark - T7th
3. Zach Johnson - 3rd
4. Matt Kuchar - 2nd
5. Ryan Palmer - T14th

That's a pretty solid showing even if I dropped the ball on Charl Schwartzel who is becoming quite the enigma. I hit second and third, threw-in another top ten guy for good measure and raise your hand if you had Boo Weekley (put your hand down Mrs. Weekley). I feel a timely upward trend coming-on as we get closer to the U.S. Open at Merion. Speaking of which, if someone has an extra clubhouse or corporate tent ticket and wants to spend the day with a semi-pro sarcastic golf writer, you know where to find me -***


"I'm calling bullshit on that."
* Yes, I am still grinding away on my Preakness update that is now threatening several FGR records including (1) most words, (2) most embedded video clips that no one will watch and (3) most endnotes and tangents (that one is almost definitely going down).

** Kenny Perry has won it three times but he would be the only guy on that list without a major title so . . . sorry Kenny.

*** Offers of regular grounds tickets, while appreciated, will be politely rejected. The FGR has tasted high brow golf spectatorship and is not going back to steerage.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fantasy Golf: The Colonial Preview

Cranking-out a very low budget preview this week as we're devoting most of our energy to tomorrow's recap of the FGR's eventful Preakness debut last Saturday. For this week's artwork, in honor of the number six horse (Oxbow) we will honor number six on Maxim's recently released Hot 100 List for 2013. As for the picks, I get the feeling that we're in the middle of another stretch of randomness evidenced by Sang Moon Bae's win last week which was only his second top ten finish of the year and his first since February. In other words, good luck.

This Week's Top Five
Hey Bailey, stop bitching and whining
all of the time and just be thankful.*

1. Charl Schwartzel
2. Tim Clark
3. Zach Johnson
4. Matt Kuchar
5. Ryan Palmer

Last Week's Report Card: C+

1. Jason Day - T27th
2. Matt Kuchar - T33
3. Jimmy Walker - T27th
4. Freddie Jacobsen - T17th
5. Ryan Palmer - T33

I didn't actually make any real picks last week but based on my Yahoo, Golf Channel and picks, that's probably what they would have looked like. You can tell from the mediocre results that I didn't make them up after the fact. I get the bump up to a C+ because all five made the cut even if none of them hit a televised shot on the weekend.


* That of course would be a reference to Party of Five, the mid-90's drama with perhaps the most depressing back story of all-time (five kids being raised by the oldest brother because their parents were killed by a drunk driver). It starred Matthew Fox (Lost) as the reluctant head of the family, Neve Campbell (Wild Things) as the oldest sister and Scott Wolf (nothing else of significance) as the perpetually angst-ridden Bailey who apparently never looked-up, noticed his girlfriend was Jennifer Love Hewitt and thought "holy crap have I out-kicked my coverage."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Vodka

Let's go ahead and use
the Mad Men reference
to our advantage.
I think the FGR has reached a new low. I've had a few weeks this year where I've put some dogs in my top five rankings ("a few?") but I don't think I've ever gone so far as to flat-out tell you to not pick the eventual winner. Check-out this golden nugget from last week's Players Championship Preview - "for me that . . . takes Tiger and Rory out of the equation because they could finish 65th just as easily as they could finish 5th so why risk wasting them?" (Well, maybe because Tiger is on a freakin' mission this year). I blame NBC for waiting until Sunday to tell us that the Players was Tiger's 300th PGA tournament and he had already won no. 100 and no. 200. To paraphrase Marvin from Wall Street (John C. McGinley's character) "I NEEDED THAT INFORMATION ON WEDNESDAY, BEFORE THE TOURNAMENT . . . BY SUNDAY I'M A DINOSAUR!!!"

So, in the words of Don Draper, it's time to change the conversation. Let's face it, despite the loosely intended mission of this website to provide fantasy golf analysis, the FGR is at its best when the topic is the FGR itself and fortunately, I'm coming off a vintage FGR experience that I can substitute this week for what would have been some half-assed preview of the Byron Nelson Classic. And on top of that, we're heading into member-guest season which the law of averages dictates will yield at least one more story of FGR jack-assery.*

Do I Want to Play Medalist? . . . Um OK.

Here's a tip. When someone invites you to play golf in the Hobe (rhymes with "probe") Sound, Florida area, say "yes." After receiving this invitation a couple of months ago, I waffled on it for about 24 hours before the proverbial Wile E. Coyote frying pan hit me in the head but instead of leaving an imprint of the word "ACME," it left the word "MEDALIST."** For those who don't follow golf at a borderline stalker level, Medalist Golf Club is where Tiger and Rory went to play their own personal 36 hole match play championship after they each got bumped from the Accenture in the first round. (No truth to the rumor that NBC Sports executives met to discuss the logistics of moving their crew from Dove Mountain to provide full coverage of Woods v. McIlroy in Florida while leaving one camera behind so they could show highlights of Mahan v. Kuchar later that night . . . well, there may be some truth to that rumor).

"Whoa Nelly!!! That's some
mighty fine Gatorade."
We arrived at Medalist at about 9:45 a.m. and I was fully prepared: (1) Favorite golf shirt - check; (2) Three sleeves of ProV1x's - check; (3) vodka infused yellow Gatorade - check. This last item has become an FGR staple when playing on the road. It's kind of like Michael Vick's secret weed compartment in the bottom of the water bottle that he once tried to sneak on a plane with the key exception that it's actually legal to bring a bottle of Gatorade onto a golf course without arousing suspicion.

As usual I kicked things off by sticking my foot in my mouth as we watched what appeared to be a pretty solid player hitting balls on the range and I surmised that he was a fringe pro. After seeing him hit three shots, I commented, "he better not quit his job at Taco Bell."

Fast forward to about an hour later when we were playing the 5th hole which is a short par four with a slight dogleg left and I had hit a perfect 3-wood just around the corner leaving myself about 100 yards in but also blocked from the view of anyone on the tee box. Just as I was pulling the club back for my second shot, a ball from the twosome behind us landed about 10 yards behind me. My first thought (as it always is in such situations) was to pull-out my 3-wood and rip it back at the tee box, especially when I looked back and saw it was Mr. Fringe Pro ("who does he think he is?"). Then I remembered where I was and decided I better chill-out . . . until I half-bladed my second shot over the back of the green.

As we approached the green, our host informed us that the guy who had just hit into me had made it through local qualifying for the U.S. Open the day before. OK, so maybe "fringe pro" was an underestimation but, at that point, I couldn't have cared less as I was going to give him the major stink eye as we let him and his partner play through. Then the son of a bitch stuck his shot five feet behind the pin and spun it back into the cup for an eagle which weakened my resolve. Kind of hard to muster a good stink eye when you're clapping for the guy that's supposed to be on the receiving end of it. In the meantime, I made bogey to go five over through five. Not the start I was looking for.***

By the time we reached the turn, I was 7 over and I'd hit every fairway. I think my irons were "a bit" off. I desperately needed a sandwich and a beer (not in that order). Regular FGR readers know that beer and I have a special relationship on the course. I love drinking it and beer generally returns my affection in the form of lower scores. And then we got a bonus. In addition to the two Bud Lights and the turkey sandwich, this lunch would include sharing the halfway house with Freddie Jacobson. (Regular readers of the FGR also know that I am to PGA players what teenage girls are to Justin Bieber).

"Your irons are a bit off?
Oh you think so doctor?"
And this brings-up one of the many reasons why golf is great because there is no other sport where you can be taking a break for lunch in the middle of a game and find yourself hanging-out with one of the best players in the world and when I say "hanging out," I am not exaggerating because Freddie could not have been cooler. It started when a member of our group and fellow season-long fantasy golfer decided to give Freddie a little pep talk. We'll call our guy Biff Sutcliffe****:

Biff: "Hey Freddie, I've got you on my fantasy team so we need a big second half."

That is a moment of truth with a professional athlete because he can go one of three ways in that situation: (1) Tell you to piss-off; (2) Totally ignore you (which is worse than #1); or (3) Completely indulge you which is what Freddie did for the better part of the next fifteen minutes. At one point he asked how the game worked and I found myself explaining our format to him and running through the first few picks of our draft (NERD ALERT!). Then I realized, "crap, he's going to ask where he was drafted" and while there is no shame in being the 40th pick, I felt a little awkward about the prospect of telling him he was a third rounder (and embarrassed by the fact that I could remember that fact from January). Fortunately, he said something about his kid's nap being over, hopped in his cart and drove-off before we got that far. (Wow, Freddie's kid naps just like mine . . . cool).

"Holy shit, is that who I think it
is doing a double toe loop?"
As if I wasn't already jacked-up enough about our Jacobson encounter (and the Bud Lights), we learned from our caddie as we were walking to the 10th tee that Tiger and Ahmad Rashad had just teed-off on number 1. Getting back to why golf is great, how often do you find yourself shooting hoops in a gym with Michael Jordan or playing on the court next to Roger Federer or sharing the rink with Brian Boitano? I was so inspired that I drilled it right down the middle of the 10th fairway and made another bogey. It didn't help that our caddie had tossed the last 2 ounces of my Gatorade which, of course, was the best part.

But then things started to get interesting. I finally hit a green on 11 and made the putt for a birdie. After another skanky iron led to a bogey on the par three 12th, I made another birdie on 13. Two more fairways hit led to a couple routine pars and I could feel a strong finish coming-on but then I made two bogeys and pissed that idea away. By the time I got to the tee on the par five 18th, I was disgusted. I hadn't missed a fairway all day, putted reasonably well and I was nine over par. It had been a beautiful day and we'd had a great time but the lasting memory for any golfer in that situation was going to be what could have been.

The 18th hole at Medalist was obviously designed to produce exciting tournament finishes because, from the tips, it's only a 526 yard par five with water all the way down the right and bunkers all the way down the left. I didn't have anything to lose so I went after the driver and hit my best of the day. I left myself about 240 yards to the middle of the green and, after a bit of goading from the group ("you didn't come all the way down here to lay-up?!?"), I drew a pretty solid 3-wood off the right bunker that landed and stopped dead on the upslope about five yards short of the green. (Notice that I didn't have to hit a freakin' iron on this hole).

Meet my new
favorite hole.
The pin was on the front of the second shelf just past a swale that runs through the middle of the green. I got the caddie's approval for the shot I wanted to play (which just makes it that much sweeter), chipped a perfect gap wedge to the top of the first shelf, watched it disappear into the swale and then reappear as it broke left into the hole for an eagle (#andboomgoesthedynamite). I'm not going to say it felt better than sex, but it sure felt better than just about everything other than sex.

After the round, we sat on the porch overlooking the 18th green for the better part of an hour waiting for Tiger to finish. I figured that one way or the other, I was going to have a great story to tell. Either Tiger wasn't going to make eagle and I would have beaten him on the 18th hole or, even better, he was going to make eagle and I would have eagled the same hole as Tiger Woods on the same day. Alas, Tiger never showed and, despite the fact that the clubhouse manager kept asking, "can't I get you boys anything else?" it was starting to sound a lot like, "you don't have to go home but you can't stay here" (and it was in a pretty thick Long Island accent so it actually sounded more like, "get the f-ck outta here why doncha").

And that brings us back to yet another reason golf is great. It's ten days later and I can still see that ball breaking left and disappearing into the cup just like I can remember telling my partner on May 24, 2008 "holy shit dude . . . my ball's in the hole" and about a half dozen other shots that stand-out (unfortunately, not all of them because they were good). You don't get those kinds of visceral memories from pick-up basketball games, tennis matches or even figure skating rinks because let's face it, most courts and rinks all look the same and, for that matter, so do most jump shots and cross-court forehands. Golf is different because every round of golf is like a movie with a unique setting and cast of characters. Sometimes it's an Adam Sandler/Chris Rock disaster like Grown Ups and other times it's a respectable effort like a Silver Linings Playbook but every so often you get The Godfather and, if you're really lucky, you get to watch it in Tiger's backyard.


* One of my favorite parts about writing and editing my own website is making up words like "jack-assery."

** The invitation was actually to play Medalist and another course in the area that I'm not going to name because, considering the distinct lack of signage at the entrance to the club, I think they prefer to keep a low profile. I will say that it was like one of those beer commercials where the guys machete themselves through a dense rain forest and stumble onto an oasis of beer and hot babes which for me of course is an oasis of beer and greens that run like pool tables. Course "X" may have had the best greens I've ever seen. In fact, I'm thinking about them right now and it's getting a little weird. Let's move on.

"A story that included acts of perversion
so profound and disgusting, that
decorum prohibits listing them here."
*** I'd hit every freakin' fairway but couldn't put the ball on the green to save my life. In my defense, the caddie mis-clubbed me on the par three 4th hole so I hit it over the green and made double. We had the following exchange after the tee shot: "I thought you said I couldn't hit it over with a 175 shot" . . . "Yeah, but that was only if you hit it at the flag". . . I didn't really have a comeback for that one. (Note to self: these guys are used to caddying for Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler).

**** Because the best story told on the trip involved the use of the fictitious name "Biff Sutcliffe."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fantasy Golf: The Players Preview

This is a major cop-out but the fact is that I said everything I ever wanted to say about The Players Championship in the 2012 Players Championship Preview including the argument that wins my case against it being the fifth major faster than Mike Brady dropping his briefcase in the courtroom* which is that, if Tiger has only won a tournament once and only really been in contention to win it twice, then it should in no way be in the same gene pool discussion with the four majors. With that being said, I'm actually fired-up for this year's Players because we've got so many top-notch guys bringing their "A" games on a regular basis that, anytime we get them all together, we have a chance to witness something epic (i.e. the 2013 Masters).

Handicapping this event is little bit like playing Keno in that you get about 100 choices and any of them can win.** For every Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott caliber champion, you have a Tim Clark, Henrik Stenson and Stephen Ames (and lest we not forget 2002 winner Craig Perks who was golf's version of an Irish team winning an Olympic gold medal in the two-man luge). When you factor-in the Tiger non-factor factor, there would seem to be very little rhyme or reason to the outcomes of this thing. But in the words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friend. Some careful study of the last fifteen Players Championship leaderboards indicates that there are at least eight currently relevant golfers*** who don't despise playing the TPC at Sawgrass. Check this out:
  • Sergio Garcia has a 2nd and 4th place finish to go along with his 2008 win. 
  • Adam Scott has three top ten finishes including a win in 2004. 
  • Matt Kuchar has three top twenty finishes in addition to his win last year. 
  • Luke Donald has three top six finishes including a tie for 2nd in 2005. 
  • David Toms has three top ten finishes including a playoff loss in 2011. 
  • Bo Van Pelt finished tied for 7th last year, tied for 4th in 2010 and tied for 8th in 2006. 
  • Jim Furyk lives nearby and has three top five finishes. 
  • And finally, Ben Crane tied for 6th in 2008, tied for 5th in 2009 and tied for 4th in 2010.
For the purpose of making this week's top ten list, let's also consider that the last player to win this thing twice was Davis Love, III (in 1992 and 2003) and the only guys to win it in the last fifteen years while being ranked top 3 in the world were Mickelson in 2007, Woods in 2001 and David Duval in 1999. For me that pushes former winners Kuchar and Scott down the list and takes Tiger and Rory out of the equation because they could finish 65th just as easily as they could finish 5th so why risk wasting them. When it's all said and done, I'm going with the players on my "guys who kind of sort of like Sawgrass" list plus Nick Watney because he's actually been trending-up lately and Freddie Jacobson because he just seems like he's got the game for this track and for one other reason that will be explained later in the week.
Remember when Sergio was the guy who used
his golf celebrity for the power of good? The
FGR needs a new player to fill that role.

The Players Top Ten

1. Luke Donald
2. Sergio Garcia
3. Jim Furyk
4. Bo Van Pelt
5. Matt Kuchar
6. Adam Scott
7. Freddie Jacobson
8. Nick Watney
9. David Toms
10. Ben Crane

Last Week's Report Card: D

1. Webb Simpson - T32nd
2. Bill Haas - M/C
3. Rickie Fowler - MDF
4. Lucas Glover - T27th
5. Sergio Garcia - T16th

Not much to say about a tournament where (1) Derek Ernst wins, (2) Bill Haas shoots a first round 79 on a course where he opened with a 64 in 2011 and (c) the greens looked worse than the ones on the course I used to play for $7.00 at twilight when I lived downtown (of the twelve holes, I would describe seven as being "a great place to get rid of a body"). I'm guessing that the superintendent had no problem with the final round not being aired live on Sunday. Then again, he was probably blacked-out on the couch by then anyway.

(Let me know who you like this week -


* For those too young to know this (man I'm getting tired of prefacing everything with that), Mike Brady was the father on the popular series The Brady Bunch which originally aired from 1969-1974 but then gained exponentially greater popularity when it was re-run throughout the late 70's. In one of its many classic episodes, Carol Brady is sued by a scammer after they are involved in a parking lot fender-bender. When the case gets to trial, the scammer pulls the old neck brace trick but Mike Brady turns the tables on him by intentionally dropping his briefcase on the floor causing a loud crack which makes the guy abruptly turn his head, thus costing him the case. Check-out this clip, listen to the sound the briefcase makes when it hits the floor and tell me that Mr. Brady wouldn't have gotten the living crap beaten-out of him by a couple of jumpy bailiffs if he pulled that stunt today.

** I seem to reference Keno a lot for a game that I played once about 20 years ago. Thank God for the advent of fantasy sports. Otherwise I may have ended-up wasting hundreds of hours of my life on a pointless game like Keno.

*** "Currently relevant" excludes Stephen Ames who has one of the more impressive resumes at The Players with a win in 2006, a 2nd in 2002 and a 5th in 2008. Ames' other claim to fame? Losing 9 & 8 to Tiger at the 2006 Match Play after saying before the match that "anything can happen . . . especially where he's hitting the ball." Turns-out he was right.