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."

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