Friday, January 31, 2014

The FGR Super Bowl Preview

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat. I don't give a crap who wins this game. I don't care about Peyton Manning's legacy. I saw Joe Montana play in his prime and, as much as I despised him, I haven't seen anyone play the position as well as he did so as far as I'm concerned, Manning, Brady and Elway are all jockeying for second place no matter what happens this Sunday. If I was going to lean one way, I guess it would be towards Seattle because their only sports title was won by the Supersonics way back in 1979 and then Oklahoma City stole their team. As a transplanted Annapolitan* who is now a Baltimorean, I can relate . . . to both Seattle and Oklahoma City. (And that might conclude the worst opening to a written work since "Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached but then again, Penguins often do.") Anyway, let's get on to picking this sucker.

Here's a Broncos cheerleder.
Two weeks ago I tried to handicap the AFC Championship Game by comparing it to a Super Bowl from 2002 (seemed like a good idea at the time). I was loud wrong but that's the peril of guessing the outcome of a sporting event based on what you thought was a clever writing idea. That form of analysis leads you to believe in somewhat ridiculous notions like coaches can out-scheme far superior personnel and a quarterback who just had the greatest season in NFL history is suddenly going to fall flat on his face because he's afraid of the guys coaching and quarterbacking the other team (and yes, there was part of me that really thought that but then again, there was part of you that thought that too). It serves me right for crawling into bed with Brady and Belichik.

In the NFC game I was just a bit unlucky as Colin Kaepernick and his three 4th quarter turnovers wrecked what was destined to be a game decided by between 1-3 points. Say what you want about Richard Sherman, but if I'm a quarterback playing with the game on the line in the final minute, I'm finding him and then throwing somewhere else. If for no other reason than that is the last guy you want to make the play that beats you. It's the same reason you'd rather walk A-Rod with the bases loaded than give him the chance to hit the walk-off grand slam. It's one thing to lose, it's another thing to lose to THAT GUY.**

But that was all so two weeks ago. In three days we will have arguably the best Super Bowl match-up since 1979 when the 14-2 Steelers faced the 12-4 Cowboys.*** That game also featured the undisputed best team from each conference with one bringing an old school nasty defense and the other one sporting the highest scoring offense in the league. Defense won-out in Super Bowl XIII as the Steelers built a 35-17 lead before holding-on to win 35-31 despite a furious 4th quarter comeback by the scrambling Roger Staubach. So am I now using a Super Bowl that was played over 35 years ago to determine who is going to win this one? Maybe.

OK, then how about a more recent example that actually featured two teams that mirror the current Seahawks and Broncos pretty well. In 1990, the Giants had the best scoring defense in the league and featured a relatively conservative offense that did a great job of taking care of the ball. (Sound familiar?) In the Super Bowl they held the high-powered Bills offense (yes, there was a time when you could say that with a straight face) to 19 points despite the fact that the Bills had scored 95 points in their two playoff games. Even with that great defensive showing, the Giants still needed Scott Norwood to miss a 47 yard field goal on the last play of the game which may be the cruelest fate suffered by any athlete not named Bill Buckner. Chalk-up another close win for the defense.

And here's a Seahawks
cheerleader. Whatever.
I think the blueprint for this Sunday is pretty similar to those two Super Bowls and the result will be the same with the edge going to the defense.**** Just like those games, it's going to be close because the one thing the Broncos defense did well this year was stop the run which means that Russell Wilson is going to have to make some plays. Unfortunately for Denver, they haven't seen a mobile quarterback like him since Terrelle Pryor back in week 4 and Pryor had a pretty solid game. Meanwhile, the Seahawks got two recent looks at Drew Brees in addition to late season games against Matt Ryan and Eli Manning. Peyton Manning is obviously better than all of those guys but he's not that much better than Brees who averaged 24-41 for 228 yards with 1 touchdown and no picks in those two games.

If Manning's stat line looks anything like Brees' average, the Seahawks will win by 10 but I think he's going to do a little better. Something along the lines of 25-41 for 265 yards with 2 touchdowns but I also think he'll throw a pick. Limiting Manning to under 300 yards and 2 touchdowns will be just enough for Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch to get the job done. Congratulations Seattle. Your 35 years of wandering lost through the sports wilderness is about to come to and end.

Seattle - 27 . . . Denver - 24

Last Week's Record: 0-2 . . . Playoff Record: 4-5-1 . . . Season Record: 139-117-4

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* An "Annapolitan" is someone from Annapolis, Maryland. It is not an Annapolitician as my college roommate from Long Island used to say. Then again, he also used to say "wait on line" instead of "wait in line" and he pronounced "drawer" as "draw" so, in the overall scheme of things, Annapolitician wasn't that annoying.

This is a real painting that A-Rod
had commissioned. I really wish
I was making that up but I'm not.
** For the record, I am pro Richard Sherman. As someone who sacrificed my moral compass years ago for the right to root for Ray Lewis, I am no longer allowed to judge (except when it comes to A-Rod who has entered a whole other dimension of detestability).

*** The '78 Cowboys were the highest scoring team in the league with Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett while the '78 Steelers had one of the best defenses of all-time thanks to guys like Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount. The two teams featured 13 Hall of Fame players and two Hall of Fame coaches. The game did not disappoint (unless you were a Cowboys fan) and it could have been even better if not for arguably the most critical dropped pass in NFL history. (That clip is worth watching just to hear Curt Gowdy and John Facenda).

**** We can't really look to the wins by the '85 Bears or the '00 Ravens because the offenses and the coaches they played in the Super Bowl were so over-matched. I really have no fan feelings either way for John Fox and Peyton Manning but I certainly respect them enough not to compare them to the General Custer/Hindenburg/New Coke/Titanic/Gigli combos of Raymond Berry/Tony Eason and Jim Fassel/Kerry Collins. In Super Bowl XX, the Patriots' offense had 7 total yards rushing, turned the ball over 6 times and scored 10 points (they actually led the game 3-0 before the Bears scored the next 44 points). The Giants' offense may have outdone them in Super Bowl XXXV, however, with 5 turnovers, 86 yards passing and no offensive points. (The immortal words of Dean Wormer come to mind, "no grade point average . . . all classes, incomplete"). I remember starting to feel sorry for them by the end . . . except for Tiki Barber.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The Waste Management Preview

Let's start this week with a few of points about Tiger's MDF* at the Farmers Insurance Open: (1) I told you not to pick him so if you went against my advice and did it anyway, here's a little something for you . . . hit it Nelson; (2) Tiger hit plenty of bumps like this last year with a first round loss at the Matchplay, a tie for 65th at the Memorial, a tie for 65th at the Deutsche Bank and lousy performances at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship; (3) Tiger won five times in 2013 against top-flight competition; and (4) Tiger has not had a top ten finish in a real tournament since The Barclays in August. What does all of this mean? It means that golf is really f-cking hard that's what it means. I still think Tiger is going to win the Masters and if I ever get around to finishing Part 3 of the Fantasy Golf Report's 2014 Season Preview, I'll prove it to you. Until then, let's look ahead to this week's favorites and picks.  

Uh oh. That doesn't look good.
We're off to the desert for the rollicking good time that is always the Waste Management Phoenix Open.** TPC Scottsdale traditionally favors guys who can bomb the ball and make lots of birdies. (How's that for some good old-fashioned frontier fantasy golf gibberish?) Phil Mickelson has won this thing three times including last year but he's looking a bit like bored and achy Phil right now so let's give him a couple months to regain some interest while we look elsewhere for our 2014 champion.

I'm going with a player out of the Kyle Stanley mode from two years ago - coming in playing well, crushes the ball off the tee and can throw a 62 on the board when he's hot. Billy Horschel gets the slight nod over Graham DeLaet only because the Canadian has not played this course well in the past . . . probably because it's in the middle of a desert and he was born in Saskatchewan and now lives in Boise (which must feel like Cancun to him). Oh yeah, watch-out for Brendan Steele who finished tied for 6th here in 2013 and tied for 5th in 2012. Based on that trend, this year he should finish tied for um . . . give me a second . . . oh screw it. I never was any good at geometry.  

If you don't think I've already started Googling
"Cowgirl on the Beach" for Pebble next week, then I'm
afraid that you just don't know who I am anymore.
The Favorites

1. Phil Mickelson - 12 to 1
2. Webb Simpson - 18-1
3. Keegan Bradley - 25 to 1
4. Ryan Moore - 28 to 1
4. Hunter Mahan - 28 to 1
4. Bubba Watson - 28 to 1
4. Harris English - 28 to 1

FGR One and Done Picks

1. Billy Horschel
2. Graham DeLaet
3. Bubba Watson
4. Charley Hoffman
5. Brendan Steele

At least Bill Haas made the cut on the number last week which is more than I can say for my No. 2 pick Mr. Snedeker who is putting-up early campaign posters for being the bust of 2014. Consider that in the last four years his finishes at Torrey Pines were 2nd, 1st, 9th and 2nd and last week he missed the cut by five shots. I know it's early but every year there are a couple of players who crash-out of the top 20 like Bubba and Rory did in 2013. It certainly doesn't help that Snedeker is more injury prone than Derrick Rose while playing a sport that involves significantly less leaping. Unless of course you're Snedeker who injured his knee when he lost control of a Segway scooter and had to jump-off during a corporate outing in Shanghai back in November. (OK two things: (1) I did not make that up, and (2) I spent an hour trying to come up with a joke that didn't involve a certain stereotype about bad drivers and I couldn't so let's just move on before the FGR gets noticed for all the wrong reasons).

Last Week's FGR Grade: C+
I love what the artist has done
with the use of sepia here.***

1. Bill Haas - T43rd
2. Brandt Snedeker - M/C
3. Graham DeLaet - T2nd
4. Jordan Spieth - T19th
5. Brendon Todd - T37th

The FGR PUD Report

Hyundai: Gary Woodland - $130,000
Sony: Chris Kirk - $604,800
Humana: Charles Howell, III - $12,198

Farmers: Bill Haas - $20,740

Season Total - $767,738

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* "MDF" stands for both "Made Cut but Did Not Finish" and, in the case of Tiger who hit six fairways on Saturday, "My Driver is F-cked."   

** Attendance at the 2013 event was 525,821 or roughly the same number of people who attended one of the coolest concerts in the history of music anytime anywhere when Simon & Garfunkel performed in Central Park. If I could go back in time and find my way to a good seat for any show in history, that would certainly be in the top five along with The Last Waltz featuring The Band and numerous others such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and Van Morrison at The Winterland Ballroom in 1976. I would highly recommend spending a little time watching both concerts on Youtube but here are a couple of my personal favorites with The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel and Van Morrison performing Caravan with The Band (do you get the impression that Van doesn't want to leave the stage? "JUST A ONE MORE TIME . . . . JUST A ONE MORE TIME!!!"). Boy, that footnote escalated quickly.     

*** I have no idea what in the hell I'm talking about.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The Farmers Insurance Open Preview

After three weeks of soup and salad and whatever you want to call that part of the meal the Tour put-on in the fall,* it's time to get down to business with the crab balls and clams casino that is the Farmers Insurance Open where we have an "A" list field playing on a major caliber course. This week we welcome back the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Jason Day and Bubba Watson. If you want a 50/50 shot of picking-up a first place check, then by all means burn Tiger this week because, with the exception of Firestone Country Club and the parking lot at 12559 Highway 535 in Orlando, Tiger dominates Torey Pines like no other venue (HEYOOOOO!!!).

Last year I had Nick Watney dialed-up for this event but then switched to Bubba at the last minute only to watch in horror** as Bubba pulled-out on Thursday morning with some lame illness and Watney finished tied for 4th. As it turned-out, that would set the tone for my entire failed season. So I'm avoiding Bubba this week even though he's playing fairly well and has a solid track record at the Farmers including a win in 2011. (Just thought I should let you know that it's personal with me and Bubba this week). 

The Farmers Favorites
It's always a good day at the FGR
when the Welkers make the Super Bowl.

1. Tiger Woods - 5 to 2
2. Phil Mickelson - 12 to 1
3. Brandt Snedeker - 22 to 1
4. Bill Haas - 25 to 1
5. Jordan Spieth - 28 to 1

The FGR One and Done Picks

1. Bill Haas
2. Brandt Snedeker
3. Graham DeLaet
4. Jordan Spieth
5. Brendon Todd

Last Week's FGR Grade: C+

1. Charles Howell, III - T58th
2. Brian Stuard - 5th
3. Kevin Chappell - T58th
4. Gary Woodland - T38th
5. Brendon Todd - T6th

Obviously that's a bit of a whiff on the top pick but I do believe that someone writing for this website who looks a lot like me told you to take a good hard look at the guys in the 2nd, 3rd and 5th spots. Is it my fault that you couldn't guess which ones? Do I have to do freakin' everything around here? Is it not enough that I do the research, write the content, occasionally proofread it and find tasteful new artwork that is at least tangentially related to the subject matter that will keep the Ukrainian readers coming back? I have to put the right guy in the top spot every week? Well excuuuuse me for not being perfect. (Sorry, but I'm still bitter about botching both NFL Conference Championship Game picks . . . Kapernick . . . ass hat).  

I feel ya Jim.
The FGR PUD*** Report

Hyundai: Gary Woodland - $130,000
Sony: Chris Kirk - $604,800
Humana: Charles Howell, III - $12,198

Season Total: $746,998

Email the FGR at


* In this analogy, the Tour's half-assed attempt to legitimize the post Tour Championship events would be the part of the dinner where you're standing outside of an Outback Steakhouse waiting for your beeper to start buzzing so you know you're table is ready while everyone else, who you could swear got there after you, gets seated and then you approach the hostess in a manner that you think is docile and friendly but is really more like Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast and the next thing you know you're wife is pulling your arm and saying, "come on, let's just go to Five Guys and get a cheeseburger." (That's not just me right? By the way, I thought about using Applebee's for this but has anyone ever actually had to wait for a table at an Applebee's? . . . and there goes the Applebee's sponsorship).

** I know "horror" might seem excessive but I'm not sure how else to describe that moment on Thursday when you scan the leaderboard for your pick and he's not there . . . he's just not f-cking there man!

*** "Picked Up to Date."

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The FGR Conference Championship Picks

Before we get to this weekend's picks, I can't let the hiring of the most recently doomed Reskins' head coach to pass without comment. As I have alluded to in the past, I work deep in the heart of Redskins' country and have had the opportunity to transact some business with the organization. Based on those dealings, it never surprises me when the rock rolls back over them after it looks like they might finally get it to the top of the hill* (like it appeared they may have done in RG, III's rookie season). There are two paths to the Super Bowl and, at this point, the Redskins don't appear to be on either one: (1) find a Hall of Fame quarterback like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning and/or (2) build a strong well-run organization and hire a competent coach (Ravens, Steelers, Giants, Seahawks and 49ers). If you can do number 2 and add a top ten quarterback like it appears the Seahawks and 49ers have done, then you'll be in contention for the long haul.

On the other end of the spectrum you have the teams that have (1) committed themselves to a quarterback who is not going to get them over the top like Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford and Andy Dalton and/or (2) built an organization that is somehow fundamentally flawed like the Lions, Browns, Bills, Raiders and Jaguars. For whatever reason, these teams just can't get out of their own way despite the fact that the NFL is structured so that even the dregs of the league should find windows of short term success. The Redskins have been one of these teams since Dan Snyder bought them and the fact that Snickers could build a "you're not you when you're hungry" commercial around the diva that is RG, III means that their fortunes are not going to change anytime soon.

"Hey Robert, how's my favorite awesome
superstar quarterback today? How about
dinner and cigars at the Palm tonight?"
Let's take a look at the inevitable sit-down that this latest move is going to end with in three years when Jon Gruden arrives in Washington to figure-out what in the hell is going on with Dan Snyder and his brother.

Snyder: You think I run a sloppy organization Jon?

Jon: [Shakes his head] You're unlucky.

Snyder: You goddamn Grudens, you make me laugh. I do you a favor and take Jay in when the Bengals offense crapped the bed in another playoff game and you're all over ESPN bashing my team.

Jon: You took Jay in because no one else wanted to coach your team. Now we're talking business. Let's talk business.

Snyder: Yeah, let's talk business Jon. First of all, you're all done. Monday Night Football don't even have that kind of audience anymore. Your schedule is weak, right? You're getting chased out of primetime by NBC with Sunday night football and the NFL Network on Thursday night. What do you think is going on here?

Jon: Is that why you slapped my brother around in public?

Jay: Aw, now that, that was nothin' Jon. Dan didn't mean nothin' by that. Yeah, sure he flies off the handle every once in a while, but me and him, we're good friends, right Dan?

Snyder: I got a football team to run. I gotta kick asses sometimes to make it run right. We had a little argument, Jay and me, so I had to straighten him out.

Jon: You straightened my brother out?

Snyder: He was calling screen passes two at a time. We couldn't make a first down. What's the matter with you?

Jon: I leave for Green Bay tomorrow, think about a buyout price for the end of my brother's contract.

Snyder: Sonofabitch! Do you know who I am? I'm Dan Snyder! I made my bones when you were coaching wide receivers at Southeast Missouri State.**

And we all know where it goes for Dan Snyder from there. (He may want to post a guard outside the massage room). Let's get on to picking some games between teams that actually know what they're doing.

At Denver by 5 over New England: The Pick - Patriots

Isn't this a repeat of Super Bowl XXVI when the Patriots were 14 point underdogs to the Greatest Show on Turf Rams and beat them 20-17? The Rams had four Hall of Fame caliber players at all four skill positions that year with Kurt Warner (MVP), Marshall Faulk (Offensive Player of the Year), Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt (along with crazy fast Az-Zahir Hakim as their third receiver).*** The Patriots countered with Tom Brady (in his second year), Antowain Smith, Troy Brown and David Patten. The defenses were a wash as the Patriots finished 6th in scoring defense (272 points) and the Rams finished 7th (273 points). Oh yeah, the game was played in the Superdome and the 2001-02 Rams may have been the best dome team of all-time.

So the Rams had a massive edge in quarterback experience, offensive weapons and field conditions while the Patriots had the edge in coaching and kicking (Adam Vinateri). Fast forward to 2014 where the Broncos feature a massive edge in receiving weapons and . . . and what? Certainly not quarterback, running back or coaching. Maybe on defense but while people are going on and on about how depleted the Patriots are, they seem to forget that the Broncos lost Von Miller who might be the best pass rusher in football and that the Broncos were 22nd in points allowed this year at almost 25 per game while the Patriots were 10th at 21.1. (Sorry this is so dry but I spent much of the day moving furniture so my life is devoid of humor at the moment).

Amber Heard - No. 58 on
the Maxim Hot 100 List . . .
(See what I did there?)
I think it all changed for the Patriots after the Miami game in Week 15 (a 24-20 loss) when Belichik looked at Tom Brady's 55 passes and thought, "what in the f-ck are we doing?" In the three games since, Tom Brady hasn't thrown more than 26 passes while the Patriots have averaged 41 carries for 214 yards and 3.3 touchdowns. Those are 1983 Nebraska Cornhusker stats. Yeah Tom Brady is dealing with somewhat limited receiving weapons but do you really want to put eight men in the box against him? (The answer would be "no"). Ironically, it was the sudden discovery of a running game that helped propel Peyton Manning to his only Super Bowl win with the 2005-06 Colts. This year I see that formula crushing his dream of another one. Patriots - 31 . . . Broncos - 27. (Combined score of 58).

At Seattle by 3.5 over San Francisco: The Pick - 49ers

That half point scares the crap out of me. The over/under is only 38.5 which means Vegas is expecting something in the 20-17 range so you take the points right? If I had to pick a winner, it would be Seattle because I just have a feeling that Russell Wilson and that crowd are going to will them to victory but I could just as easily see a 49er team that is tired of getting thrashed at CenturyLink Field make enough plays to pull-out a win. If nothing else, they might do it because they know that losing a game of this magnitude to his most hated rival might cause Jim Harbaugh to produce a 1,000 page playbook that says nothing but "All Pete Carroll and no Super Bowl makes Jim a dull boy" over and over and over again. Actually, I can totally see that happening so let's go with a final score of Seahawks - 17 . . . 49ers - 16.   

Last Week's Record: 3-1
Playoff Record: 4-3-1
Season Record: 139-115-4

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Sarah Shahi - No. 33.
* This is of course a reference to Sisyphus, the king of Ephyra who, according to Greek mythology, was sentenced to an eternity of pushing a boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down before it reached the top. Cut to the fans in Cleveland, Detroit and Cincinnati nodding unconsciously and semi-psychotically.

** If you've never seen The Godfather and have no idea what in the hell I'm talking about, check-out this epic scene. If that doesn't make you want to see the rest of the movie, then it's probably not right for you anyway.

** The Rams led the league with 503 points that year. The Colts were second with 413. The Bengals scored 226. So you see Bengals fans, even though you know you're getting at most one playoff game every year, it could be (and has been) worse.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The Humana Preview

At 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, the NFL had completed three playoff games and the PGA Tour had completed three rounds of the Sony Open. At that point, the Fantasy Golf Report was 3-0 on its NFL picks and its projected winner of the Sony Open, Chris Kirk, was in first place. Two hours later, things were looking even better as both Kirk and the Denver Broncos had positioned themselves to win/cover. We all know what happened next but, just for "fun," let's examine just how much a perfect gambling weekend and a greased pig at the county fair have in common.

"If this asshole says 'Omaha' one
more time, I'm snapping the
ball straight through his man
zone and out his butthole."
At approximately 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, the Broncos led 17-0 and had the ball 3rd and 2 at the Chargers' 28 yard line. Despite the fact that many people claim that the big goofy guy flapping his arms for the Broncos is the greatest quarterback of all-time,* they decided to run the ball and lost a yard. (I think the play was called "Omaha"). Matt Prater then stepped-in and promptly missed only his second field goal of the year. The Chargers took over and marched down the field for a touchdown so instead of it being 20-0, it was 17-7 and the 9.5 point cover was very much in jeopardy.

At roughly the same time 3,341 miles to the west of Denver, Chris Kirk found himself in one of those PGA Tour logjams that occurs a couple times a year when six or seven players ranging from good (Kirk, Harris English and Jimmy Walker) to used to be good (Jerry Kelly and Jeff Overton) to who in the fuck is that guy? (Brian Stuard) find themselves within a stroke of each other heading into the back nine. What usually happens in these situations is that one guy out-birdies the field for the win and this case would be no different. I just hoped that guy would be Kirk.**

Back in Denver, the Broncos were cruising down the field on a smart little ten play drive to put themselves back up by 17 with just 8:12 left on the clock. Surely Phillip Rivers and the heretofore anemic Chargers' offense would not score more than a touchdown the rest of the way and wreck my quest for perfection. Cue the Broncos' defense which was clearly not getting paid by the hour at that point as it let the Chargers score another touchdown in a little over two minutes. OK. No Problem. No one has run more 5+ minute clock killing drives to closeout games in his career than Peyton Manning. Time for a steady dose of draw plays and over the middle dink and dunks to Wes Welker but, in the words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friend.

Apparently the Broncos' special teams had been working on a sequel to their overtime showcase in New England earlier in the season called "Botching the Onside Kick Coverage and the Art of the Blown Cover." (Though I must admit that this was one of the best onside kicks I've ever seen by Nick Novak - Phil Mickelson couldn't have done much better with a lob wedge). Bing bang boom and a Chargers field goal cut the margin to 7 points and THEN Manning decided to engineer the soul crushing drive that inevitably culminated with him taking a knee for the win and ruining the FGR's perfect playoff weekend. Thanks a lot Peyton. Enjoy your sleep this week with the nightmare of all nightmares coming to Denver on Sunday in the form of Brady, Belichik and a running game.

Back to Honolulu where the birdie barrage was on only it was being unleashed by Jimmy Walker and not Chris Kirk. Oh darn! [Attempting to exhibit real dismay]. Kirk would have needed to make eagle on 18 to force a playoff and, when that didn't happen, it meant that I only left $604,800 on the table with my Tim Clark pick (yaaaaayyyyyy . . . isn't gambling fun?). And that's how close I was to perfection - one well executed onside kick and a couple of missed putts. So close yet . . . well actually pretty freakin' close. Let's see if we can keep the momentum going this week at the Humana Challenge. ("Humana" of course being the Nepalese word for a toxic room-clearing fart as in: Question: "Hey, where'd everybody go?" . . . Answer: "Humana").

Last Week's FGR Grade: A-
I can't believe Sofia Vergera got passed-over for a
Golden Globe! (Actually, I have no idea if she was
even nominated. You know how this works by now).

1. Chris Kirk - 2nd
2. Harris English - 4th
3. Charles Howell, III - T8th
4. Tim Clark - W/D
5. Brian Stuard - 6th

The Humana Favorites

1. Zach Johnson - 12 to 1
2. Webb Simpson - 14 to 1
3. Keegan Bradley - 18 to 1
3. Harris English - 18 to 1
3. Brandt Snedeker - 18 to 1

The FGR One and Done Picks

1. Charles Howell, III
2. Brian Stuard
3. Kevin Chappell
4. Gary Woodland
5. Brendon Todd

Like I said, a very strong week all around for the FGR picks as we nailed four of the top ten. This week we head to La Quinta, California for another crapshoot event that has only been won once in the last eight years by a guy who you would put anywhere near the elite level (Bill Haas in 2010). The other seven winners during that period were Brian Gay, Jhonattan Vegas, Mark Wilson, Pat Perez, D.J. Trahan, Chad Campbell and Charley Hoffman also known as "the Sunday leaderboard that will have the Humana marketing department hiding-out in the luxury port o potties while the CEO downs his sixth Rob Roy and starts looking for scapegoats to fire."

So based on the notion that the above average tends to rise to the top at this event, we're going with Charles Howell, III who (a) never wins), (b) came in 2nd here last year and (c) closed-out the Sony Open with rounds of 67-66-66. If you want to get frisky with this one, I'd take a good hard look at the guys in the FGR's 2nd, 3rd and 5th spots. Oh, and if you feel the need to give your team a boost by using a top tier player, Webb Simpson and is 5.5+ birdies per round and his 82% greens in regulation so far this year is your guy because this tournament is a birdie-fest.

We're going to add a new wrinkle to this year's accountability system by keeping a running total of the FGR's weekly #1 picks. Expect this to continue until (a) I forget that I installed it as a new gimmick or (b) my picks start heading south and I have to find a new way to con people into reading this crap. But until one of those things happen, here is the FGR's Picks up to Date Report or P.U.D. Report (wait a minute).

I needed a picture of something
really small for this space.
PUD Report

Hyundai: Gary Woodland - $130,000
Sony: Chris Kirk - $604,800

Total: $734,800

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* I would prefer that my "greatest quarterback of all-time" have a Super Bowl record of something like 4-0 (Montana) or 3-2 (Brady) or even 2-3 (Elway) over something like 1-1 (Manning). And let's not forget that in two Super Bowls, the Colts' offense led by Manning generated a whopping four touchdowns with only two coming on touchdown passes (to go with his two interceptions). Meanwhile, Montana threw five touchdown passes in Super Bowl XXIV alone and has eleven total to go along with his (hold on, let me do the math here . . . carry the two, divide by three and . . . oh yeah) zero interceptions.

Joe Montana not Ashley
Montana you rube but hey,
love the cowgirl theme.***
** Actually I didn't because, of the five players I put in my rankings, I'll give you two guesses as to which ones I picked for my own teams . . . yup, Charles Howell, III and Tim Clark. The Clark pick really stung because I sat at my desk on Thursday morning having one of those classic fantasy sports moments that had me digging for anything that would tell me how he'd been playing lately. Trust me, when you get as far as the Australian Tour's website, it's time to step away from the computer. The reason I ultimately settled on Clark? Because I had picked him first and, if I changed it and then he played better than Kirk, I would have been an a-hole all weekend for a reason too embarrassing to explain to anyone. As it was, watching the last few holes on Sunday with Kirk in contention and Clark probably passed-out on a beach surrounded by empty coconuts and little paper drink umbrellas felt like flying to Detroit in February with a little kid kicking the back of your seat the whole way.

*** For more on Ashley Montana and a great example of why the early days of MTV could be magical, check-out this mesmerizing John Mellencamp video.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The FGR Divisional Round Picks

I'm not going to get too exercised over last week's poor performance considering that both losses came on Saturday when someone was clearly sending ripples through the matrix like Andy Reid farting in a bathtub (which is basically what he spent the second half doing). Forgive me for thinking that the Colts and Eagles might actually show-up for the first halves of their home playoff games. My bad as the kids say. The Colts just had to spot the Chiefs 28* points so they could show-off their fancy new quarterback and then the Eagles turned two first half Drew Brees interceptions into a whopping 7 points and failed to take control of the game when they had the chance. Who knew a team that survived the brutal test of survival that was the 2013 NFC East would fail to pull-out such a winnable game at home? (Um . . . everyone?)

"That was some of the best running
I've seen yet . . . right up to the part
where you fumbled the ball." - Jester
To be honest, I'd trade being right about watching the Bengals fall flat on their faces (literally) for those two wrong picks anyway. (Believe me, I can rationalize just about anything). If there was one thing I was absolutely sure of, it was that Andy Dalton would make just enough plays for the Bengals to lose because that's his move. And the best part for the rest of the AFC is that the Bengals' move will be to make no move at head coach or quarterback despite the fact that they might be wasting one of the most talented rosters in the league. (On a semi-related note, it pleases me that the Redskins just said, "hey, give us some of that good Bengal karma" and hired Jay Gruden. Welcome to NFL hell Jay).

It's my birthday so today is all about Irish Car Bombs (the drink not the act of terrorism) and winning picks. Let's do this.

At Seattle by 7.5 over New Orleans: The Pick - Seahawks

This pick is only slightly related to the 34-7 beatdown the Seahawks put on the Saints back in early December because, as we learned from the Chargers-Bengals rematch, you can't give much credence to even recent NFL history. This game is all about the following two numbers: 29.1 and 18.7. The first number is the average points scored by the Seahawks at home this season and the second number is the average points scored by the Saints on the road (including last week's Eagles' game). That may be oversimplifying things a bit but overly simplified is how I like my world and, when you consider that the Seahawks have one of the best defenses the Saints will have played on the road and the Saints have one of the most mediocre defenses the Seahawks will have played at home, that 10+ point gap could easily widen. I'm seeing 31-17 with an APB on a missing Jimmy Graham in the second half.

At New England by 7.5 over Indianapolis: The Pick - Patriots

Not to mention, Mr. Bundchen
rarely loses home playoff games
unless Ray Lewis is involved.
Here is one thing we absolutely know about this game - T.Y. Hilton's stat line is going to look something like 2 catches for 19 yards with no touchdowns and at least a couple kidney punches. And when that happens the question becomes, if they take away T.Y., then where are the Colts going to get their offense? Donald Brown? Coby Fleener? Griff Whalen?** I just don't see them putting-up more than 17 points against Darth Belichik when he's had two weeks to prepare. On the other side, we've got Tom Brady who is the exceedingly wealthy man's Alex Smith against the defense that just let Alex Smith shred it for 378 yards and 4 touchdowns. I'm feeling 27-16 and good riddance to that ferret living on Andrew Luck's chin.

San Francisco by 1.5 at Carolina: The Pick - 49ers

I have the utmost faith in the Carolina defense but the utleast*** faith in Cam Newton/Ron Rivera v. Colin Kaepernick/Jim Harbaugh. Cam Newton is so freakishly talented that his day may come but it's going to take a little more time and at least a B+ receiving threat before he gets there. Also, a road team has to win this weekend and the 49ers are one of the best left in the tournament. And furthermore, hasn't this whole season been trending toward conference championship games of 49ers at Seahawks and Patriots at Broncos? And if I might add . . . enough already? (Good, because I didn't really have anything else to say). Touchdowns will be at a premium in this one but annoying shots of Jim Harbaugh on the sideline that make you want to throw things at the television will not . . . 20-13.

At Denver by 9.5 over San Diego: The Pick - Broncos

"If YOU'RE happy with the Chargers,
that's really all that matters right?"
The Chargers have won five games in a row and the teams they've beaten this season include the Colts, Bengals, Eagles, Chiefs (twice) and Broncos. That makes six wins over playoff teams. On the other hand, they lost to the Texans, Raiders and Redskins when they couldn't score from first and goal at the one yard line for the win. It's that Redskin loss that I just can't get past. I don't care that the Chargers would have covered 9.5 points 16 out of 17 times this season. That Redskin loss makes me feel like Jerry when he found out his girlfriend was previously dumped by Newman.

On the other side you have Peyton Manning who has spent the entire season hearing about what a bad playoff quarterback he is and how he can't play in cold weather and how his little brother has more Super Bowl rings than he does and how he is really the abandoned love-child of Tom Seaver and Meryl Streep (ok, maybe that's the first he's heard of that). Anyway, remember what he did to start the season when he was still pissed at the Ravens for stealing his Super Bowl chance last year? (He threw as many touchdown passes as Joe Flacco threw in the last seven games of the season . . . true story). Well I see him throwing a similar blanket party for the Chargers before Brady and Belichik come west to eat an entire wheel of his cheese and poop in his fridge. Something along the lines of 38-20.

Last Week's Record: 1-2-1 . . . Regular Season Record: 136-114-4

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at


* For reasons too annoying to explain, my 12 year old son is a die-hard Colts fan. I normally just try to ignore it the same way I would if he walked around all day quoting Tyler Perry movies (which he fortunately does not), however, seeing as I have no dog in the NFL playoff race for the first time since 2007, I decided that this year I would be supportive (but only to a point because there is the whole Jim Irsay douche factor to keep in mind). Anyway, at about the time when it was 31-10 Chiefs in the 2nd quarter, I walked-in and he was watching soccer on the Spanish channel . . . and he doesn't speak Spanish. When I asked him what he was doing, he responded, "it's over." Then I convinced him to watch the start of the second half when Luck promptly threw a pick leading to 38-10. At that point I agreed that it was over but fortunately kept tabs on the game so we put it back on in the 4th quarter and we all watched it but he refused to come back in the room because, "it's just like that Bud Light commercial where the guy has to stay in the basement for his team to win." So congratulations Bud Light. Your NFL saturation campaign has reached the 12 year old demographic. It's really got me looking forward to Cialis ads featuring Demi Lovato and Taylor Lautner.

"BL" stands for "Bros Lacrosse."
You'll just have to take my word for it.
** There may be no greater indicator of how soft football has become than the fact that a 5-11, 197 pound receiver named Griff Whalen is catching passes for a playoff team. Jack Lambert would have hit Griff Whalen so hard just for being named Griff Whalen that he would have killed the whole Whalen family including Biff Whalen, Wellington Whalen and his parents, Halston Whalen and Wheatley Whalen. (The sad part is that I borrowed those names from Deadspin's Lacrosse All Name Team and half the kids on that team come from where I live. So much for my kids not growing-up to be 80's James Spader characters).

*** "Utleast" - for when "least" just doesn't adequately express how little faith you have in something. As in, "I have the utleast faith in Robert DeNiro's desire to salvage what's left of his legacy after seeing the trailers for Grudge Match." I'm honestly starting to wonder if Raging Bull, The Godfather: Part 2Goodfellas and Midnight Run ever really happened.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The Sony Open Preview

OK so I may have underrated Jordan Spieth a bit in my preseason rankings but I think the announcers last weekend were getting a little carried away about his potential. At some point in the second round, one of them described Spieth as "fearless." "Fearless"? In an early round of a marginally meaningful event like the Tournament of Champions? Really? Look, if you want to call Phil Mickelson fearless for ripping a 4-iron off the pine straw at Augusta with the tournament hanging-in the balance, fine, but don't give me "fearless" on January 4th in Hawaii unless Spieth is paddling a surfboard out to save a kid being circled by dorsal fins or showing-off by hitting range balls with a tarantula on his head to prove how steady he can keep it.

Besides, "fearless" isn't even the right word to describe Spieth. He's "relentless." I swear as I was intermittently watching him play over the weekend that every time I saw him make a bogey, the next time I would check-in he would have followed it up by making two or three birdies. It was almost like he wanted to make that bogey pay for defacing his scorecard by giving it a swirlie in toilet full of birdies (that came out a little more graphically than I had intended). Anyway, Spieth has officially entered the holy realm of players I will save for a major or at least a WGC event* and, if I ever finish the third part of the preseason preview, you'll get to find out which one.

Let's get down to business and grade-out the Fantasy Golf Report's performance from last week and then make some picks for the Sony Open.

Last Week's FGR Grade: B

1. Gary Woodland - T13th
I'm really going to miss Hawaii.
2. Martin Laird - 20th
3. Jimmy Walker - T21st
4. Boo Weekley - 26th
5. Chris Kirk - T16th

The Sony Favorites

1. Adam Scott - 8 to 1
2. Zach Johnson - 10 to 1
3. Matt Kuchar - 14 to 1
4. Jordan Spieth - 16 to 1
5. Charles Howell, III - 20 to 1
5. Jason Dufner - 20 to 1

The FGR One and Done Picks

1. Chris Kirk
2. Harris English
3. Charles Howell, III
4. Tim Clark
5. Brian Stuard

I know that grade for last week's picks might seem a bit high but what would have been a better result at the TOC: (1) making $198,750 with Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar or Dustin Johnson; or (2) making $130,000 with Gary Woodland and having those other three still available? (The answer is No. 2). I'm in two leagues with a total of 116 teams and only 2 of those 116 picked Zach Johnson or Jordan Spieth so less than 2% got what I see as a reasonable return on a major caliber talent at a tournament that doesn't seem to favor a particular style of play much less any particular two or three players.** So I can live with Gary Woodland because the only two players who finished ahead of him who I am not saving for later were Kevin Streeman (who I never considered picking) and Ryan Moore (who I can't stand watching so I wasn't going to let him ruin the soothing viewing experience that is the first weekend at Kapalua).

In contrast to Kapalua, Waialae where this week's Sony Open will be played does seem to favor a certain group of somewhat random players including Charles Howell, III (four top 5's in the last five years) and Tim Clark (two 2nd place finishes in the last three years). Either one of those guys has a really good chance of getting you a top ten finish, however, they both have something else in common which is that they very rarely win PGA Tour events as the two of them have only combined for three victories over the last eleven years.

So instead I'm going with Harris English in one league and Chris Kirk in the other because they have both recently proven that they can win and they both shot a 62 at Waialae last year. With that being said, I can almost assure you that a player on no one's radar like Cameron Tringale or David Lingmerth will breakthrough for their first win because, as the recent list of winners (Russell Henley, Johnson Wagner, Mark Wilson, Ryan Palmer, etc.) shows us, we're basically betting on a race with about a hundred horses. Good luck with that.        

Email your queries, complaints and profound thoughts to the Fantasy Golf Report at


"I haven't given it a
second thought. I swear."
* Assuming the one league I'm in doesn't screw me again by surreptitiously removing the payout for the WGC events despite the fact that I saved Tiger for the whole 2013 season just so I could take down the WGC-Bridgestone and at least win my entry fee back - which I did. But that's ok . . . I'm over it. Some people just run more ethical leagues than others but really, I'm good . . . sonsabitches.  

** The exception would be Steve Stricker who dominates at Kapalua but did not play this year which made things a bit more interesting because half of fantasy golfing America would have picked him. Hey, Fantasy Golf America . . . that would have been a great name for this website . . . crap.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The FGR NFL Wild Card Picks

Only one out of the last eight Super Bowls has featured two teams that did not play in the wild card round (Super Bowl XLIV between the Saints and the Colts) so it is highly likely that at least one team playing this weekend will make it all the way to East Rutherford, New Jersey on February 2nd.* And I'll tell you another thing. Six of the last eight Super Bowl champions came out of the wild card round so we may be watching a team begin its march to destiny.** Let's make that our angle and evaluate the potential for each of these teams to make their way to Jersey as we work our way through the picks.

For the sake of discussion, we're going to operate under the premise that there is a 65% chance that one of the two bye week teams from the AFC will make it to the Super Bowl and a 40% chance that one of the two bye week teams from the NFC will make it. Why the imbalance? Two reasons: (1) I have little or no faith in the ability of the four AFC teams playing this weekend to win three consecutive games against quality opponents, especially when two of the five best quarterbacks of all-time are in their way and (2) the opposite is true in the NFC where the Packers, 49ers and Eagles all have most of the ingredients necessary to get there. Factor in the relative inexperience of Cam Newton and Russell Wilson and you have all kinds of upset potential on the NFC horizon. That leaves a total of 35% worth of Super Bowl hope to be divided among the AFC teams playing this weekend and 60% for the NFC teams. Let's see how it shakes-out.    

At Indianapolis by 2.5 over Kansas City: The Pick - Colts

The Colts just smushed the Chiefs two weeks ago at Arrowhead when the Chiefs still had a shot at winning the division. That means the Chiefs were 1-5 against playoff teams this year with their only win coming against the yet to find themselves Eagles back in September. Alex Smith was 29th in the league in yards per attempt and that dink and dunk crap usually doesn't cut-it in the playoffs when Jamal Charles isn't turning screen passes into 60 yard touchdowns against the likes of the Raiders. It's been a nice run for the Chiefs but they're still a year or two away.

"Sexy Cowgirl" may
be the FGR's new
favorite search.
Meanwhile, all the Colts did was prove that they're capable of beating anyone with wins over Seattle, San Francisco and Denver. Despite my intense dislike for Jim Irsay, I have to acknowledge that, with Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano, he has probably positioned the Colts to win at least one Super Bowl over the next ten years. That makes them a threat every time. Don't forget that they played the Ravens tough in round one last year so this is not their first rodeo. Get it . . . Colts . . . Rodeo . . . Man that's awful . . . Damn these golf/football crossover months, damn them all to hell . . . I'm so freakin' tired of writing and Googling things like "hot golf boobs." (Well, maybe not the Googling).

Colts' Super Bowl chances: 18%
Chiefs' Super Bowl chances: 6%

At Philadelphia by 2.5 over New Orleans: The Pick - Eagles

This looks like another easy one on paper as the Saints, who went 3-5 on the road and got creamed in their one foul weather game at Seattle, have to travel to Philly where the Saturday night forecast calls for temps to drop into the 20's. This is where you would normally turn to your running game. Unfortunately for the Saints, they were the league's 7th worst team in yards per carry (3.8) and only had 10 rushing touchdowns.*** (Note to Sean Payton: If you're going to field a track team, you really need to win the division and get at least one home playoff game).

Who led the league in yards per carry at 5.1? Hey look at that, it's the Philadelphia Eagles. They were also 4th in the league in total carries so it's not as if they'll have to adjust their approach for the playoffs. The Eagles have also won seven of their last eight and they have a quarterback who does not turn the ball over . . . ever. Nick Foles had 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. I mean Eli Manning just threw two picks in the time it took me to write that sentence (HEYOOOOO). I also think the Eagles have a legitimate shot at a Super Bowl path that would take them down to Carolina for the next round and then back home against the 49ers or Packers for the conference championship game. That just doesn't seem that daunting.

Eagles' Super Bowl chances: 16.9%
Saints' Super Bowl chances: 0.1% (Not happening with three road games)    

At Cincinnati by 6.5 over San Diego: The Pick - Chargers

A road team will win this weekend and everyone thinks it's going to be San Francisco so I'm taking A Whale's Vagina . . . er, San Diego. I can't really make a strong case for why other than the fact that Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton are choking dogs but we'll get to the Bengals in a minute. The Chargers only lost by more than 8 points once this season (albeit that was against the Raiders) so even if you don't like them to win, you have to like the 6.5. I like them because they're playing on the road with a rookie coach and absolutely no expectations against a team of players that has been answering questions all week about why they can't win a playoff game. Sounds like a perfect environment for a cocky prick like Phillip Rivers to thrive.

"Look at that asshole on the
jumbotron. Oh wait, that's me."
I'm just not ready to accept the Bengals as a threat despite the fact that they won five of their last six games including a relatively impressive one against the Colts in Week 14. I just can't get over the fact that, in maybe their biggest game of the year against the Steelers in Week 15, they produced a total clunker. And I put no stock in last week's win over the Ravens because that was not a good football team they beat and Andy Dalton was still doing Andy Dalton things by throwing two picks in the first quarter. Oh yeah, let's not forget that these are the Bengals we're talking about. That alone costs them two to three points in every game.

Bengals' Super Bowl chances: 9%
Chargers' Super Bowl chances: 2%

San Francisco by 3 at Green Bay: The Pick - Packers

You could certainly make the case that the 49ers, who are on a six game winning streak, could be the best team in the league right now. Those six wins included two against high quality opponents (Seattle and Arizona) and the streak would actually be thirteen in a row if not for a one point loss against Carolina and a three point loss at New Orleans. If they survive this round, they would be my pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. I just think this is a coin-flip game so I'm taking the points.

Forget the Packers' 8-7-1 record because it's so skewed by Aaron Rodgers' injury. With Rodgers under center they were 6-2 and without him they were 2-5-1. They finished 4th in the league in yards per carry with 4.7 after finishing 22nd in that category in 2012 and 26th in 2011. Maybe Rodgers' injury forced them to learn how to run the ball or maybe it was as simple as the addition of Eddie Lacy but the bottom line is that they learned how to run the ball and they racked-up 160 yards in the division clinching game against the Bears. Now they just need to find enough defense to stop someone but we'll conveniently gloss over that glaring deficiency for now because it screws-up my Packers dark horse theory.

49ers' Super Bowl chances: 22%
Packers' Super Bowl chances: 21%

Last Week's Record: 9-6-1 . . . Final Regular Season Record: 136-114-4

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at


* Can you imagine any other circumstances where going to East Rutherford, New Jersey on February 2nd would be a good thing?

Screw Jersey. Let's stick
with the cowgirl theme.
Person A: "What are you up to this weekend?"

Person B: "I'm heading-up to New Jersey."

Person A: "Oh . . . I'm very sorry to hear that."

Person B: "Thank you. Your sympathy is appreciated."

See what I mean.

** Then again, all of this could mean that we're just due for a pair of #1 seeds to actually do what they're supposed to do and defend their home turf a couple of times against lesser teams. And yes, I'm looking at you Peyton Manning.

*** You know who was last in yards per carry at 3.1? Your defending champion Baltimore Ravens. I get "uneasy lies the crown" and all that but 3.1 yards per carry from Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce? Yowza.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Fantasy Golf: The Hyundai Preview

Scroll down for parts one and two of the Fantasy Golf Report's full season preview. Part 3 featuring the winners of the majors, WGC events and the Players is in the works but for now lets bang-out some picks for this weekend's Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The winners list of the TOC has been a bit of a mixed bag over the last few years ranging from "high" quality (Dustin Johnson and Steve Stricker) to "mid-level" quality (Geoff Ogilvy and Jonathan Byrd) to "what freakin' tournament did that guy win to get into this thing?" quality (Daniel Chopra).

Based on that somewhat random shot dispersion, I tend to avoid using a high quality pick on this event - opting for more of a solid mid-level player who either finished the previous year playing well or has a history of success at Kapalua. Based on that criteria, I'm liking Gary Woodland who finished 2nd at the CIMB Classic in October and played well enough down the stretch to make the Tour Championship and Martin Laird who has 2nd and 4th place finishes in this event. The overall tournament favorites and my one and done picks are below.* This year we will be providing the added feature of odds courtesy of because at the Fantasy Golf Report, we never stop working for you (until we get really busy with other things or we forget to follow-through on what we promised but for now, you the readers are our number one priority).

Aloha from the FGR and welcome to 2014.
May your opponents' picks miss many cuts.
The Favorites

1. Adam Scott - 11 to 2
2. Dustin Johnson - 7 to 1
3. Matt Kuchar - 8 to 1
4. Webb Simpson - 9 to 1
5. Zach Johnson - 14 to 1    

The FGR One and Done Picks

1. Gary Woodland - 25 to 1
2. Martin Laird - 28 to 1
3. Jimmy Walker - 22 to 1
4. Boo Weekley - 50 to 1
5. Chris Kirk - 25 to 1


* I also post my picks for the fantasy games run by and the Golf Channel over in the right-hand column. I used to do Yahoo but that format is a joke and if the people at Yahoo aren't going to care enough to set-up their game for the first week with the players who are actually entered in the event, then screw 'em.

Oh and feel free to email your questions, comments and especially your criticisms to me at  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The 2014 Fantasy Golf Preview Part 2: The Top 30

In last season's preview, we went with a multipart format that included predicting what the top 30 would look like at season's end and picking the winners of the majors, WGC events and the Players Championship. Well, if it ain't broke don't fix it* so here comes the top 30 installment. (Note to self: Next time just do the top 10). These predictions are based on the two factors that dictate success in the FGR's pick 6 format: (1) total money earned from the Hyundai Tournament of Champions through the Tour Championship and (2) the potential to win majors, WGC events and the Players.** The lack of big game potential results in some otherwise solid players being downgraded and will be noted accordingly.

(Note that this entire post was written through the fog of a sinus headache that made it feel like someone was gently tapping the bridge of my nose with the leading edge of a 9-iron for 36 straight hours so forgive me if it seems like the analysis of some of the players ends rather abruptly with no real conclusion . . . because it does).


1. Tiger Woods: As noted in Part 1 of the preview series, Tiger won 35% more money than Henrik Stenson last year and he did that without winning a major. I think we'll all be surprised if Tiger doesn't break that streak in 2014 because if he gets all the way to the PGA Championship without one, witnesses are going to start placing Tim Finchem near the scenes of mysterious accidents involving the world's best other golfers.

Please stay off the surfboard this
weekend Kuch. It's not worth it.
2. Matt Kuchar: Kuch has been gradually moving to the top of the "Best Player Never to Win a Major" list for the last two years and, even if he doesn't remove himself from that list this year, you can bank on him for at least two wins (with one of them being significant) and $5M+. Drafting Kuch is like drafting Aaron Rodgers with no fear of injury. (I can't believe I just wrote that considering I drafted him).

3. Adam Scott: In addition to his win at Augusta, Scott finished tied for 3rd at the British and tied for 5th at the PGA. He also won the Barclays and made 16 out of 16 cuts but therein lies the problem in a season-long league. His talent edge over a guy like Kuchar just isn't enough to make-up for the 7-8 fewer tournaments he will play . . .  but it's close.

4. Henrik Stenson: Stenson's run from the British Open through the Tour Championship was no fluke. The big Swede might be the best ball striker on the planet right now and if he adds a couple of stateside tournaments to his schedule, I don't see how he finishes outside the top five.

5. Hunter Mahan: Mahan started 2013 on a roll culminating with his second place finish at the Accenture Match Play and then things got a bit choppy with a slew of missed cuts and four digit checks. However, he contended at the U.S. Open and British Open and had a solid run during the FedEx Cup playoffs which indicates that he may have overcome the greatest adversity most golfers face in this era - First Baby Syndrome or FBS.

6. Phil Mickelson: Ah the annual question. Where to put Phil? Just when you think he might be ready to recede into a life of twelve tournament schedules and six figure corporate outings, he up and has one of the best season of his career coming within a lip out of shooting 59, almost winning the U.S. Open and then miraculously recovering from the collapse to take the British by shooting one of the best final rounds in history. Can he finally conquer his U.S. Open demons at Pinehurst this summer? I don't know but I can assure you he'll be one of my picks that week. (I'm you'll sleep better knowing that).

7. Dustin Johnson: I really wanted to put D.J. higher but he just can't be trusted. Who knew the final round at 2010 U.S. Open would just foreshadow the bonehead move at Whistling Straits which would in turn foreshadow his career since? Yes he had a solid season last year but he also had four missed cuts and two withdraws. I think this is the year he starts getting it back on track and wins at least twice and don't be surprised if one of them is the PGA Championship at Valhalla.

8. Justin Rose: The 2013 U.S. Open winner is going to be a threat at every major for at least the next few years (which makes it even more inexcusable that I completely left him out of the original version of these rankings).

9. Webb Simpson: Simpson's 20th place finish on last year's money list included a few near misses that would have made a significant difference including his playoff loss at the RBC Heritage. I'm a big fan of players who are one year removed from their first major win so I'm banking on those 2013 near misses to be wins in 2014.

10. Rory McIlroy: This may be too low. Then again, it may be too high but where do you put arguably the most talented player on the planet coming-off a season when he narrowly clipped Brendon de Jonge for 41st place on the money list? Rory is therefore an enigma until proven otherwise but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt this year and slot him in the back half of the top ten.

Of course Dufner's whole season
could go down the tubes if he and
Amanda contract a case of FBS.
11. Jason Dufner: Which Jason Dufner are we going to get? The one who sleepwalked through the first half of the 2013 season or the one who threw darts down the stretch at Oak Hill to closeout the PGA Championship with Jim Furyk breathing down his neck and also won twice in 2012. I'm banking on him being more of the second guy.

12. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has two things working against his continued place in the top five: (1) he's injury prone and (2) the upper echelon of golf has gotten really crowded. He's still going to make a ton of dough but personally I wouldn't pick him for a season long format based on his inevitable Masters meltdown and the fact that he rarely contends at any other majors.

13. Bill Haas: I look at Haas as kind of the poor man's Matt Kuchar. Super nice guy, easy to root for and is pretty much a lock for a win and somewhere between $3M and $4M in earnings. His big drawback is that he simply does not contend in the majors (his best finish over the last two years is a tie for 19th) and who wants their number one pick missing cuts and never making the Sunday broadcast at the four biggest tournaments of the year? Not this guy.

14. Zach Johnson: Z.J. used to be one of those one year on/one year off types (also known as a "Billy Mayfair") but over the past few seasons he has become extremely reliable. He's also a good guy to have all year because he rarely hits shots down the stretch like D.J. and Mickelson that make you wonder if they genuinely have something personal against you (i.e. Mickelson's 13th hole pitching wedge at Merion).

15. Jason Day: Day recovered from a serious case of FBS to get his career back on track last season. He's also the anti Bill Haas as he finished 3rd at Augusta, tied for 2nd at the U.S. Open and tied for 8th at the PGA Championship

16. Keegan Bradley: Keegan was supposed to be the FGR's breakout player for 2013 but he didn't quite measure-up so we'll plant him in the 13th spot this year and look for at least one win and a couple of top five finishes in WGC events.

17. Steve Stricker: The inclination is to keep dropping Stricker lower because of his limited schedule but even when you're multiplying a relatively limited number of events times about $300,000 per start, it still comes-out to a sizable number. Stricker is also a not ready for primetime player when it comes to the majors and that knocks him back a few spots.

18. Graham DeLaet: I could actually see DeLaet contending for a top five spot on this list by the end of the year after he rolled his momentum from the FedEx Cup playoffs into this season with a tie for 7th at the CIMB Classic and a tie for 6th at the WGC-HSBC Championship, both of which had loaded fields. It's hard not to like a guy who averages almost 300 yards off the tee and is also 34th in fairways hit (and yes, that made him first in total driving in 2013).

19. Jordan Spieth: I don't trust sophomores. For whatever reason (chicks and money), too many players who burst onto the scene as rookies slump the following year. I think Spieth is too talented and motivated for a precipitous drop but he's going to find the sledding a little tougher in 2014.

Charl can take his ridiculous
trophy hat and play on someone
else's team this year. We're through.
20. Charl Schwartzel: You know the field is deep when Charl is at no. 19 and he doesn't seem out of place. Charl duped a lot of people (and by "a lot of people" I mean "me") into thinking he was going to breakthrough last season by dominating the overseas tournaments at the end of 2012. Then he bumbled through 2013 low lighted by his final round 78 at the U.S. Open when he opened with birdie-par to position himself for the win before playing the next eight holes in eight over to re-position himself for 14th place.

21. Harris English: English officially begins that portion of the rankings where I start running out of things to say. He's either ready to make the leap, take a step back or have another solid if not spectacular season with a respectable win so 20th feels about right (how's that for analysis?).

22. Jonas Blixt: Blixt is your classic all or nothing player. Last year he won The Greenbrier Classic, came in 4th at the PGA Championship and basically stunk the rest of the year with nine missed cuts and eleven other finishes outside the top 25. Could it be that I'm only ranking him this high because he found his way onto my fantasy team? Could be.

23. Graeme McDowell: G-Mac is one of those players you pick for big games but last year he missed the cut at the Masters and the U.S Open on a course that everyone thought was a perfect fit for his game (and by "everyone," I of course mean "me" . . . let me know if that joke starts getting tired. Now? Ok). He also finished tied for 58th at the British Open which he's supposed to win at some point. I'm also not a really big G-Mac fan (just so you have full disclosure on all of the factors at work in these picks). 

24. Rickie Fowler: This feels like a bit of a turning-point season for Rickie. Last year was his fourth full season on tour, he still only has one win and he's never really contended in a major unless you count his tie for 5th at the 2011 British Open where he started the final round three shots behind Darren Clarke and then lost by five (doesn't really feel like "contending" does it?).

25. Scott Piercy: Piercy looked like he was coming into his own in 2012 and then took a step-back last year when he missed eight cuts and only had one top three finish. This is purely a gut feeling pick as Piercy strikes me as the type who is going to will himself into a strong comeback season.

26. Lee Westwood: Westwood has officially entered the Darren Clarke zone where if he does win a major, it will be a pleasant surprise. That may remove enough of the pressure to allow him to actually do it though we look forward to his next Twitter battle with the fans if he comes-up short again.

27. Chris Kirk: Kirk had some problems closing the deal last season but it would appear that he's overcome those with his final round 66 to win the McGladrey Classic in November. He's now made 10 of his last 11 cuts dating back to last year. And that's all I have on Chris Kirk so let's move on.

28. Ryan Moore: It pains me to put him here as I would never pick him in the top four rounds of a draft after watching him play the 2011 season as a member of my team with the passion and enthusiasm of a forlorn tree sloth. He is, however, due for a solid season commensurate with his talent level and he's off to a good start with his win at the CIMB Classic in October.

"Just give me one second and I'll think
of something inappropriate to say."
29. Chris Stroud: I originally had Sergio Garcia in this spot but then I would have had to write something relatively kind about him and I'm just not in that giving of a mood right now. Stroud showed some promise last year with four top tens and he's already tied for 3rd twice this season so he gets Sergio's spot.

30. Jimmy Walker: Not much magic to putting Walker in the top 30. He plays a bunch of tournaments and is pretty consistent. Nuff said.

Bust Potential: Billy Horschel, Hideki Matsuyama, Bubba Watson

  • Horschel only had one top 15 finish after he let the U.S. Open slip away and he missed three of his last eight cuts. It just feels like he's primed to take a step back. 
  • This may not be politically correct to say but the fact is that PGA Tour history is full of Asian players who appeared ready to be top 20 players and then simply fell-off the radar. You have to wonder if the attraction of winning multiple tournaments and being a superstar closer to home is too much of a distraction. 
  • As for Bubba, he's never finished better than 103rd in total putting and he's usually closer to 150th. Obviously he makes up for it with his incredible ball striking but (and not to beat a really dead horse) with seemingly more players showing the ability to win every week, those hideous three and four footers he seems to miss all of the time are going to catch up with him.

Sleeper Potential: Patrick Cantlay, Spencer Levin, Kyle Stanley

    I must admit I do miss my
    fellow tortured soul Spencer.
  • Cantlay's success all depends on his health and when the issue is back problems, that is always a dicey proposition, however, he's got a lot of game. 
  • Levin missed 2013 with a thumb injury but since he's been back for 2014, he's made four out of four cuts including a tie for 12th at the Open. In 2011 he made $2.3M and had six top tens so he has the game to be a top 30 player.  
  • As for Stanley, he's kind of a longshot after missing 21 of his last 47 cuts but it's hard to forget how dominant he looked at the start of 2012. He still has to have that game in him somewhere.

* This is one of those expressions that people have been getting by with for years because isn't it really just a lazy guy saying, "eh, leave it alone . . . it's good enough the way it is" which is pretty much what I'm saying here by running back the same season preview format.

** For the details on the FGR fantasy golf format, check-out The 2013 Fantasy Golf Preview: Part 1.

*** Here is the postmortem on the FGR's 2013 picks with each player's final regular season FedEx Cup points position in parenthesis. Never has the term "postmortem" been more appropriate considering who we had at No. 1 but I'm pretty sure we weren't alone. But hey, we were almost spot-on with Justin Rose and Adam Scott (who we picked to win the Masters I might add . . . again) and we absolutely stuck the landing with Hunter Mahan, Graeme McDowell and Jonas Blixt . . . so there:

1. Rory McIlroy (49th)
2. Tiger Woods (1st)
Been checking out The Hour starring
Romola Garai. They're both worth a look.
3. Jason Dufner (15th)
4. Keegan Bradley (10th)
5. Justin Rose (7th)
6. Bubba Watson (38th)
7. Matt Kuchar (2nd)                
8. Dustin Johnson (16th)
9. Lee Westwood (35th)
10. Phil Mickelson (4th)
11. Luke Donald (55th)
12. Adam Scott (11th)
13. Brandt Snedeker (3rd)
14. Webb Simpson (17th)
15. Louis Oostuizen (154th)
16. Bo Van Pelt (90th)
17. Enie Els (82nd)
18. Nick Watney (63rd)
19. Jason Day (14th)
20. Scott Piercy (50th)
21. Hunter Mahan (21st)
22. Rickie Fowler (42nd)
23. Zach Johnson (18th)
24. Jim Furyk (23rd)
25. Bud Cauley (131st)
26. Carl Pettersson (113th)
27. Ian Poulter (70th)
28. Graeme McDowell (28th)
29. Jonas Blixt (29th)
30. Seung Yul-Noh (160th)