Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Fantasy Golf: The Memorial Preview

We lost our dog this past weekend in a very sudden and tragic way and, while I know that there are far worse things that people endure everyday, that doesn't mean shit to me right now as I sit here wondering when I'll be able to take five straight full breaths again. I was going to try to write something about getting back to the things that make you happy (like writing this piece of crap) and the healing power of humor but I tried to watch an episode of Veep last night and barely cracked a smile when former President Meyer called Jonah a giant whale dick so what I attempt to pass for jokes on the FGR will have to wait until next week. I guess dogs are a bit like golf in that they will break your fucking heart. 

I did do some research to take my mind off of things and came to the conclusion that this is the week to finally uncork Dustin Johnson while he's playing well and heading to a course where he finished 3rd last year (and should've won). I also want to use him before we have another socks on steps incident. Note that this pick is born partly out of my current state of desperation and the fact that I've already used Matt Kuchar.

The One and Done Pick: Dustin Johnson

Sorry but I can't even muster a
good Google search this week.
The DraftKings Top Ten Value Picks

Dustin Johnson
Adam Scott
Matt Kuchar
Emiliano Grillo
Tony Finau
Justin Thomas
Gary Woodland
Lucas Glover
Marc Leishman
Steve Stricker

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Fantasy Golf: The Dean & Deluca Preview

"I'll do you one better Chuck.
Stripper poles right in the office.
We could call it 'H&R Cock.'"
The main point of these previews (to the extent they have any point) is to tell you who is going to win the golf tournament while providing a scenic setting for an otherwise dry topic. It's kind of like meeting your accountant at a strip club to review your tax returns. So, with this goal in mind, you can understand my frustration when Si Woo Kim and Billy Horschel, who had combined for six missed cuts and a W/D in their eight previous events, showed-up like two tits on a bull and won the last two events (inapplicable analogy but it fits the Texas theme so fuck it). How in the hell was I supposed to predict those guys? 

Seems to me we've got two options going forward. (And yes, it's now "we" because we're all in this together). We could (a) take wild stabs at guys like Kyle Reifers, Robert Streb or Blayne Barber or (b) we could hope for a return to order, structure and predictability. I'm going with (b) because I need it to offset the world of disorder, disorganization and unpredictability I tend to build around myself. (It's been a friction-filled week, even by FGR standards).

So if you had to pick one player who defines order, structure and predictability more than any others, that's got to be Zach Johnson right? And not just any week of Zach Johnson but Zach Johnson at Colonial where he's won twice and never missed the cut. Just thinking about that sawed-off super controlled finish and rock solid putting stroke is slowing my heart rate even as thoughts of Jon Rahm outdriving him by 75 yards keep crashing the mellow karma party and shitting on my Chi.  

Other options this week would be the also steady Jason Dufner, the recently reincarnated Bud Cauley and the recently popular Sergio Garcia (I honestly don't even know who the golf world is anymore). And I know you've got to consider Jordan Spieth because he's the defending champ and he should've won in 2015 but something is amiss with our fair but thinning haired boy and, until he gets it worked-out, we're going to wait and see. Besides, I blew a chunk of cap space on him as my lead dog in a full season league and I want to see if shunning him for the week helps get his head on straight. Tough love Jordan.* Remember, you asked for this with back to back missed cuts.

See you next year cowgirls. You'll
be missed more than a June bug
on a hog's ass . . . or something.
The One and Done Pick: Zach Johnson

The DraftKings Top Ten Value Picks

Sergio Garcia
Zach Johnson
Bud Cauley
Jason Dufner
Adam Hadwin
Emiliano Grillo
Pat Perez
Kyle Stanley
Charley Hoffman
Kevin Tway


* Speaking of tough love. You know you're in the homestretch of the school year when your wife puts your 16 year old son in a timeout. I'm sure we'll all laugh about it later. If we make it to later.

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Preakshow: A Day at the Races Baltimore Style

This Saturday afternoon Baltimore (a/k/a Charm City a/k/a The City that Reads a/k/a The Biggest Small Town in America a/k/a future home of The Riot Gear Museum and The Syphilis Shot Memorial) will host the second jewel of horse racing's triple crown. I have now lived in and around Baltimore for more than half my life which may explain the often bitter and jaded tone of a website ostensibly devoted to the light and airy topic of fantasy golf. It wasn't until a few years ago, however, that I braved the infield at Pimlico Race Course for this event that has become a time honored tradition among the strange bedfellows of the local Vineyard Vine/Pinot Grigio crowd and those who think weekends that fail to include tattoos, misdemeanors and vomit are wasted opportunities.     

A major part of the inspiration for finally deciding to go was that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were performing and they had just released Thrift Shop which my kids loved so yeah, I decided to make it a family affair and include my 12 and 9 year old sons (FGK 1 and FGK2) and my 5 year old daughter (FGK3). Valuable life experience I told myself then. Seemed like a good idea at the time I tell myself now. I at least had the good sense to hedge a bit on the full infield experience by buying tickets in a quasi VIP section that had its own bar and bathrooms so we could retreat when things inevitably started getting hairy. 

This all happened way back in 2013 and everything you are about to read I wrote in the immediate aftermath but, for some reason, I never published it. I'm going to spend the next hour or five minutes polishing it up and then I'm going to let it fly even if it sucks because the events of the day as I recall them are story worthy. Just know that some of the references may be dated and some of it may duplicate what I've just written here but our editor was too lazy to rewrite any of it. This is why you should never hire immediate family. 
DATELINE: MAY 18, 2013

For better or worse, Baltimore's current claims to fame are the following: (1) The two-time Super Bowl Champion Ravens; (2) The Wire, (3) The little engine that could without a bloated payroll that is the Baltimore Orioles and (4) The Preakness  - our answer to the Catalina Wine Mixer. (If you don't get that reference, shame on you and you need to watch this scene to get up to speed - POW! and this one). I've always been a fan of Nos. 1 and 2. No. 3 is growing on me despite the fact that I can no longer name twenty major league players and I finally just got my first taste of No. 4.

"You stay classy
Charm City."
Let's start with a little history. They've been running the Preakness for 138 years at a track on the northern outskirts of Baltimore City called Pimlico which was built in 1870. The word "Pimlico" comes from the Greek and means "the flatulent lama." (According to Wikipedia, it's actually named after a 17th century bar in England which explains so much). No one's really sure what goes on there for the other 51 weeks of the year. They just know you don't want to be on the south side or the west side of it after dark. The north side and the east side are ok but you should keep one foot on the gas and one on the brake at red lights just to be safe.

Despite the fact that I have now lived in Baltimore or its environs for almost half my life (still anxiously waiting for the accent to kick-in), I had never attended Preakness. The thought of dragging a 60 lb. cooler full of beer and ice into the middle of an open field at 8:00 a.m. and drinking myself into oblivion by noon never really appealed to me. Besides, that's what golf is for. This year, however, we had the aforementioned Macklemore concert which was just enough of a hook to get me to explore VIP tickets and once those were procured, BOOM, freak show here we come hon.   

After completely blowing-off any logistical planning, we found ourselves driving around the massive facility looking for parking and gaining a better and better appreciation for the expression, "wrong side of the tracks." We finally found what looked like a solid spot at a service station across the street. After carefully backing my car into a spot and paying the overly helpful (baked to the gills) "attendant," I made it very clear that, "we will be leaving early so DON'T BLOCK ME IN!" My man looked right at me with the two glazed donuts he was using for eyes and said, "I got you man . . . I won't block you in." (You can now jump ahead to the part where I go back to get my car which is blocked-in or you can let the excitement build as you read the next few paragraphs).

As we traipsed around to the infield entrance which was on the opposite side of the track, we suffered through a dozen "are we almost there yets" from FGK2, five blown tires by the FGW while wearing her apparently untested shoes that she "thought would be comfortable" and one major face-plant by FGK3 who can't go two minutes without ripping-off a fifteen yard burst before getting leveled by the invisible strong safety. This forced me to bum three napkins to staunch the bleeding from some guy selling crap in front of a barbershop (pretty surprised I didn't have to pay for the napkins) and also spawned the quote of the day from a Baltimore City police officer who directed us to the first aid station and yelled after us, "stay strong baby girl!" (I resisted the urge to yell back "you're my boy Blue!").

By the time we battled our way into the infield and endured the first chorus of Seven Nation Army in the tunnel, we only had about ten minutes until Macklemore was scheduled to perform so we had to skip lunch and head towards the stage which, at that moment was on the other side of the infield closer to our car than it was to us. I think our walking trail would have made a perfect "P" by the time we were done when the letter you're going for when shepherding kids is an "I" or at worst, an "L". (At least it wasn't the dreaded "B"). We hadn't eaten in four hours and I fully expected to look down and see a miniature Aretha Franklin where FGK2 was supposed to be.

Macklemore was of course 20 minutes late hitting the stage because you know it takes a while to set-up for a show that involves (a) picking-up a microphone (b) walking onto a stage and (c) barking-out your one hit song between a series of simplistic expletive laced monologues. ("GET OFF OF MY LAWN!!!") Fortunately, he had the decency to put Thrift Shop third in the batting order after which I used FGK2 and FGK3 as an excuse to head back to the seats and get a Bud Light and a freakin' hamburger.

"It was the guy in the Flacco
jersey. We saw him do it."
At this point, I will say two things about the early afternoon Preakness crowd: (1) It was the most people on the verge of (or past) the point of blacking-out that I have ever seen in one place . . . and that's saying something, and (2) as I was winding my way through the concert mob with FGK3 in front of me and FGK2 behind me, the crowd parted like the Red Sea and people were literally moving bodies out of our way to the point that I was afraid someone might accidentally bump my daughter and turn it into Van Cortlandt Park after Cyrus got shot situation. Bravo Pimlico. 

The rest of our time in the infield passed without incident unless you count us betting on eight horses in three races and not hitting one winner (this included incorrectly picking three horses in a five horse race). At some point between the 8th and 9th race (the Preakness is the 12th race), I realized that I was freezing as what was supposed to be a partly cloudy 70 degree afternoon had become the kind of day that inspired people in Seattle to start paying five bucks for coffee and listening to Pearl Jam. And that was BEFORE it started to rain. They don't allow umbrellas in the infield because then they'd have to set-up a section dedicated to umbrella jousting next to a section dedicated to treating puncture wounds which would drag the event back into the dark ages of Port-o-John races. (I'm not making that up. Here's a clip if you've never seen one - Port-o-John Races). They banned this activity about three years ago when U.S. Foodservice apparently threatened to pull their sponsorship dollars. So that's what it took for the race organizers to crack-down on people running-on and falling-off of portable toilets. (And we complain about the way our city is portrayed on television).

After a quick look at the foreboding skies, we decided to bail. About halfway back to the car, I left the rest of the Fantasy Golf Family on a corner heavily populated by law enforcement personnel (and drunks) so I could double-time it to the car. The plan was going well until I rounded the corner to the thoroughly unsurprising site of my car being more landlocked than Nebraska. For this part of the story, in honor of Jimmy Serrano, we'll call the two guys who were "running" the parking lot "Moron No. 1" and "Moron No. 2" (which makes me "Moron No. 3" for getting myself into this predicament but for the sake of keeping the players straight, I will just be myself though I am of course writing this under a fake name but whatever). Recognizing that I was not visible from the main road and any potential medical personnel and/or witnesses, I decided to play it cool:

FGR: "Hey man, I need to go ahead and get my car out."

"Is this number one?  Put moron
number 2 on the phone."
No. 1: "Alright no problem man no problem . . . which one is it." (On this day I learned that the more times someone tells you "no problem," the bigger the problem).

FGR: "The one in the middle."

No. 1: "Alright no problem no problem." 

He walked inside presumably to get keys to one of the cars so maybe there really was no problem . . . until he walked out with Moron No. 2.

No. 2: "Which car is yours?"

FGR: "That one. The one that's blocked-in even though I told you I was leaving early and not to block it in." (Still calm . . . but slipping).

No. 2: "Alright man that's no problem ummmmmmm . . ." 

At this point he put his hand on his chin and appeared to be either trying to telepathically (a) start one of the other cars or (b) levitate my car.

No. 1: "No problem. Just give us one second man. No problem." 

No. 1 then went back inside. (It wouldn't be until later that I realized that there must have been something burning in an ashtray that they didn't want to waste. In hindsight, I should have gone in with them).

FGR: "Do you or do you not have the keys to any of these other cars?"

No. 2: "Oh no man, they don't leave us the keys." (No shit).

FGR: (With coolness rapidly waning) "So none of these cars are yours but you parked them all around my car when I told you I was leaving early?!?"

No. 1: "Hey man, you never told me you were leaving early."

FGR: "Yes I did! I stood right here and said 'don't block me in because I'm leaving early!'"

"Are you even sure
that's your car man?"
At this point, the volume of both our voices was going up and a few other interested parties were meandering over to check-out the scene. This would probably be a fun part of the story in which to note that I was wearing a very summery blue and white checkered shirt with a red-white and blue striped canvas belt. Oh yeah, I was also wearing a white hat with a pale blue country club logo on the front and my name embroidered on the back. At least they would've been able to identify my body without my wallet. 

No. 1: "Naw man . . . you never said that."

FGR: "You've got to be kidding me." At this point I turned to walk away . . . more to regroup than anything else and then I heard the following words in a tone I know all too well:

No. 1: "Now you're turnin' your back on me?!?!" 

Uh oh. This discussion was officially over because, if I've learned anything about self-preservation over the years, it's to recognize that moment when things are right on the edge of violence . . . and this was one of those moments.

FGR: "Forget it. I'll come back and pick it up later."

And then we shared a truly classic moment of reconciliation right there on Pimlico Road.

No. 2: (Suddenly playing the role of mediator and pointing at me) "Yeah man, he's cool. He's just tryin' to get his car out to pick-up his family."

No. 1: "I know man. I'm sorry." 

And in lieu of a hug-out, we shook hands and I turned to head on my way when a new female character joined the story with a voice from offstage . . . we'll call her Nicole because that was her name.

Nicole: "Where do you live? I'll drive you home."

After a quick assessment of my situation, the general scarcity of cabs in the city of Baltimore and my impression that Nicole was not going to steal one of my kidneys, we climbed into her shiny red Volvo, went and picked-up my family and she drove us home. To this day I think about Nicole everytime I start to lose faith in humanity (pretty much all I do these days is think about Nicole).  

Of course my wife and I then had to drive back to the south side of Pimlico at 9:00 p.m. after the crowd and the traffic had dispersed. Lo and behold we didn't witness any shootings, drug deals or cat juggling so maybe my impression of the area had been a little skewed by my background and The Wire (and the nightly news). We did, however, see a broken down limousine which had clearly been on fire a few minutes earlier proving that limousines and cruise ships have fallen just below riding a skittish elephant on the list of safest forms of travel.

All in all it was a good day and I can assure you that my first trip to Preakness will not be my last. (I haven't been back since and I'm not going this year). We gambled on horses, we lived among drunk people, we cheated death and we made new friends. It was like hitting the Baltimore Superfecta.    

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Fantasy Golf: The Byron Nelson Preview

Thin preview this week as we recover from the cheap wine hangover brought on by a Players Championship which shattered the record for differential between hype and entertainment or, as Dan Hicks will ultimately refer to it, "A TOURNAMENT FOR THE AGES!!!" I don't want to brag that I saw this coming but on Saturday I wrote, "let's just pray that this doesn't devolve into a late Sunday duel between Kyle Stanley, Patrick Cantlay and Si Woo Kim." So I kind of called it . . . if you leave out the part about it being a "duel." 

Late in the broadcast when it became clear that no player of current consequence was going to contend and shortly after defending champion Jason Day rinsed three balls on 16 and 17, Hicks made an asinine comment about how challenging the course was as evidenced by the fact that no players ranked in the top ten were going to finish top ten on Sunday and two of them (Day and Justin Rose) just shot 80. Hate to break it to you Dan but when your winner was ranked 75th in the world and the average ranking of your top five was 103rd, it doesn't mean the course was tough. It means the course sucks.

The whole Players shit show can basically be summed-up with one shot and that was Rafa Cabrera Bello's second on Sunday at the par five 16th. He hit what he probably thought was an okay 8-iron a little short and left that kicked-off a mound to the right and went into the hole for a double eagle. An "A+" result for a "B-" shot. For every one of those there was also an "A+" shot that yielded a "B-" result and a lot of "B-" shots that produced "F" results. That's TPC Sawgrass in a nutshell. They should change the name to "TPC Blind Squirrel" or  "Lucky Bounce National" (I also like "Dump National" but Brandt Snedeker's caddie already bestowed that on the dog track at Doral in honor of its figurehead). 

Let's move on because this week we head back to Texas and we all know that that means . . .  smokin' hot cowgirls! You gotta like Brooks Koepka considering he's playing fairly well and he had this tournament in the bag last year before going full head case and handing it to Sergio Garcia. Dustin Johnson is the favorite at a ridiculous 4/1 to win so, if you haven't pulled the trigger on him yet, this could be the spot though the field includes Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and a handful of others who could get in his way and slow him down. I think that's where we are with D.J. right now. Full freight train waiting for someone like Jon Rahm or Rory McIlroy to find the emergency brake. Either them or a cheesy Pete Dye golf course (I know . . . I need to let it go).

Forgive me if this is an FGR
repeat. I figured you'd understand.
The One and Done Pick: Brooks Koepka

The DraftKings Top Ten Values

Dustin Johnson
Brooks Koepka
Jason Dufner
Matt Kuchar
Charley Hoffman
Byeong-Hun An
Bud Cauley
Kevin Tway
Smylie Kaufman
Keegan Bradley

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com        

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Course Review: TPC Sawgrass (Sh*t Sandwich)

Regular readers of the Fantasy Golf Report know that I do not hold TPC Sawgrass in the highest regard. Until 2013, this opinion was based primarily on the theory that, if Tiger Woods has played twenty plus professional golf tournaments on your course and only won one of them, then your course sucks. This theory was further supported by the fact that during one nine year stretch, the course yielded the following journeymen winners: Craig Perks, Stephen Ames, Tim Clark and a nearly fifty year old Fred Funk.* Then, in 2013, Tiger cut a leg out from under my case by winning a second Players so I needed a new justification for my scorn.

Cut to a few weeks ago when I found myself on spring break in northeast Florida about twenty minutes from the course. That alone wouldn't have been enough to get me out there (because I left my days of walking onto golf courses as a single in my past next to my tolerance for strangers) but I also happened to be there at the same time as another member of my regular golfing posse so this presented an opportunity for me to actually play the course and judge it on its merits (there's a novel idea dickhead).

"That's not real is it?"
Before getting into the details, allow me to offer a general preview by paraphrasing a great movie line here. "The FGR's review for TPC Sawgrass was merely a two word review which simply read shit sandwich.'" I found the entire experience to be awkward and unrewarding much like my rap with the ladies in high school (and beyond). 

Let's start with a couple items of full disclosure before we commence taking issue: 

(1) It was unseasonably cold and pretty windy so the conditions were tough for scoring. We considered bagging it due to the weather but we had it on good information that the course was in phenomenal shape so we decided to take advantage of it. (Apparently this is not a given at Sawgrass which seems crazy in light of the price which I will not disclose here because the FGW reads this but think brand new Callaway Epic driver with an upgraded shaft); and 

(2) I did not have my "A" game. I'm a 5 handicap (at least I was at the time) but I'd say I brought a 9-10 to the course that day. It wasn't for lack of preparation as I had a couple beers before I teed off and I was packing a mini of Fireball in each back pocket.** (The Fireball was a departure from the traditional vodka/Gatorade approach but seemed appropriate in light of the weather). All of the ingredients for a good swing had therefore been added to the pot but the stew ended-up tasting like shit. Maybe I accidentally used cinnamon instead of pepper or the onions were rotten. This suspect analogy might work better if I had ever actually made a fucking a stew.

"It's right here dumbass.
God are you blind?"
Also, we hired a caddie to enhance the experience and he kind of sucked. On a course designed to confuse you off the tee, his approach was to hand us drivers and run down the fairway after telling us to "keep it to the right" when there was water to the left and "keep it to the left" when there was water on the right. I'm no marine biologist but I do know what water looks like and that golf balls sink in it. I've been accused more than once of having unreasonable expectations of caddies but all I ask is that they see the hole the same way I see it and envision the shot I want to hit with no prior knowledge of my game. Is that too much to ask?

The result was that I'd find myself on tee boxes staring at water on one side that I obviously wanted to avoid but not knowing where to aim so I could accomplish that and still hit the fairway. And this is where the critique of the golf course starts. I'm all for the occasional blind tee shot, partially concealed landing area or hard to gauge carry over a bunker but not on every damn hole. It's like they found the most gimmicky hole on a dozen different courses and imported them to go with about five or six holes that are actually worth a shit.

We played it from the longest tees available which put us one box and 575 yards short of the tournament tees (7,245 to 6,670). This was just about the right length to give me the same distance on shots in that the pros usually hit. For example, I hit a solid drive on the par five 16th leaving me about 215 to the middle of the green which has a tree guarding the front left, a bunker front right and water covering everything else except left of the green. I have a newfound respect for the pros who attack it. I committed to going for it and then, as I addressed the ball, our caddie sauntered by and said "keep it left" and that's all this mental midget needed to blow it way left into a brutal lie. Four shots later I tapped in for a "fuck you" bogie.

The hole that really summed the round up for me was No. 6 which was our 15th because we played the back nine first. It's only 360 yards and I hit a solid drive down the left-hand side but was sure I had pulled it into the rough. Turns-out, however, that the fairway dips to the left and I had caught it so I was left with a wedge from a perfect lie to a front left pin. I proceeded to hit probably my best shot of the day right at it but, when I arrived expecting to find a birdie putt, I instead discovered that my ball had rolled down into a grassy hollow to the left of the green. I then asked the caddie where I had to flop it to have it release down to the hole. He showed me. I hit it right there and the ball stopped fifteen feet short. I then ignored his read and made the putt. That may have been the last time we spoke.

So to sum it up, what you can expect from TPC Sawgrass is a confusing and at times unfair golf course that rewards good shots but also penalizes them. Apparently this is standard with Pete Dye designs. I've now played three of them and won't be taking any detours to play more. The price is absurd considering that the service is about what you'd find at any other public course that markets itself as a cut above a muni. With all that being said, however, I'd recommend playing it once. If for no other reason than to play 16-18 and feel how claustrophobic it is and imagine what it must be like when it's jammed with spectators.

Speaking of which, I bet you think this review was bitter because I dumped it in the water on No. 17. Well you'd be wrong because I hit the green with a pretty sweet punch draw 8-iron into the wind. The pin was in the front left position and I had hit it to the middle so I was left with a downhill curling thirty-five foot putt which I cozied-up to a foot for the par. So eat it. 


* As I write this on Saturday afternoon, the leaderboard is taking on a very Perks/Ames/Clark/Funky feel. Let's just pray that this doesn't devolve into a late Sunday duel between Kyle Stanley, Patrick Cantlay and Si Woo Kim. As much as I love ripping this event for its self-aggrandizement, it's second rate announcing crew (Jimmy Roberts?) and its clown's mouth course, I still want to see the best players in the mix at the end. I'm a hater but not THAT much of a hater.     

** I always come prepared when playing a new golf course because you never know what the arrangements are going to be when you get there, especially at a private club. Thus the inspiration for my account of playing Medalist (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Vodka) and the fact that I got so banged-up on the ride to Pine Valley that I barely remember shooting something like 78. I wrote about that too (The Promised Land - Part 3).