Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Shark Sandwich: A Presidents Cup Memory

It's Presidents Cup week a/k/a golf's answer to every international sporting competition that includes gymnastics, synchronized swimming and ping-pong but is not the Olympics. In other words, it's about as meaningful as a week 15 Thursday night game between the Browns and the Jets but it does feature seven of the best eleven players in the world so will I be watching? Of course I will. (At least a little bit but it's member-member weekend for this guy so I'll also be busy grinding over par putts and making new friends at the club with my cheery match play disposition). 

Instead of previewing this year's Presidents Cup, I'm rehashing this 2011 post which followed an American win over Greg Norman's squad on his home turf at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. In an event that has been totally dominated by the Americans who are 9-1-1, this one was memorable because the international team and Norman came-in with particularly high expectations and then handled the subsequent loss like a bunch of petulant ten year old soccer players led by a coach who spent an hour screaming at the ref and then used his post-game speech to tell the kids how much they let him down. And with that, I will now turn it over to the FGR circa 2011.    

Who knew someone could exceed the European Ryder Cup team at making excuses? Apparently the U.S. team's win this weekend had less to do with the fact that they outplayed their international opponents and more to do with the match format and the team selection process. At least that's how Greg Norman, the most bitter man ever to get rich playing golf, saw it. The world's most annoying wine maker kicked-off the rationalizing with "it's very difficult for us to prepare for an alternate shot format, because we don't do it." 

Before I take questions, I would
like to state for the record that
this was obviously not my fault.
That statement is actually more ridiculous than it sounds (which is saying something) because, not only does it imply that the international players couldn't get together and play a few rounds of alternate shot before the event, it also presumes that the Americans have some distinct advantage because eight of their twelve players competed in one or two rounds of alternate shot over a year ago in Wales. Despite their similar lack of experience, the Americans somehow have the ability to stand over a tricky 5 foot par putt that their partner created for them and drain it. It's called "grinding it out" Greg and, if you need it explained in terms you can relate to, it's the opposite of hitting your tee shot into the middle of the pond on 16 at Augusta after blowing a six shot lead to hand Nick Faldo the green jacket.

Norman's quote standing alone would have been pathetic enough but then Ernie Els (who had just gone 1-4 in his five matches while completing the fifth year of his three year plan to be number one in the world) felt obliged to chime in with "why don't we start with something different, you know. Let's start with four-ball matches (alternate shot), maybe that's the answer." Hey Ernie, before you float that suggestion, make sure they didn't use that format when the international team lost in '94 and '96 because that would make you sound a bit foolish, especially considering you were on the '96 team.

Turns out Norman was just getting warmed-up. "I had three other guys that could easily have been on my team, but I couldn't put on my team." I suppose Norman has a point there considering that he is locked into ten players and only gets two captain's picks. Unfortunately, his argument is just slightly undercut by the fact that his two captain's picks were Aaron Baddeley and Robert Allenby who combined to go 1-7-1 and effectively cost them the cup. I guess he wanted two more captain's picks to compensate for the lousy play of the two players he chose with the picks he had? I wish he did have two more picks so he could have put himself on the team as a playing captain. That way he could have thrown his players under the bus as their captain, and then backed over them as their teammate.

The crazy part is that Norman has
always taken losing so gracefully.
Before we get away from Sharkfoldo's captain's picks, can we take a moment to dispel the notion that a player should be on the team because he has local knowledge of the course which is presumably why Norman picked Allenby (one of the worst putters in professional golf) over Vijay Singh  Local knowledge cuts both ways. It's great when you're hitting it well but it's not so great when you're struggling because you find yourself thinking, "I know if I hit it there, I'm dead because I've hit it there before." Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Give credit to Johnny Miller for finally shutting down this theory on the last day when he dismissed the umpteenth reference to Allenby's knowledge of the course by saying, "local knowledge only matters if you can execute the shots." That was right about the time David Toms was closing out Allenby 7&5 to slam home the point. (For you non-golfers, 7&5 is roughly equivalent to a 28-3 NFL game).  On the first hole of that match, Allenby left a three foot par putt short and Toms rolled his in from about the same distance and I thought, "it's over." Embellishing the immortal words of coach Bobby Finstock, "there are four rules that I live by: (1) never get less than twelve hours sleep, (2) never play cards with a guy who has the first name as a city, (3) never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body, and (4) never pick a bad putter for a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team."                         

It was fitting that the U.S. team was captained by Fred Couples a/k/a the Anti-Norman. His response to Norman's whining was vintage "aw shucks, I'm going to act like I don't care as I crush you with a grin." Couples' indirect response to Norman's woe fest went this way: "We won this week because we were better players and I think we had a little motivation and we teamed well and we won. I don't know what they would have said if they would have won. Everything would have been fair." BAM! Spoken like a man who never needed to wear a cheesy hat or have a nickname to be one of the most popular players of all time. Never have the traits of "cool" and "uncool" been on fuller display.    

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fantasy Golf: The Tour Championship Preview

As we wind-down another stellar season of fantasy golf prognostication, let's review some of our highlight picks from 2017 that have left us with no chance of winning despite the fact that we have Justin Thomas on deck this weekend. 2017 was really an all-out pursuit of mediocrity as I was consistently able to identify the select weeks when the best players in the world didn't feel like bringing their "A" games and in some cases even their "D" games to the table. A quick rundown of the top ten in the world and the tournaments where I decided to waste them should provide a fairly clear post mortem.

1. Dustin Johnson - The Memorial: DJ had already won three times this year and was coming-off another three solid finishes as he prepared to play a tournament where he'd had a fair amount of past success including a 3rd place finish in 2016. So what does the best player in the world do? He shoots 78-74 and never even makes eye contact with the cut line. 

2. Jordan Spieth - The Masters: After a rocky start on Thursday, Spieth righted the ship and, by the end of the third round, he was tied for 4th and only two shots out of the lead. Then he started drifting backwards on the Sunday front nine before stomping on the gas with what is now becoming his trademark bogey+ on the twelfth hole. He ended-up finishing T11th in a year when he's made the top ten half the time.     

. . . I am an idiot.
3. Hideki Matsuyama - None: So not only did I fail to use Hideki at the Waste Management Phoenix Open where, even when he doesn't win as he did again this year, he is virtually a mortal lock to finish top five. Apparently I failed to use him at all as revealed by a quick perusal of this year's picks. This makes me feel even better about mocking a reader last week for leaving himself with DJ, Rahm and Rickie and only two tournaments left to play. The lesson as always . . . 

4. Justin Thomas - Tour Championship: I was this close (holding thumb and forefinger barely apart) to using him at the PGA Championship as we has the last "A" list player I had available. Instead I went with Thomas Pieters which didn't work-out too badly unless you consider that the guy I picked missed the cut while the guy I almost picked won the tournament. Suffice it to say that turned into one of those late Sunday afternoons where I was even more grumpy than normal . . . which is a high bar to clear.  

5. Jon Rahm - Dell Matchplay: This one I actually got right because Rahm finished runner-up to DJ. Of course it was a case of dumb-ass luck as I changed my pick four times and had meant to change it from Rahm to some other schlub who lost in the first round but I forgot to do it. Even the losers get lucky sometimes.  

6. Jason Day - U.S. Open: If the writing for this season wasn't clearly on the wall before the U.S. Open, then Day missing the cut by nine shots pretty much spray painted "YOU'RE SCREWED!" all over it. If only I had had Hideki Matsuyama available at that point . . .

7. Rickie Fowler - The Honda Classic: This would've been the one week you wanted to pay attention to the FGR because the blind squirrel stumbled into the Blue Diamond packing plant and Fowler actually won the tournament.

"I don't see an intelligent, confident
fantasy golf writer. I see a cocky,
scared shitless jackass."
8. Rory McIlroy - The Players: He finished T35th at Sawgrass but the bottom line is that no one got that tournament right (Si Woo Kim and Ian Poulter?) and Rory was so spotty this year that he was like trying to hit a moving target with a defective slingshot. Dr. Sean has assured me that this one was not my fault.

9. Henrik Stenson - Arnold Palmer Invitational: From 2013-16, Stenson's finishes at the Palmer were T8th, T5th, 2nd and T3rd. In 2017, he missed the cut. Seriously, fuck this racket.

10. Sergio Garcia - Genesis Open: Sergio only had one top ten in 2017 and that was his Masters win so there weren't a lot of great places to use him but I of course nailed the week when he finished T49th for his second worst showing of the season. The other lesson as always, Sergio is a dick. (Just kidding as we have all forgiven Sergio's past transgressions and love him now . . . or something).         

So with that track record in mind, below are my value picks for what is mercifully the last tournament of the year. I've delayed this post in an effort to limit its exposure to people who might be foolish enough to allow this information to influence them as they wager their kids' lunch money. In the end, all I can say about 2017 is that I scratched, clawed, researched, pondered, guessed, hunched(?) and generally tried my damndest but sometimes the ball hits the lip and goes in and sometimes it ends-up further away than when you started. This year was a case of the latter. To paraphrase the immortal words of Coach Norman Dale, "I was hired to make fantasy golf picks and I did that to the best of my ability . . . I apologize for nothing."    

The One and Done Pick: Justin Thomas
Speaking of research, a really
fun Google search is "Hottest
Woman on the Planet." 

The DraftKings Top Ten Values

Dustin Johnson
Justin Thomas
Justin Rose
Paul Casey
Brooks Koepka
Matt Kuchar
Kevin Chappell
Tony Finau
Jason Dufner
Gary Woodland

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Fantasy Golf: The BMW Championship Preview

We had a great moment in dumbass FGR history this past weekend when I had the opportunity to meet a current tour player of whom I am a moderate fan meaning I root for him as much as any current athlete (which ain't much) but he doesn't approach the past admiration I had for guys like George Gervin, Roger Staubach and John McEnroe (who taught me everything I know about competitive decorum). The player in question won in 2016 before taking a bit of a step back this season. He did not qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs and has therefore been off since the Wyndham Championship. So how did I choose to structure my brief interaction with him? Like this.

Me: So do you have any plans for the offseason . . . playing any fun events?

Player: (Awkward pause) ... I'm taking a golf trip with some buddies. That should be fun.

Me: Where you headed? 

Player: (Is this loser going to show-up there?) . . . A course in New Jersey.

Me: (Why didn't he tell me which course?) . . . Cool.

Now to the non golf enthusiast, this exchange would seem relatively benign but allow me to shred myself as I would if I had just overheard this instead of being the reason it happened. First, there really isn't an offseason in golf as the tournaments now go deep into November. You'd think the writer of something called the Fantasy Golf Report might know that. Second, they don't really play "fun" events like the Skins Game and the Shark Shootout anymore and, if they did, a guy who didn't make the playoffs probably wouldn't be invited. On those points alone, I was a total and complete rube.

"So do you like um hit
a 7-iron sometimes?"
The true essence of my idiocy can, however, be found in the fact that I asked a player who missed the playoffs how he's going to spend his downtime. You know, while he's not eligible to compete and make money at his job as he ponders the handful of shots this year that may have cost him a spot in the top 125. Chris Farley was more cerebral composed interviewing Jeff Daniels for chrissakes. Oh and to top it all off, I was wearing a goofy tie with golf balls on it. The only things missing were spikeless golf shoes and the theme song from Curb Your Enthusiasm

I'm surprised he didn't ask me if I had gotten separated from my parents or whomever else was supposed to be looking after me. The lesson as always, I'm an idiot and, on that note, allow me to recommend some players for you to bet money on this week.        

The BMW Championship returns to Conway Farms after a year off and the last time they played it there Jason Day won with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama and Henrik Stenson finishing in the top 10. Prior to that, Conway Farms hosted in 2013 with Zach Johnson winning, Day finishing T4th and a host of other quality players finding the top ten so the course is legit and should reward talent, something we have in abundance right now.

I fully expect Jordan Spieth to be at or near the top of the leaderboard along with D.J. and J.T. and the clown from IT (and I don't mean the guy in my office who programs the server . . . whatever that means). Then there are at least forty other players who could finish top ten without drawing any special attention. On the list of odds, I figure you've got to go all the way down to Chez Reavie at 150 to 1 before you get really skeptical. (I'd have a lot more respect for his game if his parents could have decided between "Chaz" and "Dez" instead of splitting the difference when they absolutely should have named him "Stevie"). 

I'm banking on Spieth finally closing the deal this week and a brief Jason day resurgence based on course history. Paul Casey is a top ten lock these days and the next seven on the list are value plays because value is universally loved by all like homemade chocolate chip cookies and Ted Cruz liking a porn video on Twitter. There really isn't another side to those debates and, if you tell me there is, then you can just go straight to hell. With Ted.

Who would've guessed that Ted Cruz
would be the best thing that happened
to Cory Chase's acting career?
One and Done Pick: Louis Oosthuizen*

DraftKings Top Ten Values

Jordan Spieth
Jason Day
Paul Casey
Henrik Stenson
Matt Kuchar
Marc Leishman
Daniel Berger
Kevin Kisner
Brian Harman
Xander Schauffele


* Suffice it to say that I'm flailing as I've run out of viable one and done options.

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

Friday, September 8, 2017

Flipping at the Chicken Box

A few weeks ago the FGW and I were offered free tickets to the Tom Petty concert in Baltimore. Just one problem . . . the concert was on a Sunday night which means we would be violating the FGR's strict rule that nothing fun shall be attempted on the Sunday before a work day due to the historically low success rate of such endeavors along with the emotional and physical tab that must be paid on Monday morning. I'm pretty sure that any former NFL season ticket holder turned semi-responsible employed parent has a similar rule in effect. If not, they should.

Slow down there Tom. Half the
crowd is on heart medication.
However, the event was local, the tickets were free and the couple making the offer was one of the few with whom we seem to be compatible (and by "we" I of course mean "I" . . . then again, this couple is almost certainly faking the cross-couple affection for the sake of my wife). Also, it was Tom Petty for chrissakes. It's not like I was going to start pummeling beers and whip-out my Rush concert air guitar. Biggest risk was that I'd pull a throat muscle trying to hold the note on Free Fallin' or crack my head after dozing-off during Mary Jane's Last Dance. (I would describe my level of affinity for Tom Petty as "I like him fine").   

So we hooked-up for a bite about six blocks from the arena because Baltimore is thirty years late to the idea of putting restaurants in close proximity to large venues that draw crowds of people looking to eat and drink.* After dinner, we trekked to the show and then split-up because our seats were not together (like I said, faking it).  

The concert was in Baltimore's state of the art Royal Farms Arena which is sponsored by a regional convenience store chain renowned for its fried chicken along with its ability to procreate new locations like it's a nymphomaniac rabbit. (I fully expect to wake-up and find a Royal Farms in my backyard one day which would have its pros and cons). The Chicken Box as we affectionately call it opened in 1962 and then was renovated in 1986, apparently by a company that specialized in building missile silos and Eastern European prisons

The ultra-modern features of the Chicken Box include seats that are definitely from the pre-supersized era and an almost featureless concrete concourse. The only "amenities" are a series of holes cut-out of the concrete from which they sell hot dogs, popcorn, beer, soda and water. What they lack in food variety, however, they make-up for in being understaffed. But don't worry, you'll never have to wait for a beer because the vendors are camped-out in random corners near the stairs and bathrooms carnival barking prices like there's going to be room for negotiation. "Tell me good sir, what distinguishes your $9 Bud Light from the one that gentleman is peddling five feet away?" 

One of the other defining characteristics of the Chicken Box is that it was built with absolutely no regard for personal safety or the fact that much of its clientele would be inebriated (trust me that we are now nearing the vicinity of the point of this story). The steps are barely big enough to accommodate a size-9 foot and there are almost no railings. Also, as was the custom when building arenas in the 60's and 70's, the upper levels rise at what seem to be an 87 degree angle so you often feel the sensation that gravity is going to pull you backwards onto the court, ice rink or Wiggles concert mosh pit as the case may be.** So that is the uplifting Cormac McCarthyesque setting for our story. 

We found our seats in the 200 level with a nice view of the stage, however, it was a middle of the row situation which definitely does not satisfy FGR rule number one in every single aspect of life: ALWAYS HAVE AN ACCESSIBLE ESCAPE ROUTE. Furthermore, once we sat down it became apparent that the dudes on either side of us had flabby arms and personal space issues, especially the one next to the FGW who smelled like he'd bathed in in leftover Chinese food and camel sweat. Our effort to reach the middle seats caused much discontent as it interrupted him absolutely going to town on a tray of fries and chicken tenders like he'd just stalked and killed it himself and was trying to finish it before the rest of the pack showed-up looking for sharesies. 

Once we were wedged into our malodorous cockpit, we were treated to an opening act of Peter Wolf (formerly of the J. Geils Band) which was a combination of songs from his failed solo career and incoherent pleas to the crowd to come together as one peaceful agent of change to save the world. It was an ambitious effort considering he was trying to inspire a bunch of mostly 50-60 year old white people who, judging by their willingness to unleash what appeared to be dance moves while wearing 80's era denim, clearly had very few fucks left to give in this life. After about fifteen minutes of that sideshow and the smell of Buffalo Springfield's body odor, we decided to spend the rest of the opening act re-evaluating our seating position so we made a move to Cell Block D of the concourse to regroup.

"Hey check-out this seat. Looks
like something burned right
through it. That's peculiar." 
After a couple of relocations, we wound-up at the top of the arena with a great view of the stage and a row all to ourselves. It took us about five seconds to discover why, however, as that's when we felt the gale blowing out of the HVAC system to our left along with the intermittent drip of something that was surely more toxic than antifreeze and reminiscent of the extraterrestrial blood that turned the ship from Alien into Swiss cheese. So we made one more move to our final destination in the upper corner. Decent view, elbow room and most importantly, two easily accessible escape routes. I was in concert heaven. And that was before I looked to my right.

The spectacle was unfolding one row in front of us and about five seats over. That's where a woman who I would describe as "sturdy" was sitting on the lap of a man in a forward facing position and by that I mean she was facing forward towards him. Her routine was alternating sloppy softcore porn interactions with her beau and throwing her head back with arms in the air celebrating the unbridled joy that only comes with dry humping on a metal stadium seat to the sounds of whatever music they were piping between the two acts. Suffice it to say, the romantic poetry major in me was moved.

The FGW suggested that I record some video of the scene which I rejected out of hand as being beneath us (said the guy who just wrote the words "dry humping"). On Lady Godiva's next reach for the stars, however, it became clear that this might get interesting as the aforementioned gravitational pull of the arena floor almost got her and she had to lunge back to the safety of her man's face. At this point I relented and pulled-out my phone to record the moment. But I was a few seconds too late.

Now I have tried to describe what happened next at least a dozen times verbally but I think it is one of those moments that is impossible to adequately capture with words. (They really should have an expression for that like "I guess you had to be in the presence of the event to truly appreciate it" but maybe something more concise). Anyway, I'm going to take a shot in writing.

Can't say I didn't see that coming.
The star of intermission reared-back once again but this time she really sold out with her back arched and arms extended completely relying on her own booze addled equilibrium and the steadying grasp of her glassy-eyed partner. Big mistake. In the clearest example of a "tipping point" that I have ever seen, her center of gravity shifted upward causing her to do a backflip over the seat below which would have been painful enough, however, she didn't stop there. Somehow, and I may need a physicist to one day explain this, she gathered momentum and continued back flipping over three more rows of seats. It was a blur of hair and feet. And, when she ran out of seats, there were still concrete steps in her path which she deftly cleared with two more backflips before landing in a heap on the rock hard floor below. 

In all, I figure her head made solid contact with four metal seats, two concrete steps and whatever ultimately stopped her at the bottom and kept her from tumbling all the way into the harbor. People were horrified and immediately started screaming. I looked at the FGW and said, "she's dead" (which she obviously wasn't or I wouldn't be making light of it now . . . probably). After a few seconds there were signs of movement and a couple of fans rushed to her aid while another woman appeared to be berating her because she had been made collateral damage. The lesson as always . . . don't fuck with Baltimore women.

And then less than a minute later, Tom Petty hit the stage, the lights went up, the crowd roared and everyone forgot about the road kill lady at the bottom of the steps. But not me. I was still fascinated to see where this was going and how it would end. Also, the dude who served as the launching pad hadn't made a move yet. He was just leaning forward peering over the people in front of him trying to get a better look which almost confirmed my suspicion that these two didn't arrive together but instead met at the Malibu Rum Pina Colada stand (sorry, failed to list that among the amenities). 

It took another couple of minutes for "professional" help to arrive on the scene and they did what any first responder would do in the case of a potential spinal injury, they propped her up against a wall. At this point, Prince Valiant finally stood-up, grabbed a couple of bags off the floor and ambled down the steps with the urgency of someone who was just summoned from a dentist's waiting room for a root canal. When he got to the bottom, you could tell from his body language that he wanted no direct connection established between himself and this debacle. Imagine a really stoned Seth Rogen getting out of his limo to check-out the pedestrian that his driver just flattened on Santa Monica Boulevard.

And then it ended in the most fitting way possible. Due to the crash site being in the upper level of an arena built way before the Americans with Disabilities Act became effective (1990 . . . damn right I'm a real lawyer), there was no ramp, no elevator and, as far as I could tell, no medical personnel. So how did they medivac this casualty out of there? Well one security guard grabbed her under the arms, another grabbed her legs and they dropped her in a wheelchair like a sack of grain. Then they wheeled her out of there with her man stumbling after them. It happened so fast that you would've thought the four of them had a plane to catch. And that was it. Or so we thought.

After shifting back and forth on our feet for an hour and a half (because it's physically, mentally and scientifically impossible to dance to Tom Petty), the dude returned to his seat like he was just coming back from getting a corndog and another pina colada. I was dying to walk over and ask him how things turned-out but I was genuinely fearful that he would casually look at me and say, "oh, she didn't make it" and then it would've gotten awkward and who needs that? Instead, I'm just going to assume that she was ok and back working at NASA on Monday.   


* I kid Baltimore because I love. The fact is that our fair city can currently boast about having arguably the best football/baseball stadium combo in the country despite the fact that M&T Bank Stadium opened in 1998 and Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992 (holy shit). Both have held-up unbelievably well and Camden Yards will exist in roughly its current form for generations. If you want the true definition of lame when it comes to every aspect of a sports venue, you need only travel about forty-five minutes south to the pathetic ill-situated dump that is FedEx Field. Lost in the shit sandwich of Daniel Snyder's franchise ownership is the fact that he has now owned the Redskins for over eighteen years and they still play in one of the worst stadiums in the league while the team that they fancy as their competition plays in a palace that King Louis XIV would have described as "a little over the top." I could revel for pages on the clogged sewer pipe that the Redskins have become under Snyder's leadership but we'll have to save that for another day.

And God love Murray for being
drunker than me every time.
** In trying to figure-out how many times I've been to the Chicken Box, I came up with the following list of events in addition to a few indoor lacrosse and soccer games - it's quite eclectic (in reverse chronological order): Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, The Wiggles (3 times), Rush, Disney on Ice, The Harlem Globetrotters, the Black Eyed Peas and the Ringling Bros. & Barnum Bailey Circus. And as much of a shithole as the place is, I remember thoroughly enjoying every one of those experiences. Especially the Rush concert which devolved into a bizarre night spelunking the nether regions of downtown Baltimore that spawned the best 2,400 words I've ever written. (I'm saving it for the book).

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