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Don't Disrespect the Dragon…OR the Dragon Slayer!

Since I started writing this little column a few weeks ago, I find that I’m spending a lot more time reading comments posted on websites that talk about golf.

This doesn’t affect my weekly selections in any way…in fact I’ve made it a personal policy not to read any commentary until after I’ve made my own picks and have committed them on CanadianGolfer.com. 

Right or wrong (often), good or bad (even more often), similar or dissimilar to the selections of the Fantasy Pool experts (I’m honestly not sure), my picks each week are purely the conjuring of my own diseased mind…and not a conglomeration of other people’s opinions.

I just find it more interesting, now that I’ve become a small part of the golf “dialogue,” to see what others have to say about tournaments and players after I’ve made my own opinions known.

(By the way, I’ll be administering myself a thousand lashes as soon as I finish writing this column for stooping so low as to use a warm-and-fuzzy, nauseating human resources term like “dialogue.”  Meanwhile, please accept my apologies.  The switch is soaking in the shed as I type, in preparation for my chastisement).

Reading the fan comments posted on various sites is an altogether fascinating experience.  There are a lot of very knowledgeable people out there with some excellent insights.  There are also a lot of people consumed with passion for the sport, or a particular player or event, who literally let their feelings bleed onto the screen when they write.  And there are also a lot of very creative people posting material which is lots of fun to read…and often quite hilarious.

Then there are the posters from the “dark side.”  Those people who, no matter what the circumstances, refuse to see the best in something or someone and will instead look for the opportunity to take the low road…spewing their particular brand of venom as far and wide as possible, while demeaning everything and everyone they can along the way.

As you would expect, every type of poster was out in full force during the past week for the Canadian Open.

There were plenty of knowledgeable postings on St. George’s and the field.  I read a pile of very insightful observations that made my appreciation for the venue and the participants all the more enjoyable.

There was also passion a-plenty.  Scores of writers literally wrapped themselves up in the flag…going above and beyond to support their National Championship, their favourite player, the course, the organizers, whatever they felt really passionate about.  Occasionally this support sorely needed an injection of facts and reality, but nonetheless it was nice to see people so consumed by the tournament (in a positive way) that they felt compelled to write volumes and volumes of upbeat material.

Liberally sprinkled among all of these contributions though, was a deep, unwholesome pile of crap…posted by the dark side contingent. 

Often without regard for the comments that preceded their own, or for the general theme of any particular discussion thread, these keyboard cowboys would indiscriminately bombard the discussion boards with random acts of negativism…like a Ninja tossing poison-tipped caltrops on the path behind him.

They slammed everything in sight: the course (“it was too easy” OR “it was too hard???”), the field (“no one worthwhile”), the Champion (“he fluked his was to a win”), the tournament itself (“Tiger and Phil didn’t come, so it’s time to pull the plug on it!”) and the homegrown contestants (I won’t even dignify these hurtful comments by posting them).

Of course most, if not all of these comments were written in that vastly superior, infuriatingly smug, “I know what I’m talking about and the rest of you are idiots if you disagree with me” kind of tone. 

You know the tone; the one designed to establish the high ground in a confrontation, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  It’s become a common tactic used by a disturbingly high (and growing) number of people who write comments on-line…those who believe that anyone displaying a difference of opinion MUST be immediately treated with derision and hostility, rather than by presenting a civil, reasoned counterpoint.

These guys want you to believe they are a combination of Jack Nicklaus, Harvey Penick and John Updike.  In reality, they are much more closely aligned to the ilk of Morton Downey Jr., Andrew Dice Clay and Ann Coulter. 

In my experience (and probably in yours as well), most of them are small, petty, insignificant people who have little or nothing going for them in the real world.  They lurk in the shadows, seeking to feel better about themselves, by putting on a cloak of anonymity and making others feel worse.

They pose at their keyboards as +6 handicappers, when in reality most have probably never broken 90 or 100…even with a mulligan on every hole.  You know the guys.  You’ve probably played a round or two with them in the past. They saunter onto the course, sporting a golf bag loaded with thousands of dollars worth of the latest technology.  They freely offer unsolicited swing tips to everyone within barking distance, 2 or 3 times per hole. 

Then they step up to the tee, meticulously line up their shot, address the ball, take 9 or 10 practice swings, followed by 15 or 20 waggles, scowl when someone in the foursome whispers something no one but the Six Million Dollar Man could have heard…and then proceed to lay the sod over yet another 75-yard drive straight into the woods. 

On their computers this week they casually lobbed spiteful words like “embarrassing” “easy,” “disgraceful” and “joke” around like hand grenades, to describe our wonderful National Championship.

Pathetic. Tiny. Mean-spirited.  They are the equivalent of the “Black Mask” gang breaking windows, looting shops and burning cars at the G-20 Summit.

For just a second, let’s turn their criticism on its head and see where that leads us.  

Let’s say that the RCGA decided to make the Canadian Open an even sterner test of golf than it was.  So, they’d take a page directly out of the US Open playbook and try to make a level par score, or worse, the ideal finishing total.

To do that of course they’d do a number of things; narrow the fairways to a width of ten axe handles, let the rough grow to 6 or 8 inches, cut the greens with bikini wax and crank them up to 14 or 15 on the stimp meter.  Piece of cake!

And if the RCGA were to have done that, what would these self-professed experts have said?  Would they have congratulated the tournament organizers?  Would they have been happy? 

No way.  Not a chance.

Instead they’d be jamming the discussion boards and screaming even louder to anyone who would listen…calling the RCGA, tournament organizers and greens crews a bunch of morons for making our National Championship so demanding or unfair. 

They’d talk ‘til they were blue in the face about the negative impact on future years…and how no one would ever want to play in our tournament again, because of the way our courses were set up.  No Phil, no Tiger, no Ernie…and no Dean or Carl either.

Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.  It’s the Kobayashi Maru scenario played out with lob wedges and surlyn instead of phasers and photon torpedoes.

Beam me up to the bar Scotty!

I was lucky enough to go to the Canadian Open this year and what I saw bore very little, if any resemblance to what these characters chose to write about.

First, the course itself was fantastic.  St. George’s was a stately, pristine, tough test of golf…which was made somewhat easier by the wet conditions.  To my eye, the fairways weren’t terribly wide and the rough was certainly penal.  Although the greens were apparently a bit on the slow side, their undulating surfaces still gave the players plenty of problems.

It’s interesting to note that the naysayer’s opinions were split here; a lot of them were complaining that the course was too easy, while others said it was too tough and that the tournament just became a crap shoot!  I’m not sure how they could be so diametrically opposed on the issue, but they were.

Carl Pettersson’s magnificent score of 60 also brought the course a lot of criticism.  The general sentiment expressed was that if someone of Pettersson’s abilities (read: sub-standard) could chew up the course that deeply for 18 holes, then St. George’s had to have been far too easy (or, again, far too tough) for the “really good players!”

Ask Paul Casey, Scott Verplank, Sean O’Hair, Jonathan Byrd, Fred Couples, Brandt Snedeker or Pat Perez if they thought the course was too easy.  They got to watch the weekend on TV.

But, rather than acknowledging that a talented golfer was playing at his peak and had all the stars line up for one of those magical rounds of a career, they chose to pawn off Pettersson’s greatness as an indication of deficiencies in the field and the course.  In other words, his 60 and his subsequent win were the byproduct of everything but talent!

What a load!

I think it might be helpful to put these comments in perspective to see if they hold water…and a very recent example will do the trick nicely. 

Did anyone, and I mean anyone, suggest that St. Andrews was a joke when complete unknown Louis Ooosthuizen was lapping the field at The Open Championship?  Did anyone suggest that the venerable Old Course be taken off the rota because Oosthuizen finished at -16?  Of course not.

Why then is Oosthuizen’s performance venerated by most, while Pettersson’s was casually dismissed by so many?  After all, with zero “big” career wins under his belt, Oosthuizen sports a much less impressive pedigree than Pettersson, who has managed to rack up FOUR wins on the “big show?” 

In my books, those kinds of accomplishments (both of them) mean something and they deserve respect, not ridicule.

The whole Canadian Open event…and all those who made it happen, from the players and caddies, to the organizers, greens keepers and volunteers deserve our utmost respect. It was a truly excellent golf tournament, with a worthy champion.  Period!

One final word before I finally move on… 

In the past, I’ve often been critical of some of the announcers who cover golf tournaments on TV.  In fact, as recently as three weeks ago, I let some of that criticism slip out in my column about the John Deere Classic…when I coincidentally pegged Carl Pettersson to win the tournament!  (Art imitates life…and I can now add “Premature Prognosticator” to my list of other, more debilitating and embarrassing personal deficiencies!)

Having poked fun and criticisms at the announcers in the past, it would be totally ignorant of me not to acknowledge what a truly excellent job the CBS team did this past week at St. George’s. 

They REALLY showed our National Championship the respect it deserves and did a truly marvelous job of consistently portraying the rich history and importance of the event in everything they aired.  At times, I almost felt like I was watching coverage from the US Open or the Masters…that’s how well they chatted up our tourney.     

Their treatment of our National Championship and the host golf course was top drawer all the way….and I for one want to express my admiration and gratitude to the whole CBS team for a job very well done.  We’re very proud of our National Championship and it was a wonderful thing to hear our pride and reverence mirrored in your words all weekend.  Thank you for that!

Okay then, now that I’ve fully vented my spleen (and by the feel of it, my kidneys, small intestine, pancreas, liver and onions too), let’s get on to the real business at hand; golf pool picks (what a concept!)

Here’s how I stacked up against the progeny in last week’s selections:

The RBC Canadian Open – Results

Derek’s Picks                                                                   D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)

Retief Goosen T59  $      11,067 Henrik Bjornstad Cut  
Paul Casey Cut   Kevin Stadler Cut  
Brandt Snedeker Cut   Luke Donald 3  $    346,800
Tim Clark T4  $    165,750 Mike Weir Cut  
This Week’s Total    $    176,817 This Week’s Total    $    346,800
Season Total    $ 4,190,175 Season Total    $ 3,198,221

All in all, not a great week for either one of us, I’m afraid.  It was disappointing not to see Casey and Snedeker playing on the weekend.  And seeing Weir miss the cut was particularly painful.  Even though I didn’t have him on my team, I would have happily accepted a drubbing by the offspring, with a HUGE smile on my face, if Mike could have managed a win or a big turnaround performance this week.  I remain hopeful that it will happen for him soon!

The Greenbrier Classic

In year’s past, this week belonged to the Buick Open, just across the border in Flint, Michigan.  Sadly, for the folks in that state, that’s not the case any more.  Michigan’s misfortunes are instead the good luck of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia…as unlikely a name for any stop on the professional golf tour as you could ever find.

By the way, I’m just twisted enough to draw a bizarre parallel here.  This week marks the 30th anniversary of the release of one of my all-time favourite movies (and probably one of yours too); Caddyshack.  

30 years to the very day after Carl Spackler hit the big screens and etched himself in our hearts and memories forever, Carl Pettersson hoisted the Canadian Open trophy. 

This weekend we got to see an actual, real-life Cinderella Boy do his thing!

 Take a close look at the picture of the Clubhouse I posted at the top of this story and tell me that a part of you didn’t immediately think “Hey, that looks like Bushwood!!!” (followed by the inevitable 5-minute, free-flow stream of classic quotes from Carl Spackler, Ty Webb, Al Czervik and Judge Smails).

Once upon a time, this course did host a PGA Tour event.  But you have to dig way back to the 1920’s and 30’s to see it listed…along with some of its past champions, Snead and Hagen.  This week is the debut of the Greenbrier, so we can’t dig into the archives and check out past years for any guidance on who knows the course and who plays it well. 

So, having said all of that, here’s what I think might happen this week:

Kevin Na – Na was one of the players we kept running into at the Canadian Open…and it seemed like every time we saw him he was doing something magical.  He was a real treat to watch.

Even though he didn’t post a top 10 finish in Toronto, I can’t help but think that he must have been very pleased overall with the shots he was pulling off time and time again…and that can’t but help to put him in a better frame of mind for his next outing.

Keep your eyes on Na this weekend in West Virginia.

Daniel Chopra – Another guy who was lighting it up in front of our eyes at St. George’s…and who should be toting lots of positive mojo down to White Sulphur Springs.

He spent Saturday striping drives down the middle of the fairways and then nailing approach shots with laser-like precision and if he can continue to build on the things he did so well in Toronto, I think he could be a very legitimate threat this coming weekend at the Greenbrier Classic.    

You can bet his hair and clothes will draw a LOT of stares from the West Virginia crowd.  I just hope his game garners even more attention.

Trevor ImmelmanI don’t know…maybe I’ve developed a soft spot (in my head) for the South Africans, but here’s I guy I really like for the upcoming tournament.  

He faced some of the worst of the weather at the Canadian Open and was a solid as a rock throughout…posting a really nice 65 on Saturday when the heat was positively oppressive and the rains were torrential and miserable.  A couple of un-holed putts and a missed fairway or two were the only things keeping him out of challenging for the lead on Sunday.  

This week he has the chance to ride the wave he created in Toronto and to improve on it…and I think he’s definitely worth a nod.

Nick Watney – My only pick this week who didn’t appear at the Canadian Open.  

Coming off his wonderful 7th place showing at the Old Course two weeks ago, and with a full week off to re-charge his batteries and unwind, I think Watney poses a serious threat to get into the winner’s circle again this week.

He was the top American in the field at St. Andrews (along with Sean O’Hair), finishing far ahead of the who’s who of golf.  Add to that the fact that Scottish golf must be a bit like playing on another planet to him.  Yet he still managed to wax most of the field.  

To my way of thinking, that great week on the links can’t help but fill him with a positive outlook the next time he steps on the tee.  And that time is this weekend.

And now that I’ve had my say, let’s see what my favourite girl managed to do on the dartboard this week:

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard) 

  • Tim Herron
  • Charles Howell III
  • Brandt Snedeker
  • George McNeill

Oh crap!  It looks like it might be another one of those weeks!!!

And that’s all for now folks. As always, thanks VERY much for reading…and for indulging me by letting me climb up on my soapbox to rant, rave and joke around and consume a piece of your busy day.  I do appreciate it!

One more thing before I go (oh God, not ANOTHER thing!!!) 

If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favour and check out Fairway Stevie’s new video, “Five Questions For Five Pros.”  As the title would suggest, Waxy interviews five of the members of the field at St. George’s (including Boom Boom, Badds and Chad Campbell) and he really outdoes himself on this one.  It’s a classic!

Cheers,

Derek

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derekaubrey

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Derek:

    Really enjoying the weekly column. Pettersson’s win last week capped what I thought was a great week. How can you not like the guys story; sitting in the bar Friday afternoon waiting to see if he’d made the cut (and he makes it on the cutline), and he and his caddy enjoyed a few beverages (7 under on the 19th hole, I believe), then goes out and shoots the hangover-free 60. And he played like a deserving champion on Sunday. Sure the course was soft for three rounds, taking the greens out of the equation as just about every guy in the field dialed in the yardage and threw darts to receptive greens, but the rough was, as you said, penal. And the course showed it’s teeth on Sunday when the greens dried out and got “much shinier” to quote David Feherty from CBS. 3 or 4 rounds in those conditions would produce an amazing week. Lets hope they go back, and soon.

    The best (or worst) line I heard from the negative types was Sunday morning on TSN’s The Reporter’s when one of the panel uttered the entirely uninformed “this tournament has been dead since it lost it’s September date”. Considering he was sitting down when he said it, I’m surprised it wasn’t muffled. Put this tournament on the wrong side of the Fed Ex Cup race and you won’t see any names here. Hats off to the organizer’s for getting so many players to commit to playing the week after the British. Considering its place on the schedule, it gets a better than average field (considerably better than the field this week or the week before the British, at the John Deere. Sure it’d be nice to have Phil and Tiger, but those guys aren’t coming unless they’re sponsored by the title sponsor, and in Tiger’s case I don’t see Hooter’s or two divorce lawyers who advertise on late nite tv getting naming rights to our national championship anytime soon.

  • Thanks very much for reading my latest column Gimme…and for your excellent posting. You slipped in some great observations and a few classics as well that I really enjoyed (loved the references to Hooters and the ambulance-chasers!)

    The one thing I didn’t mention in my article was the now famous 7-beer wait Pettersson had in the player’s lounge, waiting to see if he was going to make the cut.

    Seven hearty Canadian beers for a guy who now lives in South Carolina is bound to have an impact…even if he was born in Sweden and lived for a while in England, where they produce some good strong brew as well. (His victory speech for the international crowd went like this, “I saaaaay, pip, pip…borky, borky, bork…y’all”)

    The more I think about it, the more I’m coming to the conclusion that the pints might have had something to do with his stupendous round of 60 the following day.

    That’s not to take anything away from Carl’s skills in ANY way…but I’ve played with lots of talented guys when they are nursing crippling hangovers, and I have found that more than a few of them seem to play at their very best when they’re zoned in on swing thoughts like “don’t puke,” “stay awake,” and “try not to fall out of the cart (again).”

    Like the old saying goes, “beware the wounded animal.”

    Thanks again for reading…and writing. I appreciate both very much.

    Cheers,

    Derek

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