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For Whom The Bell Tolls…

For Whom the Bell Tolls…

Jim Furyk, that’s whom…er, who.  I always have a tough time figuring those two out, don’t you?

We all should have expected the opening of the FedEx Playoffs was going to be a wild and wacky weekend, based on the way it all started.  But I can pretty much guarantee you that NO ONE with an inside track to pro golf could have predicted just how wonky a week it was going to be.

Unlike most fanciful tales, this one all started, not at the beginning…but even before the beginning.  A full day before the opening tee shot was to have been launched, World #4, perennial PGA star and one of the pre-Playoff favourites, Jim Furyk, was disqualified from the first round of the Playoffs…The Barclays. 

What was Furyk’s heinous infraction?  The Alarm bell didn’t toll for Furyk.  His cell phone ran out of juice in the middle of the night and he wasn’t woken up by it’s alarm clock feature.  When he did finally wake up at 7:23am, he threw on some clothes, scrambled out of the hotel and made a mad dash for the tee box.  Remarkably, he arrived at the course at 7:35am…a mere 12 minutes later!  I don’t know about you, but I often take longer than that just to scratch my naughty bits when I wake up.

 At this point, millions of men around the planet are wishing this guy could start giving seminars to their wives on how to get dressed for an engagement…and break the mystical, unattainable 2-hour threshold.

There’s just one small problem in this tale; despite Furyk’s Herculean efforts, he arrived 5 minutes late for his Pro-Am team’s shotgun start.  To penalize him for his tardiness, he was immediately disqualified from the REAL tournament, which wasn’t to begin until the next day!  To make the penalty even more ludicrous, about half of the Barclays field wasn’t even scheduled to play in the Pro-Am…meaning that they weren’t even subjected to the same rule. 

After all of the ridiculous rules enforcements we’ve seen, you’d think that the extremely anal rules guys on the Tour would have created some kind of universal equalizer for this scenario.  Something like making all the players who aren’t scheduled for the Pro-Am show up somewhere before the shotgun start time on Pro-Am day (anywhere really…some completely arbitrary location like a local pancake restaurant sounds stupidly appropriate).  In this way, the non-Pro-Am players are just as inconvenienced as the guys who are out there representing them with the amateurs on the course.

To his great credit, Phil Mickelson immediately leapt to Furyk’s defence…logically stating that a rule that only applies to half the field, is unjust to all.  I’m not really a big Mickelson fan, but I give him big props for doing that.  It seems the golf gods are less forgiving though and are REALLY in love with some of golf’s more insane rules.  Phil’s karmic reward for sticking up for truth, justice and the American way was the unravelling of his game to the point that he missed the cut by 4 strokes.  By the way, add Mickelson’s rare failure to make the cut to the wonky list.

So, Furyk is punted from round one and his chances of capturing the $10 million Playoff first prize are severely crippled in the process.  All because he didn’t have the foresight or common sense to get a wake-up call.  (By the way, don’t you really have to ask yourself where his caddy Fluff was for all of this?  You’d think he could have called Furyk’s hotel room at some point well before tee time, wouldn’t you?  It’s really hard to picture him just sitting on their first tee, waiting for his boss…who didn’t show up to even hit a few practise putts, let along stroke a bucket of balls and get loosened up properly.)

To quote the completely overused line in TV infomercials, “But wait…there’s more!”

Just this morning (Tuesday), PGA head honcho Tim Finchem announced that the Tour has decided to suspend the regulation that was the undoing of Furyk for the rest of the 2010 season!  Honest!  Really!  Suddenly the unforgiving sticklers for blindly following the rules have decided they’re going to change a rule…in the middle of a competition…despite its having already severely handicapped one of the competitors with that very same rule. 

You can’t make this crap up folks!

As you might have guessed, I’m all for getting rid of stupid rules like this…BUT once you’ve screwed someone by enforcing a rule in the middle of a competition, doesn’t fair play dictate that you MUST enforce that rule equally for the rest of the competition?  If I arbitrarily decided to change the rules for the golf pool I run in mid-stream, I can guarantee you that two things would happen; I’d be subjected to a torrent of abusive e-mails for the rest of the season AND the number of players coming back next season would be cut almost in half.  And rightly so.

So, with the wacky Furyk sub-plot now in our rear-view mirror, what else added to the wonkiness at The Barclays? Well…how about that Monty? 

I can’t recall another situation in pro golf (or any other sports, for that matter) where a player who wasn’t competing wielded as much influence on the outcome of the event as Montgomerie did this past weekend.

In case you’re unaware of the situation, here’s a quick and painful re-cap; Monty, of course, is the Captain of Europe’s Ryder Cup team this year.  His top players were already established by the European Order of Merit…but he had yet to announce his Captain’s picks.  So, when does Montgomerie decide to let the hopefuls know if they’ve made the team or not?  Yup…you guessed it.

Monty got on his cellphone and started making his calls on Sunday.  Some of the leading Ryder Cup hopefuls found out while they were on the driving range.  Some discovered their fate from their wives or friends while they were actually on the course competing!  Paul Casey found out in one of the weirdest (and most ignorant) ways you might imagine; his playing partner in the final round, Padraig Harrington, got the good news that he’d made the team from his wife, who was following their group on the course.  Casey sees the joyful thumbs up flashed in Paddy’s direction.  Naturally, as a friends of Paul’s, Paddy’s wife would have told him if he’d made the team too…but no thumbs were flashed in Casey’s direction.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to Columbo that one!

And so with the good news and bad news making its way around the golf course and practise grounds, the quality of a lot of contending European player’s games proceeded to go straight in the crapper.  Excellent rounds fizzled.  Good rounds ground to a halt or crumbled altogether.  Stupidus Maximus.

What the hell was Mrs. Doubtfire thinking when he decided to make those calls during the final round?  (Eternal props to David Feherty for that nickname.  I love that guy!)  Monty has often been accused of being far too self-absorbed, but this situation is way beyond explanation.  Did he suddenly forget how time zones work? Didn’t he realize that his players were in the middle of a huge tournament with big bucks on the line?  Maybe he was in a hurry to clear his schedule and assault the all-you-can-scarf buffet wherever he was staying.

Directly in opposition to the Montgomerie situation, there was one other person who wasn’t on the course who had the potential to affect play at The Barclays, in a smaller and more indirect way; Elin Woods.  With her inevitable divorce from Tiger announced just before play opened, you’d think that this, of all his competitive weeks in 2010, would be the one where Eldrick was totally justified in tanking in a truly spectacular way. 

Haters and fans alike, watched Tiger step onto the course, with a mixture of sadistic anticipation or dread, depending which side of the fence they occupied.  Regardless of their love him or hate him position on Woods, most viewers anticipated an absolute melt-down clinic, featuring a stunning array of wildly errant tee shots, gunged approach irons and yipped putts…punctuated by a steady stream of colourful language and club flipping.  Grab the chips…this one’s going to be epic!

And yet that didn’t happen.  Instead, he put on one of his best showings of the entire season…opening with a 65, closing with a 67 and finishing in 12th place. Along the way, he vaulted from 112th place (!!!) to 65th in the FedEx points standings, assuring himself of a spot in round two of the Playoffs.  Most remarkably to me, Woods lead the tournament in fairways hit.  Speaking candidly, if I were going to bet any money on a stat at the Barclays, it would have been that Tiger would have lead the tournament in course-side houses and parking lots hit….pretty much anything except fairways.

And finally from the wonky files, there was the play down the closing holes that finally determined the winner of the tourney. 

Martin Laird, who had been as cool as a cucumber and sinking putts from the parking lot most of the day, suddenly succumbs to the pressure of the moment and gets a case of the jabs on the final two holes.  Meanwhile, Matt Kuchar breaks a 6-par run on the back nine with some inspired precision golf to go birdie-birdie-par on the closing three holes.  Then on the first hole of the sudden-death playoff, he ropes a running 192-yard hook out of the weeds with a 7-iron, up the fairway, onto the green, off the green, back on again, around the back and down to the hole to rest 30″ away for the win. 

To paraphrase the old TV news magazine show; And that was the wonky week that was.  I laughed, I cried, I cheered, I howled, I picked my jaw up off the floor.  What a week!

So, with the blow-by-wonky blow re-cap of The Barclays taken care of, let’s see how the stats worked out for my son and I in our predictions for the week.  (Remember, daughter was away on holidays, so #1 son filled in on the dartboard).

The Barclays

Derek’s Picks S&S (Son & Swiftflytes)
Rory McIlroy T56 $16,875 Robert Allenby T47 $19,830
Steve Stricker T3 $435,000 Luke Donald T15 $116,250
Bubba Watson T31 $44,475 Troy Matteson T36 $30,784
Camilo Villegas T64 $15,675 Dean Wilson Cut  
This Week’s Total   $512,025 This Week’s Total   $166,864
Season Total   $7,266,118 Season Total   $4,344,443

And now, golf fans, we venture forth to Week #2 of the FedEx Cup Playoffs…and make some fearless forecasts for The Deutsche Bank Championship.  Strap yourselves in.  If the Barclays was any indication, this could be a bumpy ride!

The Deutsche Bank Championship – Derek’s Picks

Jeff Overton – Matt Kuchar’s win last weekend was a bit of a “Hail Mary” pass for his 2010 golfing season.  He’s played some spectacular golf this season…but he was rapidly running out of opportunities to accomplish the one thing he hadn’t managed to pull off in his great year on Tour; capturing a win.

Prior to the Barclays, there was only one player on Tour who sported a better record than Kuchar in 2010, without posting a win…and he’s my lead-off selection for the Deutsche Bank Championship; Jeff Overton.

Overton has had a truly breakthrough year.  He posted second-place finishes at the Byron Nelson, New Orleans and The Greenbrier, plus thirds at Colonial and the AT&T National.  His fantastic play has improved his position from 67th place in 2009, to 12th place on the current standings.

Given the great year that he’s had…and the Hail Mary mojo that Kuchar sprinkled on the opening round of the Playoffs last weekend, there’s something that just feels right about giving Overton the nod this weekend.

Justin Rose – Rose has had a stellar season and there are plenty of reasons to pick him as a favourite at the Deutsche Bank Championship.  You could also call this selection a restoration of the karmic balance, if you really wanted to. 

Rose is the best player NOT to have been chosen by Colin Montgomerie for the European team in the upcoming Ryder Cup.  Technically, he could still end up playing for the team in a few weeks…but only if Lee Westwood hasn’t recovered sufficiently to be able to play.

Imagine…scoring two wins on the PGA Tour in 2010, nestled at 5th in the Money List and then finding out on the driving range for the final round of the Barclays that he still wasn’t chosen for the Ryder Cup team!  Despite all of his accomplishments this year, if he wants to play for his Ryder Cup team, he actually has to hope that a close friend of his is too sick to play.  It boggles the imagination friends.  At least it boggles mine. 

If the golf gods have any kind of justice whatsoever, Rose would be a very popular winner this week. 

Paul Casey – If Rose can’t win this weekend, seeing Paul Casey hoist the trophy would be almost as just a finish to the tourney. 

Consider the year Casey has had; 10 top 25 finishes, 5 top 10’s, a second and a third.  He was third at the open Championship, 6th at the WGC-CA Championship…and most relevant of all, Second at the WGC World Match Play Championship!  Hmmm…do you think that last tidbit, just by itself, should have any bearing on whether you should make the Ryder Cup team or not?

And yet, Casey was the second-best performing Euro player on the PGA tour this year, NOT to be selected to the Ryder Cup team.  Only two Europeans are ahead of him on this year’s money list; Rose (5th) and McIlroy (18th), who has already made the team on points.

Putting all that aside, I think given the way poor old Paul found out that he didn’t make the team, would be a perfect retribution for his humiliating experience at the Barclays…and would wave a big cosmic middle finger at Monty across the ocean!

Steve Stricker – Yes, I know…I picked him last week.  That in itself shouldn’t disqualify me from dipping into the well again.  At least I don’t think so.

Here’s another guy who has put together a great season…and is more than capable of pulling off adding another Playoff win to his resume.  Stricker is the defending champion in Bean Town. In 2009 he finished at -17 to beat the field and vault up the FedEx points standings.  He obviously loves the TPC at Boston and he is accustomed to sealing the deal when the Playoff pressure is mounting and every stroke gets you one step closer to a $10 million payday.

There’s also the fact that Stricker came this [ ] close to winning last weekend at Ridgewood Country Club.  His -10 finishing score put him just two strokes out of the Kuchar/Laird playoff.  Posting his closing 5-under par round, you get the feeling that all he needed was a few more holes to either tie or overtake the leaders and win outright.  That didn’t happen of course, but considering how well he played last week, a victory could easily be in the cards this weekend for Stricker.

And now, hot off her triumphant return from holidays…and bolstered by big brother’s failure to kick dad’s butt in her absence, let’s see how the daughter did with her picks on the dartboard this week:

D&D’ Picks (Daughter & Dartboard)

  • Tim Petrovic
  • Ryan Moore
  • Kevin Na
  • Kevin Streelman

And that’s it for this week folks.  Enjoy the tourney!

Cheers,

Derek

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