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Croeso i Gymru!

And after that unremarkable chip shot, let’s send it down to Steve Sands at Confusion Control Headquarters and get the latest update on what’s going on with the climax of the FedEx Cup Playoff Championship…

“Well Johnny, even though Kuchar shot a 103 today he could still win the FedEx Cup, if Stricker bogies his way to +5 or worse…AND if Casey finishes no worse than solo fifth…AND if Goosen suddenly loses his accent…AND if Furyk sprains a testicle…AND Yen falls by 3% or more on Tuesday. Otherwise, Furyk can win if he wins, but not if Donald does, and Villegas could win, but only if he loses and then takes an Ouzi to the rest of the field…or if Kevin Na can go out and play the back nine again after removing his 7-iron from the 18th tee and remembering to fix his 4-foot deep gouge before the greens keepers knock his teeth out.”

Gawd, the finish to the FedEx Cup was a fun final day to watch…BUT with all the permutations and combinations and calculations and machinations you needed a degree in advanced calculus to keep everything straight didn’t you?  

I honestly believe that less math was required to land Armstrong and Aldrin safely at Tranquility Base and bring ‘em back again…and it made a LOT more sense.

Okay, so the big event has come to its climax.  Jim “I’d like 4 wake-up calls please” Furyk now has a bank account positively groaning with ten million extra dollars…and I’m eating a heapin’ helpin’ of humble pie, ’cause my little girl kicked my butt all over the place with her predictions for the FedEx Cup finale.

Since I brought it up, I guess we might as well re-open those wounds now, before they start to really heal…and show just how dismally I was thumped this week by my daughter and the cursed dartboard:

The Tour Championship

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Matt Kuchar T25  $        127,500 Paul Casey T4  $       330,000
Steve Stricker T25  $        127,500 Retief Goosen  3  $       517,500
Phil Mickelson T22  $        136,500 Charley Hoffman  6  $       270,000
Hunter Mahan T15  $        162,000 Martin Laird 30  $       120,000
This Week’s Total    $        553,500 This Week’s Total    $     1,237,500
Season Total    $     8,541,118 Season Total    $     6,086,869

You know, I really did feel good about my picks for this tournament.  Sure, Kuchar and Mahan are young and might be susceptible to being rattled by the big pay day, but their youth probably also makes them more fearless, right?  It seemed like sound thinking at the time.  But surely  Mickelson was immune to the cash pressure…or even Stricker, for that matter.

Hah!!!

In fairness, my picks weren’t the only golfers who draped themselves in a bit of fear-induced fecal matter this past weekend.  A big chunk of the field came off the course with at least a few skids marks on one day or another.  Overall the finishing day scores looked pretty decent, as a whole, until you start sorting through the rounds and looking at the carnage on the back nine.  Even Furyk…who came oh so close to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, by posting bogies on two of his last three holes.  Kinda gives a whole new meaning to the term “Big Gulp” doesn’t it?

Other than the prestige and the history and the money, the one great thing about the Majors and the other big tournaments like the Tour Championship is that the pure, evil pressure of the moment has the potential to turn the world’s best players into, well, US!  Wobbly knees, shaking hands, cold sweats.  Where’s the beer bunny?

In fact, I swear that Kevin Na actually morphed into my friend Jabba on the 18th tee at East Lake.  Gunged the tee shot…then, in frustration, slashed his 7-iron so deep into the tee that he hit oil.  Black gold.  Texas tea.

Okay, so with the Playoffs and the big paydays out of the way, we now turn our attention to the “Fall Finish” on the PGA Tour…the last five tournaments of the year, beginning this weekend with the Viking Classic. 

We don’t have a proper defending Champion from 2009 for this tourney.  Why?  Last year’s tournament was canceled when the course was buried under days of torrential rains.

All in all, these five tournaments are pretty anti-climactic for most of the viewers and a good chunk of the fields.  The purses are smaller, the fields are less congested with superstars and there’s a lot less on the line.  But, for quite a few guys the Fall Finish represents that last-gasp, make-it-or-break-it opportunity for the bottom dwellers on the Money List to hang onto their Tour Cards for 2011. 

You think playing for an extra $10 million, after an already great season is pressure?  Check out the faces on the guys who are struggling at the bottom of the money list as they try to force some magic to happen in the next five weeks.   After a few errant shots on the back nine, some of them look like they’re trying to give birth to a bowling ball.

And, for the real twistoids in the crowd who just live to watch other people suffer, there’s Q-School. 

American TV executives started televising Q-School a few years ago when they finally realized they’d never be able to get permission to broadcast live death row executions…and when the FCC rejected the application for the proposed “Pulling the Wings off of Insects” channel. 

Mind you, there IS that new TV show about that hillbilly varmint exterminator, Billy Jim Joe Bob, down in the States.  Ever see it?  I swear, when the cameras stop filming, I’m positive that he and his family probably eat three-quarters of the stuff they remove from their customer’s homes.  And I have NO idea where they might draw the line on that call.

“Yee-haw…who wants more Ratatouille?”

Onward and upward cellar dwellers.  Let’s put aside the deep-fried culinary conundrums and get to the fearless forecasts for this week’s tourney

Derek’s Picks – The Viking Classic

Chad CampbellI know…Call me naïve.  Call me a hopeless romantic if you want to.  If you belong to the People’s Front of Judea, from now on you can call me Loretta!

Campbell is just too good a player to finish the season with the craptacular record he has right now…99th with an anchor.  Not that long ago it seemed like he was in the hunt in all the big events.  This year, he’s off the course before the cameras start rolling. 

His game has become so indifferent; he even forgot to register himself for the Deutsche Bank Championship a few weeks ago.  When even he forgets he’s playing on Tour, it’s not hard to imagine that he might be having some focus and commitment issues.

While the guys who have already secured their Tour Cards are enjoying some Rest & Relaxation, guys like Campbell are struggling through a much different kind of R&R of their own, the quest for “Restoration and Reclamation.”  I’m not sure why, but I think Campbell has a good chance of turning things around this week…and reclaiming some of his past glories.

Bill HaasClose, but no cigar for making it to the Tour Championship.  As the final quarter of the field finished the BMW he was in, then he was out, then back in again…and then, kaput, he was out for sure.  The statisticians had a hey day, compliments of Haas’ fate.

Some players would get discouraged about a thing like that. For Haas, I think it will stoke a powerful fire in his belly and make him want to come out looking for some vindication this week…his first competitive round since being nuked from the Playoffs.

Haas has had a really nice year. One win, two top 10’s and two more top 20’s, plus almost $2 million in earnings.  He also has some positive mojo from Viking Classics past…finishing 4th and 3rd in his last two appearances at the event.

At #40 on this week’s Money List, his spot is more than secure for next season…so he can play this tourney pretty loose, without that ugly Q-School monkey on his back.  At #40, he’s also one of the highest ranked players in this field.  That makes him one of the bigger dogs this week…and I expect to see him bring some fight to Annandale.

Heath Slocum – Just a few notches behind Hass on the Money List we find Slocum…another young player who’s had a really fine season.  Slocum sits at #43 with $1.6 million plus in earnings so far.

He’s posted four top ten finishes so far this season…two of which were in some high calibre, heavy duty pressure events; The Player’s Championship and The Barclays. 

The Viking Classic is decidedly not a high pressure event for guys at Slocum’s current level…especially knowing your future next season is already secure.  That’s a big benefit to a guy like Slocum who could just decide to cut loose, have some fun and shoot right at every flag.  A “go big or go home” attitude this weekend could take him a really long way.

Chris DiMarco – Another “what the hell happened to him?” Tour player.  DiMarco has plummeted to 407th in the world…right behind Dinesh Chand, Daniel Vancsik and Marc Cayeux (who???)

No I haven’t been drinking. At least not any more than usual.

DiMarco is a pick this week because, every once in a while, out of nowhere, he seems to get really pumped up and almost appears to be pissed off when he plays in events like this…ones that are relegated to the “B” tier.  It’s like he really resents having to be there…and is determined he’s going to take it out on the rest of the field…by stunning everyone and beating their brains in.

And then there’s the fact that he doesn’t get to play in the Ryder Cup this week.  DiMarco always seemed to come alive, times ten, when he stepped up to play in that event.  I bet you, somewhere in the back of his head, he’ll try to trick himself into thinking that he’s really playing in Wales this week, wrapped in the flag and taking down the “ferriners.”

When he’s in this mood, DiMarco is an absolute pit bull.  If his caddy were smart, he’d devote the next few days to needling his boss and sticking up a bug way up DiMarco’s ass, so that he’s spitting nails and looking for blood when he hits the first tee on Thursday.

And now, with my picks out of the way, let’s see how my daughter has conspired to embarrass her loving father in this week’s event (the ingrate):

D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)

  • Rich Barcelo
  • Rocky Cleland
  • Rocco Mediate
  • Boo Weekly

Of course, the BIG golfing event this week, the one the world will be focused on, isn’t being played in our immediate vicinity…or even on our continent.  It’s going on 5 hours to the right (or more, depending where you live), in the land of my forefathers; the country with one of the top 3 coolest flags on the planet…Wales. 

The Ryder Cup is absolutely, positively a must-see golf event for me.  I’m glued to the set, cheering on my team…completely enthralled by the action and the drama and the pure spectacle of this semi-annual “David versus Goliath” event.

Which team represents David and which is Goliath depends entirely on your patronage of course.  My team?  The Euros.  Always. 

I always love to hear the American TV pundits claim the Americans are “the best team on paper…” and then, days later, stumble for hours (then days, turning into weeks), trying to explain how the Americans failed, yet again, to seal the deal against the “weaker, less talented team…on paper.” 

I’m not entirely sure what kind of paper they’ve been using for the past 20 years.  Probably rolling papers.   But you know these TV guys are going to say “the Americans are the best team on paper” at least a few dozen times over the course of the week. I’m sure that somewhere that phrase has probably been incorporated into a drinking game…like “Hi Bob” or “Star Trek” (a personal fave).

Yes, it’s true that the Yanks are the defending champions in the event…and are playing to keep the cup this year.  They found the nut last time.  Their chances of doing that this year are pretty slim in my somewhat questionable books.  What the winning margin will end up being is anybody’s guess.  My guess is by 3 ½ points. 

Enjoy!  And, if you want to experience the Ryder Cup in real time, remember the coverage starts around 2:30 am our time.

Cheers,

Derek

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