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You Want Frys With That?

For those of you thinking that all the spectacular action, drama and genuine excitement in golf ended with the conclusion of the FedEx Cup and the final putt at the Ryder Cup, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Just ask Webb Simpson and Joe Durant about the drama and excitement.  Both of them appear to have secured their Tour cards for next year, based on their inspired top 15 finishes at the McGladrey Classic.  Simpson moved from 125-112 on the money list and Durant climbed from 131-115.  Far too early to crack bottles of Dom, but they did earn the right to breathe a little easier…at least for a few hours.

If fact, you could walk up to about 140 guys on Tour right now and ask them if they feel any excitement or drama and the answer would be an unqualified, breathlessly nervous “YES!!!” 

That’s because there are about 140 golfers on the PGA Tour Money List right now whose playing privileges are in jeopardy for 2011.  Some are within the top 125 automatic exemption line at the moment (and only at the moment)…most are struggling mightily to get there.  The difference between success and failure and where they’ll ply their trade next season could easily come down to 18 holes of recaptured brilliance…or one bad round.  Or, maybe even just a few good holes…or bad ones.

Professional life for these guys is beyond precarious right now. 

And, as if relying solely on your own skills in a pressure-packed situation like this weren’t bad enough, they also have to contend with the great rounds and bad holes generated by all the other players in the field…and the net effect those performances have on their own fate.  A few sudden late charges from deep in the pack has the potential to do collateral damage up and down the line. 

Those who seemed safe six hours ago find themselves on the outside, looking in, with the desperate grimace of a kid with his nose pressed against the toy store window on December 24th…staring at his heart’s desire and reconciling himself to accept that it probably won’t be under the tree tomorrow morning.

Dial back a few weeks and recall the TV announcers doing their overly excited mathematical gymnastics during the third round of the Fed Ex Playoffs, calculating that Bill Haas would make the Tour Championship…no he wouldn’t…yes he would…no he wouldn’t.  The math in this final stretch of the season is far more serious…and the implications are far more wide-ranging than whether one already very successful player will have a chance to play for an extra 10 million bucks.  Real jobs are on the line.  Sponsorship money is in the balance. Their professional future is at stake.

Of course, pressure and drama are relative aren’t they?  While I write this, 33 Chilean miners are being yanked from the bowels of the earth after a hideous ten-week ordeal none of us could possibly imagine.  In that context, winning $120,000 American dollars to play a game for a living, finishing in 200th place on the money list and having to go to Q-School to earn the right to play the game for another year and earn gobs of cash seems pretty insignificant.  

Don’t sweat the small stuff boys.

And so, with the personal performance pressure gauge turned up to eleven last weekend, let’s see how the horses that daughter and I chose responded at the McGladrey Classic:

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Brendon de Jonge T15  $          54,480 Ryuji Imada Cut  
Jonathan Byrd T66  $           8,120 Justin Leonard T45  $         10,836
Graham DeLaet T25  $          29,250 Craig Barlow WD  
JB Holmes T59  $           8,800 Vaughn Taylor Cut  
This Week’s Total    $        100,650 This Week’s Total    $         10,836
Season Total    $     9,316,896 Season Total    $     6,157,735

All in all, a pretty uninspiring week for the spawn and I.  But, I am a little encouraged by the fact that I did pick McGladrey champion Heath Slocum the week before to capture the Viking Classic (along with choosing the actual winner; Bill Haas).  I’m not trying to have my X-rated cake and eat it too here…just saying, “close but no cigar Ms. Lewinsky.”

Actually, the person who turned in the best performance last week was my now notorious friend Svenny…he of the angora cat, horned head and cloven feet.  As it turns out, he parlayed the prominence he gleaned from being featured in my last piece…into a bonus piece of his own.  In his own words, “Friday night came early,” and he ended up scoring an unexpected romantic encounter with his missus. 

I do all the hard work…and he’s the one getting his shillelagh waxed!!! 

There’s definitely something not right about that friends.  Not right at all.  If there’s any justice at all, Friday wasn’t the only thing that arrived prematurely at stately Svenstrom Manor last week.

Frys.com Open – Derek’s Picks

And then there were three.  Tournaments, that is.  Last opportunities for heroics.  To make some magic and keep the treasured Tour card for another year.

To start with, the guy with the most consistent record at this event in the past three years, isn’t even in the field this week.  And that’s a real shame; not only because he’s one of my favourites, but because he’s probably one of your favourites too.

In the past three seasons, Mike Weir has racked up some great results at this event; T6 last year, T4 in 2008 and T10 in 2007.  It seemed to be just a matter of time until he would have his name etched on the trophy…but he’ll have to wait at least one more year until that happens.  Personally, I can’t wait for his comeback.

Rickie Fowler – Much television time and print space in the past month was devoted to the fact that he was perhaps a questionable Captain’s pick for Corey Pavin; the youngest one ever and the first to have never scored a PGA win to help justify his selection.

It’s true that Fowler didn’t exactly live up to Pavin’s expectations and drape himself in rookie glory at the Ryder Cup; going winless in four starts.  But he did earn two half-points on the weekend and his dramatic late round charge to earn a half with Eduardo Molinari created more than a little tension in the Euro camp (and my living room).  I had my fingernails bitten off to the elbows by the time those two reached the 18th green.

Fowler is having a great year, and if anything I think he is probably more inspired to perform well now, than he was before traveling to Wales.  Even though his team lost the event, he was bitten by the Ryder Cup bug in a big way at Celtic Manor and you could tell in his post-singles match interview that this is an event he wants to play in for the next 20 years…and not as a Captain’s pick.

Plus, there’s also the fact that Fowler finished second in the Frys.com Open last year. Combine that with his desire to finally post a win and begin earning his way onto the 2012 Ryder Cup team and he should be a great selection for this week.

My only hope is that if he does finally score a victory, some experienced PGA veteran will take him under their wing and encourage him to go out and finally invest some of his earnings into buying some proper hats…one that don’t make him look like he’s wearing a pumpkin with a bill on his melon.

Troy Matteson – Even though he’s the defending champ at this event, I’ll readily concede that Matteson isn’t going into this event riding a wave of winning form.  In fact, he’s had a pretty unspectacular year…making the cut in only about half the events he’s played (13 of 25), posting just two top 10 finishes (and barely that, with a 9th and a 10th) and wallowing at 118th on the money list…just inside the bubble.

No…this pick isn’t about taking a player that’s hot right now and due for a win, it’s all about applying the “horses for courses” approach to fantasy golf pool selections. 

Or, since the event is being held at a different course this year, maybe we should call it the “gurneys for tourneys” approach.

Matteson has won this event in two of the past 4 years.  If anyone has the right to walk onto the first tee and feel some positive energy, just from doing so, it’s Matteson.  Maybe he can recapture some of the magic he created in years past at this event and add his name to the Frys.com trophy one more time.

Tim Clark – I have to believe that Clark was sequestered in front of a TV all last weekend, watching the Ryder Cup and wishing he had duel citizenship so he could have played in it. 

In about another 355 sleeps, the diminutive South African will almost definitely be playing for the “World” team in the President’s Cup…but that relatively new event just doesn’t have the same lustre and prestige as the Ryder Cup.

Clark is fresh off a nice rest period, having recharged his batteries from a busy and very successful 2010 campaign.  He’d love nothing more than to come back from his break by scoring a victory out of the gate…and with a T4 in last year’s event, he certainly should have some happy thoughts about going for this trophy.  Look for him to be a threat this week.

Bo Van Pelt – The difference between winning and losing the McGladrey last weekend for Van Pelt was 3 strokes.  He finished tied for 6th at -11, while Heath Slocum earned the winner’s cheque with a score of -14.

When it comes right down to it, two holes…just two damned holes spread out over two days…were the deciding factor for Van Pelt.  He double-bogied 16 on Saturday to let the pack catch him up…and then double-bogied 18 on Sunday to torpedo his chances of winning entirely.  Yes, I know a round of golf isn’t decided by a single stroke or a single hole, but, all things being equal, it’s easy to point to those two holes as the undoing of all the great things Bo did on the other 70.

Van Pelt will be looking for redemption this weekend…and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see him with a trophy hoisted over his head on Sunday night.

Now, with my picks out of the way, here’s what my little girl came up with in her weekly assault on the dartboard:

D&D (Daughter & Dartboard) 

  • Tom Lehman
  • Henrik Stenson
  • Jarrod Lyle
  • Mark Wilson

And that’s all for now folks.  Have a great week.

Cheers,

Derek

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derekaubrey

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • All I can say is the mail did not arrive premature and and the postman rang twice.

    I think you captured the anxiety and, for some, the terror that is this part of the schedule very well. After the Fall series is over folks should look at the money list and the stats to see how slim being in or out of the top 125 really is.

    • Thanks for chiming back there Svenny.

      Happy to hear my ramblings have enriched your social life so much. Whodathunkit???

      The Frys.com results graphically show how much one week can mean to these poor, desperate buggers.

      Wallowing at 182nd on the money list, Rocco was essentially down for the count going into the Frys.com Open. After his win this weekend, he’s skyrocketed to 72nd place and is grinning all the way to 2011.

      More in this week’s article.

      Thanks for reading…and writing!

      Cheers,

      Derek

  • Hey Herby, thanks VERY much for your comments! I’m really glad you’re enjoying the column…and took the time to write in.

    There’s more on Fowler in this week’s issue.

    Cheers,

    Derek

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