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The Last Hurrah!

In the immortal words of Chuck Negron, ”One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.”

You’d be immediately forgiven if the name Chuck Negron doesn’t mean a thing to you.  After all, he was a lead singer in a band with a grand total of THREE lead singers.  But I imagine a pretty big chunk of readers will get the quote, nonetheless. 

For those who don’t, the quote is from the song “One,” by Three Dog Night…and it was the band’s first big hit way back in the late 17th century.  (And for the real die-hard musicologists like Fairway Stevie reading this, yes I do know that the words were written by Harry Nilsson.  Negron sang ‘em though). 

Give yourself 500 bonus points if you can explain the origin of the band’s name.  And if you can’t, but you’re curious about it, I’ll slip it in at the end of the column. 

So…why this fixation with a 60’s power ballad in a golf article?  Well “One” is the loneliest number that we have left in the PGA season now.  One lonely tournament left, The Children’s Miracle Network Classic, and then they’re rolling up the sidewalks on the PGA Tour until January. 

For fanatical golf fans, it IS indeed, the loneliest time of the year…or at least the one that feels the most empty.  Especially up here in Canada, where there’s a good chance your home course will be shuttered within a few weeks (if it isn’t already)…and TV golf is all you might look forward to for a fix in the off-season. 

And after a week or two of going through some really serious PGA golf withdrawal, suddenly, for the poor golf-starved loonie, the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge, the Shark Shootout and the ADT Skills Challenge kinda, sorta seem like compelling golf action, don’t they?  Big Break reruns, here I come.

Admitting your problem is the first step.

Okay, so we have just one tourney left in the year.  Before doing the big reveal on what our picks for that one are going to be, we have a wee bit of untended business to cover first; and that is sharing the results of last weekend’s prognostications:

The WGC HSBC Champions

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Ernie Els T6  $        145,714 Stuart Appleby T69  $         29,000
Phil Mickelson T41  $          44,000 Louis Oosthuizen T72  $         27,750
Graeme McDowell T34  $          51,000 Peter Hanson T6  $       145,714
Lee Westwood 2  $        675,000 Simon Khan T69  $         29,000
This Week’s Total    $        915,714 This Week’s Total    $       231,464
Season Total    $   12,284,008 Season Total    $     7,265,224

Even though the majority of the world’s top golfers gathered in China to duke it out for this final WGC event of the season, the whole thing really came down to a match play tourney between eventual winner Francesco Molinari and Lee Westwood. 

Those two literally lapped the rest of the field…leaving the likes of Donald, McIlroy, Els, Goosen, Casey and Woods merely plodding around the track almost like distant, irrelevant afterthoughts.

As an aside, it was really interesting reading some of the inane, out-of-touch-with-reality comments posted by the rabid Tiger fans on a few golf sites.  They screamed “he’s back!” to virtually anyone who would listen…and then used his T6 finish to prove their point and beat up on people who dared to offer counterpoints.  Well, he might have tied for 6th place, but I’m fairly certain that getting smoked by 12 strokes doesn’t qualify as “being back…” unless you’re talking about “being waaaaaay back” in the pack. 

On a personal note, it was also great to see Westwood put on such a strong charge during his first competitive event as World #1.  Close, but no cigar on getting the win…but he did go a long way toward dispelling any doubts about his worthiness to being on top of the rankings. At least, he did in my books.

The Children’s Miracle Network Classic 

The annual wrap-up to the PGA season is hosted at the Disney Magnolia and Palm courses down in Florida…and it supports a truly wonderful charity that does great, heartwarming things every week of the year.

If you’re waiting for a reference to “a Mickey Mouse” golf tournament, you’ll have a long wait…it’s not coming from this keyboard.

Since the tourney happens so late in the year, and since most of the top talent secured their playing privileges months ago, you might think it would be tough to draw a really solid field to this event.  That’s not really the case though…and a lot of that does have to do with Mickey Mouse.

True, most of the top 10 golfers aren’t playing this week…but the tournament does draw more than its fair share of stars, who really don’t have many compelling reasons to be there otherwise.

While the players are playing and competing and trying to avoid the cartoon character-shaped bunkers, their wives and children are being treated to one of the most fun non-golf golf venues in all of golf…Disney World.  When you can combine work with a fantastic holiday for your family, it’s easy to see why so many guys who don’t need to be at this tournament end up coming back year after year, before hanging up their spikes for the season.

Derek’s Picks

Justin Leonard – 2010 has been a winless year for Leonard.  In fact, he’s only managed to put together one top 10 finish this season…a third at the Wyndham Championship, just before the FedEx Cup Playoffs began.

I haven’t dug through all the archives, but this might just have been Leonard’s poorest season since joining the tour.  Very un-Justin-like.

I did go far enough back into the records to check out how Justin does at this tourney though…and that news is pretty good for him.  He’s registered two top 10 finishes in the past three years; finishing T6th in 2007 and losing to Stephen Ames in a 3-man playoff last year.

So, with just one more chance to rack up a win and put some small bit of positive spin on an otherwise forgettable season, I actually think Leonard might have a shot this weekend.

Heath Slocum – No matter which way you slice it, it’s been a really wonderful year for Slocum…and definitely one he can use to build on as his career matures.  I’m looking forward to seeing what he can accomplish next year.

His win at the McGladrey Classic a few weeks ago put a nice wrapping on a season that has featured five top 10s and nine top 25s.  It was also his first win of the year. 

Coming off his McGladrey performance, Slocum is one of the most recently-successful players in the field this week…and I think he can ride this current wave for one more wild weekend and squeeze another win into the season.

DJ Trahan – Seven top 10 finishes and eleven top 25s make for a year that a lot of golfers would eagerly trade for. But there’s one gaping hole in Trahan’s record this year; no win.  In fact, he’s been winless since 2008.

Like Slocum though, Trahan is carrying one of the hottest recent records into this week’s field, coming off a third-place finish at the Viking Classic…and there are good reasons to be optimistic he might still finish off the season by hoisting a trophy over his head.

 There are definitely other players I might easily name ahead of him, but for some reason Trahan keeps popping into my head as a guy to look out for this week.

George McNeill – He was a pretty fair pick when I chose him at the Shriner’s Hospital event a few weeks ago (finished 14th).  This week I’m giving him one more chance to get a permanent place on my Christmas Card list, by locking up a win.

I’ll be the second person to admit that McNeill’s 2010 has been pretty unspectacular.  In case you haven’t Columbo’d it yet, McNeill would be the first one to admit that.  Or he should.  He’s managed just one top-ten finish in 27 starts this season…and only five top 20s!

 Hang on a sec…is it too late for me to change this pick?  It is?  Damn it!

Unlike a good chunk of the pack playing this week, McNeill is going into this event with a total do-or-die attitude.  And he absolutely has to. 

Right now he’s sitting at 133rd on the PGA Tour Money List…and he’s one of many guys who are literally playing for their lives this week.  Of all of the players who are at, or below the bubble, I think McNeill has one of the better shots of doing well at Disney World. 

He was the third member of the 3-man playoff in this event last year…along with winner Stephen Ames and Justin Leonard.  In that regard, he should have some pretty good feelings about the way this course suits his game.  I think of all the players who are in jeopardy of going to Q-school after this tourney, he’s one of the ones who is best suited to gutting out the ordeal and successfully fighting for his card.

And now that I’ve made my final picks for the season, let’s see how my little girl did with her final 4 tosses of the hammerheads for 2010 down in the basement:

D&D Picks (Daughter & Dartboard)

  • Woody Austin
  • Daniel Chopra
  • Troy Merritt
  • Rod Pampling

And that’s all for now folks.  There’s be one more update from me coming next week, to review these results.  Meanwhile, have a great week…and enjoy the tourney!

Cheers,

Derek

p.s. As promised at the top of this babble-fest:

The Origin of Three Dog Night – On cold winter evenings, Australian Aborigines would dig a shallow sleeping pit in the ground and would curl up with a domesticated dog (or dingo) for extra warmth.  On very cold nights, they would add two more dogs for the extra body heat. 

Thus, the natives came to refer to a bitterly cold night as “a 3-dog night.”

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