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My Kingdom for a Sword…

Man…what a difference a couple of days can make!

The day before March Break started, we were pounded with 10 or 11 inches of heavy, wet snow…to add to the 10 or 11 inches we still had on the ground.  Today I’m staring out at a back yard that is 96% grass and 2% snow. 

Sadly, the other 2% is composed of a stunning collection of winter dog turds.

And if you don’t think a couple of days make a difference, ask Sergio.  It was great to see him make his 2011 debut on Thursday…and even more thrilling to see him put on a real show, like the Sergio we knew and loved a few years ago.  Unfortunately, the ride ended a wee bit too soon and he slid to 15th place by Sunday’s close…but perhaps it’s a glimmer of a much better year to come for the young Spaniard who has never quite managed to live up to everyone’s very high expectations for him.  Here’s hoping anyway. 

Sergio has kind of become my modern-day Norman at Augusta…a guy I’ve invested a ton of time rooting for in the majors, only to have my hopes dashed on Sunday afternoon.  I imagine his hopes were dashed somewhere along the way too.

I do know there were more than a few people in our pool who were having a serious case of “trader’s remorse” on Friday night after seeing Sergio’s name atop the leaderboard at the Transitions Championship.  Seems like a dozen or so people just couldn’t wait to nuke El Nino from their teams…before he even played in his first event of the season!  Go figure.

Speaking of the Transitions, what better time than right now to see how the bairn and I did this week with our picks:

The Transitions Championship

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Nick Watney T13  $     110,000 Arjun Atwal Cut  
Jonathan Byrd T20  $       55,481 Charles Howell III Cut  
K.J. Choi Cut   Tommy Gainey T63  $           11,770
Retief Goosen T28  $       34,283 Jerry Kelly Cut  
This Week’s Total    $     199,764 This Week’s Total    $           11,770
Season Total    $  5,184,527 Season Total    $       2,313,786

Yes, it was a fairly craptacular week for yours truly.  I finally managed to pick Nick Watney on a week where he didn’t finish in the top 10, for the first time this season.  He was a really serious threat for a few days though.  And I have no idea what happened to KJ or 2009 Champ, Retief???

As far as my poor daughter’s picks go…well, it might be time to give some serious thoughts to abandoning the darts entirely and taking up a new method of selecting random picks.  Perhaps taking players based on the Pokémon characters they most closely resemble?  Then again, random picks aren’t supposed to do well, are they…so I suppose this is working out exactly the way it should?

This week, it’s time to get positively regal on the PGA Tour…with the King’s annual tourney.  The Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill is one of my favourite events…and, I’ve said it MANY times before, that  big sword that goes to the winner is, hands-down, the coolest prize in golf.  There are definitely more prestigious jugs and cups to be won along the way, but nothing else comes close to that sword!  Aragorn or Gandalf  would wield it proudly!

And, with 6 of those swords in the trophy room, it’s still a great mystery to me why Elin wouldn’t grab one down from the wall and go all Connor MacLeod on Eldrick’s cheating ass and carve him into tiny, harmless Tiger cutlets…instead of chasing him down the driveway with a 9-iron (even if it did have square grooves!) 

Then again, I’d probably be just as mystified about the size of her shoe collection too.  Trying to figure out what goes on in the female mind is way beyond me 90% of the time.  The other 10% I just smile and nod and stay out of trouble.

So, before I say anything offensive (or more offensive) that’ll land me in (more) hot water, let’s see who we’re picking this week in Orlando then, shall we?

The Arnold Palmer Invitational

The first thing that occurred to me when I was checking out the confirmed field at this week’s event was how many of the smoking-hot Tour players right now are conspicuously absent from this mix. 

No Kuchar?  No Stricker?  No Watney? No Donald? 

I’m sure they would have been invited, so where the hell are these guys?  I really like all of them.  I’ve picked them each several times since starting this column.  But, not seeing them in the field is really very disappointing to me.

Is it just me, or does that seem altogether wrong to you too?  I mean, after all, this is The King’s event right?  Isn’t it every golfer’s dream to be invited to play at the Arnie’s big tourney…and have Arnold himself put one of those swords in your hand? Has something changed that makes this tourney skippable all of a sudden?  If so, I don’t think it’s right.  Not at all. 

To my mind, being invited to play in Arnie’s tournament should be like getting invited to a major…an honour that is sought after and cherished.  It definitely should never fall into the “meh…if I feel like it” category.  Save that kind of crap for the Consolidated Accounting and Lawnmowing Brokers of America Open at the end of the season.  This is Arnold Freaking Palmer here guys…show some respect!

The one thing about having all of these players absent this week is that it does remove several contenders from consideration…and shakes up the picks you might have been expecting from me.  So, here we go…

Derek’s Picks for Orlando

Sergio Garcia – Yes…I’m going to do it.  It was so much fun cheering for Sergio last weekend that I want to do the same this week…AND have some skin in the game as well.

Sergio’s 2011 campaign got off to a very late start for sure, but he came out of the gate last week showing so much promise and so much of his good, old self in the first two rounds at the Transitions Championship that I have some really happy thoughts for him in Orlando this week. 

Plus, I can’t help but thinking that there’s a whole lot of Arnie bubbling near the surface in Sergio.  He’s bold, he’s daring, he’s got that “go for it” mentality that made Arnie a legend who was loved around the world.  Somehow seeing the young Spaniard walk away with the King’s title seems more than just a little poetic in my books.  Go El Nino!

Brandt Snedeker – The TV announcers made a lot out of the fact that Snedeker walked out after the first round of the Honda, so he could attend the (unexpectedly early) birth of his daughter a few weeks ago. 

I’m sure a lot of the guys watching the telecast were saying to themselves, “well, I’d do the same thing too.”  Meanwhile, all of the wives watching the event were saying “if her due date was that close, the idiot shouldn’t have been there in the first place!!!”

Whichever way you lean, you have to agree that Snedeker made his quick return to the Tour last week in very good form.  After a moderately lacklustre opening round of one-over 72, he lit it up Friday and Saturday, shooting 64-67 to place himself right in the hunt.  A closing 70 on Sunday gave him a solo 4th finish and his paycheque will pretty much cover all of his daughter’s university tuition in her “here before you know it” future.

Snedeker has had a “sneaky good” 2011 season so far.  One top 5 and 3 top 10’s in 7 events is more than a little surprising to some.  Then again, he’s missed the cut in the other 4 events he’s entered so far.  It’s like he’s been flying under the radar and occasionally pops up to launch a missile that catches everyone off guard. 

I think this week promises to be even better for Snedeker too.  He’s never been a tremendously serious threat to win at Bay Hill…but his name does surface a few times on final leader boards and always within 6 or 7 strokes of the winning score.

Sean O’Hair – In 2008 and 2009, this guy was being hailed as “The Next (insert your choice of golf legend names here).” 

Two years ago he racked up a pretty amazing string of hits.  Nine top 10 finishes and 14 top 25’s in 23 starts.   That included a win, plus a second and a third.  Last year, not so much…three top ten’s, no top 3’s and definitely no wins.  Where did he go…and will he be coming back anytime soon?

If the answer is “yes, he WILL be coming back…and soon,” then this weekend might just be his breakout time.  Over the years, The King’s tournament has brought a lot of good golf out of O’Hair.  Even during his dismal 2010 campaign he finished T21 here, 10 strokes back of the winner.  Before that, he was second to Woods in ’09 and 3rd to Woods in ’08. 

This guy has so much raw talent coursing through his body that it’s just a matter of time until he returns to the winner’s circle.  This weekend, despite a really crappy start to his year so far, I think he might just have a shot at righting the ship.

Vijay Singh – Kind of similar to the O’Hair story…but with a LOT more years of posting amazing results under his belt…and without the bad 2011 start to correct.

Vijay has made a great “comeback” this season, following a couple of really rough years.  Up until 2009, “the hardest working man on Tour” was always a threat, no matter where he teed it up.  Then he fell off the face of the earth…plummeting to 68th on the money list from his perennial perch in the top 5.  He even had to apply for a special USGA exemption, so he could keep his active Majors streak alive!  Man, what a change in fortunes!

This year, despite a ton of early career obituaries from a lot of golf wags, Vijay is most of the way back…and finally showing some of the old form that has made him a golfer to be feared and a hall-of-famer. 

This weekend, in addition to his really solid start to 2011 to get himself pumped up, he can also bolster himself with lots of positive past mojo at Arnie’s shindig too.  He has one of those swords in his closet from 2007 and came within 3 strokes of adding another the following year.  Now that he’s back on his game I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he added another broadsword to his Fijian armoury.

And now that I’ve had my say, let’s see what magic daughter managed to conjure up in the basement:

D&D’s Picks (Daughter and Dartboard):

  • Jason Bohn
  • Robert Garrigus
  • Phil Mickelson
  • Scott Verplank

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

Cheers,

Derek

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derekaubrey

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Yes Robert, it looks like I’ve set myself up for a very humbling week doesn’t it?

    On the bright side though, I have 5 players in the top 4 in the big golf pool I’m in, so at least there’s a chance that I won’t be humiliated there as well.

    And, of course, to add insult to injury, Mother Nature decided to step in and give us a slap in the face too. After writing about how nice it’s gotten here…and how we had no snow left, just hours after posting my latest column we were on the receiving end of about 11 inches of heavy, wet snow here.

    No a blade of grass to be seen anywhere! If this damned weather keeps up, River Road won’t have to worry about any booking tee times until June!!!

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