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On Hubris, Humility and Humble, Texas…

Less than six hours after posting my last column, in which I was celebrating the spectacular improvement in the weather, my imminent assault on the local driving range and the prospects of my brilliant picks in the Arnie Invitational, karma or the golfing gods or the Great Pumpkin decided to crane their necks in my direction, rear their ugly heads and bite me in the ass…HARD!

Eleven more inches of heavy, wet snow came down on our city with a resounding thud.  And our glorious mid-teens temperatures plummeted to bone-numbing levels once again. 

It’s not like I live in Nunavut, Weagamow Lake or “The Bays” (Glace, Thunder or North), where I should rightfully expect that kind of behaviour from Mother Nature at this time of year.  I’m a figurative driver-three wood-pitching wedge from the southernmost part of the country for cripe’s sakes!  We’re supposed to be golfing here by now. 

This winter has been just wrong on so many levels…and it’s making me more than a little squirrely (yes, even squirrelier than normal).

For the past 5 months Mother Nature has been an unfit mother…and I’m giving some serious thought to putting myself up for adoption.  Maybe a few ritual ceremonies aimed at the Sun God or the Moon God (or Joe Pesci, to borrow George Carlin’s deity) can turn things around for us here. I’m getting desperate.

And, as if the miserable turn in the weather weren’t enough to put me in my place, I was in for even more let-down when the Arnie Invitational hit high gear.  A grand total of 3 of my four shrewd selections for the King’s Wingding didn’t even make it to the weekend.

I know that Arnold likes to have his course in major-like championship form and set up, “just so” for this event, but I strongly suspect that it’s been at least several months since the greens keeper at Bay Hill was last laid.  That course was pure evil…as the plethora of 80+ rounds shot last week will confirm.  It was more US Open, than regular Tour stop, for sure…and there are more than a few guys who are licking some serious wounds after crawling off the course with some numbers on their scorecards they probably haven’t seen since high school.

On the brighter side, I had a pile of players in the hunt in our golf pool going into the Saturday round.  At one point I had 3 guys tied for first, then 8 or 9 in the top 6.  Things on that front were looking very promising…until Sunday, of course.  At that point The Great Pumpkin decided to snap my collar once again…and I watched all but two of my guys spend the day soiling their armour all over the field of battle, instead of preparing to take to one knee, join the Honourable and Illustrious Order of Palmerites and receive their sword from the King! 

It’s enough to make a guy drink…even more.  Thankfully I can do just that, owing to a little side bet I made with best friend and occassional comment contributer, Svenny.  I sent him a scud saying how much I was looking forward to seeing Tiger crap himself on the weekend…which prompted Svenny to offer up a wager.  A cocktail of my choice if Tiger failed to make the top 10 at Bay Hill.

Cha-ching!  Oh waitress…over here please, I’d like to place an order!

Ahhhhhhhh…boozy pops won in wagers are the sweetest tasting drinks in all the world and I’ll be savouring my manly vat-sized, vitamin rum in just a few weeks when we head to New York for our first tourney of the year!

So, with part of the week’s painful saga revealed (plus some unexpected pleasure complments of  Svenny and Mr. Woods), let’s finish off this little tale of woe, by re-capping how my daughter and I did with our selections last week:

The Arnold Palmer Invitational

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Sergio Garcia 8  $     186,000 Jason Bohn Cut  
Vijay Singh Cut   Robert Garrigus T56  $           13,500
Brandt Snedeker Cut   Phil Mickelson T24  $           48,600
Sean O’Hair Cut   Scott Verplank T38  $           23,400
This Week’s Total    $     186,000 This Week’s Total    $           85,500
Season Total    $  5,370,527 Season Total    $       2,399,286

I’m too demoralized to bother checking, but I’m pretty certain that this was my most dismal showing, since being invited to join the CanadianGolfer team as their Fantasy Golf “Guru” last spring.  Hopefully over these past 10 or 11 months I’ve performed well enough with my selections that they aren’t now considering dropping me in favour of a poodle with a weak bladder placed on top of a drop sheet covered in pairings lists every week.

Okay then, it’s time to shake off the loss and move on.  A little humility is good for a guy, right?  Here’s how I see things going in our last stop before Augusta.

Derek’s Picks – The Houston Open

Is it just me, or does the name “Humble, Texas” scream out OXYMORON to you too?  Kind of like if you stumbled across a town called “We Love America, North Korea” or “No Seafood Allowed, Nova Scotia.”  (I had a MUCH more clever phoney town name written here…but I started to think through all the possible implications and quickly scared myself into deleting it).

Anyway, that is in fact the host town for this week’s PGA Tour stop…The Houston Open at Redstone Golf Club in Humble, Texas. 

Matt Kuchar – I’m not sure why Kuchar didn’t play in Arnie’s event last week…and I was more than a little miffed at the apparent disrespect he seemed to be showing by not competing in Orlando. 

There were other notables who didn’t play in the event also…with Donald, Stricker and Watney leading the list.  I really like them all and I hope they had good reasons for giving the event a miss.  It seems completely out of character for these guys not to show Arnie the proper amount of reverence by competing at his tournament.

Nonetheless, Kuchar is back in the hunt this week…and despite his conspicuous absence from Orlando last week, I am putting him on my roster for the Houston Open.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Kuchar is a guy who is virtually impossible to overlook right now.  About the worst thing you can say about his 2011 record so far is that he’s played in seven events and hasn’t failed to tee it up on Sunday yet.  Of those seven events, he finished top 5 three times and top 10 five times.  In fact, the only time he hasn’t finished inside the top 20 this year was during the mayhem in Phoenix, where he finished T35.  Right now there are about 80 guys on Tour who would give one of their fingers to have a T35 finish and finally get their season turned around.

Like a good chunk of the field playing this week, this is Kuchar’s big warm-up for The Masters.  I’m expecting him to not only be competitive at Redstone, but to drive down Magnolia Lane next week with a fresh win under his belt.

Hunter Mahan – Hunter was one of the warriors I was counting on in my golf pool last week…and he was there, deep in the hunt, for quite a while.  Unfortunately weekend rounds of 75-76 did him in and he slowly and painfully plummeted from top 3, to top 38.

Mahan’s performance has been up and down like a toilet seat so far this season.  In the eight events he’s played so far, he has ping-ponged from 25th to 6th to 29th to 2nd to 55th to 9th to 9th to 38th!  I’m not enough of a sleuth (or a pig) to try to prove this hypothesis, but I strongly suspect that his steep declines on weeks 1, 3 5 and 8 might be directly tied to conjugal visits with his new cheerleader bride (“gimme a T…gimme an A”).

Since he’s playing a second straight event this week, that hopefully won’t be a problem…and if the up-and-down pattern continues (no pun intended), he’s due to follow up his T38 finish at Bay Hill with a solid top 5 showing this week in Houston.  Maybe even a win?

Note to Hunter: if you want to have ANY hope of doing well at the Masters next week, you’ll want to keep this theory of mine in mind…and skip going home Sunday night for some zug-zug.

Freddie Couples – No need to do a double-take friends.  Yes, I did pick Freddie Couples.  You know…the guy from the Senior Tour with the syrupy sweet swing.

Freddie LOVES Houston…and Houston LOVES Freddie.  He went to school here and he seems to be in his “happy place” whenever he returns.  It’s a great example of horses for courses…and Couples has built up a pretty wonderful record on Redstone over the years. 

Consider his record here:  six top 10’s in 18 starts, including two top 4 finishes in the past 3 years, as he was preparing for the Senior Tour.  Plus he ended a career-record winless drought with a memorable and emotional victory here in ’03.  He’s also third on the all-time tournament money list in Houston, behind Vijay and Appleby, having raked in just shy of $2 million from this event alone.

For whatever reason, Couples’ game always seems to rise to a fresh, rejuvenated level when it’s time to head off to Augusta.  Even despite spotting a good chunk of the field a decade or more these past several years, he’s rarely failed to summon the Freddie of old and always seems to put himself in contention for another green jacket.  And for Freddie, the charge for the green jacket starts the week before Augusta when he comes home to Houston. 

I admit it might be a one of my more oddball, long-shot picks…but it just feels right to take him this week.

Steve Marino –  A lot of guys would give Marino a big pass this week, figuring he would be too shell-shocked after letting Arnie’s sword slip through his fingers last weekend to get back into contention so soon.

A lot of guys wouldn’t take Freddie Couples either.  As you’ve seen, I’m not one of those guys.

Marino put on an excellent performance at Bay Hill…losing to Martin Laird by just a single shot after racking up a double bogey and a bogey on two of his final four holes, for a closing round of even par 72.  Despite having a few bad closing holes that took him pretty much out of contention, his birdie on 18 showed that he had the ability to shake off adversity, zone in on the moment and still take dead aim at the hole when he needed to.

And that’s a big reason why I’m taking him this week in Houston.  In 7 starts this year, Marino has two bridesmaid finishes (Hawaii and Bay Hill), plus a 4th at Pebble.  And none of those are pushover courses…especially the way Bay Hill was set up last week.

Can he finally break through and get his first win on Tour?  It really seems like he’s teetering right on the verge of hoisting a trophy…and that it’s just a matter of time until he does.  Rather than writing him off this week, like so many others, I’m going to go against the current and pick him to do very well.

And now that I’m finished riffing for the week, let’s see what happened when daughter met dartboard down in the basement:

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard)

  • Lucas Glover
  • Jeff Maggert
  • Nick O’Hern
  • Garrett Willis

That’s it for this week.  Enjoy the tournament…and, as always, thanks VERY much for following my column!

Cheers,

Derek

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derekaubrey

6 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Yes Derek, I acknowledge you won the bet. It will be your usual frilly fruity drink with the umbrella and the sparkler. I believe the joy for you is not in the drinking but in seeing me carry the damned concoction across the bar to your table.

    Steve Marino? Don’t think so, not here. More a Steve Stricker type course. Hmm, another bet for which Steve finishes higher?

  • Just do me a favour and remind me to remove the sparkler before I start drinking my winnings this year, wouldja?

    It’s a real bugger playing golf with an eye patch…and the negative effect on my depth perception might mean I’d only be out-driving you by 80 or 90 yards.

    By the way, I did have Stricker on my short-list (of 5), before trimming it back to my max number of choices this week.

    Looking back on his past performances in Houston didn’t inspire a lot of confidence in me…plus, even though he started off great in Hawaii, he has been trending downward ever since. I like the guy a lot and hope he turns it around soon…but decided to give him a pass this week for those reasons.

    So, to answer your question, YES I will take you up on the Steve versus Steve wager. The only thing sweeter tasting than a cocktail won in a golfing bet is a second one.

    This is a nice bonus for me. I hadn’t really planned on picking your pocket until we arrived at the big tournament in 3 weeks…but it’s always great to start the festivities off ahead of the game!

    Be careful though…if you keep this up the Mitchell boys will be lining up on your doorstep jockeying for a piece of the action too!

    Derek

  • Yes it’s true you outdrive me by a lot. But my second shot is usually from the short grass. Yours requires assistance from topographical maps and a GPS. Amazing that we carry the same handicap.

    Thank you for accepting the Steve/Steve bet. Grain alcohol for me please, neat.

    cheers, Svenny

  • Fearless Leader:
    I giggle every week while reading your columns … you are a hoot, and damned if you aren’t accurate about a few things too.
    Natasha

    • Thanks for reading Natasha….and for taking the time to get in touch and pass on those nice words.

      I’m really glad to hear you’ve been enjoying my meandering trip toward early senility. Give my regards to “Boris.”

      Cheers,

      Derek

  • Well my Steve wiped the floor with your Steve didn’t he? I’ll have a Maker’s Mark this time. You are correct. Drinks won at bets taste the best.
    cheers,
    Svenny

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