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Golfing With The Gators

I’ve returned to the north side of the 49th parallel now…and looking back on our big golf tournament week “down south” we definitely had an underlying theme going on for the big shindig; “driving.”

Driving the car.  Driving rain.  Driving wind.  Driving snow.

Yes, it was the full-on, maniacal Canadian spring golf experience crime fighters…transplanted 2 hours across the American border.  We played in horizontal rains.  We played in 4-club winds.  We played in a blizzard (for hours!)  Thankfully, we also had a few hours of sunshine and hot temperatures too.  I’m not sure if I came back with wind burn or a tan…but I’m definitely not sporting that lizard belly pallor from too many months of Canadian winter anymore.

By the time we walked off the course at the end of day four we had played in five different seasons worth of weather; spring, summer, fall, winter…and the end of days.

And we had a complete blast the entire time…bigger laughs, bigger misadventures, bigger stories to be told and re-told over the years (and which are guaranteed to grow even bigger and more legendary as time passes).

And despite the weather, the boys came to play…and play very well. Some truly remarkable scores were posted in some incredibly difficult conditions.  Guys overcame adversity and dug deep…going for the gusto and the glory.

As far as my own golf experience goes, it’s probably more accurate to say that I was going for the guffaws and giggles.   My big tradition at this tournament is that my game is destined never to clear customs…and, much to the (evil) delight of a pile of friends, my streak of sucktacular tournament golf remains woefully intact.  I hacked and shanked and sliced and yanked…and drilled balls straight into the ground, mere inches from my tee. 

The worst was a violently topped drive that actually dove straight into the ground, then popped out a foot behind my tee…followed by a violently topped 3-wood that dove straight into the ground, then popped out two feet further back! 

It’s true.  Lying three…three feet farther from the green than I started!!!  How pathetic.  How embarrassing.  It’s enough to make a guy head to the bar…and stay there.

Yes friends, every club abandoned me on this most anticipated of golfing weeks…every club with the exception of my new best buddies; the club flush. 

While the golf that came from this gawky frame was dismal to the Nth degree (squared), the poker that came from the unusually-shaped cranium turned out to be fantastic…and I’ll be returning to the big event next year with a target on my big forehead as the reining Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament Champ! 

Not even close to the victory I’ve spent the past 364 days aggressively visualizing…but I’ll take it and be mighty thankful!

So congratulations and HUGE thanks to my buddies Mats and Jorge and McLarge and the rest of their crew (plus the boys in the pro shop, the greens keepers and hospitality staff) for another spectacular golf tournament this past week.  We came, we saw, we survived, we laughed our asses off and had an amazing time.  Only 364 more sleeps ‘til we do it all over again…can’t wait!

And while we were down in New York adding huge new volumes of material to the book of great golfing misadventures (and studiously avoiding the television), the real golfers on the PGA Tour were busy writing some records of their own at Harbour Town.  So, without further adieu, let’s see how my daughter and I performed last weekend at The Heritage:

The Heritage

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Boo Weekley T46  $      15,504 Joe Durant Cut  
Luke Donald 2  $    615,600 Derek Lamely Cut  
Aaron Baddeley T14  $      91,200 Mike Weir Cut  
Matt Kuchar T21  $      52,060 Mark Wilson T21  $          52,060
This Week’s Total    $    774,364 This Week’s Total    $          52,060
Season Total    $ 6,862,800 Season Total    $     2,725,949

Close, but alas, no cigar on the Luke Donald pick.  I really like Brandt Snedeker as well and was quite happy to see him get the win, but it’s hard to imagine a lot of people who weren’t pulling for Luke to seal the deal and get the win this week…plus grab the World #1 title.  It would have even made having to wear that nasty tartan jacket for an hour or two worthwhile.

And, on a personal note, I thought the story Kevin Na wrote on the course this week was a wonderful, inspiring sub-plot.  I have to believe that MANY golfers would immediately have gone into the fetal position and taken a looooong time to recover after posting a 16 on a par 4…with the whole world watching. 

Not Na.  He shook off last week’s huge embarrassment, got back on the horse right away, dug deep and turned in a really fine top 10 finish at Harbour Town.  Well done man!  I wish you could have shared your secret with me before I headed to New York.  I definitely could have used it.

And so with our re-cap on The Heritage complete, let’s shift gears and zone in on this week’s action on the PGA Tour…the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. 

Derek’s Picks – Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Steve Stricker – If you dig back into past results for this tournament, one thing kind of leaps out at you; it doesn’t seem to abide by the “horses for courses” philosophy you might expect.  Guys come one year, post a really good finish…and then are rarely seen at the top of the leader board again.

Stricker is one of the few exceptions at this event.  In fact, you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find another golfer on tour who has built up a better record in New Orleans than Steve Stricker over the past 4 or 5 years.  Others have won it…then disappeared from the top 10 at the venue in later years.  Stricker might not have a win, but he’s been there more than once…and I think that bodes well for him this week.

Stricker’s 2011 campaign has been a bit of a disappointment so far hasn’t it?  Just two top ten finishes…a far cry from where he was a year ago.  This might very well be the week when he gets things back on track and returns to the winning form that took him so far last season.

Bubba Watson – Now here’s a guy who is having a good year!  He might not always be in contention Sunday afternoon, but he’s definitely been playing some great golf and getting lots of well-deserved coverage.  With one win already (at The Farmer’s) and a really excellent performance at the WGC World Match Play, Watson has established himself as one of the guys to watch this season.  And he’s REALLY fun to watch!

Put his inhuman length and shot-making genius on some of the really fun, “go-for-broke” holes at the TPC Louisiana and Bubba should be poised to really put on a show this week.  And with one top 5 finish in New Orleans in the past few years, this is a course where’s he’s already proven himself and should feel comfortable.  I think he has a really good shot this week.

Nick Watney – It’s been a fairly quiet few weeks for Nick Watney…but when you consider how strongly he started off his 2011 season, you have to admit that it must be pretty tough to keep the mojo going all the time.  He’s had some really high highs, with almost no low-lows.  That makes a great season folks.

Watney is back at it in New Orleans this week and I think he’s going to be a legitimate threat to take it all…again.  Watney was the champ here back in 2007, so he’s been there and done that.  And he did it when he had much less experience.  This time around, with a pile of great results behind him to fuel his confidence and some powerful memory mojo working in his favour I really like Watney’s chances of returning to the winner’s circle.

Tommy Gainey – Years ago, he gave us weeks of great (sub-titled) entertainment on the Golf Channel’s “Big Break.”  He was a stand-out in more ways than one…and it was almost impossible not to root for the guy with the two gloves.

No other Big Break alum has come within a solar system of accomplishing what Gainey has done in the past couple of years.  He parleyed the skills and confidence he displayed in his Big Break experience into a 4th-place finish on the Nationwide Order of Merit last year…earning his full-time Tour card. 

This year he’s kept that momentum going and has turned in some really eye-opening performances on the “big show.”  His “oh-so-close” third place finish at Harbour Town last week was only the latest in what has been a pleasantly surprising season for Two Gloves.  You can also add top tens in Phoenix and LA to his PGA Tour resume.

With the number of stars in the field this week, it might seem goofy to give Gainey the nod.  But there’s something about the way that he’s playing right now that makes me feel like we’re going to see a “Cinderella Boy” moment from him on the winner’s podium very soon.  I think this could easily be the week.

And now that my bumbling is done, let’s see what nastiness my daughter managed to come up with down in the rec room.

D&D’s Picks – (Daughter & Dartboard)

  • Harrison Frazer
  • Kevin Kisner
  • Zack Miller
  • Rory Sabbatini

And that’s all for now folks.  Have a great week and enjoy the tournament.

Cheers,

Derek

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