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Honouring the All-Time Greatest!

Another action-packed week in professional golf.  Another first-time winner.  Not one, but two more nail-biting, sudden-death playoffs.  Another, new World #1.  

What a great golf season this has been so far.  For spectators, that is.  Of course, if you’re stuck in the newly developed rain forest in Southern Ontario and have been desperately trying to get out for a round or two, instead of just watching other people play golf…well not so much!

My lawn has taken on so much water so far this spring that I swear the grass won’t be dry enough for a proper mowing until the snow flies again.  And, based on the craptacular weather we’ve had so far, I’m guessing that’ll probably be some time in August!  Meanwhile, I‘m hacking my way through the hay, mulching mud and hidden dog turds in the process like a mad man, trying to stay ahead of the game.

So, what did happen this week?  PGA rookie Keegan Bradley claimed his first Tour victory in a sudden-death playoff with 5-year “grizzled” Tour veteran Ryan Palmer, on a weekend in Texas that can best be described as a survival contest.  While some of the games stars were blowing up spectacularly and struggling to break 80 on Saturday and Sunday, these two kept it together well enough to finish tied for the lead at -3.

Meanwhile, across the pond in England, Europe’s best were mostly humbled as they played for the glory at the European PGA Championship at historic Wentworth.  As the whipped field of competitors left the course, the track was called almost every dirty name in the book…and by association, I guess, so was Ernie Els, the guy who redesigned it a few years ago.  I think the most polite thing I heard about the course from the ranks of disgruntled, shell-shocked Tour pros was “unfair.”  The Big Easy created a monster that is anything but easy.

Despite that though, there were good scores posted at Wentworth…and the two best belonged to Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, who were both tied at -6 after 72 holes.  Cut to another sudden-death playoff and a classic showdown between World #1 and World #2…duking it out, mano a mano, for the ultimate bragging rights.  Donald prevails to become the new king of the hill…and joins the ranks of Westwood and Sir Nick as the only Englishmen to hold the title of World #1 since its’ inception.  Fantastic stuff…great to see!

So now that the legitimately exciting, “big picture” stuff has been dispensed with, this seems like a good time to go to the family leader board and see how my daughter and I did with our picks for the Nelson.

The Byron Nelson Championship

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
K.J. Choi T40 $         26,650 Michael Connell T55 $             14,820
Dustin Johnson T20 $         70,417 Charley Hoffman Cut $                    –
Jason Day 5 $       260,000 Aron Price Cut $                    –
Nick Watney T8 $       169,000 Charlie Wi Cut $                    –
This Week’s Total   $       526,067 This Week’s Total   $             14,820
Season Total   $  10,395,006 Season Total   $        3,356,849

All in all, a pretty good week for the old man.  No, I didn’t pick Keegan Bradley to win….but I’m in very good company on that score.  I defy you to show a single fantasy golf pool hack anywhere on the planet who did. And, after waxing my team last week at the Colonial, it looks like my poor daughter is back to her woeful ways on the dartboard.

By the way, if you’re not keeping track at home, with the conclusion of the Byron Nelson Championship, we’ve now had a grand total of 21 weeks of golf action this season…which puts us at the halfway mark of the 2011 PGA year.  Seems like an appropriate time to do a quick look in the rear-view mirror and see how we’ve both done so far on the season.

Derek’s Picks D&D
Wins 2 Wins 0
Seconds 2 Seconds 0
Top 5’s 8 Top 5’s 2
Top 10’s 24 Top 10’s 6
Top 25’s 40 Top 25’s 20
Cut 15 Cut 38
       
   

The Memorial

I’m not sure precisely how The Memorial tournament got out of synch with the US Memorial Day holiday…but it has.  The PGA Tour conspires to make sure that US Open is played every year on Father’s Day weekend…you’d think that they’d do the same kind of calendar massaging to ensure that the Memorial is played on Memorial Day weekend as well, wouldn’t you?

Some sources claim it’s because the tourney had been plagued by heavy Ohio spring rains for too many years, so they moved it two weeks closer to summer.  And since we’re talking about heavy rains and golf, here’s a long-range prediction for you:  The Canadian Open this year will either have a Monday finish AND/OR will be cut down to fewer than 72 holes this year…because of bad weather.  I really hope I’m wrong…but you should bookmark this page now and see how I do with my meteorological prognosticating when July 24th finally rolls around.

Regardless on when it’s played, the Memorial is the tournament hosted by THE BEST golfer in history…and that makes it a must-attend event for virtually every big name in the game.

Yes, I said the BEST golfer in history…and I defy anyone to refute that statement with an argument based on logic.  To put a fine point on the issue, until someone (anyone) comes along and actually eclipses Jack Nicklaus’ records, he remains the best golfer ever.  Period.  End of story.

I’ve read and heard all the arguments…the comparative strength of fields from different eras being the one that everyone likes to hop on first.  Stick in ages, length of courses, equipment, training, diet, exercise, coaching, mental conditioning and a list of other things too, if it makes you happy.  But in the final analysis, it’s all irrelevant babble when you count up the trophies.

THAT’s the yardstick folks…and it’s the ONLY one that counts.   Any other argument that attempts to point to another golfer being greater than the Golden Bear is based on hopeful forecasting, whimsy and pure speculation, heavily laced with subjective opinions, thoughtless pandering and emotion. 

Not logic…not facts.  Logic and facts are in the sole domain of Nicklaus, right up until they aren’t…and not a second before.  To suggest anything else is simply disrespectful and Nicklaus deserves MUCH better from us.

Here endeth the sermon.

Derek’s Picks – the Memorial

Luke Donald – Picking Donald this week is probably just as predictable as all the heat I’m inevitably going to face from all the Tiger Toadies over my “who is the greatest” rant above (see above; your arguments are toothless).

Seriously though…how can you NOT pick Donald when he’s in the field?  Based on his performances so far this year, he’s virtually a lock to finish at least in the top 10 (as he’s done in 7 out of 8 events played in North America)…and at least 50% to finish in the top 5.  Add in his European record and it gets even better.  His worst finish in two starts is second place!  Factor in the Masters and WGC events that also count on the Euro Tour Order of Merit and his worst finish is 6th place in 5 tourneys…including two wins. (Remember, Donald took an extended winter vacation and started his golf season very late this year).

I could keep going here, but is there really any need?

Matt Kuchar – After a relatively dismal late April-early May dry spell that saw him finish T27, T21 and T54 at Augusta, the Heritage and The Player’s Championship respectively, “Kooch’s” T6 finish at Lord Byron’s event last weekend has hopefully got him back in fighting trim and ready to take another serious run at a title.

Prior to the Masters, Kuchar was almost on autopilot in his defence of the 2010 PGA Money title…registering six top 10 finishes in his first 8 starts on Tour.  Since throwing up a pair of 75’s at the Masters (figuratively, not literally…but it was a little “spewy”), it’s been a bit of a struggle for him.

Kuchar also has some very positive Muirfield mojo to draw on this week as he meanders his way back to Ohio.  In the last four years he has finished T8 in 2010, T5 in 2009, T10 in 2008 and T13 in 2007 at Jack’s tournament.  You’d be pretty hard-pressed to find a guy with a better recent record at Muirfield Village.  The only other player that really leaps off the leader boards is Justin Rose, with a win in 2010 and T2 in 2008.

When you add it all up., I really like Kuchar’s chances this weekend.

Phil Mickelson – Mickelson has had kind of a weird year so far.  Hot…not…hot…not.

With very few exceptions you could plot his 2011 performances on a grid and end up with an almost perfect saw tooth pattern…one week great, the next in the crapper, the next week great, the next one rubbish.  Up and down like a toilet seat…lather, rinse, repeat.

If this pattern holds true, then my crystal ball says Phil is in for a premium week at Muirfield Village, since he’s coming off a fairly crappy T33 at his last event, The Player’s Championship.

There’s another reason I’m going with Mickelson to do well this week.  This will be his last big tune-up for the US Open…and I’m betting he’s going to come out firing on all cylinders.  The national  championship is one that has always alluded him and since he finally broke the title of “best golfer not to win a major” seven years ago, he’s been on a mission to rack up as many major titles as he possibly can in the time he has left in his career.  So far he’s racked up 3 green jackets and a PGA Championship, but The US Open remains a huge void in his resume.

He’s been the bridesmaid at the US Open a remarkable five times, plus he’s had two fourths…but so far no trophy.  (He’s also missing an Open Championship, but I’m sure that one doesn’t rankle him nearly as much as not having a win at his own national championship does).

As he fine tunes his game to get in major form, I look for Mickelson to be a legitimate contender for Jack’s trophy on Sunday afternoon.  As far as his chances at Congressional go…check in with me in 2 weeks.

Nick Watney – I was really torn on whom to give this final spot in the roster to, but in the end I decided to go back to the Watney well once again.  There are other guys I definitely gave some serious thought to for a variety of reasons…but discounted them all.  Who you ask?

Justin Rose:  great record here the past several years (won in 2010, T2 in 2008)…having a lousy 2011 so far.

Rickie Fowler: finished second here last year…somehow manages to crap his Underoos every time I’ve picked him this season.

Rory McIlroy: T10 here last year…only one top 10 this season, he’s a far cry from living up to his potential (I do hope he turns it around though)

Jim Furyk: A hell of a record at Muirfield…but winning $10 million FedEx bucks last fall seem to have extinguished his competitive juices.  He used to have the eye of a tiger.  Now, until he gets his edge back, he has the balls of a chipmunk.

So, Watney it is.  Finished 8th last week in Texas.  Having a great year. Why not?

Okay, my babble is done with.  Let’s go down to the rec room and see what daughter can do on the dart board this week:

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard)

  • · Jonathan Byrd
  • · Jim Furyk
  • · Brian Gay
  • · Charl Schwartzel

Wow…another solid roster from the bairn, carefully constructed through random chance!  I feel a battle coming on.

And that’s all for now folks.  Have a great week, enjoy the tourney and remember; until someone actually breaks the records, JACK NICKLAUS is the greatest golfer of all time.  Give the man his proper credit…he’s earned it and we owe it to him.

Cheers,

Derek

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