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Father's Day Favourites

As the old saying goes, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

355 more times!

Yes, the 355th time was the charm for Harrison Frazar on Sunday night.  After 13 winless years on the PGA Tour that saw him tee it up in no fewer than 355 tournaments, Frazar finally played his way to earning a winner’s cheque this past weekend at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis.

This should be an inspirational story for all of us…keep working hard, always give what you’re doing your very best effort and never give up on your dream.

Sounds like something your dear old dad might have said to you as you were growing up, doesn’t it?  That and “what the hell were you doing in the bathroom all that time???”  Not to mention the time-honoured classic, “Hey son, pull my finger!”

But before I take full advantage of that beautiful Father’s Day segue, or press on with my picks for the US Open this weekend, let’s do a quick re-cap on how my daughter and I did with our selections for last weekend’s Tour stop:

The St. Jude Classic:

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Brian Gay Cut $                – Ben Crane T73 $             10,472
David Toms Cut $                – Sergio Garcia Cut $                    –
Lee Westwood T11 $       134,400 Bobby Hudson Cut $                    –
Heath Slocum T52 $         13,132 Michael Putnam T47 $             14,806
This Week’s Total $       147,532 This Week’s Total $             25,278
Season Total $  11,375,095 Season Total $        3,610,649

Brutal!  Absolutely dismal!  Just the kind of confidence builder I needed heading into a very difficult to forecast major.

The Masters, by far, should be the easiest, since it is the only major that is played on the same track every year.  You can dig through past performance at Augusta, combine that with current form and come up with some pretty reasonable selections.  Sounds easy on paper, doesn’t it?  Not so much.

Even using this very “logical” formula, my four selections at Augusta this year,  turned in less than stellar performances.  Mickelson – 27th, Stricker – 11th, Mahan – cut and Watney – 46th.

And then there are the three other majors….the really tough ones to forecast!

They move around every year.  The closest thing that resembles The Masters annual test at Augusta is the tradition of holding The Open Championship at St. Andrews every 5 years…in honour of the “birthplace” of golf.

My regular method of picking winners goes right out the window at these events.  It has to.  Performances at past majors on these tracks are so outdated as to be useless.  The last time a major was played at Congressional was 1997, when Ernie Els claimed his second major trophy.  That’s a hell of a long time ago!

Of course, there have been regular Tour events played at Congressional since 1997.  It used to host the Kemper Open every year, which later morphed into the Booz Allen Classic.  More recently the course hosted the AT&T National from 2007-2009.  But that’s a recent as recent Tour history gets at Congressional.

And then, there’s the course set-up to consider too.  This is a MUCH different Congressional than the guys strolling the fairways at the AT&T a few years ago would have seen.

US Opens are notorious for the evil way in which the courses are set up.  Fairways are cut to the width of a snooker table, the rough is deep enough to lose your shoes in (not to mention your ball), mounded collars around greens are bikini waxed for extra slippage, greenside rough is evil personified and the greens themselves, once you finally get on them, are so fast it’s like trying to putt on the hood of your car.

It’s a 4-day survival contest of the most brutal nature.  The Lord of The Flies, played out with drivers and wedges…and Piggy lost his glasses on the first tee!

Not a year goes by that dozens of demoralized professionals don’t drag their weary, thoroughly beaten asses off the course, go straight into the media tent and complain bitterly about the “unfair” conditions.

You think you heard complaints about the conditions at The European PGA Championship at Wentworth this year?  Trust me, that was a drop in the bucket compared to the stuff you’ll hear on the Golf Channel about Congressional over the next few days.

So then, with all these factors to consider, how does one go about picking winners for a major like this?  Great question!

As near as I can figure, the best method is to look at current form…then combine that with the key elements needed to win a gruelling, precision-demanding major like the US Open; hitting the ball straight (#1, by far), scrambling amazingly well when you don’t, hitting lots of greens and then putting the lights out on tough greens.  And then, if you’re really stuck, maybe, just maybe, take a look back at the results of previous AT&T’s played here, if you’re torn between some players.

This might sound like the proper formula to pick a winner every week on tour (and it probably should be)…but we all know that’s not the case.  Lots of guys have cashed winner’s cheques without being dominant in all or most these categories.  Some have literally sprayed and gouged their way to success.

Harrison Frazar in Memphis last weekend is a case in point; 46th in driving accuracy, 19th in sandies, 19th in double bogies.  So much for those stats…but he was also 1st in distance, 5th in putting and 8th in Greens in regulation.  Good enough to win the St. Jude…probably not even enough to just make the cut at the US Open.

Nope, you have to have ALL cylinders firing to survive at a major…let alone bottle enough lightning for 4 straight days to win one.

And if you think I was poking fun at Frazar’s expense, ask yourself how many tourneys guys like Mickelson or Woods have won while spraying the ball everywhere but the fairways.  Plenty of them.

Oh yes, there was one other guys who was pretty famous for doing that too.  In fact, to this day when someone scores a par having never hit a fairway or green in regulation they still call it “An Arnie.”

Derek’s Picks – The US Open

Steve Stricker – There really isn’t anything not to like about Stricker’s chances going into this tournament.  First of all, he won the last tournament he tipped his ball up in; the Memorial, two weeks ago…so he’s riding a personal high right now and should be chock-full of confidence.

As far as the “key stats” I mentioned above are concerned, Stricker is pretty golden there too:  2nd in Putting (1.69), 3RD in Scrambling (66.99), 22 in GIR’s (67.75) and 31st in Fairways (65.5).  Apart from his occasional inaccuracy off the tee, there aren’t any chinks in Stricker’s armour.  And there are LOTS of guys out there who would give their left arm to hit 66% of all fairways this week (although, I’m not sure how you would do that with just one arm).

Add it all up and Stricker is a must-pick for the US Open this week.

Luke Donald – YES, I’m taking him again dammit!  After he ended his very long winter hibernation and I chose Donald in his first Tour start this season.  And, if memory serves me correctly, I’ve probably taken him in every other event he’s entered on the PGA tour this year.

At the risk of sounding like I have a man-crush on the guy, let me just say that he has yet to let me down.  He’s 8 for 8 in Top Ten finishes s so far this year!  Oh sure, he’s cute and polite and charming and rich and everything else too…but I’m a dyed in the wood, raving heterosexual Bub.  So let’s have no more of that talk!

As far as playing stats go, Donald is magic.  1st in Putting (1.69), 6th in Scrambling (65.73), 12 in Driving Accuracy (68.1) and 33rd in GIR’s (67.04).

The horse entrails have declared this to be the Year of Donald.  There’s no reason at all to believe that he doesn’t have one of the best chances, if not the best chance of winning the US Open this weekend.

Matt Kuchar – After his breakthrough 2010 campaign, Kuchar has followed up with a really solid 2011 run so far.  So far this season, he’s racked up 8 top 10’s in 14 starts…but has yet to post a win for the year.  He has also yet to win a major.  I think there’s a good chance he can kill both birds with one stone this week at Congressional.

And the stats support the case.  Kuchar is 16th in Driving Accuracy (67.34), 12th in GIR’s (69.6), 13th in Scrambling (63.79) and 11th in Putting (1.73).  THOSE are US Open champion-calibre stats folks.

The only reservation I have is Kuchar’s lack of ability to shine consistently when the spotlight is at its’ brightest and the pressure is cranked up to 11…in the really big tournaments.  He started off with lots of promise by finishing 3rd at 5th at the first two WGC events of the season…but failed to make a dent at Augusta or the Player’s Championship.

Can he add a major championship to his impressive list of accomplishments this week?  I think he has a good shot at it.

Jim Furyk – I waffled back and forth on this final spot in my roster for a really long time.  Torn between Retief Goosen (3rd last week at Memphis and conditions are ripe for another of his patented ‘where did he come from?’ major wins) and Hunter Mahan (holder of the Congressional course record with a really solid record 2nd-12th-8th in his last 3 appearance there…but too much time off for slap-and-tickle with the new bride, so he’ll show up this week all shagged out)

In the end, I decided to go way out on a limb and give Furyk the nod instead.  Sounds strange doesn’t it…that picking Jim Furyk would be considered a bit of a longshot?

Alas, after winning the $10 million bones in last year’s FedEx Cup, Furyk has played like a man possessed…possessed by a sprit that is not Jim Furyk’s, but closer to David Duval’s (circa 2007).  He just doesn’t seem to have it in him anymore…and that has to be eating him up.

As far as the stats go, i have to be honest and admit they really aren’t in Furyk’s corner so far.  His only really impressive stat is 10th in Driving Accuracy (68.36).  As far as the rest go…my kids would say “Meh!” and shrug.  Putting – 108th, Scrambling – 42nd, GIR’s – 42nd.  Seems kind of crazy to pick him doesn’t it?

But there were two things that really put Furyk in the mix for me.  First, this guy is absolutely ferocious in big tournaments and it seems like he’s always a huge threat on Father’s Day.  Second, his record at Congressional is spectacular.  In his past 3 events there, his worst finish is 7th (7th, 3rd, 3rd).

If Furyk is going to turn his season around at all, then I think this is the week where he’s most likely to do so.

D&D’s Picks – Daughter & Dartboard

  • · Matthew Edwards
  • · Kevin Na
  • · J.J. Henry
  • · Jeff Overton

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

And remember, if you’re lucky enough to still have your dad around, make sure you do something nice for him this weekend and tell him how much you love him.  Every opportunity you miss out on now, is one you won’t get back after he’s gone.

Cheers,

Derek

 

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derekaubrey

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  • So, I got some work done, cut the lawn and then settled in for an exciting few hours of US Open coverage late Friday afternoon.

    In my first 5 minutes of viewing there were no fewer than SIX gratuitous references to Tiger Woods…more than Rory McIlroy had received.

    And that was AFTER McIlroy had wrapped up his second round and set a handful of new US Open records in the process!!!

    Can someone please tell all the Tiger-lickers behind the microphones at NBC that Woods isn’t playing in this tournament…and that they don’t have to kiss his ass every 25 seconds.

    How about zoning in on the players who ARE playing (and deserve the attention)…and stop wasting valuable coverage on the meaningless characters who aren’t.

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