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The Wolves Are in the Fold…Pass the Haggis!

As the sun slowly sets over picturesque London Town, I’m bunkering down for another night of high explosives.   This will be night six.

For whatever reason, a big chunk of the people in our modestly, middle-ish upscale neighbourhood seem to take to holidays that justify the use of fireworks like Oprah takes to cheesecake…they can’t get enough of it!

It started here last Wednesday…and it’s been going strong every night since.  The capper came Sunday morning at 2:00.  Nothing like having the dog claw your face off in sheer terror to jolt you out of a deep sleep!

And since tonight is the 4th of July, I’m fully expecting a number of people in this particular ‘burb to claim temporary dual citizenship for the evening, or trade in on mock sentiments of neighbourliness and celebrate the American holiday with even more pyrotechnics.

Any excuse to blow things up!

Thank god there was no C-4 or nitro in the manger back in Bethlehem…or else “Silent Night” would have never been written.

And so as I gird my loins for “another night in ‘Nam,” let’s talk about the fireworks that happened on the PGA Tour this past weekend.  And there were some, to be sure.

I’m going to have to send Nick Watney a special thank you card for making me look brilliant last week.  That should make him feel really good, don’t you think?  That, and the winner’s trophy and the $1.1 million he picked up at the AT&T National.  But mostly the thank you card.

I’m sure Watney must have been a favourite for more than a few Fantasy Golf wags out there…but I make it a point never to read other golf prediction columns, to avoid any potential contamination of my own diseased way of thinking.

Nonetheless, there was a VERY strong field battling it out on the fairways and greens of Aronimink last week…and LOTS of other guys who would have been great picks, so I’m particularly proud to have picked Watney among my favourites to win.

For those of you keeping track at home (yeah…I’m sure there are many!), this is my third winner of the season.  Whether that’s good, bad or somewhere in between, I leave to you to decide.

So then, since I’ve already revealed/re-capped my Watney pick, here’s a quick review on how my daughter and I did with all of our picks last week:

The AT&T National

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Ryan Moore T68 $       12,710 Stephen Ames T51 $           14,839
Nick Watney 1 $ 1,116,000 Joe Durant T72 $           12,338
Robert Garrigus T20 $       72,230 Charles Howell III T3 $        322,400
Bo Van Pelt T11 $    148,800 Nick O’Hern Cut
This Week’s Total $    1,349,740 This Week’s Total $           349,577
Season Total $  13,083,786 Season Total $        4,240,638

I’m still trying to figure out why the Ryan Moore pick turned out to be so poor (‘cause I was sure he was due), but other than that stumble, it was a very good week for me.  And, I have to say that it’s very nice to see my little girl land a top 3 score with one of her dart tosses too!  I like to win, but making my girl feel bad in the process is no good.

The John Deere Classic

Here’s a quick question for you; other than being professional golfers, what do Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell, Martin Laird, Retief Goosen, Justin Rose,  Edoardo Molinari, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Palmer and Padraig Harrington all have in common?

The answer?  They’re ALL playing in a pretty hefty professional golf tournament this week…but it’s not the John Deere Classic.  That’s a partial glimpse at the stars in the field this week competing for the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart.

If it can be argued that the strength of the field competing in the Canadian Open suffers because of its’ proximity to The Open Championship (it’s the week after), then there’s an equally strong case to be made that the biggest beneficiary of the scheduling of golf’s oldest Major is the Scottish Open (held the week before).

Golf purists could also suggest that players flock to the Scottish Open, to give the birthplace of golf it’s proper due.  But everyone knows that the real reason most of the field plays in this event (especially the North Americans) is so they can get properly acclimated to the conditions “over there” and to tune up on the type of course they’ll have to face next weekend, in order to be named “The Champion Golfer of the Year” (and no, that’s NOT the title earned by the winner of the Viking Classic).

For those of you who have played golf at the home of golf, you know that it’s not an easy transition to make.  Not even close.

And if you think I’m exaggerating, ask yourself how many North American tour players routinely hit 50 or 60 yard putts from the fairway…or nail their driver 400 yards (or when the wind quarters, only 170 yards)…or possess the perfect feel for a 200 yard bump-and-run…or have a deft touch out of bunkers with 10 or 12 foot high faces?

Nope, playing over “there” is in many ways as alien an experience to playing over “here” as it would be to seeing a Hilton or Kardassian sister with a book in their hands (at least one that didn’t contain cheques).

Even the drinking is different.  Many a visiting American has been knocked flat on his ass after just one or two pints of bitters.  Kind of like when they try Canadian beer for the first time…times ten.

And the food!  Och aye…how many North American laddies do yer figure will be frantically searchin’ far and wide the Firth of Forth for a faint hint of the golden arches, rather than belly up to a heapin’ helpin’ of haggis?

That’ll put hair on your chest…and your knuckles…and your ears…and your elbows…and the soles of your feet!

So then, while all of those stars are over in Scotland, getting acclimated to play in the UK, you might be rightly asking yourself, “who does that leave us in the field for the John Deere Classic?”

Without  trying to sound mean-spirited in any way, I think the answer is that we have a handful of wolves in the fold…plus a few dozen herd dogs to threaten them…and a whole lot of sheep waiting to get fleeced.

Derek’s Picks – The John Deere Classic

Steve Stricker – By far, the highest-ranking player in the field this week…and the one with the most recent victory to his credit.  Sticker has to be a favourite to win this week’s event.  There’s just no way to overlook him.

While he hasn’t had nearly the same success as he racked up at this point in 2010, Stricker is still a perennial threat to win every time he tees it up.  His last victory on Tour came a few short weeks ago at The Memorial, on a course that was tricked-up and toughened to get the player’s acclimated for the US Open, two weeks later.  As it turns out, The Memorial ended up being a much sterner test of golf than the national championship at Congressional…and it was Stricker who took on all comers in the star-studded field (virtually no one misses it) and hoisted Jack’s trophy over his head this year.

Oh yes, I guess I should probably mention that Steve has won this event the past two years in a row…and is going for the “three-peat” this week.  Normally, I think that kind of artificial pressure would be the kiss of death for a player, but Stricker is a strong enough player (mentally and physically) and the field is just skinny enough on stars to give him the thumbs up without any reservations.

Jason Day – If Stricker can’t do it this week, then Day is a close second to win in my books.

Coming off an incredible string of top 2 finishes in the Majors (he finished second at both Augusta and Congressional), PLUS top ten finishes in a WGC event and the Player’s Championship so far this season, Day has catapulted himself to 7th in the world…just two spots behind Stricker.  He is now a legitimate threat to win, every time he steps onto a tee.

Why he’s playing in Illinois this week, instead of perfecting his 200 yard bump-and-run over in Scotland, is a bit of a mystery to me…but since he is playing on this side of “the pond,” he definitely has to be one of the favourites to win at the “Deere.”

Robert Garrigus – I can be a persistent little cuss sometimes…like a yappy little mongrel snapping at your pants.  My Garrigus pick this week, is one of those times I guess.

Based on the spectacular form he showed in his last Tour event (his third place finish at the US Open), I took Garrigus to do very well last week at the AT&T.  He ended up finishing T20…which was quite good, but definitely not up to the potential he showed us all at Congressional.

And so, now that he’s back into the swing of things after his brief rest, and came back from the break so well last week, I’m doggedly going to go with Garrigus again, to finish high this week at The TPC Deere Run.

Zach Johnson – I waffled back and forth on my valuable final pick in this week’s prognostications, and in the end I let experience and past success tip the balance in favour of wishful thinking and whimsy.

But, if Tommy Gainey ends up winning this thing, I’m going to be really pissed at myself!  (There just seems to be something extremely poetic and positively karmic about “Two Gloves” scoring his first PGA Tour win in a tournament sponsored by a tractor company!)

A few years ago, Johnson was one of the legitimate wolves…one of the up-and-coming new threats emerging on the PGA Tour.  This season, not so much…although he has turned in performances, so far, that around 100 other guys with Tour cards would be envious of (pardon my dangling participle!)

Johnson has made the cut in all but 2 of the 15 events he’s entered so far this year.  And of those, he’s posted four top 20 finishes…including a 4th at Colonial, a 6th at the Wells Fargo and 12th at the very difficult Player’s Championship.

His PGA Profile also gives him a T1 at the CVS Caremark Charity Classic this season…but let’s face it, that’s not a real golf tournament.

Johnson also has some recent glories here in Illinois.  True, he only finished T21 in this event last year, but in 2009 he was the bridesmaid to Steve Stricker, posting rounds of 69-68-64-66 to finish at -17.

It’s been a long time since his last real win on Tour (2010 at Colonial)…and Johnson has to be VERY hungry for another trophy after this drought.  I think when you throw that appetite into the middle of a fairly anaemic field, he has a very good chance getting back into the winner’s circle.

And now that I’ve had my ramble, with a generous side of haggis, let’s see what magic my daughter managed to conjure up on the dart board this week:

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard):

  • · Jason Bohn
  • · Brian Gay
  • · Tom Pernice Jr.
  • · Michael Sim

And that’s all for now folks.  As always, thanks VERY much for reading and playing along.  Have a great week and enjoy the tourney!

Cheers,

Derek

 

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