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Golf…Serengeti Style

I think I’ve figured out where I went wrong last week. 

I forgot to include the “Wounded Animal” factor in my calculations when I was trying to predict who would contend for the trophy at the Frys.com Open.  I wrote about it a fair bit in last week’s column.  Hell, I even gave mathematical examples and punctuated them with historical back-up (i.e. Rocco Mediate’s win last year).

Too bad I forgot to keep all that stuff in mind when I made up my picks! 

Instead, like an idiot, I decided to go with the guys I thought were in the best form coming into the event…or were the toughest competitors in the field.  The wolves in the fold.

Silly Derek…what was I thinking?

And lest you think I’m just being an obnoxious SOB, if you take a look at the top of last weekend’s leaderboard, I think you’ll admit there seems to be a lot to be said for my wonky “Wounded Animal” theory.  The vast majority of guys who finished in the top 15 or 20 came into the Frys as limping gazelles…hobbling across the veldt trying not to attract the attention of the predators stalking in the high grass.

Briny Baird 148th coming into the week…now in 93rd.  He immediately booked this week off.  Miller Time!

Shane Bertsch; was 174th, now 140th…still a bit of work to do, but LOTS closer to the safety zone.  Ernie Els; 106th to 91st….more than enough.  Josh Teater; started off in 120th, now breathing a hell of a lot easier at 107th

And let’s not forget out THREE Canadians who finished in the Top 10!  David Hearn, who has logged back-to-back top 10’s to settle in rather comfortably in 102nd place; Matt McQuillan, who inched himself closer to safety by going from 140th to 132nd, and Adam Hadwin, who isn’t even on the US PGA money list, but finished with an extra $130,000 in his jeans…and perhaps sights set on breaking into the American tour full-time next year.

Frys.com winner Bryce Molder also fits the mould, to a degree.  Coming into the week in 87th place, he was definitely in no danger of going to Q-School in December to save his card…BUT he still walked the fairways with a bit of a figurative limp.  It wasn’t a great year, all in all.

And, halfway through the event, it looked like Nathan Green might just pull off an almost identical accomplishment as Rocco Mediate did last year in this very tourney.  As you’ll probably recall, Mediate came into the 2010 Frys in 174th place, with playing privileges for 2011 in big time jeopardy.  He won the event and immediately vaulted up to 75th and absolute safety.

This year, Nathan Green came into the Frys in 176th place…and, after a second round 64, found himself leading the tourney.  Had he hung onto the lead through Sunday night, he would have ended up in 76th place on the Money List.  Sadly for Nathan, disappointing rounds of 70-71 on the weekend were only good enough to finish T30 and earn around $31k…for a frustratingly tiny bump up to 174th on the Money list.

Yes, it was definitely a great week for the limping gazelles.  Meanwhile, the one ‘predator’ in the field that everyone was following (the tiger), was pretty much nowhere to be seen.  Oh we still had to see every shot, because he received wall-to-wall coverage compliments of the channels carrying the tourney.  But in reality, he wasn’t even in the hunt.

He had to light it up just to make the cut…and then finished deep in the pack in 30th place. 

If Marlin Perkins were covering this particular spectacle for Wild Kingdom, the only shot we would have seen of the elusive tiger would have been a quick glimpse of him licking his groin under a baobab tree, while the real predators were busy chasing down their prey…all the while hoping that one of the successful hunters brings him back something to sink his gums into. 

Sadly, all he got in the way of red meat, was a hotdog lobbed at him by one of the spectators.  This was a truly shameful act that might strike some people as funny…but it’s one that should be universally condemned by golf fans everywhere.  This is a gentleman’s game and that kind of crap shouldn’t be directed at anyone, no matter how much you might think they deserve your disrespect.  You can bet that the whole hotdog incident will force the PGA Tour into completely re-thinking their security measures and distancing the players even further from the fans who support them.  What a damned shame.

So now that I’ve beaten this Savannah metaphor into the ground, let’s do a quick re-cap and see how we did with our picks last week, shall we Daktari?

Results – The Frys.com Open

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Tommy Gainey

Cut

Paul Goydos

T72

 $               9,800
Angel Cabrera

T50

 $          12,175 Troy Matteson

T42

 $              16,088
Brendan Steele

T7

 $         130,313 John Merrick

T30

 $              30,375
Ben Crane

Cut

Tiger Woods

T30

 $              30,375
This Week’s Total  $         142,488 This Week’s Total  $              86,638
Season Total  $    20,096,495 Season Total  $         6,945,875

In a word; brutal!  Good thing Brendan Steele showed up to play this week, or else it would have been a complete disaster…and my daughter would have rightfully been doing her victory dance around the kitchen, with her $86k performance.

 The McGladrey Classic

If it was tough to pick winners last week because the field was so modest, then it’s going to seem twice as tough to pick them this week.  You see, for whatever reason, a bunch of heavyweights are returning to play on Tour this week.  No, not Luke…or Watney…or KJ…or Dustin.  But Webb is coming back to play…and so are some other pretty successful players; guys like Kuchar, Toms, Byrd, Howell, Johnson, Snedeker, Wilson, Fowler and Van Pelt.

The big question is, how much fire will these guys have in their bellies this week…and will it be enough to ward off attacks from the “wounded animals” who are fighting for their very survival?  Are they really coming to win, or just to stretch their legs, have some fun with the boys and play a little golf?

There’s the challenge friends; finding the guys who have come to play…and win!

Derek’s picks

Webb Simpson – He went into the final round of the FedEx Cup with everything to win…or lose.  Money lead, points lead…the king of the mountain, firmly fixed in everyone else’s crosshairs.

By the end of the Tour Championship, he finished deep in the pack and surrendered the brass ring to Bill Haas…finishing second in the FedEx Cup and pocketing a cool $3 mil.

This week, I believe, is all about redemption for Simpson…his last chance to finish with a bang, rather than an extremely well-paid whimper.  The money he earns this week won’t mean a thing in terms of the FedEx Cup of course, but it is a chance to rack up enough shekels to erase his $70,000 deficit and pass Luke Donald on the Money List.

When you’ve already earned $5.8 million in a single year, an extra $900k might seem like uninspiring chump change to a 26-year-old kid…but I’m willing to bet that he’s going to come out smoking this week as he tries to finish the year in a blaze of glory and wash the taste of the Tour Championship out of his mouth.

Rickie Fowler – Fowler earned his first big win as a pro last week…taking the Korean Open title.  Granted, this was only a 54-hole event and it wasn’t a victory over a field jammed with stars, but he did fend off Rory McIlroy by 6 strokes to take home the hardware.

Now that Fowler is on home soil and he’s finally been ‘blooded,’ I’m thinking he’s going to be even more inspired to claim his first PGA Tour title.  Until he does, he might be inclined to view his win in Korea as one that is kinda, sorta, a win…but not really a real one.  And I’m not sure he (and many golf fans) wouldn’t be right in thinking like that. 

It’s not exactly on par with being named the best hockey player in Ecuador…but it isn’t like winning The Masters, or even the John Deere, is it?

Look for Fowler to be charged up and totally inspired to play some great golf this week…to nip those kind of thoughts in the bud.

David Toms – What a surprising year it’s been for David Toms…at least from my perspective. 

Never one of the flashiest players on Tour (or longest or richest or most interesting to watch), Toms has had a very successful career as being the ‘steady Eddie.”  Most of the time, he can be a little easy to forget.  He plays well, wins a few events from time to time, behaves like a respectful man and generally flies below the radar.  In other words, he is rarely first and foremost in people’s minds when they try to imagine who might win a tournament. 

But I‘ve been imagining him winning this week friends…and it all seems logical to me. 

Toms is actually one of the most successful predators in the field this week.  With a win (Colonial), a second in a playoff (the Player’s Championship), two thirds and a fourth, plus a couple other top 10 finishes…he’s spent a fair chunk of the year playing in the nosebleed section.

And don’t forget, he came close to winning the inaugural McGladrey’s last year.  He finished T3 in 2010, just 2 strokes behind Heath Slocum.  That, plus the great year he’s been having, means there are lots of reasons he should be having happy thoughts about his chances this week.

Matt Kuchar – I gave a LOT of thought to devoting this space to one of the limping gazelles struggling between 150th and 175th on the Money List…but who do you take in that pack?  Nonetheless, it goes without saying that I’ll have a bit case of buyer’s remorse if one of them pull a “Rocco” and win this week.

Instead, I’ve gone with Kuchar again…and like my Simpson pick, this one is based on the search for redemption.  Sounds weird to say that about Kuchar doesn’t it?  What does he need redemption for?  He’s had a great year!

Well, here’s my reasoning; he’s earned $4.2 million on Tour this year…without a single win!  That’s more money than any player in PGA history has amassed without actually having a victory…and I think it’s a stat that is eating away at him more than a little bit.

Kuchar was a winning machine in 2010…and finished the year with a well-deserved Money title.  This year, he’s played extremely well (again); ranking 6th on the Money list, but he just hasn’t managed to lift a trophy along the way.  I’d love to have that kind of problem, wouldn’t you?!?!?!

This week is perhaps Kuchar’s last stab at fixing that situation before the season closes.  I’m looking for him to go all the way at the McGladreys.

And now that my weekly spew-fest is finished, here’s how daughter is conspiring to beat the old man this week:

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard)

  • ·         Kris Blanks
  • ·         Ben Crane
  • ·         Ben Martin
  • ·         Tim Petrovic

And that’s all for now folks.  Thanks very much for reading…and enjoy the tournament!

Cheers,

Derek

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