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Sugar Highs and Suntanned Thighs

It’s only the midpoint of the first month of 2012, and many of our friends south of the 49th parallel have suddenly gone into a complete tailspin during the last 24 hours. 

A disaster of epic proportions looms on the horizon folks…and the hoarding has already begun!

Is it because of Mitt Romney’s second big win in New Hampshire last night?  No…although that does have more than a few bible-thumping southern sphincters twitching violently, to be sure.

Is it the fall of Greece, the imminent plunge of Italy and the continuing European economic crisis?  No, of course not.  43% of Americans don’t even know those countries exist, let alone that they might have an impact on the American economy.

Is it the insistent rumours that Fort Knox has been empty for years…and that the legendary strength of the American dollar is nothing more than a fairy tale, built on a house of cards, within a house of mirrors?  No, as long as Wal-Mart has groaning display cases packed with gold bracelets for $19.57, there is no gold shortage to worry about, silly.

Is it the inevitable ticking of the doomsday clock, as we march steadily on toward Dec. 21st, 2012?  No, it isn’t.  As I explained in last week’s column, PGA Tour head honcho Tim Finchem has saved us from Armageddon by realigning the PGA Tour schedule and the cosmos, throwing that whole wacky Mayan calendar irreparably off-kilter.

Nope, the thing that has huge chunks (literally) of the US population dashing madly to their neighbourhood supermarkets to clear the shelves is this; yesterday the American corporation that makes Twinkies filed for bankruptcy protection!

Yes, gentle, stunned, sugar-deprived Canadian readers…one of the powerhouses of the American food industry, one of the manufacturers of the 5 main US food groups (Twinkies, Big Macs, Krispy Kremes, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Bud Light [gotta watch those carbs!]);  Hostess, is teetering on the brink of…well, the brink.  They are hanging onto the edge of the abyss, with nothing to keep them from taking the plunge, other than their own pudgy sausage fingers. 

It’s a damned good thing those fingers are smeared with monocalcium sulphate, Polysorbate 60, cellulose gum, sorbic acid, niacin and diglycerides to make them extra sticky!

And that’s what has a startlingly high percentage of the population literally stampeding into local grocery stores today. A waddling, thunderous herd of shoppers, with asses two axe-handles wide, storming the aisles and stocking up on cart-loads of Twinkies before Hostess goes bloated belly-up and the stores run out.

Fortunately, since Twinkies contain a plethora of preservatives, petroleum products and, if what I’ve read can be believed, no fewer than 5 ingredients harvested from heavy mining operations (gypsum, phosphor, natural gas, etc.), rather than, you know, actual food…it has a half-life of around 50,000 years.

And, just in case the house starts crumbling around your ears, since a lot of those ingredients are also found in construction materials, it seems that Twinkies would make an excellent substitute for drywall.

If you tip your head southward and listen very carefully, you can actually hear the arteries hardening from here.

Okay Wise Guy, How About Some Golf?

Since I am currently running at 100%, I’d be happy to talk about golf.  Glad you asked!

Yes, after one full week of 2012 prognosticating, I’m 1-for-1 on tagging a winner folks. 

An optimistic Marketing spin doctor would say that my perfect record (a streak of 1) is intact.  A southern Republican would say that I’m divinely inspired and must have god on my side.  As a card-carrying pessimistic atheist and general disturber du merde, I proclaim that it can only go downhill from here!

Nonetheless, there’s a big tip of the Tam O’ Shanter going out to Steve Stricker today, for making me look like a prophetic genius with my picks for the Tournament of Champions.  NostraDerek rules…at least until Sunday night when the Sony Open wraps up.

And so, since I’m harping on it, let’s peel back the cover on our predictions for the first week of the season and see exactly how my daughter and I did with our picks;

Results – The Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Steve Stricker

1

 $             1,120,000 Keegan Bradley

16

 $                    105,000
Webb Simpson

T3

 $                369,000 Bill Haas

20

 $                      84,000
Nick Watney

T12

 $                130,000 Ben Crane

T9

 $                    165,000
Bubba Watson

T18

 $                  91,500 Harrison Frazar

T5

 $                    245,000
This Week’s Total  $             1,710,500 This Week’s Total  $                    599,000
Season Total  $             1,710,500 Season Total  $                    599,000

Oh sure, it was close there for a while.  After all, Stricker did start hacking up furballs during the final round and almost blew a 5-stroke lead, but that’s pretty much the magic of Steve’s game, isn’t it?  It’s the M.O. on almost all of his PGA wins so far; build a lead, blow a lead, build it back again…keep the suspense going until the final hole…accept trophy with modesty, smile meekly at cameras, cash monstrously huge cheque.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

And we’re off…to a fantastic start!

The Sony Open

This week most of the 2011 PGA Champions will hop into their private jets and take the short flight from Maui to Honolulu.  A 25-minute flight, the entirety of which is spent zooming over gargantuan breaching whales and frolicking dolphins…and generally hovering over scenery far too gorgeous for a mere frost-bitten Canadian to fathom.

Once the island-hopping is done, we move on to the first “official,” event of the PGA Tour season, the Sony Open.  I say official, because this is a full-field event…and not a private, luxury party for 28. 

Unlike last week’s ultra-exclusive, winners-only competition, this week marks the first time in the new calendar year where the champions will mix it up with all the bridesmaids, the journeymen and the newbies.  The first, full-tilt, free-for-all of the season! 

Oh yeah, and there will be a cut too!  Play well, or don’t eat this week…not even a Twinkie.

Oddly enough, only 18 of the 28 from last week’s field are going to play at Wayaleyah…er, Waialah…hmmm, Waialae. Oh hell…at The Sony Open! 

You’d think that after spending 79 hours in a plane and flying halfway around the planet for a round of golf, they’d squeeze the Hawaiian experience for every drop it was worth and play one more tourney, wouldn’t you?

Maybe the other 10 guys simply couldn’t spell Waialae when booking their tickets…and just gave it up in favour of some extra tanning and paddle boating (“here’s your ride Mr. Glover, you be careful now”).  Yes, “these guys are good” (at golf), but let’s face it; some of them are no Norman Einstein!

Derek’s Picks

Steve Stricker – I know what you’re saying already…he won last week, he’s got the hot hand right now, he’s such an easy pick, how could this guy take him two weeks in a row and expect to be taken seriously as a prognosticator?

In my own defense (not that I feel like I need one), I’ll offer this reply; Stricker was going to be on my roster this week no matter how well, or how poorly he did last week at Kapalua.  In fact, he could have finished dead-last at the Tournament of Champions and I still would have put him on my team this week.  Probably.

The reason is simple; take a look at how Stricker has played in this event over the past 5 years.  His recent successes read as follows; T9 in 2011, 3rd in 2010, T23 in 2009 (his bad year) and T4 in both 2008 and 2007.  After looking at his stats, I’d defy anyone NOT to take him this week!  Especially when you factor last week’s win into the equation.

Not since the days when Dicky Pride ran amok on the island (1984-89) and literally owned the field every time he played at the Komanawanaleia Classic, has a single player put up such a dominant performance on Hawaiian soil.

Yup…Stricker is a painfully easy pick to make this week.  The fact that he won last week, just makes it a little harder (not easier) to take him, since we all know how hard it is to win back-to-back on Tour.  Nonetheless, I’m riding this horsey once again this week…and am happy to be doing so.

Webb Simpson – Yes, I took Simpson last week as well.  And, after the way he played at the Tournament of Champions, I don’t feel the least bit sheepish about taking him one more time this week.

Reduce, re-use, recycle. 

I’ve been inspired by Tim Finchem’s actions to help save the planet (see last week’s column)…and am doing my own little part by cutting down on the number of new electrons I use in writing this article. It’s the least I can do…and never let it be said that I didn’t do the very least I could do, in any given situation!

For the doubters out there who were wondering if young Webb was just a single-season phenomenon; a statistical anomaly who was destined to come crashing and burning back to reality, with the start of a new golf season, I think Simpson’s performance at Kapalua laid those questions to rest once and for all. 

He put on a masterful performance all week and finished at 19 under par…basically taking up right where he left off last fall and hopefully shutting up the naysayers.

Oh yes, there’s one other great reason to take Simpson again this week at The Sony.  Other than being one of the handful of hottest players on the planet over the past year, don’t forget that it was on this course, at this event, that Simpson made his PGA Tour debut just two short years ago…and finished T9th! 

Does he have any happy thoughts about this course and his chances this week?  Youbetcha! And so do I.

Bud Cauley – Okay, now THERE’s one you probably weren’t expecting…a PGA rookie making his official full-time debut this week.

If the professional golf wags I’ve read are to be believed, Waialae is not a course that can be mastered by a mere noobie. Like Augusta, they say, it’s an incredibly difficult course, full of subtle, evil nuances that requires years of learning, through trial and error….and a lot of humiliation and pain.

So why would I ignore all of this sage wisdom and choose a guy who’s never seen this course before?  Well, there are two reasons.

First; scroll up and read all about Webb Simpson’s T9 professional debut at the Sony two years ago.  If Simpson can do that well in his premiere event, then any rookie can find lightning in a bottle and make his mark here too.

Secondly; if you’re not already familiar with his name, then go on-line and learn a little about Bud Cauley.  This kid is no “mere” rookie!

Cauley qualified for the US Open as a top College amateur…and finished T63 in his first event with the BIG boys (the toughest US Major, no less!). 

Meanwhile, guys like Stewart Cink, Chad Campbell, Paul Casey, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Martin Laird, Hunter Mahan, Adam Scott, Aaron Baddeley, Ben Crane, Ernie Els, Nick Watney, Ian Poulter, Jim Furyk, Camilo Villegas, KJ Choi and a host of other top golfers had missed the cut, packed their bags and jumped on their jets for an early Hasta La Vista Baby, Friday night.   

After that event, Cauley pulled a Justin Rose and said “to hell with finishing school!” declaring himself a pro forever more.  Unlike Rose however, who became a pro the day after his success in his first Open Championship (T4th)…and then ran off something like 9,000 missed cuts in a row, Cauley made his first 4 cuts in a row…and only missed one cut in 8 events.

And he didn’t just make cuts.  Nope, he made his presence felt from the very start; finishing T4 at the Viking Classic and 3rd at the Frys.com Open, plus a T4 at the Nationwide Tour’s Utah Championship! 

Most remarkably of all, in the 8 events he played as a non-member, he earned enough money ($735,000) to finish in 116th place on the PGA Tour Money List…and automatically earn his playing card for 2012!  No Q-School hell for this boy…it’s straight to the “BIG show.”

Anyone who can accomplish all of this, in such a short amount of time, is absolutely going to get my vote of confidence this week in Hawaii. 

I can’t wait to see what this tiny kid (all 5’7″ and 150 lbs of him) is going to achieve!

Jerry Kelly – I was torn between Jerry and Steve Marino for this slot.  But since we’re in the dead of winter here in Canada, it seemed fitting, somehow, to give up my last slot in this week’s premiere of the PGA Tour season, to a hockey player.

True, we have very little snow to speak of, and it hasn’t really been much of a winter so far…but then again, I’m not sure that Jerry was much of a hockey player either.

What I do know is that he seems to love this course…and the course seems to love him right back.

For whatever reason, when the Tour stops in Hawaii for The Sony, Jerry’s name just seems to always be there, in the hunt for the prize.  He was T9 here last year, T23 in 2009, 3rd in 2008, T13 in 2007 and T13 in 2006.  Those are almost Stricker-esque numbers folks…and while it’s very unusual for Kelly to be on my radar for any other event, I think he’s worth a go this week at Waialae.

And now that I’ve had my babble for the week, let’s see what magic my spawn has conjured up down in the new rec room, shall we?

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard)

  •        Jonathan Byrd
  •        Roberto Castro
  •        Jason Kokrak
  •        Carl Pettersson

That’s all for this week folks.  As always, thanks VERY much for reading and playing along with me…and enjoy the tournament!

Cheers,

Derek

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