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Bust the Busters, Beat the Cheaters…

Fair warning; this week’s column is going to be a long, rough ride folks.  I haven’t even started writing yet, and I can already tell that my fingers will be flying, the keyboard will be smoking and the screen will be filled by enough pixels to overwhelm the cats at the Human Genome Project, by the time I’m done writing this thing.

Damn…I might need more computer power!

There’s just so much to write about this week’s PGA Tour event, that I’m not going to chew up a lot of your valuable time looking in the rear view mirror at last week’s event. 

And to be perfectly honest, our performances for last week’s tournament really aren’t worth a lot of pixels anyway folks.  It was pretty underwhelming.  So let’s just get it over with a press on with the pain, shall we?

Results – the Phoenix Open

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Brandt Snedeker

T50

 $               14,713 Blake Adams

T65

 $                   12,566
Webb Simpson

T8

 $             170,800 Matt Jones

T40

 $                   23,790
Bill Haas

T19

 $               68,843 Anthony Kim

CUT

 $                             –
Rickie Fowler

T26

 $               43,310 Y.E. Yang

CUT

 $                             –
This Week’s Total    $             297,666 This Week’s Total    $                   36,356
Season Total    $         3,407,514 Season Total    $              1,231,564

 

There.  Done.  Let’s move on.  Worp speed Mr. Sulu!

The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Since you’re visiting this website, I’m going to go out on a very short limb (just a nub really), and make the not-so-bold declaration that you and I have at least one firmly-held belief in common; the absolute conviction that professional golf is one of the last bastions of honour, integrity, good sportsmanship and gentlemanly behaviour (no sexism intended) left in sport.

I challenge you to think of another sport, ANY other sport, in which the contestant’s integrity and honesty are trusted to such a high degree that they actually police themselves.  Not only that, but these players routinely turn themselves in for rules violations…many that weren’t and probably couldn’t and wouldn’t have been caught by anyone else. 

It has cost leads, it has blown championships, it has created incredible heartache…but it was the honourable thing to do.  And they do.

Would that ever happen in professional football? Basketball? Hockey? Baseball? Soccer?

Please.

Even in the Olympic games, long-held and promoted as the world’s “purest” form of athletic endeavour, many past winners and record-holders owe their achievements, not so much to their own hard work and training, as they do to having a talented team of chemists and wealthy, influential power-brokers on their side…covering up their various methods of cheating.

So, let’s agree then that golf played at the professional level is a game of honour, integrity, honesty and good sportsmanship.  PGA players are the white knights of the sporting world…and one of the primary raisons d’être for the governing bodies of the game, is to make sure that golf remains an honourable, honest game, played by people with integrity, respect and good character.

And all of this is true…for 50 weeks of the year.

As for those other two weeks?  For reasons that boggle the mind, the PGA Tour spokes its own wheel by turning a blind, jaundiced eye toward cheating…cheating that is so painfully blatant that it screams out for protest. 

I’m speaking of the two weeks every year, in which the PGA professionals (the white knights) are teamed with “celebrities” and various captains of industry to compete in a televised “Pro-Am” event.  Specifically; the Humana Challenge (formerly the Bob Hope Classic) and this week’s event, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (the old Crosby Clambake).

Some call this behaviour “sandbagging.”  But I think to give it a frivolous name like that is almost to dismiss it or trivialize it.  And by doing that, it’s a small step toward actually condoning it. 

Call it what it really is; cheating!

And if you think I’m being overly harsh or critical, or just looking for an excuse to climb up on the soapbox and have a good rant, then consider some of the facts:

The very worst example of Pro-Am cheating (from an extremely long and dismal list), occurred back in 1992.  That year, Greg Norman was teamed with Australian mogul Kerry Packer, the wealthiest man down under, who had a business empire worth $6.5 billion.  Packer carried a 16 handicap into the event. That’s a very important number to remember.

As a team, the Shark and the billionaire combined their efforts for a winning score of -42, shooting 63-59-59-65. 

In the professional competition that year, Norman finished at 284, with rounds of 74-68-71-71.  His score of -4 left him in a tie for 33rd place.

Work out the math on those rounds folks.  Norman’s amateur partner, with the 16 handicap, shot rounds that were 11-9-12-6 strokes UNDER his handicap over the course of those four days. 

From the white tees, Pebble Beach has a course rating of 71.3 strokes.  That means that a 16 handicapper, playing up to his potential, should get around the track in 87 strokes.  And, he should be able to do that only about 25% of the time he tees it up. 

Packer strung together rounds of 76-78-75-81 (gross scores) on his OWN ball!  A grand total of 38 strokes under his handicap…or 9.5 strokes per day.

That year, the cheating was so blatant that the TV announcers just couldn’t not mention it. 

I have pretty vivid memories of the tone and flavour of the dialogue in the booth as the cameras followed Norman and his partner around the course.  The word “cheating” was never uttered, of course.  I’m not even sure they said the word “sandbagging,” although I think it might have been mumbled once or twice.

But the disdainful opinions of the broadcast team, as they watched this sorry spectacle, were as obvious as they could be…while still tip-toeing around diplomacy and the mandate for the network to suck up to filthy rich corporate muckety-mucks.

And that was the last time I remember hearing even a hint of protest over phoney amateur handicaps from the TV announcers.

The phenomenon didn’t end…not by a long shot, unfortunately…but this was something that was not to be mentioned ever again.

No doubt, the TV personalities have been read the riot act by CBS (and later The Golf Channel too) over what they can and cannot comment on during this event…and the subject of sandbagging is now strictly verboten.

Can you imagine how much it rankles guys like David Feherty and Gary McCord not to be able to comment on this?  Now try to imagine how much it must fester at Sir Nick Faldo, one of the most accomplished and respected golfers of our time…to be placed under a gag order and be forced to ignore cheating! 

Five years after the Norman/Packer debacle, which really should have been a call-to-action for the PGA and tournament organizers, Paul Stankowski and teammate Andy Garcia broke the tournament record by going one better…43 under par, 62-58-67-58. 

Stankowski put together rounds of 67-67-74-69 for a 277, quite a bit better than Norman and good enough to tie for 11th place.  Partner Garcia claimed an 18 handicap going into that event…and outdid his handicap by shooting scores that were 5-9-7-11 strokes better than they should have been.  Garcia contributed 32 strokes to the team that year…and average of 8 strokes better than his handicap every day. 

Not quite Packer-esque…but those are still numbers that are beyond credibility.

And if you think, because of the age of my examples above, that this is an old phenomenon, which was corrected long ago…think again!  If anything it might have gotten worse, rather than better.

Eleven of the top 25 teams that played in last year’s final round of the AT&T Pro-Am featured amateurs that shaved 25 strokes or more off their scores over the course of 4 days of play. 

In case you’re curious, the Pro-Am tournament winner, Bill “Cinderella Boy” Murray only managed to contribute 20 shots for his playing partner, D.A. Points over those 4 days.  This effectively made Murray only the 17th strongest competitor in the amateur field of 25 to play on Sunday…or the 17th least honest/8th most honest golfer in the reduced field, if you’d prefer to look at it that way.

The worst offender, by 3 strokes, was a guy named Forehand, who played 4 days of golf at 33 under par (net).  Forehand’s beyond-belief performance gave his professional playing partner Martin Piller a reason to stick around and play golf on Sunday (his three-day total of +6 was way off from making the pro cut).  This performance, by the way, was only good enough to tie for 15th place in the Pro-Am.  Imagine if Forehand had teamed up with a “good” pro that week?

Not grinding your teeth yet?  Need just a little more irritation? 

Here’s a full re-cap of last year’s shameful Leaderboard, sorted by worst sandbagging:

Rank

Partners

Team

Pro

Amateur

T15

Piller/ Forehand Jr. (PB)

-27

6

-33

T8

Bramlett/ Yang (PB)

-29

1

-30

T21

Baryla/ Jacobs (PB)

-23

7

-30

T2

Taylor/ Mycoskie (PB)

-33

-4

-29

T5

Jobe/ Bond (PB)

-30

-1

-29

T19

Faxon/ Ryan (PB)

-24

3

-27

T8

Wilson/ McCoy (PB)

-29

-3

-26

T13

Janzen/ Colleran (PB)

-28

-2

-26

T2

Bowditch/ Miller (PB)

-33

-8

-25

T5

DiMarco/ Russell (PB)

-30

-5

-25

T13

Bettencourt/ Cain (PB)

-28

-3

-25

4

Garrigus/ Flynn (PB)

-31

-7

-24

T5

Holmes/ Novak (PB)

-30

-7

-23

T21

Sutherland/ Gross (PB)

-23

-1

-22

T17

Singh/ Watson (PB)

-25

-4

-21

25

Immelman/ Lopez (PB)

-17

4

-21

1

Points/ Murray (PB)

-35

-15

-20

T8

Watney/ Lentz (PB)

-29

-9

-20

T8

Molder/ You (PB)

-29

-9

-20

24

Stanley/ Partridge (PB)

-20

-1

-19

23

Cejka/ Strothotte (PB)

-22

-5

-17

T8

Mahan/ Dundon (PB)

-29

-13

-16

T15

Gillis/ Brandenburg (PB)

-27

-11

-16

T17

Marino/ Desmond (PB)

-25

-10

-15

T19

Baddeley/ Povich (PB)

-24

-9

-15

 

So, my question is this; how long will this be allowed to go on?  When is enough, enough?

Do the PGA Tour, the governing bodies of golf and the tournament organizers not look at these numbers with a great sense of shame and embarrassment? 

Do they not realize the damage this does to this sport of honour and integrity?  Have they not figured out that by ignoring the situation they are actually condoning it?  That silence is acceptance?  That inaction is not just an endorsement, but a license to continue? 

That they are accessories before, during and after the fact?

At the very least, they should insist that the Pro-Am “competition” no longer receive television coverage of any kind. Fine, do your on-course interviews and let the “stars” joke around for the fans a bit if you really must. 

But let’s not promote this lie.  No scores, no video of amateurs, no suggestion whatsoever that this is actually a legitimate golf competition that is worth our attention or respect, because it isn’t.

The AT&T Pebble Beach

With a field of 156 professionals playing this week, you’d think that a fantasy golf prognosticator would be overwhelmed with too many great choices, wouldn’t you?  I certainly would have thought that.

But, if you care to go on-line and check out the field, you’ll find there’s a fair bit of “fill” involved on the professional side of the ledger, to get the numbers high enough (so that all 156 amateurs have a playing partner).

No disrespect intended, but you’ll find that there are names playing this week that absolutely wouldn’t be in the field, if the organizers didn’t need some “seat fillers.”  I won’t name names…you can do that yourself.

Meanwhile, I look at the list of players who are confirmed to be in the field and try to figure out who to take…all the while trying not to think of the players I’d really like to take, who aren’t here this week. 

It’s last week’s tournament all over again…minus a few more big names.  No Webb.  No Bubba.  No Crane.  No Keegan. No Bo.  No Dufner.  But hey, we have still have Haas!  Hunter though, not Bill.

And we have another Hunter in the field this week…Hunter Mahan.  But I’m not going to take Mahan for a couple of reasons that I think are pretty good.  First, he won in Phoenix a mere 2 years ago, but didn’t show up for this year’s event as the penultimate defending champion.  Instead he allowed himself to be lured by a big appearance cheque to play in Qatar.  Secondly, as if that were bad enough, the bonehead then put together a smooth 74-75 to miss the cut by 5 strokes.  DOH!

Take a big slice of humble pie, throw in a pile of jetlag and sprinkle generously with a dollop of regret and I don’t like Mahan’s chances this week back the States.

Derek’s Picks

Dustin Johnson – he hasn’t exactly set the golf world on fire so far in the 2012 season…but it’s pretty tough not to take Johnson this week.

In the past 4 years, Johnson has scored a top 7 finish (2008), plus back-to-back wins (2009-2010).  That’s a hell of a record to be toting…especially considering he only joined the Tour in 2008!

 Johnson has been suffering from a knee injury, which has kept him out of top form so far this year.  He now says he’s fully mended and ready to rock. 

And that means, look out AT&T field!

Nick Watney – Had I submitted my picks a few hours earlier last week, this guy would have been on my roster for the Phoenix Open.  However, he pulled out on Tuesday due to sickness.

Watney is apparently over whatever he was suffering from last week…and is one of the more prominent names in the field at the AT&T.

Watney finished T6 in this event last year…6 shots off the lead.  Add to that one other top 10 finish (2006) and two more top 30’s (2009 and 2010) and his record here is pretty good.

If he is indeed fully recovered, I like his chances this week to get back on the winner’s podium.

Phil Mickelson – I sucked myself in to taking him two weeks ago at the Farmer’s…and mentioned at the time that i was fighting a mighty battle between my head and my heart over Mickelson.  My head simply couldn’t ignore his great record at Torrey Pines…but my heart said he’d record a fail. 

And my heart was right.  Not only did Mickelson not win, place or show…he didn’t even show up to play on the weekend!  Missed cut…call Amy…tell her to put on the spaghetti.

I’m having exactly the same internal quarrel again this week…and, true to form, I’m going to go with my head one more time and take Mickelson at Pebble.  Stupid, silly, stubborn bugger that I am.

In recent history, Mickelson has finished T9 and T8 in the past 2 years.  He’s also won the event in 2007, 2005 and 1998.  Throw a pair of top 3’s on top of all that and his record on the Monterey Peninsula is formidable…and too good to dismiss this week.

My heart is already ready to whip out the “I told you so speech” once again Sunday night.

Brendan Steele – I imagine a few people might have put some money down on PGA rookie Joh Huh this week…and why not?  What a great couple of weeks this kid has had! 

I like pretty much everything I’ve seen about Huh so far, but I’m going to devote my final pick of the week to another (relative) newcomer; Brendan Steele.

There’s very little I can offer to back up why I think Steele will do well at Pebble this week.  He missed the cut in his rookie debut here last year, so I’m definitely being guided by past performance.

It just feels to me like something unexpected and wonky is going to happen this week.  I’d love to think that someone like Bud Cauley might win this week, but looking at Steele’s T5 finish in Phoenix last week, he seems like the guy who is best poised to take the Pebble Beach field and golf punters by surprise.

And now that I’ve finally finished this long-winded catastrophe, here’s the way the darts landed for my daughter this week:

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard):

  • ·         Paul Goydos
  • ·         Martin Laird
  • ·         David Mathis
  • ·         Pat Perez

And that’s all for this week folks.  Thanks, as always for reading, and enjoy the tournament this week.  And, if you’re at all like me, just try to not to burst a blood vessel when you see all the sandbagging!

Cheers,

Derek

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  • For those following along, here’s a quick breakdown of the scores after the first two days of play…with Pro and Amateur totals isolated:

    TEAM PRO AMATEUR
    1 Harrington/ McManus (SH) -25 -8 -17
    2 Harman/ Ontiveros (MP) -18 -7 -11
    T3 Teater/ Wagner (SH) -17 -7 -10
    T3 Saunders/ Ferris (SH) -17 -2 -15
    T3 Mickelson/ McGee (PB) -17 -7 -10
    T3 Walker/ Peyton (PB) -17 -5 -12
    T7 Gay/ Donahoe (PB) -16 -8 -8
    T7 Owen/ Barton (PB) -16 -7 -9
    T7 Lee/ Morse (SH) -16 -8 -8
    T7 Barnes/ Belichick (PB) -16 -6 -10
    T11 Singh/ Narayen (MP) -15 -8 -7
    T11 Kokrak/ Colleran (SH) -15 -7 -8
    T11 Wi/ Quattrone (SH) -15 -12 -3
    T11 Love III/ Long (PB) -15 -2 -13
    T11 Bowditch/ Romano (PB) -15 -4 -11
    T16 Wetterich/ Anderson (SH) -14 0 -14
    T16 Lee/ Green (MP) -14 -6 -8
    T16 Reavie/ Ueberroth (SH) -14 -3 -11
    T16 Johnson/ Rice (MP) -14 -9 -5
    T16 Todd/ White (MP) -14 -8 -6
    T16 Bramlett/ Yang (SH) -14 -7 -7
    T16 Every/ Walters (MP) -14 -1 -13
    T23 Mahan/ Dundon (SH) -13 -7 -6
    T23 Gates/ Schott (MP) -13 -2 -11
    T23 Cauley/ Saban (PB) -13 -3 -10
    T26 Perez/ Lund (SH) -12 -3 -9
    T26 Bae/ Inciarte (PB) -12 -1 -11
    T26 Moore/ Harbaugh (PB) -12 -6 -6
    T26 Points/ Murray (PB) -12 -5 -7
    T26 Gainey/ O’Donnell (PB) -12 -4 -8
    T26 Na/ Dunne III (PB) -12 -7 -5
    T26 Hoffman/ Desmond (SH) -12 -2 -10

  • Derek,
    Brilliant and damning analysis. If this is how the cheaters behave at something as trivial as golf imagine how they conduct themselves in business. For shame.

  • WhileI have doubt some of these handicaps are at best enhanced, you have ignored the fact that it is a best ball format. You cannot simply add the two scores and project the amateur’s score. This implicitly assumes the amateur got par on every hole where his score was not used in the team score. Not a valid assumption. Many amateur’s handicaps are large because their scores are inconsistent par double par double yields the same cap as bogey bogey bogey bogey, but is far more useful in a best ball format.

    • Thanks very much for reading Jim…and for writing in with your well-thought comments.

      The points you raised are bang-on…and, if not for the effect it would have on pace of play, I’d love to be able to see the amateur’s total scores, rather than just seeing how they scored on holes when they didn’t “go in the pocket.”

      Still though, when an amateur contributes 11 strokes to a pro’s score in just 18 holes of golf (as a few did in this event), I’m not buying it for a second.

      Thanks again for reading…and for writing in.

      Cheers,

      Derek

  • Derek,
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for talking about the CHEATING (not “sandbagging”)!
    I agree with everything. I also agree with Svenny– just imagine how much these businessmen lie, cheat and steal for billions of dollars (and Super Bowls– what a surprise that one of this year’s biggest Cheaters was BeliCHEAT!)!

    • Dave;

      Thanks very much for reading my column…and for taking the time to send in a comment. I appreciate both a great deal.

      It seems I’ve struck a nerve with this one…and your comments reflect the words of the other readers who have posted messages here, or who sent me private e-mails.

      I’ll be putting up the final “Leaderboard of Shame” in my next column for this week’s event at Riviera…sometime tonight or tomorrow (when I finally get smacked in the head with some writing inspiration). It makes for some interesting, aggravating reading.

      Thanks again for reading…and for getting in touch with me!

      Cheers,

      Derek

  • Kerry Packer shot 38 strokes under his handicap… when he got back home I’d love to have been a fly on the wall in his club house when he tried to explain how he did it to his buddies.. with a straight face… must have been the salt air lol I shoot 1 under my handicap and my buddies call BS

    • Ref;

      With $6.5 BILLION in the bank…and control of huge chunks of the Aussie economy, how many people do you suppose would have had the balls to even mention this to Packer???

      As far as having buddies goes, from what I’ve read about the guy in my research it doesn’t seem likely that he had very many true friends…just a lot of people who were afraid of him, plus the obligatory posse of slobbering sycophants.

      Thanks for writing in!

      Derek

  • I agree you have the right conclusion. Just maybe the wrong math. But whats most amazing and you touch on it when you say that someone only shoots their handicap 25% of the time. Is that these people shoot these great holes (if not great rounds) playing a very difficult course, with crowds forming chutes from the tees and hundreds of people watching at every green while playing with two pros. All that pressure would indicate playing much worse than their cap not better for four rounds in a row.

    • Bang-on Jim.

      I play in a huge (friendly) 5-day handicapped tournament down in New York every spring…and start praticing like crazy as soon as the ranges open to get my erratic game ready for it.

      By the time we head across the border, I usually feel great about the state of my game (a “range handicap of 5” as my friends say)…and then my newly-honed skills promptly get confiscated at customs. I turn into “Jo-Jo the Dogfaced Boy” as soon as we hit the first tee.

      And all of THAT is without the pressure of playing in front of tens of thousands of live fans, or millions of TV viewers…not to mention the nerve-rattling added strain of slashing and gouging alongside the real superstars of the game.

      The only pressure we play under (other than the self-imposed pressure of playing well) is the constant, nagging suspicion that one of your “buddies” is going to fart during your backswing.

      And in 15 or 16 years (60+ rounds of golf), I’m humbled (okay, ashamed) to admit, that I’ve probably only beaten my handicap around 6 or 7 times. Pathetic.

      There’s one other thing I didn’t mention, which I think does have some added significance; a huge percentage of these ridiculous scores are posted by guys who live in areas with an 11 or 12-month golf season.

      It’s not like they took lessons all winter and suddenly saw their handicaps plummet by 9 or 10 strokes when they came back for their first rounds of the year. A lot of these guys are generally playing on a weekly basis…and should be shooting pretty consistent scores that are very close to their handicaps.

      It simply defies logic to argue that an 18-handicapper can average 9 strokes (or more) better than his handicap for 4 consecutive days under those, or any other, playing conditions.

      Thanks again, very much for your thoughtful post(s).

      Derek

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