Björn on the Bayou

Back in the late 17th century, when I was a wee lad, Björn Borg was the greatest tennis player to stalk the planet.  He crushed everyone in his path on the way to 5 straight Wimbledon titles and 11 Grand Slam championships.  Almost every kid with any aspirations toward  being the very best at something, sports especially, wanted to be him…or like him.

He was simply amazing to watch. So good was he that one of his most prominent victims of the era, former World #1 Ilie Nastase once said of him; “we’re all playing tennis, Borg’s playing something else!”

Borg was the first rock star of the tennis world…and one of the very first in sports.  And, because of the cold, calculating, almost mathematical way he dispatched the world’s best, he earned the nickname “The Iceman.”

Like I said though, that was way the hell back when I was a boy…back in the distant past when people actually cared about tennis.  (“Wanna watch the tennis anyone?”  No thanks, it’s probably time that I trimmed grannies’ toenails”)

As preposterous as it might sound, when I watch Jason Dufner play golf I see some faint traces of Björn Borg in his style. 

No, he hasn’t run the tables and beaten everyone in his way.  No, he’s not World #1…in fact, he’s only one slot better than World #21.  No, he isn’t feared by everyone else in golf.  And no, he isn’t a charismatic rock star…in that regard he’s about as far from Borg as he could get.

The resemblance I see is in the cool detached way that Dufner moseys around a golf course plying his trade.  He never gets happy.  He never gets mad.  He never gets a spring in his step.  He never lets his shoulders slump. 

He has the metabolism of a lizard sunning itself on a rock when he’s in the hunt.  He just plods around the track with that same half-dazed expression on his face, hole after hole after hole. 

To be honest, it almost looks like he has a bit of a jag on…or at least a semi-jag.

I mentioned it in last week’s column; you could show 40 random pictures of Dufner walking off the green after holing 10 birdies, 5 eagles, 10 pars, 10 bogeys and 5 double-bogeys…and the person viewing the pix would have, at best, a 25% chance of matching the picture with the “emotion” and guessing what he just shot. 

The guy is such an emotional cipher there’s probably a betting line in Vegas on whether he actually cracks a smile at his wedding this coming weekend.  And the odds are on 6-5 on that.

We really need to get Jason a nickname, don’t we?  Something to jazz him up a bit?

So, if Borg was “The Iceman” because of his calm, cool, methodical, detached play, then what do we call emotionless Dufner?  How about “The Ice Cream Man?” “The Vanilla Man?” “The Blancmange Guy?” Or maybe “The Iguana?”

I have no idea…but I’d love to hear some of YOUR ideas.  Send ‘em in folks…and let’s have some fun with this!  (But please be respectful)

Results – Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Luke Donald


 $            435,200 Miguel Angel Carballo


 $                 25,600
Webb Simpson


 $            116,480 Graham DeLaet


 $               281,600
Jason Dufner


 $         1,152,000 John Mallinger


Steve Stricker


 $            230,400 Jake Narro


This Week’s Total  $         1,934,080 This Week’s Total  $               307,200
Season Total  $       13,496,895 Season Total  $            3,012,667


Oh yes, if you’re thinking that I wasn’t cheering for Dufner, because I was poking a bit of fun at him in the paragraphs above, then you’d be dead wrong.  He was one of my horsies this week….and he paid off for me in spades!

So did all of my guys in fact.  The only way I could have done much better was to have taken Els (one of the guys I mentioned giving hard consideration to) and passing over Webb Simpson..with his weenie T13 finish (yes, that was sarcasm…great job Webb!) 

And even though I took Dufner, and not Els, you can bet I was rooting hard for Ernie down the stretch, finally come back into form and playing his way into Augusta next year.  He might not have done it in one swell foop with a win, but the way he’s been playing lately, he’ll make it back to the 2013 Masters just based on his Tour ranking.

And speaking of World #1, Luke Donald played his way to the top of the heap, yet again.  Get used to it folks…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; that title is going to ping-pong back and forth for quite a while to come. I think.

The Wells Fargo Championship

This tournament has had three names in the past 4 years…but only one sponsor!  Since it won a spot on the PGA Tour it was known as the Wachovia Championship.  Wachovia was snapped up by Wells Fargo in 2008.  But for the years 2009-2010 it ran without any sponsorship credit in the title!  They simply called it the Quail Hollow Championship (after the hosting course)

Why?  Because Wells Fargo didn’t want to flaunt their name (old or new) on a sponsored golf tournament, after receiving a boatload of cash from the government as part of the big bailout for banks who were teetering on the edge of existence.  In case you’re curious what qualifies as a “boatload,” Wells Fargo received $25 BILLION in T.A.R.P. cash from the US government.  That’s the maximum amount they handed out to financial institutions…and Wells Fargo sucked up every penny!

Under these circumstances, not pasting your name on a golf tournament is probably a good PR move.  But, it’s nowhere near as good as manning up, paying for your own stupid mistakes and not taking a handout at the taxpayer’s expense.  And it’s not even in the same galaxy as not running your company into the ground with reckless, irresponsible (criminal?) bank practises in the first place!

I wonder if they doled out some 7-figure “performance” bonus cheques to their executives with any of that bailout moolah???

Derek’s picks

Phil Mickelson – The last time we saw Phil, he was putting on an epic back-nine charge at Augusta National…trying to grind out a 4th green jacket win.  He’s been on vacay ever since.

Coming off a few weeks of R&R, Mickelson should be primed and ready to rock when he hits the tee at Quail Hollow.

And he should be waltzing onto this property loaded to the brim with happy thoughts.

In addition to feeding off his form at this year’s Masters, Lefty should have tons of great memories of playing this particular track…and playing it very well.  In the past 5 years, his worse finish here was T12, back in 2008.   He was T9 last year, 2nd in 2010, T5 in 2009 and T3 in 2007.  No one has a better record here over this period.

Mickelson has done almost everything except win at Quail Hollow…and I think he has a very good chance of correcting that and hoisting the trophy this week.

Jim Furyk – it’s only taken about a year and a half, but Furyk is finally showing some signs of recovering from the FedEx Cup Curse I invented in my wee diseased cranium.

After winning the $10 million prize back in the fall of 2010, Furyk promptly fell off the face of the earth… rarely threatening to finish in the top 10 in 2011, let alone actually winning an event. 

He literally went from the penthouse to the outhouse with the flip of the calendar.  Mind you, the outhouse is a pretty comfy place with 8 figures collecting interest in your bank account (even at the ridiculously low rates the banks are paying us).

But that was last year…and this is this year.  And despite a few indifferent finishes in the 8 events he’s entered so far (T40 at Pebble, T33 at the WGC Match Play and cut at the Honda), Furyk is showing all the signs of a superstar who is returning to form. 

In fact, if you peel those three events out of his 2012 record, his worst finish this year is T11 over the remaining 5 tournaments (T11 at the Northern Trust, T11 at the Arnie Invitational, solo 11th at Augusta, T8 at the Heritage, lost in a playoff at the Transitions). 

Also swaying my decision heavily this week is Furyk’s record at this tournament.  If you overlook his dismal 2011 campaign, he’s finished no worse than T11 (there’s that number again) at this event in 4 of his last 5 outings…T7 in 2010, T11 in 2009, 7th in 2008 and first in 2006.  The only real blemish on his record at Quail Hollow was a smooth 71-79 to miss the cut in 2007.

Add it all up and I really like Furyk’s chances to get his first Tour win since taking the FedEx Cup back in 2010.  Either that or NostraDerek says he’s poised for a T11 finish.

I just need to send him a note and remind him not to get all coked up on that energy drink crap he’s been flogging on those TV commercials.  Golf + heavy doses of caffeine are not conducive to success!

Rickie Fowler– I think I’ve reached a bit of a tipping point on Fowler, but I’m going to pick him this week and give him a final chance to prove himself, before I give serious consideration to putting him on the shelf for good.

Fowler has bucket loads of talent and a very impressive record so far in his very short professional career.  BUT, and it’s a big “but,” he has yet to claim a victory.  And, without trying to be mean-spirited here, he strikes me as being a bit of a flake. 

Here’s an idea; how about spending more time on the practise range and less time working on your fashion statements and dance moves for Golf Boys videos Rickie!

And even though he’s only been around for a few years, the inability to wrap up a victory seems to be growing into a troublesome stat for someone with so much raw ability.  Plus with all the focus on him and his game, you have to believe that the longer he goes without a win, the harder it’s going to be to finally seal the deal…á la Mickelson finally getting his first Major.

I think Quail Hollow presents one of Fowler’s best opportunities of the year to get the winless monkey off his back.  He’s made just two appearances here and has finished 6th and T16, which is pretty impressive.

Dufner finally pulled it off last week…and the way this season has gone so far, the golf gods should give Fowler a good shot at getting his first win this week.  That’s probably faulty logic, but what the hell?

And if Rickie doesn’t pull off something good this week (like a top 5), then I’m forgoing him for the rest of the season…or at least until he proves himself in a bigger way.

Hunter Mahan – Here’s another guy who’s been enjoying several weeks of R&R and should be coming into this tournament refreshed and rejuvenated.  That is, of course, unless he and his new cheerleader bride are still enjoying their honeymoon phase; in which case he’ll probably be coming back to work worn to a frazzle and totally shagged out! 

Mahan has had a very impressive season so far…and has become a ‘should-pick’ every time he tees it up.  Remember, he was the season’s first multi-event winner, capturing the WGC Match Play and following that up three events later with the Houston Open title.

After a few lame-ish appearances at the WGC Cadillac (T24) and Arnie Invitational (T42) he came back to form in Houston and had a strong follow-up at next appearance in the Masters, finishing T12.

Mahan also has some very respectable, if unspectacular stats at Quail Hollow…four top 25s in his last four appearances.  And while his play at this particular course might not scream out “gotta have him!” the way his year has been going, he’s a tough guy not to pick when he’s in the field.

And now that I’ve had my ramble for the week, let’s turn it over to my daughter down in the rec room and see what she came up with for her picks…

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard):

  • ·         Mark Anderson
  • ·         Robert Karlsson
  • ·         Rory McIlroy
  • ·         Carl Pettersson

Yes, you might have been asking yourself “why the hell would he not take McIlroy this week???”  Well, there’s why.  I had him on my list, but he was snapped up by my little girl with one fortuitous lob of a hammerhead…damn it! 

And, according to the rules we made up, any dart she throws supersedes any pick I may have made, based on my research.  So no former Wells Fargo champion, former World #1 Rory McIlroy for Derek this week.  He was tops on my list, then he was Gandhi with one toss of the tungsten!

And that’s all for this week folks.  As always, thanks very much for reading (and writing) and playing along with my silliness…and enjoy this week’s tourney!



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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • The “blancmange” man … OMG! Derek that is olde English and so funny … and thanks for picking the guys I have in my golf picks – now they are doomed !!! As much as I wanted to see Ernie win again last weekend, to see Jason do it was wonderful ‘cuz he played so well each day! I’m gonna put him in my golf picks for next year (poor guy will probably be doomed).
    You’re still mad … glad to see being near our “rulers” in Ottawa hasn’t changed you!!!
    Now I’ve gotta catch up on your previous “masterpieces” … I’m behind on the computer. Thanks for the laffs.

    p.s. When I was a kid, back in the 16th century, I used to get home from school (in England) and love to watch Billie Jean King at Wimbledon – she was so good at talking to herself, I think that’s where I picked it up.

    • A first generation Canadian here Natasha…and I’ve had more than my fair share of blancmange whilst visiting relatives “over ‘ome.”

      Actually, I was surprised that anyone even knew what that was…even a little stunned (okay, more stunned than normal).

      Put on a pot of tea, set out a plate of hard bakes…and try to enjoy catching up on your reading. It’s probably not worth it without the tea and treats.


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