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The Open Championship (is all you have to say)

And…I’m back.

After an unexpected week off, welcome back to Poolside; your home for whatever the hell it is that I do here.  If you missed me last week, your time has run out.

Sorry about your luck.

My “luck,” on the other hand, was pretty good…at least in terms of the performance of my picks.  Another winner to push up my 2012 season total to eleven, thanks to the heroics of Zach Johnson at The John Deere. 

For those of you who carry an eraser with your golf card, that’s 11 wins out of 28 tourneys…or 39% success rate.

Results – The John Deere Classic

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

T5

 $      174,800 Daniel Chopra

CUT

Zach Johnson

1

 $      828,000 Mathias Grönberg

T70

 $            9,246
Jonathan Byrd

T54

 $        10,534 Brian Harmon

T19

 $          53,820
Brendon deJonge

T19

 $        53,820 Duffy Waldorf

T45

 $          12,461
This Week’s Total  $      1,067,154 This Week’s Total  $             75,527
Season Total  $    29,654,157 Season Total  $        6,042,112

 

Some of you will know that the reason I was off last week was due to a death in our family.  We lost a much loved and very popular member of the clan, at the absolutely unfair and brutally young age of 53. 

“Tragic” is a word I usually never use in conversation or in my writing, because its proliferation and abuse on social media, etc. has rendered it virtually meaningless and trite.  But for someone to go this young and with such a wealth of great things to add to his already impressive list of achievements…that qualifies as a legitimate tragedy in my books.

As his wonderful daughter said at the memorial; “he was like a dazzling fireworks display; breathtaking, brilliant and memorable…and gone far too quickly.”

The one good thing that came out of this experience (if it can be said that anything good could be derived under these circumstances) was the unplanned reunion of an entire family…something that hasn’t happened in around eleven years.  With members scattered across North America, and a variety of events and commitments and travel complications conspiring to prevent it from happening during other previous attempts, the whole crew was finally assembled in one place.

And between the tears and hugs and solemn conversations, time stood still.  Grieving gradually gave way to the simple joy of being reunited after so long…and healthy, cathartic doses of smiles and laughter soon followed.

A Look Back – The Greenbrier

Needless to say, with all that going on in our lives last week, watching a PGA Golf tournament was about priority #4,273 in my life.  The fact that it was a golf tournament that few people outside of the field would legitimately care about, made it even more of a no-brainer to pass up.

But, I do feel at least a little compelled to roll the clocks back a few weeks and talk about one thing regarding this tournament.

In the column containing my predictions for The Greenbrier, I half-jokingly/half-seriously suggested that some of the players were receiving some under-the-table appearance money to show up at this event. 

In retrospect, I’d now like to adjust that to 20% jokingly and 80% seriously.

How else, I suggested, could a very new (2 year old) tournament, with no heritage, virtually no prestige and only an average purse, attract such a star-studded field?

Woods showed up.  So did Mickelson. U.S. Open Champ Webb Simpson was there as were other heavyweights like Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson and Keegan Bradley.  

In fact, 10 of the top 20 money leaders made the trip to White Sulphur Springs for the Who Cares Classic!!!

And the big question, in my mind, is WHY?

With golf’s oldest and most prestigious Major just 2 weeks away, shouldn’t they have been in the U.K. getting acclimated to the weather and brushing up on links golf strategy for The Open Championship?

I can think of no good reason, other than that some, if not all of them, were paid to play here…handed a little under-the-table appearance money to beef up ticket sales, TV viewership,  ad revenues and bragging rights for the tournament hosts.

And based on some of your comments and private e-mails, I’m apparently not alone in thinking in this conspiratorial way.

Reader “THB” wrote in “And next year will they call it The Greenbrier Pay for Play classic? And to think this thing got in the way of our (Canadian) Open moving to a somewhat better place on the schedule.”

Nice one THB…and I agree with your sentiments.  Thanks for taking the time to write in.

This is not to say that I’m opposed to PGA events paying appearances fees for top pros.  I’ve heard the arguments on both sides and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a tournament offering some of the top-calibre golfers a little cash to attend their tournament. 

I think these players have amazing talents and deserve to be able to parlay their hard work, dedication to excellence and achievements into as much revenue as they can…while they can.  If they can a hefty fee to appear at a corporate event, why can’t they command some appearance money to show up for the Frozen Groin Open?

The players benefit…and the tournament and TV networks definitely benefit.  Oh yes, so do the fans.

In my mind it’s a more justifiable way of making a living, than being a 2nd or 3rd string benchwarmer on a football, basketball or baseball team and drawing a 7-figure salary for the privilege of watching your teammates play a season’s worth of games.

And, unlike those salaried players, a PGA Player doesn’t earn if he doesn’t play…and play well.  Plus, he wouldn’t command an appearance fee of note for very long if he didn’t stay hot.  That sounds fair and reasonable, doesn’t it?

The only thing wrong with the scenario I’m suggesting here is that appearance fees are currently against the rules of the North American PGA Tour.  And professional golf is all about the integrity of living by the rules.  It’s what makes this the sporting world’s most gentlemanly and honest game…and one to be admired.

Before I close down this thought and move on, the one other very interesting thing that happened at The Greenbrier was regarding the calibre of players who didn’t make the cut…but fell into the list of “why were they there” guys I mentioned above.

Oh sure, everyone can have a bad week, but when Woods and Mickelson, the 2 alpha dogs in the field, both mysteriously miss the cut, then hop on their private jets to pack for England or Scotland before the sun sets, you have to raise your eyebrows just a little bit don’t you?

At least Simpson, Stricker and Johnson gave it their best and played for the win…rather than play two days of lacklustre “exhibition golf,” then buggering off!

The prosecution rests your honour.

The Open Championship

I cringe a little every time I hear a wanker on TV call this “The British Open.” 

“Over to you Curtis!”

It’s The Open Championship.  The oldest, most respected tournament on the planet…and it’s the one golf tournament that doesn’t need a qualifier tacked onto its name.

I’ll also be the first to admit that the highlight of the coverage for me is when legendary golf announcer Peter Alliss shunts aside the boys in the booth and takes over for a few hours…calling the action at The Open Championship the way you might imagine it was intended to be called.

(By the way, if you haven’t seen Alliss’ acceptance speech from this year’s World Golf Hall of Fame dinner, do yourself a favour and watch it now).

The Open Championship, for me, is the toughest tournament of the year to pick a winner.  Based on the tumultuous and rapidly changing weather, the bumps on the fairways, a plethora of bunkers that could have been designed by Josef Goebbels and a host of other variables too numerous and complicated to calculate, literally anyone in this field could win the thing and hoist the Claret Jug on Sunday night.

Todd Hamilton anyone?  Ben Curtis? Jean Van de Velde?

Yes, I know that Van de Velde didn’t actually win…but you know.

And I wouldn’t dare add (unlikely but very popular and much-loved) winner Darren’s Clarke’s name to that list…although the London bookmakers certainly did.  The odds were so long on Clarke last year at Royal St. George’s I’d almost be willing to bet that Darren earned a bigger paycheque by betting on himself with Ladbrokes or William Hill than he did from the R&A!

Anything can happen at golf’s oldest championship…and it often does!

Royal Lytham & St. Annes – Derek’s Picks

Luke Donald – I have mixed feelings about this pick, but in the end, decided to go with my heart, rather than my head (?)

Donald has been a very solid, if unspectacular player this year.  Unspectacular only when compared to his record-breaking 2011 campaign, where he won both the North American Money List title and the European Order of Merit, that is.

My one hesitation in picking him is that he might just want this tournament too much.  And you can bet that there’ll be tens of thousands of fans following him, who’ll want it for him, just as badly.

Think of Mike Weir in his prime playing in The Canadian Open.  That’s the kind of pressure, both internal and external, that Donald will be feeling this week…probably times ten.

Lee Westwood – Take everything I wrote about Luke Donald above, except the record-breaking 2011 bit, and you have my sentiments on why I both love and question Westwood as a great pick this week.

Westwood has a brilliant record in the Majors, with one exception; he hasn’t actually won one yet!

And, in my books, he’s just too good to pull another “Monty” and not get one eventually.  Based on his play in 2 of the last 3 Open Championships (worst finish was 3rd in 2009), adding his name to the list is almost mandatory.  And so I’m going to.

But, again, there’s that pressure to deal with.  The fans will want him to win in a HUGE way…and so does he.  Can he put it all aside and keep it together for 72 holes?  I hope so.

Sergio Garcia – Since he debuted in professional golf and started playing in Majors at the age of 12 (it seems like that now doesn’t it?), few names appear more often in the top 10 of an Open Championship than El Niňo’s.

And, like the two guys I’ve already mentioned above, wouldn’t that be a phenomenally popular win if Sergio could pull it off?

Spain would literally shut down for a month…and it would have nothing to do with their craptacular ecomony!  That’ll happen next month.

True, he hasn’t had a barn-burner of a year, like we thought he might at the start of this season, but ignore Sergio at your peril when the Claret Jug is on the line.

The only thing he needs to do to win, is stay out of his own head. live in the moment and really have some fun.  In other words, just be the old Sergio for 72 holes.

Phil Mickelson – You thought I was going to go with a completely non-US roster didn’t you?  To be honest, I almost did.

But since smartening up a bit, and traveling to the U.K. early to get acclimated, paid such big dividend for him last year (T2), I think I like Phil’s chances this week.

After blowing out of town Friday at the Greenbrier, it seems he got used to golf “over ‘ome” pretty damned quickly this year too.  There was a point on the weekend where he was a legitimate threat to win The Scottish Open.  But a closing 74 could only ensure him a 17th place finish.

As long as he takes his lumps when he screws up, and doesn’t try any outrageous heroic crap, I like his chances at Royal Lytham & St. Annes this week. 

Notables Worth Noting:

Tom Watson – He won’t win, but look for legendary Tom to hop into Dr. Brown’s Delorean, roll back time once again, make the cut with ease and be a legitimate contender…at least for a little while.

And the crowd in England will be going nuts all the way!

There’s absolutely no logical way of describing the phenomenon that is Tom Watson at The Open, other than saying that when he plays in England and Scotland he turns into Dorian Gray!

Tiger WoodsNot taking him was not an oversight.  I don’t like his chances this week.

And although he has lifted the Claret Jug a few times in his glory days, everyone now knows that he prefers his jugs with maple syrup, not claret.

I had absolutely no reason for mentioning him in this column, other than to use that joke.  It’s all mine and I’m determined to get it in here, damn it!

And now that I’ve had my say, let’s see what daughter has conjured up for The Open…

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard):

Kevin Na

Elliot Saltman

Rory McIlroy (that could hurt a bit!)

Steven Tiley

 

And that’s all for this week folks.  As always, thanks very much for reading and for playing along with my silliness…and enjoy The Open Championship!

(And don’t forget to set your alarm clock or PVRs early!)

Cheers,

Derek

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