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Kisses, Curses, Crow and Kiawah

This week’s funniest Olympics-related gag:

There’s a poster circulating on the Internet, showing a flummoxed Jean-Luc Picard, sitting in his command chair on the USS Enterprise, disbelieving head in hand.  The caption underneath proclaims;

“McDonalds is the official restaurant of the Olympics?  That’s like proclaiming that cigarettes are the official medicine of cancer.”

About a week ago I was waxing poetic about the broadcasting superiority of Canadian Olympics coverage, versus the mawkish blather-thon our neighbours to the south are subjected to.

I’d like to take most of that back, please.

After a week and change of Olympics coverage on CTV and their sister networks, there really hasn’t been a whole hell of a lot to justify the praise I gave our sports people heading into the games.

Yes, they do a pretty outstanding job of providing coverage through the full 15 hours or so of events, as they’re happening.  Regardless of whether a Canadian is in contention, or even in the competition, doesn’t matter…they show us the stuff and that’s great.

Problem is; the events are happening when about 80% of us are at work…and when we can’t watch.

The huge advantage for the networks covering the games in this scenario is that when prime time rolls around, they have 15 hours of highlights from which to choose…15 hours containing dozens of events, happening at a multitude of venues around London.

If you were to tally it all up, there are probably 60 or 80 hours worth of coverage available every single day.  It’s a broadcaster’s wet dream…too much great content.

So, you’d think with all that content available, and a dedicated 4-hour highlight show happening every night from 7-11pm, we’d get non-stop, riveting action, wouldn’t you?  I sure as hell thought so.

Apparently this wasn’t discussed at any planning meetings at CTV however.  Instead they sent out a batch of colour commentators to do US-styled “human interest” (read: overly dramatic, overly emotional, mawkish) stories on our athletes to fill time(???) and “make the games more compelling and interesting.”

More compelling and interesting than watching the best in the world, competing against the best in the world? 

Apparently someone at CTV thinks we need that, in lieu of other stuff.  Stuff like, oh I don’t know…actually watching the events.

When Canada finally broke through and won a gold medal in Ladies Trampoline I was thrilled.  It was the event we’d all been waiting for…finally a trip to the top level of the medal podium.

But, I have to be completely honest here; after seeing the entire routine about 8 times per hour for the rest of the day, and all through the night, I felt like hopping on a trampoline and launching myself off the CN Tower. 

Add in all the repeat plays on the 5-minute “human interest” story about her grandfather, who qualified for the Olympics in the 40’s, but couldn’t go due to the war, mentoring her…and I wanted to fill my mouth with tin foil and stick my head in the microwave. 

It was interesting once.  After that, it’s just filler, when filler is the last thing we want to see.

Yes one of our athletes won…yes, we’re excited…YES, we’re all very proud of her…now let’s move on and show us something else, PLEASE!  For god’s sake, stop beating this gold-draped bouncing horse and move on to one of the 20 other exciting events happening.

The only thing worse are the fluff pieces the network has recorded, to build up anticipation for our athletes to a fever pitch before they compete…only to then watch the poor buggers crash and burn as soon as the profile has aired.

I feel a bit sorry for the girl who was tasked with doing the “Raising an Olympian” pieces on athletes and their moms.  To date, I believe every one of the Olympians she’s profiled has failed to meet the expectations we were told we were supposed to have for them.  She must be feeling like she’s the Canuck Curse.

The shot putting champion finishes 5th, the female boxing superstar is out after her first event. 

I won’t even mention the poor girl who finished dead last in the Triathlon.  She’s suffered enough already after CTV and their affiliates beat her barely-cogent, heartbreaking post-race apology to the nation to death for 15 or 20 or 30 hours.  The poor kid. 

NBC has taken its fair share of drubbing for the (lack of) quality of their coverage…but from my perspective, CTV prime time coverage hasn’t been much better most of the time.  It makes me long for the old CBC coverage. 

But, CTV, there’s still time to improve.  And the answer is painfully simple; Abandon your plans, ditch all the crap and give us the action. 

In case no one told you, THAT’s why we’re watching!

Meanwhile Back on the Golf Course…

While the Canadian Olympic women’s football team was being disgustingly rogered and robbed of their earned shot at gold by a stunningly incompetent referee, drama was also thick enough to cut with a knife at Firestone GC in Akron.

The event was the WGC Bridgestone Invitational; a tournament that counts as a Semi-Major in the golf pool I run (points are 1.5 the value of a “regular” season event).  And the finale was a real stunner too.

Jim Furyk had a mere formality left before him prior to his anticipated hoisting of the WGC trophy.  All he had to do was sting in an average calibre approach from the middle of the 18th fairway, wrap a couple putts…and then put the bow on another big wire-to-wire win.

Sounds simple, right?

Not so much apparently.  Furyk made an absolute happy meal out what remained of his 72nd hole, scored a double-bogey and backed his way into a tie for 2nd place, essentially handing Keegan Bradley the win.

Even more stunning than Furyk’s collapse, from my twisted perch here at Golf Prognostication World Headquarters, was the fact that daughter mine, armed with zero golf knowledge and a mitt full of darts, lobbed one of my hammerheads into Bradley’s name on this week’s pairing sheet.

Yup…she actually picked another winner this week!  (And I couldn’t be happier for her)

Results – The WGC Bridgestone Invitational

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Tiger Woods

T8

 $      128,750 Keegan Bradley

1

 $      1,400,000
Steve Stricker

T2

 $      665,000 Simon Dyson

T16

 $          90,000
Hunter Mahan

T55

 $        46,500 Martin Kaymer

T29

 $          68,000
Lee Westwood

70

 $        42,000 Charl Schwartzel

T24

 $          74,500
This Week’s Total  $      882,250 This Week’s Total  $      1,632,500
Season Total  $  31,120,015 Season Total  $      7,730,109

So, the old man got himself shellacked by the little girl this week.  But, along the way, I think I may have stumbled on some valuable information.

Last week was the 3rd or 4th time this year that I’ve swallowed my pride and distaste for the guy and actually picked Woods to win.  And it’s the 3rd or 4th time that he’s played way below everyone’s expectations, failed to live up to his “favourite” status and screwed me like a Peoria waffle waitress in the process, by failing to win.

Ergo, I’ve come to the conclusion that if I really don’t want Woods to win another tournament, the answer is painfully simple; all I have to do is just pick him to win every week and then sit back and watch him crash and burn!

The PGA Championship

It’s the final Major of the season…and anticipation is at a fevered pitch. 

So many contenders…so many possibilities.

Like every Major this season, this one promises to be another absolute barn burner folks…and I can’t wait for it to get started!

Meanwhile, trying to pick a winner in this event is going to be incredibly tough…again.  The biggest problem is that there is an overabundance of amazing talent playing this week…all with a legitimate shot at winning the championship. 

After going quickly through the field for the first time, I had no fewer than 23 guys I decided I’d like to have on my squad in my first rough draft.  Who the hell do you take…and who do you vote off the island? 

Are there any truly wrong picks when you’re talking about the incredibly long list of guys who have been so hot this season?  It reads like the phone book for a gated Florida golf community.

And to add to the drama, the venue is the legendary, infamous Kiawah Island Golf Course in South Carolina; the site of the 1991 Ryder Cup.

Kiawah Island

Does anyone have any happy memories from Kiawah Island? 

I remember the tournament vividly…for all its pain.  It was an absolutely brutal tournament, contested on an almost unplayable course.

Everyone remembers Mark Calcavecchia’s legendary meltdown…giving up a 5-hole lead to lose to Monty on the 17th. 

And, of course, there was Bernhard Langer’s even more legendary putt for everything.

Always a quirky, uncertain, yippy putter, Langer was probably the last guy on the planet anyone would want to have stroking a putt with everything on the line.  And yet, there he was; the last guy on the last hole, with everything to gain and everything to lose…6 agonizing feet away.

No pressure Bernhard.

In a recent interview, ’91 Ryder Cup teammate (and all-time favourite golf announcer) David Feherty recounted an absolutely hilarious story about the agonizing moments leading up to that fateful putt.

Feherty was sitting with the rest of the Euro team on a knoll surrounding the 18th green.  Beside him sat an acquaintance from the British media, watching the drama unfold.

As Langer was labouriously, painfully, lining up his putt, the reporter leaned over to Feherty and whispered, “you know David, the last time a German was under this much pressure, he shot himself in his bunker!”

Classic!

The PGA Championship – Derek’s Picks

Jason Dufner – Pretty much the only thing that Dufner doesn’t have on his resume now is his name on a Major championship trophy.  I think this might just be the weekend that changes all that.

Dufner has had a pretty stellar year by anyone’s standards. Two wins (New Orleans and the Byron Nelson), a second at Hogan’s Alley, T4 at The US Open at The Olympic Club and a 7th last week at the WGC Bridgestone.  What a season!

Dufner also walks into this week’s tournament with some PGA Championship creds too.  Most famously, he lost in a heart-breaking, nail-biting playoff duel last year to Keegan Bradley.  Many people forget though that he finished T5 the year before that.  Two top 5s in two straight years is nothing to sneeze at.

Of course, the venue changes every year, so you can’t say that he’s a horse for this particular course…he’s just a guy who seems to play well for this particular trophy.  Whatever works, I guess.

And given his incredibly nonchalant, pulse-less approach to playing for the win, he’s maybe one of the best guys in the field, temperamentally, to compete for a big prize.

Yes, I like his chances quite a bit this week.

Rory McIlroy – Since his meltdown at Augusta last year, and his subsequent follow-up win at the US Open at Congressional, McIlroy has been flying prominently on the radar in every tournament he’s entered.

Perhaps that’s not a great thing…to have so many expectations heaped upon you at so young an age.

He’s played very well, but not jaw-droppingly great so far this year…mostly because of that pressure I think.  But, after a few missed cuts and/or poor performances in “the bigs,” I think he’s flying a little under the radar heading into Kiawah and will come into this event with a new, much freer mindset. 

Even with last week’s T5 finish at Firestone, there will probably be a bunch of guys ahead of him on the list of most golf wags.

And, like Dufner, McIlroy heads into this event with some legitimate success in this tournament.  In the two years prior to his US Open win, his worst finish in a PGA Championship was T3 (in both 2010 and 2009).

If he can just stay out of his own head for 72 holes, have a little fun, and loosen up a bit, I think he has a great chance of capturing the season’s last Major.

Luke Donald – Since Kiawah was the site of so much Euro pain the last time a big event was held here, I’m going to double-down on my Euro content this week and take Donald for the win.

To be perfectly honest, this pick is probably more about my own aspirations for the guy than it is a reflection of his form in the Majors this year.  Yes, he did finish a stellar top 5 in The Open Championship…but that showing is counter-balanced by a disappointing T32 at Augusta and a pretty stunning missed cut at the Olympic Club.

For a guy with so many wins under his belt, and his remarkable double money list win last year on both sides of the Atlantic, the only thing he has left to do to truly etch his name in the history books is to start winning Majors. 

And that’s something he has yet to do in his remarkable career.

The longer he goes without that first win, the tougher it will be for him.  The question now is; will he be a late bloomer like Mickelson, or a “how could be not” like Monty.

Only time will tell, but I think (and hope) he has a pretty good shot at getting it done this weekend.

Matt Kuchar – Who to take…who among the multitude of superstar talent remaining to dump?  In the end, I decided to go with Kuchar for the win.

Kuchar’s record in the really big tournaments this year has been fantastic.  T5 at the WGC Match Play, T8 a few weeks later at the WGC Cadillac, a win at the Player’s Championship..proclaimed by many to be golf’s 5th Major. 

And what about those Majors?  He finished T3 at Augusta, T9 at The Open Championship and T27 at The US Open.

Lob in last week’s T8 at the WGC Bridgestone and he’s coming into the PGA Championship riding a pretty good high in the events that matter the most over the course of the season.

Just like Dufner and Donald, a Major is one of the few things missing from Kuchar’s CV.  This weekend presents his last chance to correct that gap this year…and I think it’s a pretty good chance.

And now that I’ve had my rant, let’s go over to last week’s winner and see what daughter did on the dartboard, to try to score a second consecutive win.

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard):

Robert Allenby

Ben Curtis

Fredrik Jacobson

Mitch Lowe

And that’s all for this week folks.  As always, thanks VERY much for reading and for playing along with the silliness…and enjoy this week’s tourney!

Cheers,

Derek

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