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It’s that time again: Golf Pool 2009

If it’s Hawaii, it must be golf-pool season again.

The Mercedes-Benz Championship _ once and forever known in the hearts of golf fans as the Mercedes Championships _ is always a welcome preamble to the coming PGA Tour season, a star-studded exhibition match of sorts on a wind-racked, topsy-turvy layout.

But for poolies like me, it’s a vital pre-game scouting opportunity before selecting the 12 names with whom I will get a chance to share triumph and tragedy on the golf course over the next nine months, all for the paltry sum of $40. tigerwoods

Operated for the better part of 10 years by commissioner Leon Korbee, my pool of choice is a no-nonsense affair that lasts for the bulk of the season and allows only two changes midway through the year, which means when you sit down to make your picks, you’d better make it good.

Which brings us to the chore at hand: pick 11 men from a list of 110, one out of every 10 players on the PGA Tour money list, then select a last man from anywhere but the first 110. Sounds easy, but it never is.

Points go to those golfers who finish their events in the top 10, from 15 points _ 20 in the majors _ for winners, down to a single point for those in 10th place.

I’ve always managed to finish in the upper half of about 35 participants each year, and in the very early going even collected a bit of cash. But this year’s going to be a little different.

Here, for the record, is last year’s 10th-place team, and each player’s points total:

Tiger Woods 82

Justin Rose 30

Heath Slocum 38

Mike Weir 61

Arron Oberholser 1 (yeah, yeah)

Anthony Kim 52 (mid-season acquisition)

Rod Pampling 43

Brian Davis 34

Charlie Wi 45

Briny Baird 59

Tim Herron 34

Nick Flanagan 14

Lucas Glover 13 (traded mid-year for Anthony Kim)

And here, for the sake of comparison, is last year’s winning team (differences in bold):

Tiger Woods 82

Justin Rose 30

Stewart Cink 75

Mike Weir 61

Camillo Villegas 77

Mark Wilson 42

Rod Pampling 43

Kenny Perry 55

Charlie Wi 45

Tim Petrovic 25

Shigeki Maruyama 5

Matt Kuchar 30

First, a reality check for anyone who’s arguing that no smart money will be on Tiger Woods in 2009. Consider that despite having a season that ended in June, he has the highest point total of anyone else on the board. That’s truly amazing, and it means he’s simply never a bad pick, not even on a bum knee. He’ll be hard to say no to.

The difference here boils down, I think, to three names: Stewart Cink, Camillo Villegas and Kenny Perry. Together, they accounted for 205 points, compared to just 73 for their opposite numbers on Team McCarten: Heath Slocum, the injury-plagued Arron Oberholser and Brian Davis.

Thing is, after a year like 2008, all three will be going for a premium this year. Indeed, because of the format, only one of them will make each team, since they’re all in the top 10 _ 5th, 6th and 7th _ and only one player from each group of 10 is permitted.

Also in that top-10 category is this year’s Mercedes champion, Geoff Ogilvy, another player with a lot of potential for 2009.

By the same token, a guy like Oberholser, a shotmaker with a lot of talent but a host of different injuries, is making a lot of potential-comeback lists for 2009, and isn’t even on the money list, which means he could be a good choice as a 12th man.

Youth or experience? Strength or finesse? Or does the presumed future dominance of Tiger Woods, who isn’t even expected to surface on tour before March, make the prospect of picking any of them a moot point?

The deadline is Thursday, the start of the first full-field event of the year, the Sony Open in Hawaii. Stay tuned.

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James McCarten

When James McCarten isn't at the Ottawa offices of The Canadian Press, where he works as parliamentary news editor, he's either on the golf course or putting off his latest freelance golf-writing gig to spend time with wife Lisa and school-age kids Claire and Lucas. With 20 years of experience in Canadian journalism, James also suffers from a financially crippling addiction to all things Scotty Cameron.

1 CommentLeave a comment

  • Probablt too late since the Sony has started but, beware that Ogilvy, Kim and Villegas have all signed up to play at least 12(?) events on the Euro Tour.

    Sleepers I like this year are Luke Donald coming back from injury, Steve Marino, and Bill Haas.

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