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Poolie Progress Report: Thank Goodness for Second Chances

You dont always have to play golf to experience the games maddening paradoxes. Sometimes, all you have to do is join a golf pool.

For the first time since I joined my current golf “rotisserie” back in 1999, Leon Korbee _ former TV news personality and our tireless commissioner _ has finally relented and agreed to allow players to have more than one team. The ensuing experiment has, so far, proven very satisfying indeed.

As explained before in this space, Leon’s pool is a season-long affair in which participants choose 12 members for each team. The first 11 are chosen from the top 110 players on the PGA Tour money list, one pick from every 10 names. The last selection can be any name not among the first 110 players.

In the end, every decision when assembling a team comes down to a choice between two names. As a result, there’s always a first choice and a runner-up. This year, thanks to having two teams, my journeymen runners-up, my Avis team, is pulling on my behalf along with the sparkling squad of starters.

Guess which team is doing better.

After three events, starting with the Sony Open, my top-tier team _ the first-stringers, the go-to guys _ are languishing just a few steps from the basement, 30th out of 33 squads.

Tiger Woods This week 0 Total 0
Geoff Ogilvy 3 5
DJ Trahan 3 10
Sean O’Hair 1 5
Dustin Johnson 0 0
Brant Snedeker 0 0
Heath Slocum 0 0
Kevin Streelman 0 0
Steve Flesch 0 0
Justin Rose 0 0
Lucas Glover 0 4
Arjun Atwal 0 0

On the other hand, the B-listers _ anchored by Sony winner Zach Johnson _ are holding down a very respectable seventh place.

Sergio Garcia 0 0
Ryuji Imada 0 5
Boo Weekley 0 5
Briny Baird 0 4
Nicholas Thompson 0 0
Zach Johnson 4 19
Charlie Wi 0 2
Nick O’Hern 0 0
John Merrick 0 9
Michael Letzig 4 5
Bill Haas 0 8
Jarrod Lyle 0 0

Here, for comparison’s sake, is the makeup of the team that currently holds the lead.

Kenny Perry 15 15
KJ Choi 0 4
Steve Stricker 0 11
Adam Scott 0 9
Tim Clark 0 11
Zach Johnson 4 19
Luke Donald 1 4
Kevin Streelman 0 0
John Merrick 0 9
John Mallinger 0 3
Scott McCarron 0 2
Chris Stroud 0 5

First off, it never hurts to have two guys on your pool team score wins in the first three events of the season. But that’s the sort of good karma that doesn’t last anything like as long as a full PGA Tour season.

Of the two winners, of course, Zach’s the better pick on paper. The 48-year-old Kenny Perry, coming as he did this year in the top slot, was no doubt a sentimental fave, but he’s really a counter-intuitive choice, if you think about it _ he’s two years from the senior tour and pulling a Jay Haas-like late-bloomer comeback that could grind to a halt at any moment.

Be that as it may, I would have taken him in any other slot but the top one. There, he’s overvalued. I think you can say much the same thing about Steve Stricker in that third slot; I’m feeling pretty good so far about D.J. Trahan and Boo Weekley in the No. 3 position.

Theres no doubt about it, though _ I pulled some boners this year. The guys who were paying attention snapped up David Toms, whose brutal 2008 dropped him out of the top 125 and off the usual reference list. As a result, a guy who would normally rank in the top 20 was instead relying on a career money-list exemption for 2009 and available for next to nothing. Hes already paid for himself with a T2 finish in the Sony.

Oh well – out of sight, out of mind, I guess. Anyone who looked beyond the usual PGA Tour, Nationwide and Q-School lists would have spotted the bargain of a lifetime. I didnt and Ive been kicking myself ever since. He’ll be a smart trade when the time comes.

But its a long season that has barely begun, and both of these teams have got some top-line players who have yet to make much of an appearance in 2009. But choosing winners on the PGA Tour is a lot like the game of golf itself: its usually surprising, often frustrating and always _ for better or worse _ a whole lot of fun.

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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.

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