The Calm Between the Storms

Hunter Mahan made a brief charge on the weekend…and we actually got to see him play.  Luke Donald and Lee Westwood were crafting challenges for the lead…and were treated to watching them hit a bunch of shots. 

Same thing with Anders Hansen, Robert Karlsson, David Toms, Scott Verplank, Charl Schwartzel, D.A. Points, Sergio Garcia and a host of others who had more than a few moments of brilliance at the PGA Championship on the weekend.  We actually got to see them all play.  What a concept!

Of course we had to wait until the weekend for this to happen…after the guy who was 17 strokes behind the leaders, and followed shot by shot, finally missed the cut and did the walk of shame to the nearest International House of Pancakes.

As I mentioned in last week’s column, the PGA Championship is the one Major that is most prone to seeing a Major ‘virgin’ hoist his first piece of big hardware at the tourney’s close.  And last week’s event at the Atlanta Athletic Club was no exception.  In fact, ten of the 11 guys who finished in the top 10 at the PGA were shooting for their first Major win.  Only David Toms (T4) had reached that pinnacle before…and he did it on this course, in this tournament, ten years ago…never to repeat the feat again.

And, fittingly, after 72 action-packed holes, it all had to be decided on a 3-hole playoff between two of the unlikeliest guys you could imagine; Keegan Bradley, a Tour rookie who already has a regular event win under his belt this season…and Jason Dufner, a 5-year Tour vet, still looking for his first trophy (of any kind). 

In the end, the rookie prevailed.   A very popular win by a very talented and likable fellow…over another talented and likable fellow. Oddly enough, neither of their caddies was swarmed by the press clamouring for interviews after the round.

The rookie mastered the closing 4 holes in stunning fashion, while the young vet watched his beefy lead evaporate over those same holes.  The course may very well have been designed by Robert Trent Jones…but I’m positive that if you did a little digging you’d find out that the final 4 holes were sub-contracted to Josef Goebbels.   They were pure evil.

The bookies made a fortune this week, raking in misplaced wagers on the “big names” in golf.

Meanwhile, I’d love to say that my picks last week made a fortune too…but that wasn’t even close to being the case;

The PGA Championship – Results

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Rory McIlroy


 $          15,400 Gregory Bourdy


 $                    –
Luke Donald


 $         224,500 Faber Jamerson (CP)


 $                    –
Jason Day


 $                 – Zach Johnson


 $              16,033
Martin Laird


 $                 – Kevin Streelman


 $              15,750
This Week’s Total  $         239,900 This Week’s Total  $              31,783
Season Total  $    15,236,554 Season Total  $         5,331,618

The only things that saved my dignity from complete implosion this week were Luke Donald…and the fact that my poor daughter was unlucky enough to lob her darts into some players who had even worse luck than my 4 “sure things.”

The Wyndham Championship

This one is the calm before the storm…or, more accurately, the calm between the storms. 

Sandwiched in between the season’s final Major and the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs next week, this is the last gasp for a sizable chunk of the field to either get into the playoffs, or improve their standings so that they can finish comfortably in the top 125 on the money list and secure a playing card next year.

Oh sure, there are still several weeks left in the season after the playoffs end, but you just know that the golfers who are anywhere between 75th and 160th on the money list right now are feeling a little more desperate to move up the rankings and give themselves some 11th hour breathing room.

Of course there’s another motivating factor for a few of the players in the field this week; playing themselves on to the President’s Cup team…either by scoring enough points by the conclusion of the BMW Championship to earn their way onto the team, OR by proving themselves to be so hot right now that they get the nod from Freddie Couples as a captain’s pick.

Couples has already gone on the record as saying that one of his captain’s pick slots has already been given to Tiger Woods…as long as Woods says he wants to play.  This was an incredibly shrewd move by Freddie…and one that was made entirely to keep the golf media and rabid fans off his back, so he could concentrate on other issues and other players.  

Having made the commitment to let Woods play if he wants to, I’d be willing to bet that every time Couples’ phone rings, he’s praying as hard as he can that it’s Eldrick calling to refuse the offer.

Derek’s Picks – the Wyndham Championship

David Toms – The last time the PGA Championship was played at the Atlanta Athletic Club, David Toms was the victor.  He did it in convincing style too, setting the aggregate scoring record for ALL Majors with a tally of 265…a record that still stands.

Of course, that was way back in 2001…when Toms, then 37, was presumably at the top of his game.  It was also prior to the redesign by Rees Jones, who toughened the already tough course up considerably and added another five or six hundred yards to the layout.

Being one of the Tour’s shorter hitters, and being on the near side of 50 years old, pretty much eliminated Toms from being considered a serious contender in last week’s return of the PGA Championship to Atlanta. 

And yet, there he was; a mere 3 strokes out of the playoff on Sunday afternoon!  If not for a couple of lipped-out putts, a few gusts of wind, a couple bad lies in the rough or a few slightly marginal drives or approach shots, Toms could have easily lifted the Wanamaker Trophy one more time.

Coming off such a stunning performance, that came so close to doing the trick, I think Toms is going to be supercharged this week, rather than feeling defeated.  Atlanta might very well have been his last chance to contend in a Major, but he’s proven that he still has plenty of game and can not only hold his own, but hold off everyone else in a big tournament.  And remember, he’s already scored one win this season too…taking down The Colonial at Hogan’s Alley.

This week, a win at the Wyndham would pole vault Toms into first place in the FedEx Cup standings.  He’s the only guy in the field with a shot to knock Nick Watney off the top of the hill…and with his recent performance in Atlanta, combined with his 2nd place finish last year at the Wyndham, I like his chances.

Jason Dufner – It’s easy to concentrate on the huge comeback that Keegan Bradley pulled off last weekend…and forget about the guy he was scrambling desperately to catch up to.

After 68 of the 72 holes in last week’s PGA Championship, Dufner had built up a 5-stroke lead over the best players in the world…on a course that was destroying almost everyone who dared step on the back 9.

And then, with the trophy just within reach, he hit the 15th tee and the wheels fells off. 

I think I was more heartbroken for Dufner than I was happy for Bradley.  In fact I know I was…since I happen to have Dufner on both of my teams in the golf pool I run.  I was licking my chops and counting up the points.

One of the things I found most impressive about Dufner last week was his demeanour.  No matter how brilliantly he played, or how devastatingly bad the breaks got for him, his outward appearances didn’t change an iota.  He was calm, cool and collected the whole way.

There were times when I almost wished someone would have run out on the course to check him for a pulse.

Like our dads all told us when we were growing up, the best thing to do after falling off a bicycle is get right back on and start riding again.  That’s easy advice to give when your knees aren’t the ones that are hamburger…but it IS good advice.

I think, rather than being crushed by last weekend’s disappointments, young Jason will get right back on the figurative bicycle and feed off the experience…using it to launch himself back into contention, with a much better chance of winning.  What better time than this weekend at Greensboro?

Brandt Snedeker – For whatever reason, the great start to his 2011 season started to unravel after his win at Harbour Town.  By the time the Tour swung past Hilton Head, Snedeker had already racked up a playoff win, plus 4 other top 10 finishes in San Diego, Phoenix, Innisbrook and San Antonio.

After his win under the lighthouse, the rest of his season has been a bit of a disappointment.  Yes, he’s had a few top 20 finishes since then, including a pretty impressive T11th at the US Open…but you can’t help but feel that the potential we saw for him back in April has fizzled a little bit.

This week in Greensboro might very well be Snedeker’s big opportunity to turn his fortunes around and begin a late-season charge to the glory he seemed aimed at earlier in the season.  Over the past few years, the Wyndham Championship has been very good to Brandt. 

As soon as he walks onto this course, his ‘A’ game seems to show up.  T8 in 2010, T5 in 2009, 1st in 2007.  To my way of thinking, those are some pretty good reasons to look for a Snedeker renaissance this weekend.

Lucas Glover – Can any PGA season that includes a win be considered anything but a success?  That’s probably a question that Lucas Glover has been struggling with for the past several weeks…and is one that a strong finish to the year could abolish altogether.

Glover’s 2011 season has been really schizophrenic…up and down like a toilet seat in a co-ed dorm.

 He put together a very convincing win at the Wells Fargo…after missing 3 straight cuts.  Prior to that, he had two finishes in the 20s and two in the 50s.  Since then, his best finish was an impressive T12 at Royal St. George’s…a tournament where he probably would have had been given better odds of earning an early plane ride home, rather than a hefty paycheque.

Of all the names in the field this week, perhaps no one has played more consistently over the past several years at the Wyndham than Lucas Glover.  He finished T7 here last year, just 3 shots out of the lead.  T24 in 2009, T20 in 2008, T20 in 2007 and T6 in 2006. 

Granted, those numbers aren’t as impressive as what Snedeker has done here in the past few years, but it does show a certain affinity for the course that really shouldn’t be overlooked.

Glover would dearly love to right the ship and return to his peak form…the one that saw him finish 5th in the FedEx Cup standings two years ago.  This weekend could very well be the time for some late season heroics from Lucas.

And now that I’ve had my babble, let’s see what my daughter managed to put together this week on the dartboard:

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard):

  • ·         Kris Blanks
  • ·         Skip Kendall
  • ·         Kevin Kisner
  • ·         Daniel Summerhays

Note to self; buy daughter new darts for Xmas!

And that’s all for this week folks.  Thanks very much for reading and enjoy the tournament!



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