A Visit From Auntie Climax

I’ve been searching vigorously through my memory banks, trying to remember a pressure shot from years past that surpasses what Bill Haas did on the second playoff hole out of the water on Sunday night…and I’ve finally thrown up my hands and admitted defeat.

Can’t think of any, can you?

I’ve been an avid follower of golf for a very long time now, and there are many great golf shots that are indelibly etched in my memory…but none of them that I’ve dredged up can match Haas’ masterful stroke from the agua on #17.  Considering the level of difficulty of the actual shot…and combining that with the ungodly pressure he faced at the time, I challenge anyone to come up with a more worthy candidate.

If you’re a golfer…and I can’t think of a reason why you’d be reading this article if you weren’t (and very few reasons to read it even though you are!)…then you’ve probably played that shot, or one similar to it, a few times yourself.  I know I have.  Shoes off…socks off…pants rolled up…close your eyes and take a slash.

Sometimes it worked.  Most times it didn’t. 

And in my case, the word “worked” signifies just getting the ball out of the water and back in play…nothing more than that.  I would imagine that that definition probably holds true in your case as well.  The benchmark for success is simply not seeing your ball in the water anymore.  Even a violently skulled slash across the fairway and out of bounds would be a victory in most people’s books…’cause the ball wasn’t left in the water. 

Mission accomplished…re-load!  “Hey guys, did you see the shot I just made?!?!?!”

Of course, when we mere mortals attempt to pull off a shot like that, our motivation is usually much different than Haas’ was.  In my own case, the attempt is usually spurred on by a number of contributing factors; I’m too pig-headed not to accept my considerable golfing inabilities, too cheap to give up a stroke…and generally, because one of my ‘friends’ has dared me to take a slash. 

Never underestimate the power of a good dare to undermine an otherwise decent round of golf and turn it into a Greek tragedy in 5 painful minutes or less!

Shoes off…socks off…pants rolled up…close your eyes and take a slash…dry off your face and arms…invent a few new colourful combinations of swear words…hope that your pants dry out before diaper rash sets in (“crotch rot” for the die-hards) and, of course, before the beer bunny makes her next swing over to your group and makes the whole atrocity complete.

The most pressure we hackers usually face when considering this shot is the pressure of looking stupid in front of our friends…or of falling into the water and then looking stupid. 

Haas certainly faced that kind of pressure too, but his was multiplied by a few dozen orders of magnitude.  The pressure of looking stupid in front of friends and peers, plus a gallery of about 30,000 fans AND a global TV audience of several million.  And of course, the pressure of having your infamous gaff replayed on golf shows from now until Armageddon, accompanied by Johnny Miller’s “I told you so,” to put a fine point on the stupidity of the moment. 

And as if that weren’t enough pressure to put on a 29-year-old guy, remember the money.  Oodles and oodles of it were at stake…enough to last his family at least a few very comfortable generations.  One golf shot essentially worth $11.4 million! 

The new definition of “The Big Gulp!”

Adding up all those pressure factors; the audience, the notoriety and the mountainous piles of cash, here’s how I would have approached that shot; I would have studied my ball’s position in the water very carefully, and then I would have executed the best (completely intentional) “accidental” fall into the water that I could possibly muster.  The kind of pratfall that would make the love child of Greg Louganis and one of the Three Stooges proud. 

Under those circumstances, that’s the only possibly way I could survive the experience with any shred of my dignity left; by making sure that my pants were soaking wet, so that no one would be aware of how badly I was soiling them during the execution of my inevitable epic gaff!

But Haas didn’t gaff.  Instead he stood up to his shot, craned his neck skyward to look at the edge of the green towering 10 or 12 feet over his head, opened the face of his wedge, lunged his club into the water and popped his ball onto the green.  And not just onto the green…but with enough precision and bite to land 3 feet from the cup!!! 

Somewhere in the cosmos, the ghost of Seve Ballesteros could be heard to laugh out loud and clap appreciatively…as he choked down on a 3-iron and stung an impossible recovery shot out of the middle of the parking lot at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, under, over and through an asteroid belt, off a passing meteor and onto the 17th green at the Alpha Ceti V Hoverboard Golf and Country Club for a routine tap-in eagle.   

Meanwhile on the green, poor old Hunter Mahan’s jaw didn’t just drop…it completely unhinged like a giant python’s.  And while all the attention and cameras were still trained on Haas, Mahan swallowed his entire body, before quickly puking it out again in disbelief and disgust. 

As Mahan replays that shot in his head (and he will for the rest of his life), there are two words that will keep running through his subconscious…”Greg Norman.”

All in all, I’m sure you’ll agree that this season’s Playoffs were the most entertaining and riveting we’ve seen since the inception of the FedEx Cup five years ago.  The sudden-death playoff to decide this season’s Playoffs was the perfect icing on the cake.

And now that the last water shot has been blasted, the final putt sunk and all those cheques with the obscene number of zeroes on the end have been carved and handed out, let’s do a quickie re-cap and see how my daughter and I did with our picks for the big finale of the Playoffs:

Results – The Tour Championship

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Luke Donald


 $         418,667 Webb Simpson


 $            147,200
Adam Scott


 $         272,000 Brandt Snedeker


 $            162,400
Jason Day


 $         272,000 David Toms


 $            162,400
KJ Choi


 $         418,667 Nick Watney


 $            132,800
This Week’s Total  $      1,381,334 This Week’s Total  $            604,800
Season Total  $    19,439,739 Season Total  $         6,834,401

The Justin Timberlake Shriner’s Hospital for Children Open

For those of you who are expecting a rant about a PGA Tour event being hosted by a guy from a boy band, I’m going to disappoint you this time around.  I got it all out of my system this time last year…and that tank is dry now.  Actually, it isn’t really dry, but what’s the point of chewing the same soup all over again?  I write way too much as it is already, without being redundant.

In the grand scheme of things, there are MANY issues much more worthy of our attention right now; the economy, the situation(s) in the Middle East, the frightening spectre of a Republican winning the US election, the frightening spectre of any of dismal list of choices winning the Ontario election and, of course the biggest issue of all; the annual snubbing of Rush by the brain trust in Cleveland who decide on the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame’s annual list of induction nominees.

Those were released this morning…and true to form, there was nary a sign of Canada’s biggest musical export of all time.  Not a trace of the group whose tally of consecutive gold and platinum albums is only surpassed by two other bands…some guys you might have heard of called the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.

Thank god they put Donna Summer on the list this year, to give themselves some rock ‘n roll street cred!  And Laura Nyro.  And Eric B. & Rakim. 

Not to mention past acts that have been given full induction; Abba…and Madonna…and Dusty Springfield…and the Staple Singers…and the Flamingos…and Leonard Cohen…and Run DMC…and Darlene Love…and I could go on forever here!!!

Now THAT’s rock ‘n roll baby! 

To paraphrase Ian Hunter, Cleveland may rock…but the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland only does occasionally.  The rest of the time, they’ve jumped the shark and lost the plot entirely.  ABBA for gawd’s sakes!!!  The defence rests your honour.

This story has become so ludicrous and totally illogical over the years that I can only reasonably draw one conclusion; at some point the boys in Rush must have written a letter to the Hall of Fame asking not to be included.

Dear Sir;

We thank you very much for the invitation to be included in this year’s “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” list of nominees.

However, after reviewing the full list of inductees in your little museum, and after 3 or 4 seconds of pain-staking deliberation on the matter, we would like to respectfully decline your offer, generous though it may be.

Just knowing that we have the undying adulation and fierce loyalty of tens of millions of Rock fans in every corner of the planet…and the almost universal admiration and respect of our peers; some of the greatest musicians of our time, is all the recognition we need.  Asking for anything more than that, would be greedy on our part…and we are, after all, humble, down-to-earth Canadians.

Please give our best wishes to Donna Summer.  Back in the day, that chick could REALLY rock!

Kindest regards,

Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee & Neil Peart


Derek’s Picks – The tournament with the name too long and convoluted to conveniently type again in this space

Now that the Playoffs are over, a good chunk of the golfing superstars have called it a season.  They’ve made their millions, their playing privileges are secure for the next year (or 2 or 3) and they’re going to enjoy an extended rest with family and friends, recharging their batteries for the 2012 campaign and spending a few trunk loads full of “fun money.”

For the rest of the players on the PGA Tour, this is good news.  Most of the predators have gone into hibernation, leaving the hunting grounds relatively clear for some easier feeding.

In deference to the players who are still playing, I really think the PGA should declare the week after the Tour Championship as an off week, don’t you?  Oh sure, I realize that there are dozens and dozens of guys who haven’t played a meaningful round of golf for several weeks now…and are positively champing at the bit to do so.  But, let’s be honest here; after the conclusion of the Playoffs, the rest of the tournaments in the season seem pretty anti-climactic don’t they? 

Wouldn’t this tourney benefit from an off week, just so people could kind of cleanse their golfing palates, re-tune their viewing expectations, get a chance to miss TV golf just a little bit and build up an appetite for some more?  I think so.

Nick Watney – Not all of the sharks have gone into hibernation until January…and Nick Watney is one of the largest and most dangerous predators in the field this week.

Watney is a bit of an aberration in this week’s field.  He’s one of the few guys playing at the TPC Summerlin, who also went all the way to the end of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.  In Watney’s case, he finished the Tour Championship a disappointing T26.  More importantly though, he wrapped up the Playoffs in 9th place and grabbed and extra $550,000 in bonus money.

The field this week will be primarily made up of two different kinds of golfers; 1) those who are desperate to hang onto their playing privileges for 2012 by posting some strong finishes in the next 4 tournaments, 2) those who still want to play a little bit, have some fun and earn some extra money.

Watney is firmly positioned in the latter camp…and that makes him more dangerous to the rest of the field.  He doesn’t need to be here and he doesn’t need to do well…other than for his own satisfaction.  While dozens of guys around him are fighting desperately for their very existence (and battling all of the pressure that situation creates), Watney is on a total free-roll this week.  Given the fine year he’s already had, and his T6 finish at this tourney last year, Watney should be one of the favourites to win this week.

Martin Laird – Unlike Watney, Laird didn’t make it through all 4 stages of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.  But, he did rack up enough points over the course of the year to make it through the first three events. 

Unfortunately, his T12 finish at the BMW wasn’t enough to offset his lacklustre performances at the Barclays (T58) and Deutsche Bank (T74) and he found himself unceremoniously punted to the curb, when the field of combatants was trimmed to only the top 30 for the final stage.

At the conclusion of the BMW, Laird finished his 2011 FedEx Cup campaign in 31st place…one lousy position away from making it all the way to the end. 

In poker terms, he was this year’s “Bubble Boy.” In poker, that’s the most un-coveted position of all…one slot out of the money.  Thankfully for the PGA Tour players, they still draw a cheque for finishing this far into the Playoffs…but the $165k Laird earned for coming up one notch short of advancing probably seemed like a booby prize to him.  Funny how perspective works isn’t it?

Now that the Playoffs are over, I’m thinking Laird has something he really wants to prove before the end of the season…and the (insert painfully long tournament name here) is probably his best shot at accomplishing that.  First, he’s still the #31 golfer in the PGA…making him one of the highest–ranked players in the field this week.  Second, he’s rested and refreshed and rarin’ to go. 

And finally there’s his record here at the TPC Summerlin.  Last year he lost this event to Jonathan Byrd in a 3-man playoff.  The year before that, he won the tournament in a 3-man playoff over Chad Campbell and George McNeill.  Given his successes here, I think there are a lot of reasons to have happy thoughts for the big Scotsman to return to the winner’s circle this weekend.

Jonathan Byrd – He’s the defending champion at this event.  That, in itself, is probably a pretty good reason to take him this week…but there are many more reasons why he’s a good pick.

To me, Byrd is one of those sneaky, under-the-radar golfers.   He racks up some great stats and earnings, while generally managing to fly off everyone’s scope…or at least mine.  This year is a great example.  Byrd finished the FedEx Cup race in 27th position.  Did you even realize he was playing in Atlanta last weekend?  Be honest. 

As I was going through his 2011 results I’m a little ashamed to admit that I was actually amazed by how well he’s done.  He won the first event of the season.  Lost in a playoff in May at the Wells Fargo and managed 3 other top 10 finishes…including a 5th at the Barclays and a 10th at the WGC Cadillac.

As a golf writer, I suppose I should keep this surprise to myself…but I’d be less than honest with you if I pretended to know everything about everybody on Tour.  For me, for whatever reason, Byrd is a B-2 Stealth Golfer.  Obviously I need to do better in this area.

Like Watney and Laird above, Byrd is one of the highest-ranking players in the field this week.  Look for another solid performance from him this weekend in Las Vegas, to justify why he made it all the way to the Tour Championship last week…whether you knew he was there, or not.

George McNeill – WHAT??? 

Trust me folks, I struggled with this one a loooong time…and that’s the answer I came up with; George McNeill.  My first instinct was to go with Ryan Moore, but the combination of circumstances, plus McNeill’s performance on this course virtually made him a must-pick in this event.

The field we see at this tournament is exactly the kind of environment in which McNeill has thrived in 2011…and he hasn’t done a lot of thriving either! 

I’m not trying to be mean-spirited by saying this, but if you look at the stats for the season you’ll see that McNeill shines when all the stars are somewhere else. 

He finished 5th in Puerto Rico…when everyone big was playing the WGC Cadillac.  He finished 2nd at the Viking Classic, when the stars were in England vying for The Open Championship. He finished 2nd at the Wyndham when the rest of the Tour was taking the week off to charge their batteries before the Playoffs began. 

Any other time he teed it up this year, (i.e. when all the stars came out), he either missed the cut or finished so far back in the pack that he was in his car and on his way to the next Tour stop before the leaders had teed off Sunday afternoon.

The proof is in the pudding.  In the grand Petri dish of golf prognostication, what we have here is the perfect blend of peptides and amino acids and electrons and belly button lint for George McNeill to pull off a win this week in Vegas….either than or for life to form on Uranus.  Take your pick…but remember that your mother probably wouldn’t be pleased if you picked Uranus.

Oh…and by the way, the scenario I’ve described isn’t the only reason that fortune favours McNeill to do well this week.  History bears me out too.  He finished T14 here last year and T15 in 2008…and those were his worst performances at the TPC Summerlin in his last 4 goes.  He also finished T2 in a 3-man playoff in 2009 and won the whole damned thing back in 2007.

A kooky selection?  Probably so.  But I’m just the whack-job to go out on a limb and take this guy this week.  I betcha no one from The Golf Channel or Golf Digest would.

And now that I’ve finished embarrassing myself and the CanadianGolfer powers that be, let’s turn it over to my daughter to see what she did on the dartboard:

D&D’S Picks (Daughter & Dartboard):

  •          Bob Estes
  •          Richard S. Johnson
  •          Aron Price
  •          Anthony Rodriguez

And that’s all for now folks.  Thanks very much for reading and playing along with these silly reindeer games of mine…and enjoy the tourney this week!



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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I think the reason why Bill hit such an amazing shot was because everyone was expecting him to hit it to 20+ foot. That’s if he even got it out.

    I also think Bill’s own expectations were lowered which actually helped his chances to hit a great show. He simply let go.

    And apparently he asked Jimmy Roberts on the 18th green after the playoff who had won the FedexCup. So in his own mind he was playing for a measly $1.4 mill and not $11.4 mill. If that’s true, he didn’t have any pressure on himself which enabled him to once again let go and hit an amazing shot.

    • Thanks VERY much for reading…and for taking the time to write your comment Jordan.

      There’s a lot to be considered in what you wrote…and to be completely honest, I’d heard, but then completely forgotten about Haas asking who had won the FedEx Cup when he walked out of the Playoff with the win.

      Still though, the ability to just “let it go” and hit an incredible shot like that, whether it’s for $1.4 million or $11.4 million, is something that a guy like me can only dream of pulling off.

      Thanks again for following along…and for taking the time to write your well-thought comments. I appreciate both very much.



  • Derek,

    Bill was playing in the moment so to speak and didn’t let the thoughts of how much he was playing for and where he has affect his shot. To hit that shot you have to be relaxed and that can only happen with a free a conscious mind.

    It’s tough for many golfers to believe that he wasn’t thinking about the measly 11 mill plus up for grabs. That though comes from years and years of playing professional golf.

    As much as Johnny Miller likes to talk about how much a missed 4 footer on the 72nd green costs, I can guarantee every professional who was full belief in themself doesn’t think about those things. Why? Because they know they’ll be playing this game for a long time and stressing over a sliver of what they will earn in the lifetime is something they don’t do.

    Sorry for not commenting on the fantasy golf stuff but my passion lies in coaching golfers to free their minds like what I am explaining above. I do have you on my RSS feed as I enjoy your writing.


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