Death Match…at Dove Mountain?

For the very first time since we started playing these silly reindeer games for CanadianGolfer, the fortunes of random chance completely crapped out last week.  Snake eyes!

For those of you who have followed this column for any length of time, you probably know that random chance is championed every week by my daughter…identified on these pages as “D&D.”   

“D&D” stands for “Daughter and Dartboard,” and that’s exactly the way her picks are made every week.  I suspect that there are a few people who might believe this is pure fiction on my part…but, I tell you truthfully, we do go through this ritual every week of the PGA season.

We head down into the rec-room, I pin a sheet of grid paper with individual numbers representing the men in week’s field to our dartboard and she fires off 4 darts to mark her selections.  Sometimes she misses and it’s 6 darts …sometimes 8…sometimes, to her mortification, it’s even more (although she’s only needed to use 4 darts for each of the past 4 weeks).

When I was asked to write this column, I really wanted to do something different with it.  Something you wouldn’t find elsewhere on the “traditional” Fantasy Golf Pool pages you’d find on a or or on Golf Digest or Golf Magazine. 

You can change the names of the experts on all of those pages, but the content is all pretty much identical; a pick, a few lines of justification…then on to the next expert.

The irreverence, the jokes, the tongue-in-cheek commentary and the occasional snarky snipe that would become my “style,” were pretty much a given from the start…as was dragging out the soapbox from time to time to rant over something that just doesn’t strike me as being “cricket.”

For those who know me in “real life,” they’d probably tell you that it would be easier for me to give up breathing, rather than not have an opinion on something (almost everything) or to set aside my unnatural compulsion to try to make people laugh.  I often fail in a spectacularly misguided and entirely misunderstood way…but I always try anyway. 

But just being occasionally funny and opinionated wasn’t enough of a differentiator in my books.  There had to be something else to this column to really set it aside from the rest.  And that’s when I came up with the concept of D&D.   Since I wasn’t a respected (or even known) name in the world of golf, why the hell would anyone ask me to pick PGA Tour winners every week?  It’s not like I’m a famous and well-respected golf journalist like Robert Thompson or anything.  Yes, I was known in some small circles for running a popular little golf pool for a bunch of years…but why would I get this platform over so many real golf “experts” out there?  (I suspect the guys at CanadianGolfer drink a lot).  And what on earth would set my picks; the selections of an unknown, above mere random chance?

Random chance?

And that’s when it struck me.  If I was going to give myself some kind of credibility as a prognosticator of golf outcomes, I really ought to introduce the vagaries of random chance into the mix…pitting one against the other.  To try to prove the merits of doing research, applying logic to a problem, attempting to identify the difference between a trend and a fad and generally just paying attention to what’s going on…versus pure luck and happenstance.

And what could be more random than firing darts at numbers; darts thrown by a decidedly non-dart player who has absolutely zero interest in, and almost as little knowledge of, the game of golf?  Oh sure, she’s heard of Tiger Woods and she knows he’s pretty good.  She also knows he’s pretty bad too…but that and her brother’s admiration of Mike Weir are about the extent of her knowledge on the game.

And in the 2+ years we’ve been contributing to this column, I think the numbers are pretty much what you would expect when pitting research against luck. 

Some weeks her random picks do surprisingly well…but most times, not so much.  To my great chagrin, she started off our first season on CanadianGolfer by thoroughly waxing me for the first 2 or 3 weeks, which was very disheartening.  She even pipped a winner once, last fall (Ben Crane at the McGladrey’s), to defy some pretty long odds (about 150:1)!

But this past week was the first time ever that D&D failed to earn ANY money with her picks.  Nary a guy of hers on the course last weekend.  Zero for 4.  Not a pickle! 

A much smaller, more fiercely competitive man would probably be thumping his chest…but to be honest, I’m a little sad for her this week.  Not her though.  She just looks up from her Game Boy, shrugs her shoulders and says “oh well…you know I don’t really care about golf, right dad?”

Results – The Northern Trust Open

Derek’s Picks D&D (Daughter & Dartboard)
Phil Mickelson


 $               580,800 Tom Gillis


Luke Donald


 $                 14,916 J.J. Henry


Padraig Harrington


 $                 20,513 Charles Howell III


Aaron Baddeley


 $               158,400 Anthony Kim


This Week’s Total  $               774,629 This Week’s Total  $                             –  
Season Total  $            5,599,193 Season Total  $                1,245,772


Oh brother, what a finish that was!  Was it just me or did those final few holes on Sunday have all the dramatic tension, heroics and nail-biting excitement of a Major for you too?

I’ve been watching the action unfold at Riviera for longer than I can remember and I’m hard-pressed to find anything in my memory banks that can come close to competing with Mickelson and Bradley both draining long putts to force a tie on the 72nd hole.

And, adding to the excitement, I was this [ ] close to claiming another winner on the season too, dagnabbit!  If not for a bad club choice on the second playoff hole (a 3-wood… really, what were you thinking Phil???) I would have been puffing up my chest over Mickelson’s latest win.

And, even though he wasn’t one of my picks (either for this week’s tourney or in our golf pool), it was great to see young Bill Haas claim such a dramatic win.  If he’s pulling off these kinds of heroics so early in the season, I think he’s already a long way toward overcoming the “FedEx Curse” I’ve concocted in my tiny noodle.  Maybe Singh, Woods and Furyk can look on in hope that they too will rebound from the $10 million curse.

The WGC Match Play Championship

Could there have been a better set-up for our first “big” tournament of the season than last week’s epic showdown at Riviera? 

The Northern Trust provided the perfect segue to take us from moderately serious professional golf, mixed with a sickening dose of larceny (The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am)…to the first high-stakes game of the season; The WGC Match Play Championship.

In the golf pool that I run, the WGC events are counted as “Semi-Majors.”  And to mirror the strength of the fields involved, each WGC tournament is worth 1.5 times the value of a “regular” PGA Tour event. 

And at the risk of sounding immodest, the point system we use makes a hell of a lot more sense than the World Golf Rankings…where Tiger Woods’ made-for-TV “Chevron World Challenge” (44 points) is worth as many, or more ranking points than tournaments like the AT&T Pebble Beach (42 points), The Sony Open (42), Human Challenge/Bob Hope Classic (44) and Hyundai Tournament of Champions (38), just to name a few. 

(And if you’re curious, our National Championship; The Canadian Open is only worth 46 points…a mere 2 points more than Tiger’s little “who cares hootenanny!”)

Yes, you read those numbers correctly; an off-season (silly season) “tournament” with a field of only 18 golfers, is actually given greater or equal weighting compared to the other tournaments I mentioned above.  And all of them have FULL fields, comprised of 144 or the world’s best golfers (except, of course, for The Tournament of Champions).

Grinding your teeth yet?  Here’s one more mind-numbingly stupid example to put you over the edge; “The Nedbank Golf Challenge” in Sun City, Africa is worth 38 World Golf Ranking points.  That particular silly season event only has a field of 12 golfers!!!

I’ll retire to bedlam.

Regardless, this week is a REAL event…worth big bucks (about $1.5 million for the winner) and big points (76). 

And for this one week a year in North America, golf returns to its roots…played in the format that created some of the biggest old-school legends of the game; Match Play. 

Mano a mano.

The top 64 players on the planet gather together, to do battle on the most unlikely sounding battlefield you could probably imagine; Dove Mountain.  Like the Highlander’s last dwindling group of immortals, inexorably drawn together by the “quickening,” they meet this week to fight to the last man standing…armed with drivers and putters, rather than katanas and broadswords.

“There can be only one…”

Derek’s Picks

Luke Donald – Okay, so his T56 finish last week at Riviera wasn’t exactly an awe-inspiring debut to his 2012 North American campaign.  Any time a pro finishes on Sunday with a 78 (Luke…a 78???), you can be sure there’ll probably be a few boot marks indented in his golf bag once the cameras are turned off.

But, for those with good memories (or the very few who read and then might recall what I wrote in last week’s column), Donald came out of the gate in even worse shape last season…failing to make the cut in his first event of the year at Riviera.

Of course, what he did after that humbling performance in Los Angeles is what really matters….and what he did was run the table and win the WGC Match Play the week afterward. 

To say that Donald was dominant at this event last year, would be to damn him with faint praise.  He smoked everyone in his way…never needing to even see the 18th tee to wax his opponent du jour.

With a McIlroy or Westwood win here this week…coupled with a big Donald stumble…we could actually see a new World #1 crowned on Monday morning.  But, I think the likelihood that Donald is going to stumble here this week to be about as remote as the possibility of a Kardassian winning a Nobel Prize for Physics…or even Alphabetics!

Luke is absolutely, positively a huge threat to anyone who dares to stand in his way this week.

Ian Poulter – A name that isn’t often on my list of must-picks in these columns…but when the format is match play, he absolutely leaps to the top of the pack. 

Probably leaps there festooned in some flaming pink pants, a gawd-awful lime green shirt, red polka-dotted golf shoes and who knows what colour of hair?  But despite his mounting list of fashion offenses, leap to the top he does friends!

Poulter was the defending champion at this event last year, having taken that truly lovely trophy back in 2010.  He will also be the defending champion when the Volvo World Match Play hits golf’s stage later this season in Spain.

Toss in a couple more “close, but no cigar” eliminations in the WGC Match Play quarterfinals back in 2009 and 2007, plus a pretty rock-solid record in the Ryder Cup and Poulter’s match play story is a very compelling one that makes you sit up and take notice.

Is Poulter a big favourite in a regular stroke play event on Tour?  Most times, probably not.  But, when the format switches to match play, he’s really tough to pass over.

Sergio Garcia – The infectious, boyish grin is back…and so are the laughs and the bouncy spring in the step.  And with their return, so too are the pure joy and enthusiasm for playing golf…and competing at the highest level.

On Sunday morning last weekend, Sergio was so far back in the pack at Riviera, he didn’t even start on the same nine as the “real contenders.”  He began his final round on #10 and played the course ass-backwards, presumably to stay out of the way of the winners and all those pesky cameras…but still earn his paycheque.

And then a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum; El Niňo registered 2 eagles and 4 birdies in his first 12 holes to go 8 under par for the day…and leapfrog a bunch of guys on the other side of the course. 

Suddenly he was in the top 5…and CBS was scrambling the camera crews to get a glimpse of one or two of his shots before he signed his card, collected his cash and slunk back to his hotel room. 

I can’t put an exact tally on the coverage time, but I’d conservatively estimate that Tiger Woods received 10 times as many minutes of discussion and 5 times more video footage on the CBS broadcast than Sergio did on Sunday…and Woods wasn’t even playing in this damned event!!!

Hey TV golf decision-makers…when will that stupid crap finally stop???

In the end, Sergio closed with a 64 and finished T4….rocketing up the final leaderboard by a full 45 positions!  And if that doesn’t have him full of pee and vinegar for his chances at this week’s WGC Match Play, then nothing will.

 Geoff Ogilvy – Ogilvy has played three events so far this season and his record has been less than stellar at each pass; T50 at the Farmer’s, T25 at Pebble, missed the cut last week at Riviera.

2011 wasn’t a hell of a lot better either; only 14 of 21 cuts made.  Just one top 3, 4 top 10’s and 9 top 25’s.

And if you’re scratching your head right now, wondering “well why the hell would you pick him then Aubrey,” I couldn’t really blame you.  He’s a far sight off the potential he showed in 2006, when he won the US Open, only missed 3 cuts and finished top 25 in 13 of 20 events.  Other than a few smaller-field Tournaments of Champions wins, where did you go Geoff?

But those were Stroke Play events folks…and that’s a whole different kettle of fish.  When the game is Match Play, Geoff Ogilvy, like Ian Poulter, is an overlook-at-your-own-risk player.

And you don’t have to look any further than how he’s done at this event to see what I mean.  Top 9 last year, champion in 2010, 2nd in 2009, 3rd in 2006. In fact, since its inception, no other name surfaces as many times or in as many high positions in this championship, than Ogilvy’s.

For the past several years, Ogilvy seems to hit his highest gear when the game is head-to-head.  And then he really accelerates!

Yes, it’s really tough to overlook all those missed cuts and T50 finishes and develop some real happy thoughts about Ogilvy’s chances this week.  And really tough to skip guys like Kuchar and Haas.  And if it were Stroke Play, I just couldn’t.  But for a Match Play event, I really like Poulter’s chances of getting another winner’s cheque in his hands.

And now that I’m finished rambling for the week, let’s see what daughter managed to come up with downstairs:

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard):

  • ·         Zach Johnson
  • ·         Keegan Bradley
  • ·         Simon Dyson
  • ·         Charl Schwartzel

And that’s all for this week folks.  As always, thanks very much for reading and playing along…and enjoy the tournament this week!



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