After the Carnage…

Another nail-biting U.S. Open is in the record books. 

For most of the combatants, another 4 days of hell are now in the rear-view mirror.  The only remnants of the week remaining are the lingering effects of the physical and emotional torture inflicted on them over those 4 days at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.  

And some of those scars will take a loooooong time to heal.

Fairways as wide as a bowling lane…crazy high, thick, matted rough…greens registering speeds equal to a marble counter top on the stimp meter.  All the things that make the U.S. Open the crash-and-burn-Fest we sick, twisted, sadistic viewing bastards have come to love.

Four days of watching the game’s very best players crap their pants and play like US…as in you and me!  Or…make that 2 days, if you entered this tournament as either World #1 or World #2.

The only thing missing from the action was a Martin Sheen-esque voiceover, á la “Apocalypse Now,” recounting the horrors he’d seen in San Francisco…then cue to a collage of the tournament’s many low-lights,  with Wagner’s The Ride of the Valkyries mixed into the background, for added dramatic effect. 

Now THAT’s entertainment folks!

And in the end, one of the guys that absolutely no one probably picked, won the whole thing; Webb Simpson. 

Hall of Fame writer Dan Jenkins once said, “hold a U.S. Open at Olympic, and the wrong guy will win it every time!”

I’m not suggesting here that young Webb was the wrong guy to win…far from it.  In fact, I have him on one of my golf pool rosters, so I was cheering him on madly.

But, with only two career wins under his belt (and one of those at the anemically-fielded Wyndham Championship), plus a mere 5 Major appearances on his resume, Simpson was certainly one of the least expected guys to hoist that big trophy, coming in to this event. 

And while we’re speaking of carnage, we might as well get the bad news over with at this juncture in the proceedings…and see how my daughter and I fared with our picks for Olympic.

Results – The U.S. Open

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


Jim Furyk


 $                276,841
Justin Rose


 $              86,348 Scott Piercy


Matt Kuchar


 $              68,943 Webb Simpson


 $             1,440,000
Jason Dufner


 $             276,841 Kyle Stanely


This Week’s Total  $             432,132 This Week’s Total  $             1,716,841
Season Total  $        27,356,298 Season Total  $             5,702,717

Okay, the carnage was mostly on my side of the ledger this week.  With World #1 making a sudden exit on Friday, I knew the rest of the weekend was going to go downhill on me.  Thank the Great Pumpkin that my dark horse pick, Jason Dufner, stayed determined and completely pulse-less and finished in 4th place, or else my roster would have been a disastrous write-off!

But, on the flipside, I’m really quite thrilled at how my daughter kicked my butt this week.  You might recall me saying that it was her birthday on Sunday, so waxing the old man by a margin of 4:1, was a nice bit of icing on the cake…to wash down the voluminous helpings of icing on the other cake!

Well done sweetie…and Happy Birthday one more time!

And now for something completely different…

No…not a man with 3 buttocks.

(Sorry Python fans!)

A golf tournament with virtually nothing riding on it, other than a good payday and a modest move up the FedEx standings.

I feel sorry for most of the tournaments that sandwich the Majors. 

Few of the real superstars of the game show up for them…the absentees being secreted off for private sessions with their metal coaches, putting coaches, swing coaches, fashion coaches, PR coaches and hair coaches. 

Either that or they’re squirreled away in secret underground laboratories testing out the latest in bionics or something.

This week’s tournament is a bit of a different beast however.  For whatever reason, The Traveler’s Championship draw more than its fair share of stars, despite its proximity to an event you really need at least a few weeks to recover from (pardon my dangling participle!)

Webb is here this week.  And so are Bubba, Padraig, Hunter, Zach, Louis, Keegan and Matt.  I’d name more, but to be honest, I can’t think of any other guys in the field who can reasonably be identified just off of their first names.

Apparently, if my trips to the grocery and drug store checkout counters are a reliable barometer of life in the “real world,” that’s the ONLY thing that matters in deciding who is a celebrity who is worth our time and attention…whether you can just print their first name and have at least 3 people on the planet recognize who the hell is being talked about!

I admit to spending many completely bewildered moments, staring at all those magazine covers and not recognizing a single, vapid, shallow personality. 

And I’m damned proud of it!!!

The Traveler’s Championship – Derek’s Picks

Bubba Watson – While a lot of fantasy golf scribes were scrambling all over each other to jump on his bandwagon, I didn’t take him last week at the Olympic Club.  It wasn’t because I ran out of spots…I just didn’t like his chances last week.

To my addled (and apparently unpopular, in this case) way of thinking, he’d been away from the game for far too long, had too many non-golf-related demands placed on his time, and, most importantly, was under far too much pressure (internal and external) to win consecutive Majors, to be much of a factor at The U.S. Open.

And, I think his 78-71, missed-cut performance bore me out on this score.  The defence rests your honour.

This week is a different kettle of fish, however.  Or, to “Bubba-fy” that statement, a different cauldron of varmints ‘n greens.

Watson is coming into this week’s event with a completely different frame of mind…and that’s a very good thing.  Expectations on him might still be quite high, but I don’t think he’ll be feeling the pressure internally anywhere as deeply as he was last week.  And with Webb being the newest “hot” guy, the media demands on Bubba will have reduced by about a factor of 10 overnight.

Watson is also coming into this week’s event with a great string of personal successes from which to draw.  He won in a sudden-death playoff here in 2010, finished T14 the year before that and T6 the year before that (2008).  Last year’s T38 is the only real blemish on his recent record at this track.

And, at the risk of sounding like I rely on too much hoodoo voodoo and hokum in making these picks, Bubba really seems to bring out his “A” game when an insurance company is carving the winner’s cheque.

Don’t believe me?  Consider this; since joining the “big show” in 2006, Bubba has racked up a grand total of 4 PGA Tour wins.  Other than The Masters, every one of them was sponsored by an insurance company; The Traveler’s (2010), Farmer’s (2011) and Zurich (2011).

Easier course set-up + somewhat weaker field + little to no pressure to perform + insurance company = success!

Hunter Mahan – After getting off to a pretty smoking start to the season, Mahan has experienced a bit of a drought of late. 

He finished T38 at the U.S. Open, which put him in much better shape than a lot of other superstars, but his last five starts on Tour have all been a bit of a disappointment to him, I would imagine; T53 at the Wells Fargo, Cut at the Player’s, T37 at Colonial and T19 at Jack’s shindig.

Those aren’t terrible results by any stretch of the imagination…but they have to be quite a lunch bag letdown after winning both the WGC Match Play and Houston Open in a 4-tournament stretch.

Despite the troughs we see in his recent appearances, I like Mahan’s chances at the TPC River Highlands this week.  In fact, I probably should have put him in my #1 slot, based on the way he has played here in years past.

Not too long ago, Mahan went on a 4-year tear at this tournament that was almost inhuman.  It was a 4 year period where his worst finish was a tie for 4th! That was in 2009 and was a very nice follow-up to his T2 finish in 2008, his playoff win in 2007 and his T2 finish in 2006.

Is there such a thing as horses for courses?  You betcha…and at this particular tournament, Hunter Mahan’s record strongly suggests he’s playing the role of Secretariat, to everyone else’s Mr. Ed.

Michael Thompson – I’m willing to bet that even a lot of die-hard golf fans were saying “WHO???” to themselves as U.S. Open play progressed along the dramatic back 9 last weekend.

Who was this guy who went out and shot a 67, when all the legitimate superstars were either already home for over a day, or were struggling to break 75?  Who the hell was this guy in the clubhouse at +2?  Could the field possibly back up far enough to bring him into contention? 

And, at the end of that long night, the answer to that final question was, “almost.”

The only guy who played better at the Olympic Club over those 4 days was champion Webb Simpson…and even then, he was only a single stroke better than this relative unknown.

Stuff like that tends to give a guy a lot of confidence.  When the world’s best have been sent packing and you see your name up in the nosebleed section of the U.S. Open leaderboard, how can you not have some good mojo going for you after that?  It must be like a giant injection of Vitamin M.

And, to give this pretty left-field pick a little more credibility, I’d like to point out that Thompson finished really well here, in his first appearance at this tourney last season.  He finished 4th at the 2011 Traveler’s, during his debut season on Tour.

Add it up and I give him a pretty good shot this week.

Padraig Harrington – As much as I’d like the guy and would love to go with Webb Simpson for a two-peat here…I just think he’s going to be a bag of hammers by the time he tees it up on Thursday. 

Too much adrenaline hangover…too many people tugging him in too many different directions…too little sleep…and probably zero time spent with a golf club in his hand.  I just can’t see him playing well this week.

Harrington, on the other hand, has a pretty decent shot of posting a great result this week.

Paddy has a bunch of mojo built up coming into this tournament…mostly due to his excellent T4 finish last week at the U.S. Open.  Two strokes better and he would have been in a playoff for another Major championship to add to his list.

He should also have some happy thoughts for this particular track…given his strong T5 showing here 2 years ago (as long as he can forget how he followed up last year…T63).

Of all the guys who remain in the field, Harrington is the one I feel most jazzed about. 

I’ll be completely honest; that’s not really saying a great deal, because my enthusiasm pretty much ran out after pick #2….but hell, I have to pick someone right. So, Paddy’s the guy.

And now that I’ve had my say, let’s turn it over to the successful birthday girl at large and see who my daughter picked this week…

D&D’s Picks (Daughter & Dartboard):

Stuart Appleby

Jason Bohn

Joey Snyder III

James Driscoll

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



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