Ryder Cup: My take on the pivotal moment might surprise you

This will be a short post because like most golf fans cheering for the USA, I am still shocked (or amazed) that the European team won the Ryder Cup.  The USA had a great lead going into Sunday (10 to 6).  Heading into the singles matches on Sunday the USA only needed 4 1/2 points to win and Europe needed 8 points to retain the cup.  Who would have thought Europe would get 8 points and win!

There will be many opinions as to what happened.  Some might say it is the fault of Ryder Cup veterans Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker (and Captain’s picks) because neither played their best.  Some might say it was because the pairing of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker did not win.  Others might say it was the fact so few of the American players could deliver in the singles matches.  However, that doesn’t seem fair to players like Jason Dufner (in my opinion, the MVP of the USA team) who did win.  I’m sure the debate will go on for days on the Golf Channel.

Since second-guessing is part of the fun of being a sports fan I decided to give it a shot.  Here is my take on what was the pivotal moment in the 3-day event.  It was not a particular match on the final day but a decision by Captain Davis Love III to sit down the hottest American pair on Saturday — Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson.  The reason I believe this is the pivotal moment is that the momentum changed Saturday afternoon.  Yes, you can give huge credit to the European player Ian Poulter who won a critical match on Saturday; but I think the fact Bradley and Mickelson were not playing was a huge mistake.  It was a mistake because the success of Bradley and Mickelson inspired the USA team and ignited the crowed.

During the TV interview (after winning the Saturday morning match) Mickelson said that “statistically” no golfer that played all 5 matches in the Ryder Cup played well in singles so don’t be surprised if they (Bradley and Mickelson) sit out Saturday afternoon.  In retrospect that would sound wise if Bradley and Mickelson had won their singles matches but they both lost (that’s two points).  If the hot team of Bradley and Michelson had played the 4-ball Saturday afternoon and won a point — that might have kept the momentum on the side of the USA.  You can argue that my view is simplistic but I do believe in momentum.  Not to mention the fact that all the golf pundits said, in post round discussion on Saturday night, that 11 points would have been “insurmountable.”

The MVP of the European team is Ian Poulter because he was the catalyst for the European team’s belief that they could still win.  Poulter’s play during the Saturday afternoon 4-ball match was amazing with five straight birdies to win his match and inspire his team.

Final words — Congratulations to the 2012 European Ryder Cup Team.

Jason Dufner wins and gets a monkey off his back

Jason Dufner winning the Zurich Classic of New Orleans this weekend is a great example of finally getting a “monkey of your back.”  Why?  Because since the beginning of the golf season, Dufner had been labeled (by some golf analysts) as  “one of the best golfers who has not won a tournament.”

Dufner became a professional in 2000 and he has come close to winning.  One of the big heartbreaking moments was in August 2011, at the PGA Championship.  It looked like Dufner was going to win his first major because he had a five stroke lead with three holes to play.  Unfortunately for Dufner, Keegan Bradley played magnificently to tie Dufner and force a playoff.  Keegan beat Dufner on the third hole of the sudden-death playoff.

The media also started to focus on the fact that he would often times be leading going into the weekend but not be able to close.  No player wants to be viewed as someone who is not a closer.  This week, in New Orleans, Dufner had the lead on Sunday. The end of the tournament was a nail-biter but Jason won on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Ernie Els.  Another “Monkey off his back” — Dufner is a closer.

Now with these type of comments, from the media, you would expect to see some reaction for the player.  But not Jason Dunfer. He is the most laid-back, unemotional guy on tour.  Sure, maybe it would be nice to see a more animated reaction to good shots but his style is actually refreshing.  It is a nice contrast from the players that throw or break their clubs when they are angry or do excessive fist pumping when they make a good shot.

He did smile and raise his arms when he won but no major fist pumping or running around the green for Jason Dufner.  Below is a great cartoon tweeted by Steve Elkington from his website Secret In The Dirt (showing Dufner before and after the win).

Dufner CartoonTo me this is the greatest form of flattery. You can see more great golf cartoons at the Secret in the Dirt Cartoon Vault.

Let’s hope the quite, mild-manner Jason Dufner has many more great wins in the coming years.  And, although I’m a big fan of Keegan Bradley (after all he is from New England), I’ll be cheering for Dufner to win the 2012 PGA Championship.

Fantasy Golf Results: Shell Houston Open

Hunter Mahan won the Shell Houston Open.  If you have been reading my posts you know that Mahan is one of the Golf Boys.  This is Mahan’s second win this year so maybe I need to think about him in my fantasy picks more often.  My picks were not horrible this week but I was disappointed that one player missed the cut.

Here are my picks for this week:

(1)  Keegan Bradley — Keegan played well with a tie for 4th.  He shot the same score as the winner on Sunday (71) but his other rounds of 67, 69, and 69 were just not low enough to help him on the last day.

(2)  Kevin Steelman — Steelman missed the cut. This surprised me because I thought he would player better but it was not his week.

(3)  Henrik Stenson — My “what the heck” pick this week had a respectable showing with a tied for 21st place.  I’m happy with this pick.

(4)  James Driscoll — When I picked Driscoll, I stated that I hoped he had learning something from 2011 when he played the Houston Open and missed the cut.  Well, he certainly did learn from his past.  Driscoll played really well in round one and two (67 and 66) but on the weekend he shot 71 and 73.

Fantasy Golf: Shell Houston Open

It is the week before the first and most exciting major of the season — The Masters — but first the players contend at the Shell Houston Open.  A lot of people hope that Ernie Els will win this week because the winner earns a place at The Masters.  I think it would be great if Ernie does win but I’m voting on other guys this week.

Here are my picks for this week:

(1)  Keegan Bradley — Keegan did not play last week and he fell apart during the final round of the Transitions tournament so I’m banking on the fact that he will have a “fire in his belly” to do really well.  He has 2 top 10 finishes and has been in the top 25 in all 8 tournaments he has played in this year.

(2)  Kevin Steelman — Steelman is another player that did not play last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.  He did well at the Transitions (tied for 10th) and he has had two top 10 finishes this year.

(3)  Henrik Stenson — I have not picked Stenson before but he looks like a good bet so he is my “what the heck” pick this week.  In his three PGA tournaments in 2012 he has finished in the top 25 and finished third in Puerto Rico.

(4)  James Driscoll — I have picked Driscoll before and decided to go with him again.  He did not make the cut last year at the Shell Houston Open but I am hoping he learned something in 2011 and will know the course better and make the cut this year.

So, you may have noticed I did not pick Phil Mickelson (the defending champion).  Well, I just don’t want to pick him since I feel like every time I do pick him he doesn’t play well — silly, I know, but this is just for fun so “silly logic” makes sense to me!

Fantasy Golf Results: WGC Cadillac at Doral and Puerto Rico Open

This week I decided to show the results for all four rounds for each player because I wanted to point out that one bad (or good) round can really make a difference.

WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral

Image of My Leaderboard for Fantasy Golf

(1)  Rory McIlroy — They say you cannot lose the tournament in the first day but I think Rory McIlroy’s results show you can lose the first day.  He shot a 73 (or one over par) in the first round.  In round one, the leaders shot 66 (or 6 under par).  The overall winner, Justin Rose, did not shoot a 66 in round one but he stayed close to the leaders with a 69 and when the leaders fell apart in round four (R4), Justin Rose was close enough to only needed a 70 (on the final day) to win.

The good news is that McIlroy is still the number one player in the world and the pay for third place is not too shabby (at $516,000.)

(2)  Keegan Bradley — Bradley started round 4 in great shape (with 69, 67, and 66 in the first three rounds) but fell apart on the 17th and 18th holes (bogey and double bogey) for a painful 75 by the end of the day.  This means he started round four in 2nd place and dropped to a tie for 8th place.  His take home pay was $165,000 (compared to the 2nd place payout of $845,000).  Don’t feel too bad for Bradley, he has already won $1,316,642 in the eight tournaments he has played in 2012.

(3) Rickie Fowler — Well, Fowler tied for 45th along with 4 other players and each player took home $52,000.

(4)  Charles Howell III — At least “Chucky Three Sticks” finished with a top 20.  He tied for 17th with three other players and took home $92,000.

Given what my picks earned this week, I wondered what the person in last place won.  The player was Simon Dyson and his check was for $37,500.  Wow, I know a lot of folks that would like that kind of pay for a week of work.

Puerto Rico Open

The prize money was much less for the players at the Puerto Rico Open.  The winner was George McNeil and he won $630,000.  I’m sure he is very happy with the win and the compensation.

Here is the round by round for my fantasy picks this week.

Image of My Leaderboard for Fantasy Picks Puerto Rico Open

(1)  Ryo Ishikawa  — I thought Ishikawa would win but second place was a great showing. His take of the total prize money was $378,000.

(2)  Erik Compton – My sentimental pick did not fair as well.  Compton tied for 42nd which resulted in only $11,900 for his pocket-book.  Did I really just use the word “only” — OMG!

(3)  James Driscoll — He made the cut and that made me happy. He also did better than Compton (which surprised me).  Tied for 32nd (and $17,780.)

(4) Graham Delaet — My Canadian “what the heck” pick came through for me this week.  His tie for 9th and the $94,500 payout he banked certainly helped my fantasy rank.

Final Thoughts

In business you often set a “stretch goal” (something beyond what you really think you can do).  Little did I know how big a stretch goal I set for myself back in January.  I’m still nowhere near my goal to actually win one week of Fantasy golf or be in the top 10; but I am ranked 1,551 this week (after 10 weeks of play).  I’m still an optimist and will consider this a good sign — that I am trending in the right direction.

Fantasy Golf: WGC Cadillac at Doral and Puerto Rico Open

Another week of two PGA tournaments for Fantasy Golf.  The WGC Cadillac Championship at Dural and Puerto Rico Open.

The WGC Cadillac Championship is the one to watch.  All the big names are in the field this week.  It is really hard to pick with everyone shooting so low last Sunday at the Honda.  I’m sticking with players I have picked in previous weeks.

WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral

(1)  Rory McIlroy — He is the number one player in the world so how can I bet against him this week.

(2)  Keegan Bradley — Bradley has been very consistent and he is from New England so I felt it was time to put him on my roster again.

(3) Rickie Fowler — One of the “golf boys.”  Last time I picked a golf boy (Ben Crane) he played horribly.  Let’s hope Fowler does not do the same.

(4)  Charles Howell III — So he hasn’t been in the top ten since his second place finish at the Sony in January but I am hoping for a comeback into the top 10 this week.

Puerto Rico Open

The WGC events are exclusive and so it is nice that the PGA has an alternative event for all the other PGA players during the same week.   This week they are in Puerto Rico!   Here are my picks:

(1)  Ryo Ishikawa  — This player is from Japan and very popular.  He is playing well and just got a sponsors exemption to play The Masters.  He finished tied for 20th at The Masters in 2011.  So, I’m betting on him this week.

(2)  Erik Compton – This is a sentimental pick.  I have to cheer for the man with the amazing off-course story (double heart transplant recipient.)

(3)  James Driscoll — He has played six events and made three cuts so it is a 50/50 chance he will play the weekend.  I picked him based on the fact that last year he had two top ten finishes.  I’m thinking he might do well in a field that does not include the top players in the world.

(4) Graham Delaet — He missed the cut last week but again I’m going with the Canadian.  Hoping my “what the heck pick of the week” will do well in this field.

Fantasy Golf Results: Northern Trust Open

The final round of the Northern Trust Open was so exciting. The leaders going into the final round were Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley.  No one really took control of the round and by the time they hit the 18th hole both of them needed to shoot a birdie to get in a playoff with Bill Hass (who had already finished his round).  It was amazing that both Mickelson and Bradley got their birdies and they went into a sudden-death playoff with Hass.

It was Hass who got a birdie on the 2nd playoff hole to win.  Great drama!  By the way, Bradley had his own drama with criticism of his slow play and spitting on the course.  You can read my opinion in the post “Why Spit on a Golf Course?”

Now on to my results — Each week at least one of my player picks really surprises me (and it is not always a happy surprise.)

This time I was shocked that Jason Day  missed the cut.  Jeff Maggert also missed the cut but it wasn’t as big a surprise to me.  Kevin Na was also a major disappointment with a 6 over par and ranked 76.

My only shining star was Jimmy Walker and he was my “what the heck pick” and he tied for 4th at 5 under par.

Maybe the “golf gods” are teaching me a lesson for not staying with my favorite player, Mickelson, whenever he is playing.  If I had picked Lefty in his last two outings I’d be much higher in my fantasy golf rank.  But he was playing horribly and so I felt I had to bench him.

Of course the thing I like about Mickelson is you never know what he will do.  Actually his risk taking on the course is what makes him exciting to watch but it also makes him inconsistent.  Even if I don’t have him as a pick I will always be happy when he plays well because that means he is “putting on a show” for all of his fans.

Why Spit on a Golf Course?

During the playoff at the Northern Trust Open Keegan Bradley spit incessantly.  And it is not just my opinion.  One of the TV commentators said something like, “You wouldn’t think he had any spit left.”  The other commentator was questioning the fact that Bradley must know he has cameras on him so why is he spitting with everyone watching. And then they noted that he will certainly be spoken to when he gets off the course. There was so much buzz about it that Bradley actually tweeted an apology.

Keegan Tweeted Apology for SpittingSo I give Bradley credit for apologizing but it did make me wonder if this was against the rules of golf.  In my research I found that it is not listed in any rules but tournament officials do have discretion (based on code of conduct) to fine a player. To my knowledge Bradley was not fined but I wondered if any player has ever been fined. The answer is yes. Tiger Woods was fined last year, in February at the Dubai Desert Classic.

Tiger spit on the green (of all places) and the commentator was spot on with his analysis. The well-known British golf announcer,  Ewen Murray said “…there are some parts of him (Tiger) that are just arrogant and petulant. Somebody now has to come behind him and maybe putt over his spit. It does not get much lower than that.”  The amount Tiger was fined was not disclosed, and like Keegan Bradley, Tiger apologized  via twitter but it is still disgusting and unprofessional.

Some online comments, at the time, were saying that it was wrong to fine Tiger.  Most of them seemed to feel that spitting is just part of sports.  Yes, many professional athletes spit when playing sports (you see it in football and baseball when the show the players on the sidelines or in the dugout) but is it really necessary or just a bad habit?

I can’t speak for other sports fans.  I can only speak as a golf fan.  For me, golf is supposed to be a “gentleman’s sport” and spitting is not a trait of a gentlemen.  Spitting is just plain gross and incredibly disrespectful of the group coming up behind you on the course.

It is not just the professionals that have this bad habit.  Unfortunately, if you have played golf, you have probably seen a guy spit on the course.  So to all the guys out there that have this “bad habit” — why don’t you try to “conquer it” and give the group behind you some respect.