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Tiger Woods and Nike Ready for The Masters

The Masters begins in just two weeks and every golf fan knows which golfer will be favored to win. Tiger Woods recently regained World Number One status over fellow Nike athlete, Rory McIlroy. With his third victory in five PGA starts this year,  Tiger appears primed to add a fifth Green Jacket to his collection. Like Jack Nicklaus before him, Tiger seems always to be at his best at Augusta National, the home of The Masters. For even the casual fan, there’s just something about the year’s first Major that heightens interest in the game. It’s a special place, Augusta National, and the Masters is a special tournament that breeds special champions—like Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. To commemorate the Masters, Nike introduces a special edition shoe. The Tiger Woods TW13 Limited Edition Golf Shoes are available today at DGW. The Limited Edition TW13 is Tiger’s shoe, made to his exacting specifications, and decked out with deep green, yellow and red accents on the outsole, eye-stay and tongue. Modeled after the Nike Free running shoe, the TW13 is known for its superior feel, fit and function—and Tiger wears them for every round. The TW13 may not be the only reason Tiger has regained his Number One position in the world, but they are distinctive enough, just like the Masters, to inspire this special version for a limited time and in limited quantities. Order your Tiger Woods TW13 Limited Edition Golf Shoes by Nike at DGW today.

Ryder Cup Decision Time For The Euros

There was great news this week for fans of the Ryder Cup, scheduled to begin September 25, 2012. Sergio Garcia, with his win at the Wyndham championship, locked up his spot on the European squad. That’s not great news for fans of team USA necessarily, particularly coming on the heels of Ian Poulter’s finish at the PGA. Both Sergio and Poulter will in all likelihood be playing for the European team and both clearly love and excel at that event.   Sergio missed making the team in 2010, but such was his desire to be involved that he agreed to serve as an assistant, a position usually reserved for a veteran, past his prime. I don’t know about you, but I missed Garcia at the Ryder Cup. Whether you love him, or love to hate him, it’s always been clear that Sergio cares passionately about the Ryder Cup. So in 2012, a year when he made some curious comments that sounded suspiciously as if he’d given up trying, it’s good to see that the Ryder Cup at least continues to stoke his competitive desire. I think he will be formidable.   Two weeks ago Sergio was by no means a guaranteed participant. Today, he’s safely on the team. It’s clear he wants to be on the team, and he’s backed it by great golf in recent weeks. That’s not good for the US squad, given Sergio’s 14-6-4 Ryder Cup record and the fact that the matches will be played at Medinah Country Club where, in 1999 at age 19, he almost took The PGA Championship from Tiger.   It is strange to recall that Sergio, the one who ran up the hill on number 16 and scissor-kicked his way into the hearts of teenage girls everywhere, now that he’s grown into a curmudgeonly, snappish old man at age 31 (32 in September). In recent years we’ve grown accustomed to seeing Sergio behave with all the charm of a constipated toddler with an ear infection. I for one hope this win, and the Ryder Cup, bring back the Sergio who once said to Phil Mickelson after he’d made the turn in 4 over par, “Hey, let’s have some fun on this side.” I’m reasonably certain Sergio will do something hideously boorish in the coming weeks that will make me regret what I just wrote…but I can always hope.   Ian Poulter may be even more formidable as a member of the Euro squad. Poulter loves match play. He’s won the WGC World Match Play Championship and the Volvo World Match Play title, the only player other than Tiger Woods to have done so. Unlike Tiger, Poulter has a stellar Ryder Cup record. You might recall he went 4-0-1 in 2008 and 3-1 in 2010.   Sergio’s recent win bumps Poulter from the top ten of those automatically qualifying for the team, but it’s a dead certainty he’ll be a Captain’s pick. Poulter needed a good showing at the PGA Championship in order to impress Captain Jose Maria Olazabal and he did just that. His final round, featuring 8 birdies were exactly what he needed to impress. Team Europe has to be feeling good about now with the numbers 1, 2, 4 and 7 ranked golfers in the world on their team---and now with Poulter and Garcia playing at top ten levels once again. Davis Love III, the US captain has probably noticed as well, and he might be a bit concerned.   It will be interesting to see how the European team rounds out. Europe selects its players from 2 separate point lists. The top 5 from the European Ryder Cup point list, and the top 5 not otherwise qualified from the World Ryder Cup point list make the team automatically, leaving just 2 captain’s picks. The European team, as of today, would be comprised of the following, plus two captain’s picks: Rory McIlroy Justin Rose Graeme McDowell Paul Lawrie Francesco Molinari Luke Donald Lee Westwood Sergio Garcia Peter Hanson Martin Kaymer   This week’s Johnnie Walker Championship in Europe is the concluding event at which points can be earned. The only one of the ten in jeopardy of falling from the team is Martin Kaymer, who can get knocked out on points by a Nicolas Colsaerts victory or second place finish. Whoever doesn’t secure that tenth spot will likely be considered, along with Poulter, on the very short list for the two captains picks. Poulter, having been bumped from the top ten by Garcia’s win last week, is playing in the FedExCup at The Barclays this week, rather than trying to earn his way on the team at the Johnnie Walker. What does that mean? It means that Poulter knows he’s a lock for a Captain’s pick.   That leaves one pick, in reality, for Olazabal. If I’m Ollie, I’m hoping Colsaerts bumps Kaymer for that final spot, so I can spend my pick elsewhere, say, on Padraig Harrington. If Kaymer doesn’t qualify on points, it’s a sure bet he won’t get picked by Olazabal. Kaymer’s game has fallen off dramatically since he changed his swing following his PGA victory 2 years ago (WHY do they do that?) and he’s had no top tens since April this year. Plus, he’s not playing in the Johnnie Walker this week, an indication of his desire, or lack thereof.   Harrington, whose position on the points list left him no chance to play his way on by participating in the Johnnie Walker, is instead playing in the FedExCup at The Barclays. A three-time Major winner and Ryder Cup stalwart over the last decade, and who’s been playing beautifully of late, it’s hard to imagine Harrington not in the selection equation, particularly when others in the running are guys like Rafael Cabrera-Bello and David Lynn. Who are they, you might ask? Exactly. I’m pretty sure were it up to Davis Love III to select for Ollie, he’d toss out Harrington and flip a coin between these other two leader board lurkers. That would seem a no-brainer. So why would Olazabal say recently of Harrington that he would have to do “something extraordinary” to get his serious consideration?   Well, it seems there’s a feud going on here, dating back to the 2003 Seve Trophy during which Harrington questioned Olazabal’s repair of a pitch mark. Both players deny it, but they do so in terms that make clear they are lying. It’s hard to believe Ollie would base his decision on personal animosity, but when asked recently to define what Harrington could do that he would consider “extraordianary,” he said, “at least a win.”   With the Barclays being the sole tournament remaining before Ollie makes his selections, it’s hard to fathom what Harrington might do beyond winning. What more could it take? A win by 3, 5, 10 shots? A win and a hole in one? A win while putting one handed? A win while going commando and sporting a broken zipper (I think we’d all agree on that one)? What does it mean, this term “at least a win?” I might suggest it means only that Olazabal really, really, really doesn’t want to take Harrington. Thus, he’s left himself some wiggle room by suggesting it could take more than a win. That may sound stupid (and it is) but such is the nature of pride among men. It frequently makes them stupid.   The good news for the US team is it would appear unlikely they will have to face a Euro squad with Harrington. If Colsaerts doesn’t finish in the top two at The Johnnie Walker, he’ll get the nod anyway. The bad news for Europe is, without Harrington, they might field a team featuring someone Phil Mickelson can actually beat in a match.   As I go to post this, I see that Padraig Harrington shot a 7 under 64 and is leading the Barclays. I wonder if he’s wearing underwear?   Coming soon: the inside skinny on the US team. Why Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan shouldn’t be considered locks for a Captain’s pick…and much more. cheap Abilify

PGA Day One Notes

Weirdness prevailed on day one at the PGA. The wind was virtually nonexistent, which, combined with soft conditions led to better-than-expected scoring. That was only mildly interesting. The weird part was seeing John Daly post a 4 under par 68. It shouldn’t come as any great surprise that Daly played well. He’s been quietly having a good run in 2012, playing wherever he gets an invitation and for whoever (in Europe) is willing to pay for his presence. It’s been interesting to see a Daly who looks oddly businesslike on the course. There’s something a bit refreshing about watching JD play well. Everyone knows he has immense talent, but I think most people just got tired of his drunken redneck shtick. It became a little tedious…so it’s fun to see Daly back on a leader board and both looking and sounding like he means to try. Of course, it’s entirely possible that no sooner will this post go up than Daly will fire six balls in the ocean somewhere, card a 21 on a par three, duck under the ropes for a beer, flip the PGA the bird and drive to Charleston to get married. You just never know.   Next we have Carl Pettersson atop the early leader board after firing a 6 under par 66. An unapologetic proponent of the long putter, Pettersson made clear Wednesday in a Golf Channel piece that he thinks the USGA and R&A’s contemplated banning of the long wand is patently unfair. He and Tim Clark, also interviewed for the Golf Channel feature, both indicated in no uncertain terms that they view the assault on the long putter to be a belated attempt to close the barn door on a horse that’s long gone. Both Pettersson and Clark have used long putters their entire careers. They seem to be taking the debate very personally, which they should and which could mean….litigation. Yeeha! It will be interesting to see what happens in the event Pettersson, or some other player who “anchors” the putter, should win the PGA this week. I like Carl Pettersson but I kind of hope he doesn’t win just to avoid adding further fuel to the “Ban the Belly” debate.” On the other hand, I like the idea of a Swede who grew up in North Carolina, attended school there, has a beer gut and a strange combination of Swedish-hillbilly accent, actually winning the PGA Championship. What could be more American than that?   Phil Mickeslson shot a 73 that looked for the entire world like it could’ve been 92. I watched him play the par five 7th yesterday in a manner reminiscent of some of my worst days on the course. He made a miraculous recovery from behind the green to 10 feet, and then made the putt—for bogey. Phil being Phil, he followed his horrific play on number 7 by stuffing his tee shot on the par three eighth for a kick-in birdie. He looked a bit flustered the entire day.   Adam Scott shot 68 and seems to have recovered a bit from his British meltdown. We’ll see if it lasts. After the Open Championship I felt awful for him, because it would appear that his nice guy persona is genuine. My sympathy evaporated to a degree when I read his interview following the tournament; not because of anything he said, but because it was conducted at his home in the Swiss Alps. Yeah, sucks to be Adam Scott.     Bad news for Tiger fans and TV executives—Tiger fired an opening round three under par 69. He said he was pleased and that he’s hitting the ball very well What little I saw of his performance would seem to confirm that Tiger is indeed looking solid, efficient and on form for the PGA Championship. So why is that bad news? Well, he headed south in a hurry the weekend of the US Open after looking like Tiger redux during rounds 1 and 2. Thus, I’m taking his good play today as a bad omen for the weekend—and ratings.   Someone named Alex Noren managed a 67 and is one behind fellow Swede, Pettersson. The leader board should fluctuate wildly today because the wind is starting to howl, and…seriously, as I write this my leader board shows that Noren just double bogeyed the third hole. As I scroll down the leader board, it seems everyone is making bogies…stay tuned.

The Open Championship: Expert Guesses

Making predictions about who will play well in a golf tournament is such an exercise in nerd-dom that I’m embarrassed to say I now do it before each event. I fear this is the beginning of a very unhealthy addiction that may eventually lead to participation in a fantasy league and calling sports talk radio shows. I may require an intervention.At any rate, here we are just a day in front of the British Open and I’m feeling like rolling the dice with some guesses on who will perform. Incidentally, I know that it’s called “The Open Championship” and that for some strange reason TV announcers and golf writers everywhere have caved in recent years to the R&A’s demand that we refer to it as such. But I grew up calling it the British Open, as did every other American, in order to distinguish it from our national championship. If I should ever go to the tournament, I will call it the Open in deference to my hosts, but not otherwise. As far as I’m concerned, we stopped taking orders from Great Britain when we told King George to pound sand, so I see no reason to erase 230+ years of defiance in deference to a golf tournament. I don’t think it’s disrespectful. The tournament is in Great Britain and it’s open. It’s the British Open. I guess the R&A wants some acknowledgment from the ugly Americans that their event is not only the oldest tournament, but has the international flavor of a truly multinational championship. I’ll give them that, but they really need to quit with the insistence that the winner be proclaimed the "Champion Golfer of the Year.” Inasmuch as that designation implies the winner is the best in the world, the R&A adheres to something that hasn’t been true for quite awhile. I mean, they give exemptions to players from the Japanese, Asian, Australian and Sunshine Tours, for goodness sakes. Nevertheless, I love the British Open.   The British is quirky and it’s a lot more fun than any other Major, partly because it exposes us to a host of players we don’t know and it gives me something other than Golf Channel infomercials to watch on TV at 4:00 a.m. Of course, many people love to talk of the vagaries of links-style golf as the reason they like the British. Since we don’t see links golf on the PGA Tour, it’s fun to watch a tournament where frequently there appears to be no discernible difference between fairway, green and even rough. But it takes all of 60 seconds to discuss why links golf is fun to watch—wind, rain, pot bunkers, crazy bounces. That’s pretty much it…I’ve veered slightly from the purpose of this post…my picks.   I’ve decided to utilize three categories of guesses for this week’s tournament, mainly as a hedge whereby I can claim some form of meaningless prescience should I get lucky and pick a winner: 1) Favorites; 2) Familiar names but less favored; 3) guys you’ve probably never heard of and why I like them.   As anyone who read my piece on the Player’s Championship knows, I typically avoid picking a winner from the “Favorites” lineup because it’s easy and not-at-all amusing. I mean, my 8 year old nephew picks Tiger every week. There’s no art to that, or even the illusion of reason. That’s just fandom. Besides, Tiger burned me at the Open (The United States Open Championship for those of the pompous inclination) by going South of the Equator as soon as I pronounced him the winner after 36 holes. Tiger’s not even the obvious favorite this week, and by “obvious” I mean one of the players being touted by media-types. He's among the favorites, but everyone's leery of Tiger's inconsistency and not at all certain which Tiger will be present for the event.   The big media guys are talking Luke Donald, Padraig Herrington, Lee Westwood and Rickie Fowler, for some odd reason. Of those, I like Westwood, then Herrington. That order was reversed until I saw Westwood’s press conference yesterday where for the first time he seemed a bit peeved by the persistent suggestion that he lacks a Major caliber short game. I think he will win out of spite. That’s only if my actual favorite doesn’t win. For that, we have to scratch just below the service of popular opinion.   My guess for the winner among lesser-favorites, if you will,  is Ernie Els. He’s been hitting the ball great for the last year. Putting has been his bugaboo, and with greens stimping at 10.5, Ernie will make more than his share and go home with the Claret Jug, unless…   Justin Rose wins. He’s got 5 top tens on tour this year, including a victory, and 8 top 25s. He’s earned 2.6 million dollars on the PGA Tour in 2012 while playing only 12 events. Currently ranked 12th in FedEx Cup points and 9th in the world, he’s ready for a Major. Plus, Rose is from England, so he grew up playing in weather that requires bundling up as if readying for a winter storm; the kind of weather that makes for exceptional bowlers. He will thrive.   So much for favorites…let’s have more fun with Sleeper picks. They are, in order that I think they will contend, if not win:   Sergio Garcia. I may be the only guy in America picking him, but here’s why I like his chances. He’s an excellent driver and pure ball striker; qualities favored anywhere, but particularly at Royal Lytham where strategic angles are key. Like Els, his putting holds him back but should be far less a factor this week on slow greens. This pick is risky, given that Sergio is paired with Tiger on Thursday and Friday, historically not a good thing for him. On the plus side, Sergio seems to care less these days and long gone are the expectations of greatness. I sent him my blog on playing better by caring less. Obviously, he read it. In his interview going in to the final round of the US Open a mere 4 shots back of the lead, he basically threw in the towel. I like the attitude. Thomas Bjorn. The Great Dane won thrice last year after spending the better part of this century re-living his nightmarish bunker escapade that cost him the Open in 2003. I didn’t bother with his stats. He just looks tough. David Duval. Pretty weird pick, I’ll acknowledge, given that he’s made just two cuts this year and is ranked like 180th in driving accuracy. But I have this good lucky feeling that he’ll recapture the magic of his win from 2002…or maybe it’s just wishful thinking. Davis Love III. At age 48, he’s hitting it as long as ever, and straighter than ever. He’s been lurking around the first page of the leader board all year. After the Open, he will be stuck in full time Ryder Cup Captain mode, so there’s a sense of urgency to take one more Major that will ensure entrance to the Hall of Fame.   Now for the best part, and my real reason for writing this blog--the obscure guys:   Robert Rock. Best hair in golf…nobody’s even close to second place. Imagine what a Robert Rock looks like, then Google him. Pretty close, right? Jbe’ Kruger. Tiniest man in professional golf at 5’5’’ and 135 pounds. I’m rooting for him to beat Els in a playoff so the media won’t be challenged to think of headlines. Also, I had to Google his name just to see how to pronounce Jbe’. Turns out, that’s a nickname for James Barry and it’s pronounced “JB.” He’s from South Africa, so I can only assume the spelling is some weird Dutch or Afrikaans thing. Yoshinori Fujimoto. The real life Yoshi! This guy has no shot. I confess to picking him for the name. Justin Hicks. No one appears to know how he got in the tournament. There is zero information about him on the official site of The Open Championship. I smell an imposter. I like imagining that he's some 15 handicapper. If so, I'd give him the Jug for shear chutzpah. Sang Moon Bae. I spent a lovely vacation there in the Bahamas. Thorbjorn Olesen. Changed his first name from Jacob, marking him, clearly, as quite nuts.   That’s it. We’ll see how my guesses fare come Sunday.  

Prediction: Someone Will Win The Players Championship

The so-called Fifth Major, the Players Championship, begins today, and we’re all really excited, right? Yeah…maybe not. I refer to the Players as the “so-called Fifth Major” because, try as it might, the PGA Tour has never been able to generate quite the level of enthusiasm for this event necessary to justify the “Major” tag. Despite having a deeper field than any of the four Majors, and despite playing at the same very tough TPC venue each of the last 30 years, and despite the Tour Commissioner’s entreaties to the public, we have said, simply: “Uh, not a Major.”   The reasons are as varied as there are opinions on most any topic involving sports, but it really boils down to the fact that while it’s entirely possible in these TV and social media-driven days to manufacture enthusiasm for something, even something entirely worthless-- like the Kardashians--you can’t elevate that something to a status not attained by merit. The Kardashians, for instance, may be famous at the moment, but they’ll never be even remotely interesting. I have a great idea for ending terrorist threats, by the way. We should send the Kardashians over to meet with Iranian and other extremist Muslims to negotiate on behalf of the American people. After an hour or so, the terrorists would send them back with a note saying they won’t bother us again. We’re not worth the effort. I digress.   The Players championship on the other hand remains interesting, if not compelling, year after year. It’s just not a major championship, much like Jack’s Memorial event is not a Major--cool venue, great field, always deserving winners—and Jack. It’s just not a Major. But just because it has step-child status doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate The Players. (Note: Please don’t comment over my insensitive use of the word step-child to denote something negative; that offensive reference is a common idiom and I am simply too lazy to look up a more politically-correct substitute. I love children, and while I have no step-child of my own, I’m sure that if I did, I would treat it almost like a real kid.) It’s played on a very demanding layout and boasts a great finishing stretch of holes, 16-18, that provide high drama virtually every year. This is due primarily to the fact that the 137-yard 17th hole’s island green can drown any player’s chance to win, and has even drowned careers, with one (or 2) nervous swings.   Many people love the Players and tune in just to watch what happens on the 17th on Sunday. These folks, when not watching NASCAR, are hoping for disaster. I for one hope the leader safely finds the 17th green with his tee shot—so he can hit it in the water on 18. Just kidding. I don’t root for 18th hole disasters any more than I do on the 17th. It’s just that the 18th hole may be the toughest 72nd hole in golf. The drive is crazy hard and the hole, a 447 yard par four with water down the entire left side, is long enough that you can’t really lay off with less than driver or 3 wood unless you’ve got at least a 2 shot lead.   Year after year, it seems The Players offers up some terrific golf drama over the last few holes, so it’s almost always an interesting finish. This year, we will be treated to 27 hours of TV coverage (not including replays of Golf Channel’s Thursday/Friday coverage), as well as Live video and scoring feeds for surreptitious viewing at work. So there are opportunities galore to absorb vast amounts of PGA viewing this week.   Some very good story lines frequently arise from The Players. Remember Hal Sutton’s “Be the right club today” moment when he temporarily slapped the swagger out of Tiger? Remember, also, a couple years ago when Paul Goydos almost won? His was a terrifically entertaining story, offering great sound bites in interview after interview, revealing a self-deprecating wit and intelligence that was a refreshing change from the clichéd answers we’ve grown accustomed to. The Goydos story was fun and the fact that he finished second in a playoff to Sergio Garcia was less memorable than the fact that he contended at all. In fact, the Sergio victory was a bit of a surprise, as well, given that he’d not really contended for anything noteworthy in the US since losing the PGA to Padraig Herrington.     There is any number of guys who should contend this week. As usual, the pundits have no shortage of opinions about which players will be there on Sunday, so I thought I’d add my own to the mix. I’ve analyzed the entire field of 145, and am confident of only one thing. I have no idea who’s going to win. I can’t predict the future. “Obvious,” you say, “since you’re writing a blog and not ruling the world at this moment.” Obvious, yes, but if we find it easy to accept that I, a mere mortal, have no way of predicting who will win, why do we subscribe to the notion that others might be able to do so?   Golf is not subject to predictions based on trends, or based on who may have won the prior week, or who might be the hot player of the moment. In fact, frequently a player who wins one week may play poorly enough to miss the cut the following week. That said, there is some value in looking at how a player’s been doing of late, or has done in the past on a particular course in order to make some assumptions about how he might play in the near term. In the end though, we just can’t predict who will have it going, and who will not, during any particular event.   So let me give you my predictions, guaranteed 100% to be maybe right or maybe completely off the mark. Having thoroughly analyzed the field, I have decided to avoid the twenty or twenty-five favorites and give you my dark horse picks. I’m not going to bother with the obvious. Where’s the fun in that? Besides, every one will be watching to see if Rickie Fowler follows his win at the Wells Fargo with another at the TPC this week, if for no other reason than to ratchet up the “young guns” rivalry with Rory McElroy. It takes no imagination to think that Rickie may win this week. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him miss the cut by six, then happily head home to play in the large pile of dough he won last weekend. The only thing I can say for sure is that Rickie will, if he makes the cut, wear orange on Sunday. I am also fairly certain he will not be wearing an orange bowler hat in place of his flat bill cap, even though I’ve suggested this repeatedly to the Puma Marketing Department. Admit it though; an orange bowler is sheer brilliance.   There’s obvious interest in what’s going on with Tiger. I will leave that speculation to the professionals to get wrong. Tiger’s proven the critics wrong so many times in the past that he might very well do it again…or he could have tinkered one too many times with a swing that didn’t need tinkering so that he is now officially toast. Who knows?   The simple fact is that no one is able to predict what’s going to happen, or who’s going to contend on any given weekend, at least now that Tiger’s issues seem for real. While there are indicators that effectively eliminate some players from serious consideration, there’s always that guy who jumps from “nowhere” to claim a big prize. Marketing dollars and TV time focus on a select number of PGA stars and first page leader board guys, so it’s entirely possible for the average viewer to see a player emerge with a victory and think “who is this guy?” Sometimes this “unknown” guy has been camping in the top 30 for 6 months, but because he’s not a marquee name, he dwells in relative obscurity until finally breaking loose with a win. Everyone on the tour is really, really good, so it should be no surprise when a relative unknown comes on like gangbusters, and neither should it be particularly surprising when can’t miss guys…do. After all, the list of the next Nicklaus who soon became the next Allstate Insurance agent is fairly long.   All of that aside, it’s fun to make predictions, although I prefer a more scientifically accurate term: guesses. So here are my guesses for the Players Championship this weekend, along with my well reasoned reasons for picking them.   In no particular order, my dark horse guesses: Ben Crane. Until his workout video, he was known mostly for his devout Christianity and the Rory Sabatini snit fit thrown over Ben’s slow play a couple years ago. He always seems to be sniffing around the leader board and he plays The Players well. The workout video showed that Ben is a pretty funny guy, and if you were paying attention recently, you also saw him congratulating first Bubba on his Masters victory, and then Rickie Fowler on his first win at the Wells Fargo last Sunday. That seems rather rare in the cutthroat world of professional golf where Tiger once bragged that his mom taught him that when you have someone down you should “step on his neck.” Ben gets the good guy vote. Plus, he’s the only one of The Golf Boys without a win this year, so the others are probably teasing him about his lowly mid-six figure endorsement deals. Charley Hoffman. Known as a really good ball striker and streaky putter, the thought is he will do poorly at a place where you have to both hit the ball well and then putt very, very well. I like him because no one will be thinking he has a chance. I’m going opposite the herd. Many years ago, I saw a piece on Inside the Nationwide Tour in which they interviewed Charley in his bachelor pad. He reminded me then of my college fraternity brothers. Also, he has the coolest looking footwear on tour. Bud Cauley. His name is ridiculous, unless you’re a 75 year old retired bus driver. Seriously, Bud? He’s a rookie, and there is no way a rookie wins this thing…so say the pundits. I say he’s a Jacksonville native who’s played the course tons…so I’m saying there’s a chance. He looks very happy in his PGA Tour Bio photo, too. Ryuji Imada. He’s made only 3 cuts in 12 starts this year. I’m guessing he will decide to suddenly get very good again soon...maybe this week. Plus, if he wins, I will look like a genius and can go around bragging to my friends until finally someone reminds me that absolutely no one cares that I correctly guessed the winner of The Players Championship. John Senden. One of my favorite golf swings, although Johnny Miller pronounced it a bit ”handsy,” which translates as inconsistent. He’s in the top 10 in greens hit and birdie average this year, though. That doesn’t seem the mark of inconsistency to me. One of the less well known Aussie’s, he contends a lot. He also owns a kangaroo, which is cool. Ryan Moore. I dig his whole anti-corporate-refusing-to-sell-out-to-the-man vibe. Seriously, I do, even though he now has a sponsor. Nevertheless, I like his oppositional defiant personality. Also, he wears the ugliest clothes on tour. I’m assuming he has someone advising him and Ryan simply replies, “No. I wish to wear mud brown and gray colors always.” I respect his insistence on dressing ugly. He has 3 top tens in his last 4 starts. I also suspect he’s a hippy. Brandt Snedeker. I love this guy. He plays fast and seems, usually, to be having a good time.  He seems like such a nice guy; although for all I know he uses baby seals to bludgeon kittens to death in his spare time. Plus, I always call him “Sneds” when he’s on TV, just like we’re good buddies. Unlike “Bud,” Sneds is a great nickname. This guy shouldn’t really be in the dark horse category, but he seems always to get less than his due. If he wins, I’ll only claim half-genius status. Bryce Molder. He has 6 top 20’s in his last 10 starts, so he’s been lurking around the first page of the leader board for awhile. I really want him to win because I once beat him in a match. It was in a bar and we were playing Golden Tee…but still…I will be able to say I beat The Players Champion in an 18 hole match. Technically, all completely true…no follow up questions, please. Bubba Watson. How can the Masters Champion be considered a dark horse, you ask? Well, he’s not playing for one thing. He withdrew to spend time at home with his wife and new baby. I know, what a selfish jerk, right? At least you’d think so by listening to some critics. Apparently, Bubba owes it to golf to play this week on golf’s “almost as big as a major” stage. I like that he told the Tour to go pound sand; that he’s going home for awhile before gearing up for the real Majors later on. He could win from home though. He’s Bubba. David Toms. He lost a playoff last year to KJ Choi to the dismay of xenophobes everywhere. Dave, as I call him, drives it really straight and is over 40, so he is my sentimental favorite. Wears a lot of Khaki.   There you have it, my first ever very own Players Championship Winner Guesses.
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