By Wil Barnes
Another PGA Tour golf season will come to a close this weekend in Orlando at the Children’s Miracle Network Challenge plays out on the Magnolia and Palm courses of Disneyworld Resort. Since that Sunday when the Europeans stormed back to shock the Americans and the world at Medinah CC in Chicago in late September, golf hasn’t much mattered to the golfing public except for those involved in fantasy golf or are just plain golf nuts. Personally, because I cover and follow golf I am in both of those groups. That said, I also am a huge sports fan and football enthusiast so last weekend the only reason I saw any of the HSBC Championship in China coverage was because it aired on the west coast in the evening, concluding on Saturday night about 1am. I was very interested in the conclusion of this WGC event primarily because like many other golf enthusiasts, I participate in a couple of different golf fantasy leagues, never having come close to winning in previous years, albeit being teased for three quarters of the season only to disappear off the leader board each time. This year is different however.
My partners Frankie, JW and Rob have enjoyed a very thrilling season as one of our teams, the Park City String Band is actually going to receive a check of an unknown amount sent to us in a few weeks, and as pleased as we are with the results let me share some of the heartbreaks that could have had us being crowned league champions. Without going into a week by week analysis, I will only deal with the four majors because that is where the big money is and bonuses awarded. It should be noted that as a fantasy league, our standings are based on how much money our players actually earn in each tour event, where we can only fantasize we earned that. We start in Augusta where Bubba Watson made one the all-time great shots in Masters history, on the first playoff hole, a hooking wedge from the pine cones that secured his first major. It was superb theater and afterwards the young man from Bagdad, Florida overflowed in tears and emotion after shaking his opponent Louis Oostheizen’s hand. If you’re wondering, yes, we had Louie.
Next on tap was the U.S. Open in San Francisco at the Olympic Club where after two rounds Tiger Woods held a one shot lead. Almost every fantasy golf team in America had Tiger on their roster so that was not any advantage. However, as we got to Sunday, Tiger had faded and the resilient Jim Furyk had assumed the top spot holding it all the way to the 70th hole tee box. Jim is a member of the PC String Band squad so our hopes were elevated. We also had his playing partner Graeme McDowell so we were doubly jubilant. It all disappeared in a two-hole stretch as both of them; Furyk in particular, sent balls sailing to unplayable parts of the last three holes. Webb Simpson was the eventual winner, who of course was not a member of our cast of 15. After Furyk’s double on 16, he proceeded to bogey the final hole, while McDowell had a putt to tie Simpson on the 18th only to miss terribly, all they could show for it was a pair of top 5 finishes, which is not a bad week in fantasy, but far from the anticipated victory we were looking for when Sunday began.
Across the pond we went to Royal Lytham, St Anne’s for the Open Championship where PC String Band member Adam Scott held a four shot lead with four to play. This was a lock right? Lo and behold, the ultimate happened. Scott inexplicably, on the final hole, holding on to a one shot lead chose to hit 3-metal brining the fairway pot bunkers into play when all week long he had hit either short of them or bombed a driver over them and found one of them that left him with no shot to the green. After hitting out sideways he now needed to make bogey to force a playoff, but the young Australian was unable to even accomplish that and Ernie Els won his second Claret Jug. Really? Three possible and probable majors were lost on the last hole. Still we were in a good position as we headed to Kiawah and the PGA Championship. This one was never really in question as Rory McElroy was dominating all weekend long until suddenly a hot putter and 6 straight birdies on the front Sunday had PCSB squad member Ian Poulter making a final round charge, even getting within 2 shots and getting the attention of the youngster from Northern Ireland. It was strictly a tease and Poulter began to fade on the back nine finishing fourth. McElroy was not a PGA member in 2011 so no one had him on his team as well as second place finisher, Englishman David Lynn so the Poulter money was about as good as we could do. A win would have been nice.
So we still had some chances in some big closing events like the Bridgestone Invitational where Jim Furyk again puked all over the final hole, holding a two shot lead and triple bogeying it to hand the trophy to Keegan Bradley. Thank God Bradley was a member our team or it was suicide watch time! Ian Poulter’s win last week in China was a late season bonus and gives us a chance to finish in the top ten of our league that is made up of 624 teams so the Park City String Band is quite pleased, yet still, there remains, “what could have been.” Eventually you come to grips with the old golf adage, “well that’s golf!”
So this weekend as the Tour wraps up the 2012 season, and the only thing that matters is whether some players remain or jump into the Top 125 and secure their playing privileges for 2013, nothing much matters. But of course, one of our players Trevor Immelman who didn’t do squat all season long is on the bubble at 127, making it necessary to still tune in. Immelman has to play well to avoid Q-school. So maybe, just maybe, and even though it isn’t a major, I can just feel another collapse in the making. I’ll be watching football like the rest of America as our golf season is over. Thank God!