Big week this week for my first-ever fantasy football team, the Lords Disick, which is remarkable because the Lords Disick are a terrible team. I've never been in an auction draft before and I blew all my fake money in the first two or three rounds and spent the rest of the draft picking up whatever players could be had for the peanuts I had left. Here is how well that process worked out: At one point I took a $2 flier on Tim Tebow, a young man I expect big things from this season. And yet because of math or cosmic storms or some other fantasy-impacting factors I won't pretend to understand, I did actually win my matchup this week. I had Marshawn Lynch, and my sentimental investment in the Bengals D-line (also a bargain in the auction, believe it or not) ended up paying off, and the Lords Disick beat my colleague Daniel Bernoulli's team, 76-67.
"I can't believe I lost to your shitty team," Bernoulli e-mails me on Monday night.
I write back: "The Lords would not be the Lords if we did not win based on something other than merit."
Fifty-nine! On Friday, Jim Furyk became the sixth golfer in the history of the PGA Tour to join the 59 Club by shooting a 12-under 59 at Conway Farms. In the vacuum of golf scoring, where the only opponent is par and raw totals aren't adjusted in any way, it's a round that joins those five others as the greatest in tour history.
Of course, there are a number of factors that could distort scoring and make a 59 easier (or harder) to pull off, with differences in overall course difficulty and weather conditions standing out as obvious examples. A 59 is easier on a par-70 course (as Stuart Appleby's 59 in 2010 was) than it is on a par-72. Furyk's was on a par-71 course. It's also more impressive to shoot a 59 on a course where nobody else is within six shots of you than it is to shoot a 59 when there's, say, a couple 62s and three 63s around the clubhouse.
Every fan has his or her own rules for why they do or don't root for certain athletes. Sometimes those rules are as simple as "he plays for the team in the town where I grew up." Sometimes they're less simple — as a kid, Joe Montana was my favorite NFL quarterback because he won Super Bowls, but also because we wore the same jersey number (16, though I was playing soccer) and his name was attached to the greatest football video game of my generation. (You can have your Maddens and your Tecmo Bowls. I'll take my Sports Talk any day.) This is the logic of a 10-year-old boy, and thankfully it improves a little — though only a little — over time.
Take this weekend's competitors at the golf season's last major, the PGA Championship, for example. If you're not a big fan of the sport, you might see an unbroken line of monochromatic stiffs. And you wouldn't exactly be wrong. Yeah, OK, it's an international field. And yeah, OK, Tiger Woods. But mostly: relatively well-off white guys from two-parent homes who, if they have a colorful personality, keep it fairly well-hidden on and off the course. Some sports almost demand of their players an easily tapped reservoir of childhood misery and pain in order to summon up enough anger and intensity to play. Golf is not one of them. It favors patience, and, above all, privilege.
Normally I write a "top 10 contenders" post before each major, but after witnessing Tiger Woods's recent form, I decided it wasn't necessary. I'm convinced he's going to end his long drought and win this year's PGA Championship, "Glory's Last Shot," per the dramatic men on television. So rather than giving token lip service to nine other golfers, let's focus on the top dog. In my "Conversations With an Idiot" post Monday, I engaged in the stupid debate about whether Tiger was "back," and concluded that the answer was an unequivocal yes. Why? Because he's no. 1 in the world rankings, has won five tournaments in 2013 while nobody else has won more than two, leads the PGA Tour money list, and tied a course record at Bridgestone last weekend with a 61, which also tied his own personal best as a pro.
You may have heard that Tiger Woods shot a 61 on Friday at the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, setting a course record and tying his best professional round ever. He went on to win the tournament by seven strokes over Henrik Stenson and Keegan Bradley, and will be the odds-on favorite to end his major drought with a victory at this week's PGA Championship. The Bridgestone win marked the latest success in an excellent year; by almost every measure, he's been the world's best golfer in 2013.
And yet throughout the sports media landscape, one question persists: Is he back?
This morning I was lucky enough to make a guest appearance on the fake podcast Conversations With an Idiot. We debated the hot-button issue, and the transcript is below. Please enjoy.
Every now and then, we will attempt to write the worst sports column on earth. Today: Let's talk about Phil Mickelson and what comes next.
GULLANE, Scotland — Phil Mickelson delivered a round for the ages on Sunday. You want clutch? How 'bout a bone-chilling 66 to rally back and win the British Open. You want highlights? Phil birdied four of the final six holes on Sunday. Pick one.
"The great players just seem to be able to pull it off," Paul Azinger said Sunday. "Think of the shots Phil Mickelson's hit coming down the stretch. He is a true champion."
That's right, a true champion. Phil's impressed me. He's got nothing left to prove to any of us.
But as I watched the magic unfold on Sunday, I kept coming back to a nagging question.
It never seemed to make sense, why Phil Mickelson would travel to the United Kingdom each summer to lose two tournaments on courses he didn't especially like and admittedly didn't know how to play. Perhaps it was to see the sights of the realm? He's probably seen them by now. So … golf? Why?
In the past, American golfers who didn't jibe with links-style play would just stay stateside for the week. Rather than spend the annual, workmanlike fortnight barely or not even making cuts on the old sod, Mickelson would've been better off at home, practicing for the PGA Tour's loaded August schedule and enjoying his beloved Five Guys hamburgers. Seeing Phil Mickelson hoisting the Claret Jug would be like seeing Michael Jordan winning the pennant.
Then Mickelson turned 43, suffered one of the most piercing losses of his well-pierced career, and popped over to Scotland — to win the Scottish and British Opens in consecutive weeks, the latter by a comfortable margin. They are his only two wins in the U.K., and what's most unusual is that he rarely looked out of his comfort zone. It makes you wonder why the owner of the best short game of his generation could never figure out links-style courses before.
There's a simple lesson behind Mickelson's great play of late: Getting rid of the driver isn't a bad idea! Especially on dry, fast courses where the balls rolls, and rolls, and rolls.
The first golf tournament I ever saw in person was The Players Championship. This was sometime in the late '90s, I think. I was probably 12. Sorry, my records from that time are woefully incomplete. The point is, we went on a Saturday, and I have two very noteworthy recollections:
1. I saw Duffy Waldorf walking between holes, and yelled out, "Hi, Mr. Dalworf." He was nice about it. This is still the most embarrassing spoonerism of my life.
2. When I began stalking Tiger Woods, which was almost immediately, he was finishing up a hole. He putted out, gave his caddy the putter, took the driver, and made his way to the next hole. He came within five feet of me on the cart path, and to my eternal amazement, he was holding the driver straight out in front of him and bouncing a ball as he walked. It was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen, and I became Tiger-obsessed.
That was, of course, before the iconic Nike commercial came out in 1999:
On Tuesday, golfer Sergio Garcia made a comment about inviting Tiger Woods over to serve him fried chicken. Woods responded the following day, via Twitter, noting that the comment "wasn't silly" and was "wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate " The story instantly became newsworthy, with much of the response coming down harshly on Garcia.
Grantland staff writers Wesley Morris and Rembert Browne spent Wednesday e-mailing back and forth about the incident, and then some.
Wesley: What did you think about the fried chicken remark?
Rem: I've been sitting with it all morning. The Sergio comment doesn't even make me mad or rile me up. Maybe it's me becoming numb to really, really tired insults. You?
The Players Championship starts today, which means it's time to unveil the Sport of Golf Power Rankings, a new feature for The Triangle. If you're new to the game, the Players Championship is often called "the fifth major," and tends to draw one of the strongest fields of the year. The island green on no. 17 at TPC Sawgrass might be the single most famous hole in American golf (even though it's not really an island shhh!), and it's a verified drama magnet that rarely fails to produce an excellent finish.
So who will conquer Sawgrass, rule the island, and hold the Players Championship trophy? These are the 15 best golfers of 2013, judged on wins, earnings, the "hot" factor (recent results, guys! Grow up!), and yes, a little bit of history and reputation. We start with an honorable mention:
One of the reasons I've learned to love the ordinary, mundane events on the PGA Tour — after spending the bulk of my life focused solely on the big ones — is how the drama of a single Sunday can permanently change a person's life.
We're used to thinking of golfers as privileged blue bloods, and it's easy to forget that outside the top 125 in America and Europe, the professional landscape is full of aspirants who grind it out on minor tours, suffer through qualifying school, and generally live week-to-week (often in their own cars) hoping for a shot at the big time. For the overwhelming majority, that shot never comes. Even the ones who get their chance usually fail to capitalize, and the opportunity recedes into the past to become a tortured memory of what might have been.
When Adam Scott rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt to win the Masters on Sunday, I heard The Voice. I hear it a lot when I’m watching sports. The Voice warns me that what’s exciting (a Scott–Angel Cabrera playoff) often obscures what’s morally revolting (a golf club with a lengthy history of racism and sexism). The Voice tells me I ought to cheer less and think more. The funny thing was, on Sunday, The Voice wasn’t coming from Taylor Branch, Dave Zirin, or any of the usual suspects. It was coming from Bob Costas.
What no CBS commentator has ever alluded to, even in passing, even during a rain delay, even when there was time to do so, is Augusta’s history of racism and sexism. Even when people were protesting just outside the grounds — forget about taking a side — never acknowledging it. So not only would I never work the Masters because I’m not at CBS, but I’d have to say something and then I would be ejected.
By now, you’ve seen the Facebook photos of Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn. In the Tiger meta-scandal, the release of these pictures is an important milestone. This is the moment when the narrative of Woods’s love life passed from our hands back into his.
It's by the Golf Boys, a musical supergroup made up of PGA Tour players Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, and (world's most interesting man finalist) Bubba Watson.
This video: "2.Oh."
It's named that because their first hit single was titled "Oh Oh Oh." That's why this one's called "2.Oh," because it's like the sequel or something.
The following are the official lyrics of "2.Oh," provided by the Golf Boys camp. And it was sent via Word document, so you know it's official. Interspersed between the lyrics are pictures of Bubba Watson doing a perfect "drunkest girl at the party"/"huge liability if he decides to crash our wedding reception" impression.