Phil Mickelson notched his first PGA Tour win of the year Sunday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He played well all week, overcame the disastrous shot or two that inevitably comes as a part of a Mickelson win, and ran away from the field.
The problem is, it didn’t help my fantasy golf team one bit.
I’ve stuck by Phil since his first tournament three weeks ago, hoping that all the rumors and stories on espn.com about him coming into this season in shape and with a revamped swing were true. In each of his previous starts, I expected him to come out and dominate. He waited until a couple of weeks into the season to play his first tournament and he’s in shape and won’t slice the ball anymore. That means must have been on the practice range all this time, and should be a shoe-in to win at least once and finish in the top 5 in one of the others, right? He’s Phil, Lefty, the guy who’s giving Tiger a challenge and making golf interesting again for people who can’t stand watching the Yankees— er, Eldrick win all the time.
Fantasy golf has only been around for a few years. It’s existed on the underbelly of fantasy sports for a long time, ranking somewhere below fantasy NASCAR but above fantasy soccer. I finally got involved because it sounded like something to kill time until my fantasy baseball team is, once again, ritualistically slaughtered, thereby ruining my ability to enjoy the baseball season. And after my fantasy football disaster, I figured fantasy golf wouldn’t suck the soul right out of me, so I gave it a shot.
I love golf. I’ve played since I was nine years old. That’s not to say I have improved a whole lot since then but it has always been the one sport that held my interest consistently. I’m still convinced that there is no one actually born with natural golf skills. The game is so dependent on routine and practice that I swear if I quit my job and spent the next two years practicing every day, I could at least make some money on the Nationwide Tour. Yeah, I know, I tell myself that because golf is also so intrinsically frustrating that it’s a miracle I haven’t quit the game altogether a dozen times over. In that respect it’s a lot like my love of betting on cockfights–err um, I mean cards. Yeah, I play cards in that secluded barn I may or may not go to on non-consecutive Saturdays each month…
I was betting on Phil to carry my team before the majors because, by the U.S. Open, I figured I’d have an idea of who was playing well this year and who wasn’t. Plus, Tiger is going to slip this season, I can feel it. He’s coming in with so much hype, plus he’s having a kid. Oh and we can’t use him anyway (league rules). It’s Phil’s season.
What did I get for my blind trust? In 10 rounds before the Pebble Beach tournament, Phil was under 70 only four times. He finished 45th and 51st in his first two tournaments and missed the cut in the third. The 51st place finish was at his home course in San Diego, Torrey Pines Golf Club, where the U.S. Open will be next year. I had to be Joe Torre with A-Rod and sit Phil this week. He’d been awful so far. I had to send him a message.
My brilliantly formed managerial strategy backfired on me. I played Vijay Singh instead of Phil this week. Vijay finished tied for 11th, 11 shots behind Mickelson. Naturally, one of the guys ahead of me in the standings started Phil. Fantasy golf, it turns out, is just as frustrating as real golf.