Full Circle

Eleven years ago, I hit a crossroads in my career before it ever started. I knew I would broadcast sports for a living, but the pathway to be successful at that was clouded by my final years of “education.” College, and the internships that accompanied that experience, had built me to be your local television sports guy. Problem was, in that senior year of college, I had totally fallen out of love with the idea of local sports. At the time (2003, internet exploding), the industry was dying rapidly.

So, left with an uncomfortable decision, I took the unconventional route. I wanted to call sports, be a play-by-play guy. To do that meant staying in Indianapolis, freelance in broadcasting and find an alternative job to makes ends meet. That first job came serendipitously. I became a golf professional. To be an assistant pro in Indianapolis was perfect for a guy broadcasting basketball in the winter. It also allowed me to have a great time for two years out of school, in a sport I had played and competed in growing up.

That job also introduced me to a good friend (and roommate). Fast forward a decade (plus) and it doesn’t feel like that much time has passed. I’ve been blessed to merge the combination of golf and broadcasting for a living now. That roommate matriculated through the business to become Executive Director of the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation. And then, both of our careers were able to come together. Maybe it’s romanticizing it a bit in my I-am-now-an-adult mind, but to professionally benefit your best friends after trudging out into the world together long ago is just a great feeling. Just don’t tell my bosses that we know each other! 😉

Check Another Off

I love sports. I am, in fact, a sports junkie. In 33 years on this Earth, I have broadcast basketball, football, golf, tennis, baseball, softball, lacrosse, swimming, cross country, track and bowling. So, new opportunities don’t seem to come as often as they once did. So, when I was able to drive up the road and broadcast the 2014 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championship, I was pumped.

Prepping for a sport you are familiar with is like riding a bike. Prepping for a sport you’ve never broadcast is like cramming for the Bar Exam. It was an absolute blast. I’ve never learned more at an event, or had a greater appreciation for the athletes like with gymnastics. Hope to be back soon.

Here are the highlights:
http://www.ncaa.com/video/gymnastics-men/2014-04-12/mens-gymnastics-individual-finals-recap
http://www.ncaa.com/video/gymnastics-men/2014-04-10/mens-gymnastics-day1-recap

Here are the full shows:
http://www.ncaa.com/video/gymnastics-men/2014-04-12/mens-gymnastics-individual-finals-full-replay
http://www.ncaa.com/video/gymnastics-men/2014-04-10/mens-gymnastics-day1-pm-full-replay

Different Sides

For the second time in my career, I had the privilege of calling the Elite Eight for the NCAA Men’s Division II National Championship. It is one of the greatest days in all of college basketball. The goal is to get there, and when it tips off, anything can happen. Here is a recap of the day:

http://www.ncaa.com/video/basketball-men/2014-03-27/dii-mbk-quarterfinals-recap

What was interesting to me was that these games came on the same day that the Northwestern athletes took one step closer to unionizing. While I think dialogue about stronger medical benefits for college athletes needs to be advanced, this outpouring of criticism on behalf of “exploited” student athletes is mystifying to me. That it comes from Northwestern students is somewhat laughable. An institution whose annual tuition and costs are well above $50,000, meaning that scholarship athletes could get more than 200K worth of value for their athletic services. Not to mention a degree that most of them would never obtain without being good at sports.

I thought about this all while watching D2 athletes shed blood, sweat and tears on a court simply for the love of the game. There will be no pro contract. There were less than 1,000 people in the gym. Yet, they had an incredible championship experience representing their school. An experience, I might add, that was afforded to them because of the money the NCAA is making on its few profitable entities. Does that make the whole system right? I think that is up for debate. But, when I hear people bash the NCAA, I wish they could have sat next to me during that D2 Elite Eight and see where much of the money is going. Those players trying to win a championship may be at risk if we head down a path where we ‘share the wealth’ with those football and basketball players and the D1 level.

Fatherhood

I am in full golf mode this week (frozen into my house and escaping with images of the PGA Tour in paradise, Maui). Plus, I begin my 2014 season covering the pros at the Humana Challenge next week. The big story is Webb Simpson seeking a title while his caddy, Paul Tesori, is back home with his newborn son, who is fighting for his life.

Being a father is a gift; a life-altering event that adds maturity, perspective, love and blessings to every waking moment of each day. Am I pulling for Webb because of Paul? You betcha. It also made me dust off a piece I wrote back in July, after leaving the Canadian Open and reflecting on my PGA Tour experiences as they relate to fatherhood. This piece was never published, so I post it today… 

(July 29, 2013)

Zoe Olivia Mahan is going to get a really nice baby gift from Brandt Snedeker. He said as much after capturing the RBC Canadian Open on Sunday, a tournament Hunter Mahan was leading on Saturday before withdrawing upon learning his wife was in labor. But, years from now, when Zoe is old enough to read back through the stories surrounding her birth on July 28, 2013, hopefully she recognizes the gift her father gave her: being there.

What began as a quick-shock story surrounding the leader of a golf tournament exploded into viral conversation on morality, priorities and family. It seemed as if everybody was waiting for there to be controversy. The funny thing was, there wasn’t.

“That is obviously a way more important thing than a golf tournament,” Snedeker reflected after his victory. “I missed a golf tournament when my first (Lilly) was born and it was the best decision I ever made, and I am sure Hunter would say the same thing.”

Mahan was warming up alongside the rest of the late-afternoon wave on Saturday when he suddenly was gone. The media actually found out about Mahan’s withdrawal before the players, and the information was disseminated to those still on the practice range minutes before the final tee times. The reaction was universally the same.

John Merrick, who would be relegated to playing solo in the final tee time, was immediately shocked by the prospect of a more lonesome walk and his newfound position atop the leaderboard. Surprised that Mahan made the decision? No.

Bubba Watson heard the news, reflected, and provided a momentary shrug, as if to say, ‘yep, makes sense.’

Dustin Johnson, whose eagle on 18 moments after the news put him on top with Merrick, summed up the feelings succinctly: “Obviously, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t go.”

Mahan’s decision, in fact, wasn’t a decision. It was an inevitability. Some have spiced up the conversation with hypothetical situations (major, outside top 125 in FedEx Cup points, first win, etc.), but the lack of wavering in Mahan’s actions on Saturday reflects the best of the men on the PGA Tour.

Life on Tour is tough. Consistent travel, uncertainty and change are commonplace. While the payoff at the top is big, the journey is taxing. At the head of every PGA Tour professional household is a husband/father who travels 200 days a year with no guarantees. To have a sense of normalcy is key to survival and also the reason family has become not just important, but essential.

“It puts golf in perspective,” Snedeker said. “Out here, you can place too much importance on how you swing a golf club. Even though it is our career, it doesn’t define who we are as people.”

Mahan’s first moments as a father came 14 years after Phil Mickelson famously declared that he would leave the 99th U.S. Open at Pinehurst if wife Amy went into labor with their first child. Fast forward to the present, ironically less than a week prior to the Canadian Open, and there was Mickelson in a minute-long embrace with Amy and three children after his British Open triumph. He would credit them as much as his game for one of the most memorable wins of his career. They were all invested.

A week before Muirfield, Daniel Summerhays led the John Deere Classic by two shots going into Sunday. Within reach of his first win on Tour, some bad bounces and a plugged lie in a bunker at the last ruined a golden opportunity. As he climbed the 100-yard hill to the scoring trailer, he walked as if he had lost. But before he could even sign his card, two joyous little boys (Jack and Patton) raced to give a hug. Clueless to the fate their father had just met, the unconditional love was moving, and provided immediate perspective.

Golf is a game, one that provides the world’s best with a quality life, but that life is only as rich as the family off the course. The month of July has allowed the public to peak behind the curtain and see that while ‘these guys are good,’ they are also human. And, if the first day is any indication, Hunter Mahan is going to be a really good dad.

Another Whistle?

We are approaching a week into the college basketball season, and the conversation should be on the games that took place last night (Michigan State looked experienced; Kentucky looked scary talented; Kansas looked like a long version of Kentucky; Duke looked like Duke… with Jabari Parker). But, and I’m afraid it will get worse before it gets better, we are talking about the officiating.

A common phrase you’ll hear from fans is “the officials took over the game.” This is uttered more often than it should be, because there are games the honestly require it. I don’t like using it, and I am generally an apologist for the men in zebra stripes because the job is so hard. However, I think I am going to coin my own phrase for the start of this season:

The Rules are Taking Over the Game

Call me old fashioned. Call me a fan of the little guy, who needs to limit possessions. Call me a supporter of rugged styles. I didn’t think the college game was becoming too physical or defensively dominated.
The new rules to avoid contact appear to be a culture shock to the players. Natural reactions are being met with a whistle. Out-of-control players are bailed out because they draw contact.

Here’s the deal: The whistles will diminish a bit as we move forward. Too many free throws; games going over  by 30+ minutes; stars being disqualified. All of those will play on the human reality that makes officials, well, human.

I don’t broadcast a basketball game until conference seasons begin (in January) and I’ll be interested to see how the games are officiated at that point. I think teams will learn slightly, but officials will back off some. What you will see, I hope, are some touchy calls early, followed by an environment that allows more free playing late.

Time will tell, but I’m with most fans right now: let’s swallow the whistles a bit and let the players welcome us back to the college basketball season.

Inspired

I have been blown away by the outreach of folks since I decided to go public with my health issues. I had Horizon League basketball coaches reach out personally to share their well wishes. I had conversations with people I haven’t talked with (sadly) in years. And, most unexpected, I had several people share their appreciation for my message of positivity and perspective.

First, an update: My doctors are still highly confident that the tumor in my jaw is benign. We won’t know for sure until my next surgery. I have almost healed 100% from my first procedure, with mild side effects to my speech and eating, mostly stuff that nobody can notice, including those listening to broadcasts.

We are going in to remove it in early December. We won’t know until we are in progress (which means I will have ZERO clue; thank you anesthesia!) about how extensive (to plate or not to plate, that is the question) the work will need to be and if the tumor is malignant. Either way, I’ll lose a part of my jaw, it will heal, and I will keep on keeping on. And that means you will see my ugly face on camera for my comeback on January 2nd when UIC travels to Valparaiso to kick off the Horizon League’s various TV packages.

I am humbled by the love and support. Frankly, I don’t think I deserve it. I am merely a person who was delivered a diagnosis that is not ideal for a given profession. I am the victim of a nuisance. That’s it.

However, my blogging about my situation and the perspective life has given me has resonated with several people, and if that provides value, I am proud of that. If anything, this tumor has slowed my life down. I think more. I cherish more.

So, I don’t like country music. Well, I claim not to. If it twangs and involves discussions of a pickup truck, large hat or some form of cattle, I’m probably going to shun and make fun of it. But, I am a sucker for the female country ballad (yep, there goes any chance of holding down my man card). As I was mowing the grass the other day, the only Martina McBride song I own (actually, I don’t think she ever sang another song) came on the iPod, and in my new assumed universe of grounded clarity, the words really resonated, like a poem of basic philosophy: 

You can spend your whole life building
Something from nothing
One storm can come and blow it all away
Build it anyway

 You can chase a dream
That seems so out of reach
And you know it might not ever come your way
Dream it anyway

 God is great
But sometimes life aint good
And when I pray
It doesn’t always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway

You get the idea. Dream. Wake up, smile, and do everything you can to get to that dream. And when you take stock at the end of the day and you realize the path to that dream isn’t exactly what you thought it was, realize all of the ways that it was. When you do that, you’ll realize just how damn lucky you really are. The path to my dream didn’t involve some blob growing in my jaw, but I wouldn’t trade that path for a new one. Why? Because I am damn lucky.

A Leg Up?

Ladies and Gentlemen, your FedEx Cup points leader, John Peterson. Or Michael Putnam. Or [insert another Web.com Tour graduate]…

The 2013-14 PGA Tour season starts this week. Yes, a new season. A season, historically, generally reserved to start with the (Insert Car Brand) Tournament of Champions that has become synonymous with a new year of golf… in January. It’s always been a toe-dipped-in-the-water start to the season. Winners. Guys we know. A small field playing a birdie-fest course in paradise. Welcome back, golf.

But, not anymore. By the time Dustin Johnson defends his title in Hawaii, there will be six (yes, SIX, 6) PGA Tour events in the books. The lack of a “traditional” offseason didn’t really hit me until I recently read a tweet from Billy Horschel proclaiming his excitement to get back at it with the Frys.com tournament. Normally reserved for players chasing their future stability, the extinct ‘fall series’ now had big Tour ramifications. There are two major impacts from the new configuration of the PGA Tour season:

1)   These fall events now receive the attention they deserve. Frys, Vegas (I miss you, J-Tim), McGladery, etc. are solid Tour stops. Instead of serving as a desperation playoff for career survival, they are now sitting at the same table as the big boys. A win this week in California is no different than winning down the road at Riviera in February. 500 FedEx Cup points? Check. Ticket to the Masters? You betcha. Tour winner? Always.

2)   There are 50 players who, literally, just earned their Tour cards. Normally, this would lead to a celebration of what was to come. But, that celebration preceded a wait through November and December to the Sony Open in Hawaii. Now, it’s almost like a battlefield promotion. You made it, now play!!

I want to focus on the second point because I think it has been under-reported and undervalued. Golf is a fickle game. Success on the PGA Tour has as much to do with natural ability as it does with rhythm. The stories of players getting on heaters and making their year in four starts are as prevalent as those of players stuck in a funk because the timing of the swing is off by an unrecognizable millisecond.

Before, Web.com graduates had months to wait for their turn with the big boys. Russell Henley won last January in his first start, the first to do so in about a million years (give or take). He was the exception. You grind and grind for your chance, and then have to sit. I was trying to think of a good analogy: Imagine a professional soccer player busting his butt in practice and scrimmages for months, sitting on the bench in an important game and then having the coach tell him to go take a game-winning PK. No game flow or opportunity to build rhythm. Just get out there and produce, cold.

Now, Chesson Hadley walks from his Web.com Tour Finals Championship victory straight to the first tee at Corde Valle. He doesn’t even have the time to bask in the glow of his accomplishment. Just play. I think that is a huge advantage. Not only does he have the blinders on, but he just won a tournament, yesterday for all intents and purposes. Chest puffed out, putter still sizzling. Own the tee, young man.

That momentum also applies to those from the season, even more so. I remember watching Michael Putnam (Web.com season money winner) in that Finals Championship. I think he smiled after every shot, including the bad ones. He played so loose and confident because he had nothing to lose. Certainly, his position this week is different, but he had no time to pucker up during an offseason of sitting atop the priority perch of new graduates. What is there to prevent his consistently solid play from transitioning over immediately? Nothing. John Peterson won the Finals money title. Now, he was going to do well on the Tour no matter what (he’s stupid good), but a guy who has Top 5’d it in five straight events gets a crack at the big Tour immediately instead of waiting. Advantage Web.com Tour grad.

Take it one step further: what does a Web.com Tour graduate have to lose over the next six weeks? Play well and you could position yourself (and your career) before we ever flip the calendar to 2014. Play poorly, and you have two months to iron out the kinks and reconvene for play in Hawaii the second week of January.

We will all take November and December off. And, while we do, there will be a FedEx Cup Points list waiting to reshuffle in Hawaii. Who will be on top? I can’t say for sure, but I am willing to bet that the Web.com graduates (not to mention the Tour players that salvaged their card in the Finals) will be more prevalent on that list than their predecessors have been in January of previous seasons.

Crossroads

It’s October?! Wow, that snuck up on me. I blame September for only having 30 days after those prolonged months of July and August. Nevertheless, seasons are changing, which means sports of focus become a bit blurred for me. I’ve been all golf since April, and that will stay the same through the end of this month. From there, time to start thinking hoops!

So, here I am this week prepping for the Presidents Cup (catch me as part of the SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio coverage on Saturday), while filling out my Horizon League preseason basketball ballot at the same time. I like to think I am in the “now” business as a play-by-play guy, but the world of sports is in the prediction/reaction business. Okay, I’ll bite…

Presidents Cup
There is something about putting the colors of your country (or region, or continental combination) on that brings out the best in anybody. My men’s club has a Ryder Cup type event every summer that is the highlight of my “competitive” year. We eat up the ability to chant ‘USA USA USA’ or bellow “ole, ole ole ole… ole, ole” at the top of our lungs. (I don’t know which of those chants I like more, honestly). But, will the Prez Cup 2013 be interesting? I don’t know.

When the competition was started as I was starting to cling to golf tighter than Kuchar and Lefty to their ping-pong paddles this week, I honestly thought the US was doomed. Between South Africa, Australia and Asia, it seemed like the pool of potential players was greater than anything Europe could even throw together in the Ryder Cup. Boy was I wrong! (Cut me some slack, I was 13-years-old)
Since then (outside of an International rout in 1998 – transitional time for US golf), it has been a red, white and blue beatdown. Simultaneously, Europe has rain-gripped its hands to the Ryder Cup. If you had to Power Rank the three international professional groups, it would be 1) Europe 2) USA and 3) International – no debate.

Why? Because of team unity. I am totally convinced. Europe views itself as the underdog even when they are not. They take career-defining joy in winning the Ryder Cup. I think it is impossible every-other year for the United States to ever match the emotional level of a European Ryder Cup team. Combine it all together and you have ridiculously good golf to watch. A year later, normally licking their wounds, several members of that US team gather again to take on a team comprised of guys who live dozens of time zones away from each other. It’s more laid back (advantage US), spread out (advantage US, deeper) and carries less pressure (advantage US).

Having said all of that, and given that the good ol’ USofA is a favorite this weekend in Muirfield, who knows what to expect. I can’t, in good conscience, make predictions, but you have to like where the US is coming in. Its hottest players (Strick, Spieth and Zach) aren’t named Tiger or Phil. There is a TON of familiarity in that USA locker room. In the other room, a Presidents Cup record 7 rookies. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, if not for the fact that the veteran international players aren’t exactly in top form. Plus, the United States has the top 4 players ranked on Tour in all-around. It’s going to be a fun weekend, but I hope it has some drama.

Horizon League
If you read everything above hoping to get my Horizon League preseason men’s basketball picks, good for you! (Sorry to make you wait this long)

It looks like my first broadcast of a Horizon League game will be on January 2nd in Valparaiso when the Crusaders host UIC on ESPN3. Between now and then, all I have is two pieces of paper I just filed with the league office, giving (the country’s best league communication director) Bill Potter my best guess at what will take place between now and early March. I hate filling these out! This year, it was really tough. More than half of the all-league teams from a year ago are gone. The top 2 teams from a year ago (Valpo and Detroit) lost about 32 players and 267% of their total scoring, by my calculations. On top of that, we lose a team (Loyola – I didn’t get the move for either side, but I digress) and gain another (Oakland, howdy).

How did I vote? Here you go:

Individuals

PoY – Kendrick Perry (Sr. Youngstown State)
I picked him over Green Bay’s Keifer Sykes because he is taller. Well, not really, but that makes me feel better in justification. No, it doesn’t. I saw both players in person a lot last year. I like Sykes heart and motor a bit more, but think Perry’s defense and surgical approach to the scoring-point position is amazing to watch. He won’t have as much around him this year, and it’s time for him to lead, and I think he will.

PoY Runner-Up – Keifer Sykes (Jr. Green Bay)
Look, he does it all from a diminutive frame. And, he’s got the tools around him to lead the Phoenix to a league championship. You can’t lose with either choice, and he will be the preseason player of the year next year (and could very well be defending his postseason PoY award)

Rest of my 1st team – Alec Brown (Sr. Green Bay), Cole Darling (Sr. Wright State), Travis Bader (Sr. Oakland)
Brown isn’t a surprise to anybody. He should be player of the year, but he needs to put it all together. Darling is here because he does a lot for a deep Wright State team and deserves the attention. Bader can shoot, and then make deeper shots after he shoots. The first-teamer from the Summit League last year should have no trouble scoring in the Horizon League this year

We vote on an additional five players, but there were more than five worthy of that, so I won’t disclose out of fear of retaliation.

Teams

I like the Big Ten’s way of disclosing its preseason poll. Just the top 3. Works for me…

1. Green Bay – Based on talent, it’s a no-brainer. Best big man. (Arguably) best point guard. Glue guy (Fouse). Super Athlete (Mays). A little offseason drama to internalize the focus and drive of a coach and team. Why not Green Bay?…

2. Wright State – … that’s why. Best “team”? Quite possibly. Best coaching? Hard to argue. Added scoring? (Chrishawn Hopkins is eligible after sitting out a year)

3. Cleveland State – Biggest gainer with some of the top teams losing so many guys. Anton Grady is back from injury to pair with Bryn Forbes. I’m not big on recruiting classes, but I heard Gary Waters pulled in a solid class. And back to my question above about best coaching: if there is an argument, it probably starts with Waters.

Please tip off soon so this blog is forgotten!

32 And Real Life

Those of us in broadcasting joke a lot about how fake the business is. I wear makeup. Often. I use product in my hair. Often. I worry about the Midwest winters ruining whatever white-boy tan I have. Does this suit make me look fat? Does my analyst make me look like a midget? Sounds silly, but we think about this stuff.

So, you could imagine the thoughts racing through my head the last couple of weeks after it was discovered that I had a tumor growing inside my jaw bone. After today, I am one step closer to being rid of it. But, there is no good way for a person who makes a living off his face/voice to tackle this problem. Scar on the face, swollen tongue, hot pink hair, all but one of those are possible end results of this.

All signs point to this being a benign growth, but how do you look your doctors in the face and say, “Yeah, we need to handle this, but I need to be on camera next Tuesday?” To me, broadcasting is life. It’s what I do. To my nurses and doctors, it almost sounds foreign. I thought about the CPAs, lawyers, servicemen and others who could easily return to work and deal with minor discomfort and some swelling. I hate the fact that my job can literally be inhibited by (almost) superficial byproducts of the body’s healing process.

So, here I am pondering the harsh realities of family, health and career. I’ve been on this Earth for 32 years and only thought about the day in front of me. Then, you lay there with a sexy hair net and a gown that ties in the back and you see your future. (Speaking of which, is there anything more cruel and unusual than the hospital gown? ‘Hello, we know you are a little concerned about today and perhaps not feeling well, so here is a human Rubik’s Cube of dress. You wanna tie it in a bow? Hahaha, good luck. The nurse will be right with you.’)

As I have grown older, I’ve learned to rally around a few key philosophies:

1) Life takes care of itself. If it weren’t for a recent move and the need to get my 2-year-old to a dentist, I never would have used a coupon that led to the X-Ray that discovered my ailment. Call it divine intervention or what you want. I call it a Master Plan. Respect life (and others) and trust its course.

2) Recognize what is important. I am broadcasting the Presidents Cup next weekend. I’ve booked some solid work through 2013. Last night, I read my son two books and fell asleep holding his little hand. Two of those points are irrelevant and one is everything in the grand scheme of things. And, hugging my wife this week has never felt better.

3) Don’t complain and kick butt. Nike got it right with the “Just Do It” slogan. It’s weird. This recent diagnosis has actually made me realize how blessed I really am. Not unlucky. Not damned. Lucky.

I’ve got one more procedure to go, and perhaps some treatment. And I won’t miss a beat. Why? Because life is too short and I’ve been given too much in 32 years not to repay life by taking full advantage.

Sticking to My Pick

It has been a wonderful 2013, complete with my first full season on the PGA Tour, largely with SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio. My colleague, Fred Albers, who writes as an insider for PGATour.com made his mid-season predictions while we were all gathered in New Orleans in late April. It was Friday night and he asked the following questions (amongst many):

1. Name a first-time winner on Tour the rest of the season. My answer: Billy Horschel (did it two days later) and Harris English (did it in June)
2. Predict who will win the FedEx Cup. My answer: Matt Kuchar

So, here we are, just hours before the start of the Tour Championship, and I am sticking with my pick. Thankfully, Kuuuch (there is no appropriate way of spelling his nickname, btw) is inside the top 5 of FedEx Cup points heading into East Lake, which means he can win the tournament and win the cup. Our margin for error is low, however, as any finish outside of a T2 and the math doesn’t add up very well. So, why my confidence? Given his top 5 standing, I give you the top 5 reasons:

1. “Did Somebody Say 59?!” – I was with Matt on Saturday morning at Conway Farms during the third round of the BMW Championship. Birdies at 16 (nearly holed his shot from the fairway) and 17 put him in position to shoot the magic number for the second time in less than 24 hours. Of course, he needed an albatross on the closing par 5. No big deal, right? Well, he damn-near did it. hopping the ball on the green from 250+ and rolling it by the cub by a dimple or two (he 2-putted for a 61). Afterwards, when I spoke with him, he said he knew he needed to hole it for a 59, so he tried. That just shows how dialed in his game is right now when he needs it to be. [Yes, I am ignoring the 74-73-73 in the other 3 rounds. Call it hopeful blinders]

2. In that same interview, I asked Matt about knowing where he stood for FedEx Cup positioning. His answer was expected. Paraphrasing, he said he didn’t understand how anybody could play well focusing on all of that. Okay, I agree. Keep it simple. This week, win and you win. There, mind cleared. Good for Matt! Plus, he didn’t even know he was in the top 5, until Keegan Bradley told him. Energy boost!

3. He was a star at Georgia Tech, and the Yellow Jackets count East Lake as one of their home courses (in rotation; wow, tough life). Last 3 times at the Tour Championship: 25th, then 20th, then 10th last year. Can somebody say trending?!

4. Brandt Snedeker won it all last year and entered the week in the #5 spot. You pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down?

5. So, Matt has struggled a bit in hitting fairways (128th on Tour), which is a must at East Lake. Don’t fret. It all comes down to the putter. We’ve left the bent grass of the Midwest, and Matt will take his 18th rank in strokes gained (putting) and 1st in 3-putt avoidance to the quick, Bermuda greens and laugh at those missed fairways while putting himself to a title.

Did I convince you? Well, I don’t know if I convinced myself, but a man sticks with his pick. Here we go, Kuuuch!