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First Tee to Last Call: The Silver Screen

by Conor Coughlin

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of one of the greatest golf movies of all time – “Happy Gilmore.” Yes, “Happy Gilmore.” Firmly in my top-five favorite movies and definitely in my top-five favorite golf movies of all time. In my opinion, it is Adam Sandler’s best movie. There are so many one-liners from this movie that fit so many different situations. I just love it. 

The interesting thing is that I had no idea that this anniversary was coming up when I got into a spirited debate about the best sports movies of all time this past weekend. 

After a few cocktails (arguably a few too many cocktails) my friends and I went down the rabbit hole of best movies of all time which quickly transitioned into best sports movies of all time. We were sitting in a sports bar after all, so it makes sense.

With the subject is fresh in my mind and most of the U.S. being swallowed by a snowstorm, prompting time in front of the TV, it seemed like the perfect time to share my favorite golf movies of all time. These are not hot takes but I was surprised by the number of people in our party who had not seen some of them.

“Happy Gilmore” (1996)

It’s hard to imagine that people haven’t seen this one but I’ll give a quick synopsis. The main character’s name is Happy Gilmore. He is an amateur hockey player still trying to make it. He holds two amateur league records:  No. 1, the most time in the penalty box, and No. 2, he was the only guy to ever take his skate off and try to stab someone with it.

Gilmore loves hockey, but the problem is he isn’t any good. We quickly find out that he can drive a golf ball over 400 yards with a very unorthodox golf swing. His grandmother has some financial troubles so it’s off to the PGA Tour we go to collect some huge checks to try to save Grandma. I want to tell you there’s a deeper storyline here but there isn’t. It’s just funny from start to finish and if you somehow haven’t seen it, please make time!

“Caddyshack” (1980)

The basic plot of “Caddyshack” surrounds the main character, Danny Noonan, as a caddy trying to raise money to go to college by caddying at an elite country club. One of his clients is a wealthy judge (Ted Knight) who awards a scholarship each year to the club’s “best” caddy. Essentially the caddy who wins a golf tournament at the end of the year is the “best.”

There’s plenty of conflict between the judge and the Country Club’s newest loud-mouthed member (Rodney Dangerfield) along the way but essentially the main plot is the caddy’s journey. However, the plot  is not nearly as important as how great the cast is. The movie is full of dry-clever humor. Chevy Chase is fantastic. Rodney Dangerfield is over the top and hilarious. This might be Bill Murray’s best work. I’ve seen this movie probably 50+ times and I still laugh every time. 

“The Legend of Bagger Vance” (2000)

“The Legend of Bagger Vance” will always bring back memories for me. My parents actually live on one of the golf courses where part of the movie was filmed. I have played some of the holes with my dad multiple times and it always makes me think of my parents. Matt Damon plays a World War 1 veteran who, at one point, was the best golfer in Savannah, Georgia. He has returned from war and is completely lost in life. He’s approached to play in an exhibition golf tournament against Bobby Jones (one of my favorite golfers of all time) and Walter Hagen.

Damon’s game is a mess, much like his life. Enter Bagger Vance, who is played by Will Smith. Vance is a caddy, a spiritual guide, or both. I’m still not really sure about which one is correct. Throughout the movie, you see the internal struggles of Damon’s character as Vance attempts to help him “become one with the field.” The over-arching theme of the movie, in my opinion, is the journey to finding what you love in life and what makes you happy. 

“Tin Cup” (1996)

“Tin Cup” was the movie that drove a wedge in between my friends and me. I believe that not only is this the best golf movie, it’s the best sports movie and also Kevin Costner’s best movie. And yes, I am aware that he was in “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams,” “For the Love of the Game,” “Draft Day” and a couple of  other oddball sports movies as well. There is just something about the way he played this role that made his character more sincere and believable than the others listed above.

Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy is a former golf pro turned driving-range pro who gives lessons. His newest student is the girlfriend of his former golf rival. She inspires him to qualify to play in the U.S. Open in an effort to steal her away from his rival. We follow along the journey from alcoholic driving range pro to contender at the U.S. Open. The main takeaway for me is that we all have inner demons that we struggle against and must overcome to reach our full potential. And sometimes, that journey is more important than the destination. 

These are all great movies and I tried to keep the summaries as brief as possible. Truth be told, I could talk about any of these for hours on end. 

We go from some star-studded casts on the big screen to a star-studded cast on the course this week at the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club in California.

Riviera Country Club is a par 71 playing at just over 7,300 yards. The rough and fairways are kikuyu grass and the greens are poa. Kikuyu is important as it typically produces less bounce and less roll. The roughs will tend to grab balls and irons more, being more penal than previous weeks this year. Poa greens are the same as last week. Poa blooms throughout the day, meaning early tee times will have a truer roll than later tee times. And thankfully, the weather is supposed to be nearly perfect for the four days. 

I’m looking at guys who can be accurate and long this week. Slight emphasis on scrambling and putting on poa. Shots gained approach and proximity from the longer irons are baked into my model this week, as well. 

Genesis Open Picks

Hideki Matsuyama ($9,100)

Hideki Matsuyama, can you please find your putter this week!? He ranks at No. 1 in my model for shots gained from tee to green, ball-striking and shots gained approach over the last 24 rounds. He rates out fifth in par-4 scoring and second in the key proximity ranges for approach. He, unfortunately, is rated 79th for strokes gained putting. He’s looking to be around eight percent owned, which I like, but it’s not entirely unwarranted. Matsuyama is awesome at everything except putting. If he can just find the flat stick this week, we’re in the money. 

Adam Scott ($9,000)

I don’t normally write up multiple people in the upper tier of pricing but Adam Scott was neck and neck with Matsuyama as my top tier pick. Scott ranks at No. 1 overall in my model. He’s in the top five in every stat. He is the more solid play in my opinion but he’s carrying much heavier ownership at almost 15 percent. Couple that with excellent course history and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him closer to 20 percent owned by tee off on Thursday morning. 

Sergio Garcia ($7,700)

Sergio Garcia has been up and down over the last year but he has found some form over the last couple of months. He rates out in the top ten in every category of my metrics with the exception of putting where he is sixth overall. If he keeps the ball-striking up and finds even a little bit of his putting he could be a great pivot from Carlos Ortiz ($7,800) at 18 percent ownership and Cameron Tringale ($7,600) at 14 percent ownership. Garcia is a better player than Ortiz and Tringale and for the price, I’ll take my chances with him this week. 

Sung Kang ($6,500)

My budget dart throw of the week is Sung Kang. He has excellent history at this course, placing in the top 25 four times and a T2 last year. He ranks out 16th overall for me and is in the top 22 for my key stats. Kang is top eight in shots gained approach and top 18 in strokes gained putting. At $6,500 he’s shaping up to have great value with some winning upside. 

Other Golfers I Like this Week

Dustin Johnson ($11,300)

Rory McIlroy ($10,500)

Bubba Watson ($8,900)

Joaquin Niemann ($8,800)

Henrik Norlander ($7,400)

Doc Redman ($6,600)

Thanks for reading, and good luck this week!

Conor Coughlin @aRandomGr3nade

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