Fantasy Foursome:~We Love L.A.

In this week’s Fantasy Foursome, Jon Lord tees it up with an L.A. boy done good, the defending champ in the desert, a strong contender for the NBA MVP award and a pair of guys who arguably had a more important tee time over the weekend.

John Merrick 

It’s always a good story when the hometown kid breaks through to win a PGA Tour event at a tournament he used to frequent as a child. Think Phil Mickelson at Torrey Pines or Larry Mize at Augusta.

Merrick, the So Cal kid and UCLA grad, defeated Charlie Beljan in extra holes to win the Northern Trust Open at famed Riviera County Club just outside of Los Angeles, his first PGA Tour win. For his efforts, Merrick will now be part of the Masters field in April, while Beljan waits for either another opportunity to book passage to Augusta.

The good news for Charlie B. is that he continues to attract scores of new fans thanks to his bounding swagger and very public efforts to confront his anxiety issues, which includes a brand new diet and breathing exercises. Hopefully the 28-year-old has a strong next month and a half and is able to qualify for all four majors in 2013. 

Hunter Mahan 

My pick to repeat and win the WGC-Accenture Match Play event this week finished T-8 at the Northern Trust and was close to putting himself in the playoff alongside Merrick and Beljan were it not for a catastrophic three-putt on 17.

Mahan has obviously played Dove Mountain well before, outlasting Rory McIlroy 2 & 1 in the finals last season. Once again the bracket breaks fairly well for the No. 6 seed Mahan, who’ll need to keep up his sharp play to overcome Lee Westwood in the third round before setting up a Great 8 match-up with Tiger Woods.

Mahan is still carrying a major chip on his shoulder after failing to make the 2012 Ryder Cup team and should have the intestinal fortitude and experience to march towards the Final Four setting up a possible rematch with McIlroy. I like Charl Schwartzel to defeat the world’s No. 1 player to come out of the left side of the bracket but call the final 3 & 2 in favor of Mahan. 

Jim Crane and Ron Kirk 

Jim-Crane

Imagine being either Crane or Kirk and receiving a phone call from the White House asking them to join President Obama and Tiger Woods for a round of golf at The Floridian on the Treasure Coast of Florida.

For Crane, the owner of the beleaguered Houston Astros, this will probably end up being the definitive highlight of 2013.

Sunday marked the first occasion that the President and Woods were able to share a round of golf together, and one can only imagine what was discussed on the course. Beyond asking for a few golf tips, do you think Obama bothered Tiger about either balancing the budget or immigration reform? What I want to know is how the President convinced his wife and kids to take a separate ski vacation out west while he snuck in a few rounds of golf in Florida. Talk about the abuse of power.  

Chris Paul 

The Los Angeles Clippers point guard and All Star Game MVP has positioned his team for a major postseason run. The historically moribund franchise is on the verge of clinching a top spot in the Western Conference playoffs and will push both the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs for a berth in the NBA Finals. 

Here are five other semi-bold predictions for the second half of the 2012-13 NBA season: 

  1. The Los Angeles Lakers will trade Dwight Howard to the Atlanta Hawks for Josh Smith and vault over the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers to clinch the No. 8 seed. 
  2. The John Wall-led Washington Wizards will continue their upward trend and compete for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. 
  3. The Charlotte Bobcats will finish the season with the worst record in the NBA and principle owner Michael Jordan will end up selling the team so he can pursue his dream of qualifying for the Champions Tour. 
  4. The Brooklyn Nets, not the New York Knicks, will end up losing to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. 
  5. A healthy Chris Paul will finish second to LeBron James in the MVP race and lead his Clippers over LeBron’s Heat in the NBA Finals.

Odd Man Out: Ne-Yo 

Ne-Yo-ASG-2

The NBA All-Star Game pregame introductions were Exhibit A for why entertainment at major sporting events should be prerecorded. Sunday night’s player intros ran so long that the NBA had to add time in order for the players to warm up for the second time. The blame shouldn’t fall squarely on Ne-Yo’s shoulders even though the R&B star was especially out of tune during both his performance and with some of the responses to all his haters on Twitter.

Bottom line, the majority of basketball fans tune in to the All Star Game to watch the best players in the world play zero defense, not a bunch of Cirque du Soleil castoffs performing a pedestrian version of outdated Top 40 hits.

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