Commentary

Mickelson, Garcia would lead a potent offensive attack … if this were the NFL

Originally Published: September 9, 2008
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

You're not the only one who likes football.

[+] EnlargeCraig Stadler/Mike Holmgren
AP Photo/Getty ImagesSeparated at birth? Longtime pro Craig Stadler (left) and Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren do have a striking resemblance. That alone is enough to put the Walrus on our coaching staff.
Walk into the locker room of any PGA Tour event on any weekend this time of year and you'll be greeted by the familiar cheers and groans of red-blooded males excitedly watching NFL or NCAA gridiron action on TV.

While professional athletes in other sports often list golf as a main hobby, pro golfers are simply sports nuts like the rest of us -- and football reigns supreme as the game that sparks the most debate and discussion.

But what if the PGA Tour's best actually had to don shoulder pads and play the game? Well, fielding a starting lineup would be a process of elimination akin to taking the SAT -- just get rid of all the wrong answers until you're left with only one possibility.

In honor of the beginning of football season, we slotted golfers into potential positions on our imaginary field. Knowledge of the game was a plus, but not a necessity. Size and a perceived amount of speed definitely gave players an advantage, too.

Led by head coach Andy North (who used to work with the University of Wisconsin football staff) alongside offensive coordinator David Toms (a stalwart on the LSU sidelines) and defensive coordinator Craig Stadler (a dead ringer for Seattle Seahawks coach and EVP of player operations Mike Holmgren), our theoretical roster may spark plenty of debate and discussion in its own right.

The best part? It's never gonna happen, so you can't prove us wrong.

QB -- Phil Mickelson

Surprised? He wasn't our first choice, either, but an informal straw poll of his fellow players named "Lefty" (who throws righty) as the man with the organizational skills, strategic know-how and attention to detail needed to play under center. He's got the arm strength, too; last fall, Mickelson broke one of his brother's fingers with a pass during their annual Turkey Bowl.

"He tried to catch it but I threw it a little too hard," Mickelson said with a grin. "I'm a drop-back passer. I'm not much of a scrambler."

So, uh, don't expect an option attack anytime soon.

RB -- Sergio Garcia
Golfers don't run. Sure, there are treadmills and sidewalks and all other manners of cross-training, but we can't recall a player sprinting during competition since Sergio's jaunt at Medinah in '99, which automatically places him a notch above the competition for this position. Then again, we've seen him try to putt from close distances, so expect a replacement in short-yardage situations.

FB -- Chris DiMarco
There is no player on tour more closely associated with his school's football team than DiMarco, a University of Florida alum who frequently gator-chomps his way down fairways to the delight -- or disdain, depending on his geographic location -- of the galleries. Why fullback?

Two reasons: His nephew, Patrick, currently plays the position for Steve Spurrier at South Carolina; and, as DiMarco told us, "As long as I get to hit someone, I'll be happy."

WR -- Anthony Kim
What's an offense without a brash, cocky flanker bragging about his exploits? The Dallas Cowboys have T.O. The Cincinnati Bengals have Ocho Cinco. And we have A.K.

"Just put me at wide receiver," he told us. "I'll blow by a bunch of people."

[+] EnlargeJohn Daly
Stan Honda/AFP/Getty ImagesHow could you have a football team of PGA Tour players and not include John Daly?
WR -- Dustin Johnson
Using the "best athlete available" philosophy, we tabbed the 6-foot-4 first-year player from Coastal Carolina to play the role of possession receiver. One of the very few PGA Tour players who can dunk a basketball, perhaps a Tony Gonzalez-like end-zone celebration will be in order after every touchdown.

TE -- Ernie Els
What, like you'd want to tackle this guy? Don't worry about teaching the nuances of the game to this South African; he's actually a dyed-in-the-wool Notre Dame supporter. Something tells us that, in another life, the Big Easy could have been Jeremy Shockey without the tattoos.

C -- Bo Van Pelt
"I played a little bit [of football], but I was small for my age growing up," Van Pelt told The Flint (Mich.) Journal earlier this year. "I kind of grew late." Better late than never. The 6-foot-4 200-pounder gets the starting nod at center based on his genes; his father, Bob, was a fifth-round pick at the position by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1967.

OG -- Tim Herron
Let's face it: "Lumpy" isn't one of those ironic nicknames, like calling a bald guy "Curly" or something. On a team severely lacking in size up front, Herron can fit the bill.

OG -- Kevin Stadler
Listed at 5-foot-10, 250 pounds, the son of the Walrus is going to be the anchor on our line. As if his size wasn't enough, the guy once dubbed Maxi Me (like Mini Me, only bigger … get it?) lists "football" under his special interests.

OT -- Vijay Singh
The big Fijian has never been averse to practice, so don't expect training camp two-a-days to throw him off. Our special trick play? Watch out for the tackle-eligible formation in goal-line situations.

OT -- Jason Gore
The erstwhile Prince of Pinehurst is known for being streaky -- witness his three Nationwide wins and one subsequent PGA Tour title in 2005 -- which probably isn't the most endearing trait for an offensive lineman.

DE -- Frank Lickliter
There's a saying in PGA Tour circles: "Frank Lickliter doesn't sleep. He waits." Here's another one: "Frank Lickliter doesn't do push-ups. He just pushes the earth down."

As if that doesn't paint an intimidating enough portrait of the man, there's this: During an offseason meeting about the PGA Tour's drug testing policy, players were informed that an official may show up at private residences unannounced. Lickliter responded by invoking the 2nd Amendment -- the right to bear arms. He's the type of guy who would be at home in the trenches … and, frankly, we're scared to leave him off the roster.

NT -- John Daly
If famed analyst John Madden called a game involving our team, he'd refer to J.D. as a "space-eater" inside. He won't be the quickest, or the strongest, or the best, or … wait, what was our point again? Oh, yeah: He'll take up lots of room on the D-line. He's versatile, too; believe it or not, Daly was actually an excellent kicker in high school.

DE -- Johnson Wagner
You can't teach size, and at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Wagner gives us some much-needed bulk on the defensive side of the ball. An added bonus: Let's hope the Virginia Tech football team's propensity for blocking kicks rubbed off on this former Hokie, too.

OLB -- Darren Clarke
Come forth, all ye rugby players. The broad-shouldered Northern Irishman may not have played much football growing up -- not the American kind, at least -- but here's guessing that if there's no one between him and the ball carrier, they'll both be sprawled on the ground in no time.

ILB -- Jim McGovern
A random selection, perhaps, but the New Jersey native can reap advice from brother Rob, who played linebacker with the Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots from 1989-92.

ILB -- K.J. Choi
When in doubt, put the former powerlifter nicknamed "Tank" at inside linebacker. You say he lacks football experience, having grown up in South Korea? We say years of living in Texas must have rubbed off a little bit.

OLB -- Bubba Watson
What's a football team without a dude named Bubba? Here's hoping the PGA Tour's driving distance leader can provide a few big hits of a different kind. He has the right attitude for the job.

CB -- Will MacKenzie
Any dude who is tough enough to have once lived in a cave for a few years is tough enough to play on our team. Not sure how his surfing, snowboarding and kayaking skills will translate to this position, but if anything, Willie Mac has shown a propensity to take to new endeavors pretty easily.

CB -- D.J. Trahan
In assessing the prospects of Ryder Cup hopefuls last month, U.S. captain Paul Azinger said, "I've had players come up to me and tell me D.J. has great hands." That wasn't enough to warrant a spot on Azinger's team, but it did earn him a spot in our defensive backfield.

Safety -- Tiger Woods
Ah, yes … where to put our most talented athlete? Sure, we could still pull a Devin Hester and get the ball into his hands on offense. But on this team, Woods would be best served in the secondary, where he could blitz the quarterback, roam center field for interceptions and even provide a few bone-crushing hits. Hey, it's not like you need two good knees to play safety … uh, right?

Safety -- Stuart Appleby
He's big, he's athletic and, as a student of Aussie Rules football, he looks like he wouldn't mind laying out some receiver who dared reach too high for a pass over the middle. In fact, he'd probably take great pleasure in it. The only man to compete in every WGC ever contested, he'll be the Brett Favre of our defense -- an ironman who never misses a start.

Kicker/Punter -- Camilo Villegas
Doesn't he sort of remind you of a long-lost Gramatica brother? Known for having galleries full of co-eds on the course, at least Villegas will bring some mixed company into the seats.

KR/PR -- Tim Wilkinson
Only 5-foot-7, 160 pounds, the Kiwi is thought by many of his peers to be among the most impressive weight-room specimens on the tour. And as one of only two PGA Tour rookies on the team (along with Johnson), Wilkinson's teammates can display their regard by taping him to the goalposts during training camp.

Special teams -- Peter Lonard
The unofficial PGA Tour career leader in forearm muscles, the Aussie had to be on the team somewhere. "He never played the sport," said Jim Furyk, "but with a little teaching I wouldn't want to run into Peter Lonard. I can promise you that."

With those Popeye-like forearms, Lonard could invoke a pretty hefty clothesline tackle on kick coverage. We'll deal with the unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty later.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.

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