Tiger Smokes Phil in Premier Pairing
I guess a bum knee can’t stop a hot putter and Tiger Woods put on an absolute clinic the last nine holes of round two of the 2008 US Open. Tiger, who made four bogeys and an eagle on his front nine (the actual back nine at Torrey Pines South), seemed to find his game with a pin high eight iron while hitting the shot with his feet on the cart path on the first hole (Tiger’s 10th of the day). From there the Woods Scotty Cameron magic began and he rolled in 15 to 25 foot putts on four of the first five holes to go from three over par to one under par. Tiger, after narrowly missing a couple more birdies on holes six through eight, smoked a three wood just through the ninth green and got up and down to finish off a second round 68 (30 on the last nine) that left him at two under par and just one shot back of US Open leader Stuart Appleby, who grabbed the lead with a 30 foot bomb of his own on the 18th hole.
As for Tiger’s playing partner, Phil Mickelson, well let’s just say that his strategy of leaving the driver out of the bag badly backfired because Philly Mick couldn’t find the fairway with a roadmap. In fact, if not for Mickelson’s unbelievable wedge game he would be totally out of this tournament (and he likely is a 66 away from having any chance going into Sunday). I will say this, however, Mickelson’s up and down par at the third hole (his 12th of the day) out of rattlesnake canyon was one of the best pars I have ever seen. Only Mickelson (and maybe Woods) could have hit the Houdini wedge shot he played from the hazard to just get the ball on the green. Phil capped off the all-American par with a 25 foot bomb. Mickelson also had some other great wedge shots but with his fairway wood selection from the tee often putting him in the rough he had no chance to keep pace with Woods, who he badly wanted to beat but just can’t seem to find a gear to get past the greatest golfer on the planet (of course, no one really can find that gear either on most days). One of Phil’s biggest problems is he gets in his own way far too often with his constant tinkering of his game, strategy, and club choices.
Round three is tomorrow and as Tiger said Friday night the course is hardening up so look for things to get tougher out in San Diego. I think Tiger will be hard to beat at this point but this is the US Open and anything can happen. There are lots of big names on the leaderboard to go along with Woods and Appleby such as Ernie Els, Robert Allenby, Luke Donald, Davis Love III (what a great round he shot today), Geoff Ogilvy, Lee Westwood, and the man who loves the US Open – Rocco Mediate. First round co-leaders Kevin Streelman and Justin Hicks woke up on Friday and finally realized this wasn’t the Fall Finish, shooting 77 and 80, respectively, but both did manage to make the cut.
By the way, it was good to hear Curtis Strange providing commentary on today’s telecast on ESPN. I have missed Strange on the air while he has been playing the senior circuit. Let’s hope that he is back in the booth in the near future because I am really tiring of Nick Faldo’s act on CBS. One thing that I did find annoying on the coverage on Thursday was that some shots were on tape delay while the scoring ticker at the top of the screen was live – thus several times I already knew the outcome of a putt because of the live ticker. Best way to avoid that: more live shots of the players but many golf producers either don’t like to do that or have trouble doing it consistently. That seemed to be corrected, for the most part, on today’s telecast.
The Washington Capitals, who need to fix up the trophy case after Alexander Ovechkin raked in four off-season awards and head coach Bruce Boudreau won the Jack Adams Award Thursday night in Toronto, have announced that the last day of their development camp will be their Annual Fan Fest. The Washington Capitals invite their fans to Capitals Fan Fest on Saturday, July 12, at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, a day filled with hockey, skating, autographs, interactive games, an equipment sale and much more. The summertime celebration of the sport of hockey is open to the public and free of charge. That day marks the culmination of the Capitals Development Camp and will feature a scrimmage between the camp participants from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the Capitals rink. The other rink will host a free public skate from 12 to 3 p.m. Select Capitals draft picks will sign autographs for fans immediately following the scrimmage. Capitals center Brooks Laich will also be on hand for autographs, while chairman and majority owner Ted Leonsis will join Laich to host a question-and-answer session with fans.
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was on air today with Hockey Night in Canada radio host, Jeff Marek, and former Rangers GM Neil Smith on Sirius 122. Boudreau was obviously ecstatic about winning the Jack Adams Award and is excited about next season. Boudreau says he already expects the team to excel and admits that the pressure of being picked to do well will be something the team must deal with. Interestingly Boudreau said that the hockey part of coaching this year was very easy in transitioning from the AHL to the NHL but dealing with the media was the toughest portion. Luckily for Boudreau Washington is an easy hockey media market (just imagine how much fun Ron Wilson will have in Toronto?). I have to give “Gabby” credit for being honest when speaking with the media once he took over and that is something he should stick with because it worked well last year. With the team playing at a high level and a certain Great #8 on the ice the media attention will only get larger next year.
Smith and Marek also had an interesting discussion about the role of the GM and owner on a hockey team with respect to a coach and the players. Smith stressed that the GM and owner of a club need to be careful not to undermine a coach’s authority by being too close to the players. Smith also said the GM and the owner should avoid the locker room during the season and only go in during special circumstances. Ovechkin and Caps owner Leonsis clearly seem to have a great relationship and mutual affection for each other but the key will be for Leonsis to continue to stay in the background during the season and let Boudreau and McPhee, who Smith said had his GM job saved by the Boudreau led turnaround, run the hockey operations. Leonsis did a good job of this last season and he needs to keep that up and focus on the fans and marketing. Lots of people will want to go watch the team play because of Ovechkin and the aggressive style they use under Boudreau. Leonsis and his marketing staff should be able to capitalize on that, no pun intended. The future is really bright again for hockey in this region primarily because of Ovechkin. The Caps should have no trouble winning the Southeast Division the next several years but the playoffs will be tough and it is likely Washington will return to the annual rite of battle with that hockey team in Pittsburgh that beat them so often in the playoffs in the 90’s.
Two of the five NHL coaching vacancies were filled today and the preferred method of hire was from the junior hockey ranks, specifically the Ontario Hockey League. Craig Hartsburg, who coached the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds this past season, was hired as coach of the Ottawa Senators. This is Hartsburg’s third NHL coaching gig (previously coached the Blackhawks and Ducks). The Florida Panthers announced today that Kitchener Rangers coach Peter DeBoer will take over next season. During his seven-year tenure with Kitchener, DeBoer earned 297 wins with a .676 winning percentage, while guiding his club to the 2003 Memorial Cup title. That 2003 club featured future NHLers Derek Roy, now of the Buffalo Sabres, and Mike Richards, now with the Philadelphia Flyers. Both Hartsburg and DeBoer come from the Ontario Hockey League. This is the 40 year old DeBoer’s first shot head coaching in “The Show.”