Tag Archive | "Tiger Woods"

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Michael Phelps’ return makes swimming relevant again

Posted on 25 April 2014 by johngallo

Sports needed this.

Swimming needed this.

And of course, Baltimore needed this.

Michael Phelps is back, which means swimming is back and even more importantly, it means one of the most underappreciated sports rivalries is back: Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte.

You can’t have a sport without a rivalry, which makes fans gravitate to the competition, whether it’s on land or water.

The Ravens have the Steelers, and the Orioles have the Red Sox. But those are teams and Phelps is a 28-year-old man, well, more like a demigod considering what he does in the pool isn’t human.

Expect the national media, including Sports illustrated, to follow Michael Phelps' every move after coming out of retirement. (Courtesy of Michael Phelps' Facebook page)

How many great athlete vs. athlete rivalries are there right now? LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant? Nope. Talk to me when Durant beats James in the Finals. Baseball? Who?

What about boxing? The Baby Boomer generation grew up with Muhammad Ali, who never stopped throwing jabs – verbally or physically – at opponents. Now, we have Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao talking about fighting each other instead of actually, well, you know, getting in the ring and proving who’s the man.

I miss the days when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird went at each other. I long for the time when Michael Jordan had to learn to fail against the Pistons before conquering them. And how about the Knicks and Heat? I still crack a smile when I see footage of Knicks Coach Jeff Van Gundy clinching to Alonzo Mourning’s leg like a toddler during the 1998 playoffs.

Every decade can be defined by its rivalries. The 70s had the Steelers and Cowboys and even NASCAR was in the mix, with Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough trading punches next to the track at the 1979 Daytona 500. Awesome.

The 80s had had Martina Navratilova against Chris Evert and the Edmonton Oilers against everyone else. The 90s had Pate Sampras and Andre Agassi.

Sports forces us pick sides. You can’t like the Terps and Duke, just as you can’t cheer for the Yankees and Red Sox. You either cheer for Tiger Woods or the rest of the field, with the same applying to NASCAR drivers.

That’s why swimming needs Phelps back in the pool. Lochte, a native New Yorker, simply isn’t polarizing enough, or good enough, to carry swimming the way Mark Spitz did decades ago. How many professional swimming races did you watch after Phelps called it quits? That’s what I thought.

But Phelps says he’s coming back and immediately, swimming’s relevant again.

How else can you explain that all sessions of the three-day Arena Grand Prix at the Skyline Aquatic Center in Arizona were sold out. A pair of $40 all-session tickets was being sold for more than six times that on the Internet. Phelps should get a cut.

All of the sudden, swimming was in a news cycle dominated by the NHL and NBA playoffs and the release of the NFL schedule. On SportsCenter, Phelps received more coverage than the Orioles.

And for good reason. The only way Phelps, an avid Ravens and Orioles fan, could be any more “Baltimore” is if you covered him in Old Bay. When Phelps is at the starting block, our city is there with him. By having Phelps, we could go to anywhere and say our guy is better than your guy. Phelps isn’t one of those athletes who lives here during the season and spends the offseason in Miami.

Phelps lives in Canton.

Even Lochte, an 11-time Olympic medalist, acknowledges swimming is much better with Phelps in the pool than on the golf course.

“With what he’s done for the sport of swimming and him leaving kind of broke my heart a little because I love getting on those blocks and racing him,” Lochte told reporters after his winning time of 51.93 seconds was two-tenths of a second faster than Phelps (52.13) in the 100-meter butterly on Thursday night in Arizona. “Now that he’s back, I’ve got a big ol’ smile on my face.”

And so does everyone else. We get another chapter in the Phelps-Lochte saga, with the two biggest bullies on the block, lining up at that the starting block, wanting nothing more than to touch the wall before the other guy.

Phelps, a Rodgers Forge native, has won a world record 22 Olympic medals, including 18 gold medals that probably are worth more than Dundalk.

The guy’s super human. Who else can go from retiring after the 2012 London Games and, with minimal training, jump and beat Lochte – and everyone else – by swimming the fastest qualifying time in the 100-meter butterfly in 52.84 seconds?

“Him and I can’t stand losing to one another,” Phelps told reporters. “We both want to beat each other as many times as we can. That’s the competitiveness we both have. When we do get in the water, we’re going to do everything we can to get our hand on the wall before [the other] in every single race. And it’s the same for him. We’ll fight to the end, in any stroke, in any event we swim.”

Consider: Phelps is a three-time Olympic champion and current world record-holder in the 100-meter butterfly and his time on Thursday night tied for the fourth fastest in the world this year.

“It’s one meet; it’s one race,” Phelps told reporters after the final. “It’s a long way whether I decide to continue or not. This was awesome. I’m really excited about how things went. I do know what I need to do if I want to continue and swim faster.”

How much faster would his time have been he wasn’t overweight or hadn’t spent the past 18 months on the golf course, where he claimed to have struck 20,000 balls in the past six months?

“I’m doing this for me,” Phelps said at a press conference before the competition. “I’m doing this because I enjoy being in the pool and I enjoy the sport of swimming. I am looking forward to wherever this road takes me.”

Michael, we all know where this road is leading: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the 2016 Olympics.

Follow me on Twitter @JonGallo1

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#WNSTSweet16 Masters Moments of the last 30 years

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#WNSTSweet16 Masters Moments of the last 30 years

Posted on 08 April 2014 by Drew Forrester

The greatest golfing event in the world deserves its own list.

I’d like to think this one is right up my alley, particularly since I literally recorded every final round of the Masters (on those things called “VHS tapes) from 1986 through 2003.

I can tell you what Ashworth shirt Fred Couples was wearing when he won in 1992.  I remember what major league baseball team logo he wore on his sleeve in the Friday round of the ’92 Masters.  Do you?  How about 1998 when O’Meara won?  What was the name of the guy who had his first major title sewed up until O’Meara went birdie-birdie to steal the title?  When Angel Cabrera won in 2009, he edged Kenny Perry and some other guy you probably don’t remember in a playoff.

I remember all three of those things:  for the record, it was, in order, Florida Marlins, David Duval and Chad Campbell.

I can also tell you the sixteen most memorable Masters “moments” of the last 30 years, which you are about to read here.  Please note, before we start, you will NOT see anyone “winning” as a moment.  You might see someone making a winning putt as a “moment”, but you aren’t going to see Vijay Singh winning the 2000 Masters as a memorable “moment”.  Reason?  It wasn’t.

So, here, without further adieu, the Sweet 16 Masters Moments of the last 30 years.

(Please see next page)

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Gutless Caps, injured Woods highlight an Orioles-less Tuesday

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Gutless Caps, injured Woods highlight an Orioles-less Tuesday

Posted on 02 April 2014 by Drew Forrester

Our very own Ed Frankovic chronicled the Caps 5-0 drubbing last night with a perfect one-word description: quitters.

I know, that’s the worst thing you can say about a player or a team, but it sure fit the Washington Capitals last night when the Dallas Stars strolled into the Verizon Center and pasted Alex Ovechkin and Company with the playoffs essentially on the line for the home team.

With every point mattering now, the Caps turned in one of the all-time turd performances of the Ovechkin era.  He was essentially a no-show on Saturday vs. Boston, Sunday at Nashville and then again last night at home when the Caps scored zero goals with the playoffs waving in the foreground.

It was awful.  It was truly “old school” Caps hockey.  It made me harken back to the mid 1970′s when my Dad and I would settle in behind the goal at the old Cap Centre to watch the Caps get blasted by just about everyone on a nightly basis.

I felt like we were going to see Robert Picard or Hartland Monahan take a shift in the 3rd period.

Some of this heartless play can be traced back to the first period of a 4-3 shootout loss to Nashville on Sunday night when Predators in-house goon, Rich Clune, beat up on rookie Patrick Wey when all he did – gasp! – was check Clune into the boards on a completely fair and legit hockey play.  That Clune didn’t get the crap knocked out of him later on in the game by a gang of Caps was proof-positive of the yellow streak running down their collective backs.  I get it, you’re playing for points, not penalty minutes, but Clune’s punishing pounding of Wey deserved a massive dose of retaliation at some point before the night ended.

When Clune didn’t get the stuffing knocked out of him in the second or third period of that Nashville game, I knew then, for sure, this was a gutless bunch.

I wrote a piece here at WNST.net about the Caps a month ago and said then — and stand behind it now — that this organization needs a summer of ’14 overhaul that should include a deep, in-depth look at Ovechkin and whether or not the franchise can win on the ice with him.

People thought I was nuts.  ”He’s a 50-goal scorer, Drew!  You can’t get rid of those guys.”

Rob Carlin of Comcast Sports Net laughed at me on the air when I asked him about Ovechkin’s future in D.C.

No one was laughing last night.

Except the Dallas Stars.

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Tiger Woods out of the Masters isn’t a great surprise to me.

You can’t play golf when you’re hurt, even if he did win the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg.  Then again, he only had to beat Rocco Mediate.

Woods, though, needs more than a surgically repaired back to return to his form of old.

Let’s face it, he wasn’t winning the Masters this year anyway, bad back or not.  He hasn’t won there since 2005 when he beat Chris DiMarco in a playoff.  He can’t win at Augusta anymore because under the heat of the Sunday back-nine pressure, he can’t putt the greens.

That said, it’s not like Tiger has become Briny Baird or anything.  He did win five events last year.

But the proof is in the pudding, as they say.

Ever since Woods beat Mediate at Torrey Pines in that U.S. Open playoff, he has as many major wins as…well…Briny Baird.

There are only three things that can get Woods back on track in his chase to catch Jack Nicklaus and his record of eighteen major titles.  One would be complete physical health.  He’s had a myriad of injuries over the years, none overwhelmingly serious, but bothersome enough to derail him from time-to-time.  There’s one certainty about playing professional golf that Woods is now finding out in high-def:  You can’t possibly play high-level golf if you’re injured.  Number two would be Tiger Woods of 2014 putting like Tiger Woods of 2004.  For whatever reason, Woods hasn’t putted well since his return to the game in 2009 following his ACL surgery and personal bump-in-the-run with then-wife Elin.  Some of Tiger’s tee-to-green stats have improved under the tutelage of instructor Sean Foley, but putting certainly hasn’t.  You can’t win major championships if your putting is – no pun intended here – sub-par.  Third, and there’s no chance of this happening but it deserves mentioning – a reconciliation with former teacher Butch Harmon could be the tonic Woods needs to return to his past glory.  For starters, Phil Mickelson wouldn’t allow Harmon to “co-teach” both the lefthander and Woods.  And, as we know about Woods, the chances of him begging Butch to come back are slim and none.

With all due respect to some bad personal decisions Tiger made when he was chasing waitresses around Orlando in the late 2000′s, the worst decision he ever made was firing Butch Harmon.  Period.

More than anything, though, what has plagued Woods over the last six years is simple.  He hasn’t been healthy and he can’t make putts under the gun.

And he won’t get the chance to dispel either of those theories next week at Augusta, nor would it appear he’ll be ready to chase his 4th U.S. Open title at Pinehurst in June.

It all adds up to a semi-boring Masters, as we all know the truth about the PGA Tour.  With Tiger in the field, it’s must-watch TV.  When Tiger isn’t playing, you’re mowing your lawn.

 

 

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Woods says Chamblee cheating story now “up to the Golf Channel”

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Woods says Chamblee cheating story now “up to the Golf Channel”

Posted on 30 October 2013 by Drew Forrester

So, with one quote, one sentence, Tiger Woods put The Golf Channel on notice a couple of days ago.

They BETTER fire Brandel Chamblee.

Much like Chamblee didn’t actually “say” that Woods cheated during the 2013 PGA TOUR season, Woods didn’t mouth the words “Fire the man” when he commented for the first time about Chamblee’s comments.

Very, very crafty, Tiger.  Give him a dose of his own medicine.

When asked about Chamblee’s cheating accusation in a piece he wrote for Golf.Com (not affiliated with The Golf Channel), Woods fired the big blow (no pun intended) when he said, “From my standpoint, I’m moving forward.  Now, it’s up to The Golf Channel.  I’m not sure what they’re going to do about it.  The balls in their court.”

In other words:  ”We’ll have to see if The Golf Channel does the right thing and fires the prick.”

Chamblee offered an apology-of-sorts on Twitter late last week, but Woods acknowledged there wasn’t any personal contact between the two.  I guess, in Tiger’s world, a Twitter apology doesn’t really count.  And, honestly, it probably doesn’t.  If you’re Brandel Chamblee and you’re genuinely apologetic, you figure out a way to get to Tiger personally and offer your mea culpa in a form Tiger can’t shoo away.

This is, indeed, a slippery slope for The Golf Channel.  They can’t hire an analyst, want his/her opinion, value it, then give him/her the boot when he/she says something that creates a stir.  This year it’s Tiger.  What if, next year, Rickie Fowler is golf’s golden boy and one of The Golf Channel’s critics blast him for his goofy swing and penchant for wild nightlife?

Chamblee has been a constant critic of Tiger’s over the last 4-5 years — mostly about his golf swing, but in other areas as well — so this latest “cheating scandal” has reeked of a personal vendetta more than a professional critique.

That said, as an analyst, Chamblee is supposed to give his honest opinion of what he sees and feels, and the former PGA TOUR player isn’t the only person out there who think Woods is somewhat cavalier with the rules.

Tiger, obviously, owns all the power cards here.  The Golf Channel is knee-deep with the TOUR and to have the game’s best player “against you” won’t work out well for interviews, both pre and post, plus Sean Foley, Tiger’s instructor, is a regular guest on Golf Channel instructional shows.

My guess is Chamblee will be suspended by The Golf Channel, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he’s terminated over this flap with Woods.

Tiger didn’t ask for the firing, just like Chamblee didn’t actually say Woods cheated, but you can put one and one together and see  that’s what he wants.

And, almost always, Tiger gets what he wants.

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Chamblee calls Tiger a cheater — then apologizes for saying it.

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Chamblee calls Tiger a cheater — then apologizes for saying it.

Posted on 23 October 2013 by Drew Forrester

I’ve watched bits and pieces of just about every Capitals game thus far in the ’13-14 campaign and it’s becoming more apparent with every viewing opportunity that Washington is going to struggle to make the post-season.

Their defense is terrible.

If not for Braden Holtby — and let’s face it, he’s only a “good” goaltender, nothing more, really — they might not have a win yet this season.

And, if Alex Ovechkin gets a bruised shoulder in two weeks and he misses ten games, they’re not winning any of those contests.

The Caps defense is really bad.

The only two guys who give a representative defensive effort every night are Carlson and Alzner…and both of them are capable of throwing up a stinker-of-a-shift once a period.

Erskine?  Time to put him out to pasture.

Green?  Doesn’t really play defense, not sure you can even consider him a defenseman.

Olesky?  Still learning.  He might be OK actually, but he doesn’t have a mentor to look up to, that’s for sure.

The Metropolitan Division is like moving up from the J.V. to the Varsity as far as the Caps are concerned.  No more lay-ups against the bums of the Southeast Division…they have to play real hockey now, 60 nights a year.

Ain’t gonna happen, I’m afraid to say.

Not with this bunch trying to play defense, that is.

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I’ll take the Red Sox in seven games in the World Series.

Not sure why.

I just think it’s their time.

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It would appear that Tiger Woods and “his people” have more impact at The Golf Channel than perhaps Brandel Chamblee realized.

Chamblee, the outstanding analyst for TGC, essentially called Woods a “cheater” last week when handing out his end-of-season grades for the recently completed 2013 season.  He cited several rules infractions Woods was involved in over a 5-month period and likened them to an episode of his back in grade school when a teacher of Chamblee’s cited him for cheating on a test.

The analyst never said the words “cheating” in his column for Golf.com, but he might as well have.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chamblee defended his piece and his accusations about Woods and the rules issues he ran up against…that lasted until about 8pm on Tuesday night when Chamblee sent out a series of five tweets that apologized – directly – to Woods.

He was adamant that the apology wasn’t forced by The Golf Channel or Golf.com, but the timing certainly looked odd if you ask me.

Calling someone a cheater in golf is the absolute worst thing you can do.

For the record – in my opinion anyway – Woods is NOT a cheater.

As Seve Ballesteros once told Paul Azinger at the 1991 Ryder Cup:  ”Cheating and not knowing the rules are two totally different things.”

That said, I still contend that Tiger should have withdrawn from The Masters last April after his Saturday rules snafu where he took a bad drop on the 15th hole.

But — like Seve said:  Cheating and not knowing the rules are different.

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Drew’s Morning Dish — Tues., June 18

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Drew’s Morning Dish — Tues., June 18

Posted on 18 June 2013 by Drew Forrester

There’s not really much to say about Jake Arrieta’s start in Detroit on Monday night except the obvious: it wasn’t very good.

Lots of folks in town have their fangs out for Arrieta, which is fine.  Given the opportunity – on multiple occasions – to seize one of the team’s starting rotation spots, he’s generally failed to live up to his billing.

That doesn’t mean, however, the club should just give up on him.

It would be prudent for Buck and/or Dan Duquette to now begin phase two of Jake’s career and see what kind of usefulness they can get out of him from the bullpen.  No more spot-starts or anything of that nature.  Like they’ve done – successfully – with Tommy Hunter, the Orioles should now just use Jake Arrieta as a relief pitcher and that’s that.

Arrieta might not approve, which means he’ll either have to accept it like a man or potentially be traded somewhere…if anyone wants him, that is.

Just because he apparently can’t be a quality major league starter doesn’t mean he can’t contribute to the success of the Orioles.

It’s up to Duquette and Showalter to figure out how to get the best out of Jake Arrieta.

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At the beginning of the season, I picked the Orioles and Dodgers to go to the World Series.

Just a reminder.

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I love seeing Boston teams fail almost as much as I enjoy watching any Philadelphia team fall flat on their face, but I have to admit this Bruins hockey team is about as complete of a squad that I’ve seen in a long time.

Their 2-0 win on Monday night in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals was about as clinical as you’ll ever get.

They could still be playing at 5:11 am on Tuesday morning and Chicago wouldn’t have tied the game.

I’m still taking the Blackhawks in seven games but Boston looks awfully solid right now.

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I’m not sure what those three sports talk guys in Atlanta were thinking about yesterday when they put together a “bit” that made fun of former Saints player Steve Gleason, who is currently battling ALS.

They were canned, naturally, in the aftermath of their decision to make fun of a guy battling for his life.

I guess they’ll argue about their right to free speech and all — and in that regard only, they have a legitimate argument to make, I suppose.

But…they had to assume going in there was a chance the whole thing could blow up in their face.

Making fun of a guy with ALS?

Really?

That’s the funniest thing you could put together on the air?

They should have just stuck with the thing most people in Atlanta are now laughing at these days:  The whole debate about whether or not Matt Ryan is better than Joe Flacco.

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In the aftermath of last weekend’s U.S. Open and yet another major that didn’t feature Tiger Woods as the winner, I offered my own analysis in a blog HERE yesterday at WNST.net.  In that blog I linked a great piece authored by Rick Reilly on Monday who touched on the very subject I’ve been focused on with Tiger for the last year — his nerves.

Speaking of golf, Drew’s Morning Dish is taking a one-day hiatus tomorrow, Wednesday, as I attempt to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open.

Yes, you read that right:  S.E.N.I.O.R.

Don’t laugh, you’re not exempt from getting old.

I’ll be back on Thursday.

 

 

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Has Tiger lost his nerve in major championships?

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Has Tiger lost his nerve in major championships?

Posted on 17 June 2013 by Drew Forrester

Rick Reilly authored a terrific piece on Monday about Tiger Woods and his suddenly ice-cold major championship run that has left him at 14 majors since June of 2009.  Not that Reilly and ****.com need more web-hits, but the piece is great and you can read it RIGHT HERE if you like.

Reilly hints around in the piece about the very subject I’ve been discussing with regard to Woods for the better part of a year now:  It sure looks as if he’s lost his putting nerve in the only four tournaments that matter to him anymore — the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA.

That Tiger has won 13 times over the last five years – a helluva career for just about anyone else – during his major-less drought is a testament to the golfing ability he still retains.

But, make no mistake about it, putting on Sunday at Torrey Pines in late January is nothing at all like staring down a slippery five-footer at the U.S. Open in June.

Bobby Jones once said:  ”There’s golf and then there’s tournament golf, and in no way are the two similar.”

What he meant, basically, is that anyone can go play a round of golf with their buddies…or tee-it up in the Tuesday night beer league at the local club — but playing in a golf tournament is a completely different, and more difficult, animal.

Well, the same goes for the greats of the game like Tiger Woods.

There’s playing well at Doral and/or Bay Hill and then there’s shooting 32 on the back nine at Augusta on Sunday to win The Masters, something Woods apparently is no longer capable of pulling off.

And the reason he can’t win a major these days is almost purely because of his putting.

To my eye – and I haven’t seen EVERY putt he’s missed in all of the majors since ’09 – it’s easy to tell that Tiger’s nerves are slipping because most of the make-able putts I’ve seen him miss have gone low of the hole, which tells me he’s quitting on the stroke at impact.  A confident putter generally misses on the high side.  Someone struggling to make solid contact at impact usually misses it low.  I see Tiger missing a lot of putts low these days.

Back in 2006, at the height of Tiger-mania, I played in a U.S. Open qualifier with a journeyman touring professional named John Elliott, who will forever be part of a trivia question:  ”Name the two players who played with Tiger Woods in his professional debut in Milwaukee in 1996.”  One of those guys was the aforementioned John Elliott.  Anyway, as Elliott and I walked down the 15th fairway at Eagle’s Nest, he made what seemed at the time to be an offhand comment about Woods that stuck with me that day and has really proved to be quite true now, in 2013.  He said, “Tiger hasn’t missed a putt that’s mattered in his career.  Never.  Once he does, he’ll become just a regular decent putter again like the rest of us.”

It seems crazy to say that a guy who has 13 wins in the last five years has declined to that of a “regular decent putter”, but there’s putting in tournaments at Doral and TPC Sawgrass and there’s putting in tournaments at Augusta and Merion.  They’re not the same, at all.

I was at Merion last Monday and Tuesday and I could distinctly sense tension in Tiger when I was around him on the range and in the media center on Tuesday.  He was smiling a lot, but once a question turned to anything remotely close to “why haven’t you won a major title lately?” he quickly defended himself with a comment about having four wins this season and anything else he could say to deflect the obvious issue in front of him:  he’s been stuck on fourteen major titles since 2009.

He’s quick to point out “winning majors is hard work”, but it wasn’t hard work for him from 1997 through 2009 when he beat everyone like a drum whenever he felt like doing it.

(please see next page)

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Drew’s Morning Dish — Mon., June 17

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Drew’s Morning Dish — Mon., June 17

Posted on 17 June 2013 by Drew Forrester

The 113th U.S. Open is in the books and history will show Justin Rose as the winner.

He did win the tournament.

But, the golf course the tournament was contested on was the real winner of the last four days.  Only 6800 yards and located on a measly 111 acres, Merion was up to the task of challenging the best golfers in the world.  Yes, it required the USGA to stick the pins in some questionable positions on a handful of occasions over the four days, but when you have 360 yard par-four holes, you can’t stick the flags right in the middle of the green or 10-under par will be the typical score.  The par-3 third hole was made into a bit of a joke by the USGA, who decided Sunday was the right day to make it a 274-yard hole into the prevailing wind.

That said, when you’re trying to identify the best golfer in the country, it doesn’t hurt to throw a bit of unfair in there to see how everyone handles the friction of questionable pins, fast greens and a pace of play that bordered on silly.

All told — Merion wasn’t an ideal place for spectators, sponsors and, at times, even the players, but tee-to-green the course was among the most memorable spots for a U.S. Open over the last twenty years.

Here’s a quick analysis of the winners and losers from the 2013 U.S. Open:

Winner:  Justin Rose — finally broke through to win a major title and get that proverbial “monkey off his back”.  Like most major championships, this event at Merion was won by the guy who holed the most putts on the final day.  Produced two glorious shots at the 18th hole on Sunday, a fitting way to end a 17-year English drought in major championship golf.  Has the game to win any of the other three major championships.

Loser:  Hunter Mahan — lost his golf swing in the final hour and went from tied for the lead to taking FOOOORRRRRREEEEVVVVEEEEERRRRRRR to play the final three holes.  Someone needs to show him the “While we’re young” commercials.  Still a player very capable of claiming a major title but until he does it, questions will loom about his ability to finish off winnable events.  Seemed a little “too happy” at the end of the day on Sunday.

Winner:  Phil Mickelson — didn’t win, but acquitted himself well on a day when three putts (#1, #2, #16) that coulda-shoulda-woulda turned out to be the difference between winning and losing.  Two back-nine wedge shots (tee shot at #13, second at #15) were the ones that did him in, particularly the approach at fifteen which was right in his wheel house with a back right pin that favored his left-to-right ball flight.  Dodged the question about Mahan’s slow play potentially distracting him on the final three holes, but it surely couldn’t have helped.  Still, at age 43, proved once again he’s among the world’s best when it comes to playing tough courses in sometimes unreasonable conditions.

Loser:  Luke Donald — spit the bit early, conking a girl in the elbow at the 3rd hole with his tee shot and never really recovering from that unnerving situation.  Played as well as anyone on the back nine, but wasn’t a factor after such a tough start.  Still without a major title and now has to start facing those Lee Westwood-type questions of “when are you going to win one?”

Winner:  Jason Day — has been one of golf’s best performers in major championships over the last three years.  Putting saved him throughout the back nine, but the missed 5-footer and bogey at #18 dropped him to +3 and made the final hole much easier for Justin Rose to stomach.  Has become a much better driver of the golf ball, something that held him back when he first showed up on TOUR five years ago.  He’s going to win a major soon.

Loser:  Rory McIlroy — embarrassed himself by bending his wedge on the 11th hole after a less-than-stellar approach shot.  Angrily threw a club earlier in the round after a poor shot, something the USGA will probably address with him in the form of a nice “reminder letter” that champion golfers aren’t expected to behave like that at U.S. Open events.

Winner: Billy Horschel — anyone who has the nerve to wear those pants in front of 25,000 spectators and a hundred million people watching on TV all over the world is a winner just for that alone.  Did let his well-known temper get to him late in Saturday’s round and on occasion Sunday as well, but anyone who drives the ball that straight and that far is going to be heard from in major events for a long time to come.  Didn’t putt well enough to win, but once he becomes a great putter he’ll be tough to beat.

Loser: Tiger Woods — it’s now five years since his last major title and there’s no relief in sight as long as he continues to putt like a 6-handicap in major tournaments.  No matter what denials he offers to the media, his putting in majors isn’t nearly as solid as in “regular” TOUR events, which is why he’s no longer winning them.  Never looked comfortable with the golf course from the first tee shot on Thursday.  At least he didn’t embarrass himself with junior golf behavior like his Nike-mate, McIlroy, but that’s about the only positive he can take from this week’s event.

 

 

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Drew’s Morning Dish — Tues., April 16

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Drew’s Morning Dish — Tues., April 16

Posted on 16 April 2013 by Drew Forrester

Consider this a full meal, rather than just a dish.

But it needs to be said by someone.  Most of the national media won’t criticize Augusta National over “Tiger-Gate” because they’ll lose their credentials.  Just ask Jack Whitacker or Gary McCord what happens when you ruffle those Georgia feathers.  And all you have to do is find Alex Miceli or Peter Kostis and ask either of them what happens when Tiger Woods gets his dander up after you’ve pointed the finger at him one too many times.

I’m a nobody, in Baltimore, so fortunately that means I don’t have to be afraid to speak the truth about what happened last Friday and Saturday with the greatest golfer and greatest tournament on the planet.

Tiger Woods had a chance on Saturday morning to raise the bar of expectations from our nation’s superior athletes.  He had that chance due to a strange set of circumstances that included his own mistake and some other oddities from people who should have known better.

Rather than distinguish himself forever, Woods elected to do what virtually every other person in his position would have done:  He bailed on his opportunity to show an extraordinary amount of integrity and sportsmanship, instead opting to stick it out and hope he won — because, as the ad he was recently featured in proclaimed:  ”Winning Takes Care of Everything”.

By now, you know the story, even if you’re not a golfer.  For those of you who ARE golfers, you’ll understand the opinion I’m about to express.  You might not agree with it.  But you’ll at least understand it if you’ve played the game at a reasonably high level and done so with respect for the rules.  If you’re not a golfer, you probably should excuse yourself at this point and continue on with your day, for it’s highly unlikely you can grasp the true nature of the events of Friday and Saturday and their historical importance to both the sport and to Woods himself.

Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer I’ve ever seen.  I did not see Ben Hogan in his prime, nor did I see Jack Nicklaus in his prime.  My only memory of Nicklaus as a competitive golfer is his ’86 Masters triumph when Seve Ballesteros gift-wrapped Jack’s sixth green jacket by not being able to hold on to a 3-shot lead with six holes to play.

Whether Tiger is the greatest player ever isn’t part of this discussion, but the fact that he’s the greatest player playing the sport right now IS a huge part of it.

Some would say he’s not only established himself as the world’s best golfer since the turn of the century, but an argument can be made he remains the world’s most dominant athlete during that time, regardless of sport.

Following his rules faux pas on Friday afternoon at Augusta, Tiger signed an incorrect scorecard by testifying to a score of 71 when, in fact, he shot 73.

That fact can’t be debated.

Woods signed an incorrect scorecard by virtue of taking an improper drop on the 15th hole of Friday’s second round.

He was saved by Masters tournament officials who decided on Saturday morning to waive the penalty of disqualification and instead simply penalize Woods the 2-strokes he would have been penalized on Friday had either he or tournament rules officials discovered his infraction PRIOR to his card being signed at the conclusion of Friday’s round.

Before 2011, Woods would have simply been disqualified had the rules infraction been discovered AFTER he signed his card.  No questions asked, no discussion, no “waiving the penalty of disqualification”.

A rule established by the R&A and the USGA in 2011 allows for tournament committee members to waive the penalty of disqualification if “exceptional individual circumstances” are discovered.

In this case, on Saturday morning, the Masters decided their own negligence in not penalizing Tiger’s Friday afternoon rules infraction was “an exceptional individual circumstance”, thus they tacked on the 2-shot penalty from Friday and allowed him to play on Saturday and Sunday.

Suddenly, Augusta National deemed it was THEIR responsibility to make sure Tiger Woods followed the rules of golf.

Somehow, Woods was excused for not knowing the rules and not playing by them.  I can just see Bobby Jones spitting out his glass of wine in heaven.

Once this all came to light on Saturday morning, Woods should have stepped in immediately and said, “With all due respect, while I appreciate the rule that’s in place for this sort of situation, I’m going to withdraw from the event based solely on the fact that I’m responsible for my own scorecard and I’m also responsible for knowing the rules of golf…and obviously, based on the situation from Friday afternoon, I wasn’t in compliance with the rules when I signed for my second-round score of 71.”

Woods could have gone on to carefully elaborate that he wasn’t trying to cheat when he dropped his ball two yards behind its original point after hitting his 3rd shot in the water at #15 on Friday.  He could have simply told the truth:  ”I dropped my ball two yards behind its original point — and when I was informed that the rule for that particular drop doesn’t allow the ball to be dropped in that spot, it was clear I wasn’t in compliance with the rules.  Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the infraction, nor did my playing competitors, so the ensuing 2-stroke penalty made my score 73 — not the 71 I signed for on Friday.”

(Please see next page)

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Drew’s Morning Dish – Mon., April 15

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Drew’s Morning Dish – Mon., April 15

Posted on 15 April 2013 by Drew Forrester

Greg Norman couldn’t do it.

But the guy all of Australia said was “the next Greg Norman” finally did.

Good on ya mate.

Adam Scott proved once again what anyone who plays golf seriously already knew.  It always comes down to putting.  Scott’s 20-footer at 18 in regulation, the 4-footer at the first playoff hole, and the 12-footer that won him the green jacket were all putts he’ll remember forever, particularly since two of them were of the “miss or go home” variety.

That he coughed up the British Open in the final hour last July makes Sunday’s win at the Masters even more gratifying.  He won’t be this generation’s Colin Montgomerie, a player with great talent who brushed up against a major title or two but never could close the door.  Now, with this win, Scott likely will be a force in major championship golf for as long as puts in the work that’s required to win one of golf’s four majors.

He’s no longer “the best player without a major championship”.

That’s a great way to wake up on a Monday morning.

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Good luck Alex Len.

You’re gonna get your feelings hurt, kid.

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Don’t look now, but if the season ended today (man, I HATE when people say that…it’s NOT ending today), Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox would be your Cy Young winner.  In three starts, his ERA is 0.41 and his WHIP is 0.95.  He can’t pitch every day, though, which means the Red Sox are doomed for a .500 or so finish.  But for years, people have been talking about this guy as a Cy Young-type and in 2013, albeit over three starts, he’s showing that form.

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I completely understand (I don’t like it — but I understand) why the folks at Augusta didn’t DQ Tiger Woods on Saturday morning.  They took the liberty of invoking  a new rule put in place by the R&A and the USGA in 2011 that basically says “a penalty of disqualification can be waived if the circumstances are deemed extraordinary…”  In this case, it would appear as if Tiger not knowing the rules — or, admittedly, trying to nudge his way past one of the one without anyone noticing — is now an “extraordinary circumstance”.  And, further, it would appear that Augusta National’s inability to correctly deal with Tiger’s rules blunder on Friday afternoon is also now labeled “an extraordinary circumstance”.  I’m a big Tiger Woods fan, but the fact he played in the Masters on Saturday and Sunday is disappointing.  I like golf the way it used to be played.  If you broke a rule and it was caught during the round, before you signed your card, there was a penalty.  If you broke a rule and it wasn’t discovered until after you signed your card, you were then disqualified for having signed an incorrect scorecard.

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I also understand why folks lashed out at Adam Jones after his bubble-blowing faux pas on Friday night in New York.  It looks like you’re hot dogging when you blow a bubble in the middle of an effort to make a play, in the same way it would be considered hot dogging if the second baseman caught a grounder and instead of throwing it to first base the “traditional way” he instead decided to throw it behind his back to first base.  I don’t think Jones was hot dogging it on Friday night.  I think blowing bubbles while you’re trying to play professional baseball looks dumb, personally, but I’m of the belief he simply made an error.  Nothing more.

Talk to you tomorrow.

DF

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