April 15, 2014
The 2014 Masters began with 98 players in the field. One by one they dropped out of contention until there was one man left on Sunday afternoon. Bubba Watson won his second green jacket in the last three years. In case you missed it, here’s how golf’s first Major of the year went down:
April 1: This is no April Fools joke…Tiger Woods announces that he had surgery on his back and will not play in the Masters. 97 players left.
April 6: Just four days before the Masters begins, Matt Jones wins the Shell Houston Open to take last spot in field. He’s just happy to be in the field. 96 players left.
April 9: The day before the Masters begins, Ryan Moore wins the Par 3 contest. Nobody ever wins both. 95 players left.
1st hole: Brendon de Jonge makes a double-bogey on his first hole ever played at Augusta. Matthew Fitzpatrick, Keegan Bradley and Derek Ernst also walked off the first hole of the tournament at +2. That’s not how you want to start a major. 91 players left.
Front nine: Luke Donald takes an eight on the par-4 ninth hole for a front-nine 43. Graham DeLaet and Craig Stadler fired 42s. 88 players left.
Back nine: Jason Dufner started with nine straight pars but was derailed with a double-bogey at the tenth. He followed that up with three bogeys and a nine on the second side to shoot an 80. Chang-woo Lee, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Niebrugge, Ben Crenshaw and Branden Grace all failed to break 80. 82 players left.
1st hole: Graeme McDowell makes a double-bogey. Not the way to start your round. 81 players left.
Front nine: Mark Leishman makes a double-bogey on the 9th hole, dropping five shots in the last six holes. He would go from leading the tournament to missing the cut. Michael McCoy, Peter Hanson, Boo Weekley, Garrick Porteous, Trevor Immelman, Matteo Manassero, Patrick Reed, Ian Woosnam also played poorly on the first nine. 72 players left.
Phil Mickelson makes a triple-bogey at the 12th hole. 71 left.
Rory McIlroy’s second shot on the 13th hit a sprinkler and went well past the green, leading to a bogey on a hole that he desperately needed a birdie to climb back in the mix. This isn’t the kind of luck that major winners get. 70 players left.
Back nine: Tom Watson shoots +9 on the back nine. Tim Clark, Matt Every, Scott Stallings, Y.E. Yang, Roberto Castro, Angel Cabrera, David Lynn, Mark O’Meara, John Huh, Dustin Johnson, Ken Duke, Harris English, D.A. Points, Zach Johnson, Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Sang-Moon Bae and Victor Dubuisson also struggle. 51 players left.
Sergio Garcia and Webb Simpson both finish bogey-bogey to miss the cut by a shot. 49 players left heading into the weekend.
1st hole: Nick Watney, Francesco Molinari, and Oliver Goss make double-bogeys. Not what they had in mind for “moving day.” 46 players left.
Brandt Snedeker drops to +2 after a five-putt, quadruple bogey on the 4th hole. Joost Luiten, Darren Clarke, Jose Maria Olazabal, Sandy Lyle, Billy Horschel, Thongchai Jaidee, Martin Kaymer, Thorbjorn Olesen, Hunter Mahan, Vijay Singh, Larry Mize, K.J. Choi, Mike Weir, Stewart Cink, and Henrik Stenson all struggle on the front side. 30 players left.
Back nine: Stephen Gallacher, Lucas Glover, Steven Bowditch, Bill Haas, Jamie Donaldson, Louis Oosthuizen and Bernhard Langer fail to get into contention with one round left to play. 23 players left.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano makes bogey on the 1st hole. 22 players left.
Adam Scott bogeys the 2nd and 3rd holes, Steve Stricker makes double-bogey on the 3rd and Russell Henley makes bogey on the 3rd. 19 players left.
Kevin Streelman bogeys holes 3 and 4. Jason Day makes bogey on 4 and Kris Kirk takes a double-bogey the 4th. 16 players left.
Jimmy Walker cards a bogey on the 7th. 15 players left.
Jordan Speith holes sand on the 4th hole to go -7. Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and Gary Woodland are all at +1 and eight shots behind. 11 players left.
Jordan Speith birdies the 7th hole to go -8. At -1, John Senden is too far back. So is Jim Furyk, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Kevin Stadler. 7 players left.
Fred Couples knocks his second shot into the water on 11 and makes a double-bogey. 6 players left.
Rickie Fowler is out after back-to-back bogeys to start the back nine. 5 players left.
Thomas Bjorn makes a bogey on 14. He’s -2 and five shots back. 4 players left.
Matt Kuchar fails to birdie 15 or 16 and trails by four with two holes to go. 3 players left.
Jonas Blixt fails to birdie 17. He trails by three with one to play. 2 players left.
Jordan Speith fails to birdie 17 and Bubba Watson sinks his par putt to take a three shot lead to the final hole. It’s safe to say that Watson has another green jacket at this point. 1 player left to claim the Masters.
April 8, 2014
Finally, Masters week is here. Golf fans have been waiting for about eight months since the last major tournament finished. Sadly, there is no Tiger Woods in the field this week, but there are still some interesting storylines to watch. Here’s eight players that have a great shot at putting on a green jacket on Sunday afternoon.
He’s playing as well as anybody right now. He is the defending champion. In his last three Masters tournaments, he finished second, eighth and first. If he can finish third or better, he’ll pass Tiger Woods and become the new No. 1 player in the world.
He hasn’t played since winning the Match Play Championship six weeks ago because of a thumb injury. But this dude always seems to play well in the majors. A win will make him the No. 1 player in the world.
He has to be at the top of this list. He almost always plays well at Augusta (14 top 10 finishes in 21 appearances) and did not play well last year. He’ll be looking to get that taste of of his mouth. Did I mention he already has three Masters titles? They all came in even years too.
Here’s another guy that can take over the No. 1 spot in the world rankings this week. He’ll have to win or finish second to get it done though. He’s off to a slow start after an incredible finish last season.
When he is on his game, he laps the field at major championships. (See the U.S. Open (2011) and PGA Championship (2012)). He nearly won the Masters in 2011 and has been playing well so far in 2014.
Will Sergio ever win a major? Two years ago, he said he isn’t good enough. But he’s played well at Augusta. He won the Qatar Masters in February and keeps finishing in the top 20 every time he tees it up. He’ll do it again this week. But can he finish in the top one?
He nearly won in 2012 and was in contention heading into 2013’s final round. He’s due to win a big one. The question for Kuchar is going to be how will he bounce-back after knocking it in the water and then losing in a playoff last week in Houston?
It seems like every year there is a 50+ player that puts together a couple great rounds and contends at Augusta. Nobody is more likely to do that than Couples. He went 20+ years without missing a Masters cut. He’s been playing well on the Champions Tour. And he’s already got one green jacket. Couples in contention on Sunday would be a huge draw.
April 2, 2014
Finally, the playoffs are almost here. With only about seven games left for each team, we can start to see who will face off when the championship run begins. A lot can change between now and then, but here’s what I hope to see come playoff time. We’ll start in the East:
1 Indiana Pacers vs 8 New York Knicks
All season, it has been almost a given that we would get Pacers-Heat III in the Eastern Conference Finals. Now it’s not looking like a sure thing. The Pacers are in a big-time slump and the Knicks have suddenly got it going and are just a game out of the last playoff spot. The Pacers against a red-hot Knicks team would be much more interesting that the Pacers taking on a faltering Atlanta Hawks squad.
2 Miami Heat vs 7 Charlotte Bobcats
Unfortunately, this is as close as we will get to Lebron James vs Michael Jordan. I hope we see it happen. Miami swept the regular season meetings 4-0, but one game was decided by just one point and another went to overtime. If Dwayne Wade isn’t at full strength, Al Jefferson and the Bobcats could give the Heat a first-round battle. Maybe MJ will even decide to suit up.
3 Chicago Bulls vs 6 Washington Wizards
It will be nice to see a up-and-coming team take on a veteran club that just keeps winning no matter who they have dressed in street clothes. It could be a bad match-up for the Bulls (they are 0-2 against the Wizards this season), but I think their experience will be a big advantage. And if the Bulls can grab the three seed, that could set up another “Chicago Street Fight” with the Heat in round two.
4 Toronto Raptors vs 5 Brooklyn Nets
So that leaves us with another team looking to finally get a taste of playoff action against a team full of players that are used to playing in multiple playoff series every year. Do the old guys in Brooklyn have one more run left? Or will the Raptors be a newcomer making some noise?
As for the West:
1 San Antonio Spurs vs 8 Memphis Grizzlies
Any chance history could repeat itself? Three years ago the eight-seeded Grizzlies made history and took down the top-seeded Spurs. Both rosters have a lot of the same players. After struggling early in the season, the Grizzlies have become one of the hottest teams in the West and the Spurs are currently riding an 18-game win streak.
2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 7 Dallas Mavericks
The Thunder are one of the favorites to win the title. Kevin Durant is the favorite to win the MVP award. That usually means a fairly easy win in the first round. Maybe not this year though. The Mavs have beaten the Thunder twice in the last couple weeks. Let’s see if they can beat them again when it really counts.
3. L.A. Clippers vs 6 Golden State Warriors
I love rivalries. A playoff series between the Clippers and Warriors could lead to a great one for the next few years. These teams already have the building blocks in place after beginning the season with feisty affair that led to the teams refusing to attend chapel together and Blake Griffin calling the Warriors cowardly when they met in December. This series needs to happen.
4. Houston Rockets vs 5 Portland Trailblazers
Dwight Howard vs LaMarcus Aldridge. Damian Lillard vs James Harden. Neither teams feels the need to play defense. In their four meetings this season, each team scored at least 111 three times. At the time of year when the game slows down and defense is at a premium, a series like this will be a nice change of pace.
March 25, 2014
What a weekend that was! The first couple rounds of the NCAA Tournament had it all….upsets, overtimes, controversy….it was everything we hope for. Sadly, the tournament is already 75 percent over, but at least we’ll have some really good match-ups before it is all said and done. What’s going to happen this weekend? I can’t wait to find out.
I know a lot of people are excited about Louisville vs Kentucky, but to me the best game is Virginia vs Michigan State. Has there ever been a #4 seed get as much love from the media as the Spartans have this year? Has there ever been a less talked about #1 than Virginia? If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Michigan State was the #1 seed. This game, more than any other, will make-or-break a lot of brackets out there.
Sorry. There are only eight games. They can’t all be a hype-machine. Especially, Wisconsin vs Baylor. Both of these teams have conference rivals that are still alive and getting all the attention so there is still plenty of room on the bandwagons here even though the Badgers and Bears have been two of the most impressive teams so far and the winner has a great shot to reach the Final 4.
Connecticut over Iowa State. The Huskies have played a lot of games in Madison Square Garden over the years and should have the crowd on their side. And they’ve got Shabazz Napier, the best name in the tournament and the kind of player that can put a team on his back and get to the Elite 8. It also helps that Iowa State will be without Georges Niang.
Two #11 seeds will reach the Elite 8. It could happen. Why not? Dayton has already knocked off Ohio State and Syracuse without playing its best. It won’t be afraid of Stanford and if the Flyers get hot from 3-point range, the Cardinal will be in trouble. Tennessee is as hot as anybody after cruising by Iowa, Massachusetts and Mercer but that’s also about as easy as it gets to reach the Sweet 16. The Tennessee big men will need to dominate inside against the Wolverines.
Player to watch
Arizona’s Aaron Gordon. If you watched Gordon and the Wildcats beat Gonzaga, you know what I’m talking about. How many massive dunks did he have in that game? He may or may not be the best player in the tournament, but he provides some of the best highlights for sure. Arizona will need some of those plays against San Diego State to quiet that Anaheim crowd.
Final 4 picks
Florida, Virginia, San Diego State, Michigan
March 18, 2014
We are just minutes away from the opening tip of the NCAA Turnament (although, to me it still doesn’t start until Thursday). I’ve already filled out my bracket – thrown it away – filled out a new one – used white out to make some changes – and thrown that one away too. Time to start over and make a final attempt. But before I do, there are a few things I’m going to keep in mind.
1) A No. 5 seed is going down
You can take that to the bank. Three 12 seeds advanced last year. If you can figure out which one it will be your bracket will look that much better. The obvious pick this year is St. Louis who has lost four straight. They will be taking on a team that has already got a tournament win under its belt (Xavier or N.C. State) and will be feeling good. But that doesn’t mean the other 5 seeds should feel comfortable. Especially you, Oklahoma.
2) A double-digit seed is likely to make the Sweet 16
Some of the best candidates this year are Tennessee, St. Joseph’s, Nebraska, and Stanford. I’m taking Tennessee to get it done. Assuming of course that they catch Duke on a cold-shooting day. (This could be wishful thinking on my part….I was assigned the Vols in a prize pool).
3) Beware of the Mountain West
4) Don’t play the fool
The key to a successful bracket is to avoid picking teams to make a deep run and then they fall to an early-round upset. That’s going to be tough this year with how even the field appears to be. Here’s one team to avoid in each region…Syracuse, Villanova, Duke, and Wisconsin.
5) #1’s aren’t always safe
All four No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four just one time in history. Don’t expect it to happen again this year. Which top team will go down first? Which will win its region? Florida seems to be a pretty good bet to win the South. All three of the other top seeds could face some pretty difficult opponents. Especially Wichita St. Look for the Shockers to be the first top team to be shocked in the tournament.