April 15, 2014

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Breaking Down Bubba Watson’s Win At The Masters

By: Joe Williams

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.

Ian Poulter

Ian Poulter made it into the final 15, but couldn't hang on to beat Bubba Watson.

Round 1
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.

Round 2
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.

Round 3
1st hole: Nick Watney, Francesco Molinari, and Oliver Goss make double-bogeys. Not what they had in mind for “moving day.” 46 players left.

Front Nine
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.

Final round
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.

May 8, 2013

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The 2013 Players Championship: Golf’s Greatest Stadium

By: Tyler Vespa

Coming into the 40th edition of what some call golf’s “5th major”, there have been two golfers on tour in 2013 that have separated themselves from the field. One of them is not a surprise; it’s Tiger Woods. The other put his name on the front page with his victory at the Masters. Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the green jacket. Since then, the tour had two first time winners in Billy Horschel and David Ernst, and Graeme McDowell, whose world class play was again realized with his win at Harbor Town. With the wind howling, McDowell did what he did at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, outlasted everybody.

Sergio Garcia won the 2008 Players Championship.

Each year, the Players Championship along with maybe only the U.S. Open is an event where the course is the victor almost every year. The TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course) is home of the famous island hole, the par 3 17th hole, and yes it’s definitely “Better Than Most”.  At just 137 yards, which for a pro is almost always a birdie opportunity, the hole has played to a scoring average of 3.14 since 2003. In case you aren’t convinced, Phil Mickelson has hit 7 balls in the water on the hole since 2003. 11% of the shots hit here since 2003 have found the water. Bob Tway holds the record for most balls in the water since 2003 with 9.

The worst part, your round is not over. You still have to play # 18. The hole is a 447-yard Par 4 dogleg left around a lake. Since 2003, it has ranked as the toughest hole at Sawgrass with a scoring average of 4.34. I liken it to a “horseshoe”, with water in the middle. The problem is the horseshoe is the PGA Tour’s version of Lombard Street.

With that, here are 5 guys who could hold the crystal on Sunday:

  1. Graeme McDowell - The Northern Irishmen is the best wind player on tour. If it plays firm and fast, and the wind blows, McDowell will win another huge event.
  2. Adam Scott - The Aussie won the event back in 2004, and his game is as solid as it’s ever been.
  3. Luke Donald - The 5th-ranked player in the world has Top 10 finishes in the last two years at Sawgrass.
  4. Matt Kuchar - He’s defending a title this week, and has 3 other top 20’s at Sawgrass. The field better watch out if he gets comfortable.
  5. Tiger Woods - He’s not my favorite this week at the Stadium Course, but he’s playing too well this year to leave off the ballot. I would be surprised if this year’s Tiger can’t find a top 5 finish this week.

May 7, 2013

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Fred Couples Officially An All-Time Great

By: Joe Williams

Before Tiger Woods took the golf world by storm with his monstrous drives, it was John Daly and his extra-long backswing that was pounding the ball past everyone else. And before Daly hit the scene, Fred ‘Boom Boom’ Couples was the long-hitter on tour.

Fred Couples was the long-ball hitter before John Daly.

Now he’s a new member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

On the course, he was (and still is) such a cool customer that he looked like he didn’t have a care in the world. He never wore a glove and had a slow, but perfectly rhythmic swing that made him appear to be out there just having a good time. But that wasn’t the case.

He was a fierce competitor who was the PGA Tour Player of the Year and Vardon Trophy winner in back-to-back years. (1991-92)

Couples was also the first American to hit No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings and led team USA in several Ryder and Presidents Cups. He’s also got 15 PGA Tour wins (including the Players Championship twice) and eight on the Champions Tour. He’s won more than $27 million in his career.

But he’ll be forever remembered for his 1992 Masters win. And especially for his tee shot on the par 3 12th hole during the final round. His shot came up short of the green and was rolling down the slope towards Rae’s Creek. (A result that likely would have cost him the green jacket) But miraculously the ball hung up on the bank and Couples was able to get up-and-down on his way to a two-shot win over Raymond Floyd.

We’ll always wonder how many more wins he would have if he didn’t struggle with back problems over the years. But to this day, he still pops up from time to time and makes a run at another title. Especially at Augusta. Just last month he was near the lead for most of the Masters and had a shot at winning heading into the final round. He finished in a tie for 13th.

The 1992 Masters champion and 15-time winner on the PGA tour was inducted along with Colin Montgomerie, Ken Venturi, former European Tour Commissioner Ken Schofield and old timer Willie Park Jr.

April 16, 2013

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Scott Outlasts Field At Augusta

By: Joe Williams

One mistake can dash your hopes of winning a major championship. The margin for error is smaller at Augusta than anywhere and sometimes the man that claims the green jacket is the one that avoids the major mistake. So in case you missed it, here’s how Adam Scott ended up winning the Masters on Sunday.

94 players qualified for the Masters.

Sergio Garcia started off hot, but couldn't hold on through Sunday.

Monday

Darren Clarke withdrew because of a hamstring injury. 93 players remain in contention.

Wednesday

Ted Potter Jr. defeats Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar to win the Par 3 Contest. Nobody has ever won the Par 3 and the Masters in the same year. 92 players remain in contention.

Thursday

Nathan Smith makes the first bogey of the tournament and drops into last place.91 players remain in contention.

Craig Stadler makes an 8 on No. 10. and falls to +6.

Robert Garrigus makes a triple-bogey on No. 12 and falls to +6.

Other players who posted high numbers in the first round: Alan Dunbar, Ben Crenshaw, Ian Woosnam, Hiroyuki Fujita, Thaworn Wiratchant, Tom Watson, Michael Weaver, Branden Grace, Nick Watney, Padraig Harrington, Thorbjorn Olesen. 78 players remain in contention.

Friday

With the cut looming, several players played themselves out of contention: Louis Oosthuizen, John Merrick, Ben Curtis, Mike Weir, Nicolas Colsaerts, Ian Poulter, T.J. Vogel, Russell Henley, Kevin Streelman, Francesco Molinari, Steven Fox, and Hunter Mahan. 66 players remain in contention.

Mark O’Meara makes a triple-bogey on No. 18 to miss the cut. 65 players remain in contention.

Jason Day makes birdie on 16 to take the lead at -6 and move the cut line to +4. Jamie Donaldson, Martin Laird, George Coetzee, Matteo Manassero, Y.E. Yang, Larry Mize, Webb Simpson and Graeme McDowell are out.57 players remain in contention.

Saturday

Tiger Woods receives a controversial two-shot penalty after the rules committee reviewed him taking an illegal drop and signing an incorrect scorecard in the second round. The No. 1 player in the world lost his momentum and dropped to -1, five shots off the lead. Many of the analysts and golfing greats called for Woods to disqualify himself from the tournament. Woods played on, but couldn’t overcome everything going against him. 56 players remain in contention.

Saturday is known as moving day and for some players, who barely made the cut, there was a lot of moving to do and some couldn’t get it going on the first nine. Tianlang Guan, Ryo Ishikawa, Keegan Bradley, Peter Hanson, Sandy Lyle, Carl Pettersson, John Peterson, Michael Thompson, Ryan Moore, Trevor Immelman, Kevin Na, Vijay Singh, Richard Sterne, D.A. Points, Henrik Stenson, 41 players remain in contention.

Others waited for the second nine to fall apart. The 11th hole was especially brutal and claimed big-name players Phil Mickelson (double-bogey), Rory McIlroy (triple-bogey) and Bubba Watson (double-bogey).  Thomas Bjorn, Scott Piercy, Lucas Glover, Martin Kaymer, Paul Lawrie, David Lynn, Jose Maria Olazabal, Brian Gay, David Toms, Stewart Cink, John Huh, Ernie Els, Luke Donald, K.J. Choi, Fredrik Jacobson, Bill Haas, Dustin Johnson, John Senden and Charl Schwartzel were all unable to get into position going into the final round. 19 players remain in contention.

Sunday

Fred Couples makes a bogey and Jason Dufner makes a double-bogey on No. 1. 17 players remain in contention.

Rickie Fowler makes a double-bogey on No. 3. 16 players remain in contention.

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano makes a double-bogey on No. 4. 15 players remain in contention.

Justin Rose makes a bogey on No. 5. 14 players remain in contention.

Bo Van Pelt makes a double-bogey on No. 7. 13 players remain in contention.

Jason Day eagles No. 2, making it a three-way tie for the lead at -8. Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Steve Stricker are all too far back. 9 players remain in contention.

Tim Clark makes a double-bogey on No. 5. 8 players remain in contention.

Angel Cabrera makes a birdie on No. 7, while Bernhard Langer bogeys No. 10. Langer and Matt Kuchar are both seven shots off the lead. 6 players remain in contention.

Lee Westwood makes a bogey on No. 13 and is six shots behind. 5 players remain in contention.

Brandt Snedeker puts it in the water on No. 13. 4 players remain in contention.

Mark Leishman hits it in the water on No. 15 and Jason Day makes a birdie. Leishman is now three shots behind. 3 players remain in contention.

Adam Scott birdies No. 18 to finish at -9. Angel Cabrera is in the 18th fairway at -8 and Jason Day is finished at -7. Day is eliminated. 2 players remain in contention.

Angel Cabrera birdies No. 18 to force a playoff with Adam Scott.

Cabrera and Scott both make par on the first playoff hole.

Adam Scott sinks a birdie putt on the second playoff hole after Cabrera’s putt just misses the cup.

Cabrera is eliminated and Adam Scott is your Masters champion.

April 15, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Adam Scott wins first Masters in dramatic fashion: Golf’s biggest event was front and center this weekend and there were plenty of theatrics. First, there was 14-year old Tianlang Guan taking the world by storm by not only making the cut, but finishing as the youngest low amateur in the history of the tournament. Then, there was Tiger-gate, when Tiger Woods took an illegal drop that caused many to question if he should remain in the event. Finally, Adam Scott walked away with his first ever Masters win after defeating Angel Cabrera in a playoff with a birdie on the second hole. Say what you will about golf, but there are few things in the world of sports that can compare to Sunday at the Masters.

How far can the Lakers go without Kobe Bryant?

Kobe Bryant tears Achilles tendon – out for season: The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled all season with a star-studded lineup, but they may have been dealt a death blow last week. Star guard Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon and will miss the rest of this season. So how did the Lakers respond to losing their best player? By promptly beating what could be the best team in the Western Conference – the San Antonio Spurs. Los Angeles’ win on Sunday proved there is still life within the team. While the backcourt is in shambles (especially with Steve Nash who has missed several games), the frontcourt can still be one of the best in the league with center Dwight Howard and forwards Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, and Antawn Jamison. The Lakers may have a more difficult time keeping up with the younger Oklahoma City Thunder, but you’ve got to give them a fighting chance against the Spurs if they meet in the playoffs.

Louisville defeated Michigan for the NCAA championship: A week later and it seems like old news by now, but the Louisville Cardinals won their first title under Rick Pitino with an 82-76 win over the Michigan Wolverines last Monday. Pitino became the first coach to win NCAA championships with two different teams. The Cardinals went on a tear late in the season and became the trendy pick to win the title. Nearly as important as winning the championship was that they allowed folks like me to finish respectably in their bracket pools despite a plethora of other questionable picks.

Jeff Garcia to New York Jets – ditch Tim Tebow: Former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia had some interesting comments about young quarterback Tim Tebow in a USA Today interview. Speaking about Tebow, Garcia said he just brings distraction and that having him on the Jets doesn’t add anything positive. He then went on to say that starting quarterback Mark Sanchez’ main competition will come from aging veteran David Garrard or little-used Greg McElroy. I won’t totally disagree with Garcia that Tebow is a major distraction, but I’m not so sure he still can’t contribute to the team if used effectively. I’m not of the opinion that he’s an ideal starting quarterback, but there are certain packages where he can be used infrequently and make plays with his legs. Is that more valuable than what Garrard or McElroy can add? Unless one of them unseats Sanchez or plays considerably as a backup, I’d say yes.

Wrigley Field to get updated look: The Chicago Cubs announced that historic Wrigley Field will get some upgrades as part of a $500 million renovation. That will include the Field’s first electronic video board. Typically I hate stuff like this, but sometimes upgrades are needed to remain competitive. And as long as there’s no plan to make sweeping changes to one of the most recognizable stadiums in baseball, it’s hard to complain too loudly.