April 8, 2014

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8 Players To Watch At The Masters

By: Joe Williams

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.

Sergio Garcia

Can Sergio Garcia win his first major and take home the green jacket?

Adam Scott
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.

Jason Day
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.

Phil Mickelson
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.

Henrik Stenson
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.

Rory McIlroy
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.

Sergio Garcia
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?

Matt Kuchar
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?

Fred Couples
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.

July 22, 2013

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The Week in Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Phil Mickelson wins British Open: The highlight of the sports weekend was arguably Phil Mickelson winning his first British Open for his fifth major championship of his career. Mickelson outlasted Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, and a host of others with a final round of 66. Stenson finished three shots back (E) for the tournament to claim second place. Lefty will be remembered by many for his numerous second-place finishes, but with five majors now, his reputation should be changing.

AL wins MLB All-Star Game: Major League Baseball held its annual All-Star Game last Monday and the American League won 3-0. That gives the winner of the AL home field advantage over the National League in the World Series. I’ve tried to wrap my head around the thought process of having the All-Star Game winner give home field advantage to their league, but after many years it still doesn’t make sense to me. The rationale, of course, is that baseball wants to make the game ‘mean something’, but what’s wrong with having an All-Star Game that’s purely a scrimmage? The games in the NBA, NFL, and NHL never feature any significant amount of defense and in the end, that’s okay. The World Series team with the best regular season record should have home field advantage. Period.

Will Eli Manning ultimately be remembered as better than Peyton?

Eli > Peyton?: When it comes to quarterbacks Eli and Peyton Manning, the older brother is generally regarded as the better player. But with two Super Bowl wins, Eli is gaining on Peyton according to some … including former running back Tiki Barber. Barber not only says that Eli is catching up to Peyton, but better because of his postseason record. While Peyton is only 9-11 in the playoffs, Eli is 8-3. Eli’s two Super Bowl wins also trump Peyton’s one. Really, it’s a valid point. And while I’m not quite ready to call Eli the better sibling because of Peyton’s amazing career statistically, if Eli continues putting up solid numbers for another 5-7 seasons, it may be difficult to deny his greatness.

Welcome back, Charlotte Hornets: The NBA Board of Governors voted to change the Charlotte Bobcats name back to the Charlotte Hornets last week. When the former franchise bolted for New Orleans, they took the Hornets name with them. However, the team just changed their name to the Pelicans and the name became available. Owner Michael Jordan has been trying to get the name back from years and the name change becomes effective in time for the 2014-15 season after this year.

Alex Rodriguez suffers setback: A-Rod, recovering from hip surgery, was hoping to rejoin the New York Yankees this week after a rehab assignment. That changed, though, when the third baseman suffered a quadriceps strain and Rodriguez is now headed for more rehab. Just how much Rodriguez can help the club is very much in question. He’s seen his power decline steadily and while his 18 home runs and a .272 batting average in 2012 were serviceable, Rodriguez is significantly past his prime. But the Yankees, 20th in the majors in scoring runs this year, are probably a bit anxious to see what he can do to help the club that has been overrun with injuries.

Lakers want to land Lebron and/or Melo in 2014: When Lebron James hits free agency in the summer of 2014, he’ll perhaps be the most sought after free agent in the history of the sport. The Lakers are mum on the situation, but according to reports, count them as among the interested parties. Los Angeles is also said to be targeting Carmelo Anthony and rumor has it that the team wants BOTH. That sounds a bit far-fetched – especially if Kobe Bryant is still lacing them up. One could argue that the Miami Heat have been able to pay three superstars, but Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have minor egos compared to Bryant. Getting those three to play for big pay cuts is one thing but to get them to play alongside each other is something else entirely. And if James wins his third title in a row next year with the Heat, it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t be intrigued at the possibility of four in a row with the same team – something Kobe or even Michael Jordan never did.

NCAA to end deal with EA Sports: Big news dropped in the world of video games when the NCAA decided it will not renew a contract with EA Sports after this year. The primary reason is because of a pending lawsuit against the NCAA by players that claim the games use their likenesses without compensation. And really, it’s hard to dispute that as the players in the games bear, shall we say, striking similarities to the players. Still, if you’re into the games, have no fear. There’s too much money to be made and look for a similar game to find its way onto the market in the future. They may not have players that bear the likenesses of teams’ actual players, but surely there will be more collegiate football and basketball games that are produced.

Kobe items top $400,000 at auction: A few months back, Kobe Bryant and his parents were in a struggle over some of the star’s memorabilia. A settlement was reached with the prospective auction company, Goldin Auctions, for most of the items, but several pieces were not pulled back. Five of Bryant’s items fetched a whopping $400,000+ and leading the way was a championship ring given to Kobe’s dad that brought in $174,000. The whole thing has to be embarrassing for the parents. It’s hard to imagine them being that hard up for cash and auctioning off a ring their son bought for them probably wasn’t something they wanted out into the public.

Florida linebacker arrested … for barking at dog: No, seriously – this is a thing. Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison was arrested last week for barking at a dog that was in a police car on a street. Morrison, for his part, claims the dog barked first. Well, okay. Look, Morrison barking at a dog is odd, but stranger still, is that the police felt the need to arrest him. Really, we’re arresting people for barking at animals? That’s not over the top at all. Morrison was also suspended by head coach Will Muschamp for two games but the player’s arrest in June for punching a nightclub bouncer probably had something to do with that decision.

June 13, 2013

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2013 U.S. OPEN PREVIEW: Your Grandfather’s Open

By: Tyler Vespa

The winner finishes with even par or worse. The rough as high as 3 ½ inches high just a few feet off the fairway.  Tough, right? Now take away the flags on top of the pins and turn them into red woven baskets. Impossible? Well? No. Probably not, but how will you judge wind direction? Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania has a mission: To bring back the “old school” U.S. Open. Between the rough and keeping the woven baskets on top of the pins, Merion will succeed as “golf’s toughest test”.

Will Ian Poulter contend for the 113th U.S. Open?

The 113th edition of this great championship will see many of the game’s most talented players laying up on par 4’s out of the rough. That’s the U.S. Open. Sure, you’ll make some birdies, but how do you turn a double bogey or triple bogey into a bogey, and how do you turn a double bogey or bogey into a great par save?

Some call it grit, some call it grind, but whatever you choose to call it may not matter without will. So, along with asking yourself “what will you do”? you must also have the will to get the job done against all odds.

Now let’s talk about the contenders. Honestly, I’d love to see an amateur win this championship in my lifetime, but Merion just isn’t “open” enough. The beauty of this year’s field is the “long-bomber” versus the short and accurate. Either type of player could hold the trophy come Father’s Day.

With that here are my top 6 players who have the best chance to win the second major of the season:

1. Tiger Woods- 4 wins in 13’, 3-time U.S. Open champion, last in 2008.

2. Phil Mickelson- 1 win in 13’ (Phoenix Open) Shot 67, 65, 67, to finish T2 this past weekend in Memphis.

3. Matt Kuchar- 2 wins in 13’ (The Memorial) (WGC Match Play) T8 at the Masters, 4 other top 10’s, 14 for 14 on cuts made this year.

4. Sergio Garcia- Worst finish this year was a T17 at the Match Play, which means almost nothing. Sergio Garcia has played solid golf every week. Could this be the week it all comes together?

5. Graeme McDowell- 2010 U.S. Open champion. Runner-up last year at Olympic Club. He definitely has the grit to do it again.

6. Nicolas Colsaerts- Look out for “The Muscles from Brussels”. He was T4 last year at Olympic after 3 rounds before fading with a 6-over 76.

One of these 6 players will outlast the field to win America’s National Championship. I would love to see Phil Mickelson win his first U.S. Open. He’s had so many close calls and heartbreaks at this championship. That ends this week; He’s still good enough to win this tournament.

June 11, 2013

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Players To Watch at the U.S. Open

By: Joe Williams

The field for our golf national championship has been narrowed down from thousands in qualifying to some 150 players. If you are like me you don’t have time to follow them all so here are the players I’m going to be following when the U.S. Open begins on Thursday:

Phil Mickelson
Phil has suffered my Open heartbreak than maybe anyone in history with his five runner-up finishes. He comes in with three straight rounds in the 60s and a second place finish last week in Memphis. Did you see his approach at 18? He nearly holed it which would have tied the lead. Pulling off a pressure shot like that is the perfect way to build momentum for a major championship.

Sergio Garcia makes our list of players to watch during the U.S. Open.

Tiger Woods
He’s got four wins already and is back to No. 1 in the world. How will he bounce back from his round of 79 at the Memorial? He’s had a while to think about it and I believe it will be a little added incentive for him to play well this week. It’s now been a full five years since he won a major. The streak has to end sooner or later right? You’ve got to like his chances when the course won’t require much from the driver.

Webb Simpson
He’s the defending champ. Defending champs rarely contend at the U.S. Open. But he’s got a lot of experience at this course. Will that be an advantage that guides him to contention on Sunday? Maybe. But only four players in the last 100 years have won back-to-back so winning seems like a long shot.

Adam Scott
He’s playing with Tiger Woods in the first two rounds and he’s using Tiger’s old caddie. That’s reason enough to keep your eye on Scott. But he’s the current Masters champion and is the only guy in the field with a shot at the grand slam. He should be full of confidence and hasn’t missed a cut this year.

Rory McIlroy
He’ll be the third man in the group with Woods and Scott. He’s had a disappointing season so far and missed the cut last year but he’s got the talent to beat the best in the world by eight shots as we’ve seen him do twice. He may have to duel with Tiger for four straight days to get it done this week.

Matt Kuchar
If it wasn’t for Woods, he’d be leading the money list and the FedEx Cup Points list. He’s coming off a big win at Muirfield Village and he’s put himself on the short list of best players in the world. He has more top 10s than anyone over the last three years and two wins in 2013. All he needs now is a major championship.

Here’s a few more guys that could be worth watching.
Tim Clark – He hits it straight and is a great iron player.
Graeme McDowell – Leads the tour in driving accuracy and has won the U.S. Open before.
Steve Stricker – Unbelievable putter and short iron player and still looking for that first major.
Sergio Garcia – The rivalry with Tiger just won’t go away.
Lee Westwood – He’s running out of chances to finally win a major.

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.