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 13, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Tiger Woods wins The Players Championship – Tiger Woods won his fourth tournament of the year on Sunday when he captured The Players Championship. The event went down to the wire as Woods held off Sergio Garcia and David Lingmerth. Lingmerth missed a long birdie putt that would have sent it to a playoff, but it was Garcia and Woods who were the hot topic of discussion over the weekend. Garcia claimed Woods removed a club from his bag, which drew a roar from the crowd during his backswing, causing him to hit an errant shot. He and Tiger had a verbal back-and-forth spat through the media about the incident and the intensity increased as both were in contention on Sunday. But Garcia, tied for the lead at the time, hit an incredible three shots into the water on the 17th and 18th hole, and completely fell apart. His two gaffes on No. 17, gave him a quadruple-bogey, ending his chances of winning the title. The two have a long history of disagreements and this will only make any future pairings that much more uncomfortable.

Off to a 1-5 start, Strasburg is off to a slower start than many expected.

Phil Jackson reportedly says ‘No’ to New Jersey – Even though no one has been successful to date, that hasn’t stopped a steady stream of NBA teams in pursuit of the services of coaching legend, Phil Jackson. Jackson has been chased by a number of suitors but hasn’t been intrigued enough to take on his next challenge yet. Word is that he is seeking either a coaching job with some control over personnel decisions or a front office job in more of an administrative role. Jackson will only take the right job at this stage in his career. He’s obviously not hurting for money and his legacy is firmly intact. But my guess is we’ll see him back in some capacity down the line. The coach is already involved to a degree, reportedly helping the Detroit Pistons with their head coaching search after they dismissed Lawrence Frank.

Stephen Strasburg drops to 1-5 after another loss – The Washington Nationals’ ace Stephen Strasburg got off to a quality start this year with an Opening Day victory, but he hasn’t gotten into the win column since then. The starter is 1-5 on the season and lost another game this weekend against the Chicago Cubs. But if you’re ready to write Strasburg off, you’ll want to think again. He gave up four runs in that game, but none were earned due to an error. Strasburg’s ERA is still a more-than-respectable 3.10 and his 51 strikeouts placed him in a tie for seventh in the National League after the game. His biggest problem has been getting offense out of the rest of the team. In six of his eight starts, Washington has scored two runs or less. The Nats have given him only 2.25 runs per game and that’s not much to work with. As long as Strasburg keeps pitching well, though, the wins will come.

Kobe Bryant could battle mom in court – You read that correctly: the Mamba and his mother could head to court over some of the star’s memorabilia from his high school days and early years in the NBA. The “Cliffs Notes” version of the bizarre story is that the items (including jerseys, awards, autographed memorabilia, and more) have been at his mother’s house and that she moved them to storage to convert Bryant’s old bedroom into a playroom for her grandchildren. Somewhere along the way, she made a deal with an auction house to sell Bryant’s old belongings and received a $450,000 advance on the items, which were appraised at $1.5 million. She claimed that Bryant gave her permission to do what she wanted with the items, but the player says that’s not true. I don’t even know where to go with this – going to court with your parents isn’t an option most of us can fathom. The auction has been delayed recently by a court, so hopefully some degree of common sense can be restored.

Rumors of an ACC Network heating up – The Atlantic Coast Conference hopes to make a splash with a television deal, similar to the Big Ten Network, according to recent reports. The conference already has a deal with ESPN to broadcast games that will pay each ACC school $13 million to $17 million. But now the conference has its sights set on a separate ACC Network. That network could air football games not picked up by ESPN, games from low-revenue sports, and other conference content. The deal isn’t done, but it’s believed it would add millions more to member schools. To be honest, I’m surprised other conferences haven’t already gone that route. Getting cable companies to make the package readily available may not be the easiest thing to do, since it would represent an increased amount they need to charge customers. But in the end, all of the major conferences will likely have their own network at some point since there’s too much money to be made.

New Rutgers’ basketball coach Eddie Jordan reportedly without degree – Eddie Jordan was hired to take over the head coaching duties for the men’s basketball program after embattled Mike Rice was dismissed. But last week, a new twist emerged when it was learned that Jordan may not actually have graduated. The university says a degree is not required for the position, but the problem is that the school’s official bio for Jordan says that he possesses one. Jordan, for his part, reportedly took classes at Rutgers from 1973 to 1985 and claims that he didn’t get a diploma because he wasn’t registered properly. But that’s a pretty vague statement and it’s not yet known if Jordan deceived administrators when he pursued the job. One thing’s for certain – regarding all of the hiring flaps over the years with resume errors, it’s a bit odd that schools aren’t yet at the point where they’re fact-checking background information a bit more thoroughly.

March 26, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Sweet 16 set in the NCAA Tournament: The first week of the NCAA Tournament is complete and, as usual, there were a fair share of big upsets. The big ones in the first round were tiny Florida Gulf Coast shocking the world by beating No. 2 seeded Georgetown and No. 3 seed New Mexico being ousted by Harvard. Lots will be made about some of those weaker teams being underseeded, but the fact is that if you played the tournament a dozen times, you might have a dozen different champions. Any team is capable of losing on any given night and if a team like Florida Gulf Coast played Georgetown ten times, it’s difficult to believe they’d win the majority of those games. But that’s the beauty of March.

Brian Urlacher appears to be on his way out of Chicago.

Brian Urlacher leaving Chicago: A bit of a surprise in NFL free agency was that the Chicago Bears didn’t re-sign longtime linebacker Brian Urlacher. Urlacher, a mainstay on the team for the past 13 years, couldn’t come to terms with the team. He had come down considerably from his initial asking price for the 2013 season, but that still wasn’t enough to get the Bears to move from their $2 million offer, as reported by ESPN. Reportedly, his agent has already talked with the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and Arizona Cardinals. Now at 35, Urlacher is surely slowing down – his tackles have dropped each of the past two seasons. But the bet here is that some team will take a chance on him. With no other options, his asking price may have to come down, though.

Denver Nuggets dominating with 15-game winning streak: With everyone focused on the Miami Heat’s remarkable streak, the Denver Nuggets have gone under the radar. The Nuggets won their 15th straight game this past weekend, beating Sacramento on Saturday. As a result, Denver has soared up to the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, passing the Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies in the process. The Nuggets have been winning this year on youth and depth. The team has only three players over the age of 25 and only one of those, Andre Miller, is over 30. Also, nine players average more than eight points a game, but none average more than 17. With so much youth and balance, if the Nuggets keep their core together, this is a franchise that could compete for years to come.

Hanley Ramirez out for two months: The Dodgers got some bad news with Opening Day just around the corner. Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez had a torn ligament in his thumb and required surgery last week. Because of it, Ramirez will miss about eight weeks recovering. That’s a tough break for the Dodgers, who picked him up in a trade last season. In 2012 splitting time with the Dodgers and Marlins, Ramirez hit 24 home runs and drove in 92 runs, having one of his best offensive seasons of his career. Not having him until close to May could mean the Dodgers get off to a slow start.

Sergio Garcia hits golf ball … from tree: The final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational was on Sunday. You might assume that the real news was that the event was suspended due to weather, but you’d be wrong. The big highlight came from Sergio Garcia hitting a golf ball while atop a tree branch. Don’t believe me? Here’s the video. Whatever your interest level is in golf, there’s no denying that shots like these make it interesting. Still, I’m not sure Garcia’s move was all that wise. A slip of the foot could have meant a nasty fall and possibly even an end to his season. Not to mention that Garcia double-bogeyed the hole anyway and later withdrew. Still, if we’re going by entertainment value, this one’s a ten all the way. And as a spectator, I’d much rather see Garcia take a gamble like that.

U.S. Soccer wins match over Costa Rica despite snow protest: You read that right. The U.S. Soccer team defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in the qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in the snow in Denver. Costa Rica protested during the match and also filed a formal protest immediately afterwards. Typically, this is where I’d say that both teams had equal playing conditions so Costa Rica should suck it up. But I also understand the point in protesting. Soccer isn’t like, pardon the pun, (American) football where snow is considered as a part of the playing conditions. When you think of soccer, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For most of us, it’s not white stuff falling to the ground. I don’t mind a match being played if it’s a little bit of snow, but the field was covered to the point where Costa Rican players were complaining that they couldn’t even adequately see the lines. Keep in mind, this is also the qualifying for the World Cup – it’s not a meaningless preseason MLB game. With so much at stake, postponing the game would have made more sense. Similarly hilarious is the fact that a qualifying match was even scheduled in Denver when there’s always a chance of spring snow.

July 12, 2011

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British Open Preview

By: Joe Williams

It’s British Open week, which means you’ll need a 4 a.m. wake-up call if you don’t want to miss any of the action. In most of the world, this is the biggest tournament of the year. It is probably even truer this year with European players holding the top four spots in the world rankings and all the major championships. This tournament is historically the most wide-open of the majors so you never know who will win, but here are a few things to keep in mind.

He’s back

No, not Tiger. Rory McIlroy will tee it up for the first time since his dominating performance at the U.S. Open last month. His Tiger-esque victory at Congressional has the golf world crowning him as the next Tiger Woods. If not for an awful Sunday at Augusta, he could be halfway to a Rory-Slam.

No Tiger

Speaking of Tiger, we don’t know when Woods will return. We know it won’t be this week. He announced on his website that he will not play, but made no mention of when he expected to return. He hasn’t played in months so even if his body has healed, his game may not be ready by next month’s PGA Championship.

Not playing

Several other names you may recognize will not be in the field this week. Frenchman, Thomas Levet earned himself a spot in the Open Championship by winning the French Open. He was injured when he jumped into a lake to celebrate his win and will not play. Vijay Singh and David Toms have also had to withdraw because of injuries. Colin Montgomery failed to qualify for the first time since 1989.

The course

Royal St Georges is not easy. Open Championship winners have finished under par at Royal St Georges just three times. It will play as a par 70 at over 7200 yards from the back tees, a bit longer than 2003 when Ben Curtis won with a total score of 283. Then again, 10 years earlier, Greg Norman won with four rounds in the 60s. Many players have ranked it at the bottom of the courses in the British Open rotation. As always, the weather will factor mightily into how the course plays.

If not Rory, then who

McIlroy is the favorite, but who else could be holding the Claret Jug on Sunday? Phil Mickelson is always one to watch despite his poor record in the British Open. He has just one career top 10 finish. Luke Donald is the No. 1 ranked player in the world and looking for his first major championship win. Lee Westwood has five top-three finishes in the last seven majors. Is this his time? Jason Day finished second at the Masters and the U.S. Open. He’d like to improve by one spot this week.

My pick

Once in a while someone comes from out of nowhere to win this championship, so what about Sergio Garcia? Here’s a guy who has been out of the spotlight for a while and has been playing well.