June 11, 2013

Leave a Comment

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.

April 11, 2013

Leave a Comment

Contenders To Win at Augusta

By: Joe Williams

This is what we’ve been waiting eight months for. Golf’s first major championship of the season has begun and there are plenty of storylines happening in Augusta. Of course, the most important one is winning the green jacket come Sunday afternoon. Here are a few guys I’ll be paying attention to this week.

Could Steve Stricker's putting tips help Tiger Woods win the 2013 Masters?

Bubba Watson

One year ago, Bubba hit one of the greatest shots in Masters history on his way to claiming the green jacket. He’s become one of the biggest stars in golf. Don’t let the hot pink driver fool you…he hits it a ton and he loves to shape his shots. With that combination, he should have as good a shot as anyone this week. Can he defend his championship?

Tiger Woods

Really this should be a list of players to watch other than Tiger. If Woods is in the field, he’ll be the most watched player by far. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s won three times this year while nobody else has more than one. He back at the top of his game and back at the top of the world rankings. Will his major drought come to an end this week?

Dustin Johnson

Johnson has already won this year and finished T12 and T4 in his last two tournaments. His length will give him an advantage over just about everyone in the field. He will have to get on a hot streak with the putter and if he is in contention on Sunday, we’ll see if he can avoid the major mistake that has already cost him a couple majors in his short career.

Rory McIlroy

He nearly had the tournament won two years ago at the beginning of his rise to No. 1 in the world. He struggled and had confidence issues after making an equipment change but finished second last week, giving him some momentum heading into the season’s first major. Is it enough to handle the course that will penalize you for the slightest mistake?

Lee Westwood

He could be the best player that hasn’t won a major but he is running out of chances. He’s got three straight high finishes at Augusta and finished in the top 10 in Houston. He’s confident heading into the tournament but will he be able to sink the crucial putt down the stretch that he hasn’t made in all of his close calls?

Phil Mickelson

He says this is his favorite week of the year. He always seems to be in contention at Augusta. He has won three of the last seven Masters tournaments and could have made it four last year if it wasn’t for a couple “Phil the Thrill” moments that turned into two triple-bogeys.

A few others

Tianlang Guan: He’s 14. And he’s playing in the Masters.

Martin Laird: He won last week

Brandt Snedeker: 2nd on the money list and FedEx Cup Points list

T.J. Vogel: An amateur usually shows up on the leaderboard. Why not him?

March 11, 2013

Comments (6)

The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Tiger Woods wins 76th PGA Tour Event

Golfer Tiger Woods is off to a great start in 2013. Woods won his second event of the season this past weekend, dominating at the Cadillac Championship for his 76th PGA Tour victory. He kept all other players at least three strokes away on Sunday until the final hole when he picked up a bogey. Woods was victorious by two strokes over Steve Stricker on the final leaderboard. Thing is that while Woods is off the radar of many casual fans, his five wins in the past year are the most of any other golfer on the tour.  And while this isn’t a major, with the Masters on the minds of everyone, Woods should be considered a favorite by that time.

If the NBA regular season ended today the Lakers would be in the Playoffs.

Manny Ramirez to sign with Taiwan team

Manny Ramirez tried to get back into the majors in time for the 2013 season, but that doesn’t look like it will be happening. According to ESPN, Ramirez will sign with a team in Taiwan in the China Professional Baseball League. Ramirez last played a full season in 2010 with the Tampa Bay Rays, but has been out of the league since retiring in 2011 after violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy. Ramirez played winter ball this year and even put up solid numbers, but it wasn’t enough to convince an MLB team to take a chance on him. And at 40, Ramirez may have played his last game in the majors. If a team wasn’t willing to gamble on him with a spring training invite this year, he may not get another look.

Chicago Blackhawks finally lose

The Chicago Blackhawks were easily the most dominant team in hockey over the first half of the NHL season. The team went more than 20 straight games without a loss in regulation until the Colorado Avalanche defeated them 6-2 on Friday. The Blackhawks followed that up with a 6-5 loss to Edmonton on Sunday and have now lost two in a row. Chicago is one of the few teams in the league that excel on both sides of the ice. The Blackhawks rank 6th in scoring with just over three goals a game and are tied for the league lead in defense, giving up fewer than two goals per contest. Make no mistake about it – the Blackhawks will be a tough out in the playoffs. Even if the offense isn’t there on certain nights, their defense should be able to pick them up a bit.

Lakers among NBA’s hottest teams

Don’t look now, but the Los Angeles Lakers are moving up in the NBA’s Western Conference. Eight teams in the conference will make the playoffs and for much of the season, the Lakers have been on the outside looking in. But fast forward to this week, and L.A. would be in the eighth spot if the season ended today. At 8-2, Los Angeles is one of the league’s hottest teams. Unfortunately for them, so are many others in the west. The top five teams in the conference, the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, and Denver Nuggets, have all won at least seven games in their last ten contests. If the Lakers keep winning, they could conceivably move up a few more spots. But it will be difficult to overtake some of those top teams that are just playing so well right now.

15-20 Liberty makes NCAA Tournament

March Madness is officially here and what better way to kick things off than with a 15-20 team making the Big Dance? I give you Liberty. The Flames won the Big South title despite losing 20 games this season and promptly punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Liberty is only the second team with 20 losses to make the tourney. Now, I’m all for the little guys getting their moment in the sun, but these are the types of teams that make me question if there should be a minimum record to play in the tournament. I’m not quite sure a team that struggled all season long should be rewarded for winning a few games in a conference tournament and getting hot for a single week. While it’s going to be a great experience for Liberty players to go, a worthy major-conference team that’s been more consistent throughout the year will be sent off to the NIT.

February 19, 2013

Leave a Comment

WGC- Accenture Match Play Championship: February Madness

By: Tyler Vespa

The top 64 players in the world of golf will do battle in the only match play event of the season on the PGA Tour; it’s the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Can Steve Stricker become the third player to win this event multiple times?

The tournament format is set up into 4 brackets; The Sam Snead Bracket, The Gary Player Bracket, The Ben Hogan Bracket and The Bobby Jones Bracket. Each bracket contains 16 golfers. That means the top seed in each bracket plays the 16 seed in each bracket. The world’s number one player, Rory McIlroy will play the 64th player in the world and so forth. In other words, this is golf’s version of the NCAA Tournament. Every swing matters because it’s single elimination.

Coming in to play on February 20th at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain, McIlroy will have now been number one in the world for the last 7 months. He regained the top spot with his victory at the 2012 PGA Championship in Kiawah Island. The Northern Irishmen hasn’t teed it up since missing the cut earlier this year in Abu Dhabi.

The world number two, Tiger Woods also missed the cut in Abu Dhabi to start his year. However, he came back with a win a week later in his PGA Tour debut at Torrey Pines.

With the bracket not finalized, I’m a bit hesitant to deliver my predictions. I’ve filled out a bracket for this event for nearly 10 years, and each year it has been increasingly difficult.

So, I’m going to attempt to do it by process of elimination. Here it goes.

  1. The only man to win this event in back to back years is Tiger Woods. Goodbye Hunter Mahan.
  2. Only two men have won this event multiple times; Tiger Woods and Geoff Ogilvy. So sorry Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, David Toms and Steve Stricker.
  3. A player outside the top 20 in the world has won only once since 2003.
  4. World Number 4 Brandt Snedeker is out with a rib injury. World Number 10 Phil Mickelson is skipping the event.
  5. An American, an Australian, a Swede, an Englishmen and a Northern Irishmen are the only countries to have had a winner.
  6. Since the course was changed from La Costa Resort and Spa in California to the Golf Club at Dover Mountain (as its now called) in 2007 the United States and England are the only countries to have had multiple winners.
  7. Again, since the course made that change, there’s never been an American against an Englishmen in the final match.
  8. Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson are the only Americans left who have already posted a win in 2013.
  9. Final: Tiger Woods 3&2 over Dustin Johnson

Well that was interesting. I guess a little madness goes a long way. With the win, Tiger Woods will have come a long way to dethrone McIlroy as world number 1.

January 15, 2013

Leave a Comment

What I Will Remember About 2012 – Part 2

By: Joe Williams

Every year we see things we never thought we would and things we never want to see again. We see everything from the incredible to the inspiring to the sad and hilarious. Here’s what I will remember about 2012.

To read part one, click here.

July 23 – Penn State became the first school to receive NCAA sanctions because of criminal matters that did not directly deal with breaking NCAA rules. The penalties included a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on postseason play, a reduction of scholarships for the next four years and the vacating of all victories from 1998-2011.

July 31 – Michael Phelps won his 19th Olympic medal, making him the most decorated Olympian ever.

July 31 – The Fierce Five, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, won gold at the London Olympic Games.

August 2 – Gabby Douglas became the first African-American woman to win the individual all-around competition.

August 5 – Andy Murray bounces back from losing to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final to beat Federer and win the gold medal in front of his home country. He broke through again a month later, winning his first major title at the U.S. Open.

Miguel Cabrera winning baseball's Triple Crown is one of the biggest stories of 2012.

August 9 – Usain Bolt made his claim as the greatest sprinter ever by becoming the first man ever to defend his golds in both the 100m and 200m races.

August 9 – Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and the U.S. women’s soccer team won Olympic gold after a controversial semifinal against Canada and then getting revenge against Japan in the final after the shootout that ended the Women’s World Cup in 2011.

August 10 – The “Dwightmare” finally came to an end when Dwight Howard was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers after months and months of indecision about where he wanted to play and who he wanted to play with.

August 12 – Rory McIlroy wins the PGA Championship. He would follow that with two more wins heading into the Tour Championship and cement himself as the top player in the game.

August 15 – Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game against the Rays and the Mariners won 1-0.

September 7 – In the midst of a pennant race and against his wishes, the Washington Nationals shut down their superstar pitcher Stephan Strasburg after 159 1/3 innings. The Nationals would go on to win the NL East and then lose in the NLDS in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

September 15 – The NHL labor dispute officially becomes a lockout.

September 24 – The Replacement refs fiasco came to a head on the final play of the Green Bay/Seattle Monday Night Football game. When the officials turned what sure looked to be an interception and a Green Bay win into a touchdown and a Seattle win, the NFL had no choice to settle the dispute with the regular officials.

September 30 – Team U.S.A. chokes the Ryder Cup away, blowing a 10-6 lead on the final day at Medinah. Justin Rose and Ian Poulter led the charge for Europe while Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk dropped critical 1-Up matches. The comeback almost didn’t happen when Rory McIlroy looked at his tee time in Eastern Time instead of Central time and needed a police escort to arrive at the course with just 10 minutes to spare.

October 3 – Miguel Cabrera goes 0-2 in the Detroit Tigers’ 1-0 win over Kansas City in the regular season finale but still manages to be the first player in 45 years to win the Triple Crown, finishing the season with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. He would be name the American League MVP.

October 10 – New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulls Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the ALDS. Raul Ibanez took A-Rod’s place and homered to send the game to extra innings. Ibanez did it again in the 12th inning, giving the Yankees the win.

October 13 – Notre Dame comes up with a goal-line stand, stopping Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor on fourth-and-goal and then survives a controversial replay review to beat Stanford 20-13 in overtime to remain undefeated.

October 13 – The St. Louis Cardinals scored four runs in the ninth inning to stun the Washington Nationals and advance to the NLCS.

October 15 – Trailing 24-0 at halftime in San Diego and staring a 2-4 record in the face, the Denver Broncos score 35 unanswered second-half points to beat the Chargers 35-24 and improve to 3-3. They would not lose again in the regular season and finish with the best record in the AFC.

October 25 – Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series on his way to earning the World Series MVP award.

October 28 – The San Francisco Giants completed an improbable run to a second World Series win in two years and did it after trailing 2-0 in a best-of-5 series against Cincinnati and then falling behind 3-1 to St. Louis in the NLCS

November 10 – Texas A&M upsets No. 1 Alabama 29-24, led by its redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel. It was a springboard for Manziel as he led the Aggies to an 11-2 record in their first season in the SEC, a win in the Cotton Bowl and became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.

November 17 – Undefeated Kansas State and Oregon both go down and lose their shot to play for the BCS National Championship. Baylor beat the Wildcats 52-24 and Stanford knocked off the Ducks 17-14 in overtime.

November 21 – Jack Taylor, guard at Grinnell College (Division III), scored an NCAA-record 138 points against Faith Baptist Bible College.

November 22 – Two words…Butt Fumble.

December 1 – Georgia came up five yards short of scoring the game-winning touchdown against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. Alabama hung on for a 32-28 win and a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

December 8 – Appalachian State’s Brian Okam quickly became known for the worst free throw ever after a video of his miss went viral.

December 16 – Tom Brady leads the Patriots on a furious rally after falling behind 31-3 against the 49ers. After the game was tied at 34, San Francisco retook the lead and won 41-34.

December 30 – Adrian Peterson runs for 199 yards against the Green Bay Packers after already eclipsing 200 yards twice this season, but he came up a mere nine yards short of the single-season rushing record.