June 17, 2013

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The Week In Sports

By: Anson Whaley

Justin Rose wins U.S. Open: Justin Rose capped off a spectacular Sunday of golf winning the U.S. Open (+1) for his first major championship. He became the first British golfer to win the title since 1970 when Tony Jacklin did it. Just as big of a story was Phil Mickelson finishing as the bridesmaid yet again, as he finished in a tie for second at +3 with Jason Day. Mickelson’s eighth 2nd place finish ties him with Sam Snead, Greg Norman, and Tom Watson for the third most runner-ups in majors history. Jack Nicklaus leads the way in that category with 19.

Alex Ovechkin was the winner of this year's Hart Trophy over the weekend.

San Antonio Spurs take 3-2 series lead over Miami Heat: The San Antonio Spurs took a 3-2 series lead over the Miami Heat by way of their Game 5 win on Sunday night. That puts the Spurs in position to win a fifth ring for future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan … but it won’t be easy. San Antonio still needs to win one out of two games in Miami and the Heat just don’t lose very much at home. And with an NBA title on the line, you can bet the fans won’t be easy on the road team.

Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins tied 1-1 in Stanley Cup Finals: The NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals are tied at a game apiece with two exciting contests thus far. Andrew Shaw scored a goal in the third overtime of the Game 1 thriller to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 win. The Bruins won Game 2 in overtime behind Daniel Paille’s third goal. Even if you’re not a good hockey fan, two overtime games already should make you want to watch the rest of the series.

Chad Ochocinco Johnson heads to jail: Chad Johnson caught a break in his no-contest plea to battery charges against his then-wife when a court was ready to give him a community service/counseling deal to avoid jail time. But when Johnson smacked the butt of his attorney at excitement over the deal … well, let’s just say the judge wasn’t impressed. Judge Kathleen McHugh told Johnson it wasn’t a joke and promptly rejected his plea deal, sentencing him to 30 days in jail. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Seriously, though – what was Johnson thinking? I can understand being happy at the prospect of not heading to the clink, but he clearly should have showed a bit more restraint until he got out of the court.

Alex Ovechkin wins Hart Trophy: The Washington CapitalsAlex Ovechkin took home his third Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP over the weekend. The winger is only the eighth player in league history to win that many. Other players such as John Tavares and Sidney Crosby were also deserving, but Ovechin led the league with 32 goals and did so in a season where he moved to wing.

Tim Tebow signed by Patriots: The New England Patriots made a bit of a splash last week when they announced the signing of quarterback Tim Tebow. I don’t question that coaching guru Bill Belichick can find a way to utilize him in some way. What is surprising is that New England would bring him in with what should be a minimal impact. Unlike in New York, Tebow isn’t being brought in to challenge starter Tom Brady. So unless Brady goes down with an injury, Tebow’s impact at the position would be small. The talk is already about making Tebow a receiver or part of offensive packages as a skill player, but will he really be such an offensive difference-maker that it will make it worth all of the added attention and scrutiny of the team? Not likely.

Jason Kidd hired as Nets’ head coach: Last week I mentioned the possibility of the recently retired Jason Kidd becoming the Brooklyn Nets new coach. The Nets, who hadn’t previously had Kidd in mind, were convinced after his agent reached out to them and Kidd was hired last week. My opinion hasn’t really changed on this – a team with expectations so high shouldn’t be hiring a rookie head coach. He was a great player, but other greats such as Elgin Baylor, Magic Johnson, and Wes Unseld didn’t exactly make a successful transition from player to coach.

Dwight Howard and Chris Paul teammates?: ESPN reported last week that free agents Dwight Howard and Chris Paul may be exploring options to end up on the same team together. This move, of course, isn’t unprecedented with several players doing this in the past, including the Miami Heat’s ‘Big Three’ of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Howard and Paul are rumored to desire to play for the Los Angeles Clippers, but that would require a few things to happen. The team doesn’t have the cap space to sign Howard, so they’d need to do a sign and trade for him. And chances are that Blake Griffin would need to be included in such a deal.

Hall of Famer Lem Barney says football will soon end: Speaking at a football academy, Pro Football Hall of Famer Lem Barney declared that the game of football will end in 10-20 years because it is too dangerous. Barney’s not the only one to voice such an opinion with all of the talk of concussions lately, but I’m not sure the game ends anytime soon. After all – a sport like boxing where athletes take repeated shots to the head still exists. And when you consider that football is the most popular sport in the country, the guess here is that football continues to implement more safety measures rather than shut down entirely.

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.

June 12, 2012

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Players to watch at the U.S. Open

By: Joe Williams

The field for the national championship has been narrowed down from hundreds 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:

Steve Stricker
Stricker is one of the best putters in the world still looking for his first major championship. His game seems like a good fit for a U.S. Open but the results haven’t been there with only one top 10 in his past six starts.

Could Steve Stricker win his first major championship this weekend?

Phil Mickelson
He’s done everything but win the U.S. Open, including finishing second five times. After pulling out of Jack’s tournament after one round, has he had enough time to recover from his mental fatigue.

Louis Oosthuizen
Louis seems to play his best in the biggest events. He lost a playoff at the Masters in April. Can he finish the job this week?

Dustin Johnson
With his win on Sunday, Johnson became the first player since Tiger Woods to win in each of his first five years on the PGA Tour after college. Now he will try to do something even Woods has never done and that’s win the U.S. Open after winning the previous week.

Sergio Garcia
After the Masters, Garcia said he isn’t good enough to win a major. He’s talked the talk. Now we’ll see if he can walk the walk.

Rory McIlroy
Rory was in prime position to win Sunday at St. Jude and put his tee shot into the water on 18, sinking his chances. It reminded me of the shot he hit at Augusta that led to his demise in the final round of the 2011 Masters. He bounced back from that to lap the field at the U.S. Open. Can he do that again and successfully defend his title?

Lee Westwood
Here’s another guy coming off of a win. He won the Nordea Masters in Sweden by five shots on Saturday. Off all the guys in the “best player to never win a major” discussion he’s come the closest the most often with seven top 10’s in his last 10 majors. Is it his time?

Jason Dufner
He’s the current leader on the PGA Tour money list and at the top of the FEDEX Cup points list. It’s already been a fantastic year but he would love to redeem himself after failing to close the deal at last year’s PGA Championship.

Hunter Mahan
He’s as good a driver as there is. That’s a big advantage in a major and especially the U.S. Open.

Casey Martin
You don’t remember him? He’s the guy who successfully sued for the right to ride in a cart because of his health disorder in his leg in 1998. Now the golf coach at the University of Oregon, he’s back in the U.S. Open at Olympic Club. Will he contend? Unlikely. Will he be one of the top stories? Undoubtedly.

Tiger Woods
Can’t leave him off the list. He comes in as the favorite after a dramatic win at the Memorial. He will be the first name everyone looks for on the leaderboard. Maybe now we will find out if he really is back.

Bubba Watson
Bubba is the only man in the field with a shot at the Grand Slam. It’s never too early to get the hype started. He’s already got a big following and if he wins this week after playing the first two rounds with Tiger and Phil, watch out.