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Monday, August 13, 2012

Tiger Still Taking Weekends Off

The one song you won’t find on Tiger Woods iPod, “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend” by Loverboy. If you’re not familiar with the 80’s hit by the Canadian band, the song speaks of taking care of business during the week so you can have a great time on Saturday and Sunday. Having fun on the weekend is the last thing that’s been taking place for Woods this year at least as far as major golf tournaments are concerned. How bad has it been, or how bad has Tiger been? On the first two days of the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship combined this golf season, Woods is a combined -8 under par. That’s the stuff championships are made of. Make the cut, get yourself established high on the leaderboard and possibly lead the tourney after 36 holes. From there, pull away a little on moving day and then on Sunday when everyone else falls by the wayside, seal the deal with a few clutch putts and finish off a major by knocking down a couple of jaw-dropping birdies. That was the old Tiger. This Tiger however, has suddenly forgotten how to execute when it really counts. Over the course of the final two days of all the four majors combined in 2012, Tiger is an astounding +15 over par. Now, Woods has never been known as a come from behind champion. As a matter of fact, Tiger has always at the least, shared the lead after 54 holes, in all of the 14 majors he has won. That means his Thursday and Friday play is usually impressive to just get to that point. In three of the four majors this season, Tiger has been in serious contention after 36 holes, leading twice. That was the case in this past weekend’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. Woods was tied with both Vijay Singh and Carl Pettersson at -4 under par heading into Saturday’s action. But after shooting a 75 at the U.S. Open and then a 74 in round three of the PGA Championship, Woods gave himself too much ground to make up on both Sundays, never challenging over the course of the final 18 holes in either event. He finished tied for 11th in the final major of the year, going winless in 2012. So how the world is it that Tiger Woods suddenly does not know how to set himself up on Saturday and close out on Sunday? Well according to Woods, “I was trying to enjoy it, enjoy the process of it,” Woods told (meaning his Saturday round of two over par). “But that’s not how I play. I play full systems go, all out, intense, and that’s how I won 14 of these things. That’s something I rectified and I played a lot better because of it”. (Talking about his round of 72 on Sunday.) But the damage was done as he started the final round five shots back of eventual champion Rory McIlroy. When the 23-year-old player from Northern Ireland scorched his way to a final round 66, Tiger was never a factor, finishing 11 shots back. Part of the problem for Tiger continues to be his putting. After knocking down putt after putt in the first two rounds, he managed just five birdies over the weekend. So another full season of majors is in the books as Tiger’s winless streak of the only tournaments that really matter is now up to 18 majors, counting the fact he didn’t play in four of those due to injury. At 36 years old, the question on whether or not Woods will surpass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 career major victories has now become serious! Tiger Woods pressing too much in the final 36 holes of a major? That was never the case earlier in Tiger’s career but that was also before his cheating scandal rocked his world and the golf world in general. While Tiger has brought his game back to win three tournaments this season after a drought of a couple of years, he is far from the dominant player of the past, that was working for the weekend and enjoying it because he won. With three shots to retake that form in 2012 and coming up short in each attempt, one can only assume the presser heading into the 2013 season will only mount. Woods ineptness of weekend play in majors this year marks the first time of his career he’s failed to at least break par once. Whether or not it is a distinct sign of decline will only be told by Woods play in future Masters, U.S. Opens, British Opens and PGA Championships. But the race to catch Jack is now reaching a critical stage with another season of majors in the books and nothing to show for it by weekends end.

Monday, August 6, 2012

London Struck By Bolt of Lightning

While there may have been doubt from others, all the naysayers after the Jamaican National meet; there was never a strain in confidence from the world’s fastest man. Usain Bolt restated what has always been his creed during recent track history. “I’ve said over the years, that when it comes to the championships, this is what I do”. “It’s all about business for me.” Handling business is exactly what the 25-year-old defending Olympic 100 meter champion did on Sunday in London. At the halfway mark of the game’s premier event, Bolt turned up the juice to capture his second consecutive gold medal going away in a time of 9.63 seconds, a new Olympic record! The victory allows Bolt to join the elite status of only the great Carl Lewis as the only men with consecutive Olympic gold medals in the 100 meters. As he took a victory lap in only the way the Jamaican superstar can, with his right index finger lifted in the air showing his number one status, Bolt received high fives from enthusiastic fans in the front rows, eventually stopping to give his now famous lightning bolt pose. The easy and convincing win, by .12 seconds or two full strides, backed up the first stage of Bolt’s coming out party from Beijing four years ago. In China, the 6-foot-5 physical specimen blew up the track and field world by taking gold in the world record times in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay, something no man had ever done at an Olympics. He later backed that performance with a new world mark in the 100 of 9.58 at the next year’s world championships. But then came a dip in his prime, a chink in the armor of the Superman of sprint events. A series of minor injuries to his back and legs helped spring a series of defeats, aiding talks of his demise. In 2010 he lost to American Tyson Gay. A false start disqualified Bolt from the 100 meters in last year’s world championships as teammate Yohan Blake stepped to the forefront. Then came this year’s Jamaican Olympic qualifying meet where Blake once again dealt Bolt a power shortage, upsetting him in both the 100 and 200 meters. But when the lights came on in the race that really counts, the superstar re-emerged. Showing no signs of fear or concern, Bolt was as flamboyant as ever before entering the starting blocks, playing to the crowd and flashing a million dollar smile to the live camera, which proved to be pre-courser of things to come. The victory however is just the first part of what could be a London performance that forever cements his legacy as the greatest sprinter to ever grace the surface of the planet. The 200 meters now waits with heat races beginning on Tuesday. Then the team 4x100 and possibly even a run with his teammates in the 4x400. Should Bolt strike more gold in all of these events he will surpass all of the previous greats, even Lewis in dominance. He of course won ten medals including nine gold; over three separate Olympic Games, with back to back gold medals in the 100 in Los Angeles and Seoul but only after Canada’s Ben Johnson was stripped of his medal after failing a drug test. Three or four gold medals will also eclipse the biggest stories of the games to date in Michael Phelps career mark of 22 medals over three games and the emergence of American Gabby Douglas stunning win of the gymnastics all-around competition in London. Without a doubt the showmanship, the confidence and playfulness make Bolt the most intriguing attraction of the games. He sucks the spotlight in like a black hole and uses the electricity created from the attention to power his way to dominance and standards never seen before on the Olympic stage in track and field.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Does the US Need an Attitude Adjustment?

Perhaps the US Olympic Team was a bit overconfident going into the 2012 games as there was no shortage of pre-games hype for almost all of the team sports, as well as individual swimmers and track participants. Now, I know it’s early but the first few days may be a harbinger of things to come as we’ve seen some of the “go to guys” not deliver right off the bat as Ryan Lochte got gunned down from behind in the final of the 4 X 100 (left off the podium in 200-free) and Phelps had the same done to him in the 200 individual. The men’s gymnastics didn’t show up for the team competition and were left off the podium. The women’s volleyball and beach volleyball are ranked the best in the world and seem to enforce their will early but then let the opponents back in the match only to pull away in the end. Even Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh have dropped their first set in Olympic competition . Men’s hoops hasn’t played a good first quarter since a practice game against Argentina before they arrived in London. Of course there is plenty of time to tighten things up but one has to be concerned with the apparent absence of a sense of urgency which may be the symptom of the less than expected results.
View the current medal count standings here.

Is this a matter of everyone reading their own headlines or is it the pressure that comes with the realization that this country loves a winner, and ONLY a winner, so the endorsements only come when preceded by a gold medal? In any case, after the first week the US is slightly behind in total weight but much more in precious medal. If they’re going to pick up more Gold then then it first needs to change between the ears before it can translate to the pool, court, sand, or the field.

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