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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Rose is Better Late Than Never

Although its been forty-three years since the United States National Champion was Englishman and seventeen years since a Brit has won a major golf championship, Justin Rose’s two-stroke win at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania is still just as sweet. US fans of Phil Mickelson might call it an aberration but even if it wasn’t for Rose, Jason Day would have been there to raise the flag for Australia. In either case it was consistent play or rather the consistency of non-errors that made the difference Sunday, as challenger after challenger fell prey to the ‘tough but not difficult’ course that was supposed to be scored on early and often, needless to say when the winner shoots a one-over par to win a major tournament that wasn’t the case. In fact some PGA officials are still in the clubhouse wondering when that’s going to happen. In fact, Merion played so tough that of the top nine finishers (4 players tied for the 10th spot) only two shot sub-par rounds and Rose was even for the day and won by two strokes. Even coming in at a par-70 was no easy feat as Rose’s card was a bit of a roller coaster as during a five hole stretch on the front nine he oscillated from bogey to birdie and again over a four hole stretch on the back nine to end up flat over the nine holes total before another bogey on 16 put the match back in play. However Rose persisted to par the remaining two holes as opposed to Day who bogeyed 18 in an attempt to score red and give himself a chance at a win, and Mickelson show bogeyed three of the final six holes en route to a disastrous +4 to almost drop off the first page all together. The win represents Rose’s first win of the year (9 events) an immediately boost his ranking to 5th in the world and earnings to close to 4 million Euro for the year. “What a day, I just kept telling myself that bogeys is what everyone was doing," he said. "You just have to finish them. I had two good swings up 18 even though it trickled off the edge, but I was happy to get up and down. "I don't know what to say, I'm thrilled," added Rose, who revealed he took huge encouragement from a text message from Adam Scott, who made his major breakthrough at the Masters. What he can say is that he is the US Open Champion, and the holder of the first major for an Englishman since the Beatles held the top of the charts in the US.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rose is Better Late Than Never

Although its been forty-three years since the United States National Champion was Englishman and seventeen years since a Brit has won a major golf championship, Justin Rose’s two-stroke win at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania is still just as sweet. US fans of Phil Mickelson might call it an aberration but even if it wasn’t for Rose, Jason Day would have been there to raise the flag for Australia. In either case it was consistent play or rather the consistency of non-errors that made the difference Sunday, as challenger after challenger fell prey to the ‘tough but not difficult’ course that was supposed to be scored on early and often, needless to say when the winner shoots a one-over par to win a major tournament that wasn’t the case. In fact some PGA officials are still in the clubhouse wondering when that’s going to happen. In fact, Merion played so tough that of the top nine finishers (4 players tied for the 10th spot) only two shot sub-par rounds and Rose was even for the day and won by two strokes. Even coming in at a par-70 was no easy feat as Rose’s card was a bit of a roller coaster as during a five hole stretch on the front nine he oscillated from bogey to birdie and again over a four hole stretch on the back nine to end up flat over the nine holes total before another bogey on 16 put the match back in play. However Rose persisted to par the remaining two holes as opposed to Day who bogeyed 18 in an attempt to score red and give himself a chance at a win, and Mickelson show bogeyed three of the final six holes en route to a disastrous +4 to almost drop off the first page all together. The win represents Rose’s first win of the year (9 events) an immediately boost his ranking to 5th in the world and earnings to close to 4 million Euro for the year. “What a day, I just kept telling myself that bogeys is what everyone was doing," he said. "You just have to finish them. I had two good swings up 18 even though it trickled off the edge, but I was happy to get up and down. "I don't know what to say, I'm thrilled," added Rose, who revealed he took huge encouragement from a text message from Adam Scott, who made his major breakthrough at the Masters. What he can say is that he is the US Open Champion, and the holder of the first major for an Englishman since the Beatles held the top of the charts in the US.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

U.S. Open: Major moments await Merion

Mother Nature has already picked sides for the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club outside of Philadelphia and it’s not favoring the 6,996 yard Ardmore, Pa. course. She made her opening statement on Saturday dumping 31/2 inches of rain with more coming on Monday and is still expected to make more saturation during the first round on Thursday dropping rain drop, after rain drop. The pre-tourney weekend was so bad; the 11th hole was ruled off limits for practice rounds that were twice suspended. More than an inch of water came down to start the week and with more in the forecast, a soft golf course with low scores is in the making. Players who are on their games will be rewarded with a bucket full of birdie attempts, in an Open where par-4’s, rule the week. The main defense Merion still possesses however is a flush rough so thick off the fairways, Bigfoot would be proud! Reigning Open Champion Ernie Els stated, “You start missing some shots, the rough is as bad as I’ve ever seen it. If you hit it in the rough here, you’re just advancing it 120 yards, 140 yards, most of the time. That’s still very penal.” One group that should get to stand back and take mental notes on how to deal with Thursday’s anticipated precipitation, is the group all eyes will be on in the opening round. Tiger Woods, of course the World’s top ranked player, Masters Champion Adam Scott, ranked No. 3 in the world and Rory McIlroy the world’s No. 2 player are all paired together for Thursday and Friday’s action teeing off at 1:14 Eastern time, on the East Course. This will give them a slight advantage to gauge the soggy conditions and adjust accordingly in their warm-ups. For Scott, with his first major title now under his belt, the first two rounds won’t be his first super-pairing in a major. In 2008, Scott played with Woods and Phil Mickelson at Torrey Pines in the opening rounds of the U.S. Open. He was also ranked third in the world at the time. He reminisced about the pressure he faced on that Thursday and Friday, which happened to be the last major title Woods has won. “I think anyone would have felt like the third wheel that week. Obviously Tiger and Phil, it was so much to talk about with it being Phil’s hometown and Tiger dominating at Torrey for years and it was a great pairing. It was an experience that I’ll never forget. I’ve never seen that many people on a Thursday morning first tee. It was a great atmosphere”, he told ESPN.com. While Tiger is still on the hunt for that first win since his dramatic Torrey Pines victory virtually on one-leg due to a torn ACL, dealing with the Sergio Garcia controversy is something he plans on avoiding altogether. Garcia approached Woods on the driving range Monday and the two shook hands but a ‘hi’ from the Spaniard was all that was exchanged between the two players. Some believed Garcia attempted to set up another time to speak with Woods but that wasn’t the case. “No, we didn’t discuss anything. He just came up and ‘Hi’ and that was it”, Woods told a news conference crowd on Tuesday. Asked if Garcia apologized, Woods said: “It’s already done. We’ve already gone through it all. It’s time for the U.S. Open and we tee it up in two days. Garcia was jokingly asked on May 21 if he would have dinner with Woods this week at the U.S. Open after their controversy from the third round of the Players Championship. In a very bad attempt at humor, Sergio replied: “We’ll have him round every night. We will serve fried chicken.” Tiger of course did not take kindly to the remarks but has dropped the incident to focus on a possible fourth U.S. Open victory. Tiger however is coming off one of the worst performances of his professional career, where he tied for 65th at the Memorial two weeks ago, a tourney he’d won five times. But once again you have to give Tiger an edge because he did come to Merion two weeks ago before the Memorial and played in the rain to help him prepare for this week. “When I came up on Tuesday of Memorial, it was rainy, the ball wasn’t flying very far and I’m hitting the ball in the same spots now, because obviously it’s rainy and soft,” he said.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Kalifornia Klingsman has The US Ship Steered in the Right Direction, Towards Brazil

Jurgen Klingsman coach of the US Men’s Soccer team was certainly on the hot seat after an opening round loss to Honduras putting the US at the bottom of the table below Jamaica and Costa Rica. However since then they’ve gone 3-0-1 racking up ten points and have moved not only to the top of the table but have the best goal differential (+3) and have three of the final five games in United States. Suffice to state that they’re on the fast road to Brazil, with Klingsman driving. The German born coach and former national player has taken a more proactive approach and it has paid off with immediate dividends. The US defeated Jamaica 2-1 in Kingston in a match that featured some of his most tactical moves and best decisions during his two-year tenure as the national team skipper, including an attacking move that resembled ‘pulling the goalie’ in hockey that yielded the winning goal in stoppage time. Additionally, for the first time in more than two-dozen games in charge, Klingsman selected a starting 11 he had slated once before. There may finally be some continuity and flow to the US game, and that will make them a difficult out not only over their final five remaining qualifiers but when the chips are really in the center of the table next year in Brazil. On the other side of the coin are the Tri-Colors that have not been flying high as Mexico came into the group as the favorites once again but have had a dearth of offense, particularly at home and now have their work cut out for them on the back nine of qualification. The good news is they’re undefeated in group play, but the bad news is that they have one win and four ties, yielding eight points and tenuous hold on third place. Tenuous in the sense that they’ve played one more match than all others in contention and must go on the road for two of their final four matches where they will need a result in at least one them. Normally dominant at Azteca Stadium, Mexico has failed to score a goal at home in three matches and what in the past would be a sure nine points has only produced three thus far and has some very nervous supporters south of the border. This sets up a huge match with Honduras on September 5th, where they must get at least the draw and probably a win otherwise their trip to South America will stop a bit short.

Monday, June 10, 2013

All Steak and No Sizzle at Roland Garros

To call the 2013 French Open’s early round upsets and incredible 5-set thrillers ‘typical’ for this tournament would be a great injustice but often the road to the final is so dramatic that the finale fails to live up path necessary to get there. That was the case this year where build up form the preliminary rounds was only surpassed by marquis names and headline acts in the final. Unfortunately despite the name recognition the top billing failed to match the excitement of the opening acts. Serena Williams easily disposed of Maria Sharapova in straight sets and Rafael Nadal did the same David Ferrer leaving many a bit disappointed come Monday morning. However one also has to appreciate the greatness that Champions displayed at terre battue particularly Serena who claimed her 16th Grand Slam title and although the names are as big as they get in tennis their rivalry is nothing of the sort as Williams now has notched her 13th consecutive victory against Sharapova whom simply couldn’t match Serena’s power either on service or return. 10 aces and 29 winners later the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen was hers once again. This raises questions on how much longer she will continue to play as she has previously mentioned that she wants to go out on top, but after such a dominating performance that might still be a while. On Sunday Rafael Nadal also dominated in impressive fashion en route to his 8th French Title, the only player ever to win a Grand Slam event as many times. Much like the preceding day’s event the men’s final was over early as already leading by a set and a break 70 minutes into the match against Ferrer, Nadal faced four break points in one game. The last was a 31-stroke exchange, the match's longest, capped when Nadal absorbed Ferrer's strong backhand approach and transformed it into a cross-court backhand passing shot. That point also seemed to dampen Ferrer’s spirit as much as the rain as it he was simply outmatched en route to 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 Nadal victory, his record 59th win in 60 matches at Roland Garros.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Type of Rivalry Golf Doesn't Need

So we’re two weeks removed from the Player’s Championship and the shoes are still dropping, and ending up in people’s mouths. Just as things had started to subside and the talk had actually turned back to golf and the US Open, Sergio not only rekindled the flame but doused it with gasoline as his “fried chicken” comments that were exponentially magnified with the aid of social media over the past two days. Garcia did his best to sound contrite during a public apology "I feel sick about it and I feel truly, truly sorry," he said Wednesday from the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, site of the European Tour's flagship event. Tiger wasn’t quite so public but taking to twitter to voice his response, "The comment that was made wasn't silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate," Woods said in a series of tweets. "I'm confident that there is real regret the remark was made. The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it's long past time to move and talk about golf." It’s no secret PGA ratings plummeted during Tiger’s slump as golf proved like every other sport you need a Heat, Patriots, Canadians, “Money” Mayweather or dominant force for everyone to want to knock off the top. Tiger was perfect for that and when Lefty and Tiger were dueling it was the greatest thing for the sport, as someone was finally challenging for the title but that didn’t last long, and once beat down Lefty hasn’t been back. Then Rory stepped up, actually took the champs title as best in the world and became the poster boy for European golf as a look at the future. He even shot a commercial with Tiger to publically throw down the gauntlet and announce he planed to be “the man” but so far that hasn’t materialized as he hasn’t been in the hunt on a Sunday since. Now Tiger has returned to form, has 4 tour wins already this year (next closest is a tie with 1) and is playing back to his old form. So now that all PGA sponsors can breathe a sigh of relief that the cash cow is back, they need a challenger other than “the field” to step up. At least now there are plenty of challengers that can be that other guy, and rest assured their trying hard to create one, as they would love to get back to the Tiger/Phill days again. However the sour grapes between Garcia and Tiger had way too much yeast and turned into a barrel of whine, then the got sour with Sergio’s recent comments. This type of rivalry is not what the game means as unlike any of the afore mentioned it doesn’t focus on what happened on the links. It’s a racist comment followed by high school folly of a bunch of people talking for the two at the center of it all and fanning the fire when the two principals should just get together for a brew and put it behind them. But that won’t happen because media outlets need the story and are trying to parlay this into a preamble for the US Open. Which is exactly what the sport doesn’t need is more character controversy as it had just gotten over Tiger’s scandal and collapse before Vijay’s PED story took over, golf needed some time between rounds to fix the cuts on their face but they got this instead. But fortunately there is a cure, and it’s competition. The nation wants to see Tiger playing on Sunday for either ‘love him or hate him’ reasons and someone, anyone, with a name to step up and challenge, that can stick around for more than one tournament. That’s what we all need, to put this catfight behind us and get back to the frustrating game we love watch and sometimes dare to play. Good competition that will overshadow the off the course circus that we let it become.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wigan does more than salvage a season

Going into the FA Cup Final Wigan Athletic knew if they didn’t pull off what was perceived to be a miraculous upset, their incredible run would soon be forgotten as just another great tournament run by a Cinderella club that met its end when faced by a top level club. Perhaps even more at stake was the salvation of a season that started with much optimism, hoping to improve on last season’s 15th place finish as they were reminded that they were only two wins away from finishing in the top 10. However, after dropping three of their last six matches and falling below the water level of relegation, the club could change their fortunes from calamity to historic with a win over the defending EPL Champions Manchester City in the FA Cup Final. The match itself wasn’t one for the purist as there was no scoring until the 90th minute despite Wigan having a one man advantage due to a terrible challenge by City’s Pablo Zabaleta that set the stage for their grand exit. But don’t let that be the only stat you pay attention to as the game was statistically even in all of the 19 major match stats that are kept, all except goals scored. This was a victory for David, for the little guy, for the little train that could. 81 years without a piece of hardware to show for it. The giant fell to the ground and the rumbles could be herd all the way to the City of Manchester Stadium where the first head to roll after the consternation of having to close the trophy case without making any additions was manager Roberto Mancini True there have been some upsets where the goliath had a bigger name and most supporters will always have an upset by their own club to call the biggest but there is no arguing the fact that City’s 187 million payroll dwarfs Wigan’s 12 by the largest margin in FA Cup history and I’ll put that disparity up against any of the other biggest upsets in history regardless of tournament. This was one for the ages and unfortunately it will have to carry the Wigan faithful supporters clear for another 12 months until they can get back to the competing in the top division again as the Gunners need to win two straight matches to qualify for the Champions League next year and the little train that could is standing on the tracks in front of the Gunner’s freight train and that loss will send them down for the summer. However the wild ride won’t be forgotten in our lifetime and something tells me we haven’t seen the last of David. View the complete EPL final week here.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Moyes Has To Do More Than Replace A Legend

There are some players and coaches that have transcended the game in which they competed. Stateside Michael Jordon’s legacy has long survived his playing days, and cast a shadow on those that have followed him that may be too big and dark to ever surpass. English football has some legends of their own from Bobby Moore to Gordon Banks to Paul Gascoigne, players that have set the bar so high that only years after David Beckham’s career is over can he get into the same conversation. As rare as those athletes are rarer still is a manger that is known on a first name basis around the world, and Sir Alex has achieved that plateau. 13 EPL Titles, 38 pieces of hardware, 2 CL Titles, and 5 FA Cups is a resume that may never be challenged. Now that he is stepping down and David Moyes has the dubious challenge of following in the footsteps the size of a giant. Moyes, who ends his 11-year stint on Merseyside this week, has led Everton to a respectable 6th place finish and although not tasting gold still had strong support of his fans and showed enormous fortitude at the press conference by only fielding questions regarding Everton and saving the Man U. business to after the season. No doubt he has the respect of his compeers whom have lent their praise to the Red Devils on their selection but that could also be because they want to see the reign of dominance end. After 20 EPL championships including 8 out of the last 13 years they would have given me praise if they tapped me as the new general. Interim Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez expects United to carry on challenging for major honors with Moyes at the helm. "He's a good manager. I think that he will have a very good team, so I'm sure he will compete at the top and he can win trophies with a big club," said Benitez. "It's not easy to find someone like Ferguson, but he's a manager with experience in the Premier League. He knows the players, he knows the club and the Premier League. It could be a good appointment, but it takes time to say." Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert reckons Moyes is the perfect choice to take over from Ferguson at Old Trafford. He said: "Absolutely fabulous manager. I think if anybody can do it, and keep the continuity, David can do it. I think he will be able to handle it, no problem. QPR boss Harry Redknapp added his support, saying: "It is a fantastic opportunity for David. He has worked hard for the last ten years at Everton. It is difficult to follow Sir Alex but it is good to see a lad like David, who has done his time in the lower leagues as well, get such an opportunity." And therein lies the paradox of landing the dream job that every manager covets but fears just as much as failure on a stage that big is exponentially magnified throughout the world as the perception is that you just have to roll out the balls and let the hundred million dollar payroll do its thing. Well, needless to say there’s more to it than that and it will start the day Moyes hangs his hat as the first thing on the agenda has to be the signing of Wayne Rooney whom is at least listening now as the new manager was influential in Rooney’s development as a teen breaking into the league. Some say this, as much as anything else, was one of the reasons for the decision so to land the striker to deal would be a huge feather in his cap and would start his tenure in a big way. Conversely if he fails to land him it could make the faithful immediately miss the “godfather” that you didn’t say no to. Add this to a club where it’s all about hardware and championships and you’ve got a gauntlet of a task not for the faint at heart. So good luck to lad from Everton as the challenge of a lifetime awaits, and the football world will be watching.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Borussia and Bayern turn Champions League Final into Feiertag

As the original field of 32 in this year’s Champions League Tournament began to decrease so did the number of EPL sides left in the tourney, as well as most favorites. So when it got down to the final four sides one might surmise that the upsets had run their course and we would see the old rivals from Spain square off in a storied final that would add another chapter to their history. However Bayern Munich seemed like a side on a mission after losing in the final last year on their home soil in a dramatic PK loss on Drogba’s last goals as a Chelsea striker, one to tie late and the last to win the game, shootout, and championship. Matched up with Barcelona and Lionel Messi in the semi-final, although slowed by a hamstring injury Bayern for intent and purposes wrapped up their spot in the final in the first leg with a shocking 4-0 victory in Munich, as Thomas Müller scored twice and despite losing possession 63-37% it seemed like there were 14 Bayern players on the pitch. After that first leg it was foregone conclusion that they would get their second consecutive shot at the title. It’s a testament to the character of the side that they were even able to get back into the mix after such a heartbreaking defeat, but they were more than competitive they made it all the way back to final. The second leg was not much better as Bayern left no doubters whom the better side was with another solid 3-0 win to hand Real Madrid their worst ever net aggregate loss in a major competition 7-0. On the other side they will meet their countrymen from the North were pulling off an upset of their own as most were expecting Ronoldo to steal the show, and at half-time of the first leg he had as it was 1-1, but from there the match and a spot in the Finals belonged to Robert Lewandowski’s and the Black & Gold. Three second half goals put him in the record books and Dortmund in the Final. The second leg was more formality than anything else as Real made it respectable in the second leg with a 2-0 win but even those came in the final seven minutes of the match. So all of Europe may be watching on May 25th but there will certainly be a concentrated focus as for the first time ever two German sides will be battling for more than the hardware, as it’s also a North/South rivalry with even more on the line for the countrymen involved. This is an unexpected final for the football world but it truly is a once in a century moment for the Nation and aside from a World Cup match on home soil this is about as big as it gets. It’s a good thing the Final falls on a Saturday as half the nation would be calling in sick so they might as well make it a holiday (Feiertag in German) because half will be celebrating when it is all said and done and the celebration may last until Monday.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The last day of the EPL season last year was the most memorable in decades for many as Manchester City seemingly had the title won, then lost, then won again in the most improbable of ways, to which many have already turned into folklore. Among those disbelievers were the 75,000 plus at Old Trafford that day whom listed on radio or watched on tablets as City came back in stoppage time to salvage victory from the beyond the jaws of defeat, more like the digestive track, as Manchester United were in the midst of song celebrating another championship. They had several months to dwell on what they could have done do be deciding their own fate this year and made sure they were not in the same position again in the 2013 campaign. Perhaps the shock hadn’t worn off as they took the pitch on August 20th of last year when they lost to Everton 1-0 to start the season, but after that wakeup call, they went on two consecutive runs, the first winning 8 of their next 9 games and then proceeded to go on a 9 out of 10 game run which included a Manchester Derby win over the afore mentioned rivals in blue (at Etihad Stadium) , for a total of 17-2 and the Premiere League title was a forgone conclusion. It was about the most dominating start to finish win since the Arsenal “Invincibles” season of 03-04’, as Man U. rose to the top of the table for the 2nd time after the 15th match of the season and never looked back. The 16-point cushion an ostentatious display of dominance of a year that only has been missing a sweep of The Derby, as City answered back and took the match at Old Trafford 3-2, and lack of any tournament hardware to solidify its place in history. However I’m sure Sir Alex would have taken this result if given the option at the start of the season, but then I think he’s been posing that question to himself every day for almost a year now.

Monday, April 15, 2013

From Down Under to Top of the World

Never having an Australian put on the Green Jacket at Augusta since Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts started, “a tradition unlike any other”, the Land from Down Under finally took advantage of arguably its best opportunity ever and there had been a few. Of course, “The Shark” the great Greg Norman, in 1996 blew a six-shot lead in the final round to lose by five strokes to Nick Faldo. Jim Ferrier won the PGA Championship in 1947, the first Aussie to ever win a major but three years later at Augusta in 1950 he blew a three-shot lead over Jimmy Demaret with just six holes to play and finished as the runner-up, two strokes back. 22 years later in 1972, Bruce Crampton struggled with a second round (75), which doomed him to finish tied for second with two others as Jack Nicklaus denied an Aussie victory by three strokes. But on Sunday, Australia had three horses in the race! Jason Day, Marc Leishman and Adam Scott all entered the pressure packed final round in contention. Scott and Day figured to have the best shot, after finishing what else but….second in the 2011 tournament, while starting the final 18 holes on Sunday respectively in third and fourth place. While both Day and Leishman were good, solid and cool under fire, it takes great to capture the Green Jacket at the end of 72 holes and that’s what Scott turned out to be! This of course is the same Adam Scott who just nine months ago, blew the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, by making bogey on his last four holes to lose by one shot to Ernie Els. So not only had the Masters eluded him but any major victory as well, entering the final round. However the Queensland native used the lesson of buckling under the pressure of the British Open to his advantage on the most crucial holes at Augusta National on Sunday. Tied for the lead as he walked onto the 18th green, Scott drained 20-footer for a one shot advantage over Angel Cabrera. From the emotion that escaped his cool persona at that moment, he like millions of others thought Scott had final exorcised not only his but all of his home countries demons with one smooth stroke. But in only true Masters fashion, that exuberance lasted just a few minutes as Cabrera landed the approach shot of the tournament onto the green in the final group. His tap in birdie tied Scott at -9 under, robbing Australia of its moment and Scott of his accomplishment. After the two both pared the first playoff hole also on 18, came possible birdie putts on the 10th. While Cabrera just missed a 15-footer, Scott sent an entire nation into celebration, toasting their Foster’s as his 12-foot winner was pure! After almost 80 years of tradition, Butler Cabin’s guest of honor the man slipping on the legendary Green Jacket, hailed from Australia. With the near misses of so many from the Land Down Under, Sunday’s championship finish performed by Scott was a perfect fit.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Agusta Sets the Stage Like Only it can

The weather may have overcast and cloudy but that was the only disappointing thing about the opening round. The players we know on a first name basis like Tiger, Lefty, Sergio, Freddie, and Rory are all in the mix, and although there was scoring the course still carried the day as the clubhouse leaders sit at -6. I suppose we could have used a marquis threesome to start the tournament with such as Rory, Tiger, and Couples but if the first round was any indication, it looks like they all will be there slugging it out over the weekend and that would be great for the sport that has been on the backswing of the ratings curve since Tiger has been trying to find his. But now it seems like all the moons are aligned for a Granddaddy to grab the headlines again, for much better reasons than bringing their admittance police in-line with the 21st century. So from here there are several directions that the tourney can travel and keep the audience glued to set throughout the weekend. Just making the cut for 14-year old Tianlang Guan would be one the biggest Augusta stories in a decade, conversely how about 53 year-young Freddie Couples turning back the clock and being on the first page of the leaderboard? Of course, the billing that would be big enough for MSG would be if Tiger and Rory could find themselves at 1 and 2 going into Sunday but so would Tiger and Lefty, or any of the big names to finally answer the question if TW is back for good? Mix in a sprinkle of upsets like first timer David Lynn and the British invasion of Westwood, Rose, and Donald and we got ourselves a dance with attending. The stories are writing themselves, now we just need the supporting cast to set the stage for the weekend box office. View the Current Masters Leaderboard here:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Number One still isn’t good enough for Tiger Woods

We’ve seen these results from Bay Hill before. As a matter of fact, eight times to be exact. That’s the number of Arnold Palmer Invitational Tournaments Tiger Woods has won. However Monday’s result could prove to be the biggest yet. Not because of the accomplishment itself but what the victory stands for. With his 77th PGA Tour win, Tiger not only recaptured golf’s #1 player status in the world, a title missing from his resume for the past 124 PGA Tour weeks but also sets himself up with a rhythm and confidence we haven’t seen since his last major victory in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. The significance of this of course is the upcoming Masters where Woods will be the heavy favorite for his 15th Major Championship, which would truly mark a full recovery, at least in the golf sense from the marriage scandal that sent both Tiger’s game and personal life into a free for all. Augusta National hasn’t seen Woods slide on the Green Jacket since 2005. Not that there haven’t been close calls in the meantime but the thrill has been gone for some time now. After the 2005 win, Woods has finished third, and then tied for second in back to back years. In 2009 the best he could do was sixth, followed up by fourth place finishes in 2010 and 2011. Last year, after a solid 72 on Thursday he faltered shooting 75, on the way to proving he wasn’t close to coming full circle finishing a distant 40th overall. The last seven years of frustration at Augusta should be coming to a close though. The last time Woods won consecutive events entering the Masters was 2001 when he won at Bay Hill and The Players before capturing his second Green Jacket. Despite Tiger’s rise back to the game’s top spot coming all the way back from a low of 58th in the world in November of 2011, the true test of his comeback doesn’t really start until April 11th on the first tee of the Masters. Not everyone seems to understand this however. Tiger’s biggest sponsor Nike on Tuesday came out with a new ad campaign stating, “Winning takes care of everything”….Tiger Woods, World #1. Even new girlfriend Lindsay Vonn tweeted after Monday’s final round about her new man once again taking over golf’s thrown. The only numbers that really matter are major championships 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19. Those five numbers would make Tiger the true number one most likely forever. Woods has been stalled behind the great Jack Nicklaus for almost five years and 17 majors without gaining ground, instead only losing time. For most of Tiger’s journey of self-redemption since that Thanksgiving Night when the world discovered along with ex-wife Elin that Woods was only a great golfer and not person, husband and father at the time, most believed his best golf was behind him. We’ve watched him apologize on national television, fall flat on the course, have surgeries and undergo a new golf swing. All of these factors contributed to the biggest fall of any top athlete maybe in the history of modern era sports. But just when most of the experts believed the weight of Tiger’s indiscretions lay too heavy on his mind to the point of ruining his ability to win major tourneys, Woods is on the verge of proving almost everyone wrong. He’s now won three tournaments this season in five entries. His admission to his relationship with Vonn seems to be proof he’s gotten past his personal demons that seem to haunt him over ruining his marriage and the embarrassment it caused himself and his family. His health is once again not a factor on the course and the public overall has seemed to forgiven him. Getting back to being the world’s top player is nice but the only true redemption for Tiger the golfer not the person will be a win in a few weeks at Augusta. That would show he’s come full circle and once again be on track to become the greatest golfer that ever lived.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Barcelona Pulls off a Stunner but Surprises No One

No side had ever come back from being down 0-2 on aggregate to advance to the quarter finals of the Champions League so the prospects didn’t look good for Barcelona despite their storied history. To make the odds even more steep they were lining up against AC Milan, a side with some pretty good pedigree as well. Well, someone forgot to mention the odds to the Spaniards and the 95 thousand in attendance as not only did Barcelona make up the deficit in the first half, but they shut down ACM defensively and put up a 4-0 shutout to move on with a what would seem like a comfortable +2 aggregate that those who might have just tuned in to catch the final eight would have expected as going into the tournament Barcelona was one of the favorites as the World’s best player Lionel Messi has been playing at the top of his game when teamed up with David Villa present the most formidable duo in football. The rub is that they haven’t been healthy, or had their best side on the pitch long enough to display that continuity that on paper looks to be unmatched. On Tuesday it all came together and was on full display as the speed and accuracy of the passing and execution on the chances they did create made the football world finally see them exercise their full potential, and those Barce faithful say “we told you so”. They are a side that no one wants to see in the round of 8, but there are plenty of quality sides left as the tournament certainly lives up to its name. Real, PSG, and Juventus you might have expected but Dortmund look usually strong and Malaga could be a side of destiny. Bayern and Galatasaray are a bit of a surprise to round out the quarterfinals, so plenty of obstacles still in the way, but any fan of the game who likes to see good football got an exhibition of what it could be like when it all comes together.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Is Tiger Lurking to Take Over World Number 1?

He prowled onto the national scene in 1996 and by April of 1997 Tiger Woods became a household name after his performance at the Masters. He has been the face of golf ever since, for both good and bad reasons but now it appears Woods will once again be the talk of the sport for just winning. Tiger’s Thursday to Sunday performance at Doral, culminating in a two shot, no sweat victory, gave him his second championship of the season and fifth win in a year’s time. With another trophy celebration at Bay Hill in two weeks, Woods would become the world’s number one ranked player again. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen but what is clear to most golf experts, enthusiast and commentators is that the old Tiger Woods is back, or is he? With the help of friend and fellow pro Steve Stricker, Woods posted his lowest putting total of his PGA Tour career finishing with just 100 over the 72 hole event. His 27 birdies were just one short of the most he has ever made in an event. He finished seventh in the field in greens in regulation and although just 30th in the 65 player field in driving, it hardly hurt him. However, we have seen this from the man still chasing Jack before. Last year he won at Bay Hill before the Masters and finished tied for 40th at Augusta. He won Nicklaus’ tourney last year as well and couldn’t get it done at the U.S. Open the next week, tying for 21st. Despite Tiger’s impressive work in South Florida last weekend, this summer will be five years since he’s won a major, the 2008 Open at Torrey Pines. So why would this recent success at the age of 37, be different from the other flashes of the old Tiger we’ve seen in the last couple of years? One reason would be Woods health appears to be at a grade of A plus for the moment. Last year at Doral, Tiger was forced to withdraw from the final round on the 12th hole due to a recurring Achilles tendon injury. After Sunday’s victory he stated, “It’s nice to be healthy”. “I was struggling there for a while”. His most serious injury of course being a torn ligament in his left knee which required surgery, a long layoff and caused him pain over the last couple of years appears to also be a thing of the past. The public scandal of Woods infidelity which led to the brake-up of his marriage to wife Elin seems to be another part of Tigers’ past now, as his game continues to steal the headlines instead of his private life leading the tabloids. You don’t have to play golf to know how much of the game is mental and there is no doubt the hit Woods’ image took bothered him immensely during his play since that 2009 Thanksgiving evening when the ex-wife allegedly put a golf club upside his head after finding out about his creeping. Time does appear to be healing all of the wounds that brought down the game’s greatest present day golfer. Mentally, physically and emotionally Tiger seems to have it all together at once for the first time since before his historic 2008 Open win on basically one leg. Arnold Palmer’s event in two weeks will probably tell the story if Tiger will be considered the front-running favorite for the Masters in April. Nicklaus was able to scratch out his 18th and final major win at the age of 46, which is still a long ways away for Tiger. But if Woods is going to resume serious pursuit of Jack’s record by winning his 15th major, the time is now. For the first time in a long time, the golfer not the person who made the sport cool, popular and even wealthier is on the prowl again and headed back to the place where it all started with his sights set on a fifth green jacket.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

It’s Time for “World’s Game” to Catch Up to the Rest of the World

If you can imagine the best competition in world football getting better, that’s what you have when the Champions League reaches the Round of 16, particularly on the second leg when numbers are in place and you know what each side needs to move on. From sold out attendance in the stadiums to millions watching around the world, the stage is set for the football the planet has to offer to be played. Why then do we let three guys supersede the action on the pitch with no system of checks and balances? Manchester United was up 2-1 on aggregate and leading in a match 1-0 and well on their way to round of eight when referee Cuneyt Cakir sent off Manu U. player Nani for a high foot on Alvaro Arbeloa of Real Madrid. In the two days following the match UEFA has stood by their man but quality arguments have come down on both sides of the issue. Obviously Man U. supporters can argue that Nani was not sent off for “Violent Conduct” which according to the rules is “an act when you are not challenging for the ball”, which Nani clearly was, but for “Serious Foul Play” and to be dismissed for this you must “use excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play. A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as a serious foul play”. To surmise, Nani’s play, although aggressive in nature, was not intentional and he was playing the ball. Worthy of a yellow and a caution yes, but a red? No. Conversely, the rules are left for interpretation and easily can be manipulated to serve your purpose depending on the side you support, no where in the rules are the adjectives “excessive” or “brutally” defined and because of that it’s left to the referee’s determination and therefore he is correct in his ruling. However at the end of the day with so much on the line it’s more important to get the call right than to have a delay. How can such a big decision be made via instant recall with the chaos that ensues from both sides? I hate it when pundits compare sports but I have to admit, although I hate when the American Football’s replay system slows down a game but what it has done is alleviate the number of times when the game isn’t actually won on the pitch by the players. A loss is a loss and if the correct call can’t be made with the technology we have in the 21st century then it was too close to call anyway. What I would have like to have seen is at least someone to talk to about it with for a second opinion from perhaps a different angle, but one man’s take on a play that lasted less than 2 seconds that changed the outcome of the Champions League Tournament is simply negligent in it’s nature. To throw even more fuel on the inferno RM manager Jose Mourinho was quoted as stating “I doubt with 11 against 11 we could have won the match”. Amazingly stipulating that without the aid of the call Real Madrid would be home watching the rest of the tournament. You don’t see that type of candor often and in on a stage this big, and perhaps he’s cutting his side a little short but the take away remains the same, with the time, skill, cash, and “blood/sweat/tears” from the fans that goes into the “World’s Game” we should ensure that all of the resources in the world are used to let the players decide the outcome.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Can Danica remain St. Patrick without a checkered flag?

The bikini shots are beautiful. The Go-Daddy advertisements indeed hold our attention. Her pole position victory for last week’s Daytona 500 was an eye brow raiser and an eye opener indeed! But how long can Danica Patrick remain winless on the NASCAR circuit before her creditability, marketability and overall good for the sport come into serious question? Up to this point there is no doubt Patrick has been an asset to both open-wheel racing during her tenure on the Indy Car circuit as well as her current stint on the NASCAR scene in both the Nationwide and Winston Cup Series. After all she is the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing, winning the 2008 Indy Japan 300 and finishing third in the 2009 Indianapolis 500. She also holds the IRL record for most consecutive races running at the finish. But her run in stock cars, (which in her defense has been much shorter) so far has been less impressive. While she did become the first women to win a Nascar Sprint Cup Series pole and first female to ever lead a race, however she still finished a fading eighth at the finish line after running third on the final lap, a true sign of her lack of experience and skills although she exceeded the expectations of most. In 11 races run over two years in the Sprint Cup Series, Patrick has put together just one top-ten finish. Success has been a little easier in the Nationwide events as she’s dropped seven top-ten finishes. While the wins have not come easily the attention certainly has. The Daytona 500’s television ratings earned a 9.9 rating with Patrick starting from the pole, up 24 percent from last year’s rain soaked Monday night event. Last week’s race had the highest rating since 2008. All of the attention she attracted has certainly been good for her checking account as Patrick holds a net worth of reportedly 33-million dollars! All in all, Patrick has been spectacular for the sport, bringing in new viewership, especially females…. the biggest demographic to gain, as well as attention from main-stream sports outlets that just wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for Patrick’s presence. But when or will we ever see her in victory lane which would truly justify her abilities and erase the “all hype” label she still maintains? Some believe with NASCAR switching to Generation 6 cars, the odds become greater against Patrick because of her inexperience at this level. But her team, Stewart-Haas racing is looking strong to start the season and Patrick will no doubt be put in fast rides which will increase her chances this season. Before she captured the Daytona pole, her divorce from Paul Hospenthal and new romance to fellow driver and Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made not only Patrick’s biggest headlines but NASCAR’s as well. The good ole boys of NASCAR don’t mind sharing the spotlight of their sport and passion with a female, as long as she’s earning not only their respect but also the attention she garners. Many see Patrick as a possible rookie of the year candidate on the Sprint Car Series but until she does more than capture a pole spot or make an occasional top-ten finish with the big boys, she’ll remain more of a novelty act known more for her gender then an actual competitor of her peers. Right now she’s not the Anna Kournikova of racing but should she remain winless over this season, the jury will still be out on her true worth to the sport as an actual driver.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

No M(essi)take about it, He’s the best in the World, Again.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has become the first player to win the Ballon d’Or award on four occasions, beating out Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta. The 25-year-old Argentina captain was handed the prestigious FIFA prize in Zurich for a stunning 2012 in which he surpassed Gerd Muller's 40-year-old record with 91 goals in a calendar year over 69 matches, including losing a number of matches due to injury. Only France's Zinedine Zidane and Brazilian Ronaldo have had their hands on the trophy three times. It was also the sixth consecutive year that Messi had made the final three - voted by selected international journalists, football coaches and captains. Mesi is now FC Barcelona’s all-time scoring leader, breaking the record with a hat-trick against Granada, and 14 goals in the 2011-12 Champions League broke the mark he had shared with former Manchester United striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy. In May, Messi beat former Bayern Munich striker Gerd Mueller's record of 67 goals in a single European season, eventually finishing the campaign with 73. Messi’s greatness is scary no doubt about it, and at 25 he could repeat the feat again next year as both his club side and country are stacked with players that demand respect of their own which could continue to open things up for Messi on the pitch. However what may be even more scary is the 2012 FIFA-FIFPro world all-star team, voted by more than 50,000 players, which was comprised of players of from only 3 countries (one from Colombia and Portugal respectfully), if this is a trend then things do not bode well for the rest of the world come World Cup 2014. Understandably, there has been a bit of a backlash as many can make a case for some of those excluded such as Drogba, Djourou, RVP, Mata, etc. The question is what kind of year will it take for someone to break through and not only knock Messi off the perch but pierce the triad vail? The EPL has had strong Champions League showings over the last two, but do they need to make a deeper run in the World Cup to warrant a bigger impact? We’ll see but here is the 2012 roster, let us know if you agree with the selections. Whom would you replace? Who got snubbed? The 2012 FIFA-FIFPro world all-star team Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain) Defender: Daniel Alves (Barcelona and Brazil) Defender: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid and Spain) Defender: Gerard Pique (Barcelona and Spain) Defender: Marcelo (Real Madrid and Brazil) Midfielder: Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid and Spain) Midfielder: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona and Spain) Midfielder: Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona and Spain)

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