Wednesday, June 13, 2012

U.S. Open Preview

Well folks, it's the second week in June so that can only mean one thing: the Twea Open swings up to New Hampshire this weekend.  Wait, what?  That's not right.  I meant to say it is U.S. Open weekend!  America's major championship returns to the Olympic Club in San Francisco for the first time in 14 years, and promises to challenge golfers after Rory McIlroy's romp at Congressional last year.  At over 7,100 yards and with a par of 70, the Olympic Club is going to be difficult for even the longest hitters.  Giddy Up.

Since the 1998 Open, won by major bozo Lee Janzen, the Olympic Club has undergone major changes.  Basically any knowledge about the greens gained by players in '98 is useless now, so don't be surprised to see an upstart with a hot putter contend and the grizzled veterans seem confounded.  Tantamount among the changes though is the added distance to the course.  Olympic now boasts a par-five that measures over 650 yards and is probably not reachable in two by any player.  Not even Bubbs.  There are also two par-fours over 500 yards.  Yikes.  Tack on to that the usual lightning fast greens and super tall rough of your standard U.S. Open, and you are looking at payback for last year's record low scores at Congressional.  All of these factors would seem to favor a bomber, but as we have seen with unheralded Open winners of Olympic past (Jack Fleck, Scott Simpson, Lee Janzen), anything can happen.  That said, let's try and piece together who might win this thing.

El Tigre- Obvious choice.  Playing his best golf since the greatest U.S. Open performance ever in 2008.  He is driving the ball immaculately, striping his irons, and that spark seems to have returned to his short game.  Tiger wants this one, especially because it is in California. 

Rory McIlroy- Nobody has gone back-to-back at the Open since Curtis Strange, but if Rory is on he could do it.  It's been a few weeks since he has had his A-game, but he showed signs of it last week in Memphis.

Strick Daddy- Stricker hasn't been playing great lately, but he has the kind of game for this.  Accurate drives for the treacherous fairways that seem to let everything run into the rough, good approach and good putting.  He also finished top-five here in '98, not that that means anything.

Matt Kuchar- Hoochie Kuchar has been playing well this year, and he says this course suits his game.  Time to win the big one, buddy.

Dustin Johnson- I don't know if he has the balls to win a major, but DJ won last week and obviously has the distance to attack some of the longer holes at Olympic.


Colt Knost- Dis dude won the 2007 Amateur at Olympic so you know he can play the course.  He could also disappear from the course if he hears the jingle of an ice cream truck though.

Robert Rock- Great driver of the golf ball.  Great hair.  This guy has squared off against Tiger before and won, and someone managed to retain my respect.  That says a lot.

There you have it.  Those are a few guys I think could win the damn thing in San Francisco this weekend.  I can honestly say I'm not super confident about any of them though.  Let's get some feedback from you, the reader.

Friday, June 8, 2012

That Thing of When A Coach Starts to Look Like the Team Mascot

Here's a fun little post for you readers on Friday.  After too many games with a team, it appears that some coaches can begin to resemble their team mascot.  It is as if they have begun to take on the qualities of the very team that they are coaching.  Have a look:

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski looks an awful lot like a Blue Devil to me. 

What about former Temple head coach John Chaney?  I used to refer to him as the "Wise Old Owl."  Another funny John Chaney quirk was that as he got madder and madder during a game, his tie would get more and more loose until it came off.  Always useful as a barometer of the Chaney anger level.

I noticed our next subject this past season as he suffered through another last place finish with the Redskins.  Poor Mike Shanahan might have to move to tribal land soon, because he is becoming a Redskin.  

Lastly, there is perhaps no more perfect look alike than old Bo Ryan of the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Flu Theory

Besides providing viewers with drama, intensity and amazing highlights, Tiger Woods also reminded me of a darling little theory I have considered over the years this past weekend.  It's a theory that you the reader can take to the bank.  The money bank.  Over the years I have noticed that when an athlete has the flu, watch out.  It is as if the word "flu" is slang for "going to win."  Inevitably, in whatever sport and no matter how serious the malady, the player with the flu comes out on top.  Here are some classic examples of what I am talking about.

Dirk Nowitzki - 2011 NBA Finals: In a rare confluence of the Flu Theory meets the Curse of the Fab Five, Dirk Nowitzki scored 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to erase a nine point Mavs deficit and tie up the series against the Heat.  Of course the Heat went on to lose the series.

Pete Sampras - 1996 U.S. Open: That's right, TPLIYP went tennis on you!  I have never seen this match before, but apparently in 1996 against Alex Corretja, Pete Sampras caught the flu and was puking on the court.  Despite a spirited effort from Corretja, Sampras still hung on for the win.

Tiger Woods - 2012 Memorial: As if Tiger didn't have enough to come back from, he also had the flu this past weekend at Memorial.  Obviously, he was able to rise above it and shoot a final round 67 to take the title.

Joe Montana - 1979 Cotton Bowl: Another game I have never seen.  The legend goes that with the Irish down 20-12 at halftime, Montana's body temperature dropped down to 96 degrees due to flu-like symptoms.  In the third quarter Montana was eating bowls of chicken soup and being covered with heat packs while the Irish fell behind even further, 34-12.  With under eight minutes to go in the game, Joe Cool returned and led the Golden Domers to a 35-34 victory in his last game for the Fighting Irish.

Michael Jordan - 1997 NBA Finals:  This game is known as "The Flu Game" and is the basis of my entire argument.  I remember watching this game as a kid and wanting the Jazz to win.  When I found out Michael Jordan had the flu, I thought Stockton, Malone & Co. had a great chance to take the series lead 3-2 at home in Utah.  Not so fast, my friend.  Apparently, the story goes that MJ could hardly even sit up or walk the day before the game and said there was no way he could play.  On game day, Scottie Pippen wasn't sure if His Airness could even put his uniform on.  The rest is history.  Jordan, collapsing after whistles and leaning on teammates to help him to the bench, scored 38 points and made a huge three pointer with 25 seconds left to give Chicago the lead.  He also had seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and one block.  Kind of makes Lebron look like a little bitch.

I'm sure there are more examples that I am forgetting, but you see my point.  Next time you hear that a player has the flu, don't count them out.  Rather, bet the farm on them winning the game.  Unless of course Juwan Howard is on their team.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Classic Tiger

This blog post is probably adding to a chorus line of previous articles, but having followed Tiger Woods' struggles closely over the last few years it would be silly not to give my thoughts on what looked like a vintage Tiger Woods win on Sunday at Memorial.  His win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this year might have gotten folks' hopes up a bit early, but this win had all the makings of what made Tiger great for so many years.  This win was "Classic Tiger."

CONSISTENCY: For many of Tiger's recent rounds where he has been in contention for a win (Chevron, Dubai, Bay Hill) he was still wildly inconsistent.  At Dubai, where he went into the final round with a chance to beat some of the world's best talent, Tiger missed fairway after fairway down the stretch.  Not so at the Memorial.  On Sunday, Tiger only missed one fairway and hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation (and birdied one of the greens he missed).  That is what put him in position to win.  He was dialed in off the tee and on the fairways, and didn't have to pull off any crazy shots to give himself a chance to make birdie.  This is what I was talking about in my previous post about Tiger, and it looks like he listened.

COMEBACK: Unlike Tiger's first win at Bay Hill this year, Tiger had to work for this win.  I'm not taking anything away from his first PGA Tour win in over two years, because I'm sure he had some serious doubts about his game going into Sunday with the lead, but nobody really challenged his lead in the final round.  Tiger's lead fluctuated between three and five shots the whole round and he just sort of coasted to victory.  On Sunday, Tiger needed to come back to win it.  He had a sense of urgency and wasn't just checking holes off the scorecard.  Every hole was an important opportunity to make birdie.  He treated it as such and shot one of the lowest rounds on the course on Sunday (67) to take the two shot victory.

FOLLOW THE ROAR: Over the past two years, announcers have made a point of saying that golfers are no longer intimidated by Tiger.  You could have fooled me.  Rickie Fowler, paired with Tiger on Sunday and coming off of a win and two top-fives in previous tournaments, was demoralized by Tiger's surgical attack of the course and limped home with a 12-over 84.  Meanwhile, Rory Sabbatini, who no doubt heard the roars after Tiger's big birdies, missed an important birdie putt to reclaim the lead after Tiger's amazing chip-in and duffed a five-wood on an easy par-five, settling for par where many had birdied.  Sabbatini froze up the entire round and ended up exactly where he started at seven-under for the tournament.  If people are no longer intimidated by Tiger, someone should tell Rory and Rickie.

FEEDING OFF THE CROWD: Again, at Bay Hill there was no real drama for Tiger.  Memorial was quite the contrary.  Tiger used the crowd support and energy to propel him to victory.  I haven't seen him as animated as he was after his chip-in for a long time.  After that, it was all over.  High on adrenaline, he effortlessly birdied the 18th hole to put the tournament out of reach.  With every Tiger win, his confidence grows and crowd support grows.  Along with these two, so too seemingly does his ability to dominate on the golf course.  Suffice it to say the rest of the season is going to be pretty fun.  I'm glad I got my Deutsche Bank tickets early.

After injuries, swing changes, scandals, ups, downs and in-betweens, it finally appears that Tiger Woods is dialed in mechanically.  Now that he is, all of the old key factors in memorable Tiger Woods moments appear to be returning too.  Bay Hill was premature, but after Memorial it looks like we are on the precipice of seeing Tiger Woods take over again.  Bandwagoners feel free to jump on at any time, the Donk and I have been here all along.