Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Open For Business

It's that time of year again folks.  Set your alarm clock for 3 a.m., put on a pot of tea, and fix yourself a plate of bangers and mash.  That's right, it is British Open week.  And, yes, I said British Open and not "Open Championship."  Deal with it you damn limeys.  The British Open throws everything a golf course can at golfers; wind, rain, tall rough, lumpy greens, treacherous bunkers, and narrow fairways.  Bearing that in mind, it is a test of the most well rounded golfer in my opinion.  That is why you often see an old fogey such as Tom Watson, Darren Clarke, or Greg Norman at or near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.  It takes a lifetime of learning to excel in these conditions.  Royal Lytham and St. Anne's will be no different this year.

The skinny on Royal Lytham is that it is a prototypical British Open links style course.  It has tall fescue, slow bumpy greens, fast and hard fairways, and lousy weather.  However, one key difference is the over 200 bunkers on the course.  Unlike Whistling Straits, where the PGA Championship was held in 2010, most of the bunkers are in play for most players at Lytham and not just for show.  Couple the treacherous bunkers with the wind and rough, and hitting fairways at Royal Lytham is at a premium.  The player that will win this week will be able to hit his ball where he needs to despite the lousy conditions.  Does this scream "Tiger Woods stinger" to anyone else?

Another atypical factor in this championship is slow greens.  In America, most of the greens are lightning fast.  In Europe this is not the case.  Putting aggressively will be tough for some players to get accustomed to, and certainly favors the Euros that are more used to it.  Keeping these factors in mind, here are some players I like to contend this week.

Tiger Woods- If the wind picks up, Tiger's stinger off the tee that cuts through the wind could be the ultimate x-factor here.  He also likes to putt aggressively.  God I hope he wins.

Justin Rose- Justin has finished well at Lytham before, and seems to be at just that age for a breakthrough major performance.  

Rickie Fowler- Rickie, seen here teaching some butthead how to play golf, played very well at last year's British Open in some of the worst weather the tournament had to offer.  He could be a surprise in 2012. 

G Mac- Graeme McDowell is not the Donk's boy, but he has got all the creative shots necessary to add the Claret Jug to his trophy case.  He also keeps his drives low and in the fairway.  HUGE.

Sergio Garcia- Could this be his year?  He's got 7 top-10 finishes in 11 British Opens.  He'll be around. 

LONG SHOT: Ben Curtis
He does everything right that you need to win a British Open.  That's why he won one in 2003.

FOGEY: Tom Lehman
Lehman won here in 1996 despite being sponsored by Dockers.  Maybe if he gets lucky with some weather conditions he can contend again.

That's all folks.  Enjoy waking up early, watching golf at breakfast, and watch out for JUNGLEBIRD!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nittany Lyin'

As a Pennsylvania native who grew up a Penn State football fan, whose family taught at Penn State, and who had friends and family in State College, PA, this sudden outpouring of disgraceful news at Penn State in light of the Sandusky trial has truly put an end to any positive memories I had of that time and place in my childhood.  The fact that seemingly everybody at Penn State knew, and chose to do nothing, about Jerry Sandusky while he essentially set up a rape factory at Penn State has caused me to do a complete 180 on Penn State sports.  However, this is not only a Penn State issue.  The Sandusky fiasco is truly another example of how college sports are systemically corrupt and wield way too much influence over higher learning.

Let me start by saying that it is shocking that Penn State is taking so long to decide on what to do in response to the Sandusky trial and the Freeh report.  In my opinion, they should not wait for an NCAA investigation, they should blow up the entire football program immediately.  The administration needs to do whatever it takes to disassociate themselves from this football program that completely overshadowed every other authority at Penn State.  Destroy it all (starting with any building Sandusky ever came into contact with a child) and focus on academics for the foreseeable future.  When the time is right, rebuild the program and set guidelines in place that never allow any sports program to overpower the university.

Furthermore, Penn State is only a microcosm of the NCAA at large.  While their may not be molestation going on anywhere else, there are certainly larger than life athletic coaches and players whom university administrations are covering up for based on athletic success and money brought in.  The NCAA was set up to foster amateur competition between college STUDENTS and has somehow spun off into something more powerful than colleges themselves.  Instead of figuring out how to punish Penn State, the NCAA commissioner ought to take a look at the steps that the NCAA has taken that led this tragedy to happen in the first place, and let Penn State punish themselves (for once).

I don't think there is any way that Penn State football kicking off in the Fall is going to provide any relief for the entire Sandusky era.  Forget about football.  Let the players transfer, and focus on letting the academic community take a front seat again.  Moreover, if this incident doesn't show once and for all that the NCAA needs to be checked in its power, then I don't think anything ever will.