On Sports Shorts 062509

On the U.S. Open
Only hours following the conclusion of our national golf championship, many headlines were about Phil Mickelson’s second-place finish. Yes, he was playing in the shadow of his wife’s recently-announced cancer. Yes, he is a popular figure. Yes, he is a favorite of the Bethpage crowd. But hey – Lucas Glover deservingly won by having the lowest score over the predetermined tournament length. Congratulations Lucas!

On Past Players and Finances
It’s never good to hear bad news about notable people from the past. I’m not fond of the Cleveland Browns by any means, but this story about former quarterback Bernie Kosar filing for bankruptcy isn’t one I expected.

On Civil Rights Baseball Weekend
As I mentioned last week, MLB’s Civil Rights game and festivities were held in Cincinnati. Attending were honorees Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali, & Bill Cosby; Major league greats Frank Robinson, Tony Perez, and Ernie Banks; as did the first African-American Cincinnati Red Chuck Harmon; Negro League players Charlie Whip Davis, Don Johnson, Tom Turner, and Ron Bunny Warren; as did former player Harold Reynolds, singer BeBe Winnans, Sugar Ray Leonard, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, and President Bill Clinton; as did the Reds Hall of Fame with their display honoring the Negro Leagues; as did the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (located nearby the stadium) acting as an event host and also having a Negro League exhibit; as did local celebrities, plus I’m sure a few others that I don’t know.

I also discovered that the San Diego Padres honored a group of Negro League players during pregame ceremonies on the same day. Good for the Padres and hopefully other teams would do the same in the future. On the other hand, they had the chance. Seems the Padres front office was the only one to tap into MLB’s promotion. Well done Padres on demonstrating one aspect of the weekend’s intent.

On the Reds
Oh how my Cincinnati Reds are struggling. Oh the pain. Then again, I’m not that surprised. Although they are better than a year ago, there are still gaps to fill.

On Golf’s U.S. Open

My favorite golf tournament starts today at Bethpage – an American classic, the USGA U.S. Open. Take your pick: Father’s Day week, a standard of excellence, a tradition of greatness, the high rough, narrow fairways, tough pin placements, and ultra-slick greens – simply a measure of survival as winning requires strength, skill, stamina, intelligent course management, and exceptional execution.

The U.S. Open is our national championship that gives everyone a chance to earn their way by qualifying, which means a dream come true for a few – something they may never achieve in the future and possibly for only two days.

The U.S. Open is very demanding: a major test of mind, body, and skill. The conditions push the limits of the world’s best players, but within the rules of golf and the same for all. For the players who think it’s too demanding or even unfair, keep it in the fairway or don’t play. For spectators who miss a shootout of birdies, then don’t go or don’t watch.

The U.S. Open is about surviving to glory, but as no golfer wants this brutally on a regular basis. Even though I root for the course to bring the best players in the world to their knees, this is the one week a year I marvel at the skills rising to meet the challenge. So good luck guys and advance cheers to the victor. Well, as long as you’re over par.

On the Masters

amen_corner1This has been a big week in sports: MLB’s Opening Day, the ultimate end on the Road to the Final Four, the Frozen Four starts tomorrow, and ultimately, the beginning of one of golf’s great tournaments – the Masters.

The Masters is the first golf major of the PGA year. Fortunately it’s not about Augusta National’s members, but about a tradition, a place, its beauty, and a course offering the risk-reward axiom on most approaches to the protected green with the glass-like surface.

Each year – the same course, the same challenges, and the same reward in the end, plus some memorable moments. Whether being Nicklaus’ unbelievable win in 1986, or the thrills that Tiger continues to give us, below I offer links to this tradition as well as a few great moments. Enjoy.

Amen Corner picture is the property of the Masters

  • A Short History, including much info in the sidebar.
  • FAQs: After some of the initial information, the FAQ page offers some interesting tidbits.

A Masters Tribute to a Song

Nicklaus at 16

Then at 17

A Tiger MomentMaybe THE Moment … well at least for now

On Watching Golf

Besides the cold blasts of the wintery months of January and February, I also count on the start of the PGA tour. Not many of the early tournaments really strike my fancy, but how … how could one not enjoy Riviera, the craziness at 16 in Scottsdale, or the beauty and serenity of Pebble Beach.

As the plants start to perk up in the spring months, so does my interest in the tour. Doral and Bay Hill are two key stops on the way to Augusta, and then to the TPC at Sawgrass in early May: Simply more great venues, great sites, and great holes.

I enjoy watching golf on Sunday afternoon for the excitement of that final round. Golf is a great game, and one that I’ve played for a long time. It’s one on one – but not one on one between two great players – but one on one of the player with himself and with the course. At the PGA level, it’s so much about what the player is doing … that is thinking and executing.

Although full-contact golf may be an interesting twist for fantasy television, there’s no defense in golf. If the other player gets on a roll, the opponent is left helpless. That’s one of the reasons why Tiger is so good; when he gets it, there’s no one better.

No matter the player, golf fans love good shots. They wildly cheer – even if the player isn’t well liked or well known – and cheer even more so if the next shot is just as good or even better. Fans love the chase and watching the shifting leaderboard as multiple players give it their best.

Ah yes, I love watching Sunday’s final 9 holes, especially if there’s a competition. Watching a 10-0 baseball game isn’t fun, neither is watching the golfer holding a 4-shot lead with 3 holes to play. Sure meltdowns occasionally occur, but I don’t believe golf fans really like that.

I’ll watch a lot of the Master’s, the U.S. Open (my fav), and the British Open, but, regardless of the event and no matter who’s involved,  a good down-the-stretch golf event is as good as any regular sporting event – well, at least to me.

On a Special Golfer

pga_g_compton_200Entered in this weeks PGA event (Honda Classic) is a golfer I didn’t know – Erik Compton. His life is one of those dramatic, feel-good stories including receiving a heart transplant during his youth, a Nationwide Tour player, a near fatal heart attack, a second heart transplant, and his qualifying exception for this tournament.

Although here’s the story I read regarding his return, don’t stop there. In my research I discovered that Jim Moriarty, a contributing writer for Golf World, won a 2009 Golf Writer’s Association award for Best Non-Daily Feature. The story, Change of Heart, tells the much more of the story, and through the glories of the Internet, I found this one too.

Comptom is in the tournament through an exemption. A great pick by the tournament committee. He’ll play Thursday and Friday, yet may or may not make the cut; however, this is still a great story.

For those who appreciate the human-interest and comeback side of sports, this is a must read. Enjoy.

Image from Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images