April 11, 2017

…wrapping up this year’s first major of the year with 18 – count ‘em – 18! – esoteric thoughts about the 2017 Masters.

1. Well, I know I always feel a little more refreshed after taking care of things when Mother Nature calls. Why shouldn’t Sergio?

2. The pre-Masters show on Sunday – Jim Nantz’s remembrance of Arnold Palmer, featuring the very last television interview with “the King” was both sad and poignant. Couldn’t help but think of my late Mom while watching it: like Arnold, Mom was a hero of mine; like Arnold she passed away last year, retaining her mind to the very end even though her body was breaking down like Arnie’s obviously was. It’s sad to see your heroes grow old, watching people who lived lives so vibrant reduced to mere shells of themselves by the passage of time. The sobering fact is that none of us are immune to that, so matter who you are and how big and famous you are.

3. And speaking of the passage of time, methinks this was the year that made me think that Phil Mickelson’s days of seriously competing at Augusta are over. It’s such a tough course to walk and I don’t think his body and mind are sharp enough to keep up with it over four straight days. You could see on Friday in those difficult conditions that he ran out of gas midway through the back nine. Then he just got sloppy and made equal portions of mental and physical mistakes throughout the rest of the weekend. But there’ll be no tears for Phil: he and Augusta have had a great run together.

4. Sergio had a great victory for sure, but I wonder how things might have would be different had the red-hot Dustin Johnson not slipped down those stairs at the house he was staying at. One of my Goodboys friends, “Goose” Dwyer was heard to joke that it was Seve Ballesteros’ ghost that pushed Dustin. I can buy that…

5. Along those same lines, I wonder how or if things would have been different if Rory McIlroy’s approach shot on nine on Friday hadn’t hit the flagstick and ricocheted some thirty yards down the hill. But Augusta gives as much as it takes away, and Rory needs to do a better job of ripping apart the back nines than he did this year.

6. There’s no doubt in my mind that Jon Rahm will someday be the fourth Spaniard (after Seve, Jose Maria Olazabal, and Sergio) to win a green jacket.

7. Speaking of nationalities: the TV guys love to refer to Sergio as “the Spaniard” and Thomas Pieters as “the Belgian”. So why not refer to Hideki Matsuyama as “the Jap”?

8. Count me as surprised at how little the top of the leaderboard changed names over Saturday and Sunday. Perfect conditions, but no one with the exception of Justin Rose on Saturday made a huge move over the weekend. I missed hearing the roar of the crowds on Sunday and wondering who just made a big move.

9. Fred Couples’ swing is still a beautiful thing to watch after all these years.

10. Watch Jordan Spieth invoke Arnie’s name and then pull off a beautiful shot.

11. I don’t care what Sergio says, that putt he had on 18 to win in regulation does not, will not, nor ever will break left. It’s straight, and either Sergio misread it or he just gave the putt a slight inside-out dipsy do.

12. The CBS golf coverage was pretty good as usual, but the normally solid Dottie Pepper I thought was awful, both in her on-course commentary and the insipid questions she asked during her one-on-one interviews. I know she’s better than that – she just sounded unprepared.

13. Matt Kuchar’s hole-in-one on 16 was great, but what he did afterwards is why the folks like the guy so much. He’s got enough game to win a major, I think – he’s always on the first or second page of the leaderboard at your average PGA Tour stop; I just wonder if he’s got the mental intensity to be a killer at a major. As Seve once said, he’ll shake your hand and wish you luck on the first tee, but after that his only goal was to destroy you.

14. Goodboy “Cubby” Myerow has that same kind of intensity when he plays hockey – which is why he’ll be spending this year’s Goodboys Invitational on the injured list. We’re not getting any younger, Cubby!

15. Rickie Fowler is fun to watch. I think he learned something by being in the next-to-last group this year, and I can easily see him winning a green jacket some day.

16. My pick Jordan Spieth didn’t get the job done this year, but I’ll pick him against next year and every year after that. I love to watch him play, love his intensity, and enjoy the way you can always tell if he made a good swing or not by his immediate reaction. I don’t understand why more pros don’t talk to their balls – how do they know it’s not listening? If Jordan can avoid injuries and the “Tiger trap” (y’all know what I mean), he’ll have three or four green jackets by the time he’s through.

17. Looks like this year was it for Ernie Els. His five-year exemption from winning The Open Championship in 2012 expired this year and he ended up finishing dead-last.

18. The Masters is the absolute best golf tournament to watch on TV and I can’t wait for Masters time to come around again. And like I say, I’m already picking Jordan Spieth for the win.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:32 | Comments (0)
April 9, 2017

Congratulations to Sergio Garcia for his exciting and well-deserved first major, winning the 2017 Masters in playoff fashion over fellow European and Ryder Cup comrade Justin Rose.

This was a strange Masters. After all the hype over the two marquee pairings of Rose and Garcia and Americans Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, it was disappointing to watch Fowler and especially Spieth slowly but gradually remove themselves from contention. 90 minutes into Sunday’s telecast it was strange to see how little suspense there actually was. Like Saturday, the field was playing under perfect conditions, and like Saturday, no one in the field was making a move. It was just Rose and Garcia doing their thing and the rest of the field seeming like they might as well have been playing another run of the mill PGA Tour event.

It wasn’t until the turn that things got interesting. Garcia seemed to lose his focus on 10 and it seemed like Rose had the green jacket for his taking until his missed putt and Garcia making his on thirteen seemed to reinvigorate the Spaniard, and from then on you had a true duel in the sun right up until the very end. It was pretty exciting stuff for sure, but nothing like Masters of previous years where you had leads changing every five minutes and countless roars from the patrons on the back nine creating an atmosphere of suspense and expectation.

Still, if you were to ask anyone who they’d most like to see win besides Phil Mickelson it would have been Sergio. He’s a true people’s choice, and his win will make him one of the most beloved Masters past-winners for years to come. Who knows? Maybe having this monkey off his back will free him up to win another major or two, just like Phil did. It would be great to see.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 22:10 | Comments (0)
April 7, 2017

A few thoughts as we head into a Masters weekend:

The Masters theme in extended HD. Enjoy the visuals, I think they’re almost as good as the music.

…and did you know that the Masters theme actually has lyrics? It does. They’re not very good, but there ya go.

I miss Ken Venturi in the tower with Jim Nantz.

See Bubba Watson today? Supposedly, he’s on some health kick where he’s lost like fifteen pounds – not that he had them to lose to begin with. His new diet is lots of vegetables and fish. I can’t believe how awful he looks – he’s the Karen Carpenter of the PGA Tour. Get that man a steak!

I nominate William McGirt and first round leader Charlie Hoffman as Masters field golfers who look most like a Goodboy.

Watching Thursday’s telecast, my first thought was, where are the azaleas? Turns out because of unseasonably warm weather they bloomed three weeks ago. Guess there are some things even the Masters Committee can’t control. Oh well, better luck next year…

Anyone who could watch the opening ceremony honoring Arnold Palmer without getting a tear in their eye – especially watching Jack Nicklaus – isn’t human.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:59 | Comments (0)
April 3, 2017

It’s the week in the professional golf year that is, to quote CBS Sports’ Jim “Hello, friends” Nantz, “a tradition like no other”. It’s Masters Week. The precocious, spoiled brats featured in the tiresome Drive, Chip, and Putt competition have been swept off the Augusta National grounds like so many dead azalea blooms (thank God!) and the adults are finally taking over.

This year’s Masters promises to be a good one. Of course, you have the red-hot Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy ready to overpower Augusta with their incredible distance, but I’m still sticking with Jordan Spieth as my pick. I know he missed the cut at the Shell Houston, but you could tell his mind was a thousand miles away in Augusta. He’s got a lot to make up for with last year’s cheap bridge table collapse, and I think he’s ready to up his game to ensure defending champion Danny Willett is putting the green jacket back on his shoulders. Besides, if Spieth can play with hickory sticks, he can surely win again at Augusta.

One person who won’t be there is Tiger Woods. I’ve come to believe that you can’t believe anything that comes out of the mouth of his agent Mark Steinberg. The guy lies like a rug trying to keep Tiger relevant and in the conversation of everything that is golf today, but you really have to wonder if the guy is coming around to the realization that he just can’t do it anymore. I mean, five minutes on the range and he decides he’s not going to play at Augusta? He couldn’t play when he teed it up at Dubai, and nothing has changed since that tine to make anyone think he’s any closer to rejoining the Tour on a regular basis than he was at this time last year. At some point it becomes a question of whether it’s all worth it. He had a great run, will always be known as one of the greatest golfers who have ever played the game. Ought to be enough to leave it at that.

And what’s going on with the LPGA allowing a phone-in by some Cheetos-eating, 16-handicap couch potato to influence the winner of a professional golf tournament? If I were Lexi Thompson I’d be pretty livid about the whole thing. The LPGA should put a stop to this kind of thing, and pronto.

Masters week is always special. It’s the best tournament to watch on TV, bar none. So queue the quaint music, turn up the microphone volume so that every bird within fifteen miles is heard, have a moment of silence for the departed King, and let those words ring out, indicating that winter is truly over and another golf season is upon us.

“Fore, please!”

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 16:44 | Comments (0)
February 8, 2017

….and such is life. The Patriots celebrated their Super Bowl championship with a glorious parade, and the Red Sox truck is about ready to head to Fort Myers.

And round and round life goes, one season ended and another just beginning. One season fulfilling all the promises that started during the heat of July, the other filled with the expectations of, if not great things, then at least doing well. I guess we’ll see come October. Heck, by that time the Patriots will be well underway in defending their title.

I love this pic from Parade Day. So Bawwwwwstin!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:25 | Comments (0)
February 3, 2017

Well that was quick: Tiger Woods, after three dismal rounds in his vaunted “comeback tour”, has withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic after posting a ghastly opening round 77 due to “back spasms”.

Yeah, right.

I posted here about the challenges Tiger would be facing coming back after his long hiatus from back surgery. Simply put, in that time the golf universe has changed beyond any kind of measure even someone of his accomplishments could ever imagine. The good golfers have multiplied in spades. They are young, fearless, hit the ball incredible distances, and have the best equipment and workout / fitness regimens in the world. And while undoubtedly they respect Tiger for everything he has brought to the game and made possible for them, they look upon him as nothing more than an artifact of days long gone by and never to be seen again.

The fact that Tiger says with a brave face that he’s preparing for Augusta and is only entering tournaments with the idea of winning is not just laughable, but pathetic. It’s all talk, designed for mainstream media ass-kissers who write as if Woods is still a force to be reckoned with. They’re just about as clueless about Woods as he himself is, afraid to admit that the object of their affection is nothing but a mere shell of the golfer and the presence he once was.

I was texting my Goodboys pal Killer last week about how Tiger looked at the Farmer’s Insurance Open. In my view he looked rusty for sure, but even more so, I didn’t like his gait as he would walk from one hole to another. He looked like someone with a stiff back – not necessarily in pain, but certainly in discomfort. The Great White Shank is all about telling the truth, whether it be politics, golf, or his own situation in any way, manner, shape, or form. Anyone who has followed this blog for the past eleven years knows no one is exempt from the truth, not even yours truly.

I said in my earlier piece that I thought Tiger was one awkward swing from retirement. For all we know, that time has come. Just don’t expect Tiger to man up and tell the truth about what he’s actually feeling and thinking. And that’s because it would require him to actually sound and seem human. Look, we all have flaws; his is being unable to reveal to those who, if not liking him, nevertheless respect him for all he has done and brought to the game of golf, the reality of his ability to play golf. If he can no longer play with the “big boys” he ought to just come out and say so.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 22:24 | Comments (0)
January 5, 2017

Unlike the PGA Tour, which always believe that more is better and that the end of one Fed Ex Cup is simply an excuse to start another Fed Ex Cup race on its heels, I like the idea of a break in the action and miss the old so-called “silly season” of events that allowed everyone to take a breath and look forward to the start of a new season in Hawaii.

Which is why the idea of sticking the SBS Tournament of Champions (the latest in a series of sponsors if you can keep track of them as they pass by) at Kapalua smack dab in the middle of a season that’s already been underway since October seems silly to me. I like tradition, and the tradition of Kapalua kicking off the Tour’s season always seemed right to me since it reflected the past (the winners of the previous year’s tournaments) and the present (the start of a new year) so beautifully. After all, who could argue with the idea of watching golf’s “opening day” in tropical Hawaii when most of the country is in the middle of the winter doldrums? But that’s just me, the PGA Tour has made itself so far removed from reality when it comes to golf that few can even relate to all the privileged, spoiled brats who by and large look, act, and swing the same.

Nevertheless, since I’m in the middle of a sabbatical from the game that will likely last until at least March, I’ll still watch and enjoy the scenery.

Since it’s the start of a new year, here are my predictions:

* Rory McIlroy will be #1 in the world rankings by the end of the 2017 season
* Jordan Spieth will get his hot-as-sun burning revenge for what happened last year at the Masters by winning his second green jacket
* Rory McIlroy wins the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, and the Fed Ex Cup
* Dustin Johnson wins the PGA
* At least a dozen times during CBS’s golf coverage Gary McCord will say, sizing up a player’s downhill lie and needing to carry a bunker to a tight pin placement that, “he’ll be happy to get it within 30 feet”. Upon which said golfer will just miss holing it out and leave it within six feet
* Tiger Woods will play well and be in contention at a tournament or two before he re-injures his back and calls it sayonara

We’ll see what happens come October!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 23:01 | Comments (0)
December 7, 2016

If the combination of this move and this move doesn’t motivate Pablo “Fat Pig” Sandoval to lose weight and come into Spring Training committed to owning the hot corner nothing will.

And while this might be a reason for hope, he’d better because now that Travis “K” Shaw is a Brewer there ain’t a whole lot behind him that I can see.

Just another classic Dave Dombrowski move. His view of highly-touted prospects? That’s exactly what they are, at least until they prove themselves as major leaguers. And DD has never been afraid to roll the dice – especially when it come to acquiring top-flight pitching. Like the dude says, if you’ve got a team that’s already considered close you have to go for it, for you never know when the opportunity will come again.

So now the Sox have Sales, David Price, and Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello at the top of the rotation. And after that (at least for now) a 4/5 of Eduardo Rodriguez and Clay Buchholz. On paper that’s the best rotation in the American League. And that doesn’t count Drew Pomerantz and Steven Wright who could also be starters or, at least in the case of Pomerantz or Buchholz, valuable trade bait. Of course, on paper is just that: I remember last winter when everyone was touting a Yankees “big three” of Miller / Betances / Chapman in their bullpen, and we all know how that turned out.

Still, you’ve got to think right now that the Sox have the best starting rotation by far in the American League, and a “big three” like they have could prove quite significant when it comes to the post-season. I’d still like to see how their bullpen ends up looking like, for I think there’s still work to do there. And, while the Sox picked up Texas first baseman Mitch Moreland to allow Hanley Ramirez to split his time between 1B and DH, Moreland isn’t going to make anyone forget about David Ortiz anytime soon.

If you’re a Sox fan you’ve got to be excited about DD’s latest moves. I still think there’s some tweaking to be done, and it will be interesting to see what else DD has up his sleeve. With Buchholz and Pomerants he’s still got some cards to play.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:56 | Comments (0)
October 10, 2016

So baseball in Boston is over for another year, just in time for the first freeze watches to be out. Between now and Opening Day 2017 there are a lot of leaves and not a small amount of snow to fall. The David Ortiz era is over, and the Red Sox in 2017 should have quite a different look than they do now. A few thoughts and comments about where things go from here.

1. I’m pretty sure manager John Farrell stays – after all, how do you dump a manager that got you to the post-season? But he really doesn’t deserve it. He was out-managed by Terry Francona in the playoffs, was out-managed on virtually every occasion that warranted it during the season, and couldn’t handle a bullpen if you gave it to him in a shopping bag. I’m not sure what kind of a motivator he is with younger players, but you can bet the Sox are going to get younger next year, and I’m not sure Farrell is the guy you want to have manage that. Unfortunately, he’ll probably be back, but on a very short leash.

2. While I love Jackie Bradley, Jr. in CF he’s too streaky a player on a team that’s already streaky. I’m guessing he’s trade bait at the Winter Meetings and should bring something very nice in return. That allows Mookie Betts to go to center, and hopefully the Sox find some punch and a decent defender in right field.

3. Andrew Benetendi is a keeper. Can’t wait to see him mature with some experience under his belt. He could be a star.

4. I hate to say it, but you’re probably looking at The Return of Pablo “Fat Pig” Sandoval at third base next year if he’s able to keep distance between him and the Golden Corral “Blue Plate Special”. He can’t do a hell of a lot worse than Travis Shaw did – he had one good month and a half and showed he was nothing more than a decent AAA player who got killed once big-league pitchers figured out his weaknesses. The guy never learned to adjust, so see you later, alligator.

5. Hanley Ramirez had a great year and I look forward to seeing him again at first base next year.

6. I hope Dave Dombrowski doesn’t go apeshit trying to replace David Ortiz. You can’t replace “Big Papi” – there will never be another like him. But he’ll still need to consider carefully how he wants to handle the DH spot next year.

7. You can bet the Sox will be in the market or a pitcher at the Winter Meetings. David Price sucked this year but Sox ownership made that bed a long time ago when they dissed Jon Lester. They’ve still got a damned good core with Price / Porcello / Rodriguez / Buchholz, but another starter wouldn’t hurt.

8. Dustin Pedroia is going to be a problem. The guy can still play, for sure, and with Papi gone his role as a leader on the team is going to be even more important. But he can’t play an entire year as your everyday second baseman. He plays too hard, and John Farrell never rested him enough. By the end of the season he was toast. Gotta keep that in mind for next year.

9. The biggest issue is going to be rebuilding the bullpen. I’m guessing – thanks to Farrell’s mismanagement – they’ve gotten all they can out of Junichi Tazawa, which is too bad. Koji Uehara should be brought back. Closer Craig Kimbrel was OK but he needs to pitch better. The rest of the bunch you can have for a bag of balls.

10. The Sox need to find a backup for Xander Bogearts – another player Farrell drove into the ground so that he was all but useless the last month of the season. Somebody’s gonna need to be a suitable backup for Bogearts and Pedroia.

11. It wouldn’t bother me if Jerry Remy doesn’t come back to the NESN broadcast booth as analyst next year. He was great with Don Orsilllo, but his style never meshed with Dave O’Brien’s, and, frankly, he got on my nerves all year long. He had a great run for a long time, especially with DO, but his time is past.

12. That being said, anytime Dennis Eckersley shares the booth with O’Brien that’s OK by me. Loved listening to his commentary all year long.

Overall, it was a good year, one that my Mom would have been proud of. She loved her Sox, and I feel bad she missed seeing Big Papi’s farewell – I think she would have liked that. It’s always sad when baseball in Boston comes to a close, but the feeling is much more muted here in Arizona when it’s still sunny and the temperatures are in the 90s. Here there is still lots of golf to be played. The Sox overachieved much of this year, but over the last three weeks – hey, timing is everything – picked the worst time to slump as a team. I think Farrell’s management style had a lot to do with that, but that’s the way it goes.

This off-season ought to be most interesting because both the Sox and the dreaded Yankees are on the ascendancy. Next year I’m guessing these two teams will be back to being the great rivals they are, fighting it out one memorable series after another. That’s something to look forward to!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 21:41 | Comments (2)
September 26, 2016

It seems like this year is nothing but a year of sadness and death. My heroes are all dying, and I’m slowly being left with nothing but memories.

Such is life. Such is the passage of time.

Like most folks my age I’m guessing my first introduction to Arnold Palmer was on a black and white TV screen. I don’t remember a whole lot and couldn’t tell you when I first saw him in action, but it doesn’t really matter: it’s first perceptions that last, and my first perceptions of Arnold Palmer was that: a) he was very popular and loved by a huge bunch of followers, and b) he was extremely charismatic, a larger-than-life personality, a self-made alpha male whose persona was perfect for TV, and c) he commanded my attention.

But golf was only the springboard to greater things for Arnie. He paved the way for what would be known in the marketing world as “branding”. He sold everything from motor oil to clothes (I actually bought myself an Arnold Palmer sportscoat with his trademark umbrella logo back in the mid-70s). He was the first professional athlete to have his own plane. His signature became as much a brand as the person himself. And, perhaps most importantly, the hospitals in the Orlando area that he and his wife Winnie helped found are to this day responsible for the lives and well-being of thousands of patients, young and old.

Arnold Palmer was larger than life. I’ll leave it to others to talk of his legacy and his impact on the game of golf and the professional world of sports in general. All I can say is that he was a hero of mine, my favorite golfer of all time. I never met him in person, but like so many others feel as if I knew him. His story and his journey are quintessentially American. He was an alpha male who was never afraid to show his sensitive side. I think deep down he would have fit in really well as a Goodboy.

It’s hard to see your heroes grow old and die, their bodies giving out well before their minds, their personalities, and their innate selves do. This is a bad year, a sad year. The world as I once knew it is passing me by.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:33 | Comments (0)

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