Speed Read: Can Unknowns Hold Off Tiger & Phil?

On US Open Monday last year, Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate treated us to one of the classic golf duels of all time. And as we speak, Tiger and Rocco are back on the course trying to make history again. Unfortunately, they’ve been joined by 58 other people and Mediate’s tied for 54th place, so it might not exactly be as magical this time around. In fact, soggy Bethpage Black has been kind enough this week to let a one-time PGA winner and another guy who’s never even finished in the top 10 duke it out for the right to lose to Woods in a playoff later today.

Bethpage warning sign

(Warning: This Course Is So Tough It Can Only Be Described With Capitalized Words)

By the time you read this, my prediction may already be rendered silly, but I’m calling it now: Tiger makes it to 4-under and the two leaders, Lucas Glover and Ricky Barnes (who I thought was a pro bowler until Saturday), will fall back to finish in a tie, with Phil Mickelson one shot behind (due to something like accidentally hitting a putt backward). Other rock-solid predictions:

1) Fat David Duval will finally remember he’s not Skinny David Duval and shoot 94.

2) Someone in the crowd will yell “get in the hole!” on a 400-yard shot from the fescue that will actually go eight feet.

3) Johnny Miller will utter the phrase “trap draw” 391 times and complain about the swing of any prominently featured Scandinavian guy.

4) Instead of tossing his ball to the gallery at the 3rd hole after putting out like everyone else, Barnes will save himself the trouble by hitting his tee shot there.

Johnny Miller

(”Trap draw. Tiger’s lurking. Fescue. What’s the lie like, Roger? Wasn’t I good in the ’70s? Trap draw.”)

As for Tiger, play was suspended for the night just after he had pulled back to even par for the tournament. And while he’s still well within striking distance, some have suggested that he might be better off if someone clubbed him in the knee last night to help him regain his 2008 form.

Tiger Woods knee

Barnes, meanwhile, duck-hooked yet another drive just before the horn sounded. While some players elected to play out the hole they were on, Ricky decided to stew over that one all night and deal with it this morning. Perhaps it was just so he could still call himself a co-leader of the US Open at the pub last night. Barnes has not only never won on the PGA Tour, he’s also never won on the Nationwide Tour despite playing regularly there. So to say this is a tall order for him would be a massive understatement.

Also giving hope to the crowd lurking a few shots back is Lucas Glover, who has ranked 87th or worse in final-round scoring for three years running. As Jason Sobel notes in his ESPN blog, Glover’s only PGA Tour win came when he holed a 50-foot putt on 17 and a bunker shot on 18. Again, not exactly a reliable bet to hold it together down the stretch.

NEWSDAY says that the odd sight of the fourth round pairings teeing off until 7:30 p.m. last night made for some problems at the first tee as play was winding down for the night. While beer sales were cut off at 6, a number of fans who had been hitting the sauce pretty hard all day starting heckling anyone and everyone who started their round — including Phil and Tiger. I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising considering the Long Island crowd has purchased 150,000 beers since Thursday, compared to 115,000 sodas and water bottles combined.

drunk Bethpage fans

While these guys battle to be America’s golf champion, America’s soccer team is currently battling to be the champion…of the eight teams that were chosen to come to a warm-up tournament for next year’s World Cup. Things weren’t looking so good, honestly, when the Americans were outscored 6-1 in lopsided losses to Brazil and Italy in the Confederations Cup. The U.S. began its match with Egypt yesterday needing a very specific and wildly improbably set of circumstances to occur to advance from the group stage to the semifinals. Which, of course, happened.

US soccer fans

The U.S. beat Egypt 3-0, while Brazil blasted the Italians by the same score, setting off a three-way tie for 2nd place in the group. And the U.S. was deemed to be not quite as bad as the other two teams by virtue of scoring one more goal overall than Italy, and in very soccer-like fashion advances based on a technicality. The reward for the Americans is a semifinal match with Spain, the reigning European champions and arguably the best team in the world right now. Basically, we have about as much of a chance at beating Spain at soccer as we’d have at beating Spain in paella-making and afternoon-nap-taking.

Spain fans

Those lovely ladies are rooting for you to scour today’s links:

•  Just days before filming was set to begin, Columbia has pulled funding from Steven Soderbergh’s adaptation of Michael Lewis‘ classic book “Moneyball.” VARIETY says the movie was set to star Brad Pitt (as we reported back in October) and ex-players like David Justice and Scott Hatteberg, who were both featured in the original book. Either Joe Morgan is now running Columbia or the studio finally realized that a $50 million film about baseball stats, even with Pitt attached, might not be the wisest investment out there.

• A mislabeled bus carrying a Canadian semi-pro football team in Indiana got into a major accident with an SUV yesterday. The SUV driver died, but everyone on the bus survived, though some had to be hospitalized. The players, who don’t get paid, are members of the London Silverbacks but were rolling in a bus that said their team was the “Mustangs.” ONLINE SPORTS GUYS has the story (and video of the wrecked bus). UPDATE: The AP is now reporting that the driver of the SUV who was killed was Beth Smith, the wife of PGA golfer Chris Smith. Chris was not in the car, but his kids were and they are seriously injured. Chris Smith has spent most of the last three years on the Nationwide Tour, and won his only PGA title in 2002.

• Protests in baseball almost never work, but Joe Girardi thinks he’s got a chance to win one he filed with MLB last night during the Yankees’ game with Florida that involved a botched double-switch by Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez.

• We know that the U.S. is moving on to the semis in the Confederations Cup, but one American in the tournament isn’t.

• BITTEN AND BOUND says that Sergio Garcia’s recent inability to win big golf tournaments might have something to do with his heart being broken in March by Greg Norman’s lovely daughter, Morgan Leigh Norman. They offer no theories about Sergio’s inability to win big golf tournaments for the other 28 years of his life.

Morgan Norman and Sergio Garcia

Daisuke Matsuzaka’s trip to the DL might be just about the final nail in the coffin of the WBC, which is just going to crush those people in the Netherlands who couldn’t get enough of it.

• On the list of sports you won’t be seeing at this summer’s X Games: Car surfing.

The fake umpires took their show on the road this weekend, as they traveled from their hometown of Toronto to sit in on the Blue Jays-Nationals series in D.C. They claim to be the first people to ever travel to a different city to fake umpire a game from the front row, which is quite a feather in their cap. I still prefer Sheff’s Chefs.

fake umpires

• Buried at the bottom of this Grizzlies notebook is a statement from owner Michael Heisley that his team is one of the most profitable in the NBA despite a horrible team and worse attendance. It’s mostly attributed to keeping a low payroll. In other words, congratulations Memphis, you’re blessed with the second coming of Donald Sterling!

• Former Wimbledon champ Michael Stich has a not-at-all-offensive idea for how to deal with the women who grunt too loud during major tennis events: shoot them!

• Speaking of Wimbledon, let’s celebrate the start of the great championship with a couple of gratuitous shots of Russian pro Maria Kirilenko (Andrei Kirilenko would normally consider her for this year’s “allowance,” but there’s too much of a chance that they’re related):

Maria Kirilenko

 

Maria Kirilenko

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Favorite Club at US Open Might Be Canadian Club

Some people will tell you that they’re just fine consuming their office workers right from the cubicle, where they’ve been sitting still for years and letting their muscle tone waste away while dumping any ol’ crap from the vending machine in their feeding drawers.  However, the conscientious person with a taste for fine corporate drone will always opt for the free-range office worker that gets out into open spaces for hours at a time.

Fans at the U.S. Open like their booze

Also, they’re much better if you opt to let them marinade in a combination of light beer and rainstorms, freeing them to bray at the passersby.  That’s what happened at the U.S. Open this weekend and the results were Long Island charmers fresh from their jobs in the import/export business taunting Tiger Woods and friends ruthlessly and relentlessly at Bethpage Black.  And that’s nothing compared to what happened at Churchill Downs Friday night.

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Speed Read: O.J. Simpson Chase, 15 Years Later

Wednesday was the 15th anniversary of the O.J. Simpson Ford Bronco chase, perhaps the most riveting low-speed pursuit of all time until James Harrison’s fumble return in this year’s Super Bowl. I wonder if someone baked O.J. a cake in jail? (I point this out basically so I can remind everyone that’s where he is right now - in jail. No matter how down or depressed I might get in life, I can now always remind myself of this and smile.)

OJ Simpson Bronco low speed chase

Of course, someone reminded me that O.J. Simpson spent more time in jail over the double murder of his wife and Ronald Goldman than Donte Stallworth will for his DUI manslaughter conviction - and O.J. was found not guilty. Which, of course, is another reminder of just how screwed up the criminal justice system is, causing me to start grinding my teeth again. But then I think: “O.J.’s in jail, trying to fend off the advances of Stickpin Bubba,” and I start to feel better again.

OJ Simpson

It’s amazing to me that, in a pre-9/11 world, the question of “where were you when O.J. ran?” was basically my generation’s version of the JFK assassination. How gloriously naive we were back then. I was home on summer break from college, having just returned from playing some basketball with my friends and sitting slack-jawed with my Mom as the whole thing unfolded. Now the whole thing seems like some dated bit of pop trivia - except for when Fred Goldman pops up to remind you that real people died, and he’d really like to see O.J.’s stuff get sold so he can get some of his money.

Matt Millen’s reputation isn’t as far in the gutter as O.J.’s, but after destroying any shred of hope that the Detroit Lions might have had for winning in the next 20 years, it isn’t good. Which makes you wonder how much credibility he’ll have working as an analyst for the NFL Network this season. But don’t worry, Matt: Don Banks from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is here to help, with what I assume was meant to be a puff piece on Millen but turns out to be a master class in unintentional comedy.

Matt Millen back on TV

First off, Banks’ main premise is that the stage is set for Millen to have a huge comeback - like Richard Nixon. Yeah, Nixon. Not Frank Sinatra or John Travolta or even Anvil, but Richard Nixon. A good rule of thumb: if you are comparing your interview subject to Richard Nixon in any way, you probably aren’t doing yourself any favors. At least he didn’t compare him to Hitler (that only happens in Detroit).

But it turns out that Matt Millen “admits to being something of a Nixon buff.” Of course he is. And much like Tricky Dick, Millen seems to see himself as the perpetual victim:

“I don’t go backwards,” Millen said. “I just don’t think like that. There’s nothing I can do about [Detroit]. All I can do is from here on out. I understand. In Detroit, they need a bad guy. I was a bad guy. I was to blame for the fall of the auto industry and the housing market. Somehow, I had something to do with [Detroit mayor] Kwame Kilpatrick [resigning], although I’m not sure what. But that’s what happens when you lose in this game. You give everyone a cheap and easy story to jump on.”

Right, because your gross incompetence in leading the Lions to the worst eight-year record in modern NFL history was “cheap and easy” and not at all deserved. Come on. I liked Millen a lot as an analyst, but to try and whitewash his awful tenure in Detroit is simply insane. But Banks seems to think that Millen’s career as an executive might not be over:

I’m intrigued with the idea that Millen, in this era of ultra-short attention spans and a 24/7 news cycle, can put his head down, go back to work at the TV and radio gigs he once excelled at, and re-emerge some day soon with a different reputation and image than he engenders today. I not only think it could happen, I’m convinced it will happen.

Don Banks is clearly off of his meds. Just hang tight there, Don: the men with the white jackets will be there soon to take you back to the funny farm. The idea that a team would be stupid enough to let Matt Millen anywhere near their personnel department is nuts. But then again, as long as Cincinnati is still in the league, anything is possible.

Finally, the Day of the Lakers wrapped up in Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant appearing on the “Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” to discuss winning his fourth NBA title. Nothing earth-shattering happened (no Triumph the Insult Comic Dog coming on to ask about Colorado), but there were a few decent moments. And seriously, Kobe couldn’t be bothered to get out of his tracksuit for the interview?:

More sports news to consider whether it’s OK to laugh at this window washer’s Wile E. Coyote-like tumble as he fell six stories before bouncing off a lower roof since somehow he lived to tell the tale:

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