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

Who’s going to win the US Open?

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Tiger Woods Wants You to Blow Off Work for Him

EA Sports wants into the subscription business that has put Blizzard Entertainment into more money than they know what to do with. So they’re offering up their most popular title that is also easy to transport Web-ward (Tiger Woods PGA Tour) in a “multi-tiered subscription” model this fall.

Elin Nordegren and Tiger Woods

(Gonna go out on a limb and guess you can’t unlock both players in this game)

This is, of course, code for “the first one’s always free”. You want a sand wedge? That’s a dollar. You want a red Nike shirt? That’s a dollar. You want to play more than three courses? That’s a dollar. You want Elin Nordegren? Why don’t you just give EA your AmEx Black and they’ll let you know when they’re done with it?

Instead of that game (which sounds an awful lot like an authentic golf simulation where you spent every dime you own to get better when you never will), why not consider another possible version of the game that would be authentic, fun, and not require all that nonsense?

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Get Some Free Golf Clubs If Garcia Wins Masters

If there was anything to lose, this would be a sucker bet if I’ve ever heard of one: AD AGE reports that golf retailer Golfsmith is offering a free TaylorMade driver to anyone in America if Sergio Garcia wins The Masters next month. Of course, this would be a potential goldmine for golfers looking for new equipment except for two things: You have to buy the driver first and then they’ll refund you if he wins. And, it’s Sergio Garcia.

Sergio Garcia ad

As we all know, for all his golfing talent, Garcia has gone 0-41 in majors, earning him the title Best Player Never to Win a Major. (Or, alternately, the Phil Mickelson Memorial Choke Job Award.) He’s been close before, but never at Augusta: his closest finish is a tie for fourth in 2004, and he’s missed the cut two out of the past three years. Seems like a pretty easy way for Golfsmith to earn some free publicity.

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Tiger Gets $65K for Not Playing in PGA Tour Stop?

Pardon the personal question, but what’s your job? Actually, the answer doesn’t matter, because your job sucks, and sucks hard. At least, next to “professional golfer,” it sucks. Where else could somebody collect $65,000 for not being able to do a weekend’s worth of work? That’s what’s happening with Lord Of The Universe Tiger Woods, who will be missing this week’s Mercedes-Benz Championship at Kapalua but still making bank from it anyway.

Tiger's jacked
(Like the money, Tiger didn’t need these biceps, but if having them makes you feel worse about yourself, then so be it.)

So why does Tiger have $65K more upon which to sleep and enjoy the company of his incredibly hot wife? Well, it’s actually the rule, since the MBC is a winners-only event. Confused? Yes. Let GOLFWEEK explain: Read more…

U.S. Team Brings Ryder Cup Back To The States

There’s nothing quite like the Ryder Cup, where high-profile professional golfers put their individual accomplishments aside for a weekend and work as an actual team. And America was made proud today as our boys in red, white, and blue took home the trophy from those pretentious cappuccino-sipping Europeans.

Jim Furyk, Ryder Cup

(”Give me back my cup!”)

The final day began with the U.S. team up 9-7 on the Europeans. The lead quickly rose when rookie Anthony Kim defeated Europe’s Sergio Garcia, who suffered his worst loss in Ryder Cup history. Following up on that, Kenny Perry, Boo Weekly and J.B. Holmes all won their matches before Jim Furyk finally clinched the cup with a victory over Miguel Angel Jimenez, giving the Americans the necessary 14.5 points.

Even more shocking was that the team won without Tiger Woods, which is kind of like the Patriots winning the Super Bowl after losing Tom Brady.

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Volunteer For Ryder Cup, Don’t Forget Checkbook

Apparently, the PGA of America, the outfit that hosts the Ryder Cup, isn’t clear on the definition of “volunteer.” For most of us, it means to take part in a task without being paid. It’s pretty simple, really.

Ryder Cup volunteers

Unless you’re one of the PGA brainiacs who got the bright idea to make a few extra bucks on the backs of the thousands of people who offer their time to make sure the tournament runs smoothly. No, not the golfers, but the old-timers who hold up the “Quiet Please” signs, and make sure fans don’t storm the port-a-johns while players are shaking off their Cooleys. Yep, that’s right, volunteer doesn’t mean what you think it means.

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Tiger Says His Swinging Days Are Done This Year

If Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and all other comers needed more motivation to take advantage of Tiger Woods‘ absence from the PGA Tour, the world’s best golfer has announced that he won’t start swinging a golf club until next year.

Tiger's jacked

To date, only Padraig Harrington has made the most of a Tiger-less tour, winning both the British Open and the PGA Championship. With the majors in the books for 2008, that leaves the FedEx Cup and possibly some early-season events on the ‘09 calendar, but history suggests nothing will change, including the constant bellyaching about how staid the Tour has become without Woods.

Meanwhile, Tiger admits that he’s gained back some mobility, but he’s still got a long way to go; currently, he wouldn’t win a foot race against his 13-month-old daughter, Sam.

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Harrington And His Huge Blarney Stones Win PGA

When Tiger Woods announced that he was having major knee surgery and would miss the remainder of the season, pretty much everyone assumed one of two things: Woods’ absence would open things up either for a crop of new players to get their first majors, or that a “name” player like Phil Mickelson or Vijay Singh would pounce on the chance to win with Tiger out.  What no one expected was Padraig Harrington becoming a stone cold killer.

Padraig Harrington at the 2008 PGA Championships

Harrington took the PGA Championship by two strokes on Sunday, breaking Sergio Garcia’s heart the same way he did to Greg Norman at the British Open earlier in the year in the process. This time, it was two clutch putts to close things out: a birdie on 17 and then a knee-knocking par save on 18 to put him clear of the field and wrap up the tournament.

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