U.S. Open Caves To Singh, Snubs Former Champ

Tom Kite and Vijay Singh are the last two people I’d normally get riled up about, but thanks to an absurd decision by the USGA this week to allow the non-exempt Singh into the U.S. Open field while snubbing ‘92 U.S. Open Champion (@ Pebble Beach, no less) Kite, I’ll make an exception.

Tom Kite Vijay Singh

This Monday, Kite will rise at dawn to slog through 36 holes with mostly amateurs and semi-pros outside Denver in a desperate bid to make the Open field. Meanwhile Singh, with his current game in disrepair and facing a similar qualifying day after his request for a free spot in the field was turned down, has since been gifted a tee time for Pebble Beach.

So why does former Pebble Beach U.S. Open Champion Kite have to qualify while Singh doesn’t?

Kite didn’t threaten to skip his qualifier because his tee time was too early in the morning. Read more…

Speed Read: Is Rubio Dissing Wolves For Europe?

The Clippers’ selection of Blake Griffin with the first pick in the NBA Draft last night was a forgone conclusion, so most of the draft drama was centered around Spanish point guard sensation Ricky Rubio. Over the past couple of weeks, Rubio became one of the most fascinating prospects in draft history — he doesn’t want to play in a small market or a cold city, his agent didn’t let him work out against other humans (which led to the strange one-on-none workout in Sacramento), he still has a huge buyout in his European contract, and nobody can really agree about how good he really is (he could be the next Steve Nash or the next Dan Dickau, and neither scenario would be surprising).

Ricky Rubio

His uncertain status was too much for OKC and Sacramento to put up with, to the point that the Kings decided they’d rather deal with the guy who was driving when his cousin shot someone. The Wolves were thrilled when he fell to them at #5, but because we all know that nothing good can happen to Minnesota, fans in the great white north might want to hold off on burning that Bassy Telfair jersey: Ricky’s dad is already telling people that he’s now thinking about staying in Europe for another year or two.

In other words, Ricky seems to be rejecting Minneapolis as his future home. Any threat to not come to the NBA isn’t really financial leverage, since his contract is slotted based on his position in the draft. But he could be pulling this stunt to try and force a trade to a city that’s more to his liking, such as New York. He might also be wondering (like a lot of other people) why the Wolves took another point guard (Johnny Flynn) with the #6 pick. Here’s what Mr. Rubio told MARCA (via FANHOUSE):

“We are going to speak with the [staff] of Minnesota and see what’s happening, because, in some hours, we may be in Minnesota or in another place.”

Ricky Rubio

He’s either expressing confusion over the Wolves’ intentions of keeping his son, or he’s basically telling them they better trade because there’s no way Ricky’s coming to play there.

After being drafted, ESPN’s Mark Jones asked Ricky to compare his game to that of a current NBA player. To which he simply replied: “I’m Ricky Rubio” (to the amusement of the MSG crowd). Scroll to the 3:20 mark of this video:

Surely I’m not the only person who thought of this when I saw the interview:

After Minnesota picked Flynn, it looked like Stephen Curry might fall to the Knicks, and it was no secret that he wanted to call MSG his home. But the Warriors didn’t get the memo and picked him, sending the Knicks fans on hand into depressed hysterics. It was only fitting that the boos rained down on Jordan Hill, who had no chance to win over the New York crowd in such a short period of time. At least he’s probably better than Renaldo Balkman.

The other strange development of the night was Brandon Jennings‘ last-minute decision to not attend the draft at the advice of his agent, who seemed uneasy about letting his client end up like Rashard Lewis, who famously slid way down the draft board while TV cameras watched his every emotion. Well, as it turns out, Jennings went 10th to the Bucks, then decided to show up a few picks later to get his photo op with David Stern. Now, if Jennings turns out anything like Lewis, he wouldn’t have cared when he was drafted.

HOOPSHYPE has a good recap of the draft up, and Kings fans are going to need to steer clear of hairdryers and bathtubs after reading that they’ve got the next Larry Hughes on their hands. The suit of the night, without a doubt, belonged to James Harden:

James Harden

(Mustard suit + bowtie = smooth)

There were some other things going on in the sports world last night, including the resolution to one of the stupidest athlete spats in recent memory. With the Yankees heading to Queens for a weekend series with the Mets, the tensions between Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Bruney once again became back page news. But the NY DAILY NEWS reports that it was all settled last week, when Bruney sent a clubhouse attendant over the Mets clubhouse to apologize to K-Rod on his behalf. I was accused of some anti-Yankee bias in my original post about this matter, but really, c’mon, sending an attendant to apologize for you? How lame is that? I would’ve loved to see that exchange at K-Rod’s locker.

Brian Bruney

A lot of major league pitchers struggle, and a lot are sent to the minors to work through their troubles. But few actually go to their team and ask to be sent down, like the Pirates’ Ian Snell has done. Snell is 2-8 this year with a 5.36 ERA and awful 1.624 WHIP. He had actually been throwing better as of late, but said he thought it was best for the team to be sent down because he was bringing too much negativity to the team. I can’t decide if this is an alarming lack of confidence and perseverance on Snell’s part or a refreshing selfless decision done in the interest of helping his team and his own career. Regardless, Snell has actually been slightly better this year than last, when he had a 5.42 ERA and even more god-awful 1.765 WHIP, and he threw a full slate of 31 starts. Here’s what Snell told the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE’s Dejan Kovacevic:

“I don’t want to point fingers and make excuses. I just made a better decision for myself, my career and my life.” I asked what he needs to do: “Nothing. You guys don’t understand it unless you played baseball. You don’t understand it, and the people at home don’t understand it. I’m just going down there, get my thoughts together and do well.”

I think he just needs a hug, not a stint in AAA.

Before we get to today’s links, I feel like taking a few minutes to watch the “Smooth Criminal” video again. There’s no doubt that Michael Jackson was a weird dude, and possibly a perv on such a level that he doesn’t deserve our grief. But is it so bad to spend a day remembering why we loved the guy? All that other stuff will come back around soon enough.

Now let’s get on with those links:

• Ever wonder who that lady is who gives the draft picks their hat before they walk over to meet David Stern? Wonder no more.

Darko Milicic has been freed by the Grizzlies…and is going to the Knicks in a swap for Quentin Richardson. It’s crazy to think that Darko’s still just 24 years old, and Mike D’Antoni thinks he can resurrect Darko’s career (well, his career was never really alive).

• First, the Dolphins sold their stadium naming rights to Jimmy Buffett, and now Gloria Estefan has bought a piece of the team. I’m told there are currently no plans to start calling the team the “Sound Machine.”

• The Portland Trail Blazers are going to host a preseason game at Seattle’s Key Arena in October. As if Seattle fans needed more reasons to hate the Blazers.

Vijay Singh attempted to bail accused swindler Allen Stanford out of jail, but was told he couldn’t because he isn’t an American, according to CNBC’s Darren Rovell. This is like the first time I’ve ever heard about Vijay being a really generous guy, and it’s to someone who probably stole a bunch of money from him.

• According to this AFP story, “Gay clocks wind-aided 9.75″ at the US Track and Field Championships. Miss California is unimpressed.

• Admitted PED user Alex Rodriguez tied current Yankee advisor Reggie Jackson on the all-time homer list last night, which Reggie isn’t exactly happy about. Awwwkwaaard.

Frank Thomas says he’s “close” to retiring, which will be news to the one person in the universe who doesn’t already think that Frank Thomas is retired. That person being Frank Thomas, of course.

• A man has now been arrested in connection with Karen Sypher’s plan to extort cash from Rick Pitino. Why was Lester Goetzinger so willing to help out in this scheme? Were sexual favors involved or something? Oh, actually, they were.

• Wimbledon’s in full swing, and a rising star you might want to keep an eye on (or both your eyes on, really) is Caroline Wozniacki out of Denmark. She’s the #9 seed and has advanced to the third round. Here she is enjoying some time off the court:

Caroline Wozniacki

And looking good on the court:

Caroline Wozniacki

Who’s going to be the bigger NBA star?

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Vijay Singh Remains Loyal To Disgraced Financier

Yesterday, disgraced former billionaire “Sir” Allen Stanford was arrested by the FBI in Virginia. The flamboyant financial honcho is accused of defrauding investors out of over 8 billion dollars. Before his financial house of cards collapsed, Stanford was famous in sports circles for being a major sponsor of teams and athletes, including Vijay Singh.

Vijay Singh Stanford Group

As his empire crumbled, his Stanford International Group defaulted on nearly all its sponsorship obligations, including Singh. So after all that, and after yesterday’s high-profile arrest, why the heck did Singh show up to his U.S. Open tee time this morning with Stanford’s name plastered all over him?

Read more…

Speed Read: Penn St. & Illinois Stink Up The Joint

Basketball: it’s a beautiful game. Or fantastically ugly, depending on which game you watched last night. On one hand, you had the Phoenix Suns putting up 140 points for the second straight game in their 142-119 victory over the depleted Los Angeles Clippers. On the other, there was Penn State and Illinois, who combined scored exactly one-half as many points as the Suns did in the Nittany Lions’ 38-33 upset victory over the Fighting Illini.

Penn State vs Illinois

Let’s talk about the latter game first. It wasn’t the lowest scoring game since the 45-second shot clock was introduced in 1986, but it was close. (That distinction belongs to Monmouth’s 41-21 win over Princeton in 2006.) They also flirted with the record for fewest combined points in a half, with the two team’s output of 32 just eclipsing the record of 28 set by Mississippi and South Carolina back in 2003.

The box score tells you all you need to know about the debacle. Exactly one player scored in double digits: Penn State’s Talor Battle, who put up 11 points on 3-for-11 shooting. Heck, the Nittany Lions as a team shot 28.3 percent from the field, and they won.

At least the two teams didn’t let a little thing like not being able to hit the broadside of a barn stop them from shooting the deep ball: they combined to go 6-for-33 from the three-point line. And Illinois didn’t attempt a free throw. For the game. Way to be aggressive, guys. But I guess a win’s a win, even if it’s the most embarrassing and pathetic kind possible. Congratulations, Penn State, I guess.

Steve Nash and Al Thorton

And then there are the Suns. You’ll excuse me if I don’t get too excited by the sudden return of the high-scoring, fast-paced, exciting Suns with Alvin Gentry as head coach after putting a hurting on the Clippers on back-to-back nights. First off, it’s the Clippers to begin with, but if a team with Amare Stoudemire (for now) can’t murder a team that’s missing Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, Brian Skinner and Zach Randolph, then something is seriously wrong.

Check back with me on Sunday after you guys visit Boston, and we’ll see how you’re doing.

But the Suns have a date with Oklahoma City before then on Friday, which will be without newly-acquired Tyson Chandler. Permanently. That’s because the Thunder rescinded their trade with New Orleans from Tuesday and sent Chandler back to the Hornets after he failed a physical with their team doctor.

Tyson Chandler

As TRUEHOOP notes, it’s probably going to be pretty awkward in New Orleans as Chandler has to return to the team that just unloaded him for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox. (By the way, is Joe Smith involved with every strange trade or free agent signing in the NBA?) What makes things even more odd is that Chandler didn’t fail the physical because of his sprained left ankle - it was because of a big toe injury he suffered in 2007. And the Thunder’s doctor was the one who performed the surgery.

And speaking of injuries…Ken Griffey Jr. is back with the Mariners! All joking aside, I think most people of my generation will think it’s pretty neat to see Junior back in a Mariners uniform (presumably) for the rest of his career. And the story of his signing with the Mariners is unique; the SEATTLE TIMES says that apparently the No. 1 salesman for Seattle was Harold Reynolds, a close friend of Griffey’s. He had been working on Griffey to sell him on the move to Seattle when he played his trump card: hugging Willie Mays.

Ken Griffey Jr.

Reynolds set up a phone call between Griffey and the Say Hey Kid, who was Griffey’s idol and the reason he wears No. 24. And sure enough, soon after having the phone conversation with Mays, Griffey told the Mariners that he would sign with them. A great story, although I’m not sure I’d take advice from Willie Mays on how to end your career gracefully.

More sports stories to learn about as you ponder if anyone’s life could be stranger than Tracy Morgan’s

Which star athlete’s end of career death spiral was most painful to watch?

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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…

Blog-A-Rhythm: Do Braves Injuries Go Up To 11?

• RIGHT DOWN PEACHTREE compares the calamities suffered by injured Atlanta Braves players to those of Spinal Tap drummers.

Atlanta Braves old logo Spinal Tap

• SLAM ONLINE tries to translate some post-series quotes from the winners and losers (and non-participants) of this year’s NBA Finals.

• SONS OF BILL SIMMONS discovers that Marla Maples, one of the ex-wives of Donald Trump, is looking fine for a 44-year-old.

• SIGNAL TO NOISE says that Portugal’s soccer team is the Los Angeles Lakers of Euro 2008 - so they won’t be winning a title, either.

Read more…

Natalie Gulbis Wants To Be On Vijay Singh’s Bag

Nothing like starting the day by taking an innocent photo and taking it completely out of context. Right? Yes indeed. Natalie Gulbis — also known as, “Yes” — did some caddying at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The work was for amateur Ted Forstmann, and blah blah blah, here she is walking with Vijay Singh.

Natalie Gulbis

Gulbis, of course, is a talented golfer in her own right. She topped $1 million on the LPGA moneylist in 2005 and won her first tournament in 2007, and blah blah blah, she’s also very fetching.

Natalie Gulbis Bikini Photos

This is the first of what could be two golf-related posts today, but it is the only one that will include Natalie Gulbis. I just thought that should be mentioned.