Archive for the ‘golf’ Category

I write between 10 to 15 stories a day depending on the length of my shift and how much breaking news erupts.

The only problem with such a heavy dose of assignments is I couldn’t tell you what stories I wrote two weeks ago today without looking them up.

NFL signings, college basketball players applying for the NBA draft, baseball players getting injured, tennis recaps … they just seem to blend in.

Then every once in a while, there is something that stands out.

Like Tiger Woods taking a moment to offer support to lung cancer fighter Shane Caldwell.

Woods met up with Caldwell before Thursday’s opening round of the Masters after finishing up some practice shots on the driving range. He approached with his trademark smile, signed a golf glove and wished the 52-year-old Caldwell the best.

But it didn’t feel like just another story to me as I knew some of the background behind it — due to the power of social media.

A couple tweets from a young lady named Jordan Miller came through my timeline earlier this week and they were really quite impressive. Miller was working Twitter hard to get the word out that it was her stepfather’s dream to meet Woods.

And since her stepfather has stage 4 lung cancer, the one thing repeatedly jumping out was this: This Masters might be Caldwell’s last chance to meet Tiger.

When you think of how many people reach out to Woods each year, the odds of such a meeting weren’t high. Then factor in that it is Masters week and it was super-duper clear that Jordan was tackling quite a task.

But she kept relentlessly working the scene and interacting with people who were all strangers to her just two and three days earlier. And finally, someone passed on word to the Tiger Woods Foundation, and a meeting was set up.

Think about how amazing that is.

A single individual like Jordan Miller never could have pulled this off 15 or 20 years ago. But in the social media age, a lot what used to be impossible is now very much possible.

And Shane Caldwell got to share a special moment with his idol due to his stepdaughter’s awesome perseverance.

So ask me in November if I recall any of the stories I wrote on the first Friday in April and I will know the answer, this one: http://fieldlevelmedia.com/latest-stories?storyId=7532

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I’ve repeatedly been asked the same question since I was ahead of the curve and made the jump to FLM four weeks ago:

Where can I find your stories?

Pretty simple, just like the gig I left: Anywhere and everywhere on the online surface.

One of my co-workers alerted me to the fact that our work runs in the Daily Mail in London. That’s a new one for me.

My favorite place to land at the former gig was the New York Times. Didn’t matter that they stripped my byline off … I couldn’t ever have envisioned something I wrote being on the New York Times website when I was a measly print reporter.

After ESPN scrubs your byline off a couple hundred times, you really don’t worry about whether your name is on the article or not.

But hey, my new workplace actually has a legitimate website so perhaps that is where I should be pushing the traffic.

I handled Tiger Woods’ return to the PGA Tour on Thursday during my many assignments. He shot even-round 72 at famous Torrey Pines and the second his final shot dipped into the hole, my bulletin was out to the world.

While Tiger was holding his press conference with the on-site writers, my rewrite with quotes from Tiger and leader Tony Finau was already out to the clients.

It was an interesting performance for Tiger in his return from his fourth back surgery. I won’t tell you everything about the round because you can read it here — right on the Field Level Media website: http://fieldlevelmedia.com/woods-shoots-72-return-pga-tour

I tell you, there is truly no time for dilly-dallying in the online world. Leaving the laptop for even two minutes could prove costly.

It makes me cringe over some of the newspaper silliness I used to see — kind of like the time the sports editor nicknamed “Tin Man” went to play in a hockey game DURING THE NFL DRAFT and left the desk hanging for about five hours before turning in his column.

There is no room for selfishness and people who aren’t team players in the online world. I think that is why it has proven to be a such good fit. Not to mention I make more money than print journalists in my area.

Being ahead of the curve has never felt so good. Enjoy the read on Tiger’s return.

Sunday was one of those surreal days in the sports world.

The tragic death of Miami Marlins All-Star pitcher Jose Fernandez was bad news to wake up to and then night-time brought us the death of golf legend Arnold Palmer.

LSU football coach Les Miles was fired on Sunday afternoon but I’m sure not wasting much time worrying about him. He’s still alive and will be paid approximately $10 million to go away.

So if you’ve ever wanted me to go away and have $10 million spare dollars, please contact me immediately.

Palmer is the second huge icon to pass away in 2016 — boxer Muhammad Ali died in June.

He died at the age of 87 at a Pittsburgh hospital, reportedly as he awaited cardiac surgery.

The four-time Masters’ champion was an athlete who transcended his sport — he once had more commercial endorsements than Peyton Manning does now — and was also known as a true gentleman.

Heck, he even has a beverage named after him.

In this day and age of spoiled sports figures, it is hard to relate to all the stories you hear about Palmer treating everybody as if they were equally as important as him.

He even had his own gallery of fans called “Arnie’s Army” that followed him around the golf courses.

There is a reason why he is considered the greatest ambassador golf has ever had. He helped golf become viewed as a sport to the general public and his popularity led to the big-time purses that today’s golfers receive at tournaments.

“It is not an exaggeration to say there would be no modern day PGA Tour without Arnold Palmer,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem in a statement. “There would be no PGA Tour Champions without Arnold Palmer. There would be no Golf Channel without Arnold Palmer. No one has had a greater impact on those who play our great sport or who are touched by it.”

We know how Palmer lived his life. Sadly, we will never know how Fernandez would have lived his.

Someone dying at the age of 24 never sounds fair. But when it is a big-time sports figure beloved by millions, the death becomes even more shocking.

Fernandez was hugely popular in South Florida. He was already a two-time All-Star who looked destined to be a 10-time All-Star before his career was over.

Instead, his life is already over due to a boating accident and the Marlins are a devastated franchise.

“There’s no words to describe how this organization feels,” Marlins president David Samson said at a press conference. “Jose was someone who we’ve known since he was a drafted young man, and I think when you talk about a tragedy like this, there are no words that come to mind. There’s no playbook, there’s no words of consolation.”

Miami’s scheduled Sunday game against the Atlanta Braves was canceled — the only decision that could be made under the circumstances.

Manager Don Mattingly was among the many people in the organization who couldn’t contain his emotions.

“There was just joy with him when he played,” Mattingly said. “When he pitched, I think that’s what the guys would say, too, as mad as he would make you with some of the stuff he’d do, you’d see that little kid you see when you watch kids play Little League or something like that. That’s the joy that Jose played with and the passion he felt about playing.”

Fernandez had a 38-17 career record and 2.58 ERA and he hadn’t even entered his prime.

His story is well-known as he escaped from Cuba in 2008 as a teenager after three previously failed attempts. On the successful trip, somebody had fallen overboard and Fernandez dove into the water to make the rescue.

He didn’t know who had fallen in — it turned out to be his mother, Maritza.

The 2017 All-Star Game will be at Marlins Park and I’m sure there will be a big ceremony in his honor.

When you think about it — Marlins Park isn’t a name that needs to be kept.

I hope the franchise renames the place Jose Fernandez Memorial Park.

That’s a no-brainer.

We’ve all run into the guy who brags that only a high school injury prevented him from playing in the NFL.

(Substitute sport here) Or the NBA. Or the major leagues.

Heck, we see guys and gals drive past us on the freeway who think they are part of the NASCAR circuit.

But yeah, haven’t we also heard some Weekend Warrior golfer boast about being good enough to play professional golf?

There is always some irritating hacker bemoaning that having a wife and two kids – oh yeah, and a job – are the only things preventing him from playing at Augusta National.

Wait, did I say Augusta National? As in the Masters? As in this week’s big tournament?

Guess what — the common person is part of the big event this week.

Meet Sammy Schmitz, a person who I wrote about during Tuesday’s workday (GoFundMe amateur golfer crashes the Masters)

The 35-year-old crashed the Masters by winning the U.S. Mid-Amateur title and people were so excited that a GoFundMe page for his expenses raised $25,000 in two-plus days before he and his wife called off the cash avalanche.

And get this, the crucial shot in his decisive round was when he made a hole-in-one … on a par-4 course.

Repeat: A hole-in-one on a par-4 course.

What amateur does that?

Even those annoying nobodies who brag about their golf game know better than to try and pull that one.

So it will be interesting to see how Schmitz fares when they tee it up on Thursday and Jordan Speith is a competitor and not a face he’s watching on television.

Schmitz is facing long odds to make the cut. But check out his odds to win the coveted green jacket:

He’s listed at 2,500-to-1 by one Vegas oddsmaker.

Yep, the same odds listed for 1998 Masters champ Mark O’Meara.

Hmmm, let the bragging begin.

Hard not to like a guy named Bubba being branded a winner.

Sure beats a Tiger cashing the winning check at the Farmers Insurance Open.

The hometown gallery at Torrey Pines would have preferred that a different lefty – Phil Mickelson – prevailed. But there’s nothing wrong with left-hander Bubba Watson having his name forever stenciled into the record books as the winner of the PGA Tour’s 2011 stop in San Diego.

Watson made his clutch birdie putt on 18 to wrap up a 5-under-par 67 final round and walk away with a check worth more than $1 million for his second career victory.

Good ol’ Bubba has a reputation as a likable player and I saw glimpses of that when I covered the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. As he walked down the fairway on the picturesque course, people were repeatedly yelling to him. He seemed to have a lot of fans for someone who had never won a tournament and would miss the cut of the prestigious tournament.

Or perhaps people just find it fun to yell ‘Hey, Bubba!”

Bubba got that elusive first career win last year so he’s becoming a real pro now at walking off with the winner’s check.

Perhaps that’s why he didn’t turn it into a boring golf answer when a scribe asked him if he looks at himself any differently now.

“Oh, I’ve lost some weight,” Bubba said before laughing. “I thought you were talking about me. Do I look any different? Do I look any different at what?”

Now that’s exactly the type of answer you expect from a 32-year-old man who goes by the name of Bubba.

And he was just getting the comedy show warmed up. And, no, he doesn’t look at himself any differently as a player since getting that first career win.

“No, I still think I’m goofy Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Florida that hits a ball every once in a while with a pink shaft real far,” Watson said. “I don’t see myself as a rock star or fan favorite. I see myself as Bubba Watson from Bagdad that loves to play the game of golf.”

And that’s why Bubba is popular on the golf course. He’s a regular guy, not a prima donna like Tiger Woods. He’s a guy people can relate to and compare themselves with.

Bubba may be hitting golf balls around the course for four days but he also spends a lot of time doing what your average person in a golf gallery does too.

“I’m looking at people flying around in kites,” said Watson, referring to the hang gliders departing the nearby Torrey Pines Gliderport. “I’m looking at how beautiful the water is. I’m scared of heights so I’m looking at the cliffs. So I’m looking at stuff I shouldn’t be looking at while I’m trying to play golf.”

Yeah, there’s nothing corporate about this down-home Bubba.

Watson was a one-shot winner over Mickelson with Jhonattan Vegas and Dustin Johnson tying for third. Mickelson was the favorite on the course he used to play on as a kid and the hometown vibe grew a few octaves with his wife, Amy, attending the tournament. Amy Mickelson was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and has endured a rough stretch over the last 18 months.

Woods, meanwhile, finished 15 shots off the lead in a tie for 44th place. This after a week’s worth of hype that Torrey Pines could re-start Woods’ sagging career.

Instead, Woods left the shores of La Jolla on another down note. To add insult to poor play, an amateur named Anthony Paolucci from nearby La Jolla Country Day School beat Woods by two shots.

But overall the week will be known for this – the time when a Bubba upstaged a Tiger.

Nothing wrong with that.

The name just didn’t ring a bell.

I covered the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines just two short years ago and studied the golfers closely – from the stars to the no-names you heard for the very first time.

And as a guy named Graeme McDowell moved into the lead of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach on Sunday, I kept saying the same thing:

“I have no recollection of this guy.”

Turned out there was a good reason – McDowell didn’t qualify for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Two years later, the Northern Ireland native is one of the more unlikely winners of the U.S. Open and also the first European to win the event since Englishman Tony Jacklin in 1970.

McDowell shot a final-round 74 and was a one-shot winner over Gregory Havret of France. Didn’t recognize that name, either. Yeah, Havret also didn’t play at Torrey Pines.

What in the name of Rocco Mediate is going on here?

Regardless, McDowell deserves his new tag as winner of a golf major. He didn’t fold when big names like Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods were lurking.

Those big names sure went the wrong direction. Els finished two shots back of McDowell while Mickelson and Woods both finished three strokes back.

Third-round leader Dustin Johnson had a worse day than the Big Three combined. Johnson collapsed under the pressure and shot a horrendous 11-over-par 82.

You have to go back to 1911 when Fred McCloud shot 83 to find a third-round leader who played so poorly on the final day.

McDowell had never previously won a PGA Tour event so you have to figure that’s quite a sore spot with Woods, who was hoping to change the focus from his messed-up personal life back to his golf game by winning the U.S. Open.

Instead, we have this question to ponder: “Tiger, does being outplayed by Graeme McDowell hurt the one-night stand talent pool?”

At Pebble Beach, Tiger didn’t put it “in the hole” quick enough except for Saturday when he shot a blistering 66. Woods never made his patented final-round charge, which tells us he needs more time to get both his golfing prowess and mental state back to its once-legendary place.

Instead, we all know the name Graeme McDowell. And if I ever cover another U.S. Open, I’ll scan the list of names to research and I’ll nod in appreciation when I run across his.

The next words out of my mouth will come freely – “2010 U.S. Open champ.”

The name will definitely ring a bell – a title-winning bell.

There were no killings of college lacrosse athletes or alleged rapes of teenage girls with bruises on their faces but there were two excellent candidates for MrSportsBlog’s Weekly Sports Disgrace.

Two people who cheated themselves and their sports. Two people old enough to know better but not smart enough and/or classy enough to care.

But since one of them has a prison sentence in their future and the other one will only be a lifetime laughingstock, the dishonorable Weekly Sports Disgrace loser is basketball impostor Guerdwich Montimer, who edged out Notre Dame women’s golfer Annie Brophy, who provided false scores during an NCAA regional tournament.

The 22-year-old Montimer was posing as a 16-year-old sophomore basketball player at Periman High School in Texas – yeah, the school famous for “Friday Night Lights.”

He was becoming quite the item as a player – too good for his own good in terms of protecting his little secret. Though he was posing under the name “Jerry Joseph,” three coaches from Florida recognized him at an AAU tournament in Little Rock, Ark. They knew he had graduated from a high school in Fort Lauderdale in 2007.

He somehow was originally able to convince Periman school officials that he truly was Jerry Joseph. A year earlier, he had been admitted to a middle school after producing documents showing he was a 15-year-old from Haiti.

The investigation continued and heated up when an anonymous e-mailer told Periman administrators all the dirt on Montimer’s real identity. This time, Montimer confessed.

He was first arrested Tuesday for failing to identify himself to police officers after eventually confirming his name wasn’t Jerry Joseph. A second arrest occurred Thursday when he was hit with a felony charge of tampering with government documents.

Things really got bad for him on Friday when Montimer was arrested on a second-degree felony sexual-assault charge for having sex with a 15-year-old girl in the summer of 2009. You see, the young girl thought he was 15 when he was actually 21 at the time.

That is truly one bad week – and a sad story that someone had to become an imposter in order to feel good about his life. Now he’s really made a mess that will take a long time to correct.

Brophy didn’t do anything criminal but certainly embarrassed herself and made a mockery of an NCAA golf competition that everyone else was taking seriously.

The night before the tournament started, all the golfers agreed to a code of conduct that warned against dishonest acts. That didn’t stop Brophy from reporting that she was shooting birdies – and even an eagle – during the third round when she really was slicing and hooking balls all over the course.

Brophy said she was just “goofing around” but NCAA officials didn’t find it so funny. They disqualified her after 14 holes because of her unsportsmanlike conduct.

Brophy’s false scores were making Notre Dame a surprise contender to be one of the eight teams that advanced. That kept the teams from Florida State, Oregon and Kent State at the course in case there needed to be a playoff to see which teams advanced.

Brophy’s season ended with the disqualification – and, thankfully, her career did too since she was a senior.

So congrats to Annie Brophy for now being known for something: Dishonorable mention of MrSportsBlog’s Weekly Sports Disgrace.

PAST WEEKLY SPORTS DISGRACE LOSERS

MAY 1-8, 2009 – Weekly Sports Disgrace Loser – George Huguely, Virginia men’s lacrosse. Dishonorable mention –Lawrence Taylor, Hall of Fame football player. (https://mrsportsblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/08/weekly-sports-disgrace-george-huguely/)

The Masters began with the focus planted on the world’s best golfer. It ended with the planet’s second-best golfer as the center of attention.

That was quite a four days of golf turned in by San Diego native Phil Mickelson, who won his third green jacket with a splendid performance that included three rounds of 67 on the tough Augusta National course.

Adding to the big golfing performance was the emotions behind it as Mickelson’s wife (Amy) and mother (Mary) are both battling breast cancer.

Amy Mickelson hadn’t been seen at a golf tournament in the 11 months since she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She watched most of the Masters at a nearby residence but showed up to the course to catch the ending.

Phil Mickelson was as surprised as anyone that his wife had indeed made it out to the course. The two shared a great celebratory moment before Mickelson had to go sign his scoreboard.

Mickelson won the Masters with a 16-under-par 272, the lowest score by a Masters champ since a guy named Tiger Woods in 2001. Tiger’s return to action after five months away from the game resulted in a 277 total and a tie for fourth place. He didn’t come close to making his typical final-round charge.

Mickelson finished three shots ahead of Lee Westwood with Anthony Kim another shot behind in third. K.J. Choi was tied with Woods for fourth, while Fred Couples finished sixth at 279.

While he made many great shots during his tourney-winning performance, Mickelson’s best shot came on the par-5, 13th hole. He was backed up behind a tree well off the fairway and sent the ball sailing past the side of the tree and over a creek to land on the green and set up a birdie putt.

It was simply an amazing shot, one of the best Mickelson will ever shoot in his stellar golf career.

The guy who once was criticized for never having won a major tournament, suddenly has won four now. In fact, he’s only the eighth golfer to win three Masters’ titles. The only golfers to win more are legends Jack Nicklaus (six), Arnold Palmer (four) and Woods (four).

When they talk about the greatest golfers ever, the conversation always begins with Nicklaus, Palmer, Woods, Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan.

Mickelson still has more work to do to find his name associated with that group of five but his latest victory definitely places him in the conversation on the second level of the game’s best-ever golfers. That group includes legends like Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Gary Player and Walter Hagen.

Yeah, I have no problem saying “Lefty” will eventually be solidly considered as one of the Top 10 golfers to ever play the game. He’s become much more confident in the big events – remember all the meltdowns before winning his first major? – and is still in the prime of his career.

But when he looks back at his career after it is over and counts up all the titles, the 2010 Masters crown will be up there at the top of his list of accomplishments.

That was a legendary performance we just witnessed from Mickelson at Augusta National. And the family circumstances only add to its brilliance.

Oh no, another Tiger Woods scandal is upon us.

Tiger still uses profanity. Oh my, the horror!

It’s beyond silly that people are getting worked up over the fact Woods used some salty language during Saturday’s third round of the Masters.

I have a little secret for you: Numerous baseball, football and basketball stars cuss, too.

I know, I know – next thing you know, I’ll tell you that NASCAR drivers and MMA fighters use naughty words too (duh!).

There’s nothing odd about a professional athlete using profanity during a highly competitive game or match. Happens all the time. Even happens during college sports — like the NCAA basketball tournament and major college football bowl games.

Hard for Tiger to know where CBS’ microphones are going to be during his 18-hole stroll around the golf course. His primary focus is on playing his round and, like any competitive athlete, he is going to have impulsive reactions to something good or bad that occurs.

Now if Tiger suddenly starts reciting some of his naughty text messages to his stable of mistresses after a bad shot, then go ahead and get worked up. But the expectation that he should only use choirboy language during a round at the Masters is silly.

Yes, I’m aware Woods professed that he planned to show more respect to the game of golf prior to his return to action. And yes, it would behoove him to do that since the sport does have more gentlemanly customs than team sports do.

But thinking that Tiger – or any other professional athlete – will never utter an expletive during a game or round is unreasonable. It happens – and will continue to happen.

Chad Campbell and Nathan Green both shot 80s during Saturday’s third round. I’d be willing to bet they weren’t uttering a lot of cheery words during their disastrous rounds. Of course, they don’t have CBS microphones near them at all times, either.

On the golf-playing side of things, Woods is tied for third at 8-under-par 208, four shots behind leader Lee Westwood. Phil Mickelson is one shot behind Westwood after a round that included back-to-back eagles. K.J. Choi is tied for third with Woods.

Fred Couples is still in the hunt in fifth place, five shots behind Westwood, entering Sunday’s final round.

Just in case we needed to be reminded that playing golf is his real specialty, Tiger Woods delivered in his first competitive round in five months.

This 18-hole return didn’t come at some nondescript PGA Tour course — it came at famed August National in the Masters.

Woods tallied two eagles and produced his best first-round score ever at the Masters with an opening 4-under-par 68 that has him two shots behind leader Fred Couples.

If this was a day to scrape off the rust of his golf game, what happens when Woods is fully back in the flow over the weekend?

I mentioned in Wednesday’s MrSportsBlog commentary that Woods didn’t suddenly lose his ability to play the game of golf. Nice of him to make me look good with a stellar opening round.

Woods’ competitive juices are part of what has made him one of the top golfers ever. His focus is impressive and his ability to come through under tough circumstances is legendary, topped by his 91-hole winning 2008 U.S. Open performance at Torrey Pines on a fractured leg.

So it shouldn’t come as a major surprise that Woods performed so well after his long layoff. Remember, the holes on the golf course haven’t been the problem as he went from popular icon to disgraced national butt of jokes over his string of extramarital affairs with women of questionable character and morals.

The golf course has always been a place where a Tiger on the prowl has excelled. Thursday’s return was no different.

If Woods was humiliated to be out in such a public setting after spending so much time away from the spotlight, it didn’t show.

It didn’t hurt that the gallery around the first tee greeted him warmly. Woods said in an ESPN television interview immediately after the round that he didn’t hear a single negative comment as he made his way around the course.

“It was unbelievable the whole day,” Woods told ESPN’s Mike Tirico at Augusta’s famous Butler Cabin. “I haven’t heard them cheer this loud in all my years here.”

Once Woods birdied the third hole, any remaining nerves seemed to dissipate. And it was clear the four-time Masters champ was en route to a good round when he eagled the eighth hole.

Woods scored a birdie on the ninth hole after an incredible shot placed him on the green and later scored his second eagle on 15.

You could see Woods’ frustration when he missed a birdie putt on 18 that would have left him one shot behind. He said afterwards in the ESPN interview that his goal was to try not to give any shots away. He gave one away on 18.

As for rust, Woods indicated he didn’t feel any, and cited the intense practice preparations leading up to his return.

“Depends on how serious you take your practice,” Woods said in reference to why his first competitive round in five months went so well. “I took them very seriously. I was grinding pretty hard for weeks

Woods previous best opening round at the Masters was a 70.

On any other day, the 6-under 66 by the 50-year-old Couples would have been the top story. Couples, the 1992 Masters champ, was relegated to secondary status by Woods’ return.

Same for 60-year-old Tom Watson, the two-time Masters champ (1977, 1981) who opened with a 67. You may recall Watson’s near-victory at the British Open last summer so it’s amazing to see him deliver such a good first round at August.

Even Phil Mickelson (67) received scant attention with his impressive opening round.

Yes, the day was about Tiger’s return. He was the big news on Thursday’s opening day of the Masters.

And at least this time, Tiger is the headline story for his golf play — and not because there’s another breaking report of revealing extramarital romps with some seedy skank.

Tiger hasn’t won the Masters since 2005, but if Thursday’s first round is any indication, he has a real shot at ending that drought on Sunday.