Posted By:Brett Haynes - Greenville, SC Tags:
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With college football still a few months away, we lean on the other sports to get us through. I love the World Cup, and that revs up next month. But for right now the main things are the NBA playoffs and the PGA Tour. The Major League Baseball season is also heating up with a few teams starting to already seperate themselves from the pack. Here are my thoughts on what is going on here in late spring in the world of sports...
Phil. Being the Tour groupie that I am of late, here is a quick glance inside the PGA going-ons. I was able to attend the Sunday action from Quail Hollow, and it was very exciting. For years, I have never been able to become the Phil Mickelson fan that I knew I should be. But I think this past Sunday, I have finally been won over. Phil seemed to be the one player on the day that most appreciated the loud applauses he was receiving. There was no doubt who "The Man" on this golf course was on this day. Rory McIlroy won, and we will get to that in just a second, but it was definitely Mickelson who brought the rock-star type feel to Quail Hollow. His galleries dwarfed those of any other golfer, and with each and every outburst of applause, Mickelson was accepting with a huge grin and a tip of the cap. For years "Lefty" kind of got on my nerves as he was talked about so much. But with him now over the hump of not being able to win the big one, along with his noble off of the course actions, it is clear to me now that Mickelson is the class of the sport. Yes, Tiger will be back - I doubt anyone really doubts that. But as of right this second, Phil is the best player on the course, and he has the numbers to prove it.
A Great Moment. I will try my best to describe the following story the best I can, but it is truly one of those had-to-have-been-there type things. During the final round Sunday, I was lucky enough to be able to stumble upon one of those special moments that will never be on SportsCenter, but I will never forget...Myself, my dad (Tiger75) and my good friend Tigernut were watching the action from behind the 13th green when an errant tee shot found its way up the hill to where we were standing, eventually settling about 15 inches from the base of a pine tree. Just like any shot that finds its way into the spectators, people immediatly began to get as close to the golf ball as possible for the closest possible view of the upcoming shot. Moments later, Ryuji Imada arrived at his ball, wondering just how in the world he would get the ball up and down to save par on this hole. He was facing a 30-40 yard distance that required negotiating a steep, undulating downhill run of about half of that span before reaching the rock hard greens. It was mad tricky!...Imada studied the shot for several minutes, walking down the hill, then back up, then doing several practice "swings" next to the tree. After this went on for a few minutes, Imada finally approached the ball for his shot, and the hundred or so people around fell dead silent. Imada hovered over the ball for several tense seconds, still kinda confused, before looking up at a small 5-year old boy (whose face was literally no more than 4 feet from the ball) and saying, "so what do you think?" The crowd burst into laughter, and Imada stepped back to re-assess the shot one last time. As if the story isn't cool enough at this point, Imada then punched the ball to about six feet from the pin to the amazement of the patrons! It was an awesome moment, and you should have seen the look on the face of that little boy's father. Imada fans for life? I would bet so.
The Rory Story. Ok, for those of you who don't believe in this guy yet, you're running out of time! Luckily, we were smart enough to watch McIlroy for a couple of holes Sunday. He was playing with Anthony Kim, and at the time we saw them, I believe Kim was actually ahead of Rory on the leaderboard. But that was early in the day, and before it was over with, McIlroy had shot a 62 and won the Quail Hollow Championship by four strokes. He has been pegged as "the next big thing" and I think he will live up to it. Phil and Tiger were once the next big things, and they panned out pretty well I would say. Watching McIlroy play, and knowing just how young he is, I would be surprised if he doesn't win a lot of golf tournaments in his days ahead. He is a likable, well-spoken young man, and he was thrilled to death with is first win on American soil. I look forward to keeping up with this player.
The MLB season is but a month old, and already a few teams seemed dsestined to make the playoffs, while others are destined for the cellar. Tampa Bay may have the best team in the game with a staff loaded with live arms. They also know how to scrap together runs. The defending champion Yankees aren't looking too bad, either. They are 14-11, and will spend the season battling the Devil Rays in the AL East.
So like I said, in the AL, you have the previously mentioned Yanks and Rays doing most of the damage, but they are both in the East. That is going to be a battle royale for the division crown! The Twins lead the Central, and the Rangers and A's are fighting over the West...The poor Orioles are already 9.5 games back (we are in early May) and the Royals are 6.5 back. It really is a sad situation for some of these small market teams.
In the NL, meanwhile, the Cardinals seem to be the class of the league with the best record of the 16 teams. They have a comfy 4.5 game lead in the Central, while the Padres and Phillies are your other two division leaders. As you guys know, I really like the Braves, and I'm more than a bit concerned. They lost nine straight before winning their last three. At only 3.5 games back, all is fine, but the division looks like it will be competitive as the Braves are in last place with a 11-14 record. Jason Heyward has been a HUGE bonus. The young rookie is a superstar in the making and is fun to watch. He has 23 RBIs and 7 homers already.
And speaking of home runs, the leader is Paul Konerko with twelve, and four guys tied with nine. The undisputed pitching leader is Ubaldo Jimenez of Colorado who has the most wins (6), the best era (.087), and the most strikeouts (44).
I love baseball. I really do. But there are so many dadgum games that it is really hard to report on them on here. I mean, out of 162 games, how can that much importance be placed on any single pre-All-Star game game? I think the Yankees and Red Sox alone play each other 37 times this season. I know that baseball is as traditional as any sport ever, and that one of those traditions is that the season represents a marathon and not a race. It is a battle of longitivity to see who can go the distance. I can completely understand the basis of that as you must play well in cold months, hot months and all types of months in between. Plus, you must stay healthy and make adjustments. It has its beauty. But still, sometimes I wonder if the season wouldn't be more interesting and games more meaningful if the season was drastically shortened, making it truly the game of the summertime. Just a thought...
The latest polls are out, and Texas has overtaken the top spot from Arizona State. Virginia continues its year-long run in the top-5, cheking in at number 3 in both the USAToday poll and the Collegiate Baseball poll. The Baseball America poll, however, has the Hoos numero uno at 39-9. The biggest news around my parts is the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Cocks are ranked fourth, sixth and seventh in the three polls and should be in good shape to host a regional if they finish decent. They have one of the nicer parks in the country in newly opened Carolina Stadium, which seats around 9,000 fans....And how could I write about college baseball and not mention Clemson? The Tigers have had a rocky middle part of the season, but still check in at number 24 in the USAToday poll. At 27-17, they will not be any kind of favorite, but college baseball is weird, and hopefully they can get hot again as the year comes to a close. They have several key series left, and with wins and luck could be lobbying to host a regional themselves. A remodel of Doug Kingsmore Stadium has their park looking sharp and seating 7,000 plus...Conference tournaments start in the last week of this month. The Road to Omaha is about to get some traffic....
Ok, this is going to be painful. Until the Finals roll around, I just have a very hard time watching the NBA. Yes, the entertainiment is great and these guys are unreal. But I have never been able to watch the games close until the ultimate hardware is on the line. Both Kobe and the Lakers and LeBron and the Cavs are still alive, and at this point, that is telling me they are going to meet to play for the world title. When those games get here, I will be able to give you a fair analysis as I will watch every minute. But that series isn't even here yet, and by no means a guarantee to happen. The Lakers must beat the Jazz, while the Cavs still have to beat the Celtics. Oh yeah, by the way, then the two teams must endure another whole series against the Suns-Spurs winner and the Hawks-Magic winner...But like I said, I still think Kobe and LeBron are destined to meet in the Finals....
I'm not even going to try. I have never in my whole life had the least bit of interest in hockey or the NHL. I don't like the cold unless I am skiing, and I can never even keep up with the puck when I do take five seconds to watch a hockey game. Just not my thing. But, for the sake of whatever, I think the playoff are going on right now...
Now we're talking! The World Cup starts June 11th from South Africa, and will run until July 11th. At this point, Brazil is ranked number 1 in the world, followed by European teams Spain, Portugal, Italy and Germany. Soccer has long had its strong teams be Brazil and Argentina from South America, and then a European team of which six or eight countries could be inserted....The United States will be very close to full strength when the games start, and are currently the 14th ranked team in the world. I cannot wait until the World Cup starts, and I hope the USA can advance into the one and done rounds...
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