Thursday, April 28, 2005

Frist Makes Proposal

Majority Leader Frist (R-TN) has made a proposal that would keep the filibuster unchanged but still get all judicial nominees a vote on the Senate floor. Here is his speech. Here is more information on the proposed Fairness Rule. I particularly like this synopsis. The letter Senator Frist wrote to Minority Leader Senator Reid is here. It is good that Senator Frist is taking concrete steps to get the nominations on the Senate floor, and it is also good to avoid using the "nuclear option" if possible.

Hat tip: Confirm Them

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Forde on Leitao

There is no comparison between Matt Doherty taking the head coaching job at UNC and Dave Leitao taking the head job at Virginia. None. Don’t be fooled by Pat Forde’s column. Let me say this one more time – there is no comparing the two situations. The title of the column, “Leitao should be wary of Doherty’s path” is unfair to both coaches. There is no need for Leitao to be wary of a path he isn’t taking anyway.

Doherty was taking the helm at his alma mater. Leitao? Nope, he graduated from Northeastern.

Doherty was taking the helm of a program at the top of the college basketball world. Leitao? Nope, the Cavaliers were 14-15 and finished 10th in the 11-team Atlantic Coast Conference.

As for the thesis of Forde’s column, I have a problem there as well. Forde has a problem with coaches taking promotions! What in the world is he complaining about? People do not choose to get into the coaching profession just to stop taking promotions at some point where they are comfortable. Coaches should be leaders. Good leaders always tell people to shoot for the stars, aim high, dream big, and be all they can be. What kind of leader would a coach be if he settled for something less than the stars, the heights, the big dreams, and their best? We should all strive to new heights. We should never rest on our laurels just because we are comfortable.

Was Buzz Peterson right to take the job at Tennessee when he was comfortable at Tulsa? Absolutely. He had a family connection to Tennessee – it was his father’s alma mater. It was closer to his home in the North Carolina mountains. It was paying a higher salary. It was in a higher profile conference. Was there risk? Sure. Every job decision is a calculated risk. But, if he had won at Tennessee and was still there, would Forde still say it was a bad move?

Forde concludes by saying, “It’s often easier to make big money by moving around than settling down. But as Matt Doherty can tell Dave Leitao, sometimes the new job comes with a trapdoor beneath it.” Doherty didn’t go to UNC for money, Pat. If you honestly think that is even one of the primary reasons he moved from Notre Dame to UNC, then you’re lying to yourself. That desire to move somewhere for more money, glory, and opportunity never ends. Pitino going from Kentucky to the NBA comes to mind. But, that’s all a part of being a leader and taking your own advice. The kids at Wisconsin-Milwaukee told Bruce Pearl he should leave for a bigger school because they know he would want them to do what is best for them.

In any profession, people look for the next opportunity. The best in a profession look for challenges. To ask coaches not to do so is ludicrous. They know that taking the step up in “class” may prove to be a failure, but what kind of leader would a man be if he shied away from challenges. In the specific cases of Leitao and Doherty, Leitao is going into a great situation – low expectations in a year when the ACC is down. Doherty came into the highest profile job in the sport where nothing but top 10 rankings would do. Leitao will be fine, and I have more respect for him having taken the job at Virginia than I would have he stayed in a comfortable situation at DePaul.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Greensboro and the PGA Tour

The business of professional sports is becoming increasingly complex. No aspect of the business has more variables than the negotiation of new television contracts. The PGA Tour is in the process of negotiating new contracts that will take effect in 2007. At present, there are a number of scenarios that may come into play, and these scenarios are discussed in a recent Business Journal article.

The top players on tour, like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, have gone on the record saying they would like to see the season shortened so more top players are in the field together more often. I can see this being attractive to the cream of the crop, but the guys trying to scrape by need more events. More importantly, the local economies and the local charities in many cities depend on the PGA Tour stop in their area. If events are cancelled or demoted to the Nationwide Tour, cities like Greensboro would take a heavy hit and charities like The Victory Junction Gang would lose a major contributor. With the PGA Tour using charitable work as a major promotion this year (“Drive to a Billion”), eliminating Tour stops could be a public relations nightmare.

Moving PGA Tour events overseas would pose a similar problem. This may be a boost to the PGA Tour brand by exposing the world’s best golf to new eyes, but it would be a major problem in the United States where charities and communities would take economic losses. Considering many foreign companies are showing a willingness to sponsor PGA events here in the States, there is no immediate reason to move away from the home country.

Finishing the Tour season at Labor Day would not solve the problems of poor fan attendance, less stellar fields, or poor TV ratings for the fall events. When football season begins, football will take precedence over the golf for both the attending spectators and the TV viewers. If some of the top shelf events were moved to the fall, this could change. However, so long as the events in the fall are the ones we have today (including Deutsche Bank, Bell Canadian, 84 Lumber, Valero Texas, Chrysler Classic of Greensboro, Southern Farm Bureau, Michelin, FUNAI at Disney, and Chrysler Championship) then this problem will persist. There is a reason Singh won four of those events in 2004 – no one cares about those events. Only the WGC-American Express and The TOUR Championship are solid events in the fall. (And, bad news for the folks in Greensboro, the WGC is the week after the Greensboro event.)

Making some of the Tour events become Champions Tour or Nationwide Tour stops would be a poor solution. No city used to hosting the big boys will want to take the slap in the face of being demoted to a Nationwide stop. The Champions Tour should be relevant enough to dictate where it will stop. It need not take these leftovers from the PGA Tour. Besides, this would again lead to the same PR issues related to loss of revenue for charities.

Greensboro

Let me be brutally honest about the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro. I desperately want that event to succeed. It has been a mainstay in Greensboro and on the PGA schedule for decades. However, it has fatal flaws.

Even after the facelift given to Forest Oaks by Davis Love III, the course still lacks the flair needed to host a PGA event with success. Having played the course a number of times, it has never impressed me so I can only imagine the opinions held by serious golfers like those carrying PGA Tour cards. There are a number of other courses in North Carolina that are better suited for hosting a Tour event.

Having a PGA Tour event that is part of the Fall Finish doesn’t help matters. I understand the reasoning of why the event was moved from its historical spring date, but I’ve never agreed with it. Moving the event to September 26-October 2 pits the golf tournament against football games at Wake Forest, NC State, UNC, ECU, and Carolina Panthers. This year, Wake Forest hosts Clemson and UNC hosts Utah on that Saturday. Luckily for the folks in Greensboro, the Panthers home game with Green Bay is on Monday Night Football. It also pits it against the Talladega NASCAR race that is part of the Chase for the Nextel Cup. North Carolina loves college athletics and NASCAR before golf. Add in the fact that the Tigers and Phils of the PGA Tour aren’t stopping in Greensboro and you have a real dilemma.

The World Golf Championship event the week following the Greensboro tournament also hurts the efforts of the folks at Forest Oaks. Top players often take the week before a significant event off to rest or prepare for the specific course they will face. This hurt Greensboro’s chances of securing a top field, which in turn hurts the chances of getting high attendance or viewership numbers.

Bottom Line

While many people expect major changes to the PGA Tour’s schedule when the new television deals are announced, I am not so sure. I could see some top events being moved to different times (such as The Players’ Championship being moved to the fall to avoid Florida’s rainy season). But, I do not see wholesale changes such as many mentioned in the Business Journal. I believe that when the chips are down the Tour will realize two things. First, the Tour is not dominated by the top players; it is dominated by the players who struggle to make the required starts and required cash to keep their cards. These players need more events, and they need events where the top players will not be playing. Thus, events like the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro and other Fall Finish events have important roles to play in the life of the PGA Tour. Second, the PGA prides itself on charitable work. A reduction in PGA events would hurt charities that depend on Tour events. Such a reduction would be unpopular at a time when the PGA is advertising its “Drive to a Billion.”

The event in Greensboro needs to find a way to capture the attention of top players. Maybe focus more on Sam Snead’s connection to the tournament. Maybe investigate whether future tournaments could be at a better venue. Look at how often the Houston Open changes courses. Next year, the Shell Houston Open will be played on its 12th course! I have not spent any time thinking of ways to shore up the Greensboro event, but someone needs to do so…and soon. The 2004 event was covered on USA Network on Saturday! How sad, when a PGA Tour 3rd round is relegated to USA!

Congress Makes Me Smile

I noted on April 13, as the International Home Furnishings Market was getting underway, that Congressman Coble and the other members of the North Carolina delegation in DC had sponsored a resolution honoring the market. Here's an update on the resolution. After being referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on April 12, it was referred to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection on April 22. On the Senate side (where Senators Dole and Burr co-sponsored the resolution) it was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary on April 19. (Doesn't it seem odd that such a resolution would go to Judiciary?) Nothing is coming out of Judiciary these days (with the judicial nominees being top priority), so I imagine this resolution may never move. Anyway, I smile at all this since this resolution is a throw-away, yet it still drags on and on through the committees.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Thank you, Ms. Noonan

Every week, I eagerly anticipate the new column from Peggy Noonan in the Opinion Journal. She can turn a phrase better than most, and generally I agree with her phrases. Since Pope John Paul II passed away, she has spent her writing time on issues that are pertinent to members of the Catholic denomination, and sadly for her I am not Catholic. I believe in “the holy catholic church” with a lower-case “c.”

Her column on Thursday was compelling however. Being a Methodist, I had not followed the recent events in the Vatican City as closely as had Ms. Noonan. I was unaware of the eerie timeline of events related to the death of Pope John Paul II. That particular portion of the column was quite illuminating.

All the above said, what I am writing is not about Pope John Paul II, nor is it about the subsequent conclave that named Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. I would like to focus on one paragraph of Ms. Noonan’s column.

When I read the last major paragraph of the second portion of her column, I was struck by the words which she had chosen. I was struck by the truisms. And, I was struck by how clearly it delineates the difference between Catholics and Protestants. Ms. Noonan wrote:

We want a spiritual father. We want someone who stands for what is
difficult and right, what is impossible but true. Being human we don't always or
necessarily want to live by the truth or be governed by it. But we are grateful
when someone stands for it. We want him to be standing up there on the balcony.
We want to aspire to it, reach to it, point to it and know that it is
there.


That paragraph is loaded. Who could disagree with that opening sentence? Even those who do not believe in Jesus Christ long for a spiritual father. The difference between Ms. Noonan and Mr. Rhodenhiser is simple and can be seen in the reading and interpretation of this paragraph. I want a spiritual Father. I want someone who stands for what is difficult and right, what is impossible but true. I am grateful when I see someone stand for truth. I do aspire to it, reach to it, point to it, and know that it is there. “The difference?” you ask.

I know who my spiritual Father is. And, I don’t need him to be a breathing man living in Italy. I did not spend the weeks since Pope John paul II’s death feeling like a ship lost at sea without a Father to point me to “true north.” My Father lives amongst us everyday. He lives in my heart. My Father lived some 2000 years ago and died for my sins. He stood then for what was difficult and right, what was impossible but true. He still stands today. I don’t need someone else to show me how to live a good life, how to be close to God. I know Jesus Christ. With my eyes on His light, I do not need a man standing on a balcony to show me the way that leads to eternal life.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; And in Jesus
Christ his only Son our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the
Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the
third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the
right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the
quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic
church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of
the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. (The Apostles’
Creed
)


I love my Catholic brothers and sisters. But, Ms. Noonan’s column helps make crystal clear the reasons why I am not a member of the Catholic denomination. I want a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And, thanks be to God...I have one.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Stone Cold

I'm watching the Cubs-Cardinals game on ESPN right now, and it is wonderful to hear Steve Stone's voice calling the game. Stone was an integral part of Cubs baseball as I grew up - handling the color commentary alongside Harry Caray and Chip Caray. The fiasco last year that led to his split from the Cubs organization was a result of the hurt egos of spoiled rich ball players. If they can't take criticism, they need to find a new line of work.

His commentary so far today has been dead-on. He has corrected the other ESPN analysts several times and provides more information about game strategy than you get from most analysts these days. Keep up the good work, Stoney. Keep calling it like you see it. The new guys calling Cubs games on WGN are not nearly as talented as the Chip Caray-Steve Stone combo that left town at the end of last season.

EDIT: I'm not the only person pointing out that Stone just calls it like it is. Jay Mariotti, with whom I generally disagree, noted that the other ESPN commentators were harder on Dusty Bake ron Thursday than was Stone. I agree with that. I also agree with The Sports Frog - that the Cubs aren't dead yet. Am I the only person who gets REALLY tired of Mariotti's pessimism ALL THE TIME?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Who's Your Ace?

I was watching ESPN on Tuesday and listened to the talking heads discuss the question, “Which pitcher is off to the best start?” and in the alternative “Which pitcher would you want right now?”

The two candidates in both questions were Roger Clemens of the Astros and Dontrelle Willis of the Marlins. Let’s take a look.

Clemens is off to a great start. He has 3 starts under his belt, has a 1-0 record, and an E.R.A. of 0.43. He has allowed 12 hits in 21 innings and struck out 26. At the plate, he is hitting .167 in 6 at-bats, with no runs scored. He is a Hall of Famer who will fill the seats when he’s pitching.

Willis has 3 starts under his belt, has a 3-0 record, and an E.R.A. of 1.13. He has allowed 14 hits in 24 innings while striking out 14. Offensively, he is hitting .222 in 9 at-bats, scoring once. He’s a bright star, but he’s not going to lead to sellouts everyday.

Right now, I’d take Clemens for his ability to get the key strike out, his experience, and his ability to fill the seats. That said, Willis is off to the better start.

Now, let me spice this up some. Because he has pitched one less game, due to a preseason injury, no one mentions Mark Prior in these debates. So, let me mention him. Prior has 2 starts. He is 2-0. He has no E.R.A., that’s right zero earned runs in two starts. He has given up 8 hits in 13 innings while striking out 12. When at the plate, Prior is hitting .500 in 6 at-bats, scoring twice. I’ll take those numbers. Also considering he has a better career winning percentage than Willis and a lower career E.R.A. than either Clemens or Willis, the call for me gets easier.

So, which pitcher is off to the best start? Prior. Who would I take right now? Yep. Prior. I may be a biased Cubs fan, but I think Prior’s numbers stand the test regardless.

Random Stuff in the Air

You want a flying car?

How about a funny book about being a flight attendant?

I'm sure glad I'm not the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Can you imagine the doors opening mid-flight?

This site is pretty cool as it lets you ride along with pilots on a race course. Gotta love Red Bull.

Why I Became a Cubs Fan

A perfect storm of sorts came to life in the 1980s. There are times in a young man’s life when such circumstances arise that help to define who he is and who he will become. For me, it was watching my first Chicago Cubs broadcast on WGN. My love affair with the Chicago Cubs came as a result of this “perfect storm” of Harry Caray’s fascinating personality, North Carolina’s failure to woo its own baseball franchise, and the key component Mr. Ryne Sandberg.

Harry Caray was the loveable voice of the Cubs from 1982 until 1998. As he said, “My whole philosophy is to broadcast the way a fan would broadcast.” That was certainly true. Even as a young boy who wasn’t that much of a baseball fan, I came to watch WGN coverage of Cubs games every afternoon after school in the spring and whenever I could during the summer. He made the game exciting to me because he seemed so excited by what he was watching. It’s much the same reason I love listening to Woody Durham call UNC football and basketball games. But, Harry himself was not going to be enough reason for me to become a true Cubs fan.

North Carolina doesn’t have its own major league ballclub, and it has no business having one. With the Braves in Atlanta, most native North Carolinians who watch baseball cheer for the Braves. This has been the case even more since the Braves started winning in the early 1990s. But, I never cared for the Atlanta Braves growing up. They were a miserable team to watch back then, and they didn’t have Harry to make the TBS broadcasts interesting. But, not having a hometown team was not what led me to become a Cubs fan either.

The key component to my becoming a Cubs fan was star second baseman Ryne Sandberg. The first thing I noticed about Ryno was that his name and mine were similar. People sometimes called me “Ryno” though I’m sure it would have been spelled differently. I felt a sort of connection to Sandberg through that. Add to it that he was the kind of person you could respect. He showed up to the ballpark, did his job without much complaint, and went home. He was the best second baseman in the league, but he didn’t have the ego that usually comes with being a superstar athlete. Then, when he retired the first time (that whole retire, un-retire, re-retire thing was common for Chicago stars wearing #23) he was willing to walk away from the game at his prime and forego a huge contract. That shows the kind of man he was. It wasn’t about the money; it was about the game and his health. Once the love was gone, he felt he should leave. The same reasoning was used by Michael Jordan with the Bulls across town and with Coach Smith down in Chapel Hill. Sandberg was the uncommon man in athletics, like Jordan and Smith, who had such respect for the game that he was unwilling to continue to compete merely for a paycheck. That’s a great example for the kids to see, and this kid never lost respect for Sandberg from the time he made that decision on down to today.

So, I tip my cap to my Chicago Cubs. I’m not a long-suffering fan like some, my longing for a World Series title is only starting its second decade. But, I feel the pain. I will be buying a “Believe” Bracelet to show my desire, like my Red Sox friend Arundale did last year (hey, if it works for the goose…). In the meantime, I urge you to take a look at Ryne Sandberg’s April highlights and find a copy of his autobiography. I’ve read it several times, and it’s certainly worth the time.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Sam Mills

It is hard to say enough nice things about Sam Mills. He will be missed.

Melvin Scott: Man of Faith

There have been a number of reasons to applaud Melvin Scott during the past few months. He was an important senior scorer for the Tar Heels on their run to the national championship, but his life has shown him more important victories than the one UNC earned against Illinois. The most impressive aspect of Scott was not his willingness to stay in Chapel Hill after his freshman year’s 8-20 campaign. It was not his ability to hit 3-pointers from the wing. Today I applaud Melvin Scott for a bigger reason. You see, Melvin Scott is a man of faith.

Melvin Scott grew up in Baltimore. He was raised in an environment where drugs and lawlessness were the norm. But, Melvin had a determination to play college basketball. Where does such determination to succeed come from? Scott’s faith. He kept an open line of communication between himself and God. He made it to UNC. He will graduate with a degree from UNC. And, he won a national championship.

What was Melvin Scott’s greatest accomplishment at North Carolina? Is it a national title? No. Is it a diploma? Close, but I would argue no. Then, what is it? It’s his providing an example of faith at work for his friends and teammates.

Melvin Scott’s faith has played a role in the lives of Jackie Manuel and Jawad Williams, the other two scholarship seniors on the UNC basketball team. As Manuel prepares for married life, Scott is praying for him. As Williams was going through rough times, Scott was there with him at Bible studies.

In this day and age of collegiate athletics, all the talk tends to focus on points, the ability to play in the NBA, or winning percentages. It is refreshing to see a student-athlete like Melvin Scott who was a “team” guy, provided a positive example for his teammates off the court, and who was willing to express his faith openly.

I urge you to take a look at some outstanding columns written by two of my favorite sports journalists. The more recent comes from Andy Britt and discusses the faith of Scott and the other players. The earlier comes from Adam Lucas and focuses on the three UNC scholarship seniors.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Rainy Day Rant

Twice a year, the International Home Furnishings Market descends on High Point. Since 9/11 the attendance numbers have slowly rebounded. While this year’s figures will not be known for at least another week, I’m prepared to go out on a limb and say that this April’s event will have lower attendance than the one in October 2004. The price of gasoline has a noticeable effect on the travel arrangements of salesmen, executives, and exhibitors. I know of a number of each who chose to forego this market as a result. It is yet to be determined whether this will lead to a bump in attendance when the October 2005 market opens.

Speaking of the furniture market, Rep. Howard Coble along with the rest of the North Carolina delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a resolution honoring the “High Point Market.”

On another less than happy note, UNC’s Rashad McCants held his press conference today to declare his intent to enter this year’s NBA Draft. He will be hiring an agent and thereby losing his eligibility to return to college basketball. This comes as no surprise, but it may be the beginning of a rough off-season in Chapel Hill. At this point, the whispering winds suggest Raymond Felton will soon follow McCants to the NBA. It is not clear what Marvin Williams will do, but if the indicators that he would be a top three pick are valid then he will be likely to leave after this, his freshman, season. If those three players all leave Chapel Hill this off-season, expect Sean May to leave as well. This would leave UNC without its top seven scorers (seniors Williams, Manuel, and Scott included) from the National Championship team.

BobLeeSwagger has changed the format of his website so he no longer as focused on sporting events. Take a look. He is today’s Lewis Grizzard and a North Carolinian.

The MCI Heritage begins Thursday at Hilton Head Island. The highest ranked player in the field is #11 Stewart Cink, who happens to be the defending champion. UNC alumnus Davis Love III holds the record for most MCI Heritage victories with five. He will be playing this week. The Haas men, father Jay and son Bill, will be competing as well. IT is Bill’s first time in the MCI Heritage.

I hope to get back to some more substantive writing soon. I have been under the weather since my return from the coast on Monday so my schedule has been severely scaled back. I will be leaving Friday for a Christening and a wedding, both in Georgia. It should be a spirit-filled weekend indeed. Until Monday, take care and God bless!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Masterful Impressions

DiMarco is the new Mickelson

As I reflect on some post-Masters impressions, I have to lead off with an opinion which is likely held by many golf fans today – Chris DiMarco may be the new Mickelson. Phil was always the bridesmaid, never the bride, until he made the now famous putt on the 72nd hole of The Masters in 2004. Who was his playing partner in that group? Chris DiMarco. This past weekend, DiMarco was standing by when Woods made his putt, on a similar line to Mickelson’s, to win the playoff on the 73rd hole.

Over the course of the past year, DiMarco was paired with Mickelson win Phil won The Masters, lost in a playoff to Vijay Singh at the 2004 PGA Championship, and lost in a playoff to Tiger Woods at The Masters. In the two playoff losses, DiMarco outplayed the eventual winners of both events during the final rounds. At the 2004 PGA, Singh fired a +4 final round while DiMarco fired a -1 final 18 (Leonard, the third player in the playoff had shot +3). At The Masters last weekend, Woods fired a 71 to DiMarco’s 68.

DiMarco is the first player to lose two consecutive majors in playoffs since Tom Watson in the 1978 PGA and The Masters of 1979. I think Watson’s career turned out pretty good.

The most striking thing about the emergence of Chris DiMarco has been in the way he has handled these defeats, especially considering the three majors were all won by members of the “Big Four.” (By the way, I will now officially call it the Big Five since Goosen outplayed Phil, Vijay, and Ernie.) Starting around 2001, Mickelson repeatedly said that he was not intimidated by Tiger Woods. This was the beginning of the change in attitude that allowed him to win his first major last year. If you believe that you can beat Tiger Woods, then eventually the gap will narrow and you will prove to be correct. The same attitude adjustment was made by Singh who eventually became the top ranked player in the world. Now, Chris DiMarco is following suit, and he sounds a lot like Phil Mickelson.

From his Sunday press conference: “This year I was ready to win, to tell you the truth. I really felt like I could win it. And coming out the way I did, I will be ready to win next year. I certainly will feel like I can for sure.”

DiMarco is also becoming a fan favorite, much like Mickelson. Note this question from the Sunday press conference. “ ‘Q. You had a lot of crowds, more so than Tiger; did you notice it?’ CHRIS DiMARCO: ‘I did. It was great, it really was. It kept me motivated. Again, I just tried to stay in my game.’”

Freddy “The Cut Man” Couples

Fred Couples has made 21 consecutive cuts at Augusta. This ties him for second all-time with Tom Watson, who made 21 from 1975-1995. Gary Player holds the record, 23 from 1959-1982. Couples finished T39 due to a 77 in Round 3.

World Rankings

Tiger Woods regained his position as the number one player in the world with his win at Augusta. Chris DiMarco is now the #7 player. When the season started in January, DiMarco was ranked 15th.

Singh Singing

Vijay Singh didn’t make any new friends this past weekend when he alleged that Mickelson was tearing up the greens with his spikes. Ironically, they ended up being paired together after this “spike spat,” and neither performed well with that assignment. Two thoughts – when will Singh stop complaining and just let his game speak for him? He has the game, so he needs to just manage his mouth. Second, since so many golf courses now require soft spikes, why is that same requirement not in play for professionals in events on the nation’s top courses?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Coastal

I will be at the coast for the weekend. I will have full commentary on The Masters and other events on Tuesday.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Day One at Augusta

During the course of today's round at The Masters I will make some brief notes (updates are now on TOP).

Apologies - Blogger ceased to function for me for some reason and I was unable to post last night starting at 5:15.

5:05 - I'm still not believing Tiger's putt. Don't look now, but there are now some familiar names on the first page of the leaderboard. Vijay, Retief, Weir, Harrington, O'Meara, Westwood, and Langer are -1.

5:00- HOLY COW!! Tiger just putted one that was quick downhill. It ran by, kept going, went off the green, down the hill, and INTO THE CREEK at 13!! Are you serious?! He was then allowed to place the ball where he had originally putted from and take a one stroke penalty. So, he was originally putting for eagle, but ends up missing the green in regulation, and has 2.5 feet for bogey. He made his 6 to fall to +2 through 4 holes. Els was in the fairway watching, and considering he's already +2 through 3 he may be shaken by it.

4:40 - Els started with two bogeys. Wittenberg played the back nine in -2. Appleby is now -2 as well. There are 36 players Even or better, but Els and Woods are not among them. Palmer is -3 though six on the back.

4:35 - Phil took advantage of that approach to move to -1.

4:30 - Duval fired an Even par opening nine. Wittenberg, Palmer, and O'Hern lead at -2. Stadler and O"Meara are putting on a good show for the veterans at -1. Goosen made a tough one for par. That man can putt. Tiger's second hole (the 11th) was an adventure, missed a 12 footer for par. Two pars for Singh to start. Great appraoch at 3 by Phil. Nicklaus is now Even.

4:10 - Watching Verplank's tee shot at 16 you can tell the greens are still fast even after the rain. The ball rolled from about 5 feet all the way down the ridge after it appeared to stop. Tiger just laughed loudly as he hit a tee shot into the trees. I've been known to laugh at my self too, but if I did that everytime I went in the trees it would get absurd. Phil birdied his second to get Even. Nicklaus is still -1.

4:05 - Bill Macatee is already annoying me. At least Billy Packer doesn't call golf tournaments. Els bogeyed his first (the 10th).

4:00 - Mickelson bogeyed his opening hole. Couples dropped to +1 as well. Singh started with a par. Goosen is now -1.

3:55 - As TV coverage begins, my updates will become more regularly spaced. I plan to update every 15 minutes for those of you at the office. At present 37 players are Even or better. Tiger parred his opening hole.

3:50 - Nicklaus and Haas are -1. Come on, guys! Wittenberg has joined the leaders at -2.

3:45 - Duval bogeyed at 7 to fall one back. The big four are now either on the course or approaching their respective first tees. USA coverage starts at 4. O'Hern is now tied with Verplank.

3:40 - Billy Casper made a 14 at the par 3 16th. Verplank has joined Duval at -2.

3:30 - Duval birdied 6 to go -2 for sole lead. Interesting tidbit from TGC. Duval is staying with and working on his game with his college golf coach this week.

3:20 - My favorite pairing is on the first tee now. Nicklaus and Haas. Go get 'em boys. Maggert doubled 7. Duval now has a share of the lead again.

3:15 - More on starting on the front versus the back. Harrington, Goosen, Weir, Olazabal, Mickelson, Singh, and Sergio start on the front. Love, Woods, and Els start on the back. See start times and starting holes, here. Maggert still leads, and Duval is still bogey-free through 5.

3:00 - Duval is bogey-free through 4. Maggert leads at -2. Couples parred his first (the 10th). Advantage should go to the players starting on the front though. We'll see if that holds true when today is done.

2:40 - David Duval sits atop the leaderboard after a birdie at #2. Anyone putting any money on him this week? Anyone? I didn't think so. It'll sort it's way out. Jeff Maggert (always worth watching at The Masters and U.S. Opens) is right there for now as well.

Masters Coverage Over Internet

The rain has just started here, but it has been raining for some time in Augusta. The Masters Tournament may start this afternoon - the current plan is 1:00. On the official tournament website you can listen to radio coverage or watch video of the practice tee.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A Good Day

Monday qualifies as good day. I was in Chapel Hill when my Heels won the national championship, and I received my notification that I passed the North Carolina bar exam. I keep thinking good things come in threes, so I wonder what else might happen.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Changing NCAA Landscape?

In the News & Observer today, Ned Barnett wrote that the era of the dominant schools surviving to the Final Four may be coming to an end. He acknowledges that powerhouse programs made it to St. Louis this year. He goes to say that NC State, Wisconsin, and West Virginia coming so close shows that these “have-nots” are rising and may change the face of Final Four basketball in the near future.

I respectfully disagree. The upstart, have-not, Cinderella story happens every year. It’s nothing new for one of these teams to reach the Elite Eight before falling to a traditional power (and sometimes they reach the Final Four).

In 2004, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, Connecticut, and Duke made the Final Four. We can safely say that they are schools with tradition. But, look at the teams they beat in the Elite Eight. Only Georgia Tech faced a powerhouse program, Kansas. Oklahoma State beat upstart St. Joseph’s. Duke beat Xavier. Connecticut beat Alabama. There were more upstarts in the 2004 Elite Eight than in this year’s edition with Arizona and Kentucky who are traditional powers. Only West Virginia and Wisconsin came as surprises, but bear in mind Wisconsin has done this before – they reached the Final Four in 2000.

In 2002, Kent State (a 10 seed) reached the Elite Eight. That same year a 12 seed, Missouri, also reached the Elite Eight. In 2001, 11 seed Temple reached the Elite Eight, as did non-traditional power Southern Cal. In 2000, UNC defeated Tulsa in the Elite Eight (remember, Tulsa was actually the higher seed, a 7 to UNC’s 8).

Long story short? I just looked back at the NCAA Tournaments from this decade and showed that there was more evidence of parity and upstart have-nots showing their stuff in past seasons than in this one. Sure, scholarship limits have made it possible to have non-traditional schools reach the Elite Eight or maybe the Final Four on occasion, but this is certainly nothing new that is peculiar to this year’s event. I do not see a trend towards a power-shift, or even a decline in the dominance of the traditional power programs.