Archive for July, 2011

 

By Chris Panetta

Darren Clarke wins his first Major Championship

For the 2nd straight major, a Northern Irishman was holding the trophy.  After 22 year-old Rory McIlroy dominated at the U.S. Open, 42 year-old Darren Clarke captured the British Open for the first major of his career. Clarke’s final total of 5-under, was three shots clear of Americans Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson came out like a man possessed early on. Phil started the day at even par, but made birdies at 2, 4, and 6 to get to minus 3. At the par 5 7th, Lefty sunk an eagle putt that put him in a tie for the lead at 5-under par. Unfortunately for Mickelson, that was the last time he would be in the lead.

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With the wind and rain, Rickie Fowler looked like he was ready to take a pie out of the oven. Not hit a drive.

By Joe DeJesu

Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke took advantage of his late tee off time and posted a third round 1 under par 69 to take sole possession of the lead heading into the final round of the 2011 British Open.

 18 players began the day under par and in contention for the oldest, most historic, and possibly the most prestigious championship in golf.  By day’s end, a cast of six random characters remain in the red, making the final round guaranteed entertainment for any golf fan. Dustin Johnson, a man with a knack for recent final round major drama (and not in the good way) will join Clarke in the final grouping tomorrow after posting a third round 68 (tied for low round of the day with Rickey Fowler). Thomas Bjorn, another infamous name known for the late-hole meltdown (at this course no less!) is currently two under after three rounds. As is Rickey Fowler, the young fiery American who finished the day with three birdies on the final six holes.  The 2009 U.S. Open Champ Lucas Glover follows at one under.  And last but not least, we have the 47 year old pony-tailed, cigar-smoking aerobics instructor, Miguel Angel Jiminez, who continues to play well and is one under par.

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After putting on a stretching display for the ages, Miguel Angel Jimenez (-3) finds himself just one stroke behind Darren Clarke (-4) and Lucas Glover (-4).

The only way to describe what the leaderboard at the Open Championship looks like is…well….Open.  In all my years of watching major championship golf, never have I seen a leaderboard that had such a cast of characters on it.  Amateurs, qualifiers, PGA Tour veterans, Senior Tour players, European Tour players.  On and on we could go with describing the 71 players within 7 shots of the lead.

After 35 players were under par in their opening rounds, only 21 could register a red number today.  The winds began to howl and the course began to dry out as the sun beat down on the course all day.  Many players found themselves with peculiar lies in the multiple pot bunkers, some we forced to hit off of gravel paths, and a few players wound up visiting the hospitality tent after a drive went awry.

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English amateur Tom Lewis is tied for the 1st round lead after shooting a 5-Under 65. The lowest round ever by an amateur in the British Open.

Once the first round of The Open Championship was complete, the leader board resembled the scrambled letters after you shake up a Boggle cube. European Tour vet Thomas Bjorn and English amateur Tom Lewis are tied for the lead at 5-under par.

It was here at Royal St. Georges 8 years ago, where the now 40-year-old Bjorn, collapsed down the stretch in epic fashion. He led the final round by two shots with three holes to play but needed three shots to get out of a bunker on the 16th hole and ended up losing by one shot to Ben Curtis. The other Tom tied for the lead, is 20-year-old amateur Tom Lewis. Lewis played along side the man he was named for, 5-time Open Champion Tom Watson. Lewis not only played like the man he was named for, he shot the lowest round by an amateur in the history of the tournament. The 5-under par 65 bested the 66’s by Justin Rose in 1998, Tiger Woods in 1996 and Frank Stranahan in 1950.

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With Tiger not playing in this week's British Open, it will be nice to see other golfers on the telecast. "Oh hey, look! It's Rory McIlroy!"

Boo Hoo. “Mr. Wonderful” is not going to be playing this week at the British Open. I couldn’t be more excited to hear that.

I’ve written about it before, and I’m going to write about it again. Watching golf is better without Tiger Woods. Sure, Tiger brings in ratings, which leads to sponsors, which leads to more money. That’s all great. But when I turn on a tournament, I’d like to watch some of the other 100 players in the tournament as well.

When Tiger burst onto the scene professionally in August of 1996, I was a big fan. I was 16 years old and was starting to become a pretty good amateur golfer. Tiger was everywhere. Tiger used the same clubs and balls (Titleist) I did, and he showed emotion on the course just like I did. Tiger Woods was cool. Golf was cool.

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By Michael Cruz

To start off, I’d like to introduce myself. My name’s Michael Cruz, a 16 year old from Central California, born and raised Mets fan.

For the second year in a row, the National League has made a statement that they CAN compete with American League. The way I see it, is: The NL plays smart, small ball with great pitching; the AL…. smash, smash, smash the ball and go yard. But this year was different. Fielder, who was named 2011 All-Star Game’s MVP, went yard with a 3-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning for the National League. In the top of the inning, Jose Bautista tried to score from 2nd on a line drive into left field, but was gunned down at the plate by Hunter Pence to end the inning.

Lots of people only know Bautista for his homers, but he’s also a great outfielder. Bautista played RF last night and made a great, sliding catch in foul territory.

An odd highlight of the game, which I thought was very fun to watch, was Heath Bell’s hustling entrance. He always runs to the mound, but last night he added a little spark to it with a pop-up slide at the mound. The crowd loved it.

RBI’s from Prince Fielder, Andre Ethier, and Pablo Sandoval were what made up the 5 runs for the NL.

The American League was not as exciting as I thought they would be. NL’s bullpen really held them down. 2011 Home Run Derby runner up Adrian Gonzalez hit a solo shot in the top of the fourth for the AL’s only run of  game.

What really got the crowd going were the 4 Yankees that did not show up – Jeter, Rodriguez, Rivera, and Sabathia. The only player on the Yankees that I thought had a good enough excuse not to show up was A-Rod.  He recently had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. Other than that, thinking of not showing up is just arrogant. Jeter just hit his 3,000th hit in straight class with a homerun. I am definitely not a Yankee fan, but I still had respect for the man. It would have been great if he showed up, that way his celebration could have been a nationwide thing instead of just in New York. Sorry guys, Jeter has emotional problems  and supposedly needs a rest. The others are just as arrogant as well.

By Dmitry Mogilevsky

There is one thing at which MLS is really really good. They have some of the most persistent customer liaison reps (let’s just call them salespeople, for simplicity’s sake, because that’s what they are) in the entertainment business. I went to my one and only Chicago Fire game a year ago, when New York Red Bulls, having freshly signed Thierry Henry (an electrifying player who played for my favorite team, FC Barcelona for three seasons), came to town. The ongoing legacy of that unremarkable game has been monthly calls by a persistent rep named Tom who keeps trying to get me to come out to more Fire games.

So far, his persistence has not paid off. I’m not biting, which is somewhat surprising. After all, I’ve been a fan of the beautiful game since an early age. I’ve skinned knees and elbows playing on concrete lots in 105 degree heat in Israel. I follow closely two big name European teams (FC Barcelona and Chelsea), often waking up at 6 am on the weekends during the season to drive across town to watch games at a soccer pub. Earlier this year, I tried to follow my hometown team from Israel by signing up for a streaming website so obscure, my bank may have flagged the transaction as attempted money laundering. Above all, I love watching games live, and the opportunity to watch a large number of games fairly inexpensively should be irresistible for me. And yet..

There’s the obvious problem that Toyota Field, the stadium Chicago Fire calls home, is located in a quaint neighbourhood of factories and warehouses on the Southwest side of the city, 20 miles away from where I live. But on a larger scale, there are three issues with Major League Soccer that I believe keep some casual and hardcore fans away. In this and the next three posts, I’ll try to lay out what they are, and my highly uninformed guesses about what the future holds for domestic soccer.

The first problem is the quality of play on the pitch. Soccer is known as the beautiful game, but the play on a typical MLS field is not exactly that. Sure there are individual moments of brilliance, and the quality is improving, but by and large, the level of play is low. And not the NASL “holy crap, no one can play any defense so we’re going to have a lot of 4-3 type of games” low. More like misplayed passes, terrible first touches, airmailed crosses and point-blank misses low. Drab matches lead to drab results – a shocking 39% of the games so far this season have ended in a draw, and out of the league’s 18 teams, for ten, a draw is the most likely, or tied for the most likely outcome, based on games so far. By comparison, in the British Premier League (widely considered the best soccer league in the world), only 29% of the games ended in a draw, and only 4 of the league’s 20 teams had more or as many draws as any
other outcome. And unfortunately many of these draws are scoreless draws to boot (as was the Chicago Fire game I saw in person). Casual fans already think that soccer is too low scoring and uneventful, and bristle at the idea of a contest in which a draw is not only a possible, but a fairly probable event. Having 40% of the games end in such isn’t doing anyone any favors.

In the next post, I’ll address the double-edged sword that is the Designated Player Rule.

I hope you’re a fan of baseball highlights because that’s about all you’re going to see on ESPN Sportscenter until September.  With the NFL and NBA lockouts in full effect and the serious threat of no 2011/2012 seasons for both leagues looming, Total Sports Blog takes a look at life with no professional football and basketball.

Sure the lockouts can end at any moment and their seasons can be saved, but what if it doesn’t happen?  What if between August 2011(start of the NFL Pre-season) and June 2012 (end of NBA playoffs) us sports fans are deprived of rim-rattling dunks from Blake Griffin and bone crunching hits by James Harrison?  What if the only time we get to see the Manning brothers compete is in an Oreo Cookie commercial?  Fortunately there are 8 other professional leagues and 2 amateur sports worth watching set to reap the benefits.

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The HR Derby has surpassed the Slam Dunk contest as the best "All-Star" exibition

Back, Back, Back…..GONE! You’ll be hearing a lot of that tonight when 8 of Major League Baseball’s top sluggers compete in the annual Home Run Derby.

Over the years, the NBA dominated the All-Star exhibitions with the Slam Dunk contest that featured some of the biggest names in the sport. All-Stars such as Dr. J, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Kobe Bryant, and Dwight Howard have all won. But in recent years, many of the superstars have declined an invite to showcase their skills. There’s no exact answer to why so many of them skip out, but whatever reason it is, it’s killing the once prestigious event.

On the other hand, Major League Baseball is doing it right. Every year, the top sluggers compete in a 3 hour, home run mashing extravaganza. Fans love this more than the game itself. Heck, it seems as if the players like it more. It’s pretty cool to see all of the players and their kids lined up in front of the dugout, taking pictures and video of the whole experience.

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