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Golf Takes the Spotlight
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
US Open Quiz: 1) Name the only five golfers to have competed in the last three U.S. Opens at Shinnecock (1995, 2004, and 2018). 2) Name the only two golfers to make the cut at the last five US Opens. Answers below.
I went to the 1995 Open here and just loved the place. With a stacked field, and so many great young players, and now Dustin Johnson back on top (seemingly the grizzled veteran among the elite these days...turning 34 on June 22), this should be great stuff.
Off of last week’s dominating performance, I have to go with DJ, but I’ll say Webb Simpson puts on a great show and finishes somewhere in the top five.
It’s the Bar Chat Guarantee!
I did forget there is a new playoff system. Rather than the silly 18-hole playoff of yore, it’s now a two-hole aggregate affair, followed by sudden death if the players remain tied. I like it. No doubt interest wanes big time under the old format, and it’s not fair to the fans, period.
Two holes allows you to make up for a single mistake, while at the same time I don’t like the British Open’s four-hole deal, nor the three-hole playoff for the PGA. It should be straight to sudden death, or two.
--The Angels are holding out hope that Shohei Ohtani can avoid Tommy John surgery, because such a procedure would keep Ohtani out of action through all of 2019, not just this year. But ESPN’s Pedro Gomez said it doesn’t look good.
The Angels, as of today, however, will wait out the full three-week period following injections of platelet-rich plasma and stem cells before taking the next step.
New York 43-19 --
Boston 46-22 --
Last night, the Yankees blanked the Nationals at the Stadium, 3-0, behind CC Sabathia (4-1, 3.27) and Co., while Boston was beating Baltimore 6-4. It’s going to be nip-and-tuck the entire rest of the way. You just don’t want to have a great season, only to then have a wild-card game and all the uncertainty that entails.
Last night, New York’s Didi Gregorius hit two home runs, his first since May 23, but his third two-home run game of the season made him the first Yankee shortstop to accomplish that feat in a single season.
--The pathetic Mets are now 28-35 after another desultory loss Tuesday, this time to the Braves in Atlanta, 8-2. The Mets have scored 15 runs in their last 10 games, losing nine of 10, while in a recently completed 8-game home stand, the Mets batted .147, which is the worst offensive performance for a 7-game or more stretch at home since 1900!
--Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera is out for the season with a ruptured left biceps tendon, having already missed 26 games due to a hamstring strain. Detroit is stuck with perhaps the worst contract in the history of the game, owing Cabrera $154 million over the next five seasons, 2019-2023, before vesting options for 2024 and 2025 potentially come into play.
--The Staten Island Yankees are changing their name for five Saturday night home games in June and July to the Staten Island Pizza Rats, a move, team officials said, to boost buzz, crowds, and revenues.
This is one of the single stupidest ideas of all time.
College World Series
After the super regionals wrapped up Monday, the field is set for the CWS and Omaha.
Texas, North Carolina, Oregon State, Washington, Mississippi State, Texas Tech, Arkansas, and Florida.
In Monday’s deciding games, Roger Clemens’ boy, Kody, hit his 24th home run of the season to spur Texas to a 5-2 win over Tennessee Tech for a spot in the CWS. Clemens was recently drafted in the third round by the Tigers. Spencer Torkelson of Arizona State, by the way, led college ball in homers with 25 this season. Clemens has 11 home runs in his last 15 games.
Duke’s dream season ended in a 6-2 loss to Texas Tech, while Arkansas destroyed South Carolina 14-4.
And defending national champion Florida was taken to the brink by Augurn, before Austin Langworthy’s home run off Steven Williams’ glove in the 11th gave the Gators a 3-2 win and a return trip (for a fourth consecutive year) to Omaha.
Langworthy lined a pitch off freshman All-American closer Cody Greenhill to the wall. Williams had a bead on it, but it bounced off his glove and over the fence. Talk about a crushing way to lose. Auburn was trying to get to the CWS for the first time since 1997.
So play begins in Omaha on Saturday, with a very attractive first game, North Carolina vs. Oregon State...Beaverwear could be out. It’s a chance to watch Luke Heimlich (I’m assuming he’ll be the opening game pitcher for the Beavers).
Questions Surrounding the Belmont and Justify’s Win
So the feel-good story for the 13th horse to complete the Triple Crown, Justify, was awash in a bit of controversy on Sunday.
Mike Repole, co-owner of fourth-place Vino Rosso and last-place Noble Indy in the field of 10, hopes Belmont Park stewards will question jockey Florent Geroux about his handling of Restoring Hope, Justify’s stablemate, for trainer Bob Baffert.
“Justify is a super horse. He is a Triple Crown winner and he’s undefeated,” said Repole, emphasizing his admiration for the powerful, 6-for-6 colt. “But I can see the stewards looking into this over the next couple of days. I probably expect them to look into reckless riding by Florent and bring him in to question him about what he was thinking and what his tactics were.”
Justify and jockey Mike Smith smoothly accelerated out of the gate from the rail to seize the early lead, while Geroux took Restoring Hope toward the front, assuming a position just behind Justify and to his outside.
Repole compared it to “more of an offensive lineman than a racehorse trying to win the Belmont, and Justify was a running back trying to run for a touchdown.”
Gary West, who owns Restoring Hope, was livid about the handling of his horse.
“I have no earthly idea what Florent was thinking or what his race strategy was,” he said in an email response to a request for an interview by the New York Post’s Tom Pedulla. “Had I known better, the first eighth of a mile I would have thought it was a quarter-horse race, not the mile-and-a-half Belmont. Maybe the horse was completely out of control and Florent had no choice. I will never know.”
The agent for Geroux, and Geroux himself, had no comment.
After the race, Baffert was asked if Restoring Hope served as a “wing man,” and Baffert replied: “He has natural speed. His only chance was to be up near the lead.”
West said, “Everyone looks at things differently. We didn’t belong in the race, anyway, and that is my fault.”
Restoring Hope was making his first Grade 1 test.
D. Wayne Lukas, who trained sixth-place Bravazo, does not believe Restoring Hope’s presence mattered. But he acknowledged: “That was strange the way they sent him up there. I mean, he compromised a few horses with blocking and so forth.”
Stewards can meet today, Wednesday, to take action if they want, but none is anticipated.
Russia vs. Saudi Arabia opens play on Thursday. Among Friday’s matches are Portugal-Spain. Saturday, the Bar Chat favorite, Iceland, goes up against Argentina. [Croatia and Nigeria are the others in Iceland’s bracket.]
So how will the tiny nation of 350,000 do? Who knows, but in terms of support, understand that when Iceland upset England in the 2016 Euros, the game was in Nice and 27,000 Icelanders showed up, which is 8 percent of the nation. As ESPN The Magazine reports, the team’s TV ratings “sound like Russian election results: If you were in Iceland watching anything that night, there’s a 99.8 percent chance you were watching football.”
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a speech to Russian police this winter, said that when it comes to the staging of the games, Russia must “ensure maximum security for players and fans,” before telling officers that “the way this event goes and our country’s image will directly depend on your smooth, skillful work.”
But it won’t be easy. The worst football hooligans in the world these days are Russians, specifically a group called IX Legion, which supports a professional soccer team, Dinamo Moscow, and which fights against other groups supporting other teams.
As ESPN The Magazine noted, most of the fights take place in the woods, away from the eyes of police, “and while it is generally considered gauche to murder someone at one of these fights, everything short of that is pretty much fine.”
It was two years ago in France, during the European soccer championship, that Russia and England met in a match in Marseilles, and several hundred Russians – “inflamed by the presence of some drunken, belligerent Britons as well as an appreciation for history (England being the nominal birthplace of hooliganism) – went on a rampage, destroying cafes and storefronts while attacking anyone who even appeared to be English.”
As for the atmosphere for the World Cup overall: “About 2 million visitors are expected to arrive during the tournament, and there is a wide variety of items about which one could be reasonably concerned: abhorrent acts of racism by Russian fans, for instance, as well as draconian ‘gay propaganda’ laws, the government’s general attitude of blatant intolerance toward those with dissenting opinions, potential terrorist attacks and – perhaps most visibly – ugly spasms of punishing street violence.”
Doesn’t this sound like fun?!
--It was announced this morning that a combined bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada won the hosting rights for soccer’s 2026 World Cup, bringing the tournament to North America for the first time since the 1994 event on a pledge of record crowds, record revenues and, perhaps crucially, a record $11 billion in profits for FIFA, world soccer’s governing body.
It’s not like the North American bid had a stiff challenge, the only other nation vying for it being Morocco, which lost by a 134-65 vote.
Of the 80 matches, 10 will be held in Canada, 10 in Mexico and 60 in the United States, including the final, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
The nations’ so-called United Bid was one of the few things the three could find common ground on, with President Trump aggressively trying to win over FIFA and its member organizations.
2026 will be the first World Cup with 48 teams, a significant expansion from the current 32. This would have meant in the case of Morocco that the nation would have had to build nine stadiums and to significantly renovate five others, plus it would have required massive improvements to its infrastructure, like rail links, and the hotels and facilities necessary to bring more than 1,100 players and millions of fans to North Africa.
--New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law that finally authorizes legal sports betting in New Jersey, ending a nearly decade-long saga that included a multimillion court battle with the nation’s top sports leagues and a landmark ruling from the nation’s highest court. Monmouth Park racetrack will be the first place in the state accepting bets on professional and college sports contests, starting Thursday morning, just in time for the World Cup, which begins that day.
Eventually, all of New Jersey’s racetracks and casinos will begin accepting wagers. Online betting isn’t permitted to begin for 30 days.
Former state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who led the battle against the courts for sports betting in the Garden State, along with former Gov. Chris Christie, said his first bet would be “France to win the World Cup.”
--Former Clemson quarterback Hunter Johnson is transferring to Northwestern. While Johnson will sit out 2018, this is a big deal for the Wildcats. Johnson would be starting on about 80 other Division I programs, but he’s stuck behind incumbent Kelly Bryant and incoming freshman Trevor Lawrence, ESPN’s top-rated pocket passer and No. 2 overall player in the 2018 class.
Johnson completed 18 of 22 passes in seven games as a true freshman at Clemson last fall and will still have three years of eligibility left come 2019 and, the way things look now, would be the starter.
Johnson was also considering Duke and Purdue. Northwestern fans should be thrilled.
--Quarterback Christian Hackenberg, a second-round draft pick in 2016 by the Jets, is now officially one of the big busts of all time, having been waived by the Raiders on Tuesday, just three weeks after they acquired him in a trade with the Jets for a conditional seventh-round draft pick that is now back in Oakland’s possession.
Hackenberg didn’t play a single snap over two seasons in New York.
--Roger Federer is rumored to be ditching Nike for a $29 million-a-year, decade-long deal with Uniglo. The Swiss star has sported Nike clothing for his entire career, but now he has already inked a deal with the Japanese company, according to reports.
Federer signed his first contract with Nike in 1994.
--Speaking of Switzerland, voters there killed off the country’s chances of hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics the other day after refusing to approve financial support for the bid in a poll. Some 54 percent of voters in the southern canton of Valais rejecting granting $101.5 million towards the event, spelling the end for the Swiss bid to host the Games, which were to be centered on the city of Sion.
Canada’s Calgary, Austria’s Graz, Stockholm, Turkey’s Erzurum, Japan’s Sapporo and an Italian bid involving Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Turin are the remaining candidate venues.
--Mike Francesa had a dominant first month back on New York’s air waves at WFAN. He posted a 6.8 percent market rating in the coveted 25-54 male audience, according to Newsday, good enough for first place in the demographic. “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN Radio New York finished fourth with a 5.5 rating.
Last fall in the ratings book, Francesa beat Kay, 6.6 to 5.0.
--Researchers with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science caught a Great White shark off the coast of Virginia Beach last week, with WTVR reporting it was about 3 ½ miles from bathers...cough cough...
“For size reference the mature male great white was 12-13 feet! the organization posted on Facebook.”
But the shark “was able to break free of the line before he could be brought on the boat.”
Ergo, it is no doubt working its way up the coast, where we can now estimate 12-15 beachgoers will be taken out in the Hamptons in about 2-3 weeks.
--“Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson hit the jackpot. Just weeks into a relationship with Ariana Grande, the couple is now engaged. The two are both 24.
Grande previously dated rapper Mac Miller for two years, while Davidson was with Larry David’s daughter Cazzie David.
--Brad K. passed along a story from the Daily Mail:
“An angry brown bear was caught on camera chasing a Russian fisherman into an icy river where he drowned.
“Sergey Zhirkov, 31, had climbed onto an embankment by the river on the Kamchatka peninsula in eastern Russia to call a friend to come fetch him after a successful fishing trip.
“As he did so, a bear emerged by the water and tore his inflatable boat apart before stealing his catch.
“Zhirkov threw stones at the bear, forcing it to retreat.
“However, a few moments later, the predator returned and chased Zhirkov back up onto the embankment...”
Then the bear chased Zhirkov into the river, where he drowned. “The bear ran away” and has not been found. Lock your doors.
Meanwhile, “A wild bear mauled a husband and wife to death and left seven others injured when it rampaged through a village in India before it was beaten to death with sticks.” [Mail Online]
Good lord. What a violent scene this must have been.
Top 3 songs for the week 6/15/63: #1 “Sukiyaki” (Kyu Sakamoto) #2 “It’s My Party” (Lesley Gore) #3 “You Can’t Sit Down” (The Dovells)...and...#4 “Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)” (The Crystals) #5 “I Love You Because” (Al Martino) #6 “Blue On Blue” (Bobby Vinton) #7 “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days Of Summer” (Nat King Cole) #8 “Still” (Bill Anderson) #9 “Hello Stranger” (Barbara Lewis) #10 “18 Yellow Roses” (Bobby Darin...the British Invasion is around the corner...)
US Open Quiz Answers: 1) Only five golfers to appear in last three Opens at Shinnecock (1995, 2004, and 2018): Kenny Perry, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. 2) Only two golfers to make the cut in the last five US Opens: Matt Kuchar and Sergio Garcia.
Next Bar Chat, Monday.