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Brady and Belichick Bag Their Sixth
[Posted Sunday p.m.]
NCAA Basketball Quiz: Name the 13 Division I men’s programs in the state of Florida. Answer below.
Super Bowl...freakin’ Pats win another...
The over/under was 56, and if you had under at the half, you were already counting your money.
3-0 New England, Gostkowski with a 42-yarder, after missing wide left from 46.
The Patriots outgained the Rams 195-57, 12 first downs to a pathetic 2 for L.A.
Tom Brady 15/25, 160, 0-1; Jared Goff 5/12, 52, 0-0.
Todd Gurley was largely absent, major suspicions over his injury issues.
Julian Edelman, though, with seven receptions for 93 yards for the Pats, your early MVP.
The halftime show then was at best so-so, and I’m being kind. I don’t know Maroon 5’s music, but of course I know Adam Levine, the front man, and I feel sorry for the band, facing social pressure to diversify what should have been a lone act, and instead they were forced to incorporate Big Boi and Travis Scott, who, needless to say, I have no freakin’ clue who they are.
But they sampled Earth Wind & Fire and I wish EWF had been the act instead!
All in all, whatever.
So in the second half, Greg “the Leg” Zuerlein booted a 53-yarder for the Rams, 3-3.
The Pats and Brady then countered with a 69-yard drive in the fourth, the key play a 29-yard pass play to “Gronk,” 10-3.
The Pats’ Stephon Gilmore then came up with a critical interception of Goff at 4:17.
Gostkowski added a 41-yard clincher, 13-3, at 1:12. Game over.
The Patriots tie the Steelers with six Super Bowls. Belichick and Brady stand alone.
Julian Edelman (10 receptions, 141 yards...all seemingly clutch) was the deserving MVP.
As a Jets (and Mets) fan, needless to say I’m sick of Boston. But later this year I’m traveling overseas with two Beantown fans. I’m now working on ways to off them. [Psst...throw them off the Cliffs of Moher.]
Then again I might not then have a ride to Shannon Airport for the flight home, so, cancel that. Instead, I’ll insist they pay for all my beer.
--Best commercials....Bud Light’s “GOT” theme, Stella Artois, the NFL 100 spot, Michelob Ultra, Verizon’s First Responder bits, Burger King’s Andy Warhol ad, and Budweiser’s Clydesdales.
--Drew Brees wasn’t happy it took Commissioner Roger Goodell ten days to publicly address the officiating debacle in the Saints-Rams NFC Championship Game.
“I think that we all recognize that being in that position, you are the face of the league. And you have the responsibility to come out and address issues when they come about,” Brees told The Dan Patrick Show. “And I would say that on Monday or Tuesday after that game we all deserved a response of some kind.
“I mean, do I really want to be in a position talking about this over and over again? No. But I have to stand up and do it because I have to represent my team, representing the Who Dat nation, and that’s my responsibility. So it’s the commissioner’s responsibility to do the same thing, and yet we don’t hear a peep for 10 days. And it’s because he has to do it now because he’s at the Super Bowl and he does his annual press conference.”
Brees said he was definitely returning to play for a 19th season.
--Patrick Mahomes was named the Associated Press 2018 NFL Most Valuable Player, receiving 41 votes from a nationwide panel of media members who regularly cover the league, easily beating Drew Brees who earned nine votes.
Mahomes is the fourth youngest MVP at 23 years, 104 days, Jim Brown the youngest at 21 and 22 for his back-to-back MVPs in 1957 and ’58. Dan Marino is third-youngest at 23-93 for winning the award in 1984.
Mahomes was also named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year on Saturday.
For the second consecutive season, Aaron Donald was the Defensive Player of the Year, easily beating out Chicago’s Khalil Mack. Only Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt have won the award in back-to-back seasons. Donald led the NFL with 20.5 sacks.
Andrew Luck was the Comeback Player of the Year, winning in a landslide over Watt.
The Giants’ Saquon Barkley was the top rookie on offense, and Colts linebacker Darius Leonard was selected the top rookie on defense.
Chicago’s Matt Nagy was selected Coach of the Year, handily beating out San Diego’s Anthony Lynn.
--Also Saturday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its latest class.
Jets center Kevin Mawae got the knock on the door from HOF President David Baker, signifying he was now an immortal. J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets!
Mawae will go in with all-time tight end Tony Gonzalez, safety Ed Reed and cornerbacks Ty Law and Champ Bailey as the modern-era Hall of Fame inductees.
Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and longtime Cowboys executive Gil Brandt were chosen as contributors and safety Johnny Robinson was selected as the senior candidate.
I was shocked Robinson wasn’t already in the Hall of Fame, and in looking up his stats, I totally forgot he was a helluva receiver his first two seasons with the Dallas Texans (having really been drafted as a running back out of LSU) before transitioning to safety, where he ended up with 57 interceptions.
Dallas became the Kansas City Chief in 1963.
--Did you see what Usain Bolt did the other day at the NFL Experience, replicating the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine? All he did was tie the record 4.22 set by Cincinnati receiver John Ross in 2017. Except the 32-year-old Bolt did it in sweats and sneakers! And as anyone who has followed Bolt’s career knows, he is faster in the middle and the end of his races!
College Basketball Review
--Friday, 18 Buffalo stumbled again on the road, 92-88 to Bowling Green (15-6, 7-1), the Bison now 19-3, 7-2, all three losses on the road. They need to play better if they are to get a 5- or 6-seed.
--Saturday, No. 1 Tennessee routed Texas A&M (8-12, 1-7) 93-76 at College Station, as future NBA star Grant Williams had 22 points and 10 rebounds. Boy, the junior made a great decision in staying in school one more year, averaging 20.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.4 assists for the best team in the country this season. Vols fans are sure glad he came back. Tennessee is now 20-1, 8-0.
2 Duke hosted St. John’s (16-6) and the Johnnies left their A-game somewhere back in Queens, Duke (19-2) blowing them out 91-61, as it was the Zion Williamson show, Zion with 29 points on 13 of 17 shooting (RJ Barrett chipping in 15 points, 14 rebounds). More on Zion below.
3 Virginia played without point guard Ty Jerome (13.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists) and it showed, beating Miami (9-12, 1-8) 56-46, though the Cavaliers held the Hurricane to 34% from the field (17 of 50). Jerome has a sore back.
4 Gonzaga improved to 21-2, 8-0, with an 85-69 win over San Diego (15-8, 4-4).
In a major upset, Indiana (13-9, 4-7), which has been highly disappointing, seeing as they have probable lottery pick Romeo Langford (who should stay in school one more year regardless), nonetheless had a biggie at 6 Michigan State (18-4, 9-2), taking down the Spartans 79-75 in overtime.
7 Kentucky (18-3, 7-1) has now won eight in a row, 65-54 at Florida (12-9, 4-4).
Your Bar Chat “Pick to Click” 8 Nevada (21-1, 8-1) easily handled Boise State (10-12, 5-4) 93-73.
9 North Carolina (17-4, 7-1) avenged its lone ACC loss of the season, defeating 15 Louisville (16-6, 7-2) 79-69 on the road, after the Cardinals had embarrassed the Tar Heels at the Dean Dome earlier, 83-62.
And outside of the top ten, I can’t help but note 12 Virginia Tech’s game at 23 North Carolina State.
Before I went to bed last night, I was checking on the scores and saw this one. You know how Charlie Brown looks with wonder at the once scrawny Christmas tree after Linus and the gang did a makeover on it? That was me looking at the score. I kept ‘refreshing’ it, because I didn’t believe what I was seeing. VT 47, NC State 24.
The Wolfpack shot a historically bad 9 of 54 from the field, 16.7%. It was the worst shooting performance in the history of the ACC, which goes back to 1953! NC State started out 1 of 17, and finished 2 of 28 from three. It was also the fewest points in an ACC game since the shot-clock era commenced in 1985-86.
What made it even more remarkable is the Wolfpack were averaging 84.4 points per game entering the contest, and had just lost by one in overtime to Virginia.
Anyway, Virginia Tech is now 18-3, 7-2, while NC State fell to 16-6, 4-5.
--14 Villanova beat Georgetown (14-8, 4-5) this afternoon, 77-65, the Wildcats improving to 18-4, 9-0.
--It’s never a good sign when there is a picture of you in a weekly newspaper feature, in this case the Star-Ledger’s “The Numbers,” college basketball edition.
And so this weekend I see the following, under a photo of Wake Forest coach Danny Manning.
“4...Wake Forest has started 1-7 in the ACC for the fourth time in Danny Manning’s five seasons.”
Wednesday, 15 Louisville blew out the Deacs at home, 82-54, another totally listless effort, as Wake was 18-68 from the field, 2 of 20 from three.
The game represented a homecoming of sorts for former Wake coach Dino Gaudio, who was fired after compiling a 61-31 record at the school (his 2008-09 underachieving edition with future NBA players Jeff Teague, James Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu and Ish Smith).
Today, Gaudio is an assistant on Chris Mack’s staff at Louisville. Dino said he hasn’t been on the Wake Forest campus save for his daughter’s graduation in 2013.
Since the firing, Wake Forest is 113-162 (including today’s debacle)...one NCAA appearance in nine seasons.
Gaudio’s teams were also 27-21 in ACC play. Since then, the Deacs are 39-117.
Well after this afternoon’s game, all Wake fans can say is thank god for NC State’s performance Saturday, because once again the Deacs didn’t show up in a 64-37 loss at Clemson (13-8, 3-5), Wake 14 of 59 from the field, 23.7%, 3 of 22 from three! Wow. We had halves of 18 and 19 points.
Brandon Childress was 0 for 11 (0 for 7 from downtown), while Sharone Wright Jr. was 0-8.
The Deacs (8-13, 1-8) host Pitt on Tuesday and I imagine the crowd will be beyond pathetic.
--The Knicks shocked the NBA on Thursday by trading their 7-foot 3-inch savior, Kristaps Porzingis, to the Dallas Mavericks in a blockbuster that the Knicks are trying to convince their fans sets them up to make a killing this summer in free agency.
Porzingis, who has been out since mid-February of last season recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee, and is unlikely to play the rest of this season, was confronted by management Thursday and asked if he truly wanted to stay in New York, there long having been rumbles from his camp (which consists of Kristaps and his brother) that he didn’t.
So Thursday, he asked to be traded and he was accommodated in a flash, the Knicks and Mavs already far along in a deal.
“As is standard for this time of year, we were exploring various options on potential trades,” said Knicks President Steve Mills. “Considering the uncertainty regarding Kristaps’ free-agent status and his request today to be traded, we made a trade that we are confident improves the franchise.”
The Knicks not only traded Kristaps, but they dumped Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke, in exchange for promising point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who many Knicks fans wanted in the 2017 draft (the team going for Frank Ntilikina instead), two future first-round picks (supposedly 2021 and 2023)* and the expiring contracts of the veterans DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews.
*Knicks now with 7 first-round picks in the next five years.
The Knicks thus create nearly $75 million in salary-cap space this summer – enough to offer max contracts to two of the top players expected to be free agents, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving among them. Kemba Walker another, and possibly Kawhi Leonard.
For Dallas’ part, they have to keep Porzingis in Big D to make him the team’s co-star alongside 6-7 Luka Doncic, who is only 19 but has already emerged as an NBA star...on track to be one of just three rookies to average 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists – the other two being Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson.
Well, needless to say there was much hand-wringing in the initial 24 hours among Knicks fans.
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post
“There is one way, and only one, where the surreal events of Thursday afternoon make even a little bit of sense at Penn Plaza.
“Monday, July 7 figures to be one of the lightest news days of the summer. It’s the first day of baseball’s All-Star break, so the Mets and the Yankees will be dormant. It’s the first day back to work for most of us after the Fourth of July holidays, so we’ll all be a little sleepy and in need of the jolt that would allow this to all seem even remotely reasonable:
“A large gathering at Madison Square Garden. Two honored guests sitting near a podium, and because we are fair, they can be any two of the following three names: Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving. Elsewhere, roaming among the Knicks brass, is Zion Williamson, flashing that bright smile of his, back for a second big day following his introduction as the Knicks’ first-round draft pick a few weeks earlier.
“There it is.
“Snap a picture of that scene with your mind’s eye.
“Because that is the only way to believe the Knicks, as an organization, didn’t suffer the worst nervous breakdown in the history of professional sports in our town on Thursday. That is the only way to justify Kristaps Porzingis going from franchise foundation to ex-Knick in what felt like 15 minutes. That is the only way to explain the Knicks wrapping their carefully laid rebuilding plans with TNT and blowing the whole thing to Kingdom Come.
“That is the only way this makes even a stitch of sense.
“It’s almost a stretch to call this a gamble: This is beyond a gamble. This is borderline reckless, and the only thing keeping it straddling that border is the notion that at the close of business Thursday, the Knicks are the proud owners of $74.6 million in salary-cap space, which shakes out to two max free-agent deals.
“Of course, that begs a couple of questions:
“1. If you are any of those free agents, what about the Knicks, as currently constituted, makes them even remotely appealing? [Emphasis mine]
“2. Wasn’t one of the only appealing things about the Knicks the possibility of teaming with KP?
“3. Is there any reason to feel at all confident that (GM) Scott Perry and Steve Mills are even remotely capable of pulling off a parlay like this?
“4. Would you feel confident in entrusting the prime of your career here?
“Because the most curious thing that happened Thursday was this: After relentlessly selling their fans and their city on the value of their mission – a full rebuild, no shortcuts this time, short-term pain in exchange for long-term gain, patience, patience, patience, and all of this done with the idea that Porzingis was central to all of it – the men who ran the Knicks simply changed their minds.”
Well, Mr. Vaccaro, who is viewed in these parts as the top sportswriter on all things New York these days, goes on to talk further about July 7, but to me it’s all about June 20, and the NBA Draft.
If the Knicks, headed to the worst record in the league, somehow get the first pick, and it’s Zion Williamson, I’m convinced the rest could fall into place. I can build a case the Knicks would fine if they received the second pick and its RJ Barrett...who I think could be even better than Zion in the NBA. Dennis Smith Jr. is going to be a quality point guard, and if I’m Durant, Kyrie or Leonard (who I think stays in Toronto), the Knicks could be attractive, both Durant and Kyrie supposedly liking coach David Fizdale as well.
So let’s wait to see what the draft holds before committing hari-kari.
Meanwhile, if you watched the Duke-St. John’s game, you kept hearing Dick Vitale constantly refer to Vaccaro being in the audience down at Cameron Indoor Stadium for a piece he was doing on Zion.
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post
“If the kids in the student section weren’t exactly nervous yet, the first 17 minutes of the game had them muttering in between their clever chants. St. John’s had beaten Duke last year mostly by pushing the Blue Devils around, by out-toughing them at Madison Square Garden. Zion Williamson wasn’t at that game.
“But he knew all about it.
“ ‘This is the Duke brotherhood,’ he said with a grin. ‘People on one team know all about what happened on other teams, what they went through.’
“The grin widened into a smile.
“ ‘We knew this would be a physical game,’ the Duke forward said. ‘We were ready.’”
At the end of the first half, Zion went on “a one-man 10-point run.”
“You can be the toughest basketball team in the world. You can be tougher than old Chuck Bronson on the subway. And it doesn’t seem to matter in 2019 as long as Williamson chooses to shift his gears to a level with which only he is familiar. Good luck sharpening your elbows, setting your feet and getting in his way....
“There will be time plenty to scrutinize him and second-guess what you think about him. Yes, his outside shot is uglier than a Nick Nolte mug shot. Yes, he is that rare person who looks smaller in person than he does on TV. Yes, he will have a long challenge ahead of him replicating all of this against the grown men who stuff NBA rosters.
“But, damn, is he ever fun to watch in the here and now....
“Williamson isn’t blind and he isn’t deaf to the hype around him. He wouldn’t admit to seeing The Post’s back page Friday that featured him, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Knicks uniforms, but he did say, ‘It would be dope to play with KD and Kyrie.’ And specific to Knicks fans he said, ‘I appreciate the love, them wanting me to come to that team.’....
“Krzyzewski, smiling wryly, insisted he hasn’t followed the great Knicks purge, but he did say, ‘We have a couple of players here that might be targets. Hopefully, they still have some other players left, too.’
“Whoever winds up with this one? That’s not a bad place to start.”
Today, the Knicks lost to the Grizzlies (21-33) 96-84 to fall to 10-42, all three former Mavs playing for the first time. I like DeAndre Jordan...hope we find a way to keep him.
--James Harden’s streak of scoring at least 30 points continued Friday, barely, when with just over a minute to play in the Rockets’ blowout road loss to the Nuggets, Harden nailed an acrobatic 3-pointer that landed him at exactly 30 points.
So this put Harden at 25, tied for the third-longest streak of 30-point games with Wilt, of course. [Wilt with the No. 1 and 2 streaks, as well, the former being 65.]
Then Saturday, Harden had a spectacular game, 43 points, 12 rebounds, six steals, five assists and four blocks, missing his first career five-by-five by a single block, in a 125-98 road win at Utah.
The 30-point streak of 26 now trails Wilt’s 31, besides the seemingly out of reach 65.
--The Lakers were 6-11 without LeBron James, and then won in his first game back, 123-120 over the Clippers, Thursday, James with 24 points, 14 rebounds, 9 assists in 40 minutes.
But then he sat out Saturday’s 115-101 loss to the Warriors for what the team called “load management.”
So make it 6-12 when he’s not in the lineup. Nothing yet on the Anthony Davis trade front, the deadline this Thursday.
--The San Diego Padres have entered the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, and as fellow baseball fanatic Ken P. and I were musing yesterday, gotta admit, it would be great for the sport if Harper signed there. The Padres seem to be building the right way, a mixture of youth and veterans, and you sense they are two years away from the playoffs.
But if they sign Harper? Oh baby.
--So there is a lot of talk that once Harper and Manny Machado sign (they have to, somewhere, don’t they?), it will finally open the door to the rung below...highly serviceable veterans such as Josh Harrison, Adam Jones, Gio Gonzalez, Mike Moustakas, Marwin Gonzalez, Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel.
I mean, heck, ‘pitchers and catchers’ is a mere two weeks away!
I forget who said it, but Kimbrel could be a piece to lure Harper to Philly, ditto Keuchel.
Barry Svrluga / Washington Post
“The past two winters are eroding some of what’s at the sport’s core, and it’s concerning if you care about the on-field product.
“Let’s start with the notion, quaint by now, that all 30 teams head to spring training with a goal of winning the World Series. They don’t. That’s been true for years. But it’s a near-certainty that the sport has reached its lowest percentage of franchises that are performing even the most basic of competitive endeavors: trying.
“For the ninth straight year, the Nationals are trying. It’s both admirable and abnormal if you look around the majors.
“ ‘I’m so grateful to be on a team that tries to win every year,’ (Washington closer Sean) Doolittle said.
“He said that because he has colleagues on other teams who can’t say the same. The players, they try to win each time they take the field. So many organizations, though, don’t max out in the same way.”
The Nationals have spent $189 million in the free agent market this offseason, in signing Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez, Kurt Suzuki, Trevor Rosenthal and Brian Dozier.
But as Barry Svrluga points out, “You know who hasn’t followed suit? Well, try 14 clubs that have combined to spend $187.365 million – nearly half the teams that together haven’t committed as much money as the Nationals have themselves....
“It’s February. This should be the end of the offseason. Instead, two of the game’s marquee stars don’t know where they will play, and 100 other players await job offers. That’s not a way to build excitement about Opening Day. It’s a way to make interest wane and a symptom of a sport that’s dangerously close to losing its way.”
--ESPN.com’s Keith Law put out his list of top 100 prospects of 2019, and since this is for subscribers only, I’ll just give you the top ten.
1. Fernando Tatis Jr. SS San Diego
2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 3B Toronto
3. Wander Franco SS Tampa Bay
4. Forrest Whitley RHP Houston
5. Eloy Jimenez OF Chicago White Sox
6. Nick Senzel 3B Cincinnati
7. Mackenzie Gore LHP San Diego
8. Jo Adell OF Los Angeles Angels
9. Royce Lewis SS Minnesota
10. Victor Robles OF Washington
Interestingly, Yankees fans, you know how just a short while ago you had about four of the top 30 or so prospects? They’ve now either been promoted or traded away, so your top prospect on Keith Law’s list is No. 61, Deivi Garcia, RHP. [Justus Sheffield, LHP, is No. 34, for example, but now with Seattle.]
I was surprised the Mets’ top prospect was at No. 60, Mark Vientos, 3B. Never heard of the kid, but upon examining his rookie league record, very impressive power. [First baseman Peter Alonso is just No. 90...kind of shocking.]
--Finally, Thursday, Jan. 31, would have been the 100th birthday of Jackie Robinson.
Mike Vaccaro / New York Post
“(Robinson) was born into abject poverty, the grandson of a slave, the son of sharecroppers who worked 60-hour weeks at Sasser Plantation near Cairo, Ga.
“His father, Jerry, abandoned the family when Jackie was 6 months old, forcing his mother, Mallie, to make up for his work in the fields until she determined to seek a better life for her and her five children. Before Jackie would turn 1, Mallie and her kids boarded the No. 58 train bound for Pasadena, Calif.
“Jackie’s life was such that he barely made 50, let alone 100, because he spent so much of his adult life trying to do symbolically what he did literally – keep that door open, ever so slightly, in the face of a brand of hostility few people have ever known.
“ ‘Jackie was one of the most beloved Americans who ever lived,’ his friend and teammate Ralph Branca told me in 2007, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of Robinson’s having officially shattered baseball’s color barrier on April 15, 1947. ‘But he was also one of the most hated, and people weren’t afraid to let him know how much they hated him, either. That takes a toll on a man.’
“By the time he died at his home in North Stamford, Conn., on Oct. 24, 1972, Robinson suffered from diabetes, he was virtually blind and his heart was weary from a quarter-century of fighting to keep that door ajar. It was also broken because his son and namesake, Jackie Jr., who had been wounded in Vietnam and battled addiction upon his return, had died in a car accident 16 months earlier....
“Seventy years (after Robinson broke the color barrier), three days before he would leave office on Jan. 17, 2017, President Barack Obama welcomed the champion Chicago Cubs to the White House for one of his final ceremonies as chief executive. In his remarks, the nation’s first African-American president spoke of baseball’s first black major-leaguer.
“ ‘It is worth remembering...throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together, even when the country is divided,’ Obama said. ‘Sports has changed attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle but that ultimately made us think differently about ourselves and who we were. It is a game, and it is celebration, but there’s a direct line between Jackie Robinson and me standing here.’....
“At his funeral, held at Manhattan’s Riverside Church, the Rev. Jesse Jackson urged 2,500 mourners to remember that Robinson’s earthly journey, halted at age 53, was nevertheless one of the most essential of all American lives.
“ ‘He didn’t integrate baseball for himself,’ Jackson said. ‘He infiltrated baseball for all of us, seeking and looking for more oxygen for black survival and looking for new possibility.’
“Forty-seven years after his death, 100 years after his birth, we celebrate a man who always believed in those possibilities. And who forever opened the door to so many of them.”
Recall, Robinson was already 28 years old when he came up to the major leagues, an instant star who among other achievements scored 100 runs in six of his first seven seasons (99 the other). He was Rookie of the Year, and then NL MVP in 1949 (then age 30), when he won the batting title (.342), drove in 124, scored 122, and led the league with 37 stolen bases. Spectacular.
Colin Fleming / Wall Street Journal
“Robinson was like Keats: One wonders what more there could have been, with more time. But for a time, he played baseball perhaps more completely than anyone ever has.”
Meanwhile, we learned this week that the first African-American manager, Frank Robinson, is in hospice care in Southern California. Robinson is 83.
--Rickie Fowler had a four shot lead over red-hot Matt Kuchar heading into the final round of the Waste Management (Phoenix) Open at TPC Scottsdale.
But Rickie had been snake bit here, having held a one-stroke lead going into the 2018 final round, before ballooning to 73 and losing by six to Gary Woodland. Fowler also lost the tournament in a playoff in 2016.
As Johnny Miller kept repeating Saturday, Fowler is 0-8 when holding a 36-hole lead and has closed the deal just one of six times with the 54-hole lead, the lone victory at the 2017 Honda Classic.
And wow...under awful conditions, lots of rain in the desert, here is where we stood at one point.
Fowler -19 10
Branden Grace -14 11
Matt Kuchar -13 10
Justin Thomas -13 10
And then one hole later....
Fowler -16 11
Grace -15 12
Kuchar -13 11
Thomas -13 11
A totally bizarre situation for Fowler on the eleventh, which I’ll have far more on next chat for the record, but for now an awful chip into the water, aided by the conditions, together with a controversial rules decision.
So one hole after that, following a Fowler bogey....
Fowler -15 12
Grace -15 12
Kuchar -13 12
And one hole after that....
Grace -16 13
Fowler -15 13
Kuchar -14 13
Grace -16 16
Fowler -16 15
Fowler -16 16
Grace -15 17...and then a horrible tee shot on 18, after hitting in the water on 17, as Fowler hit the green on the same par-4.
So then we had....
Fowler -17 17
Grace -15 18...clutch par to finish it.
But Fowler hit an awful drive on 18 into the church pews.
And then Rickie pulled it off...parring the hole for his fifth tour win, exorcising some major demons.
Good for Rickie...great for the game. And it is so special that his grandfather got to watch Rickie pull it off for the first time in person.
--I watched Saturday’s entire round to see Johnny Miller’s farewell, and what a terrific job NBC did in getting shoutouts from everyone from Donald Trump, to Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino, to CBS’ Jim Nantz, to Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, and scores of others, the most emotional being fellow announcer Roger Maltbie, who has been doing the broadcasts on NBC with Johnny the last 27 of Miller’s 29 years, both having also grown up in the Bay Area.
“Johnny, a chance to speak from the heart,” Maltbie said, wrestling with his emotions. “You’ve been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was 12, 13, you were 16, 17, you were winning all the junior tournaments and I wanted to be like you. In ’66, at age 19, you played so great at the Olympic Club (in the U.S. Open) and all the junior golfers in Northern California wanted to be like you.
“We got a chance to share golf’s greatest mulligan. Got to do this for 27 years with you. It’s bittersweet. I’m going to miss you. I hope you catch the biggest fish you ever caught in your life. And I hope you’re the grandpa you want to be.”
Through it all, Miller fought back tears. He thanked the viewers for accepting “my form of commentating, which was not normal.” Miller, a man of conviction as I noted earlier this week, likely leaves with no regrets, even for those comments that rankled players.
NBC’s Peter Jacobsen, aka Jake Trout, introduced a song that was terrific, “I’m Gonna Miss Johnny Miller,” with all manner of stars and tour players participating. It included Miller uttering the forbidden word, choke, which Miller used in his very first broadcast back in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, when the same Peter Jacobsen faced a long-iron second shot, all carry over water, while attempting to win the tournament.
“This is absolutely the easiest shot to choke on,” Miller said, seconds before Jacobsen pulled it off en route to a victory.
Yesterday, Miller was still in form. When Scotland’s Russell Knox fanned a birdie putt well left of the hole on the 16th green, a truly godawful effort.
“That was about as good as the food in Scotland,” Miller said.
“There we go,” NBC’s David Feherty said in response. “Atta boy, Johnny. Keep it coming.”
Miller’s partner in the booth, Dan Hicks, called it “springing his A-game.”
Jimmy Roberts, during Golf Channel’s part of the Phoenix Open telecast on Saturday, summed it up best.
“He worked in service to the people on their couches, not to the people on the range.”
Enjoy your retirement, Johnny. You’ll be missed.
Paul Azinger slid into the booth for today’s final round. I like ‘Zinger a lot. He’ll do just fine.
And he was terrific with his comments as Fowler collapsed. A super debut for the lad.
--Dustin Johnson won the inaugural Saudi International, a European Tour event and for obvious reasons a controversial one this year, given the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It was DJ’s first ‘W’ on the Euro circuit. Bryson DeChambeau finished T-6.
Reminder, you’ll get someone like DJ coming to one of these tournaments because the players can accept appearance money, which is not the case on the PGA Tour for outsiders.
But there was an ugly moment in the third round when Sergio Garcia was disqualified for intentionally damaging the greens.
Garcia apologized in a statement posted on the European Tour website.
“I respect the decision of my disqualification,” he said. “In frustration, I damaged a couple of greens, for which I apologize for, and I have informed my fellow players it will never happen again.”
Under the European Tour rules, this was ‘serious misconduct.’
No doubt, while I haven’t seen a tape yet of what happened, this hurts Garcia big time. More on it in future chats. He will forever receive a lot of ugly chants, for starters.
--Wednesday, after I posted last, Tottenham pulled out a 2-1 win over Watford (the two goals coming at ’80 and ’87), while Bournemouth was blowing out Chelsea, 4-0, and Liverpool was managing only a draw against Leicester City, 1-1, so good day for my Spurs.
--Saturday, Tottenham did it again, 1-0 over a game Newcastle, the third straight where the Spurs scored in the final ten minutes to take it, Son Heng-Min the hero, in the absence of stars Harry Kane and Dele Alli. Great effort by Tottenham in the face of adversity these last ten days.
The game also marked a league record that is kind of amazing. It was the 29th straight where Tottenham didn’t have a draw.
In another yesterday, Chelsea rebounded from its recent poor play to blitz Huddersfield 5-0.
--Then today, Manchester United defeated Leicester 1-0, the team now 9-1-0 (W-D-L) under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, while Man City beat Arsenal 3-1 in a Big Six matchup, Sergio Aguero with a hat trick.
Monday, West Ham hosts Liverpool.
So the standings after 25 of 38 (save for Monday’s contest):
1. Liverpool 24 – 61
2. Man City 25 – 59
3. Tottenham 25 – 57
4. Chelsea 25 – 50
5. Man U 25 – 48 (amazing comeback from earlier dysfunction)
6. Arsenal 25 – 47
7. Wolverhampton 25 – 38
And in the relegation battle, fans of Huddersfield and Fulham have reason to be more than a little despondent, while Cardiff picked up a critical three points with a win over Bournemouth on Saturday, 2-0, to stay more than alive. It was the first chance for Bluebirds fans to pay tribute to missing striker Emiliano Sala, who it is presumed perished in the plane crash 12 days ago, an underwater search for the aircraft commencing today.
15. Newcastle 25 – 24
16. Southampton 25 – 24
17. Burnely 25 – 24
18. Cardiff 25 – 22
19. Fulham 25 – 17
20. Huddersfield 25 - 11
--Lindsey Vonn officially announced her retirement on Friday. Writing on her Instagram page, Vonn, 34, said, “My body is broken beyond repair and it isn’t letting me have the final season I dreamed of. My body is screaming at me to STOP and it’s time for me to listen.”
So she will race in the super-G and the downhill at next week’s World Championships in Sweden and call it a career.
Vonn, barring a spectacular upset, will finish with 82 World Cup wins, first among women, second to Ingemar Stenmark’s 86, seven World Championship medals and three Olympic medals, including gold in the downhill in Vancouver in 2010 and a bronze in the same event in Pyeongchang last year.
In my mind, Vonn is the greatest female athlete of the century, except there is a teammate lurking, that being Mikaela Shiffrin.
All Shiffrin did this weekend at Maribor, Slovenia was pick up two more wins, tying with rival Petra Vlhova of Slovakia in the giant slalom, and then winning the slalom.
So Shiffrin has 13 wins this World Cup season, one behind the all-time record held by Vreni Schneider of Switzerland, 1988-89.
Top 3 songs for the week 2/2/74: #1 “The Way We Were” (Barbra Streisand) #2 “You’re Sixteen” (Ringo Starr) #3 “Love’s Theme” (Love Unlimited Orchestra)...and...#4 “Show And Tell” (Al Wilson...great tune...) #5 “Americans” (Byron MacGregor) #6 “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination” (Gladys Knight & The Pips) #7 “Let Me Be There” (Olivia Newton-John) #8 “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” (Aretha Franklin...might be my favorite of hers...) #9 “The Joker” (Steve Miller Band) #10 “Spiders & Snakes” (Jim Stafford...terrific entertainer, in the purest sense...but just a C+ week, at best...)
NCAA Basketball Quiz Answer: 13 D-I programs in Florida....
Florida State, Florida, UCF, Miami, North Florida, South Florida, Florida Atlantic, FGCU, Bethune-Cookman, Jacksonville, Stetson, Florida International, Florida A&M
Next Bar Chat, Thursday.