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The Great Brooks Koepka, Part II
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
Golf Quiz: With Brooks Koepka overtaking Dustin Johnson at the top of the World Golf Ranking, name the rest of the top ten. Answer below.
The PGA...a final look....
--Brooks Koepka conceded the sound of the New York fans turning against him late in his round Sunday, as he was on the bogey train, worked in his favor as he kept his nerve to claim back-to-back PGA titles.
The crowd had turned on him after four consecutive bogeys, Nos. 11-14, chanting “DJ, DJ,” but then Johnson bogeyed 16 and 17 to allow Koepka to seal the deal.
“It’s New York. What do you expect when you’re half-choking it away?” Koepka said with a smile. “I think I kind of deserved it. You’re going to rattle off four (bogeys) in a row and it looks like you’re going to lose it... I’ve been to sporting events in New York. I know how it goes.
“I think it actually helped. It was at a perfect time because I was just thinking, OK, all right. I’ve got everybody against me. Let’s go.”
Koepka also said of Bethpage Black that “it’s in the trees....once it gets above the tree line, (the ball) can do whatever it wants.”
Koepka also said that when it came to criticism, one remark angered him the most.
“Telling me I wasn’t tough. That pisses me off. That really pissed me off.”
That comment was from Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, who many would say sometimes tries a bit too hard to be controversial.
It was during Masters’ week that Chamblee questioned Koepka’s toughness, suggesting he was unable to hang with Tiger like peers Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, and took Koepka to task for losing weight to look his best for an ESPN photo shoot.
Chamblee tried to backtrack this week, attempting to soften the blow by saying few were happier than him to see Koepka shoot 63 and even suggested Koepka’s play was comparable to Woods’ best year in 2000.
Koepka was not appeased.
George Willis / New York Post
“Brooks Koepka showed he is human after all, which only adds to what he accomplished this weekend at Bethpage Black. If you didn’t appreciate Koepka before, you are forced to now.
“He said early in the week that winning major championships was easy. Well, it wasn’t easy at all Sunday afternoon; not with the Long Island winds howling and a New York gallery at full throat, chanting for the other guy to win.
“But through his periods of adversity on the back nine, Koepka showed he can not only dominate a beast of a golf course like the Black, but he can steady himself after nearly blowing a seven-shot lead under the pressure of a major championship.
“ ‘It was very stressful the last hour and a half of that round,’ Koepka said. ‘I wasn’t nervous. I was in shock.’....
“Cheer for him or against him, it doesn’t matter. Koepka officially became the No. 1 player in the golf rankings by winning Sunday. That only makes official what everybody else has come to recognize. Regardless of what happened at the Masters last month, there is a new king of golf and it doesn’t look like he’ll be going away anytime soon.
“He might not have the charisma of Tiger Woods, the public appeal of Phil Mickelson or the charm of Jordan Spieth, but Koepka deserves our attention and our respect after winning four of the last eight major championships he has played in. Now he joins a series of exclusive lists that feature names like Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones and Woods. And you get the feeling Koepka is only going to get better after fending off Johnson on Sunday at the Black.”
Christine Brennan / USA TODAY
“Can we please pause for a moment to appreciate Brooks Koepka? No, really. You must. I don’t care if he’s not Tiger Woods. This is history in the making, right in front of our eyes....
“Koepka is the first man ever to hold back-to-back titles in two majors at the same time. He won his fourth major in his last eight tries over just 23 months, rising to world No. 1 in the process. He led this one wire-to-wire, from Thursday morning to Sunday evening. In his first two rounds, he beat Tiger by 17 shots over just 36 holes.
“Do I need to say more? I can. He could have, and probably should have, won last month’s Masters. Tiger’s victory was majestic, but Koepka made it possible with his double bogey into Rae’s Creek on the par-13 12th and missed putts of 13 feet and 8 feet on the final two holes, losing to Tiger by one.
“Oh, how about this? In the midst of a fickle, whipping wind, he nearly squandered the biggest lead in the history of men’s professional golf Sunday evening – but then he didn’t....
“There was more. Koepka was tested again after an ugly three-putt bogey on the 17th hole dropped his lead to two shots with one hole to play. And again, when he pulled his final drive onto a downslope beside a fairway bunker in the midst of Bethpage Black’s tall, wispy grass. Scrambling to the end, he gave himself a 6-foot putt for par, which he made, accentuated with a ferocious fist pump of both triumph and relief.
“ ‘I’m just glad we didn’t have to play any more holes,’ he said in his victory ceremony, and at that moment, he seemed about as vulnerable as he has been over the past two years.
“He often is so unemotional and methodical and Popeye-strong that he seems more like a golf robot than a real human, which makes him difficult to relate to and therefore easy to under-appreciate.
“But, sports fans, that has to stop, because Koepka just turned 29 and he’s going to be around for a very long time and you’re going to have to get used to seeing this calm, confident, uber-talented golfer dominate his game.
“You might even find that you like him. When things were at their worst on the back nine, he heard his raucous gallery start chanting ‘D.J., D.J.,’ in honor of Johnson’s surge. Golfers aren’t used to having fans chant about anyone, much less a player two groups in front of them. But Koepka said he not only didn’t mind, he used it to snap out of his slump and get back on track....
“Koepka said Saturday night that he is ‘pretty flatlined most of the time, as you can tell.’ But the stress took its toll Sunday, he admitted. ‘The conditions from today – I challenge anyone to go out and play in these conditions. It was brutal.’
“His honesty is admirable. ‘I don’t need a sports psychologist. I’m pretty good at it. I know what I’m doing. It’s simpler than what guys think. Guys make the mistake of trying to figure out, when they get to a major, what’s going on, what’s different. It’s not. It’s just focus. It’s grind it out, suck it up and move on.’
“Koepka said that on Saturday and then did exactly that on Sunday.”
Sally Jenkins / Washington Post
“Brooks Koepka didn’t win the PGA Championship so much as he weathered it. The North Atlantic gusts whipped across Bethpage Black and rattled Koepka’s shirt like a sail. As the breezes toyed with his clothes, and his golf ball, you kept waiting for the ultimate disaster, the dreaded double bogey that would sink him. But he never allowed it. Somehow Koepka outmuscled all that wind and imminent catastrophe....
“Bethpage Black was so severe that a flat television screen couldn’t really capture it: The precipices of its elevated tees and greens were heart-pumpingly steep, and so were the deep swales in the fairways. Thickets of trees and ankle-wrapping fescue lined its dangerously sharp doglegs. It was more than a punishing test of golf. It was a traumatizing one. As Paul Casey finished his round and went to the scoring tent, he saw a dog wearing a coat that said, ‘Emotional Support Animal.’
“ ‘Which is what I feel like I need after playing that golf course,’ he said.
“This is how hard 7,459-yard Bethpage was: Over the last two rounds, 64 competitors out of the field of 82 carded double bogeys, that ultimate humiliation for a touring pro.... Even Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy each committed two apiece over the course of the tournament.
“But Koepka never made one. All along, he understood better than anyone that the man who avoided the compounded errors on this course was the one who had the likeliest chance of winning. There were hazards everywhere for Koepka, not the least of which was Dustin Johnson, who just kept on coming like that strong wind, with his 69. But Koepka time and again was able to cut trouble down to size with a solid timely shot and that unwavering putter of his....
“In assessing how Koepka has been able to win four majors in the space of 23 months, start with this: He has the ability to impose a calming, rational thought on himself when he needs one under pressure. And to command his arms and legs to obey that thought when he is in trouble....
“But standing there on the 15th [Ed. after the four bogeys], Koepka fed him himself a thought. He knew that Johnson, trying to press him from behind, would probably overreach. ‘Guys got to push, and if you’re going to push on this golf course, you’re going to make mistakes,’ he’d observed Saturday night. Now he steadied his hands and his mind by reciting a simple fact to himself:
“ ‘I got the lead, and he’s got to make something happen.’
“Then he striped a tee shot straight down the middle.
“And Johnson found the deep rough on the next two holes for bogeys.
“ ‘You can’t teach somebody to think the way that Brooks Koepka thinks,’ Graeme McDowell said.”
Brian Costa / Wall Street Journal
“On the evening of Feb. 1, 2015, few people took much notice of a 24-year-old golfer who had just won his first PGA Tour event. Tiger Woods’ game was in shambles, Rory McIlroy was the heir apparent and Jordan Spieth was about to become the next great American golfer. But as he celebrated that night in Scottsdale, Ariz., Brooks Koepka flatly laid out the path he saw for himself.
“ ‘I want to be the best player in the world,’ he said.
“It was a combination that would come to define Koepka’s career: winning and yet, somehow, hiding in plain sight. But after his resounding, repeat victory at the PGA Championship on Sunday, his place in the sport is impossible to ignore.
“Koepka is the best player in golf. He plays the biggest events better than anyone else, more consistently than anyone else....
“After four major championships in a span of just under two years, there is worse news for his competitors: Koepka may only be getting started.
“ ‘He will be Tiger-esque, and it’s time we started talking about that,’ said Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open winner. ‘He could be the next real dominant player for a significant length of time.’....
“There is always a ‘next Tiger Woods’ in golf – until he is replaced by another. It was McIlroy in 2014 and Spieth in 2015. More recently, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day had spurts of greatness. But the commonality shared by every dominant golfer since Woods is that their dominance has been fleeting.
“Koepka may be the exception....
“One of the effects of Woods’ career has been to inspire a generation of players who have largely rendered silly the question of whether golfers are truly athletes. Koepka is a perfect emblem of that shift. His great uncle is former Major League Baseball All-Star Dick Groat, and he is built like a slugger....
“The effect of his sheer strength is evident off the tee, where Koepka, at an average of 308 yards, is one of the longest players on tour. But his condition was just as much an advantage elsewhere at Bethpage Black, whether he was hitting a ball out of the course’s thick rough or merely traversing its hilly terrain.
“ ‘I was never that big,’ Woods said. ‘Brooksy has just got pure power.’
“Koepka’s most distinctive trait, though, is his ability to mentally simplify a maddening game in the events in which it can most fray a player’s nerves.
“Spieth went from having one of the best years in golf history in 2015 to losing nearly all trust in his swing last year. McIlroy was a machine in 2014. Now he’s practicing meditation, mindfulness and juggling, among other things, in search of a mindset that will help him reclaim major glory
“There is still time for Koepka to find his own unique way to lose his mind. But his temperament has so far remained uncommonly even. He said that he does not know what his resting heart rate is – but estimated that it’s roughly the same on the weekend at a major as it is when he is sitting at home on the couch....
“ ‘He obviously gets into these mindsets of the majors, and he really goes and gets into a different sort of state,’ McIlroy said....
“There are no assurances Koepka will keep winning or even contending at majors at his current rate. The margins in golf are brutally thin, and success can bring pitfalls of its own. But for the moment, Koepka’s competitors see little in his immediate way.
“ ‘I don’t think he faces too much of a challenge, to be honest, the way he’s playing,’ (Jason) Day said.”
--Monday, Koepka officially replaced Dustin Johnson as world No. 1.
--With Bethpage Black having hosted US Opens in 2002 and 2009, we have some history we can look back on.
2002 Open scoring average: 74.901
2009 Open scoring average: 74.983
2019 PGA scoring average: 72.625
I think part of the disparity is that the US Open is always set up to be exceedingly difficult, and the PGA had a super strong field, with just a handful of club pros, while the US Open accepts quite a few who really can’t compete on such a layout.
The 15th hole has been the toughest for all three events, a 4.360 scoring average this week (39 birdies, 246 pars, 171 bogeys, 18 double bogeys).
15th hole 2002 Open: 1 (4.600)
15th hole 2009 Open: 1 (4.470)
Easiest hole for all three events was the par-5 4th with a 4.657 avg. at the PGA.
--Especially in the New York City area, it’s amazing how much buzz was generated this weekend for an event five years away, the 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage Black. There is no doubt, there will be some ugly moments, with the fans going overboard in supporting Team USA.
In terms of the course, the players this week who might be playing in the event in 2024, like Rory McIlroy, who will be 35 then, expect it will be set up easier to generate more birdies. Rory actually played his last 45 holes in 6-under to finish T8, so he leaves with a good feeling.
“I would say that for match play, it should be a little more of a generous setup, I would think.”
But when asked about the crowds in 2024, Rory responded, “No comment.”
One European Tour player who missed the cut said he doesn’t want to be here for 2024, then declared no sane captain would pick him after his performance. [The lovable Eddie Pepperell; the same Eddie Pepperell who acknowledged being hung over while playing the fourth round at last summer’s Open Championship.]
Brooks Koepka, who received some jeers as he frittered away his lead, while Dustin Johnson got the cheers, was asked after winning the event what he thought the Ryder Cup crowds would be like at Bethpage.
Koepka smiled: “We’ve actually talked about this a lot during the week,” he said. ‘It was – good luck to Europe with the fans....It’s going to be very special. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I can’t wait to play it. I’m excited already thinking about it. This is one hell of a place to play the Ryder Cup.”
--Dustin Johnson, in finishing second, completed the runner-up career Grand Slam, finishing second in all four majors, his lone triumph coming in the 2016 US Open.
--With Koepka’s fourth major triumph in 23 months, you’d have to go back to the best days of Tiger for such a stretch of supremacy. Tiger won seven of 11 majors held from the 1999 PGA through the 2002 US Open, or when he won five of 12 majors from the 2005 Masters through the 2007 PGA.
Next month, Koepka will attempt to join Willie Anderson as the only players to win the US Open in three consecutive years when he tees it up at Pebble Beach.
The early odds for the US Open have Koepka at 6-1, DJ 7-1, Tiger 14-1 and Rory 16-1, along with Justin Rose, according to Las Vegas Superbook.
--In the NCAA Women’s Championship, the stroke-play portion of the competition was shortened from 72 to 54 holes due to severe weather over the weekend, the event held at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas. This happens to be the home course for University of Arkansas senior Maria Fassi, who despite earning an LPGA Tour card last fall, stayed in school for this single event so she could cap her collegiate career with an NCAA championship in front of the hometown fans.
Fassi (who was runner-up to Wake Forest’s Jennifer Kupcho at the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur last month) achieved her goal, finishing four strokes better than Florida’s Sierra Brooks. Kupcho struggled with an opening round 78 and ended up T-22 in her effort to defend her NCAA individual title from last year.
But in the match-play portion of the championship, Wake Forest beat Arkansas in the quarterfinals Tuesday to advance to today’s semifinals and championship (weather permitting).
Wake faces off against Auburn; Duke vs. Arizona in the other semi this morning.
The championship is this afternoon.
The men start their championship Friday at the same venue.
--Golden State is headed to its fifth straight NBA Finals after completing a sweep of Portland in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals Monday night, 119-117 in overtime; the Warriors the first to reach five straight Finals since Boston went 10 consecutive times, 1957-66.
Steph Curry had his fifth straight postseason game with at least 30 points, scoring 37, also getting 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Combined with Draymond Green (18 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists), the two became the first teammates in NBA postseason history to record a triple-double in the same game, according to Elias.
And Golden State is doing this without Kevin Durant, who we are told could be able to return for the Finals, but what has it mattered?
Swingman Andre Iguodala missed Monday’s game with a sore left calf, but it’s expected he’ll be fine.
The wild card is actually center DeMarcus Cousin, who tore his right quad in the Western Conference quarterfinals on April 15, but is working out and making progress.
--The Warriors will face the Eastern Conference winner, Milwaukee or Toronto, the Raptors cutting the Bucks’ series lead to 2-1 on Sunday, 118-112 in double overtime, as Kawhi Leonard, limping and clearly hobbled, nonetheless scored 36 points (19 in the fourth quarter and overtimes). He also held Giannis Antetokounmpo to just 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting, though Giannis did have 23 rebounds.
And then last night, the Raptors took Game 4 120-102 to even things up at 2-2, Game 5 back in Milwaukee tomorrow night.
Frankly, I’m surprised. Kyle Lowry had another big game, 25 points, while Serge Ibaka had a monster game off the bench with 17 points and 13 rebounds in just 24 minutes. Kawhi (19 points) was pretty pedestrian, ditto Giannis (25 points) for the Bucks.
--Meanwhile, out in Los Angeles, Magic Johnson threw Rob Pelinka under the bus.
Bill Plaschke / Los Angeles Times
“It was Magic Johnson lobbing grenades from a TV studio in New York. It was Rob Pelinka stiffly absorbing the shelling in a gymnasium in El Segundo. It was LeBron James showing up and idly dribbling and shooting and standing far from the media while refusing to say or do anything that would calm the situation.
“It was Kurt Rambis showing up and hanging out after being publicly thanked by new coach Frank Vogel, an innocent comment which led to a horrifying question: Did Rambis actually do the hiring?
“It was Jeanie Buss in hiding, again.
“It was the most awkwardly awful day in the Lakers’ recent sordid history, a Manic Monday in which a team legend blew up a scheduled celebration before it started, leaving the dazed participants staggering for the exits as if wading through rubble.
“The occasion was the introductory press conference for Vogel, and he was positive, smiling, giddy, clearly thrilled to be there.
“He was the only one.
“ ‘You’re going to be happy with the product we put on the floor this year and where we’re going as an organization, you really are,’ Vogel said.
“Well, maybe so. But right now, as Monday so vividly illustrated, the Lakers are a wreck.
“The day began with Johnson appearing on ESPN’s ‘First Take’ talk show to expound on all those hints he dropped when he suddenly quit as president of basketball operations before the Lakers’ final game of the season in April. He confirmed he felt betrayed by general manager Rob Pelinka. He confirmed he quit because he wasn’t allowed to fire Luke Walton. He said the Lakers have too many voices involved in the decision making, including owner Jeanie Buss’ confidant Linda Rambis, former coach and Buss boyfriend Phil Jackson, and business boss Tim Harris.
“ ‘If you’re going to talk betrayal, it’s only with Rob,’ Johnson said.
“The day ended with Pelinka denying he was a backstabber and confirming that, indeed, he is the new basketball boss and answers only to Buss. He then retreated to his office after the 30-minute press conference without conducting the traditional post-presser interviews.
“ ‘Truly it’s saddening and disheartening to think he believes things [that] are a misperception,’ Pelinka said of Johnson, adding about his accusations, ‘They’re just simply not true.’
“Truly it’s saddening and disheartening that Lakers’ front office has fallen to this level, a billion-dollar operation being run by a small group of friends and family clawing at each other for control while ripping the franchise apart.
“This is an organization desperately in need of a leader. Monday showed they don’t have one. This is an organization crying out for at least the perception of stability. Monday was a rickety mess.
“On a day the Lakers had planned to put on their best face for a dubious city and questioning league, almost none of them looked good.
“Magic Johnson looked selfish.
“He certainly earned the right to speak his truth, and to be respected for it, but did he have to unload it all on the morning of a Lakers press conference introducing a new coach? The timing was clearly not coincidental. Johnson obviously wanted to overpower an event that had been planned for a week.”
And then there was LeBron.
“While some might like to give James credit for actually showing up for the press conference, he once again abdicated his responsibility as this team’s most important player by refusing interview request that would have allowed him to publicly endorse Vogel.
“How hard would it have been for James to wander over to the media and give a quick quote of support for a new guy who clearly needs it? Vogel said he talked with LeBron and it was all positive, but LeBron’s body language told an indifferent story, one which he easily could have refuted if he bothered to invest one ounce of emotional energy in the team. Then again, he probably needs to save that emotion for his TV show.”
And then there is owner Jeanie Buss’ absence from the press conference.
“It seems like she doesn’t know what to say, she doesn’t know what to do, so she says and does nothing while her family heirloom slowly grows tarnished and dim.”
Now this dysfunctional management team needs to bring in a free agent to placate LeBron (or Anthony Davis in a trade). All would probably be forgiven at that point. But can this gang pull it off?
Stanly Cup Playoffs
It really is hard to believe the St. Louis Blues haven’t been to the Finals since 1970, but they are going to face the Bruins for the Stanley Cup beginning Monday in Boston.
Last night St. Louis wrapped it up before the hometown fans, 5-1 over San Jose, taking the series 4-2.
At one point this season, the Blues were last in the Central Division at 21-22-5, before winning 11 in a row on the way to a 45-28-9 final mark. A huge reason for the turnaround was the play of rookie goalie Jordan Binnington, who took over the No. 1 job from Jake Allen and was 24-5-1 in the regular season, 12-7 now in the playoffs.
--A lot of Mets fans expected the team to fire Mickey Callaway when they got back to New York Sunday night, after being swept by the pathetic Marlins in Miami.
But General Manager Brode Van Wagenen said there were no such plans for the “foreseeable future” and the Mets defeated the Nationals at Citi Field on Monday night, 4-3.
The thing is we also learned Monday that disabled outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who it was hoped would be back by August for any playoff stretch drive after offseason heel surgery, had suffered right ankle fractures from a “violent fall” on his ranch in Port St. Lucie.
Now this is unbelievable, seeing as Cespedes still has one year left on his four-year, $110 million contract, yet heading into 2020 will have played in just 119 games over the first three seasons of the deal.
So some of us immediately thought that Cespedes fell off his horse at the ranch, but we’re told otherwise.
“He had a violent fall in which he stepped in a hole and put his leg and foot in a difficult position,” Van Wagenen said.
Regardless, this is so Mets-like.
But of more immediate concern is they also lost key reliever Seth Lugo to a shoulder ailment.
Well the Mets made it two-in-a-row last night over the struggling Nationals (19-29), 6-5, on a walk-off infield hit by Amed Rosario. While Mickey Callaway is on the hot seat, it would be shocking if Washington manager Dave Martinez survives much longer himself.
--The amazing Yankees are now 30-17, two games up on the Rays (27-18) in the AL East after another demolition of the Orioles’ pitching staff, 11-4 Tuesday, Clint Frazier homering twice and driving in a career-high five runs (his trade value soaring).
Domingo German won his ninth (9-1, 2.60) with five innings, two earned...leaving with a 9-3 lead.
New York has scored 73 runs in 10 games against Baltimore this season (winning eight).
--Sunday, Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Dodgers extended his scoreless innings streak to 31 in the Dodgers’ 8-3 win over the Reds, going seven, with Ryu now 28 innings shy of Orel Hershiser’s record 59 from 1988.
How good has he been? He’s not just 6-1, 1.52 ERA, but Ryu has struck out 59 in 59 1/3, while walking just four!
--Speaking of great pitching performances, Atlanta’s Mike Soroka is 5-1, 1.01 ERA in seven starts, yielding no more than one run in all seven. As Ronald Reagan would have commented to Nancy while reading the sports pages, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’
--Cody Bellinger is still hitting .400 (.404) after going 1-for-3 in a 7-3 Dodgers win over the Rays last night.
--2018 was the first season in history in which strikeouts outpaced hits, and now the trend has accelerated so far in 2019. The ball is in play less than ever, with a record 35.4 percent of plate appearances in 2019 resulting in a strikeout, walk or home run. Teams are using an average of 3.3 relievers per game in 2019, just below last year’s all-time record of 3.4. The league-wide batting average of .244 is the lowest since 1972, and a drop of 27 points from 1999, at the height of the steroids era.
This isn’t good.
--This week is conference tournament time in Division I baseball, prior to the NCAA tournament and College World Series.
Baseball America Poll (May 20)
5. Mississippi State
7. East Carolina
8. Georgia Tech
9. Texas Tech
11. Oregon State...Beaverwear stirring in sports drawer
12. UC Santa Barbara
13. North Carolina State
15. Oklahoma State
In the ACC tournament, Wake Forest defeated a solid Florida State team yesterday, 7-4. If it can beat North Carolina State on Thursday, its NCAA tournament hopes, which had dimmed the last few weeks, would be greatly improved.
Separately, Wake sophomore first baseman Bobby Seymour was named the ACC Player of the Year on Monday. He leads the ACC with 92 RBIs, the most in Division I since Buster Posey had 93 in 2008. Seymour, who also leads the ACC in hitting at .377, isn’t eligible for the draft until next year.
--The Wake Forest men’s tennis team was attempting to defend its national championship, but fell short in the finals of the NCAAs in Orlando, Fla., losing to No. 2 Texas, 4-1. For the Longhorns it was their first men’s title.
--Shockingly, in Sunday’s Indy 500, there will be no two-time Formula One champion, Fernando Alonso, who had all kinds of issues with his McLaren and failed to qualify.
Alonso said during his first qualifying attempt Saturday that the team was “not ready for the challenge” of competing at Indy.
Less than 24 hours later, McLaren team president Bob Fernley was fired.
I’ll go with Conor Daly to win it. [I have no freakin’ idea, but he’s with Team Andretti, and that’s all I need. Marco Andretti starts in row 4, alongside Daly, but he’s had tough luck in the race, like his entire family has, post scion Mario’s 1969 win.]
--The sport of racing, and humanity in general, lost one of the greats Monday, three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who died at the age of 70.
As British race driver Jenson Button tweeted: “A legend has left us. Rest in peace Niki.”
His family said in a statement: “His unique successes as a sportsman and entrepreneur are and remain unforgettable.
“His tireless drive, his straightforwardness and his courage remain an example and standard for us all. Away from the public gaze, he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather. We will miss him very much.”
F1 tweeted: “Forever carried in our hearts, forever immortalized in our history. The motorsport community today mourns the devastating loss of a true legend.”’
Lauda had won the 1975 Formula 1 championship and was leading the standings heading into the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in Germany the following campaign when he was involved in a horrific crash, his car exploding in flames, as four of his fellow drivers desperately tried to remove him from his Ferrari until fire marshals arrived. Incredibly, Lauda was able to stand up, despite severe burns to his face and body, as well as lung damage from inhaling toxic gases. He then lapsed into a coma, only to race again just six weeks later, his face horribly scared.
[On Lauda’s third day in intensive care, a Roman Catholic priest gave him the last rites of the church. Lauda was conscious, and the rites only made him angry. “I kept telling myself, if he wants to do that, O.K., but I’m not quitting,” Lauda told Newsday after he began a remarkable recovery.]
Lauda would finish second to James Hunt* in the championship chase, then win it the next year, 1977. He would win his third title in 1984 with McLaren.
*The rivalry between Lauda and Hunt was later made into the film “Rush.”
Lauda’s recovery was unfathomable,** but then he became a huge figure in the aviation industry.
A licensed commercial pilot, Lauda founded and for years ran his own airline, Lauda Air, first as a charter, then as a scheduled carrier from Austria to Southeast Asia, Australia and the Americas. He sometimes piloted his airline’s flights. In 1991, a Lauda Air jetliner crashed in Thailand, killing all 223 people on board. Lauda was personally involved in the investigation, which was ruled an accident.
**Lauda suffered from extensive health issues later on, tied no doubt to the crash, undergoing two kidney transplants in 1997 and 2005, and a lung transplant in Aug. 2018, while battling severe lung disease.
Lauda one told The Telegraph of London in 2015: “Formula One is simply about controlling these cars and testing your limits. This is why people race – to feel the speed, the car and the control. If in my time you pushed too far, you would have killed yourself. You had to balance on that thin line to stay alive.”
Niki Lauda wsa born in Vienna, Feb. 22, 1949, growing up in one of Austria’s leading families; his paternal grandfather, Hans Lauda, had built a papermaking empire.
Niki was a bright but lazy student, and while his parents wanted him to go into the family business, cars became his passion, buying them to race in low levels of competition until by 1973, he had caught the eye of Enzo Ferrari, who invited him to join the Ferrari racing team.
--I know there is nothing more boring than having someone talk about a television program you never watched, but let’s just say I was a “Game of Thrones” fan and liked the finale. I also loved “The Sopranos” finale and in both cases, I was probably in the minority.
But I did get a kick out of all the criticism of ‘GoT’ this season because of how the producers and writers seemed ‘rushed’ to cram it all into six episodes, rather than, say, eight, and it’s true another two hours would have allowed them to fill in some gaps.
Anyway, it’s over. But Kit Harrington (Jon Snow) was tired of the fan backlash in the final season.
“Whatever critic spends half an hour writing about this season and makes their judgement on it, in my head they can go f—k themselves,” he tells Esquire. “Because I know how much work was put into this.”
Harrington continued: “A lot of jobs, everyone goes back to their apartments at the end of the day. They have their lives and they have their families and they have their girlfriends or boyfriends back home,” he said. “I think part of what made [‘GoT’] successful was the fact that we got on like a family. Everyone who came in was welcomed into the family.”
‘GoT’ fans do have a bunch of prequels in the works, including the first, under the working title “Bloodmoon,” that is being filmed in Belfast.
--James Holzhauer returned to “Jeopardy” Monday, after a two-week absence, and he won again, of course, No. 23, with his winnings rising $89,229 to $1,780,237.
And Holzhauer won No. 24 last night, $86,905, to bring his total to $1,867,142. Ken Jennings’ all-time Jeopardy record for winning is $2.4 million over 74 shows.
Top 3 songs for the week 5/23/70: #1 “American Woman” (The Guess Who) #2 “Vehicle” (The Ides of March) #3 “Turn Back The Hands Of Time” (Tyrone Davis)...and...#4 Everything Is Beautiful” (Ray Stevens) #5 “Cecilia” (Simon & Garfunkel) #6 “Let It Be” (The Beatles) #7 “Love On A Two-Way Street” (The Moments) #8 “Up Around The Bend” (Creedence Clearwater Revival) #9 “ABC” (The Jackson 5) #10 “Reflections Of My Life” (The Marmalade)
Golf Quiz Answer: World Golf Ranking....
1. Brooks Koepka 11.00
2. Dustin Johnson 10.93
3. Justin Rose 8.75
4. Rory McIlroy 8.12
5. Justin Thomas 7.42
6. Tiger Woods 7.39
7. Francesco Molinari 6.98
8. Bryson DeChambeau 6.71
9. Xander Schauffele 6.17
10. Rickie Fowler 5.67
11. Jon Rahm 5.52
12. Matt Kuchar 5.42
13. Paul Casey 5.34
1969 Mets, cont’d....
After an exhibition game Monday, and an off day Tuesday, the Mets traveled to Atlanta for two.
May 21: Tom Seaver outdueled Phil Niekro, 5-0, Tom Terrific with a 3-hitter (but just 2 strikeouts) to improve to 6-2, 1.96, while Niekro fell to 6-3, yielding the 5 runs in 7 2/3. Bud Harrelson had a bases-loaded triple for the Metropolitans.
May 22: The Mets couldn’t handle prosperity and were shelled 15-3, Atlanta now 25-11, the Mets 18-19 as they head to Houston for a weekend series. [Uh oh...]
Next Bar Chat, Monday.