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A Look Back at Turnberry
[Posted Wed. a.m.]
The Open Championship Quiz: Eight different Americans have won the Claret Jug since 2000. Name ‘em. Answer below.
The Open Championship
Ireland (Northern Ireland) is abuzz with the return of The Open to Royal Portrush for the first time since 1951.
As of Monday, the DraftKings Sportsbook odds had:
Rory McIlroy 9.5-1
Brooks Koepka 11-1
Jon Rahm 15-1
Dustin Johnson 17-1
Tiger Woods 20-1
Justin Rose 23-1
Patrick Cantlay 25-1
Adam Scott 25-1
Henrik Stenson 25-1
Francesco Molinari 25-1
Xander Schauffele 30-1
Justin Thomas 30-1
Eddie Pepperell at 90-1 presents good value. Ditto Joaquin Niemann at 175-1.
I want Rory big time, to get it done at home. That would be special. But I’m going with Stenson.
--Tiger didn’t sound too confident at his press conference Tuesday. He’s only played 10 competitive rounds since winning the Masters, and he’s been taking a crash course at Portrush. He hadn’t stepped foot on it until Sunday.
Since winning the Masters, Tiger missed the cut at the PGA Championship, tied for ninth at the Memorial and tied for 21st at the U.S. Open. He also said he went on a two-week trip to Thailand after the Open and played “zero” golf there.
He admitted the Masters “took a lot out of me. That golf course puts so much stress on the system.... It was a very emotional week and one that I keep reliving. It’s hard to believe that I pulled it off and I ended up winning the tournament.”
But now Tiger is cramming to learn Portrush, which he called “unbelievable,” and find his game again.
The big thing with Tiger these days, however, is limiting his play and staying healthy. He said in playing 18 tournaments last year it was too much, and now he faces the FedEx Cup playoffs, and next week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational (though he may blow that off, because that would mean five tournaments in six weeks).
“I want to play here as long as I possibly can. And you have to understand, if I play a lot, I won’t be out here that long,” Woods said. “I’m trying to figure out a game plan that will work.”
--This is kind of staggering, but Phil Mickelson lost 15-18 pounds in 15 days. In a video posted Sunday on social media, Mickelson looked remarkably thinner as he explained he had made a “hard reset to change and try and make things better.” Phil fasted for six days, then consumed nothing but water and a special coffee blend for wellness.
But those who have seen him at Portrush say he is hitting it well. Mickelson told a reporter, “I didn’t fast to lose weight. I fasted to heal.”
Mickelson did say Tuesday, however, that he doesn’t feel his chances of winning this week are good.
--This week marks ten years since Turnberry, and 59-year-old Tom Watson’s stirring run at the Claret Jug, only to fall tragically short, missing a putt to win on No. 18 and falling into a playoff with Stewart Cink that Watson then fell woefully short in.
Watson had returned to the site, 32 years earlier, of his epic Duel in the Sun, where he bested Jack Nicklaus, and here he was, 50 days short of his 60th birthday, firing an opening round 65 that left him just one off the lead. But then the benign early weather changed and the players stumbled a bit. After three rounds, however, Tom Watson was still up one.
Ross Fisher -3
Mathew Goggin -3
Retief Goosen -2
Lee Westwood -2
Stewart Cink -1
Jim Furyk -1
Everyone who cared even a little about sports had been hearing that Watson was doing something special, and I could go back in my archives and I’m sure I said like so many golf fans, I was nervous as hell watching Sunday’s final round. Could Watson possibly pull it off? It would have been the single greatest sports story of all time.
So in the final round, Watson got off to a shaky start, but birdied the par-3 11th to tie Goggin and Westwood, and then Westwood led by himself after Watson and Goggin both bogeyed 14.
Westwood, however, then bogeyed 15, 17 and 18 and wound up finishing tied for third. Meanwhile, Stewart Cink birdied the 18th to post 2 under, tying Watson atop the leader board.
But then after Watson birdied 17, he needed just a par-4 on the straightforward 18th to win the championship.
Watson’s tee shot split the fairway and he was faced with an approach from 187 yards, 165 to the front of the green. Caddie Neil Oxman liked an 8-iron, Watson agreed. But the shot went through the back of the green, which was 196.
From Watson’s viewpoint, the shot looked perfect, right at the flag. He had played it just like he wanted. Stewart Cink later observed, though, that when he had played the hole, and birdied it, he and his caddie had picked a spot 5-15 yards in front of the green to land it, knowing it would run up onto the green about pin high. Cink believes Watson just made a “tired decision.”
So now Watson’s ball rolled down behind the green into the edge of the rough. He could chip it or putt it.
Watson: “I thought about chipping it. The ball was sitting down in a crater in the grass, though, and I thought it would be better to putt it. I thought I could hit it up by the hole, then make a putt to win.
Watson’s less-than-perfect putt left him eight feet below the hole for the Open title. But Watson came up short, forcing the playoff. He said he “hit a lousy putt. Decelerated. It was just awful.”
Paul Azinger: “One of the headlines I saw after – and this is super accurate – was IT FELT LIKE SOMEONE SHOT SANTA CLAUS. When he missed that putt, it was done. Over. He made it obvious with his body language.
Stewart Cink then blitzed Watson in the four-hole playoff. [Daniel Rapaport / Sports Illustrated]
John Feinstein in Golf World had an interview with Watson recently and asked him about the days after the crushing loss.
“I really shook the disappointment off the day after – on Monday – when we got to London,” he said. “We flew right there because the Senior Open was that week (at Sunningdale) and I needed to play a practice round. I think I’d only seen the golf course once. When we got to the hotel, I was still kind of moping around, thinking, ‘I don’t want to go practice, I just want to stay here and do nothing.’ But then I sort of gave myself a kick in the butt and said, ‘Come on Tom, you have to move on. Go practice.’ I did and, after that, I really was OK.”
Watson finished T-7 that week.
But when he finally got home, it was then he first understood the impact his performance had on people.
“Honestly, that’s what I remember the most,” he said. “The reaction was overwhelming. Thousands of letters; e-mails; texts – everything you can imagine. They came in for months. The theme of them was simple: you made me believe in myself again. You helped me try something that I thought I couldn’t do anymore. You inspired me to believe anything is possible. Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for that. It really touched me in ways I couldn’t have imagined.”
Watson is at Royal Portrush to watch, as he’ll play at the Senior Open at Royal Lytham and St. Annes next week. With five Open Championships and three British Senior Open titles, he is an adopted son across the pond.
“That’s the other thing I remember from that weekend,” Watson said. “Every time we walked on a tee or on a green, the people were unbelievable. I still get chills now thinking about that.”
John Feinstein: “And we all still get chills thinking about the miracle that might have been. Should have been. Dammit.”
--Tampa Bay came into Yankee Stadium Monday night for the first of four games, the Yanks with a chance to put the Rays in a deep hole, entering the series six games back in the A.L. East.
And the Rays looked defeated in the top of the ninth, down 4-2, Aroldis Chapman on the mound. Tampa’s two runs had been courtesy of two solo home runs from ex-Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who had found new life with the Rays after being DFA’d by the Mets.
Well d’Arnaud then hit a 3-run homer off Chapman, his third of the game, accounting for all five runs in the 5-4 win. He was the first catcher in baseball history to hit three home runs out of the leadoff spot, and he was the first catcher, ever, to hit three against the Yankees, which is remarkable to think about. D’Arnaud’s average for the Rays was .282, with nine home runs and 26 ribbies in 131 at-bats.
But d’Arnaud went 0-for-4 last night, including grounding into a double play in a key spot, as the Yanks came from behind to beat the Rays 8-3, scoring six in the bottom of the eighth on Aaron Judge’s two-run homer, and then Didi Gregorous’ grand slam.
So with two to play in the series, the lead is back to six.
--The Dodgers opened a series in Philadelphia on Monday and pounded the Phils 16-2, Cody Bellinger with four hits and two solo homers, giving him 33 on the season. Clayton Kershaw threw six innings of one-run ball for the win, moving to 8-2, 3.00.
Bellinger then hit No. 34 Tuesday, a two-run shot, but in a dramatic finish the Phillies won 9-8, scoring three in the bottom of the ninth for a 9-8 win that could prove critical going forward for Philadelphia’s playoff hopes.
The Dodgers had taken an 8-6 in the top of the ninth as pinch hitter Matt Beaty hit a three-run homer off Phillies closer Nector Neris, but then the Phils scored three in the bottom of the frame off the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen, with Bryce Harper getting the game-winning walk-off, two-run double. Harper had earlier hit a three-run homer, tying his career high with the five RBIs.
--The Angels won their fourth straight Monday following the All-Star break, 9-6 over the Astros, as Mike Trout sat out with a calf strain.
And they made it five-in-a-row last night, 7-2. Trout sat out his second game, but Albert Pujols hit a bases-clearing double in L.A.’s six-run first inng.
Meanwhile, the Astros were expecting the Angels to retaliate against Jake Marisnick in his first game versus Los Angeles since his violent home plate collision with catcher Jonathan Lucroy. And the Angels’ Noe Ramirez hit Marsinick in the back in the sixth inning. Both benches cleared but no punches were thrown Houston manager A.J. Hinch hinted at retaliation if Ramirez isn’t punished by Major League Baseball. Ramirez said it wasn’t intentional.
--Brandon Crawford had a nice Monday night, homering three times and driving in nine runs as the Giants swept the Rockies in Denver in a doubleheader, 19-2, 2-1.
In the first game, Crawford homered twice and tied a team record with eight RBIs.
--Classic Mets. Pitcher Zack Wheeler has not had a good season, 6-6, 4.69 ERA, especially when matched up against his outstanding second half last year, when he was as good as any pitcher in the game, including teammate Jacob deGrom.
Wheeler is a free agent end of this season, and despite his success in 2018, the Mets were showing no signs of signing him to an extension, and then he has had an up-and-down first half.
But Wheeler has still had his moments this season and in 15 of his 19 starts he had thrown 6+ innings. He thus has trade value for a contender lacking a solid arm in the rotation, though his value is nowhere what it would have been this past off-season.
So Mets fans have been debating amongst themselves whether to trade him or try to sign him in free agency at season end, or, trade him and then still try to sign him (a la the Yankees and Aroldis Chapman, after he was traded to the Cubs for their World Series run and then New York took him back).
I couldn’t help but say all this, even though we just learned Wheeler was put on the IL, because these are the kinds of decisions a good general manager is supposed to be dealing with. And now Wheeler’s trade value has plummeted, Wheeler with right shoulder fatigue.
Wheeler was to pitch Tuesday in Minnesota, which would have been a good test against an A.L. contender, with the Twins potentially giving him a look themselves.
But then this...awful timing. While it’s possible Wheeler may miss just one or two starts, chances are he wouldn’t be back until after the trade deadline, so what team will risk going after him?
At least Tuesday in Minnesota, the Mets received five masterful innings from the bullpen for their third straight win, 3-2. I watched it and all were in agreement, manager Mickey Callaway had his best game as he mixed and matched, using six different relievers.
--Not a good start for newly-acquired Andrew Cashner, who gave up 5 earned in 5 innings as the Red Sox lost 10-4 to Toronto in Boston.
--One more story on Jim Bouton, that Phil W. wanted me to see from his friend Ed Hardin at the Greensboro News & Record. Hardin remembered a call that had come into their offices years ago and one of Ed’s associates took it. It was from Jim Bouton and he had an interesting question?
“Is there anybody there who was at the paper when I was in Greensboro?” he wanted to know. Bouton had played in Greensboro in 1960, one year with the G-Yanks. He did well there, before joining the big club, but the question wasn’t about his season.
“Did I have a girlfriend there?”
It was a story about a scene that plays out at all minor league parks, and as Ed Hardin put it:
“Apparently, in 1960, there were a lot of young Yankees trying to steal away without having to face the girls they were leaving behind. But this was different. One of the girls in 1960 was pregnant.
“Bouton had no memory of it, and I have no memory of what came of that call, if anything. I know we didn’t write it. But years later, when Bouton returned to War Memorial as part of a group trying to save old ballparks around the country, I drove over to talk to him.
“After a brief tour of the old park and a press conference of sorts, I pulled the old pitcher aside and asked if he remembered calling the newspaper that morning. He said he didn’t. I told him what he’d asked, and the color went from his face.
“Bouton quietly put his hand on my shoulder and we walked away so no one could hear us.
“ ‘I remember that,’ he said. ‘I’ve thought about that a lot through the years. All of us did. She was trying to get in touch with more than just me.’
“He looked at me to make sure I understood him.
“ ‘It wasn’t me,’ he said. ‘I know that now. But we don’t know whose kid that was.’
“We stared at each other for a few seconds before he shook his head.
“ ‘It’s a sad story,’ Bouton said. ‘I’ve never spoken to her, but I know a few of my teammates have.’
“He said he had no idea how it turned out.
“The kid would turn 59 this year.
“Baseball, like all professional sports, is more than just a game. And there is indeed another side that few of us know about.
“Bouton pulled the curtain back for everyone to see when he wrote his book in 1970. I stepped through that curtain with him in 2004. He allowed me to look around just for a brief second. But there was no one there.
“Jim Bouton’s 1960 was gone forever.”
--We note the passing of former relief pitcher Joe Grzenda, who died the other day at 82. I recall getting a ton of Joe Grzenda baseball cards, but he was a pretty non-descript hurler who played in parts of eight seasons for various clubs (I totally forgot he played for the Mets in 1967, throwing to a 2.16 ERA in 11 games).
I have to admit I probably wouldn’t mention his story, though, if I hadn’t seen a piece from Scott Allen in the Washington Post. Grzenda, you see, threw the final pitch in Washington Senators history.
“On Sept. 30, 1971, Grzenda took the mound in the top of the ninth inning at RFK Stadium, looking to preserve the Senators’ 7-5 lead over the New York Yankees. One out away from earning his sixth save after retiring Felipe Alou and Bobby Murcer on comebackers, Grzenda was eager to face New York second baseman Horace Clarke.
“ ‘I hollered, ‘C’mon, let’s go, get in there,’’ Grzenda, a fast worker, told The Post’s William Gildea in 2004.
“Just then, thousands of people among the announced crowd of 14,460 stormed the field. Three fans jumped on Senators slugger Frank Howard’s back. Others tore the bases out of the infield dirt. Amid the chaos, a big, bearded man ran towards Grzenda, who wondered whether he was about to be tackled. The man simply touched Grzenda on the shoulder.
“Years later, Grzenda recalled that he considered throwing the baseball in his glove at the man, but he decided against it. The ball was still in Grzenda’s glove as he ran off the field after the public address announcer declared the Yankees had won by forfeit.”
Well, Grzenda was denied his sixth save, finishing his best year in the majors, 5-2, 1.92, in 46 games. The pitcher added that that night after the final game, he drove home with his wife and two children, including his 11-year-old son Joe Jr., who cried in the back seat knowing that his favorite team was being moved to Texas. Understand that Ted Williams was the manager of the Senators then and Williams taught Joe Jr. how to throw a curveball. How cool would that have been? I would have been crying too.
As for that last baseball? Grzenda kept it in a drawer, inside a Manila envelope on which he wrote, “Last baseball ever thrown as a Washington Senator, Baseball Club. Sept. 30, 1971, Murcer grounded out to me.”
Grzenda kept the baseball until on April 14, 2005, he was at RFK for the Nationals’ first home game, and he handed the historic ball to President George W. Bush, who tossed the ceremonial first pitch to Nationals catcher Brian Schneider. Schneider was an avid collector of baseball memorabilia, but Grzenda wanted it back and Schneider obliged.
I’m assuming Joe Jr. now has the ball.
--What a tragic, awful story...the death of one of the greatest boxers in history, Pernell Whitaker, who was hit by a car in Virginia Beach. He was just 55.
Virginia Beach police said the accident remains under investigation but Whitaker was apparently hit by a vehicle around 10 p.m. Sunday when he was walking at an intersection. Whitaker died on the spot. The driver remained at the scene. Whitaker was apparently wearing dark clothing and the driver didn’t see him.
“Sweet Pea” Whitaker, a southpaw from Norfolk, Virginia, was revered as one of the best defensive fighters in history, a man who won world titles in four weight classes. He was the undisputed lightweight world champion and also won titles at junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight as one of the most dominant forces in his sport in the 1980s and ‘90s. He also won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics.
Whitaker accumulated a 40-4-1, 17 KOs, professional record, though some say two of the losses should have gone the other way; bouts against Oscar De La Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. In the Chavez fight, Whitaker appeared to have won handily, but one judge scored the fight 115-113 for Whitaker, while the other two scored it 115-115, resulting in a majority draw that remains perhaps the most controversial decision in boxing history. The cover of Sports Illustrated days later showed a photo of Whitaker landing a punch with the headline “Robbed!”
Whitaker told SI: “Last night it was like someone put a knife in me and twisted it. I mentally and physically beat him. I put an old-fashioned project beating on him. A housing authority beating. A ghetto beating.”
But at least the draw let Whitaker hold onto the title and he won his next eight fights, and then faced De La Hoya for the WBC welterweight belt.
Whitaker outpunched De La Hoya and scored the only knockdown, but the judges awarded De La Hoya a unanimous decision.
“I was robbed again,” Whitaker said afterward. “It was a blowout, a shutout. I couldn’t have performed better.”
Whitaker was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006.
--I can’t help but note that “Game of Thrones” just picked up a record 32 Emmy nominations on Tuesday, including for “outstanding drama series.”
Kit Harrington received a nomination for “outstanding lead actor,” with Emilia Clarke nominated as “outstanding lead actress.”
And I was pleased to see “Chernobyl” pick up a nomination for “outstanding limited series.”
--Fleming Smith of the Wall Street Journal had a story on aggressive birds, such as the red-winged blackbird, of which there are some 250 million across North and Central America, “and this summer some are feeling extra aggressive toward human neighbors – driving them to change walking routes, wear protective headgear or furiously wave arms above their heads as they jog.”
Heck, I’ve been attacked by red-winged blackbirds when jogging at this one particular park, but most of these incidents I assumed were because I had passed under their nest and they were protecting their turf.
According to Lori Naumann, information officer at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, bird-on-human attacks are growing more common as people encroach on their habitats.
And it turns out my instincts were correct. “As red-winged blackbirds nest from April to the end of July, it is the males’ job to defend their mates and young. ‘It’s kind of like getting between a mama bear and her cub,’ Ms. Naumann says.
It turns out there are a number of attacks being reported in Minnesota these days.
But I didn’t realize the blackbirds are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, with a maximum fine of $15,000 and possible jail time for violating the 1918 law....if you were thinking of fighting back.
Top 3 songs for the week 7/13/68: #1 “This Guy’s In Love With You” (Herb Alpert) #2 “The Horse” (Cliff Nobles & Co.) #3 “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (The Rolling Stones)...and...#4 “Lady Willpower” (Gary Puckett and The Union Gap) #5 “Grazing In The Grass” (Hugh Masekela) #6 “The Look Of Love” (Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66) #7 “Angel Of The Morning” (Merrilee Rush & The Turnabouts) #8 “Stoned Soul Picnic” (The 5th Dimension) #9 “Here Comes The Judge” (Shorty Long) #10 “Indian Lake” (The Cowsills)
The Open Championship Quiz Answer: Eight Americans to win since 2000....
Tiger Woods 2000
David Duval 2001
Ben Curtis 2003
Todd Hamilton 2004
Stewart Cink 2009
Phil Mickelson 2013
Zach Johnson 2015
Jordan Spieth 2017
1969 Mets, cont’d....
The Mets had a return engagement with the Cubs, though this time at Wrigley Field for a three-game set, Monday thru Wednesday afternoons.
July 14: The Mets lose the opening game before a packed house (it would be packed for all three) 1-0, as Bill Hands (11-7) outdueled Tom Seaver (14-4), the Mets 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. It was sweet revenge for Chicago after having been one-hit by Seaver the previous week. Cubs manager Leo Durocher brought in Phil Regan for the last out, and something tells me this guy may well be a Met in some shape or form in 50 years. Just a hunch.
July 15: The Mets rebounded to win 5-4, Gary Gentry (9-7) going 7 2/3 for the win, Ron Taylor the save. New York had a 5-1 before the Cubs’ Billy Williams and Ron Santo went back-to-back against Gentry in the eighth to tighten things up.
But the story was Al Weis, who hit his first home run of the season, a three-run shot off former Met Dick Selma. Weis had become the shortstop while Bud Harrelson went to serve his two-week summer Army reserve hitch, which a lot of players did in those days. I was listening on the radio at home, the afternoon weekday games not televised from Chicago, to the best of my recollection. It was a magical moment for both Weis and the team.
July 16: And then the next day, Al Weis homered again! Tommie Agee and Art Shamsky also went deep, as the Mets built a 6-0 lead in the top of the second, knocking out Fergie Jenkins (12-7).
But Mets starter Don Cardwell couldn’t live with the prosperity and he was gone after 1 2/3, the Cubs scoring four in the bottom of the second. Jim McAndrew then followed and he was ineffective, Chicago cutting it to 6-5, before Cal Koone and Ron Taylor threw seven innings of shutout relief, Koonce going five for the win.
The Mets won it 9-5 and the lead was down to 3 ½.
St. Louis 47-46...10
The Mets had taken four of six from the Cubs in eight days and they had shown the baseball world they were truly for real. Ron Santo said, “They fooled me. They’re much better than I thought they were.”
On to Montreal for a four-game weekend set.
July 18: Jerry Koosman throws a complete game, the Mets win 5-2 at Parc Jarry as Shamsky and Jerry Grote homer; Koosman now 8-5, 1.88 ERA.
July 19: But the next day, Tom Seaver is knocked out, throwing just two innings, yielding 7 hits and 4 earned, his record falling to 14-5, as the Mets lose 5-4. Bill Stoneman threw a complete game for the Expos, the four runs all unearned.
July 20: In the first of two, Gary Gentry yields three solo home runs and the Expos win 3-2, Gary Waslewski with the complete game victory.
July 20: But the Mets salvage a split in the series, winning the nightcap 4-3 in 10 innings on Bobby Pfeil’s pinch-hit single. Don Cardwell had gone 7 1/3 and was headed for the win, only Coco Laboy homered off Ron Taylor in the bottom of the ninth, sending it to extra innings.
So a disappointing series in Montreal sends the Mets back home 53-39, five back of the Cubbies.
But the Mets suddenly have an issue. Tom Seaver’s arm is going to be checked out back in New York. Seaver said, “It’s a stiffness, not a pain. It’s right here, under the clavicle,” pressing the front of his right shoulder. “It’s not from my teeth, because I’ve had them looked at. It’s not from sleeping on it, because I try to sleep on my left side, or on my stomach. (Pitching coach Rube Walker) thinks it could be a cold that has settled there. But I wear pajama tops to guard against air conditioning.”
Yes, Tom Terrific was always very clinical when it came to his pitching and his body, but it turns out there wasn’t anything serious. And funny he brought up the teeth....because they can indeed be a sign of trouble elsewhere.
Next Bar Chat, maybe, Monday.
**Folks, I am out of pocket virtually all of Friday through Sunday p.m. Yes, I’m going to miss the bulk of The Open. Just one of those things. It’s a family wedding in the Midwest.