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Shane Lowry closes the deal for Ireland
[Posted late Sunday p.m.]
***It was impossible for me to cover everything today given how I was traveling, but I’ll probably post next time late Tuesday and do a lot of baseball to catch up in that sphere.
Golf Quiz: 1) Who are the five to finish top-five in all four majors in a single season? 2) Who are the four, aside from Shane Lowry, to win a major by 5 or more shots since 2000? Answers below.
Cincinnati...and The Champion Golfer of the Year....
So I was in Cincinnati this week for my niece’s / Goddaughter’s wedding. Dale wouldn’t mind me saying this...oh, she knows me well...but at first on hearing when the wedding was I was like, ‘Drat! That’s The Open at Royal Portrush!’ Yes, incredibly selfish.
The thing was, it was three days of festivities, Friday thru Sunday, and while I went home today, missing the last event, the issue with limited flights back meant I’d miss the final round basically.
But starting at the beginning, I watched the entire first round, Thursday, and let me just say, I know a thing or two about Ireland, having been there like 22 times, all golf-oriented trips. I’ve been to Northern Ireland just once, before the Good Friday Agreement, and the checkpoint at Newry was intimidating, the soldier pointing a gun at our car until he realized we were Americans, though I don’t remember him ever smiling because of said fact.
We went to Newcastle to play Royal County Down for two rounds, rated by some the best course in the world. What was fascinating about that was the conditions between round 1 and 2 were totally different. The first round we had awful winds and the best golfer in our group, David P., shot like 102. I think I had 116, at best. [I was taking a real score...not a handicap deal.]
But the next day (after learning all about the Catholic/Protestant issue at two pubs the night before), the winds laid down and Dave shot 83! I think I had 102...just to give you an idea of what the conditions can do to one’s score there.
We didn’t make it up to Portrush that trip, and I’ve never played it, but a member of our group, Pete M., raved about it when he did on a separate excursion.
Knowing, politically, though, how important it was to return The Open to Portrush after 68 years, I was so pumped for the Irish. And, yes, there was a little trepidation. Would anyone, read ‘Real IRA,’ act up? Thank god they didn’t...even jerks can understand when to lay down their arms for the good of all.
So The Open comes to Portrush, and the first round, which I didn’t miss a minute of, was all about native Rory McIlroy, from the North, tremendous pressure on the lad, and he went out and laid an egg of epic proportions, with a quadruple-bogey on the very first hole, on his way to an 8-over 79. He shot himself out of the tournament he, and the country, so desperately wanted him to win, on the very first hole. It was depressing for any fan of golf, especially because we all love Rory.
Well Friday, I had to fly early to Cincinnati and while the flight was great, and on time, which is one and the same, I couldn’t check into my hotel for a few hours because of the crush of people there. The reason? The Cardinals were in town to face the Reds and boy, was it a classic Midwest tale that you hear about when you aren’t from the region. Particularly when it comes to series like Reds-Cards, Cards-Cubs, fans will travel hundreds of miles for the games in the summer. As I saw firsthand at my place, it really is a family affair. Entire families, in some cases from grandparents on down, were there at the Millennium Hotel, which is a short walk to Great American Ball Park. It was irritating for me, but good to see...and good for the country, dammit.
Anyway, Friday night us wedding celebrants had a reception on the roof of the Marriott and it was only about 110 heat index. Needless to say this required beer. But we could see the ballpark from the roof and around 8:00 the fireworks went off after the first Cincy home run. A few of us knew this was why...so we duly explained to the others who didn’t. [There would be more fireworks that night from the game.]
I then woefully attempted to complete that other column I do when I got back to my room, and, err, it wasn’t my best effort.
Saturday morning, we then took a cruise on the Ohio River. Now I have to admit, as I told my brother, father of the bride, I was not in the least up for this, knowing I’d miss a lot of the golf and I hadn’t proofed that other column.
But the cruise turned out to be great...heat and all...and since I had never been on the Ohio, learned a lot...and saw some cool places to live. I mean having a nice place on a major river is not the worst thing in the world, as long as it doesn’t flood.
So after the cruise I get to the room and started watching the golf, the leaders having just started their rounds, but after I finally proofed that other column (and thank god I did...yikes, I had some brain cramps at 2:00 a.m. it turned out...), since I didn’t have lunch and my hotel, for some strange reason, didn’t open the restaurant from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., I headed to a place where I saw they had the golf on and proceeded to watch the back nine of Shane Lowry’s superb 63. But there were like eight other people at the bar and they were totally disinterested. So I marked them down as Communists (just a little Squad/Trump joke there, sports fans!).
Saturday night was the actual wedding (wink wink...Dale and Luke had exchanged vows in Los Angeles the week before, but since none of us would have flown out to L.A., Luke’s folks put it on near their home), and the two had one line in their humorous back-and-forth where Dale vowed she would give up the window seat on all flights to keep the peace in the family. I thought, I would never give up the window seat...which is one of 600 hundred reasons why I’m still single. [I am going to have a talk with Dale about this later one.]
Where were we? Oh, so the reception was at the Cincinnati Art Galleries, which is owned by Luke’s father. Way cool. But at the end I was beat.
So today, I had a mid-morning flight back and caught some early action at the hotel, but only followed on the Net at the airport. I knew when I boarded my flight that Lowry was suddenly up six over Tommy Fleetwood after just seven.
But knowing the import to the entire Emerald Isle, I wanted to get home for the trophy presentation, recognizing that was the best I could hope for, and thanks to the good folks at United (cough cough), everything was on time, but if my bag had been delivered five minutes earlier I would have seen the walk-up on 18. [I’ve since seen it numerous times.]
So I caught the presentation and what an awesome moment for the sport, the championship, Ireland, and Lowry.
And my very best to a special girl, Dale, and her new hubby, Luke. [You’ll have to forgive me when I highlight Dale’s work next chat, after I receive her first book.]
But there is so much to say about The Open and a return to Royal Portrush, which all should be in agreement now must be a fixture in the ‘rota.’
However, needless to say, Northern Ireland has had its ‘Troubles.’
As for Lowry, the 32-year-old claimed his first major championship with his dominant six-shot victory. The crowd support (237,000 in attendance over the four days) was as good as it gets. And we know the party, as Lowry said himself, will continue in Ireland for at least a week. And that is both Northern Ireland and the Republic, from which Lowry hails, because as all say, “Golf unites the Emerald Isle.”
It was also sweet redemption for Lowry, as he exorcised the demons of having a four-shot lead heading into the final round in the 2016 U.S. Open, only to have Dustin Johnson win it as Lowry shot a 76.
This time Fleetwood, bidding to become the first Englishman to win the Open since Nick Faldo in 1992, finished second.
Lowry +1 final round... -15
Fleetwood +3... -9
Tony Finau E... -7... best finish in a major
Lee Westwood +2... -6... 12th top five in a major, zero wins
Brooks Koepka +3... -6
--Koepka, despite another top-five, could not have been pleased being paired with J.B. Holmes, the slowest player on tour. And then Holmes goes out and shoots 87! +16! From third to T-67!
So Koepka, recognizing he needed to be careful with his image (i.e., potential advertisers and such) didn’t outwardly blame Holmes (who is on your editor’s shit list for his slow play) for his own troubles, +3, which was great given what most everyone else did in the oftentimes brutal conditions.
--Brian Costa / Wall Street Journal
“Rory McIlroy stepped onto the first tee box at Royal Portrush on Thursday morning and waved to a roaring crowd. He knew it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience: his opening tee shot at the first British Open held in his native country in more than half a century.
“What he didn’t know was how quickly he would get to relive it.
“In one of the most anticipated moments of his career, McIlroy pulled out an iron and hooked his tee shot left and out of bounds. He teed up another ball and hit it into heavy rough. He hit his next shot into greenside bush so thick that he declared the lie unplayable and took a one-stroke penalty to move the ball.
“He finished with a quadruple-bogey 8 on the hole, a shocking and immediate implosion from the pre-tournament favorite. Five years since he last won a major championship, McIlroy has at times faded from contention early at majors. But it usually takes him longer than 10 minutes.”
He ended up with a 79.
Vincent Hogan / Irish Independent
“It needs to be said of McIlroy’s form this season that Majors apart, he has been remarkably consistent, with victories in The Players Championship and Canadian Open. But the best players in the world measure themselves on the biggest tournaments. And, right now, McIlroy keeps coming up well short.
“The chaos of yesterday’s round means he now faces yet another season without a Major, the impression growing of a man struggling under the whitest heat.
“ ‘I guess when you play your first and last holes in a combined seven-over par, you’re kind of starting on the back foot,’ he sighed quietly in the mixed-zone after, suggesting enigmatically that the opening mishap had ‘almost settled me down.’
McIlroy elaborated, saying: ‘It’s almost like, ‘Well, that’s sort of the worst that can happen, so just put your head down and keep going.’ At that point, what else can go wrong?’
“A great deal, as it happened.”
Rory did heroically fight back Friday with a 65, 14 shots better, but fell one stroke short of making the cut.
--Tiger Woods looked awful Thursday, with a 78, his highest opening score in 21 Opens and his worst since a third-round 81 in 2002 at Muirfield, where horrible weather was very much a reason for the carnage in the field that day. But while Tiger came back with a 1-under 70, he was well off the cut line.
“I’m just not moving as well as I’d like,” Woods said after the first round, referring to his most recent spinal fusion surgery in April 2017. “And unfortunately, you’ve got to be able to move, and especially under these conditions, shape the golf ball. And I didn’t do it. I didn’t shape the golf ball at all. Everything was left to right. And wasn’t hitting it very solidly.”
When asked how disconcerting that was, Woods said: “Just the way it is. Father Time and some procedures I’ve had over the time. Just the way it’s going to be. As I said, one of the reasons why I’m playing less tournaments this year is that I can hopefully prolong my career, and be out here for a little bit longer.”
So Tiger has now played just four tournaments since the Masters, missing the cut at the PGA and now The Open. He is opting out of next week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude tournament, and will wait until the now three-week FedEx Cup Playoffs to give it another go.
“I’m not 24 anymore,” Tiger said. “Life changes, life moves on. And I can’t devote, as I’ve told you many times, I can’t devote the hours to practice like I used to. Standing on the range, hitting balls for four or five hours, go play 36, come back, run 4 or 5 miles and then go to the gym. Those days are gone.”
Good friend Notah Begay III said on Golf Channel, “The biggest hurdle for (Tiger) is if it gets cold. Anybody that has a sore back knows that it just doesn’t feel as good in the cold.”
For Tiger these days, you can probably bet on him at any tournament played in balmy weather. Other than that, take a pass.
--Aside from Shane Lowry, another winner was Royal Portrush.
Vincent Hogan / Irish Independent
“Charlie Hoffman, first out with (amateur James) Sugrue and Darren Clarke, broke the habit of a lifetime by taking pictures while walking to the tee. Even in that early-light, the Dunluce Course was thronged with people.
“ ‘I don’t do it usually,’ said Hoffman. ‘But I took a photo of a line of people trying to get into the grandstands at 6:20 a.m. Then I came out and the fairway was nearly lined and the grandstands were full.
“ ‘I’ve hit a lot of cool tee shots. One year at the Masters, I teed off behind Jack, Gary, and Arnold.
“That was a cool one, but this I think topped it.”
Every player praised the course. I had noted before it started that it would look great visually for us viewers...and it sure did.
--Finally, yes, golf unites an island. Darren Clarke, who grew up near Portrush and now lives in the town, talked of a darker time for Northern Ireland.
“You think about at that stage when everything that was going on, whether we were ever going to have a tournament such as this,” Clarke said, referring to “The Troubles.” “It was beyond the realm of possibility. It was just never going to happen.”
On Monday, Clarke retold the story of working at age 18 in a hotel bar in Dungannon, his hometown. He was helping set up the bar when a bomb threat came in. In his autobiography, he told it:
“The phoned warning was the same old story we’d heard over and over again, but we always took them seriously because you never knew.... Usually we’d wait outside until the premises were declared safe, but almost as soon as everybody got outside, the bomb went off – and what a blast there was. It was five to 10 [at night], and the nightclub was completely flattened. Just 20 minutes after the alert, it disappeared along with half of the hotel.”
The golf clubhouse at Dungannon, he told the Belfast Telegraph, was “probably the most-bombed clubhouse in Northern Ireland,” such that, “I think [the Irish Republican Army] used to use it for bombing practice.”
--I was watching the Mets-Giants game this afternoon and broadcasters Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez were opining on how MLB has been making a huge mistake in not showcasing the Hall of Fame ceremonies, held today, because it is failing to connect the game to its past, which is critical to the sport. It’s what all us fans care about.
The point being MLB is incredibly stupid to hold the Hall of Fame ceremonies each year on a Sunday when all the other teams are playing. The NFL doesn’t do that.
Gary and Keith offered that all the major league teams should be off the day the Hall is inducting its new members, and they are totally right. Gary said, just extend the All-Star break a day, and look at this year, there was only Houston-Texas the day after the formal Mon.-Wed. break before everyone else resumed Friday. So just have the induction on that Thursday. Or as Keith said, take the Sunday off before the break, and have teams play a doubleheader that Saturday (day-night if they want, for economic reasons).
Today, among the enshrinees was the late Roy Halladay, with his widow, Brandy, giving the speech.
Halladay died Nov. 7, 2017, when his plane crashed in the Gulf of Mexico, not far from his Florida home.
In her closing remarks, Brandy said:
“I think that Roy would have wanted everyone to know that people are not perfect. That we re all imperfect and flawed in one way or another. But with hard work, humility and dedication, imperfect people can still have perfect memories. Roy was blessed in his life and his career to have some perfect moments but I believe they were only possible because of the man he strived to be, the teammate that he was and the people he was blessed to be on the field with....
“Anybody who thinks baseball truly isn’t a family has never been involved in baseball,” she said. “I know how honored Roy would be to be sitting here with such accomplished men, who have represented the game so well through all of your careers. ...This is not my speech to give. I’m going to do the best I can to say the things I believe Roy might have said or wanted to say if he was here today.”
--40-year-old Manny Pacquiao earned an impressive split-decision win over undefeated Keith Thurman 115-112, 115-112, 113-114, at Manny’s second home, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Close to all of the 14,000+ in attendance were adoring supporters of the Filipino Senator, who not only retained a share of one of the WBA titles in the welterweight class, but this is a guy who knocked down Thurman in the first round and persevered from then on.
Bill Dwyre / Los Angeles Times
“As storybook endings go, this one belonged on Broadway. Call the Hallmark Channel. Don’t be ashamed if you tear up.
“When Manny Pacquiao, the boxing senator from the Philippines [Ed. there are only 24 senators in the Philippines overall], emerged from the ring Saturday night, the fighting fireplug had considered two formidable opponents – unbeaten welterweight champion Keith Thurman and seldom-beaten all-division champion Father Time.
“Pacquiao is 40. Thurman is 30. This was Pacquiao’s 71st professional fight, Thurman’s 30th. Pacquiao, the only person to become an eight-division boxing champion, has fought almost as many fights in Las Vegas (20) as Thurman has fought anywhere.
“Boxing gives us so many disappointments – mismatches, bad judging decision, lackluster performances. But when it gives us something spectacular, as it did Saturday night, all is forgiven, at least for a while....
“In our sports fantasies, we want Tiger Woods to retire after an eagle for the win at the 18th hole of the Masters; Roger Federer to serve his final ace on match point in the Wimbledon final; Albert Pujols to hit the winning grand slam homer in the seventh game of the World Series. Pete Sampras got it right. He won the 2002 U.S. Open, his then record 14th tennis Grand Slam title, and never played another pro match.
“For Pacquiao, Saturday night’s stirring victory over Thurman was his hole-in-one, ace on match point and grand slam homer all at once.”
It was a gutty performance for Manny on Saturday, but it may just be time to step down, with a possible presidency of his country down the road.
Top 3 songs for the week 7/19/69: #1 “In The Year 2525” (Zager & Evans...ugh...) #2 “Spinning Wheel” (Blood, Sweat & Tears) #3 “Good Morning Starshine” (Oliver)...and...#4 “Crystal Blue Persuasion” (Tommy James & The Shondelles...in my top three all time...peaked at #2 because “In The Year 2525” was #1 for six f’n weeks! ....this was a travesty of Krakatoa proportions...) #5 “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” (Jr. Walker & the All-Stars...simply the best intro for a rock / R&B song of all time...the best intro in the classical music category is Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2...and along with this one, the best total work is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6*...) #6 “One” (Three Dog Night...loved this one that summer...) #7 “Color Him Father” (The Winstons) #8 “The Ballad Of John And Yoko” (The Beatles) #9 “My Cherie Amour” (Stevie Wonder) #10 “Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet” (Henry Mancini...if you take out #1, it’s an A+ week, but because of Zager & Evans, it is dropped all the way to A-...and this is unfortunate...but I’m grading like they did with me at Wake Forest, and not the too scared for comfort profs of today...)
*Back in 1973, when I was 15, my parents and I went to the Warsaw Ghetto Museum and as this incredible, depressing, film was played, Tchaikovsky’s 6th (“Pathetique”) was the background music.
Dr. Bortrum and I both also love Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavlier”...which has the single best ‘movement’ of all time. [YouTube all three if you are not familiar.]
And that’s your Classical Music review for the year.
Golf Quiz Answers: 1) Brooks Koepka became the fifth to finish top-five in all four majors in a single season; Jordan Spieth (2015), Rickie Fowler (2014), Tiger Woods (2000, 2005), and Jack Nicklaus (1971, 1973) the others. 2) Players to win a major by 5 or more shots since 2000: Tiger Woods, Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen, and now, Shane Lowry.
1969 Mets will continue next time....
Next Bar Chat, late Tuesday.