Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Tradition Unlike Any Other

"He's a cinderella boy...tears in eyes I guess..."

Alright, I'm going to take a quick break from previewing the baseball season, because frankly, it is taking way longer than I thought it would (trying to get the AL Central up by Thursday), and I'm going to be previewing the Masters. First, a few observations:

Greg Oden is definitely leaving early, but what about Kevin Durant? Is it possible that Durant will come back for his sophmore year? Actually, the odds of that happening as of right now look pretty good. Durant's family has said all along that he is actually leaning towards coming back next year as opposed to declaring himself eligible for the Draft. As a Celtic fan, this is now getting to the point of being sickening. Here, my beloved Celtics, and mostly Doc Rivers have basically made a mockery of "Celtic Pride" by doing things that could give meaning to a "conspiracy theory" of getting either the #1 or #2 pick in the Draft. Then, Danny Ainge gets fined $30,000 for having contact with Durant's family during the Big 12 Tournament. And after all this, he might not even come out! Are you saying that all of this rooting against my favorite team was all for not? You can't be serious! And worst of all (I'm literally clutching the walls quoting Sanford and Son), we could wind up with Joakim Noah. Joakim Noah! AHHHH! Say it's not so. I don't care how good of a pro this guy could end up being. There is no way, you hear me, no way I am ever rooting for Noah. I'm not even trying to get anymore into this, basically I'll just put it as I really don't like the guy.

Speaking of the lottery, here are the top 10 people I would like to see go to Seacaucus and represent the Celtics at the NBA Lottery:

10. Bill Russell
9. Lucky the Leprachaun
8. Celtics Dance Team
7. Magic Johnson
6. Someone who can do a Johnny Most impersonation ("what a disgusting display!")
5. Every member of Red Auerbach's family...every one of them
4. Tom Brady with Gizelle and her sisters
3. Greg Kite, Rick Carlisle (gonna be tough considering he coaches now), David Thirdkill, and the rest of the bench players from the '86 Championship team
2. Carl Yastrzemski and any other living member of "The Impossible Dream" Red Sox of '67
1. Tommy Heinsohn ("you call that ping pong ball?...oh these guys are killing us!")

Anyway, before I get too off-track, let me run a little bit of a preview for The Masters, easily the best golf tournament going in the world. Every year, it's the same old scene, but that scene will never get old. Magnolia Lane, Amen Corner, Hogan's Bridge...nothing compares to Augusta National. A lot of the focus this week has been on Tiger and Phil, and rightfully so considering these guys have won 6 of the last 9 green jackets. However, Tiger is not blowing out fields like he used to, so you have to give "the field" a lot of credit, because these guys have come a long way in a few years, and they are not going to go away quietly. Here's a run down of some of the guys I think could make a serious run at those two:

Mike Weir: If there is one thing my Dad and I can agree on in terms of sports, it's that Mike Weir is outstanding. He has one of the most recognizable warm-up routines in the game, and you can see that it helps, as he is able to swing along the plane he draws up for himself almost every time. Also, factor in that he already has won this title in 2003, and finished tied for 5th in 2005 and 11th last year. Weir is likely going to be in contention come Sunday.

Henrik Stenson: I think basically everyone not picking Tiger or Phil is picking Stenson to win on Sunday. After winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Stenson moved up to 5th in the world rankings, which is pretty remarkable considering he has just five wins overall, four of which came on the European Tour over the course of six years. Stenson can bomb the ball and keep it straight, which is a must at Augusta. However, he has proved he can play on the top stage, sinking a winning putt to clinch the Ryder Cup for the European team last year, so you know Stenson has been tested, but has responded with vigor.

Retief Goosen: Goosen has struggled a bit over the past year, but still, when you look at his past at Augusta (2nd in 2002, 3rd in the last two Masters), you have to consider him to be one of the favorites. Although I think he will do well, I still don't think he has the kind of tools needed to take down this tournament. He is a great player, but it seems as though he cannot get over the hump. I could be wrong, but still, I like him to finish in the top 10.

Chris DiMarco: For years, DiMarco seemed to be near the top of the leaderboard after Friday's round, then slipped up on Saturday or Sunday. However, in 2005, while he did shoot a 74 on Saturday, he shot a 68 while playing in the final group with Tiger Woods (this was the year Tiger made "the shot" on 16) and was able to force a playoff. DiMarco again finished second to Tiger at last year's British Open. This is going to be my setimental pick this year. I'm going to be a hardcore DiMarco fan because this could be the the best player in the world to not win a major. Not Sergio, not Stenson, but DiMarco. He has shown time and time again that he has what it takes to contend, but now he needs to have a better overall tournament and play four of the best rounds of his life to propel himself to the top of the leaderboard.

Vijay Singh: As much as it pains me to say this, because I absolutely can't stand Vijay (I have my reasons), I still have to give the guy a lot of credit. He is a world class player, and at the Masters, he has five consecutive top 10 finishes coming into this year, as well as the 2000 title. While I'm not sure he will win, he will definitely be getting his fair share of face time over the weekend.

Ok, so now that I've told you who will contend, here are some guys who will pretend:

Ernie Els: It does not appear like Els is on a good stretch at Augusta. After five consecutive top 6 finishes from 2000-2004, Els finished 47th in 2005 and tied for 27th last year. I love his balanced swing so much (it gets to the point of raging jealousy sometimes), but it seems like Els is about to fade off into the distance, despite his third place finish at the Open Championship last year. I just don't see Els making the kind of run that he could have made in the past. I'm being kind of cynical, I know, but I just think he is starting to run out of gas.

Fred Couples: As much as I hate saying Freddie is a "pretender," the fact is that his back is still killing him. He had a tie for 6th in 2004 and a tie for 3rd last year, but physically, I really think that Couples may come undone this week. If he makes the cut, you never know, but Fred making the cut is not as sure of a thing as it used to be (just a side note, he's made every cut since 1995).

Sergio Garcia: Here's a guy who everyone wants to see win a major. Garcia has come so close so many times, and who will ever forget the shot from behind the tree at Medinah in the '99 PGA Championship. But here's the thing: Sergio has struggled mightily in this tournament, getting two top 10s, but finishing below 28th in his other five professional appearances, including two missed cuts. Garcia simply does not have the kind of accuracy needed for this course, and it will take some more time to get his bearings at Augusta.

Jim Furyk: Last but not least, here comes the #2 player in the world. Furyk has proven that he is one of the best players to come along in the last decade. However, he has finished out of the top 20 in his past two appearances. I believe that he may come close to finishing in the top 10, but when you are second in the world, a top 10 should be a given, and you should be in a position to contend for the title in a major tournament. Again, he'll be close to the top 10 (I'm thinking around 12th), but he won't be able to hang with the quality of play that will be happening this weekend.

My Pick: I am going to be pulling for DiMarco, because this guy has earned my respect. But let's get real here. It's Tiger's tournament to lose. It will always be Tiger's tournament to lose. It may be crazy to not take the field over Tiger, but it's equally as crazy to think Tiger is going to let an opportunity like Phil putting that jacket on him slip away. I like Tiger by 4. He'll have it wrapped up by Amen Corner, and it will be a victory lap down the homestretch.

Ok, now some supplementary stuff for your viewing pleasure:

Here's how the holes look as far as distance goes. There were no changes in yardages from last year, but apparently, they've added some foliage to the course to try and have an added element of toughness. Also, I would assume they have narrowed the fairways some. I think by the time I get to be 50, the fairways won't exist. It will just be tee, rough, and green.

HoleName of HoleParYards
1Tea Olive4455
2Pink Dogwood5575
3Flowering Peach4350
4Flowering Crab Apple3240
8Yellow Jasmine5570
9Carolina Cherry4460
11White Dogwood4505
12Golden Bell3155
14Chinese Fir4440

Here is a list of the tee times for Thursday. Friday's tee times will be in the reverse order. Then, Saturday and Sunday's pairings will be determined by rank on the leaderboard.

B. Mayfair
I. Poulter

S. Verplank
N. O'Hern
J. Durant

L. Mize
T. Clark
T. Matteson

S. Lyle
D. Wilson
B. Dredge

B. Crenshaw
J. Kelly
D. Love III

C. DiMarco
K. Ferrie
S. Stricker

G. Player
J. Guerrier
V. Taylor

A. Oberholser
N. Fasth
Z. Johnson

T. Watson
C. Watabu
F. Funk

M. O'Meara
D. Womack
S. Appleby

B. Langer
R. Beem
C. Montgomerie

C. Campbell
A. Cabrera
J. Henry

M. Weir
K. Choi
H. Stenson

F. Couples
G. Ogilvy
E. Els

S. Garcia
B. Bryant
S. Katayama

P. Mickelson
R. Ramsay
A. Scott

J. Olazabal
C. Howell III
J. Rose

S. Cink
T. Hamilton

S. Ballesteros
C. Pettersson
P. Goydos

I. Woosnam
T. Herron
R. Karlsson

J. Furyk
R. Pampling
B. Curtis

R. Floyd
M. Jimenez
J. Sluman

R. Allenby
B. Wetterich
L. Westwood

S. Micheel
J. Singh
B. Crane

C. Stadler
D. Howell
S. Ames

R. Goosen
J. Rollins
Y. Yang

M. Campbell
L. Glover
R. Sabbatini

F. Zoeller
D. Clarke
J. Edfors

M. Calcavecchia
T. Bjorn
T. Pernice jr.

P. Harrington
J. Kelly
L. Donald

T. Woods
P. Casey
A. Baddeley

V. Singh
B. Quigley
H. Tanihara

T. Immelman
C. Villegas
D. Toms

Here are the TV times for the weekend. For some reason, they still are not showing the beginning groups on the Golf Channel. I hope they are able to get the financial means in the future to make this happen, because I think there's nothing I would like more, as far as golf goes, than to see The Masters playing all day long. I don't know, maybe that's me.

Thursday, April 5
4:00 – 7:00 p.m. Live coverage, USA Network
8:00 – 11:00 p.m. Replay first day, USA Network
11:30 – 11:45 p.m. Highlights show, CBS-TV
Friday, April 6
4:00 – 7:00 p.m. Live coverage, USA Network
8:00 – 11:00 p.m. Replay second day, USA Network
11:30 – 11:45 p.m. Highlights show, CBS-TV
Saturday, April 7
3:30 – 7:00 p.m. Live coverage, CBS-TV
Sunday, April 8
2:30 – 7:00 p.m. Live coverage, CBS-TV

However, here's a bit of good news. At Masters.org (which is where I found all of the above material by the way), you will be able to view tournament play one hour before USA and CBS pick up their respective coverage over the weekend. Also, while you're there, make sure to check out the live feed of "Amen Corner" (the 11th, 12th (the famous par 3 with Hogan's Bridge), and 13th). Here are the web times when this feed is available:

Thursday, April 510:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday, April 610:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 712:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sunday, April 81:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Again, sorry the baseball previews have been coming slower than I may have expected, but it's hard work...no seriously, it actually is. But anyway, hope you enjoy the golf over the weekend. Don't forget about the Sox on ESPN on Sunday night against the Rangers. Take care. Peace.


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