Sports Outside the Beltway

Queen for a round?- Kelli Kuehne leads the SBS Open

The former US amateur champion shot a 67 yesterday to take a one-shot lead over Jacqueline Yang. A large group is two back, led by Cristie Kerr but also including Meena Lee, Sherri Steinhauer, and Wendy Ward. Annika Sorenstam and Paula Creamer are among those three shots back.

If you want to read more details about the first round, click here.

I wouldn’t be writing about the first round of a non-major except for the interesting reaction from two members of the golf media. First lets read what Beth Ann Badry of Golf Week has to say-

I know, it looks like I’m cheating after her opening 5-under 67. But if you saw her determination at Q-School, you’d know she’s serious. “I was on a mission,” Kuehne said. She’s got Tracy Phillips, her longtime short game coach, on the bag here this week reading all her putts. If she can convince him to come out a few more times this season it might put her on the right track. Kuehne struggled off the course the last few seasons dealing with an emotional divorce. She now seems both focused and confident.

Kelli has never had a problem with enthusiasm. People with a memory that goes back past the last golf season will remember Kuehne’s flag waving or patriotism at the 2002 Solheim Cup, and that leading to her questionable Captain’s Selection to the 2003 team.

Ron Sirak at Golf World writes-

Let’s go back to Leilei’s Bar. Let’s go back to Tuesday night. Let’s revisit the conversation Kelli Kuehne had with Beth Daniel when she told the captain of the 2009 U.S. Solheim Cup team, “I’m going to be playing for you next year.” And let’s listen once again to the words of Cristie Kerr that night when she said, “Kelli is going to have a big year. Trust me.” The leader board after one round of the SBS Open makes those words look like more than mere barroom boasts.

Now we may have a clue as to the cause of Ron Sirak’s careless golf writing. He spends time at bars.(Draw your own conclusions)

All of this hindsight would have some meaning if Ron or Ruth Ann(who I met at the ADT) had written any of this Kelli Kuenhe hype prior to Thursday’s round. Cristie Kerr thinks Kelli will have a big year, now it means something!

Will Kelli have a good year? I’m skeptical, because her play for the last four years has been nothing short of rotten. Even when she played well, Kelli was a journeywoman golfer at best. A poor woman’s Pat Hurst.

Based on Kelli’s play, I’d safely say she is more likely to shoot a 73 or higher today rather than another round in the 60′s. After all Kelli’s stroke average since 2004 has been over 73.5 per round. A more prudent golf analyst wouldn’t read too much into this one round. Note- Kelli did have a good round with the putter. Needing just 25 putts for the day.

These two articles exemplify why I’m starting to conclude the golf media has a very limited attention span. Forgetting a top 15 player in the world from rankings lists because she hardly played the year before due to giving birth is pretty darn good proof in itself. The Suzann Pettersen bandwagon is another. Was anyone predicting greatness for Suzann before 2007? I don’t recall a single person in the golf media predicting it. On the other hand I remember championing Julieta Granada based on her win at the 2006 ADT. Where are those writers today.(Paging Ron Sirak) One big year doesn’t prove a golfer is one of the best on tour, just as one off year doesn’t drop a established pro off the list either, nor does one round prove a golfer has comeback from the abyss.

Note- I’m more confident Suzann is real than of Kelli having a comeback. Pettersen’s big 2007 is tough to dismiss.

After reading what they wrote, do Beth Ann and Ron have the attention span of your average toddler or suffer from Attention deficit disorder? Maybe I’m just expecting too much from people paid to cover pro golf.


Golf World’s Ron Sirak is at it again

You got to wonder if the man drinks or is on drugs. has an LPGA preview. The last question of which is Disappointment of the Year. This is what Mr. Sirak replies-

Beth Daniel is not playing anymore, but is still one of the 10 best Americans.


A check of Sirak’s much maligned top 30 list, lists over ten American ladies or 13 to be more precise. Daniel hasn’t won more than $253,000 since 2005 and finished 137th on the money list in 2007. To think she is still one of the US top 10 players is idiotic to say the least.

Maybe Sirak was making a joke. I think the real joke is that golf publications and ESPN employ this imbecile to write about professional golf. Maybe that should be listed as the biggest disappointment of 2008.


2008 LPGA Tour Preview

The US Ladies Professional Golf Tour has their season opener beginning tomorrow at the SBS Open. Paula ‘The Pink Panther’ Creamer is the defending champion.

I was credentialed to online report the 2007 season-ending ADT Championship last November. Lorena Ochoa won by two shots. Coming off two years in a row of being the LPGA’s leading money winner will Lorena be again at the top of the money list when the 2008 season is over?

Will Annika Sorenstam come back from her injury plagued 2007?

Who will be the top American golfer? Paula Creamer, defending US Open Champ Christie Kerr, or will it be someone else?

Are veterans Juli Inkster and Pat Hurst in the decline phase of their careers?

Will Suzann Pettersen have her second big year in a row or was 2007 an anomaly?

How many tournaments will the Korean players win this year?

Who will be rookie of the year?

What will Michelle Wie do in 2008?

My answers

1- Ochoa repeats as the #1 money winner and player of the year.

2- Annika wins again but is far being from the dominant player she was a few years ago.

3- Creamer will be the #1 American money winner for 2007.

4- Juli is 48, Pat has two school age children. Both didn’t play that well in 2007. I think both Pat and Juli have seen their best years already. If one of them were to re-emerge it will be Pat. Juli is 48 years old.

5- Suzann is a good player, but IMHO 2007 was way over her head. I’m predicting a dropoff this year, right out of the top 10. Feel free to remind me how wrong I was if Suzann does otherwise.

6- The South Koreans will win 6 tournaments this year. Good question, how do you classify Angela Park? She is of Korean heritage, but born in Brazil and grew up in the US. Angela is an American in my book.

7- This is a weak rookie class. Momoko Ueda gets the nod because of her victory at last year’s Mizuno.

8- Michelle will have a much improved 2008 and will contend in several tournaments but not win. I also predict Michelle to announce her intention to begin playing professional golf full-time in 2009.

Other predictions-

Karrie Webb wins a tournament after an off 2007.
At least of the Korean players takes home a major. It could well be Ji-Yai Shin.
Ai Miyazato breaks through to win her first LPGA event.

Taking after Golf columnist Ron Sirak, plus bloggers Hound Dog and The Constructivist, I will list my top 30 for 2008. They are under the fold.


Denver Nuggets edge past the Miami Heat 114-113 in OT

South Florida basketball fans are not having a good time this year. From AP-

MIAMI – J.R. Smith made a career-best eight 3-pointers and scored 28 points, Kenyon Martin added 24, and the Denver Nuggets edged the Miami Heat 114-113 in overtime Tuesday night. Carmelo Anthony scored six of his 22 points in overtime for Denver, which has won three straight.

Dwyane Wade scored a game-high 29 points, but missed a 22-footer at the buzzer for Miami — which has lost eight straight and 23 of its last 24 games.

Wade — who also had 10 assists — made a 3-pointer with 2:36 left in overtime to tie the game at 110, then dove over the first row of seats in a futile effort to grab a loose ball a minute later. On that possession, Anthony Carter made two free throws, putting the Nuggets up by two with 1:26 left.

Anthony added two more free throws with 54.1 seconds to play, and Ricky Davis’ 3-pointer with 33.6 seconds left got Miami within a point. Anthony missed with about 10 seconds remaining, Miami controlled the rebound and Wade dribbled up the left side of the floor to one of his favorite spots.

But the shot rimmed out, and Miami left frustrated once again.

Maybe the Miami Heat need to pay for me to go on a Catholic retreat again in order for the team to win. A Heat victory takes nothing short of a miracle right now.


Minnesota Vikings DE Kenechi Udeze has leukemia

He was a 1st round pick out of USC in 2004. From AP-

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Minnesota Vikings defensive end Kenechi Udeze has a form of leukemia, which is cancer of the blood and bone marrow, a person with the team confirmed Tuesday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the information. The Vikings declined to comment, but they issued a statement from coach Brad Childress that didn’t specifically address Udeze’s condition.

“We respect the privacy of Kenechi. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Minnesota Vikings organization are with Kenechi and his family,” the statement read.

Two Twin Cities television stations first reported the news on Monday night. KSTP-TV, without citing a source, reported that the 24-year-old Udeze was undergoing tests to determine the severity of the disease. Ethan Lock, Udeze’s agent, declined to comment.

Without details about how quickly the cancer was identified or what form of leukemia Udeze has, there’s no way of knowing a prognosis.

There are different types of leukemia. My half sister is a leukemia survivor. Good luck Kenechi Udeze, I hope you beat the disease too.


Ji-Yai Shin to play at 2008 LPGA season opener

The South Korean sensation will be playing at the SBS Open Feb 14-16. Shin is in the field on a sponsor’s exemption. Ji-Yai has already finished second at the 2008 Australian Open.

Shin isn’t a LPGA player yet but reports say she will go to qualifying school late in 2008. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ji-Yai bypasses qualifying school by winning a LPGA event this year. If there is another Korean out there to make the HOF one day, I’d be putting bets on Shin.

She won 9 times on the KLPGA tour last year. Repeat she won NINE TIMES. The KLPGA aka Korean LPGA can be likened to the LPGA’s AAA minor league. The best players not playing the American circuit can often be found here. The competition is fierce and Shin won nine times in 2007.

Has she played the LPGA? Shin finished third at the Evian Masters last year, and 6th at the US Open. This year Ji-Yai is likely to get a half dozen or more shots at winning an LPGA event. The majors, The SBS, the year-end LPGA event in South Korea, and one or two others. If Ji-Yai wins one of these tournaments, it won’t come as any surprise to knowledgable golf fans.

I will be posting a 2008 LPGA preview tomorrow. Are you ready for some ladies professional golf?


British Olympic Athletes can’t criticize China

Wouldn’t it be a better world if Politics had little or nothing to do with Sports? From the Daily Mail-

British Olympic chiefs are to force athletes to sign a contract promising not to speak out about China’s appalling human rights record – or face being banned from travelling to Beijing.


The controversial clause has been inserted into athletes’ contracts for the first time and forbids them from making any political comment about countries staging the Olympic Games.

It is contained in a 32-page document that will be presented to all those who reach the qualifying standard and are chosen for the team.

From the moment they sign up, the competitors – likely to include the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips and world record holder Paula Radcliffe – will be effectively gagged from commenting on China’s politics, human rights abuses or illegal occupation of Tibet.

Any athlete who refuses to sign the contract won’t be allowed to travel to Beijing this summer. I’m a advocate of free speech, having defended the rights of people to say what they want from Cindy Sheehan to Ann Coulter, but the BOA is probably within in its right under British law. With hindsight the wisest course of action would have never been to award China the Olympics in the first place till they got their house in order. Needless to say I don’t think this summer will be anything like Berlin 1936.


Alabama 2008 Recruiting Class

Dennis Pillion dubs them “Alabama’s $4 million recruiting class,” an allusion to Nick Saban’s handsome salary.

“Ahhh. That’s more like it.” – The Alabama fan base.

For about 14 months now, Crimson Tide fans have rejoiced in the hiring and arrival of Nick Saban as their head coach as if someone had found a way to reincarnate Bear Bryant. And why not?

After all, this wasn’t just a football program with more money than God buying itself a high-profile football coach. This was restoring order to the universe, righting old wrongs (Auburn winning six straight Iron Bowls, no National Championships for Alabama in 15 years). This was Andy Dufresne escaping from Shawshank Prison, only as the Tide fans stood rejoicing in the downpour with outstretched arms, outsiders were lining up to point and laugh.


Julio Jones Headlines Alabama 2008 Recruiting Class And then Wednesday rolled around. Signing Day. Julio Jones day. And around 11:30 a.m. Jones committed to the Tide. At 2 p.m. Gadsden City linebacker Jerrell Harris pulled an Andre Smith and donned a Houndstooth hat at his signing day press conference.

That’s when it started dawning on people how good this class really is. Alabama had long had verbal commitments from stud prospects like Vigor’s Burton Scott, Mountain Brook offensive lineman Tyler Love, Mark Barron of St. Paul’s, Melvin Ray, Courtney Upshaw, Michael Williams. Then came commitments from Star Jackson, Devonta Bolton, Chris Jordan, Donta Hightower, Barrett Jones, Alonzo Lawrence, Mark Ingram, Glenn Harbin. Saban locked up top prospects early and often, as is his habit, and when the last round of blue chippers – Jones, Harris, Marcel Dareus – said they wanted to be part of the class that returned the Crimson Tide to its glory days, the total body of work was outstanding.

It’s not just the few individual talent that makes this class special. The depth is truly overwhelming. Guys like Ray or Upshaw would have been the crown jewels in previous classes, but this year gave higher rankings to eight Alabama signees. The Crimson Tide hauled in a ridiculous 19 four-star prospects by rivals. Last year, with only a month on the job, Saban signed 10 four-stars. In the four recruiting classes before that combined, Alabama signed 23 four-star prospects, and that includes guys like Mike Ford, Marcus Udell, and Chris Felder who never enrolled. This year’s class may have to ask players to greyshirt because too many of them are in good shape academically.

Even if you look past the fact that Alabama is bringing in nearly as many four-star and higher players this fall as it has in a four year span from 2002-2006, there are plenty of reasons to be fired up about the future in Tuscaloosa. In addition to being the most talented class Alabama’s had since services like and started tracking such things, the 2008 group is by far the most versatile.

Players like Scott, Williams, Barron, Bolton, Kerry Murphy, and Chris Jordan could contribute just as easily on offense or defense. In fact, we likely won’t know until fall practice where some of these players will line up. Figuring out where to play your freakishly athletic horses is always a better problem than scratching your head wondering who in the world could play outside linebacker for you.

Oh, and just one more thing for the fans of other schools. The fact that Alabama signed so many top-notch prep prospects means that other schools did not. Auburn coaches and fans are busy claiming that the Tigers got who they wanted, that star rankings don’t mean anything, etc. Which I suppose is the only thing a coach or a fanbase can say when they’ve been completely owned. Auburn offered scholarships to 15 players that ended up signing with Alabama. No player offered by Alabama signed with Auburn. Tell me again fans, which school “got the players they wanted?”


But as a whole, teams that sign top classes win a lot more games than teams that don’t, and the 2008 Alabama team will be a whole lot more talented than the 2007 one. The scary part will be if Saban can continue to be as successful at recruiting in future classes as he was in this one. Then the Tide really will be back on top.

It’s about time.


Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell takes leave

In the process some NBA history will be made.

TORONTO – Raptors coach Sam Mitchell is taking a leave of absence so he can fly home to Atlanta following the death of his father-in-law.

A team spokesman said Monday that Mitchell left Toronto and will not rejoin the Raptors until after the All-Star break. Toronto’s first game after the break is at home against Orlando on Feb. 20.

Assistant coach Mike Evans was to take charge of the team for Monday’s game against San Antonio, because the Spurs are one of the teams he scouts. Fellow assistant Jay Triano will serve as head coach for Wednesday’s game against New Jersey.

A native of Niagara Falls, Ont., Triano will be the first Canadian head coach in NBA history

My condolences to the Mitchell family. Now it will have to be seen if Canada lets the coach back in the country. They may not want their first ever NBA coach to step down!(Sarcastic laughter time)


Two Montreal Canadiens Players Arrested in Florida

Purse snatching hockey players?

TAMPA, Fla. – Police say two Montreal Canadiens players have been arrested outside a Tampa nightclub. The 23-year-old defenseman Ryan O’Byrne has been accused of stealing a woman’s purse, and the 29-year-old right wing Thomas Kostopoulos has been charged with resisting an officer, a Tampa police report says.

Make a bet alcohol had something to do with this. Now what fate awaits Kostopoulos and O’Byrne? Immigration frowns on law breaking foreigners. Deportation and a ban from entering the US for 10 years? Only makes sense, CIS wants to deport widows of US citizens. They need to be tough on immigrants! Why should hockey players born in Canada be different?


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