Sports Outside the Beltway

Rafael Nadal wins 1st grass-court title

Rafa is a four-time French Open champ. From AP-

LONDON – Rafael Nadal claimed his first career grass-court title Sunday, defeating Novak Djokovic 7-6 (5), 7-5 in the Queen’s Club final to become the first Spaniard to win on grass in 36 years.

It was the French Open champion’s third win in the last three tournaments over the second-seeded Djokovic, following semifinal victories in Hamburg and at Roland Garros. Andres Gimeno was the last Spaniard to win on grass, at Eastbourne in 1972.

“This week was amazing for me,” Nadal said.

The win should give Nadal a confidence boost ahead of Wimbledon, particularly after his resounding straight-sets win over No. 1 Roger Federer in the French Open final.

That a top ranked tennis player(#2) had never won on a grass court comes as big surprise to me. Maybe that tells you how little I follow pro tennis. I did know many players, notably Americans, don’t like to play on clay courts like those used at The French Open. Remembering Michael Chang’s 1989 win at Roland Garros being the first such triumph by an American in a long-time. Thirty five years according to wikipedia. Seems logical that if there are some players who can’t win on clay, that there would others who have the same trouble with grass.

Note- I remembered Michael Chang’s win without looking it up. Took place when I was on my honeymoon. The Tianamen square protests were happening then too. You’d think a man new to matrimony would have other things on his mind…………


Tiger Takes U.S. Open Lead with Amazing Close

Tiger Woods shot two eagles in the final six holes to take the lead in the 2008 U.S. Open.

Tiger Woods Eagles 13th Hole U.S. Open Tiger Woods celebrates after making an eagle on the 13th hole during the third round of the US Open championship at Torrey Pines Golf Course on Saturday, June 14, 2008 in San Diego. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Tiger Woods delivered a performance worthy of prime time Saturday in the U.S. Open. He kept an East Coast television audience and a sellout crowd at Torrey Pines in suspense when his left knee buckled and he nearly dropped to the ground from the sheer pain, limping along with his club as a cane. The drama came on the last six holes, when he turned a five-shot deficit into a one-shot lead.

And the amazing array of shots that put him atop the leaderboard? Pure science-fiction.

“The stuff he does, it’s unreal,” said Rocco Mediate, who watched it all unfold from the group behind.

First came Woods’ 70-foot eagle putt on the 13th to get back in the game. Then it was a chip that he struck too hard, only to bow his head and laugh when it one-hopped into the hole for birdie on the 17th. Woods ended one of his most exciting rounds in a major with a 30-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole for a 1-under 70 and a one-shot lead over Lee Westwood.

It was pure theater at Torrey Pines, leaving 50,000 fans and even his competitors wondering what hit them.

“It’s just the most amazing display of athletic, mental power that there is, there ever was,” said Mediate, who had a three-shot lead early on the back nine until a four-hole meltdown. “Look at him. He hasn’t played in 10 weeks. There’s no surprise to me, but he hasn’t played for 10 weeks! And he comes here. So I’m not surprised. I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow.”

Simply amazing.


Sports announcer Charlie Jones dead at 77

Jones joins Jim McKay as the second well recognized sportscaster to die in the last week. Like McKay, Jones was a professional at bringing the events on the sporting fields to life for viewers. Unlike some announcers today who will go on and on about absolute nonsense while play is happening on the field. RIP Charlie.

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Charlie Jones, the deep-voiced sportscaster whose career as a play-by-play announcer dated to the beginning of the American Football League in 1960, has died. He was 77.

Jones died of a massive heart attack Thursday at his home in the La Jolla district of San Diego, said his wife, Ann.

Jones, who retired in the late 1990s, had been in poor health for several years, she said.

Jones worked for ABC and NBC in a career spanning 38 years.

“He said, ‘I never felt like I ever went to work,’” Ann Jones said Friday. “He loved it. He said, ‘I’ve got the best seat in the house.’ ”

Jones started at ABC in 1960, the year the AFL made its debut. He moved to NBC in 1965, remaining with that network until 1997.

Jones announced 28 different sports, while with NBC, from golf to tennis, baseball to figure skating. He called events at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

“He really liked them all,” Ann Jones said. “He really did. He wasn’t particular, because they were all so different.”

NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol called Jones “one of the great pioneers of NBC Sports. His work in particular on the NFL, golf and the Olympics left a lasting legacy.”

Longtime agent Martin Mandel said Jones was “one of the legends of sports broadcasting.”

“He had a wonderful kettledrum voice. He was known for that and his versatility,” Mandel said.

Jones will be cremated and his ashes spread over the Pacific Ocean. A celebration of his life will be held Wednesday afternoon at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.

“He had it in his will that men cannot wear ties,” Ann Jones said.

Jones also is survived by two children and three grandchildren.


Another clueless idiot writing about pro golf

Associated Press who uses two-time Knucklehead winner Doug Ferguson to cover pro golf, now employs another similarly incompetent writer. His name is Eddie Pells. Pells writes-

Woods is in search of his 14th major win and his first U.S. Open since 2002. His seven closest pursuers (OK, so Appleby isn’t officially a ‘pursuer’) have combined for one: the PGA championship won by Davis Love III more than a decade ago.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! How can a competent golf writer forget the US Open winner from two years ago?(Geoff Ogilvy). How can a competent golf writer forget a two-time US Open champ, and three-time major winner?(Ernie Els) Both Els and Ogilvy are within two shots of Woods and within his closest seven pursuers. To make sure I wasn’t unfairly picking on this latest idiot golf writer, I checked. Els and Ogilvy were playing in the same morning group together. Both these players were through and in the clubhouse while Woods was still out on the course. There is no excuse for a golf writer to be forgetting two players of this caliber.

I ask again- Why do golf publications, newspapers, and wire services only hire the most incompetent people to cover the sport? With a few exceptions(Craig Dolch at the Palm Beach Post is one. Jason Sobel at ESPN is another.), golf writers seem to be among the dumbest people covering pro sports today.


‘Rusty’ Tiger Fires 68, 1 Off Open Lead

Tiger Woods came into the 2008 U.S. Open not having played competitive golf in months while recovering from major knee surgery. The rest of the field didn’t have a chance.

There was no limping into the weekend for Tiger Woods. In fact, he put on a near record-setting display at the U.S. Open that may have left the rest of the field feeling hobbled. Pouring in birdies from distances great and small, Woods tamed Torrey Pines, shooting 5-under 30 over his final nine holes in the second round Friday to end at 2-under par. That was one stroke behind Stuart Appleby and tied with Rocco Mediate and Robert Karlsson.

Poor guys.

Tiger Woods 2008 U.S. Open Tree Shot Photo Tiger Woods hits from the rough on the first fairway during the second round of the US Open championship at Torrey Pines Golf Course on Friday, June 13, 2008 in San Diego. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

“People always ask me, ‘Who’s the favorite?’” Mediate said. “Well, of course, he’s the favorite. Of course he is. A lot of people said, ‘Well, he’s not going to win because he’s had, whatever, a thousand weeks off. But he’s different. It’s not the same.”

Playing in his first tournament since knee surgery after the Masters, Woods hardly looked like someone rounding back into shape, at least not at the end. He started on the back, and after an up-and-down nine holes, things turned around immediately. He made five birdies and finished one shot off the U.S. Open record for lowest nine-hole score, last accomplished by Vijay Singh in 2003. He finished the day with a 3-under 68.

“I felt if I could play well, could get back to even par, I could get back into the championship,” Woods said. “Then all of the sudden, I started raining ‘em in from everywhere.”

He’s just not like the other golfers. Or any other man to ever play this game. His opponents are resigned to the fact that, if he’s playing anywhere close to his best, he’s simply going to win.

“It’s just a matter of playing golf. He wants to go play golf, we want to go play golf,” Appleby said. “And I’ll be doing my best to accidentally throw a club towards his sore knee. It will be an accident, of course.”

Heh. I’m not sure Tiger couldn’t shoot par hopping on one leg.

But really, how to stop what looks like an unstoppable march toward victory?

Woods is in search of his 14th major win and his first U.S. Open since 2002. His seven closest pursuers (OK, so Appleby isn’t officially a ‘pursuer’) have combined for one: the PGA championship won by Davis Love III more than a decade ago.

He’ll soon be looking for his 15th major, methinks.

Update(Bill Jempty)- I had already written a long piece on how the US Open, when I saw James beat me to it. I’ll share some of my take. While Tiger is one shot out of the lead with 36 holes, I’m not ready to give him this tournament yet.

Only a week ago we had a similar storyline forming at the LPGA. #1 woman golfer Lorena Ochoa looking for her third straight major, was up by one shot going into the weekend. A golf writer I like, blogged that only the weather looked likely to slow Ochoa’s march to victory. Instead, a tour rookie(Who had finished second twice already in 08) named Yani Tseng derailed the Ochoa Grand Slam express. What’s to stop the a similar surprise from happening this weekend?

Second round leader Stuart Appleby has never won a major. The closest he has ever come was Appleby taking part in the 4-way playoff(along with Steve Elkington and Thomas Levet) at the 2002 British Open won by Ernie Els. Other than that Appleby’s only shot legit shot at a major was the 2007 Masters. He led going into the final round before finishing T7th. Appleby has won eight PGA tournaments in his career. An argument can be made for he being the best player on tour without a major championship triumph. Off the course Appleby has a interesting story. Next month will mark 10 years since his wife Renay was killed in a fluke accident while the couple was in London England. After several years spent grieving, Appleby married again and has at least two children with his new wife.

Appleby is a good player, but in spite of his having the lead he is being overshadowed by Tiger at present. The same can be said for the other golfers who are near the top of the leaderboard. Which include former major champions Davis Love III, Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy, plus more than solid international golfers Miguel Jimenez, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Robert Allenby. All of these players stand within two shots of Tiger and three of Appleby.

Note- I have always liked Rocco Mediate since I watched him in person play in a PGA tournamenet about 20 years ago. Rocco, who is one shot back and tied with Tiger, would be my sentimental favorite. As much as I like Rocco, I know his chances aren’t very good on the weekend even if you took Tiger out of the equation.

I didn’t think Tiger would win this week, and with him standing one shot out of the lead, the chances are strong I’ll be wrong. What I’m trying to say is Tiger isn’t a shoo-in to win the tournament.


Ottawa Senators select Craig Hartsburg as new coach

The second of two head NHL coaching vacancies has been filled.

Craig Hartsburg is the new coach of the Ottawa Senators, the third time he has led an NHL team.

Hartsburg takes over from Senators general manager Bryan Murray, who finished the season behind the Ottawa bench after coach John Paddock was fired in late February.

Hartsburg also has coached in Anaheim and Chicago, and was an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Flyers from 2002 to 2004. The 48-year-old Hartsburg has been coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for the past five seasons.

Ottawa was, either the worst or second to worst(Only to the Florida Panthers*) underacheiving team in the NHL last year. The Senators are talented, but face troubles also. One of which is their goaltending situation.

Is Hartsburg going to help Ottawa? He has a lifetime sub .500 record, and hasn’t coached in the NHL for nearly a decade. To me the hiring looks questionable, especially with their being a large pool of experienced NHL head coaches available at the moment (John Tortorella, Pat Quinn, Marc Crawford to just name three).

*- Talking about the Panthers. When will GM(and former Head Coach) Jacques Martin get off his butt and hire his replacement? Martin is still doing interviews two months after being relieved of his head coaching responsibilities.


Tour event in Atlanta discontinued due to lack of sponsor

The demise of the tournament had been rumored for a few months but it is still shocking. From AP-

ATLANTA — Atlanta is losing its regular PGA Tour event year after four decades because it could not find a title sponsor, paving the way for the Valero Texas Open to move its tournament to the spring.

The TPC Sugarloaf, which has hosted the tournament since 1997, could have the option of holding a Champions Tour event, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Monday.

AT&T decided last year it would not renew its title sponsorship for the tournament, and the Atlanta Classic Foundation was unable to find a sponsor willing to invest $6 million to $8 million a year.

Finchem said losing the event was necessary to “solidify the schedule for the future.”

The Valero Texas Open, one of the oldest PGA Tour events that dates to 1922, is now part of the “Fall Series” of tournaments that fall after the Tour Championship. It is moving to a new golf course in 2010 and has ranked among the top events in charitable donations.

That a major city like Atlanta could lose a major sporting event would seem shocking. Two possible factors at work with the Atlanta Classic folding shop-

*- The weak US economy at present

*- Atlanta also hosts The Tour Championship.

Still I feel sad a tournament with a forty year history is no more.

The Texas Open moving to the Spring is a suprise also. That tournament, while one of the oldest events on the PGA Tour, has been a fall event dating back to 1972. From being an afterthought to most PGA Tour followers(including myself) to a date in the spring. Atlanta’s loss is the Texas Open’s gain I guess.


Detroit Tigers demote Dontrelle Willis to Class A Ball

Three years ago Willis was a Cy Young candidate. Now he can’t find the strike zone. From AP-

DETROIT – After watching yet another wild show on the mound, the Detroit Tigers sent Dontrelle Willis down to Class A on Tuesday in hopes the struggling lefty can find his control.

The Tigers optioned Willis to Lakeland of the Florida State League — and home to the Tigers’ spring training camp — a day after he matched a career high by giving eight earned runs on five walks and three hits in 1 1-3 innings against Cleveland.

Willis (0-1) has walked 21 batters in 11 1-3 innings. The 8-2 loss to the Indians came in his second start since going on the disabled list with a hyperextended right knee.

“Our objective is to get Dontrelle back to being Dontrelle,” Tigers president, CEO and general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “We don’t want to put a time frame on this. We want to get it right. The arm strength is still there, on occasion. The breaking ball is still there. But we want to get him back to being comfortable throwing strikes.”

Detroit signed Willis to a $29 million, three-year deal after getting him in a trade last winter with the Florida Marlins.

I like Willis and sincerely hope he finds the strike zone again. Baseball history says however the prospects aren’t good. From Steve Blass to Mark Davis to Rick Ankiel(Remember he first came up as a pitcher), pitchers who suddenly lost their control as dramatically as Willis have had great difficulty regaining it.


Will Golf World’s Ron Sirak please pick up the white courtesy phone?

The Golf World editor and writer doesn’t make a mistake this week as much as an error of ommision. In an article about Yani Tseng’s win at the LPGA Championship last weekend, Sirak writes-

The closest any player from Taiwan had come to winning a major was T.C. Chen in the 1985 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills. He had a four-stroke lead in the final round then unraveled after a double-hit on a chip shot. Tseng saw the shot on TV the week before the McDonald’s and marveled because “that’s not really a hard shot,” she laughed, blaming the double-hit on poor technique. “But don’t tell him that,” she said, laughing more.

True Chen lost by only one shot, but he isn’t the only Taiwanese golfer to come that close to a golf major.

May I present Lu Liang Huan.

1971 – Lee Trevino wins his first Open(British) as little-known Taiwanese player Lu Liang-Huan – affectionately known as “Mr Lu” – comes within a stroke of an incredible victory.

So in fact Chen and Mr. Lu came equally close. If Mr. Sirak answers my page I’ll suggest he take some remedial lessons in golf history.


Goalie Dominik Hasek retires after 16 seasons

No question, ‘The Dominator’ was a great goalie(but if given a choice, I’d take Martin Brodeur) and is destined for the Hall of Fame. This after Hasek had to wait seven years after his being selected in the NHL Draft before being able to play in the NHL. That mostly due to the fact he was born in Czechoslovakia which was still behind the Iron Curtain.

That’s in the past for Hasek, who is 43 years old now. Good luck in retirement Dominator.


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