Sports Outside the Beltway

Irish Eyes are smiling- Padraig Harrington wins back to back British Opens

The Irish golfer won by four shots over Ian Poulter. Greg Norman, who had the lead going into the final round, finished tied for third with Henrik Stenson. Jim Furyk was the low American, finishing tied for 5th with amateur Chris Wood.

A four-shot margin victory usually denotes a tournament with little suspense. That can hardly be said for the 2008 British Open. First Harrington played the front nine in three over. That and Norman’s struggles allowed many players into the tournament. Harrington then steadied himself but it was not before he made a birdie on 15 did that victory looked fairly certain. An eagle on the Par five 17th doubled Harrington’s lead from two to four shots.

With Harrington winning in 2007 also, we now have had back to back back to back British Open champs. Tiger Woods in 05 and 06 and now Harrington. Before that you got to go back to Tom Watson in 82 and 83. Next year’s British Open goes to Turnberry. Can Harrington be the first player to three peat since Peter Thomson in 1956? He likes links golf, but we’ll have to wait a year.

One last thing- Tom Watson won his 5th British Open at Birkdale and his first at Carnoustie. The courses Harrington has won on. How about Turnberry? That was the sight of Tom Watson’s famous 1977 duel with Jack Nicklaus. Watson came out on top. History may be on Harrington’s side. Carnoustie was out of the British Open rotation from 1976-98 and Turnberry was only added in 1977 and has not held the Open since 1994. There isn’t that large a group who had chances at all three of these courses.

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Michelle Wie Disqualified at State Farm Classic

For leaving the scoring area after Friday’s round without signing her scorecard. From ESPN-

Michelle Wie finished the third round of the State Farm Classic alone in second on Saturday — then was disqualified for failing to immediately sign her scorecard a day earlier.

Wie was playing her best golf of the year, finishing off a 5-under 67 to get to 17 under for the tournament, one stroke back of Yani Tseng.

That’s when Wie was disqualified by LPGA officials, who said they’d learned during play Saturday from tournament volunteers about the 18-year-old’s mistake.

It is reported Wie was crying after the news. I would be too. She was one shot out of the lead, with a win and LPGA Tour card within her grasp tomorrow.

Here’s the rule

According to a statement released Saturday by the LPGA, Wie’s failure to sign her scorecard was a violation of Rule 6-6b, according to The Rules of Golf and confirmed by the USGA.

The rule states: “After completion of the round, the competitor should check his score for each hole and settle any doubtful points with the Committee. He must ensure that the marker or markers have signed the score card, sign the score card himself and return it to the Committee as soon as possible.”

Wie said that after she finished her round on Friday, she left the tent where players sign their scorecards and was chased down by some of the tournament volunteers working in the tent who pointed out she hadn’t signed.

Wie returned to the tent and signed the card.

Which isn’t allowed, and why Wie was disqualified. She made an honest mistake but one with huge reprucussions for her golf career at this point, and maybe even mentally. Can Michelle even buy a break right now? She was playing great golf in Illinois.

I also want to mention Hee Won Han’s 3rd round 61 which puts her three strokes behind Tseng. Hee Won, who teed off Number 10 to begin play today, was 10 under for the round through 12 holes! Han is a very consistent golfer, but seldom flashy. I saw how her round was going and despite my attention being mostly focused on the British Open, kept tabs on the State Farm. All Han had to do was play the last six holes in 3 under to shoot a record 59. It wasn’t to be, Han only made one birdie coming in.

Yani Tseng continues to have an incredible year. She won the LPGA Championship last month, Two second place finishes, 6th on the money list but a win tomorrow would move her to 4th, and is running away with Rookie of the Year. There is a new force on tour.

Also commenting on Michelle Wie’s disaster today- Mulligan Stu, Hound Dog, and The Constructivist. Stu and TC feel sorry for Michelle. I do too.


Christina Kim leads the State Farm Classic after 36 holes, Michelle Wie one shot back

Kim missed winning last year’s affair by one shot in one of the year’s most exciting finishes. From AP-

Christina Kim shot a four-under 68 on Friday to take a one-shot lead over four players midway through the State Farm Classic.

Kim, who fired a 63 on Thursday to also hold the first-round lead, stood at 13-under 131 after two rounds at Panther Creek Country Club.

Christina is one of the most exuberant players on tour. This has been known to rub some people the wrong way, but I think Ladies golf could use a few more players like her. If Christina wins this weekend it will be her first victory since 2005.

Not too many people are paying attention to the golf being played in Springfield Illinois this weekend. That could be subject to change. This because of one of the golfers one shot behind Kim.

Michelle Wie was among the four players tied for second place behind Kim following a round of seven-under 65, which matched her lowest score on the LPGA Tour.

Sherri Turner, Ji Young Oh and LPGA Championship winner Yani Tseng all posted rounds of 66 on Friday to join Wie at 12-under 132, while Sun Young Yoo shot a 69 to stand alone in sixth place at 11-under 133.

Overall, there were 19 players within five shots of Kim’s lead heading to the weekend.

Following her best round in a long time, Wie’s name is the most recognizable among them.


It has taken Wie — now 18 and entering her second year at Stanford — almost two years to get back to the form she displayed in the 2006 season when she posted six top-10 finishes, including three consecutive top-threes in major championships.

Since then, she has posted more rounds in the 80s (five) than in the 60s (four). Those numbers include her 67-65 start at this tournament.

Wie holed out from the fairway for an eagle at her first hole on Friday, then made five birdies the rest of the way, including one at her last hole to join the logjam in second place.

I still think Michelle has a world of talent if her wrist injuries ever become healed. Can she win this weekend? I see no reason why not. It won’t be a given, the State Farm is known for low scoring and dramatic moves on the leaderboard. Boy do I have a great deal of golf to watch this weekend.


British Open after 36 holes- KJ Choi leads by one shot

The seven-time PGA Tour winner has never finished better than third in a major championship. From AP-

K.J. Choi rolled in a 25-foot birdie on the final hole for a 3-under 67 in more gloom and wind along the Irish Sea, giving him his first lead in a major championship. It will be the second straight year he plays in the final group at the British Open going into the weekend.

But the biggest surprises were right behind him, starting with a pair of British Open champions who once were No. 1 in the world.

Norman barely touched a club in the month leading up to his 26th appearance in golf’s oldest championship. The 53-year-old married tennis great Chris Evert three weeks ago, and a trip to England counts as the tail end of his honeymoon.

He wound up renewing his love affair with links golf, delivering great escapes over his final three holes for an even-par 70 that put his name atop the leaderboard for most of the afternoon until Choi birdied the final two holes.

Choi was at 1-under 139, one shot ahead of Norman.

An argument can be made for Choi as the best player in the world without a major. It will have to be seen if he can hold up over the weekend.

Norman, the 1986 and 1993 British Open Champion, playing well is one of the two biggest surprises so far in the tournament. It will be even a bigger one if he is still around the top of the leaderboard on Sunday. I said the same thing about Rocco Mediate at last month’s US Open, and we all know how that ended.

Choi and Norman will be playing together tomrorrow. When Norman won the 1986 BO, his final round playing partner was Tommy Nakajima. Like Choi, Nakajima was probably the most recognizable Asian player in the world and arguably the region’s best player. Nakajima shot a final round 77 that day in 86, and was not a factor on Sunday as Norman won by 5.

I wish the media would stop talking about Norman’s divorce and then his marriage to Chris Evert. Norman has a home in my end of Florida, I’ve worked hard to avoid this incessant gossip reporting. I want to read about the British Open, not what a player is doing in their private life.

Camillo Villegas is in solo third, two shots back. The group at 142 three strokes behind Choi include Jim Furyk(One of my three picks this week. Stuart Appleby is at 143, Justin Leonard is further back but made the cut), Defending BO Champ Padrig Harrington, Robert Allenby, and 2001 British Open Champ David Duval. Duval’s being contention has to be considered as equally suprising as Greg Norman at this stage. Since his win at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 2001, Duval’s career has been in a tailspin.

Time to settle in for a weekend of links golf. There really hasn’t been a boring British Open weekend in some years. Probably the last was Duval’s 2001 triumph. I expect a great deal of leaderboard changes as a result of tomorrow’s round, after all Saturday is ‘moving day’ in professional golf.


LA Kings name Terry Murray as their new head coach

I agree with AP, Murray will need all the luck in the world when it comes to his new job.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Good luck, Terry Murray. You’ve just been hired for the toughest job in the National Hockey League.

That’s what Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said Thursday when he introduced Murray as the 22nd head coach in franchise history at the team’s training facility.

Murray, who turns 58 Sunday, signed a three-year, $2.65 million contract to succeed Marc Crawford, who was fired June 10 after two unsuccessful seasons.

Unsuccessful has been the byword for the Kings in recent years since they haven’t qualified for the playoffs since 2002. They had 71 points last season — tied with Tampa Bay for the fewest in the NHL.

“When you’re in a rebuilding process, you have to keep your eyes on two things: What’s in front of you, and where you want to go,” Lombardi said. “If you have a very good team in place, it’s easy to focus on the next game. When you’re dealing with young players, it changes day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month. That’s what I mean about the difficulty of the job.

“I think what I mean when I say the toughest job is it’s more multitasking. We want to put together a nucleus that can stick together. Sometimes there’s no good or bad coaches, it’s right fit. The No. 1 thing is that getting young is a process. He’s been through the process.”


Murray guided the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals 11 years ago, and has coached 737 regular-season NHL games.

Murray, whose last head coaching job was with the Florida Panthers, will need a miracle or two to get the Kings turned around. The team’s ownership has shown little patience in recent memory with both coaches and players. Murray’s tenure in LA is therefore likely to be a short one. Just as it was with his predecessor, Marc Crawford. As it stands, the Kings are probably the worst team in the NHL.


Yankees sign Sexson

To address their .732 OPS against southpaws, the Yanks signed former Mariner slugger (and I use that word loosely) Richie Sexson to a league minimum contract. At this point, he can’t be worse than Wilson Betemit and will only play against lefties, so it’s a low risk move. And he does hit lefties well: 1.045 OPS this year (albeit in 71 plate appearances) – his career totals aren’t quite so hot: just an .879 OPS vs. southpaws. This presents a frightening scenario, what if Sexson regresses to his career norm? Then the situation is no better off and probably even worse than a righty Wilson Betemit. If that happens, Sexson can always be released, but the damage done will be irreversible.

- The 15 inning All-Star Game received great TV ratings, which will only further empower FOX and MLB that the 8 p.m. start time is perfectly suited. What kid watching on a Tuesday night stays up to 2 a.m.? I understand that 15 innings is an aberration, but even the normal All-Star game lasts until near midnight because of the frequent pitching changes and longer commercial breaks. Not a good formula for future fandom (how’s that for alliteration?).


Defending British Open Champ Padraig Harrington has a sore right wrist

However the Irish golfer thinks he will be able to tee it up when play begins tomorrow.

SOUTHPORT, England — If this was nearly any other week, Padraig Harrington would already be home.

Instead, he was strolling around blustery Royal Birkdale, still trying to cope with the pain in his right wrist, still trying to work out how he can possibly defend his British Open championship.

Harrington cut short another practice round Wednesday on the eve of the tournament, managing only three full swings before his wrist started throbbing again. He walked the rest of the course, limiting himself to chipping and putting, the only things he felt comfortable enough to risk.

So, will he play?

“I can’t say honestly at this moment,” Harrington said as he strolled down the middle of the 18th fairway, midway through a practice round that was little more than a pleasant walk.

Later, after coming off the ninth green, he was a bit more specific about his prospects. Harrington said it was 75 percent likely he would at least tee off, but put his chances of making it through the first round at only 50 percent.

To me the wrist sounds too sore to make Harrington a legit threat to repeat this year. If healthy, I may put him in a list of the 10 players most likely to win the 2008 British Open. Englishman Luke Donald withdrew from the BO Open earlier this week, and now looks doubtful in regards to this fall’s Ryder Cup.

Who do I think will win? Ryan at Golf News Net gives the odds for certain players as set by bookmakers in the UK.

8/1 – Sergio Garcia
12/1 – Ernie Els
14/1 – Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood
16/1 – Padraig Harrington
20/1 – Justin Rose
22/1 – Jim Furyk
25/1 – Vijay Singh, Robert Karlsson
28/1 – Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Andres Romero
33/1 – Retief Goosen, Angel Cabrera, Henrik Stenson, Stewart Cink, Anthony Kim
40/1 – Luke Donald, Trevor Immelman, Paul Casey, Justin Leonard, Robert Allenby, Martin Kaymer

Jason Sobel of ESPN ranks the top 50 players as he sees them.

Here’s my prediction- I think it will be a fairly obscure player, probably one of the Europeans. Someone this admitted golf nut is unlikely to have known of before this week.

Birkdale has a history of unknowns contending. Syd Scott, Mr. Lu, a then unknown Spaniard Seve Ballesteros at the 1976 British Open, Eamon Darcy, Mike Harwood, Raymond Russell and Brian Watts. Then you always seem to have one of these at any Britih Open venue. They usually come in second or third, but they surprise sometimes. Paul Lawrie for example. There were also Todd Hamilton and Ben Curtis more recently.

So I’d take the field. According to Ryan, the odds with the bookmakers for that selction is 3/2. Alot of golfers at pretty low odds.

That’s what I think will happen this weekend. Phil Mickelson never plays well in the British Open, most of the other likely contenders have one or more marks against them going into this week’s play. If some were to make me name three golfers, they would be- Jim Furyk(3rd at the 1998 BO, the last played at Birkdale), 1997 BO Champ and 99 runner up Justin Leonard, and Stuart Appleby. It will be an interesting weekend.

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Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings to play outdoor NHL game

Guess what famous Chicago landmark it will be played at? From AP-

CHICAGO – Wrigley Field is going to be the frozen confines on New Year’s Day 2009 when the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings meet the Chicago Blackhawks outdoors in the home park of the Chicago Cubs.

It will be the NHL’s second Winter Classic. Jan. 1 in Buffalo, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 before a crowd of 71,217. Snow fell during the game.

“We expect interest to be on an international level for this once-in-a-lifetime event,” Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said.

The game will be televised nationally on NBC.

The matchup will be the 701st meeting between the Red Wings and Blackhawks — no two NHL opponents have played more regular-season games against one another than the two fierce rivals.

It will mark the third regular-season outdoor game in NHL history. The Edmonton Oilers hosted the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 22, 2003.

If you make a rare event a yearly occurrence, well its no longer rare or novel. Now if the Florida Panthers or Tampa Bay Lightning hosted an outdoor ice hockey game in Florida, that would be newsworthy….err I mean impossible.


Rosecroft Raceway to discontinue live racing for up to 2 years

Another horseracing track in dire straits. From the Baltimore Sun-

CAMBRIDGE – The Maryland Racing Commission declared Rosecroft Raceway to be in an emergency situation yesterday and approved the track’s request to discontinue live racing for perhaps as long as two years while allowing it to simulcast races at the Prince George’s County facility.

Yesterday, at the commission’s monthly meeting, held at the off-track betting facility in Cambridge, the track’s new chief executive officer, Edward “Ted” Snell, and Kelley Rogers, president of Cloverleaf Enterprises Inc., presented the track’s business plan for the next two years and asked for the declaration of emergency status in order to continue being open for simulcasting.

“Economically, it’s not feasible to have the type of purses necessary to run,” Snell said after the meeting. “Simulcasting [revenue] will allow us to meet our debts and pay our bills.”

Said commission chairman John Franzone: “This is another sad day for Maryland racing. Without Rosecroft – we need that [slots] referendum. We have to realize how close we are to losing everything. Without the referendum, there is no Rosecroft and thoroughbred racing will be what Charles Town was 20 years ago – racing donkeys. Almost all of our proud history is almost out the windows. All it will be is memories.”.

That is what I think horseracing in the United States will be in 50 years, memories. Besides Rosecroft in the state of Maryland, Laurel and Pimlico are having financial difficulty. Pimlico is host to one of the sports biggest races, The Preakness.

CEI, which closed the Rosecroft doors to live racing June28, has a yearly $5.9million obligation to the thoroughbred industry as part of the 15-year Cross-Breed Agreement that was signed two years ago and a $7.2million mortgage on the racetrack. Rosecroft management has seen its yearly betting handle fall from $110million in 2005 to a projected $80million this year, according to Thomas Cooke, president of the Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners Association.

Rosecroft will save $500,000 through the end of the year by not paying purses for live racing and is saving an additional $1million through salary cuts and layoffs, Cooke said. By discontinuing live racing, he said, the track should be in the black by “a couple hundred thousand” this year.

I think Cooke is being extremely optimistic. Businesses that cut hours, or events to save money, give less incentive at the same time for people to return as customers. It’s a catch 22, and I’ll be surprised if Rosecroft has any live non-stakes racing at sometime in the future.


Miami Dolphins QB Josh McCown injures throwing hand

Coming off a 1-15 season riddled with injuries, my favorite Florida team can’t wait until training camp before one of its players gets hurt.

Dolphins quarterback Josh McCown cut the index finger on his throwing hand during an accident involving a chainsaw on July 3, but said that it wasn’t serious and he will be ready to compete for the starting job when training camp opens next week.

McCown said he needed six stitches to close the wound on his right index finger after his brother, Luke, a quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he “miscommunicated,” while shaving down a tree stump at his lakefront home in Jacksonville, Texas.

“We were clearing some brush and wanted to cut up some stumps and stack them,” said Josh McCown, whose family owns a sawmill business in East Texas. “I was holding down a little piece of a tree trunk and my little brother, Luke, had the chainsaw. He hit a knob and the chainsaw jumped.”

McCown was initially alarmed by the amount of blood, but was relieved when the finger was intact and the emergency room doctor told him there was no damage to the tendon.

If what Josh says is true, that’s good news for him. To be honest, a person who makes their living with their hand(s) should stay away from dangerous machinery. MLB pitcher Bobby Ojeda’s career may have been adversely affected after he lost a fingertip on his throwing hand as a result of his trimming some hedges. Ojeda only having one decent year after the injury.

McCown said he realized that he was fortunate and would refrain from operating chainsaws until after his playing days are over.

Add McCown to the long list of people who only learn through trial and ERROR there are just some things we shouldn’t be doing. Ojeda didn’t wise up after his accident. Five years later, he went boating with at least one drunken teammate. Steve Olin and Tim Crews were killed when the boat they were riding in along with Ojeda collided with a pier.

The Dolphins were investigating the matter

If I was feeling real snarky, I’d say someone should investigate why a football franchise coming off its worst season felt the need to sign a Quarterback who has thrown more INTs than TDs lifetime. Oops looks like I just was a little snarky.


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