Spieth Melts Down
He is golf’s new wonder kid, a talented youngster who competes with fire, flare and fearlessness, who knows how to close out a tournament when the pressure is on, especially in the majors, when the world is watching and history is on the line.
As Jordan Spieth made the turn to the back nine at Augusta National in April’s Masters, the 22 year old American was indeed carving out a piece of golf history. The defending champion had just played the front nine in four under par and held a seemingly insurmountable 5 stroke lead. Every single golf journalist on hand was busy finding heretofore unused adjectives to describe the great- ness they were witnessing, crafting their stories about Spieth’s soon to be secure place in golf history. In about 90 minutes Spieth would join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods in the fraternity of players to have successfully defended a Masters title.
Even with bogies on 10 and 11, nobody among the throng of writers and broadcasters and fans could conceive of another outcome other than Spieth being crowned golf’s new king. But then came the par 3 12th hole, and an inconceivable plot twist that sent the pre-written scripts straight into the rubbish bins.
Spieth’s 9-iron shot at the par 3 hit the bank and rolled backwards into Rae’s Creek. He took a drop and proceeded to hit his next shot like a 30 handicapper, completely fat and this time the ball went straight into the water. Spieth finished the hole with a disastrous quadruple bogie 7 and he was now down 3 shots.
Meanwhile, relative unknown Englishman Danny Willet had quietly carded a neat
5 under par 67 and now held the lead in the clubhouse. Spieth, to his credit clawed back with birdies at the par 5’s 13 and 15. But it wasn’t enough. The 28-year old Willet took his first major. The defending champion, instead of making history with a second straight Masters win, became a part of Augusta lore as another player who, like Greg Norman and Rory McIroy, gave it all away with shocking collapses on the back 9 on Sunday at the Masters.
While English fans in attendance serenaded their new found hero with choruses of “Walking in a Willet Wonderland,” a shell shocked Spieth was forced to suck up the embarrassment and hand over the traditional green jacket that he and everyone else knew should have been his once again. To his credit, the kid handled the humiliation like a man.
Nobody who follows golf doubts Spieth will go on to win more Masters, more majors and many more tournaments. He is destined to become a legend in golf.
What happened this year at Augusta proves that there is really nothing in golf, and really in sports in general, like Sunday at The Masters, especially the final 9 holes. There’s a unique pressure at Augusta, a mix of sporting history and competition at the highest level that creates a grinding pressure cooker that only the strong and/or lucky can survive. Regular golf tournaments can be tedious at times, but the Masters is surely different. Spieth now knows that. So does Willet. As do all those journalists who prematurely wrote Spieth’s place in history as he walked towards that 10th tee.
Pacquiao Moves To 58-6-2
Manny Pacquiao’s decision win over American Tim Bradley on April 9th in Las Vegas was very predictable. In their previous two fights, Pacquiao had had little issues with guring out Bradley’s style. For their third encounter, which frankly I could see no reason for, Bradley had well known trainer Teddy Atlas in his corner, and he insisted that this would make the difference. It didn’t. Pacman took this one fairly easily, scoring two knockdowns (although one looked like a push) and winning by identical 116-110 scores on all three judges’ scorecards.
The bottom line is that while Manny is nowhere near the beast he was five and ten years ago, the Filipino great is still better than 80% of the boxers out there. Pacquiao is a seasoned pro in every sense of the word. He may not overwhelm his opponents the way he used to, but he has adapted well with age. That’s what all great boxers do as age and wear and tear take their toll. Nobody can be a knockout monster forever and if it’s longevity you crave, then you have to adjust your style.
Pacquiao now says he is retired and will concentrate on winning a senatorial seat on May 9. He says he wants to focus on politics and serving the poor. But everyone and his brother knows that this is not really the end of Manny’s ring exploits. Just give it a few months and we are sure to hear talk that he will return once again. Why? It’s elementary. Where else in the world can Pacquiao earn $20 million with just 6 weeks of hard training and 45 minutes in the ring? Yeah, that’s right, nowhere.
Sure enough now we are already hearing talk of a rematch between Manny and Floyd Mayweather. Of course Floyd beat Manny in a big fat stinker in their mega ght in April, 2015. Floyd went on to beat Andre Berto in September and he also said he was retired. Now, Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum was quoted recently as saying a rematch between Manny and Floyd is better than a 50/50 possibility. Gee, why am I not surprised?
Would I be interested in a Pacquiao- Mayweather rematch? It’s hard to say. I was so put off by their first fight that I would have a hard time getting motivated to support a second go around. Then again, boxing seems to have found itself in the doldrums this year and the sport needs some high profile ghts that give the public some hard hitting action. But I doubt Manny and Floyd will give us the kind of action that us boxing fans crave. It’s often said styles make ghts and these two greats don’t have complimenting styles. And if their second bout proves to be another bust, it could kill the sport for the foreseeable future.
But then again why would anyone in boxing care about killing the sport. It’s all about money folks. But you already knew that.
Warriors Set NBA Record For Wins
Normally the nal day of the NBA season can’t end soon enough as fans eagerly await the start of the playoffs. But this year the last night of the NBA season on April 13th offered up some of the best drama the NBA had seen in years.
The Golden State Warriors entered the final day tied with the 1995-’96 Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls with 72 wins in a season. It was a record not many fans thought would ever be broken. But of course, the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry have been blowing away expectations for the last two years.
Sure enough, playing at home in front of a rabid sold out house against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Warriors stormed out to an early lead, led by the usual unconscious three point shooting of Curry, and never looked back. The Warriors handily defeated Memphis 125-104 to nish the record breaking season at 73-9. Curry scored 46 points and passed the 400 three-pointer mark to cap what will almost certainly be his second straight MVP campaign. Curry obliterated his own NBA record from last season of 286 three pointers in one season. Think about that for a second. Nobody in NBA history had ever reached 300 3-pointers in a season and now Curry has passed the 400 mark. The Warriors now have to be the biggest odds on favorites to win the title in league history.
At the very same time Golden State was making history up north, down in Los Angeles Kobe Bryant was putting the cap on his illustrious two decades in the league in a much awaited final game in front of his home town fans. The hapless Lakers were going nowhere near the playoffs but the atmosphere in LA felt like a championship game as fans gathered to give Kobe one final rousing goodbye. And Kobe responded with one for the ages as he turned back the clock to score an incredible 60 points against the Utah Jazz in the Lakers’ 101-96 win.
We are all happy it ended this way for Kobe. But then again his farewell tour of the league went on way too long. It’s time for the real show to begin, the NBA playoffs. Who’s going to bet that the Golden State Warriors are NOT going to be crowned champions again? I hear a deafening silence.
Check out the Sports Events calendar on page 15 for more information on this month’s major sporting events worldwide.