Tiger Woods: Ball-Striking Maven.

Tiger Can't Miss in Abu Dhabi.

There will be some non-golf in this post, so go ahead and scroll down if you must.  We’re at the annual point in the golf season that pits the European Tour vs. the PGA Tour.  Appearance Fees vs. No Appearance Fees.  Fans of International golf will likely crow about the quality of the field in Abu Dhabi this week.  It certainly is top-heavy, but they ignore that somehow Todd Hamilton gets in this event every year.  The PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines cannot brag about drawing the top-10 in the world, but if it is still true that the US has most of the depth, it’s easy to argue that Torrey still has the better field.

In recent years Tiger had always made his first U.S. appearance at Torrey Pines and played the somewhat less glamorous Dubai Desert Classic as his Mideast venture, but this year the lure of that guaranteed oil money was too much to ignore.  Sorry, Torrey Pines.  Hope Phil is a good enough consolation prize for you.  As I said, Tiger is joined in Abu Dhabi by the likes of World #1 Luke Donald, my #1 villain Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Charl Schwartzel, Martin Kaymer, Sergio, etc.  In a real moment of ingenuity, Tiger was paired with Rory and Luke for round number one.

It ended up being Rory’s day–tied for the lead at 5-under par, but the subplot was the near flawless ball-striking of Mr. Woods.  Tiger missed the first green, then hit the next 17.  He was bogey-free, and took 34 putts on his way to a 2-under 70.  Now, 34 putts is an astronomical number for a pro.  I’ve had rounds where I took 34 putts so that means it’s not good.  At all.  The good news for Tiger and his spring-loaded pack of followers who are anxious for his next conquest is that he may have finally turned the corner in terms of his ball-striking.  It’s been a long while (granted only 4 real events) since Tiger was in full spray mode.

That doesn’t address the putting issue, though.  If this was five, six years ago we’d laugh off Tiger’s 34 putts, chalk it up to unfamiliarity with the greens and wait for him to shoot 63 tomorrow.  That could happen, or Tiger could be morphing into something of a Tom Watson character, a player who in the twilight of his PGA Tour run was hitting the ball better than ever but rarely holed a putt.  There’s no way that Tiger will ever get back to true dominance without his once infallible flat stick.  The fore-right, fore-left, pop-up 3-wood watch might become the 30-putt watch.  It’s always something, am I right, Tiger?

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Phillies trade Wilson Valdez.  It surprised me how many people were a little upset with this deal.  Did we get anything back??  We traded Wilson Valdez.  What do you think?  The left-handed relief flier that comes to Philly from the Reds is about all you could expect.  Also, the Phils trim a tiny bit of cash off the payroll.  Every little bit counts when you’re saving up for Cole (fingers crossed).  Valdez was a fine fielder and is fondly remembered for his late-inning pitching heroics, but we don’t need to be too upset about this one.  It opens up a little window for Freddy Galvis and also probably means more Mikey Mart (an obvious downside).  Someone in the organization just loves that guy.  It’s funny how Philly fans get so attached.  Some cry for change and then get all busted up when Wilson Valdez gets shipped off.  Interesting little paradox.

**Update** Brad Lidge to Washington.  For a cool million.  Lidge will always be remembered for his perfect 2008 season and he deserves a huge chunk of credit for that title.  The Phils were hardly the pitching staff they are now back in those days.  Really, the entire bullpen was heroic.  Of course, Lidge followed up ’08 with one of the worst years ever by a closer and played a role in the Phillies losing the ’09 World Series.  So, there was that.  The Nationals continue to slowly assemble the 2008 Phillies, piece by piece.  Shame Jamie Moyer got away to Colorado.

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I finished, The Art of Fielding, the Chad Harbach novel.  It didn’t finish that strong for me.  It kind of drifted from baseball, got a bit odd and mythopoetic (I learned that word in Tin Cup), but I still found it to be a decent book.  It’s incredibly polarizing to reviewers.  The initial reviews were great, but you can find dozens of people trashing it online.  That’s kind of the way things work, though, right?  Anything praised will eventually be trashed for being praised on the internet.  I think it deserves some criticism, but I find that very few books end well.  They’re often like those comedies we love (Superbad) where the first hour is incredible and then when forced to wrap things up it becomes forgettable.  Once baseball was pushed aside and the plot needed to be resolved I found myself a lot less interested.  It’s not a bad book, though.  Don’t believe all the haters.

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When I look at the stats for my blog, after I scroll through the millions and millions of pageviews there is a little section that highlights search terms that led people to this site.  More often than not these terms are “Amber Heard,” or “Mila Kunis black and white,” or even “3 Putt Territory,” believe it or not.  Sometimes, though, there is just something so odd that it really makes my day.  It’s hilarious sometimes what people search for on the internet.  Today someone came through after a search of, “Fred Couples cold top.”  Did someone hear Fred use the term, “cold top?”  Certainly Fred has never hit a cold top in his life–unless he so ON PURPOSE.  But, considering how much I mention Fred and how I love the terms “cold top” and “cold shank” it’s not really surprising at all that this wayward searcher ended up here. If you come back, sir or madam, the only part of the club face that Fred needs is the damn screws.  Thank you and good day.

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Tuesday Morning Tidbits.

What if the Wizards Were Black Widows?

A few thoughts to hold us over until something awesome happens…

The Sixers had to play the Wizards on back-to-back nights last week.  For the high-powered Sixers juggernaut, this is pretty much a waste of time.  The Sixers money line in the home game was -1600.  For a team without a 20-point scorer, without a guy who averages 10 boards, and whose leading assist man hands off 4.4 a game…that’s a staggering number.  There was actually no way the Sixers could lose that game.  And, they didn’t.  Their reward was playing Washington again the next night.  Another blowout followed.  How are the Wiz so dreadful and what could make their games interesting?  At 1-12 they’re already out of the playoff hunt. What if any team that lost to the Wizards was ineligible for the playoffs?  Chances are, they won’t beat a playoff team anyway, but it could make for some tense moments.  It’d also probably guarantee the Wiz went about 3-63, which would be hilarious.

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It’s Cole Hamels arbitration deadline day.  Well, one of the deadlines.  If the Phils and Hamels don’t come to terms they have to submit their arbitration figures today.  At that point, they’ll have more time to negotiate before the actual hearing.  It’s very unlikely they’ll get to that point and many people expect a 1-year agreement today.  It’s a little disconcerting for the fans who want Hamels locked up long-term, but the Phils might not be in position to give that deal out until after this season.  Coincidentally, I’m planning a long Phillies post for sometime today/tonight that centers on Hamels.  It’ll be wildly boring for anyone who isn’t a bit obsessed with the Phils.  Fair warning.  Also, I’m thinking at some point before the season I’ll trot out a special, All-Phillies mailbag, so if you have any burning baseball questions you want answered, start working on them and send them in.

**UPDATE**  Hamels agrees to 1-yr, 15 million dollar deal.  Cole’s a real bargain in relative terms at 15-million.  He’ll still be a free-agent at season’s end.

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Also baseball related, I’m reading The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.  Tough call for me, because I don’t like to read the book that everyone is talking about, but when the book is about baseball…conundrum.  Once Peter King talks about something, it’s pretty much dead.  Find another leaf to turn over, but then I thought, Peter King, if nothing else, is known for his horrible taste.  He still thinks the Office is funny.  I think.  Maybe someone wants an opinion on this book from a person with a better track-record.  Well, I’m enjoying it quite a bit.  In contrast to what everyone else is saying, “It’s not really about baseball.  The non-baseball parts are the best…”  I’m going to say that it’s about as baseball oriented as you can get.  What story is about only one thing anyway?  Is a true baseball book a 300 page play-by-play?  The thing is a baseball book, don’t be afraid of that.  And, the baseball sections are actually some of my favorite parts.  Anyway, the book is, in part, about a phenom–a defensive prodigy.  One of things that draws you to the story is the fascination with greatness.  People can’t get enough of it, and while that draws you in, the other characters are dealing with the same phenomenon.  It’s a good book, final judgement reserved until I finish the thing.

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Finally, a video in case you are the only person on the planet who hasn’t seen these.  Sh*t Girls Say.  I saw it linked somewhere a while back and then forgot about it until I saw it again on Rock Center last night.  They’re pretty funny.  YouTube has the others.