The Jock

by Tom Weppel

This weekend the boys will be over in Scotland to play the third of the four ‘Majors’ in golf…the British Open. The Turnberry course they are playing has only hosted this event three other times. It is a scenic course, with many holes right along the coast, making this a tough track. Look for persistent winds, pot bunkers, and fast greens.
After not playing in last years’ open because of his knee surgery, Tiger is back in the mix to play in this one. So far this year, Woods has had a pretty damn good year, playing in nine events, winning three, and being in the top ten of eight of the nine tournaments he’s played.
And so there’s no question he is the favorite to win this one this weekend. I think its also fair to say that Tiger Woods is a more dominant player on the Tour now than any other player in the history of competitive golf, including Jack Nicklaus. Its fair to say that Tiger Woods right now is the best player EVER to play competitive golf…he is indeed that good.
Not only is he good, but he is very popular as well. When he plays, he draws attention and large galleries. Tickets to his events are always scalped for prices more than double the face value.
And unfortunately, nobody else playing on the PGA Tour, with the slight exception of Phil Mickelson, is really drawing interest and attention, while being consistently competitive.
As a ‘for instance’, Steve Stricker, who won last weeks’ event, has now won twice this year. He’s pocketed over $2 million easily. Twenty years ago, he would’ve been a superstar on the Tour. Now, he’s just looked at as ‘another guy’.
So, with the success and aura he has cultivated, its no wonder Eldrick draws great attention and galleries wherever he goes, wherever he plays. I’m sure that’s gonna be the case this weekend over in Scotland as well. The British Open usually has more of an international field playing, which makes things perhaps slightly more interesting. We’ll see how the boys fare on the course in Scotland, dealing with the various conditions. And we’ll see if Eldrick can emerge from the field to once again hold the Claret Jug on Sunday.

With the All-Star game over and done with, teams will now focus on the second half of the season. There haven’t been a ton of surprises by any means. There are still quite a few teams that are in contention within their own Divisions.
The one team with the best record in baseball is the Los Angeles Dodgers. Even with Manny Ramirez out for 50 games, these guys have played good ball thru the first half of the season, as they stand at 56-32 for the break. They lead the NL in batting average (.275), and they are second in pitching ERA at 3.58. Obviously, Joe Torre has done a masterful job in having the guys on his squad play together as a ‘team’, with no superstar personalities on the roster, except for Ramirez.
Of course, their starting rotation has been strong so far this season, and that certainly has contributed to their winning ways. Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, and Randy Wolf, all have an ERA below 3.50. As long as they stay healthy, the Dodgers will continue to win. And even though the Colorado Rockies have been on a tear the last month or so, the only real Division threat to L.A. will come from the nemesis, the Giants. San Francisco has very quietly played good ball as well. Most of their success comes from great pitching, as they lead the NL in team ERA.
The Cardinals are on top in the NL Central, while the red-hot Phillies are leading the NL East. But those two Divisions are still, for all intents, up for grabs.
In the AL, we see Boston and New York as the two squads with over 50 wins. The Red Sox have had superior pitching and solid hitting, while the Yankees have been on a tear with their batting, but have suffered a tad with their pitching staff. Look for both squads to fight it out for the rest of the season. In the AL Central, the Tigers are on top, thanks to good pitching, while the Angels are leading the AL West, and the League, in hitting. Texas is on their heels.
Look for some wheeling and dealing in the coming weeks, before the trading deadline, and we’ll see how things evolve as the competition heats up.