The Bear Trap snares a Tiger, JT wins again and the Tour heads south of the border

Tiger Woods was almost in the hunt.

This past week on Tour saw the best in the world stop in at Palm Beach, Fla. at the famed PGA National course.  Re-designed in 2007 by the great Jack Nicklaus, it became the host of the Honda Classic.  The very tough three-hole stretch of 15, 16, and 17 is affectionately known as “The Bear Trap.”  An homage of sorts to Jack, known in his playing days as “The Golden Bear.”  Well, that three hole stretch definitely got the better of Tiger Woods this week.  He was 8 strokes over par in just those three holes (over four rounds), and put two balls in the water on 15.  Tiger finished the tournament at even par, and with the winners at 8-under par, a decent trip through The Bear Trap would have put him in contention.  That’s not to say that Tiger didn’t play well.  He was 3-under for the tournament on Sunday coming into 15, but a ball in the water would lead to a double-bogey and quickly derail any thoughts of contention.  He did finish the tournament T-12, his highest finish at an official Tour event in quite some time.  As Fred Faour pointed out earlier this week on SportsMap, when Tiger is anywhere near the top of the leaderboard he will be the story.  That was definitely true with the CBS coverage as well.  Normally the players well back of the leaders don’t get much air time.  Mostly because they aren’t playing as well, but also because they don’t really stand a chance to win.  That wasn’t true with Tiger obviously.  The coverage was on every shot of Tiger (until the ball in the water) and the television audience lapped it up and thanked CBS.  

JT wins again

You should probably get used to that headline.  Justin Thomas (not “Luke” Thomas Fred), won the Honda Classic this past weekend.  That win would account for his second this season and 7th in the last 31 events where he’s teed it up.  That’s close to 2000’s Tiger numbers.  At any rate, Thomas played well and won the tournament on the first playoff hole against Luke List.  The unfortunate part however, is that the news wasn’t too much about Thomas’ win, but rather his actions against a particular fan.  On the 16th tee box, a fan yelled (after his swing) for Thomas’ ball to get into the bunker.  This irked Thomas, who then had the fan escorted off the premises.  This seems to be a bit of an overreaction and Thomas would later apologize for removing the fan.  It seems it wasn’t an isolated incident with this particular fan.  Thomas says that it was continuing over several holes, and the outburst at 16 was just the last straw.  There are two thoughts at play here.  One, is that Thomas needs to probably grow a bit thicker skin if he is going to play at the highest level.  Every other professional athlete deals with hecklers on a daily basis.  You have to know that comes with the territory.  Secondly, I’ve never been the person to actively root against someone.  I think you should cheer for your teams/players and not against the opponents.  Wish it in your head, or cross your fingers; but to blurt it out right in someone’s face is a little much.  Don’t get me wrong, the fan didn’t need to be tossed out, but perhaps another person should have said something to him.  It may have been a good teachable moment for a young person.  Either way, I’m sure Thomas is going to get plenty of “heckling” from fans in the weeks to come.  He probably brought it on himself. 

WGC-Mexico Championship

This week the Tour heads south of the border into Mexico for the second WGC event of this season.  The first was played in China (HSBC Championship) in the 2017 portion of the wrap-around season.  The WGC events are a limited field, with only the best in the world getting invitations.  This is the second year this event has been in Mexico at Club de Golf Chapultapec (event was formerly at Doral).  The course is situated some 7500 feet above sea level and just like when the NFL is in Mexico, the ball is going to fly.  The altitude will cause the ball to fly some 15% farther, and with a hilly course, watch for a lot of the caddies to be doing some funky math.  The practice rounds on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday will prove to be very good research for the caddies as they figure out the best calculations for their respective players.  Needless to say, the caddies will be earning their paychecks this week.  Dustin Johnson comes into this week as the defending champ.  He is still playing good golf, and is the Vegas favorite to win this week at 6/1.  Jordan Spieth took last week off, but looks to compound on his good putting performance from Riviera two weeks ago.  One name to look out for is Tommy Fleetwood.  With a win on the European Tour already this year, and a solo fourth this past week at the Honda, he is someone that is poised to pounce in a big way.  At 16/1 he has pretty decent value also.  One longshot that may prove to be a good play is Paul Casey.  He is a 33/1 shot, but has three top 12 finishes so far this year and is near the top in almost every strokes-gained category.  It should be fun to watch as the best in the world try to navigate a long course and the math needed to account for the altitude.  I expect to see a lot of perplexing looks on both players and caddies alike.  As always, enjoy the golf, and keep it in the short stuff.  

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The new-look Texans won't get started until September, but the Roughnecks' season is about to begin. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Without much fanfare, or seemingly any, the Houston Roughnecks are preparing for opening night of the XFL 3.0 season just a couple of weeks away.

The Roughnecks will host the Orlando Guardians, 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18 at TDECU Stadium on the UH campus. That’s less than a week after the NFL’s Super Bowl.

Before one pass is thrown, one run rushed, or one groin pulled, Las Vegas has set odds for the 2023 XFL season. Our Roughnecks and the Orlandos are tied for the longest odds on the board, +750. The early betting favorite is the St. Louis Battlehawks at +400.

Just a note: if you’re like Cosmo Kramer and think wagering on early-season XFL games is “some sweet action” – well, “you really need help, you need a team of psychiatrists working around the clock, thinking about you” and George Costanza.

Not surprisingly, good seats remain for opening night. Lousy seats, too. And seats in the middle.

If the Houston Texans and the all-mighty NFL couldn’t fill half of NRG Stadium, do the Roughnecks stand a prayer of drawing big crowds to TDECU Stadium?

One thing in the Roughnecks favor: affordable seats for their five home games on the XFL’s 10-game schedule. Season tickets for Roughnecks games start at $110 and go up to $480 at Individual game tickets, available on Ticketmaster, are $24 and higher. Reasonably priced food and drink (I kid because I love), plus an array of team merch will be available, including T-shirts ($25), baseball caps ($28-$34), sweatshirts and sweatpants ($45-$60), and bucket hats ($45).

Of course, nothing sells seats like winning. The Roughnecks were 5-0 and dominating the league last time the XFL played. That was 2020 when Covid-19 cut the season short. That was then …

This is now. Much like the Texans (as of this week), the most recognizable and popular figure on the field will be the head coach. The 2023 Roughnecks will be led by NFL veteran Wade Phillips, who has a lot of history and DNA in Houston. Quarterbacks currently on the roster are Cole McDonald from Hawaii, Kaleb Eleby from Western Michigan and Brandon Silvers from Troy State.

Most of the roster will be new names for Houston fans, although the league is bragging that 255 XFL’ers have been on NFL rosters at some point.

The Roughnecks will compete in the XFL South division along with the Arlington Renegades, Orlando Guardians and San Antonio Brahmas. That’s three out of four teams from Texas. The XFL North is comprised of the D.C. Defenders, Seattle Sea Dragons, St. Louis Battlehawks and Vegas Vipers.

Every XFL game (40 regular season, two playoffs, one championship) will air somewhere across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and FX, plus streaming on ESPN+. As they say, check your local listing to find the Roughnecks.

If you think that the XFL is just “too soon,” hold on until April when the Houston Gamblers take the field for the 2023 USFL season. Although don’t get too excited about attending home games. Houston’s “home” is in Birmingham, Ala. I know, silly.

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