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 media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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