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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Yordan Alvarez provided the offense to back up more stellar pitching by the Astros as they took ALCS game 6 to advance to the 2021 World Series. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of this series in Houston then falling behind in the series 2-1 by dropping the first of three games in Boston, the Astros took over the ALCS in Games 4 and 5, sending them back to their home crowd with a chance to finish things off in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. After another stellar performance by their pitching staff and more timely hitting, they would accomplish that mission, winning the series and moving on to the 2021 World Series.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 0

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston wins 4-2

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Losing Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Houston strikes first to start tightly-contested Game 6

After a scoreless top of the first inning by Boston's offense, the Astros capitalized on a chance to be first to score in the bottom of the frame. Alex Bregman started the two-out rally, reaching base on a single against Nathan Eovaldi for the first hit of the night. Yordan Alvarez followed, delivering his sixth RBI of the series with a double to put Houston on top 1-0.

That did not spark further immediate scoring, as the one-run score held while both starting pitchers provided solid outings for their team. For Eovaldi, he was able to limit Houston to just that single run through four frames. He returned in the bottom of the fifth, facing two batters, allowing a single, and getting a strikeout to end his night.

Garcia impresses in big start

For the home team, they were recipients of another expectation-exceeding performance from one of their young arms. Only anticipated to go a handful of innings, Luis Garcia worked efficiently and effectively against Boston, keeping them scoreless and hitless through five innings. He continued in the sixth, getting two more outs before allowing a two-out triple, ending his night as Phil Maton would enter to strand the tying run. Garcia's final line: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 76 P.

With both teams dipping into their bullpens, the Astros took advantage of Boston's as Yordan Alvarez's dominance went on display once again. He led the inning off with a triple, then scored on a double-play ball to extend Houston's lead to 2-0. Kendall Graveman took over on the mound in the top of the seventh and worked himself into a big moment. He gave up a one-out walk, followed by a single, which put runners on the corners for Boston. He continued to struggle with the zone, falling behind the next batter 3-1, but was able to battle back to get the strikeout paired with a terrific throw by Martin Maldonado to cut down the runner from first trying to steal second, ending the inning and maintaining the two-run advantage.

Astros headed to the World Series

Ryne Stake was Houston's next reliever, and he put Houston three outs away by getting a 1-2-3 eighth. With Ryan Pressly warming, he watched and hoped that his offense could give him some more insurance to work with when he went to the mound in the top of the ninth. His wish would be granted, as after getting two on base, Kyle Tucker would put a major exclamation point on the night's offense, hitting a three-run opposite-field homer to the Crawford Boxes to push the lead to 5-0.

Pressly, now with the five-run lead, came on to try and start the celebration by getting the final three outs. Against the tougher part of Boston's order, he would get a 1-2-3 inning, giving the Astros the American League pennant, which along with those won in 2017 and 2019, puts them back in the World Series for the third time in five years.

Up Next: The Astros will have three days off before The Fall Classic kicks off. While Game 1 will be on Tuesday, October 26th, nothing else has yet been determined as Houston awaits to see which of the Dodgers and Braves will advance out of the NL, which will also dictate if the Astros will host or travel to World Series Game 1.

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