Golf report: Potter sculpts a win on the ocean and the Tour comes to “The Riv”

Ted Potter Jr. was on his game.

A star-studded field was out in full force at Pebble Beach this past week.  Golfers and celebrities alike teed it up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.  Saturday was full of shenanigans, as most of the coverage was on the celebrities.  We saw Larry Fitzgerald play well enough to win the Pro-Am portion, and we also saw Ray Romano almost plunk Jordan Spieth in the head.  However, Saturday belonged mostly to Ted Potter, Jr.  He came into his final five holes only needing two birdies to shoot a 59.  The tension was high for Potter as he made a bit of a mess on the final two holes to finish bogey-bogey and closed with a round of 62.  That would be the low round for the week and would also vault him into a tie for the lead going into Sunday.  After a final round 69, and a poor effort from Dustin Johnson, Potter walked down the final few holes relatively stress free with a three stroke lead and the win.  This was only his second win on Tour and by far his most impressive.  Phil Mickelson teased us again by turning  in a Sunday round of 67, which would place him in a tie for second; and his highest finish on tour since his runner-up finish to Henrik Stenson at the 2016 Open Championship.  Everyone loves to see Phil at the top and contending.  His “foot-on-the-gas” mentality is always highly entertaining.  He is in great form and heads into next week at Riviera, a place he has won multiple times.  Another great showing came from Chez Reavie as he finished T-2 for the second week in a row.  He looks to be poised for a breakout season this year.

“The Riv”

This week the PGA Tour makes its final stop on the “west coast swing” and arrives at Riviera Country Club.  Better known as “Hogan’s Alley,” this is an old and storied golf course that has seen some great moments.  The Genesis Open, the second year under title sponsor Genesis Corporation, is also sponsored and run by the TGR Foundation.  If that doesn’t look familiar, don’t hold it against yourself.  That’s the new name of the Tiger Woods Foundation.  See what he did there with the “TGR.”  At any rate, with Tiger’s foundation at the helm of the tournament, that gives him another chance to tee it up with the big boys.  What makes this choice interesting, is that this is the only tournament that Tiger has played at least 10 times and never won.  Yes, you read that correctly, Tiger Woods has never won this tournament.  What makes this even more strange is that this is the very first professional tournament that Tiger ever played.  Way back in 1992, as a skinny 16 year old sophomore in high school, Tiger earned a sponsor’s exemption to the Nissan Open (as it was known then) and the rest is history.  This will be the first time since 2006 that Tiger will start a tournament at Riviera.  It stands to reason that Tiger should struggle here, since the rough is very penal, and the greens are very small.  A combination that does not serve Tiger’s wayward tee-ball very well.  Honestly, not much will be expected of Tiger this week, since his last outing saw him hit only 17 fairways in four rounds of golf.  If we see a repeat of that performance off the tee, you can expect to see him exit early on Friday.  One thing that Tiger can feed on this week are his playing partners.  He has been paired with Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy.  Rory is coming off a disappointing performance last week, but is still in good form on the season; and Justin has already won this season on tour.  Needless to say, that is one power-packed group.  One other exciting announcement was that Tiger is considering playing in the Honda Classic following this tournament.  TIger hasn’t played in back-to-back weeks on tour in quite some time.  He was reluctant to affirm the rumor, but said that if he feels good after this weekend, he plans to play.  More Tiger is always good for everyone.

DJ defends his title

One player that is sure to be in the mix on Sunday at Riviera is Dustin Johnson.  Now I know what you’re thinking, picking the No. 1 player in golf isn’t much of a stretch.  Well, you’re right.  However, let’s look at his past performance.  In his last four tournaments at Riviera he has finished: 2nd, T-2, 4th, and Won (the win coming last year.)  He is an insane 49-under par in those years as well.  Also, DJ has played in three tournaments this tour season and has finished T-2 twice, and has a win.  To say that this week lines up well for him would be an understatement.  There is one thing that DJ needs to address: his poor play on Sunday.  Those two runner-up finishes so far this year are only due to poor play in the final round.  He coughed up a six shot lead to Justin Rose at the HSBC Championship and he was tied for the lead last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.  Granted, you need to play well to put yourself in those positions; but Sunday play is much more important and in his case, more frustrating.  We will see if DJ can put it all together this week and defend his title at the Genesis Open.  

Other big names in the mix this week include Mickelson, Spieth, and Paul Casey.  Phil is playing particularly well coming into this week and he has won multiple times at Riviera.  Expect to see him near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.  Jordan had a very good showing at his last tournament.  He needed only 27 putts or less in each of his final two rounds at Pebble Beach.  That is huge step in the right direction, and we all know that once his putter gets hot, he knows how to win golf tournaments.  All in all, this week will prove to be a tough one.  A long, penal course combined with a top notch field will see the cream rise to the top.  Look for the winner to come out of the big names.  As always, keep it in the short grass.







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Verlander is 39 years old and thriving. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Astros’ slaughtering of the lambs tour has them in Seattle for the weekend. The Mariners are a big flop thus far stumbling along at 18-27, last in the American League West. They must be delighted to draw Justin Verlander on the mound against them in the series opener. JV has already beaten the M’s twice in 2022. He threw eight shutout innings at Seattle in his second start of the season.

Thus far in his return post-Tommy John surgery Verlander has been staggeringly magnificent. He’s 6-1 with a you-have-to-be-kidding-me 1.22 earned run average. Frame of reference: Martin Maldonado is an atrocious offensive player. If he continues at his current level of playing time and performance Maldonado will finish with one of the handful of worst offensive seasons in the history of the Major Leagues. Maldonado’s on base plus slugging percentage this season is an incredibly feeble .435. The collective OPS against Justin Verlander this season is .441. So Verlander essentially is making MLB lineups look like they have Martin Maldonado batting one through nine.

This is Verlander’s third full (fingers crossed) season of pitching as an Astro. The first two produced a near miss Cy Young runner-up finish to Blake Snell in 2018 and a narrow Cy Young win over Gerrit Cole in 2019. Verlander is the early leader on the course in 2022. He is poised to overtake Roger Clemens as the best Golden Oldie pitcher in Astros’ history. One could argue he already has.

Verlander is 39 years old and thriving. The “Rocket” turns 60 in August. I bet he could still touch at least the low-80s on the radar gun. Clemens’s Astros tenure was breathtaking. It began when he was 41 years old and covered two and two thirds seasons (he chose to start his 2006 season late). In his first Astro season (2004) Clemens won his seventh Cy Young Award after going 18-4 and turning 42 years old in August. The Rocket actually should not have won the National League Cy that year. Randy Johnson was clearly the best pitcher in the league, pitching 30 more innings than Roger with an earned run average 0.38 better. But, as one of many examples of doofy Baseball Writers’ Association voting, Johnson’s 16-14 record was held against him. His 16-14 was amazing! Johnson pitched for a laughingstock Diamondbacks’ squad that finished 51-111. A smarter electorate would have awarded “The Big Unit” his sixth Cy Young Award, which would have tied Clemens for most all-time. However…

Clemens was shafted out of two Cys he should have won. Pitching for the Red Sox in 1990 “The Rocket” went 21-6 with a 1.93 ERA. Bob Welch won 27 games for a dominant Oakland team that year, but he wasn’t even the best pitcher in his own team’s rotation (Dave Stewart was) much less best in the American League. Clemens put together his 1.93 ERA while pitching his home games in hitter-friendly Fenway Park. Welch came in at 2.95 while pitching his home games at the pitcher-friendly Oakland Coliseum. Still, blinded by the 27 wins, the voters went Welch by a comfortable margin. Welch over Clemens in 1990 is one of the lamest votes ever.

2005 wasn’t nearly as blatantly ridiculous, though Clemens’s second season in Houston was even more Astronomically good than was ’04. He was a living pitching God. In mid-August Clemens’ ERA was 1.32. One-point-three-two! It was dark comedy that season how pitiful the Astros’ offense was providing run support when Clemens was on the mound. Hence he won only 13 games despite finishing with a National League best 1.87 ERA, more than a half run better than teammate Andy Pettitte’s runner-up 2.39. Chris Carpenter won the 2005 NL Cy. He had a heckuva year for the Cardinals. He was not the best pitcher in the league. Clemens actually finished third, also behind Dontrelle Willis who would have been a better choice than Carpenter though not quite as good as Roger.

Vintage “old age” Astro pitching seasons have to include a mention of Nolan Ryan. Like 2019, 1987 was a season of juiced baseballs, home run numbers shot through the roof. So while a 2.76 ERA isn’t eye-popping, Ryan won the NL ERA title with it. Nolan was 40 through the ’87 season. Ryan’s record in ’87: 8 wins, 16 losses. Talk about non-support. Ryan finished fifth in the Cy Young voting with reliever Steve Bedrosian another dubious winner. The guy who probably should have won in ’87, or at least the guy with the highest wins above replacement (WAR) total? Bob Welch! Then with the Dodgers.

Verlander hopes to pitch well into his 40s a la Ryan and Clemens. He is 68 wins shy of 300 for his career. Logic says he doesn’t get there, but I wouldn’t bet the ranch against him.

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