POINT BLANK

Joel Blank: It was hard not to root for Tiger Woods in the British Open

Tiger Woods made a run, and it was glorious to see. Andrew Redington/Getty Images

I'm not afraid to admit it, I was pulling for Tiger Woods yesterday. I'm not saying I agree with all of his decisions in life, or off the course. I'm saying I wanted the iconic golfer to return to prominence at least one more time so the world could be reminded of just how dominant he was not too long ago.

A golfer that, if not for his off course transgressions, might already have more major championships than Jack Nickalaus and be considered the greatest golfer ever. He made the entire world take notice and had entirely new demographics suddenly interested in a game of golf. He not only was at the top of his game, he was a global icon that could sell sand in the desert with just his image and smile. When he was wearing red and in contention on a Sunday, the whole world was watching. Yesterday was as close as we have come to seeing a glimpse of those days again, if only for one day, and man was it fun!

I really think Tiger still has some fuel left in the tank. He is only 42 years old and we all know he has always prided himself on being in tip top condition. The most important thing is, he is finally healthy. After enduring back issues that caused him to undergo several surgeries and procedures, it looked like his days as a regular tour professional, let alone one of the best golfers in the world, were in the rear view mirror. The fact of the matter was, he seemed to be facing the reality that he may never pick up his kids again, let alone swing a golf club. 

The decline was fast both on and off the course and the path of destruction and disappointment was on center stage and the evening news for all to see. It was a sad and bitter end to what was otherwise a meteoric rise to fame and fortune as the child protege that started playing at 2 years old and rocketed to being the only man within ear shot of catching all of Jack's records. The fact that he has righted the ship both on and off the course and has his health back, leaves me and many others hopeful that he can re-write the final chapter of his professional career and maybe improve his image along the way.

Maybe the reason I wanted him to win so badly is all the amazing memories he provided sports fans with his relentless persuit of perfection in an imperfect sport, and all the incredible, dominant performances he etched in our memory banks. It's like a fan of the Celtics dynasty or Yankees, being able to see them on top or in the hunt one last time.

In team sports it’s impossible to see a comeback or instant replay of those days of incredible success and achievement. In sports like tennis and golf it doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's amazing! Connors and McEnroe had runs late in their career that made the whole world root for them as if they were underdogs playing in their first major tournament. Even Nicklaus made a run at age 45 when he cemented his legacy with his 18th and final major by winning the Masters. 

Tiger had a chance yesterday and made a run that not many thought he had in him. He made up 4 shots, leap frogged more than a half dozen players and had his name on top of the leaderboard on the back nine of the final round of the British Open with 8 holes to play.

Even the hole that turned out to be the game changing end of his improbable run gave us all a return to the gutsy shot taking that made him Tiger Woods. On the 11th hole, after a fortuitous bounce off two spectators kept his ball in play and hope alive, he had two options— play it safe and play for par, or play aggressive and save par or better with a perfect pitch. He hit the shot that he knew he could hit and had hit numerous times before. In the end the shot was inches from being perfect, but fell short, as did he. Tiger would double bogey the hole and lose the lead and the tournament.  He may have come up short this time, but I for one am hoping their is a new fire a blaze in his belly and we all get to hear Tiger roar again, at least one more time.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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