A Monday finish on Tour; some epic slow play; Rory getting punked in the desert; and a look ahead at the rowdiest hole in golf

Look for some rowdy activity at No. 16 this week.

Golf on Monday?

This past weekend saw some strange things in the golfing world. To start with, we needed six extra holes to determine a winner of the Farmers Insurance Open. While the extra holes in and of themselves aren’t strange, the fact that enough were needed to play on Monday is a bit out of the ordinary. Jason Day, Alex Noren, and Ryan Palmer finished 72 holes tied at 10-under par. Palmer was eliminated on the first playoff hole, but Day and Noren battled through another four holes still tied. The officials decided to suspend play because of the darkness, and come back Monday morning to finish. If you don’t play golf, or especially haven’t competed in some sort of tournament or club event, it may be hard to understand why this is tough. Let me explain. When you show up for a tournament each day, there are so many things that need to happen before you even begin play. Aside from the off-course stuff, once you get to the course there is generally a couple hours of warm up. From putting to chipping, and all the way up to full swings with the driver. Then you generally go play 18 holes that takes roughly four hours (or six if your J.B. Holmes; more on that later.) It’s a long day for sure. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s not fun and amazing, but when you are playing for millions of dollars it can get a little nerve-racking for sure. To do all that preparation, and then only play one hole seems so underwhelming. Well that’s what happened on Monday. When Alex Noren put his approach shot in the water, it was a mere formality at that point for Jason Day. After all that build-up it only took one hole on Monday to find a winner. Day earned his first win in almost 20 months, and re-asserted himself as a dominant force on the Tour. It’s great to see him back playing well after being sidelined by bizarre injuries and even worse family issues. As long as he can stay healthy, look for him to continue to play well and be a favorite at every tournament.

Slow play sparks ire from...Everyone!

The Farmers also saw another strange turn of events with the incredibly slow play of J.B. Holmes. Now, to be clear, there are plenty of slow players on Tour; and the officials are very lax with the rules about pace of play. However, this scene from Holmes was in poor form and was borderline egregious. Holmes was in the final group on Sunday with tournament leader Alex Noren. Holmes sat two shots behind the lead with 239 yards to the hole. The 18th being a par-5, he had a great chance to make eagle and get in the clubhouse tied for the lead. The only problem was that it took him 4 minutes and 10 seconds to decide that he didn’t want go for the green and preferred to try and hole out with a wedge. While Holmes was taking his sweet time, Noren was sitting only 230 yards from the hole with a chance to make birdie and win the tournament outright. Essentially what happened was that Holmes inadvertently (although some don’t think so) iced his fellow competitor. The length of his decision even drew boos from the crowd after he hit his lay-up shot. Needless to say, many in the golfing world (fans and pros alike) were not happy with Holmes and voiced their distaste all over social media.

Getting punked in the desert

Haotong Li. Take note of that name, because you will more than likely be hearing it a lot in the years to come. What he did this weekend was track down and surpass one of the top players in the world for a win at the Dubai Desert Classic and second European Tour title. Li started Sunday with a one shot lead over Rory McIlroy, but after the 10th hole he was two shots behind. Rory was playing well and looked poised to capture his third title at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai. However, Li would have none of it. He proceeded to birdie four of his last six holes to get to 23-under par (a tournament record) and one shot ahead of McIlroy. That win earns him a spot at this years Masters, and a nice check for over $500K. Oh wait, did I forget to mention that he is only 22 years old? Wow!

There’s how many people watching me hit?

This coming weekend is going to be a fun one. I know it’s Super Bowl weekend, and that’s why most of you will be watching TV. But, if you tune in a few hours earlier on Sunday you’ll get to see the self-proclaimed “Rowdiest Hole in Golf.” The 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale has a place for over 20,000 people to place their behinds. Most golf tournaments limit the number of tickets sold due to the amount of space they have on the course. Well, the hosts of the Waste Management Phoenix Open have stated that they will never limit the tickets, and project this year to have more than 600,000 people come through the turnstiles at TPC Scottsdale. Players and fans alike will get showered in beer if a good golf shot is struck. However, if you fail to hit the green, you’ll hear a full accompaniment of boos. It’s definitely not something you want every week on Tour, but one time a year it’s a blast to watch. The field this week is a sneaky good one. Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, John Rahm, and Hideki Matsuyama are just a few of the big names to play this week. With back to back wins here, Matsuyama is the favorite to win at 9/1 along with Jordan Spieth. It’s hard not to see Matsuyama perform well here since he has four starts at this event and has finished T4, T2, 1, 1. That’s a stellar record at a single event. He knows the course well, it fits his eye, and he knows what it takes to win. A win for either him or Spieth would not be surprising. Some dark horses to watch out for would be Charley Hoffman and Adam Hadwin. Hoffman is coming off three good rounds at Torrey Pines (a much tougher course); and if not for a fourth round 75 he would have been contending come Sunday. He has good value at 70/1 to win and many models (including my own) are projecting him to play well. Adam Hadwin comes in at 75/1 to win, and is also projected to play well. We know he can go low having fired a 59 on tour just last year. This weekend proves to be an exciting one. We will see if the “Rowdiest Hole in Golf” lives up to its name and produces. Oh, I almost forgot, there’s a football game as well. I’ll cheers to that.

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Yordan Alvarez came up big in Game 5. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Astros can win the pennant Friday night. Can't dangle the carrot any closer in front of the face than that. Taking the last two games at Fenway Park has the Astros in excellent position, but any notion that a third American League championship in five years is now inevitable, is silly. The Astros are probably 80 percent or better to advance, but of course the Red Sox could win games six and seven at Minute Maid Park à la the Nationals in the World Series two years ago. The Astros had all the momentum after winning three straight in D.C., came home for the coronation, and pfffft. You have momentum...until you don't. It's nothing to bank on. The Red Sox had all the "mo" after clobbering the Astros in games two and three of this AL championship series. Then Jose Altuve crushed the eighth inning tying home run in game four, ahead of the seven run volcanic eruption of a ninth inning. Nine more Astro runs later in game five, and here we are.

One key distinction that makes the Astros hand look stronger up 3-2 now than vs. the Nats, the Red Sox don't have Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer ready to pitch. Like Framber Valdez vs. Chris Sale in game five, game six is another starting pitching rematch. Alvin native Nathan Eovaldi grossly outpitched Luis Garcia in game two. We'll see if Sox manager Alex Cora winds up regretting even more using Eovaldi to start the fateful game four ninth inning. Eovaldi only threw 24 pitches, but three nights later we'll see what and how much he has in the tank.

After pitching horribly against the White Sox and then the Red Sox, and then citing a sore knee, Luis Garcia is his own huge question mark. So was Valdez before Wednesday spinning one of the great postseason pitching performances in Astros' history. Framber was awful in each of his first two postseason starts, absolutely magnificent in cruising through eight innings in game five. Should the Sox force Game Seven, Valdez certainly is a relief option on two days rest. Jose Urquidy would start, opposite Eduardo Rodriguez in a game three rematch.

Valdez and the Astros hope his next outing is Tuesday night in game one of the World Series. Ideally, at Minute Maid Park against the Atlanta Braves. Alas, the defending champion Dodgers remain alive and kicking, having won their fourth do or die game already in this postseason to send the National League Championship Series back to Atlanta. Now, if somehow we knew as fact that the Astros are going to win the World Series, I'd estimate approximately 99 percent of Astros' fans would prefer to beat L.A. Since we don't know that the Astros are going to win it all, getting the Braves would be more favorable for the Astros, if for no other reason than the Astros would get home-field advantage. Should the Braves make it, among other factoids Charlie Morton would be in his third World Series with three different teams in the last five seasons (Astros in 2017, Rays last year, Braves this). If the Braves can close out the Dodgers Saturday, Morton is Atlanta's likely game one starter at MMP. Provided the Astros are the AL Champs of course.

Watt a matchup for the Texans

The Texans play at Arizona Sunday. Yeah, and? You imagine that J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins find the two team's current situations amusing? The Texans are a 1-5 stink bomb that will keep on stinking. The Cardinals are 6-0 and an emerging Super Bowl contender. While Deshaun Watson continues collecting about 600 thousand dollars per week to do nothing (and waiting to become a Miami Dolphin?), Kyler Murray has made the leap to upper echelon NFL quarterback.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Decisions, decisions. Astros-Red Sox game 6 or Rockets home opener vs. Thunder. Tough call?

2. The Rockets will regularly be overmatched and probably lose 55 games or more again this season. At least they have young talent to offer some hope. The Texans presently have near nothing.

3. Best 2021 Astros' postseason journey signature food: Bronze-Atlanta/Los Angeles, anything? Silver-Chicago, deep dish pizza Gold-Boston, lobster roll

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