THE TOUR UPDATE

No more football? No worries, it is time to start watching golf

Pebble Beach is scenic and fun. pebblebeach.com

There is still plenty of entertaining sport towatch on Sundays, I promise. This is your weekly golf update:

Sundays are for golf now

The last football game has been played for the 2017-18 season and I’m sure everyone in Philadelphia is still hung  over. However, that doesn’t mean that Sundays are void of sports on TV. The wonderful game of golf is just starting to ramp up its season and each Sunday will be  packed with plenty to watch. Now, I know what you’re saying, “Who in their right mind  watches golf?” Well, if this past week’s tournament is any indicator, there are a record number of people who do (more on that later.) Let me be candid here and say that I watch golf throughout the week and not just on Sundays. I find it quite compelling any day it’s played.  Perhaps it’s due to the fact that I am able to play the same courses and conditions (sometimes) that the pros play. Seeing pro players hit the same shot into green that I do brings me that much closer to the game. Granted, my ball usually lands in a hazard and theirs is six feet from the
hole. Nevertheless, I’ve walked where they walk, and putted from where they putt. I can’t say that about many (if any) of the other pro sports I watch. All that being said, I may not be the most unbiased person in the world when it comes to suggestions for your Sunday programming.

However, there are plenty of compelling reasons to tune in this weekend. This week's tournament is the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. It’s held on one of the most picturesque golf courses in the world: Pebble Beach Golf Links. The views from just about anywhere on the course are stunning. Normally, the Pro-Am tournaments are filled with a bunch of local club pros and no-name amatuer golfers. However, this week the amatuer field will be filled with tons of A-list celebrities from Hollywood, the music industry, and even the sports world. One of the staples of the tournament is Bill Murray, who is always fun to watch, especially when he shanks the occasional golf shot.  Other big names include Aaron Rodgers (Joel Blank’s personal favorite), Tony Romo, and even Houston’s own Justin Verlander who will be playing with his own personalized World Series Champs wedges. Needless to say, the entertainment value will be through the roof this week. Another good and often overlooked reason to watch golf is the timing. Golf tournaments are played during the day and are over before the sun goes down. This  allows you to sit at home and enjoy the tournament, and still be able to go out later that evening. It’s a win/win situation. Whatever your plans are this weekend, you should make sure to catch some of the action at Pebble Beach, if only to see Alfonso Ribeiro do the “Carlton” on the golf course.

Yes people watch golf!

Since you asked me earlier who watches golf, this past week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open saw over 700,000 people attend (a new record); and “The Rowdiest Hole in Golf” lived up to its name. We saw John Rahm really appeal to the Phoenix crowd by donning a Pat Tillman jersey before hitting his tee shot on the 16th hole. It was a pretty cool moment for the ASU alum as he even told the crowd to get louder as he hit his tee shot. There were plenty of cool moments at the 16th, but inevitably there is always someone who takes it too far.

Twenty-four year old local resident Adam Stalmach was that person this year. While watching a practice round on Wednesday, he decided that it would be best for all the spectators at the 16th hole to see him in his birthday suit. He later admitted that he had plenty of encouragement from his friends and also plenty of liquid courage as well. Interestly enough, it took security more than five minutes to round him up, but not before he had a chance to play in the sand. I wonder if golf bunkers are like the beach and the sand just gets everywhere? At any rate, he ended up spending five nights in jail and losing his job! While being interviewed afterward he was quoted as saying “It was worth it.” That must not have been the career job he was promised after college. Aside from all the shenanigans, there was a golf tournament that was played. Sunday was pretty action-packed on the leaderboard, with five different players sharing the lead at one point late in the day. In the end, it was Gary Woodland who prevailed on the first hole of the
playoff against Chez Reavie. Woodland shot a Sunday best 64 to get himself into the playoff. An improved short game, to go along with his already well-classed tee-to-green game, helped him best a strong field in Phoenix. It was his first victory since the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2013. That’s not to say he hasn’t played well for the last five years. He has had seven runner-up finishes during that time. At that point, he was probably due for a win.

The Real Tournament this week

As I mentioned before, there is a pretty good pro tournament going on this weekend. Aside from the celebrities, there will be an A+ field for the pros. Five of the top ten in world will be teeing it up, including the world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. He is the heavy favorite to win this week with most Vegas books having him at +550. This will be his first tournament in the States since winning the Tournament of Champions in Kapalua to begin his 2018 season. He finished third at this tournament last year and is coming off a T-9 in Abu Dhabi a week ago. Needless to say, his game is in top form; and it will be no surprise to see him at the top of the leaderboard. The defending champ, Jordan Spieth, is coming off a rather poor performance at the WMPO last week. His putting was atrocious by all standards, especially his own, and that saw him exit early with a missed cut. However, the last time he missed a cut he went T-2 in the very next tournament and won two of his next five. He is very good at assessing his game and correcting what needs to be corrected. He is also an extremely good putter of the golf ball, and I don’t see that poor performance repeating itself this week. Rory McIlroy will be making his debut at AT&T this week. He generally skips the majority of the “West Coast Swing,” but with him planning to play 30+ times this year he decided to put this one on his schedule. He is my pick for the week, after finishing T-3 and T-2 in his last two tournaments. In each of those, he had chances to win, but came up just short. His total score to par in his last two outings is a staggering 40-under. That, combined with his good health so far this year, is a winning recipe and the reason I’m picking him this week. A few dark horses to watch out for this week are Patrick Reed (+3500 to win) and Rafa Cabrera-Bello (+6600 to win). Reed is coming off two top 25 finishes in the last two weeks, and is 14th overall in the Total Strokes Gained category. If he can straighten out his tee shot, look for him to be contending. The converse is true of Cabrera-Bello. He is top five off the tee box this year and second in greens-in-regulation. If he can get the flatstick to heat up, he will surely shoot some low scores. He finished T-6 two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi; and while he may be unfamiliar with the courses, he is ranked 21st on the OWGR. You don’t get that high without knowing how to navigate unfamiliar courses. Both Reed and Cabrera-Bello have good value amongst a star-studded field. The golf always proves to be supremely entertaining this week, and hopefully it can be a suitable replacement until next football season.

Tee it high and let it fly!

WWE's Royal Rumble arrives this Sunday at Minute Maid Park. Photo by Paul Muth

I'm not a big sign guy.

You know sign guys. The people who write puns on posters. The ones who carry the letter "D" in one had and a cutout of a literal fence in the other. The "Houston, YOU have a problem" sign guys.

I tried it once when I was 14, was punched in the face, and sort of lost my appetite after that.

Let me explain.

It was April 1, 2001. Wrestlemania 17. I won't ask my parents how much it cost them, but my aunt and uncle scored floor seats to the greatest spectacle in sports entertainment in no better confines than the Astrodome herself and I got to tag along.

It was a hell of a show. Some say it was one of the best Wrestlemanias ever. The card was stacked, including a Triple-H match against the hometown hero The Undertaker that set the stage for the main event.

At precisely two hours and forty-eight minutes into the event, Undertaker sent Triple-H flying over the barricade and "INTO THE STANDS!"

"Holy crap," 14-year-old Paul thought. "They're headed right down my aisle."

Now I'm not sure how it works these days, but back then it was totally customary to bail on your seat and follow the fight as they weaved up and down the aisles. I wasn't about to miss the chance so I grabbed my poorly scribbled wrestling poster, glanced back and my Aunt for the OK, then darted after the action.

The fight snaked its way up to some scaffolding with a camera perched atop. There, the fight would stall as they battled their way to the top. Oblivious to anything but the action in front of me, I threw my sign up as high as I could, probably screamed at the top of my lungs, and my voice probably cracked in the process. I was 14.

Suddenly someone pushed me in the back of my shoulder. I turned around and there was an old lady, maybe five feet tall, standing on her chair. She had the quintessential cowgirl big hair and enough costume jewelry on to short-circuit a metal detector.

"GET THE @#$% OUT THE WAY, BOY," she commanded in the most east Texas accent you've ever heard in your life. I ignored her and turned back around.

Then she pushed me again.

I turned around again and before I had any clue what was happening, this knockoff mini Dolly Parton had already connected a stiff left hook to my temple. She then grabbed my sign and ripped it in half. Stunned, I retreated to my seat while tending to a now bleeding eyebrow thanks to what I assume was a Wal-Mart engagement ring.

Haven't really been a big sign guy since.

But this weekend the WWE takes over Minute Maid Park for their annual Pay-Per-View event known as the Royal Rumble. It will be the first time since that fateful night in the Astrodome 19 years ago that I've returned to a high profile wrestling event.

Now am I looking forward to this weekend as an opportunity to retake the dignity that was ripped away so long ago? Probably not. I'll most likely just drink a bunch of beer and yell at wrestlers with my friends. But I'm not ruling anything out.

Now instead of a power rankings this week, I figured that in the spirit of the Royal Rumble we could rehash some of the best sports fights Houston's served up:

#5 Charles Barkley throws man through window

Now I know this one didn't happen on a court, but the story is just too good. In a classic case of "play stupid games, win stupid prizes," a 5'2" Floridian by the name of Jorge Lugo decided to harrass the 6'6" then-power forward for the Houston Rockets at an Orlando bar . Barkley ignored and avoided the issue until a Lugo-thrown glass intended for Barkley missed and struck a nearby woman. Bad move. When judge presiding over the ensuing case asked Barkley if he had any regrets, The Round Mound of Rebound replied "Yeah, I regret we weren't on a higher floor."

#4 Chris Paul serves a two-piece to Rajon Rondo

This one is actually fairly recent and adds to what I discovered was a hefty list of Rockets throw downs. After breaking up a stare down between Lakers forward Brandon Ingram and James Harden, Paul and Rondo began a heated chest-to-chest exchange. From all replay indications it appeared as if Rondo then spit on Paul, which triggered a disrespectful finger push to Rondo's face, which then descended into a good old fashioned knuckle sandwich exchange. Paul was suspended for two games.

#3 Derrick Lewis verifies amateur of amateur status

Some dude actually had the nerve to walk in to UFC Heavyweight fighter and Houston native Derrick Lewis' gym and pick a fight. The amateur claimed that he would knock Lewis out because he was an MMA fighter, and not a real boxer. "The Black Beast" was more than happy to oblige, and swiftly teleported the no name into the shadow realm.

#2 Vernon Maxwell fights Portland man

Sometimes people forget that sporting events are intended to be family friendly. Some also forget that players are people with actual feelings. Maxwell claims that aside from general harassment, a Portland fan decided to bring Maxwell's wife's recent miscarriage to light as well. Maxwell stood up from the bench, calmly walked up the stairs, and knocked the crap out of the dude. Maxwell was suspended 10 games.

#1 Andre Johnson baptizes Courtland Finnegan

It had been seasons in the making. Finnegan had built a reputation out of adding cheap shots here and there, ripping helmets off at the end of plays, and various other dirty tactics. In late November of 2010 Johnson had reached the end of his rope. Schadenfreude was the flavor of the day for all Texans fans as Johnson manhandled Finnegan, reigning down fists of righteous justice.

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