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!

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Correa knows it's time for his payday. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Rangers made a big splash over the weekend when they agreed to terms on a 7-year $175 million contract with infielder Marcus Semien. Apparently, that was just the tip of the iceberg. According to multiple reports, the Rangers have also added arguably the most coveted player in free agency, Corey Seager. Seager and the Rangers have agreed to a massive 10-year $325 million contract.

Before the Seager news broke, many were starting to wonder if teams would be willing to hand out 10-year deals for over 300 million dollars with the lockout just around the corner. Now we have our answer, and Carlos Correa has to be a very happy man to see how the market is shifting. The Rangers not only added two incredible players, but they also made it pretty much a certainty that Correa will either leave Houston, or the Astros will have to sign him to a long-term $300 million deal, which is not likely based on their stance on multi-year big money contracts.

The Rangers aren't the only team in the AL West making blockbuster moves. The Mariners agreed to terms with 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray on Monday. Ray and Seattle agreed to a 5-year, $115 million contract.

The Angels joined in on the action a couple of weeks ago when they signed Noah Syndergard to a 1-year 21 million dollar deal.

Clearly, the AL West is on notice that they're going to have to make big changes if they want to compete with the Houston Astros who have dominated the AL recently with 5 straight ALCS appearances and 3 trips to the World Series. With Correa likely out the door in Houston, these teams might believe this is a perfect time to make a run at the division and finally knock off the Astros. Only time will tell if these deals will work, and the Astros look to have a terrific team this season whether Correa returns or not.

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