THE GOLF REPORT

PGA Tour 2018: Tiger is back, DJ is from another planet and other news this year on the Tour

Tiger Woods is back, and all is right with te golf world. Masters.com

Here we are folks! The 2018 PGA TOUR season has officially begun. Now before you go off and tell me that “technically it already started,” I know. But let’s be honest with each other, those events between the Tour Championship and the Tournament of Champions (sans the WGC event in Shanghai) are borderline meaningless. At any rate, the 2018 season is under way with both new and old excitement. Let’s take a look at some of the news we’ve had and news to look forward to in 2018:

Tiger is back

It would be silly not to start with the most exciting/interesting news that’s been permeating the golf landscape in 2018. That’s right, one Eldrick Tont Woods, a.k.a. Tiger, has officially committed to play in two official tournaments so far. The first (Farmers Insurance Open) is coming up at the end of January (officially, Jan 25-28). This tournament takes place at Torrey Pines where he has won an incredible eight times. Those eight wins include his 14th (and most recent) major, the 2008 U.S. Open. If anyone knows how to get around Torrey Pines, it’s Tiger Woods. The other tournament he has committed to is the Genesis Open (Feb 15-18) at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, CA. Now remember, it’s 2018, not 2000. Tiger is not the player he was back then, and his name no longer carries the weight/intimidation that it once did. However, everyone benefits from Tiger playing in tour events. More people watch, more people attend, and golf is all around better (and richer) when they can bank on Tiger. It’s highly doubtful that Tiger will be near the top of the leaderboard at either tournament, but the oddsmakers feel a bit differently. Tiger hosted and played in the Hero World Challenge back at the end of November. This was a limited field event (only 18 players) and the course was rather tame by PGA standards. However, before the tournament started Tiger was a 66-1 longshot to win at Augusta in 2018. After his opening round 69 at the Hero, that dropped to a ridiculous 33-1, and after Friday it was even lower at 15-1. Some books still have him at that number, while others have come to their senses and brought the number back up. While I won’t put any money on Tiger to win a major this year (or ever again for that matter), it would not surprise me if he did. Bottom line is that Tiger is back playing in meaningful tournaments, and we are all the better because of it.

DJ is from another planet

In other news, Dustin Johnson is not human. If you haven’t seen his near ace on the 433 yard par 4 in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, then you are severely missing out. Check it out here even if you have seen it, because it is that good. Johnson went on to win that tournament by an incredible 8 shots, with a total score of 24-under par. With the ability to drive it that far, and stay that accurate, it’s hard to imagine he would ever lose a golf tournament. He finally broke his major drought in 2016 at the U.S. Open, and ascended to No. 1 in the world at the beginning of 2017. He still sits atop the OWGR and looks poised to make a statement in 2018. It’s my opinion that DJ will win the Player of the Year award for 2018, and will take home multiple tournaments including a couple majors. Quite a bit of my betting dollars will be used on DJ this year (barring any more tumbles down a short set of stairs).

Spieth is still pretty good, too

Jordan Spieth is still good at golf, and even added a Claret Jug to his trophy case in 2017. It took a some incredible putting, and a ridiculous drop that lasted more than 20 minutes; but the Open Championship was his in the end. This makes the PGA Championship in 2018 quite a bit more interesting to watch. He will be competing for the Grand Slam, which only five other players have done (one of them being Mr. Woods an amazing three times.) Jordan also got engaged at the end of 2017, which I assume will be a good thing, but who knows. Congratulations Jordan, but remember where the money comes from: GOLF!

Plenty of other interesting names

Other players to watch out for are the norms: Rory McIlroy is out of the Nike equipment, and looks to be fully recovered from his rib/back injury that occurred last year. He’s been through somewhat of a lull in the past years, but he still has four majors and will be gunning for the Grand Slam at the Masters this year. The reigning Player of the Year, Justin Thomas, has 10-3 odds to win a major this year. He won the 2017 Tournament of Champions, and then shot a 59 in the Sony the very next week. He seemed to be a bit out of form at the Sentry last week, but it’s still very early in the year. The unfortunate part of 2018 is that there is no reason to root for Sergio anymore. After finally capturing that elusive first major at the Masters, it’s not likely that he’ll be getting the same acquiescence from the crowds. However, he did just leave long time sponsor Taylormade, and signed with Callaway. That may not make him any more popular with the fans, but I do think he will play better with the new equipment. There are a few low key names to be on the look out for this year. Tony Finau is a name that few outside the golfing world will know, but he is young and coming into form. He is tall (6’3”) and can mash it like Dustin. Combine that with his improved greenside ability and scrambling strength, and he is a dark horse to win big this year. Another young up-and-comer is Xander Schauffele. He won the Tour Championship at the end of 2017 and just signed a big deal with Callaway. (Callaway seems to be rounding everyone up lately). Without the pressure of needing to win to make money, The X-Man can relax and play his style of golf.

All in all, it looks to be an exciting season of PGA TOUR golf. Perhaps somewhat heightened by the long-awaited return of Tiger, and bolstered by it being a Ryder Cup year. I’m looking forward to each week on the TOUR, and plan on attending the final major (The PGA Championship) this year. Here’s hoping the bets pay off, and the beer continues to flow all year.

MASHED POTATOES!!!

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Houston's offense had another strong day at the plate in Seattle against the Mariners on Wednesday. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

After striking a deal with the Mariners before Tuesday's game, along with a reported deal with the Marlins on Wednesday before the finale, the Astros continued to try and bolster their bullpen with fresh arms while also focusing on this series against Seattle. Having won the night prior to even it up, it came down to the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon to decide the series.

Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 4

Astros' Record: 63-40, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-5)

Losing Pitcher: Yusei Kikuchi (6-6)

Astros continue to score runs in Seattle

Just like in the earlier games in this series, the Astros had no problems offensively. They strung together four consecutive one-run innings, starting in the top of the second when they loaded the bases, then got an RBI groundout by Myles Straw to go up 1-0. In the top of the third, Yuli Gurriel drove one in on a two-out RBI double, bringing in Jose Altuve, who led the inning off with a double of his own. Chas McCormick led off with a single in the fourth, then later scored on an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz.

The fourth run in as many innings came in the top of the fifth, as Gurriel would notch his second RBI with a solo homer to start that inning, pushing the lead to 4-0. They didn't stop there, and neither did Gurriel, as he would get RBI number three on the day as part of a four-run top of the sixth, with RBI hits him, Altuve, Diaz, and Carlos Correa, doubling the lead to 8-0.

Odorizzi gets to the sixth before allowing two homers

The run support gave Jake Odorizzi plenty of leeway, which he didn't need until the bottom of the sixth. He held Seattle scoreless over the first five frames, allowing just four baserunners on a hit by pitch, a walk, and two singles, all peppered over that span and erased in each inning. Kyle Seager would get the Mariners on the board in the bottom of the sixth, blasting a one-out solo homer to cut the lead to seven runs at 8-1. After a single in the next at-bat, recently traded Abraham Toro made it four games in a row with a homer, this one a two-run shot to cut the lead to 8-3 and end Odorizzi's day. His final line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 95 P.

Houston wins the series

Houston brought in Brooks Raley to finish the sixth, issuing two walks but stranding them to keep it a five-run lead. Myles Straw helped push that back to six in the top of the seventh, reaching on a single to start the innings, then stealing both second and third to get in position for Diaz's third RBI of the day, a groundout to make it 9-3. Cristian Javier was the next reliever out for the Astros, but he would not make it through the bottom of the seventh, allowing a single and three walks, the third with the bases loaded to bring in a run.

Bryan Abreu was brought in to get out of the jam, getting a strikeout to end the seventh. Then, in the top of the eighth, Kyle Tucker would put two more runs on the board with a two-run homer making the lead seven runs at 11-4. Abreu remained in for the bottom of the eighth, erasing two one-out singles to get through the frame. Brandon Bielak took over in the bottom of the ninth to close things out, posting a 1-2-3 inning to wrap up the win and give Houston the series victory.

Up Next: Houston will travel down the coast to San Fransisco before getting a day off on Thursday. They'll pick up an exciting three-game series with the Giants on Friday, with the opener slated to start at 8:45 PM Central. Framber Valdez (6-2, 2.97 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, while San Fransisco's starter is TBD.

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