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February 24, 2009

Tiger is Back — YES!!!

tiger-isleworth-country-club-2-091 

I am sooo excited to see Tiger back – golf just has not been the same!

The practice range at Isleworth Country Club in Orlando is vast, beautiful and exposed, and in the last month it has been one of the final testing grounds in the comeback of Tiger Woods. At various times on different days, Woods has gone there to hit balls so often that some of his neighbors could not help but sneak a peek. Among the curious was fellow PGA Tour professional Nick O’Hern, who spotted Woods during a recent session and decided to observe a golfer on the mend. Woods placed a ball on a tee. He set the head of his driver behind it. He took the club back, swung hard and watched the ball go skyward. Instead of doubling over in pain, as he did last June while winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines with bones shifting in his left leg, Woods stood tall at the finish. Then, without hesitation, he started over and did it again. “He was bombing it out there,” O’Hern says. “As physically fit and mentally tough as he is, I’m guessing he’ll win at least one major this year.”

This is the picture that the sports world has been missing for the last eight months while Woods has been healing from surgery to rebuild his left anterior cruciate ligament: the rocket tee shots and trundling chips, the dynamism and charisma of an athlete in his prime. Though Woods’ return this week, at the Accenture Match Play Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club near Tucson, is not unique in the annals of sport, the circumstances surrounding golf and the world beyond seem to cry out for his presence.

The economy is tanking. The best player in baseball admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. Golf sponsorship has become more risky amid falling television ratings and tightening purse strings. Even in the calm after football season and before the basketball postseason, golf has had trouble making a dent — until now.

“To me, when you have what is going on in the country, people escape their troubles by watching sports, and this is the biggest sports story we have going right now,” says Tommy Roy, the executive producer for golf at NBC Sports, speaking of Woods’ return. “He’s so likable in the way that he plays, it sucks you in.”

Roger Maltbie, an on-course reporter for the network (which will air the Accenture’s final rounds), is more pointed. “We are starved for him,” says Maltbie, who played for 22 years on Tour. “The year seems flat. I don’t mean to be unfair to any of the other guys, but a lot of people can play the fiddle. Only one guy is Itzhak Perlman.”

That Tour commissioner Tim Finchem saw fit to release a statement after Woods’ announcement — “We are delighted that Tiger is returning to competition,” Finchem said — only underscores Woods’ meaning to the game in good times and bad. Finchem has asked players to do everything they can to enhance the Tour brand, from adding tournaments to their schedules to showing appreciation to sponsors, pro-am partners and fans. Some are taking the plea to heart; Tour pro Robert Garrigus says that he now thanks tournament volunteers even after he makes a bogey. And now here comes the 33-year-old Woods as the Tour’s biggest attraction, something of a one-man stimulus package. “We’re going to bring some fans back,” says Rich Beem, winner of the 2002 PGA Championship.

Even beyond Woods’ resumption of his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major titles — a mark Woods could tie by winning the Grand Slam this year — there are other benefits golf may soon realize with Tiger back in the fold. The Tour’s six-year contract with network television expires in 2012, and there is no bigger selling point than Woods as golf’s leading man.

Beyond our borders the Tour, along with the game’s other governing bodies, submitted a bid last month to the International Olympic Committee to include golf in the 2016 Summer Games. Last year several top-ranked players from a variety of tours filmed a four-minute, 35-second video trumpeting their support for the initiative. The opening footage is of Woods pumping his fist. The closing scene has Woods saying that he could not think of a better sport to make an Olympic event. “Having the Number 1 most recognized athlete in the world playing our sport certainly is something that makes [it] even more attractive for the Olympics,” says Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour VP who doubles as the executive director of the International Golf Federation Olympic Golf Committee.

tiger-woods-and-family Despite the demise of his endorsement deal with General Motors, Woods’ comeback stands to generate other business opportunities. On his bag he will carry the logo of AT&T, the company that sponsors his tournament outside of Washington, D.C., over the Fourth of July. Nike, which manufactures Woods’ clubs, balls and apparel, is also planning to release a new commercial timed to his comeback at the Match Play. The company often has launched commercials to coincide with Woods’ victories, including at the 2005 British Open and at last year’s U.S. Open, his final tournament before undergoing ACL surgery.

“We look at Tiger as if he’s making history every time he tees it up,” says Cindy Davis, the president of Nike Golf. “We do everything we can to capitalize on that energy.”

In some ways that energy has already started to build. When word filtered throughout Riviera Country Club last Thursday that Woods was coming back, the entire vibe around the Northern Trust Open changed. His peers talked about his impact on the course and at the gate. Yet Woods was quick to remind people that he is a golfer, not a savior. “The only thing I can control is, obviously, my play,” he said during a conference call. “We as a collective whole on the PGA Tour have to do a better job of making sure we appreciate all the fans and sponsors for what they do for us and allowing us to have an opportunity to compete and play for a living. I think over the years we may have taken that for granted. Now is a time that reality certainly has checked in.”

Woods’ reentry paid immediate dividends for the Match Play. After attracting 128 media outlets and 379 journalists last year, when Woods defeated Stewart Cink 8 and 7 in the final, the tournament this year issued credentials for more than 175 outlets and 500 media members. The list includes the network nightly news shows, CNN, the BBC and even a publication from Sweden, the home country of Woods’ wife, Elin.

The unanswered question is how well Woods will perform. He’s won 65 Tour events and 11 more tournaments worldwide, but will he be the same golfer after an eight-month layoff? Woods says even he is curious to see, but his peers have little doubt. They envision a golfer inspired by the birth of his second child (Charlie Axel, on Feb. 8), a golfer hitting shots pain-free for the first time in nearly two years, a golfer accustomed to carrying the game on his shoulders.

“I actually think he’ll be as good as ever, if not better,” Padraig Harrington said in the gloaming on Thursday at Riviera. “A long and forced break makes you love the game even more, if it’s possible for him to do that.”

Rocco Mediate, who pushed Woods to 91 holes at last year’s U.S. Open in San Diego, would know better than most what to expect. “He’s the man, he’s the king, he’s it,” Mediate said. “Our Tour’s cool, but it’s really cool with him. I guarantee you that he wins [the Accenture Match Play]. You think he’s coming out not 180,000 percent? He’s not coming out going, let’s see how I do. That’s not going to happen. He’s still Tiger.”

The golf world and everything it touches can only hope.

Original article at:

http://www.golf.com/golf/tours_news/article/0,28136,1881342-0,00.html

 

August 22, 2008

Olympics: GOLD for Jamaica Men 400m Relay Team. Yet Another World Record!

 In yet another mind-boggling display of speed, Usain Bolt set another world record and won another Olympic gold medal, and this time got to share the glory with his Jamaican teammates.

 Both Bolt and Asafa Powell blew away the field over the last two legs of the 400-meter relay leading Jamaica around the track in 37.10 seconds to break the 16-year-old world record by 0.3 seconds.

Bolt is now 3-for-3 in these Olympic sprints — as in three gold medals and three world records.

The bonus is that he got to bring Powell along for the ride. Powell held the world record in the 100-meter dash for about three years before Bolt broke it in May, but he is also well known for his history of poor performances in the biggest meets.

 In this one, Powell got to do the honors, running the anchor leg, taking a clean handoff from Bolt and crossing the line almost a full second ahead of Trinidad and Tobago‘s Richard Thompson to secure his first Olympic medal.

The Jamaican quartet, which also included Nesta Carter and Michael Frater, eclipsed the old 400 relay mark of 37.40 set by the United States at the Barcelona Olympics in the 1992 and tied by the U.S. at the world championships a year later.

Bolt added that to the records he set in winning the 100 meters (9.69) and 200 meters (19.30) in Beijing.

The Jamaicans were nearly a full second faster than relay silver medalists Trinidad and Tobago, which finished in 38.06. Japan took the bronze in 38.15.

The Jamaica women’s relay team failed to hand off the baton in the third leg of the relay and did not complete the race. We are VERY PROUD of the women team!!!

Jamaica is 4 out of 5 in their sprint events.

  Team Jamaica now has a total of 10 medals: 6 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze.

   

Congratulations Team Jamaica!!!

August 20, 2008

Olympics: Usain Bolt of Jamaica Sets NEW 200 Meter World Record. Clocks 19.30 Seconds – Makes History!

 On the eve of his birthday, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt made history.  He won the GOLD for the 200 meter by four body lengths on the world’s biggest stage at the Olympics in Beijing, China. He smashed Michael Johnson’s 12 year record of 19.32 seconds – Bolt won in 19.30 setting another world record!!!

21 year old Bolt became the first man ever to break the world record in both the 100 and 200 at the same Olympics and the first since Carl Lewis in 1984 to win the sprint double.

 Bolt had already won the race halfway through, but unlike his record-setting performance in the 100 four nights before, there was no animated celebrating until he crossed the line. He went hard all the way, looking at the clock down the stretch, leaning at the line, knowing that Michael Johnson’s revered mark was within reach.

Bolt had been accused of jogging through the line in his heats but the Jamaican said he would run flat out in the final and he delivered on that promise with fascination!

He blasted out of the blocks and was already well clear of the field going into the bend at the Bird’s Nest stadium.

The Olympic 100m champion accelerated away down the straight, gritting his teeth as he chased down gold and the record that Johnson set 12 years ago in Atlanta.

 When he saw the number come up — a number that never has before been displayed in a human race — he raised his arms, then fell flat to his back, arms and legs outstretched, and basked in the roar of the Bird’s Nest crowd.  Bolt now has three world records – this one, the 100 meter from Saturday and the one from Randall Island, New York in May when he broke the 100 record the first time.

A version of “Happy Birthday” played over the public-address system as he took off his gold shoes and wrapped the Jamaican flag around his shoulders like a scarf.

The race for the other medals was a little dramatic. Churandy MARTINA of Netherlands Antilles finished second behind Bolt and American Wallace Spearmon came in third.

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August 9, 2008

Olympics: Let The Games Begin!!! (See Times and Schedules)

Let the games begin!!!

I am no fan of the Chinese government – no way, nee, nu, bus hi, daong, na, nyet! (No in several languages).

But I am a lover of sports.  Yes I am!  But as a form of my own silent protest, because of the inhumanity of the Chinese government and in empathy for the Chinese citizens, I will not watch the Olympics.

 It’s painful – I very much want to watch the US basketball teams (men and women), gymnastics, volleyball, swimming and of course track and field.  In particular the 100m and 200m (go King and Lightening!!!). 

I will however follow the results on-line and in the news. If you plan on watching and aren’t sure of ‘the hot events’, try to watch Lopez Lamont (USA) 800m – he’s one of the lost boys of Sudan and his story is inpirational and shows that if we how we love each other and leave the fears behind we will make the world a better place.

Those of you who will watch to honor and support the brilliant athletes of the world who have trained and sacrificed for years and years and have the opportunity to represent themselves and their countries, another must watch event is the Men’s 100m and 200m where America and Jamaica will go head-to-head.  Both races promises to be spectacular. And if you can, don’t miss any of the men’s basketball games.

Just in case you’re wondering what the time difference is between Beijing and your local time:

 

Beijing

 

7 hours ahead of London

8:00pm

1:00pm BST London

12 hours ahead of New York

8:00pm

8:00am EST NY

13 hours ahead of Texas

8:00pm

7:00am CST TX

15 hours ahead of LA

8:00pm

5:00am PST CA

To find out what time it is in Beijing, check out the World Clock.

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August 8, 2008

The Obama Family Heads to Hawaii For A Week’s Vacation; Hillary Clinton Will Campaign For Obama While He’s Away

  Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and their two beautiful young daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7 left Chicago for Hawaii earlier today – the state where Obama grew up and where his grandmother, who helped raise him, still lives. The Obamas will spend a week in a house they rented. 

I think this is a great idea – Obama needs some rest.  He must be burned-out, physically and emotionally.  He needs to regroup and come back strong.

Obama acknowledged some concern about taking time off but said that was offset by the need for some family time and a desire to visit his grandmother, who does not travel.

His campaign in conjunction with his family who lives in Hawaii have organized a welcome rally at a local park as well as a round of interviews. He is also expected to attend a fundraiser next week. Obama’s vacation will include mostly downtime, though. Other than enjoying the beach and watching the Olympics, he will spend some time with his grandmother, who helped raise him in Honolulu in the 1970s.
“I want to make sure that I’m spending time with her and I want to make sure she gets to spend time with her great grandchildren,” he said yesterday.

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August 6, 2008

Olympics – Basketball: Redeem Team Arrives in Beijing With 5-0 Record

 The ‘Redeem Team’ wrapped up its exhibition schedule with its toughest test, pulling away and beating Australia 87-76 Tuesday night in Shanghai, China – their final game before heading to Beijing.

The United States led by only four points nearly halfway through the third quarter and was up by seven midway through the fourth against an Australian team that was resting its best player, Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut.

Dwyane Wade scored 22 points; LeBron James had 16; Kobe Bryant scored 13 points and Carmelo Anthony had 12 points with 10 rebounds.  We finished three of 18 from behind the arc and 20 of 33 (61 percent) at the foul line.

Team USA arrived in Beijing amid near pandemonium.  When the team arrived at Beijing’s airport on Wednesday dozens of fans, most wielding cell phones or digital cameras, who had mounted a spiked iron fence to get a closer look at their American basketball heroes were on-hand screaming and shouting.  Many shouted “Kou-bi-er” — the local rendering of Bryant’s name — in hopes of getting his attention.  Later in the day the players held a team meeting before deciding to head to the Olympic village to take in the sights.

Team USA plays China on Sunday, August 10 at 10:15am EST

USA/Russia – Sunday, August 3

USA/Australia – Tuesday, August 5

Also see:

https://letustalk.wordpress.com/2008/08/02/olympics-basketball-team-usa-3-0-looking-really-good/

August 2, 2008

Olympics – China To Athletes: “WIN Gold At Any Cost For Motherland”

  China assembled its elite athletes for their final rally before the Olympics, earlier this week; their orders from the government were clear and urgent:  “To achieve Olympic glory for the motherland is the sacred mission ordered by Communist Party Central,” Sports Minister Liu Peng told the 639 hand-picked Olympic athletes in their newly issued red-and-yellow uniforms.

“We have to fulfill our historic responsibility,” he exhorted the Chinese Olympians in his speech at a vast government meeting hall.

The Chinese athletes will be under enormous pressure to fulfill the country’s expectations in Beijing when the Olympics begin. Nothing less than gold – and plenty of it – will be acceptable.

Most experts are predicting China will top the gold-medal table, pushing ahead of the United States for the first time. It’s an extraordinary achievement for a country that did not even join the Olympics until 1984. Home advantage is far from the only reason for its expected success.

China has poured massive resources into its Olympic program in the past eight years. Its team this year is the biggest and strongest in its history, with twice as many athletes as it sent to the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Its annual sports budget has increased exponentially since 2001. It has hired more than 50 foreign coaches since the last Olympics in 2004, including top coaches from Europe, North America, Australia and the former Soviet Bloc.

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