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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

 

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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 2, 2008

Olympics – Basketball: USA Redeem Team 3-0, Looking Really Good

 Team U.S. A has arrived in Macau, China.  Macau is on the SE coast of China just a 50 minute ferry ride SW of Hong Kong and a three hour flight to Beijing.  Macau was both the first and the last European colony in China.  Portuguese traders first settled in Macau in the 16th century and subsequently administered the region until the ‘handover’ on December 20, 1999.  Macau is the most densely populated region in the world; with a population density of 18,428 persons per kilometer (one kilometer is .062 of a mile). 

Five percent of Macau’s population is Chinese; another two percent is of mixed Chinese/Portuguese descent, an ethnic group often referred to as Macanese. Macau is believed to have the best food on the Chinese continent and Macau is clean and fog free!

Before they arrived in China, Team USA had their exhibition opener against Canada.  They scored, they dazzled and they dunked – they beat Canada 120-65.  Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Michael Redd each had game-high total of 20 points each.

 Kobe Bryant played 23 minutes and scored 15 points, making six of 10 shots.  The U.S. shot 65.7%, Canada just 33.3%. The rebounding department was equally one-sided, the U.S. outrebounding Canada, 38-24.

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July 22, 2008

Olympics: China Bans Blacks and Mongolians From Bars; Deports Christians

 Introduction to Chinese Human Rights 101. In an effort to ‘clean up’ Beijing and for  “reasons of safety”, bars are forbidden to serve blacks and Mongolians during the Olympics and the Chinese government have deported Christians because they think they will cause trouble!

Bar owners around the Worker’s Stadium in downtown Beijing say that public security officials are telling them not to let in blacks and Mongolians or allow dancing during the Olympic Games next month — many of them have even had to sign a pledge reports the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper.

Street musicians are being banned, and so is the purchasing of medicines containing “stimulants” without a prescription. Public places must close by 2 a.m., and bar owners are being asked to remind their clients that they must always have an identification document with them.

Last September, police detained dozens of blacks in the Sanlitun bar district and according to witnesses, beat some with rubber truncheons. The son of Grenada’s Ambassador to China reportedly suffered a concussion from being clubbed on the head by police.

Police with dogs raided an African-owned bar this week and required blacks to provide urine samples to test for illegal drugs.

“When the police come, you have to run,” a woman from Liberia said. “I’ve lived in Holland and the United States and it was never like this. There is no ‘human rights’ here. It’s racist and it makes me feel very bad.”

Africans and Mongolians are perceived as criminals by Beijing authorities and have been included with other ethnic groups, political activists, outspoken entertainers and Christians as potential sources of trouble during the games.

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July 5, 2008

Olympics — Track and Field: Tyson Gay Injured; Out of 200m!

   Tyson Gay tumbled to the ground at the start of his 200-meter quarterfinal heat at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials Saturday and had to be carted off the track – this eliminates him for the 200m.  He qualified for the 100m last week so he will compete in that event at the Olympics.

Running in the seventh lane, Gay was speeding to the lead in the first turn, but on his 14th stride, something went wrong. He went airborne, fell, then laid on the ground in pain, grabbing his left thigh and grimacing.

Gay already had qualified for the Olympics in the 100 meters, but his availability for the games now will be determined by the severity of his injury.

Though he’s the defending world champion in the 200, trials rules call for the top three finishers to make the Olympic team — no exceptions.

This was a stunning setback for the 25-year-old sprinter, who last week set the American record in the 100 at 9.77 seconds. In finals, he ran it in 9.68, the fastest time ever recorded, but not a world record because the tailwind was too strong.

Damein White, running in the lane next to Gay, said he saw Gay pull up and thought he saw something fly his way.

“I tried to keep going off the curve,” White said. “It kind of threw me off. He just pulled something. He’ll be right back. Next year, we’ve got worlds. You’ll see him there.”

More urgently, however, are the Olympics. Qualifying for the 100-meter dash starts Aug. 15, and Gay was one of the favorites along with world-record holder Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell, both of Jamaica.

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July 2, 2008

Olympics: Track and Field – Jamaica vs. America

Jamaica is the 138th most populous nation in the world. At 2.65 million people, the Caribbean island nestles between Kuwait and Mongolia in the population ladder.

It is in similar territory when it comes to national wealth.

The United States, on the other hand, is the world’s richest and third most populous country.

As neighbors go, these two live at very different ends of a very long street.

But there is one place where these two meet as equals – the running track.

Last weekend witnessed the most recent chapter in their rivalry as both countries staged Olympic trials for the 100m in Beijing this summer. The results, as they have been all season, were remarkable.

First, Tyson Gay, the latest sprint star off the US assembly line, almost made the most embarrassing mistake of his hitherto impeccable career by misjudging the finish of his opening heat. (Go to 2.29 for the race).

Thousands of miles to the south, world record-holder Usain “Lightening” Bolt and Asafa “King” Powell, the man Bolt ‘unseated’, were advancing smoothly to their much-anticipated clash in the Jamaican capital, Kingston.

(more…)

June 23, 2008

Olympic Basketball: Dream Team 2? Kobe, LeBron, D. Wade, Paul

 

MVP Kobe Bryant will be heading to his first Olympics, and he’ll have LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul with him.  But where is Paul Pierce?

They will lead a U.S. Olympic basketball team that was announced today — one that hopes to capture the gold medal in Beijing in August after a third-place showing in Athens four years ago. They’ll have plenty of help.

Carmelo Anthony and Jason Kidd were among the 12 players placed on the squad. They were joined by Tayshaun Prince, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Michael Redd and Deron Williams.

“It was a very difficult selection process,” said Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball managing director. “When you have as many outstanding players as we do — to select a group of 12 is going to leave out some outstanding people.”

The team was selected without a tryout. It will have a minicamp this week in Las Vegas and reconvene there July 20-25 to train and play an exhibition against Canada before heading overseas.

The Americans open Olympic play against China on Aug. 10.

Although the Americans captured the gold at the Sydney Games in 2000, they no longer dominate international play as they once did. The talent gap has narrowed and many top NBA players have chosen to not play for the national team in recent years.

Now, the U.S. will field a team that appears loaded. Then again, the Americans went 5-3 in Athens and lost for the first time since NBA players started competing in 1992, even though they had James, Anthony, Wade and Tim Duncan. That group got routed by Puerto Rico before losing to Lithuania and Argentina, but this one is confident it will take the gold.

“It’s really the world’s game,” Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We think we’re the best at playing that game.”

Bryant just won his first MVP and led the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals. James averaged 30.0 points — just enough to beat Bryant for the scoring title.

Those two, along with Anthony, Kidd and Dwight Howard, started for a team that went unbeaten in the Olympic qualifying tournament last year.

Phoenix forward Amare Stoudemire withdrew from Olympic consideration apparently concerned about pushing his body too hard after knee surgery in 2005 and 2006. So did Detroit’s Chauncey Billups, who would have had a tough time making the team, given the depth in the backcourt.

Wade cemented his spot after Colangelo watched him work out in Chicago recently. Wade has had chronic soreness in his left knee since undergoing surgery in 2007, and his season ended in March.

Wade started working out in Chicago in May, and James and Paul joined him to help sharpen his game. Colangelo paid a visit and left convinced the 6-foot-4 guard was healthy.

But where is Pierce?

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

 

 

 

 

 

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