All posts by chrisarnaudo

He’s Baaaaack (Maybe)

On April 4, Tiger Woods registered for the 2016 U.S. Open.

Yes, you read that right. The 2000, 2002, and 2008 U.S. Open champion will be there once again to battle this year’s defender Jordan Spieth.

Tiger has not played in a tournament yet this season, as he has been trying to recover from two back surgeries. But, he has been swinging the club. Not just golf fans, but sports fans all around the world have been waiting to see if Tiger can return to his original form.

Last year, Woods had his worst 36-hole performance of his career in the 2015 U.S. open, going 16-over and badly missing the cut. This year, assuming he doesn’t pull his name from the tournament, he’s probably looking for something a little better than that. Simply making the cut will do wonders for his confidence, and will show us that there’s hope for future Tiger, who is now into his 40s.

His age certainly isn’t the concern. Phil Mickelson is just over a month away from 46 and, although he hasn’t won a major since the 2013 Open Championship, he is still playing competitive golf at a very high level.

So am I saying Tiger still has another major left in him? It’s hard to say, not having seen him in a tournament since the 2015 season. But, from what I do know about Tiger, I would say one more major is definitely in reach.

Masters Week

Now, I don’t like to pick favorites. All four major tournaments are equally as exciting year in, year out. But, it’s difficult to say that The Masters isn’t the cream of the crop.

Just look at this place.

masters
during the third round of the 2015 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2015 in Augusta, Georgia

From tee to green, Augusta National Golf Club is majestic. The fact that The Masters is always held here is definitely one of the reasons it makes the tournament so special.

So, what does this storied tournament have in store for us this week? It’s impossible to predict moments such as the Bubba Watson recovery on 10 in the 2012 playoff, or Tiger’s chip-in on the 16th in 2005, but you can try to predict who will be in the position to make such shots down the stretch.

So, I’ll give it a go.

I’ll start with my favorite, who is just so hard to pick against when looking at his recent success at Augusta. In 2014 he tied for 2nd, and won it all last year. Yes, Jordan Spieth is my favorite to throw on the green jacket this sunday. Not all that surprising, even though he is now the #2 in the world, behind the Australian Jason Day. Spieth has had a rough go for the better part of 2016, but has picked it up as of late. He was eliminated in the round of 16 two weeks ago at the WGC-Dell Match Play after having a great three days leading up to the weekend, winning all three group stage matches in convincing fashion. A T13 finish in the Shell Houston Open this past weekend isn’t something to throw a party over, but it showed us what he is capable of doing. That is making putts from 20ft out, and getting into contention on Sunday by birdieing 5 of the first 6 holes. Should prove to be a good little tune-up tournament going into the big one.

My dark horse vying for his second major is Louis Oosthuizen, the South African and the world #16 player.  Not only has he won a major already (2010 Open Championship), but he’s been in contention at The Masters once before. That was in 2012 when he lost in a two-hole playoff to Bubba Waston. Louis has also had a pretty good year despite not having won a tournament yet, tying for 7th at the Valspar Championship and coming in second to Jason Day at the WGC-Dell Match Play. It’s worth noting that he went 3-0 in the group stage and eventually knocked off Jordan Spieth in the round of 16.

I won’t give him a great shot to win the whole tournament, but watch out for amateur Bryson Dechambeau. He got the invitation from Augusta National after his stellar 2015 season, winning the NCAA Men’s Individual and the U.S. Amateur. Dechambeau dubs himself as a golf scientist, who takes the emotions out of his game. If he really can do that, then it should just be another 4 rounds of golf. What’s so intriguing about Dechambeau is that he uses an unconventional swing, with clubs that are all the same height and length that only vary in loft degree. His thinking is that he can perfect one swing that doesn’t differ from his 3-iron to his 58-degree wedge, all in order to simplify the game.

There are definitely notables missing from this short list, including two-time champions Phil Mickleson and Bubba Watson. Then, there’s the world #1, #3, #4 in Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, and Rickie Fowler. Day has been hot, winning both of his last two starts, but he’s been battling back pain and an illness just last week. He might be playing his best golf right now but, his back is always a slice away from going out again. Rory McIlroy has only been in contention in a couple tournaments this year and has been brutal with the putter. Finally, Rickie Fowler has a win all the way back in November and hasn’t had it early on in tournaments which have lead him to having to climb back on Saturdays and Sundays to where he just runs out of holes.

Then again, this is golf and anyone who brings it for four rounds come Thursday could walk away with it. Maybe even Jim Herman.

Either way, it’s Masters week baby.

 

 

 

Spieth Mid-Season Review

The 2016 PGA season is now in full swing, and with just a few weeks until The Masters, on April 7, the world #1 Jordan Spieth hasn’t exactly had a world #1 season…yet.

Spieth’s season began with a win at Kapula, Hawaii on the Plantation Course in the Hyundia Tournament of Champions, going -30 and winning by a total of 8 shots over Patrick Reed. It looked as though Jordan was going to continue his tear through the PGA Tour.

To find Spieth’s last top-ten finish, you have to travel back to the Singapore Open in late Janurary, where he finished 2nd. His next four tournaments were different stories.

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am 2016: T21

2016 Northern Trust Open: Missed cut

2016 WGC-Cadillac Championship: T17

2016 Valspar Championship: T18 (won in 2015)

The 2016 WGC-Dell Match Play will be Jordo’s last tournament until The Masters, so it will be important for him have a weekend to gain some momentum going into golf’s biggest stage.

It certainly won’t be easy, with Jason Day (now the world #2) winning his first tournament of the year this past weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and world #4 Rickie Fowler having a pretty good season propelled by a win in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Oh, and former world #1 Adam Scott has won back-to-back tournaments already this season. And you can’t forget about the two lefties, Phil (who has three top-five finishes), and Bubba (who has a win at the NTrust Open).

You may realize that a very big name has been left off this list. Rory McIlroy has never won a Masters tournament, and it is the only major left on his career grand-slam checklist. The former world #1 hasn’t won since last season, and has only one top-five finish this season. He has been dynamite up until he hits to the green, where he is ranked 147th in total putting. With that being said Rory is not one of my favorites to win this year’s Masters.

It doesn’t sound like Tiger will be back for this year, but I would put my money on the fact that we have not seen the last of Tiger Woods at the Masters.

That pretty much sets the stage for what should be a wild next few weeks.

 

Bruins In Trouble?

I know, they’ve won four of their last six contests, and are sitting a point back from second place in the division. That point though? Could have been gained on Sunday against the team that’s directly above them in the standings. They lost 6-5 to Detroit, in a back-and-forth, matinee battle. The loss kept them at 66 points, and leap-frogged the Red Wings to a point ahead of them in the Atlantic.

While many are looking to highlights of Brad Marchand having one his best seasons of his NHL career, I’m looking at the back-end. The abysmal defense even Claude Julian cannot seem to fix. Between Chara, who has been a shell of his elite self this past year-and -a-half, Krug, Seidenberg, Mcquaid (injured), K. Miller, Trotman, C. Miller, and Morrow neither you can point to and say he’s our shutdown guy this year. That is certainly worrisome. As we all know that, in this league, a deep cup-run is warranted by, at least, two lines of shutdown defensemen.

Yes, we have a top-5 goaltender. But, even Rask, when not playing shaky, can’t bail out the likeness of an undeveloped Colin Miller, slow as molassis Kevin Miller, deteriorating Zedno Chara, and offensively minded Torey Krug.

Hockey fans in Boston are scratching their heads watching the Celtics get all the buzz. They’re 32-23, and good. Comfortably 3rd in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins? 30-20-6 and haven’t defeated a playoff team since the Rangers over a month ago (January 16).

So, are the Bruins in trouble? I’d say.

Broncos Best Patriots in a Thriller

As ratings continue to soar to heights never thought to be possible, the product on the field in this 2015 NFL Season continues to bore me. In years past, I could sit on my couch and watch any NFL game on TV, without having to flip over to RedZone or scroll through twitter half the game. This year, that doesn’t quite hold true.

As of right now, there are 6 teams in the league that hold 2nd place spots in their division with a record of 6-5. The two other 2nd place teams are the 7-4 Packers, and the 5-6 Giants, who are tied for 1st in the NFC East with Washington. That whole division is under .500. And then, there are 5 teams that have records with 3 wins or less. Bad football across the board.

Last night, the Patriots visited Denver for Sunday Night Football, and finally, after a day of mediocre football, we got what we were looking for. A game.

It was the first game all day, and maybe even all year, where I was highly invested in each and every snap.

Snow-game, Brady vs. Osweiler (Manning’s successor), big plays, and some bone-crushing collisions, an art that has been lost over the past few seasons.

Although it was one of the toughest games to watch as a Pats fan, I genuinely enjoyed it. The conditions made it turn into a gritty, old-school gridiron game.

The battle up front truly resembled trench warfare. Von Miller almost single handedly won that game for Denver. He wore down the young New England O-line, and it soon became a game of just trying to slow him down, because there was no stopping him. But, the Patriots swung right back, sending linebackers from every which way, beating up the young Osweiler in the 4th quarter.

Props to Brock. Yes, the referees had a hand in that contest, but at the end of the day, this Arizona kid came to play when it meant the most. It’s easy to pack it in after a couple of brutal drives in the first half, especially being a guy who is only in his 2nd NFL start, with seemingly zero expectations. He got it done, against a phenomenal defense, under the bright lights.

What made this game so great to watch was the competitiveness. Every single guy out there wanted it, besides maybe Demarius Thomas who seems to really shy away from the big games (1 catch on 13 targets). But, from Tom’s emotion after having to take a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty, to Bill screaming some obscenities on the sideline, to C.J. Anderson putting Denver on his back to get their offense finally going. It was just incredible football to watch and be a part of as a fan.

I do wish the refs would take a step back a little with the PI and OPI calls though, because Gronk’s and Chung’s were down right absurd, and maybe had an impact on the outcome of the game. But, the rest? Letting some roughing the passer’s go, I think I’m sort of ok with. Yes, Tom got murdered when a Denver LB clobbered him after leaving his feet and the pass being thrown, but hey, this is football. And Mayo got them back the very next series with a hammer on Osweiler. Bunch of kids just playing in the snow. Love it.

As for the future of the Patriots season; I think we’re going to be all right. As Aaron Rodgers once said, “R-E-L-A-X”. New England is now 10-1 (they were 9-2 at this point last year), with some cupcakes of games ahead. Gronk is hurt, but it sounds like he’ll be back. Edelman and ‘Dola will be back, along with Hightower and Jamie Collins. All in time for the playoffs, and Patriots fans know, that’s when games really matter (looking at you Peyton 🙂 ).

Royals Take The Crown

After being just 90 feet away from tying Game 7 of the World Series last season, the Kansas City Royals finished the job this year, in convincing fashion. The Royals defeated the New York Mets last night 7-2, after scoring 5 runs in the top of 12th inning, winning the series 4-1, and capturing it’s first title since 1985.

Hats off to the Royals, who weren’t even given a shot going into their 2015 campaign. ESPN and Sports Illustrated posted their preseason predictions on April 4th, featuring 21 of their baseball “experts”. Just two experts predicted KC to win the AL Central. And only one expert picked them to win the wild card. None of them picked the Royals to get to, or win the ALCS, never mind the World Series.

KC was getting no love, just a season after they had lost the World Series in 7 games. They were considered a flash in the pan, just barely getting into the postseason last year by beating Oakland in the Wild Card game.

Clearly they had some unfinished business to tend to.

They went on to win the AL Central, by 12 games, going 95-67. They ran into a hot Houston Astros team who gave them a run for their money, almost sending them home after 4 games, until the Royals rallied from down 6-2 to win the game 9-6, and eventually the series the next night. That was the theme all postseason, rallying and finding a way to win.

KC had to comeback in someway 8 of their 16 postseason games. Some of their win probabilities in those games; 25%, 18%, 16%, 10%, 8%, 5%,1%. Just numbers to them, as they found a way to win every time.

It wasn’t because of luck that this happened either, the Royals were simply good at playing baseball when down. Their ability to string together hits, get guys on, and move them along the bases was their best attribute.

The Royals also had one of the best bullpens in the MLB, and it proved so in the postseason, posting a 0.73 ERA, and a .149 opponent’s batting average.

I’m no expert but, I think the 21 guys that say they are, missed a couple things when ranking this Royals team preseason.

Side note: It’s always nice to see a baseball team win with a low payroll. KC had the 14th highest in the league, the last time a team won the WS with a payroll that low was the 2003 Florida Marlins.

Cubs Future is Bright

I’m one of those guys who doesn’t give credit to teams for getting close. If you didn’t win it all, you didn’t win at all. This is why I don’t like the beer and champagne showers after the Wild Card games. But that’s a different story for a different time.

This is about the Cubs and their fans, who, for this one time, get a pass. Now, I didn’t endure all 86 years of the Red Sox world series drought but, I did have to watch them lose Game 7 to the Yankees in 2003 so, I feel for what Chicago is going through.

The Cubs had an offseason that added names to their roster that made you at least turn your head and look. Starting with the acquisition of manager Joe Maddon, and starting pitcher Jon Lester. Maddon gave them a head on their shoulders, a smart one at that. And Lester gave them a big lefty who has had postseason success. And if you’re the Cubs, those are two things you really want.

Then, there was the emergence of the new guys. Jorge Soler debuted in late August of last season but, cracked the starting lineup this year and was a huge edition batting .262 and hitting in key spots throughout the playoffs. Both Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber had their first crack at the majors this year and did not disappoint. Schwarber hitting .246 and Bryant .275. Not bad for a couple of rooks. Oh and Bryant had 26 dingers to go along with it. That’s good.

Oh and their ace, Jake Arrieta posted a 1.77 ERA. That’s good.

Add it all up and you get a team that went 97-65, which was good enough for the 3rd best record in the league but, also 3rd best in their NL Central division. That’s good.

The Cubs are good, and it’s been awhile since we’ve been able to say that. So, fly that W Chicago, because I predict you’ll be flying it a lot in seasons to come. No, they didn’t win it all this year, and some say they weren’t all that close, getting swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS, but I disagree. This Cubs team has something special about them and I’m dying to find out what it is.

Red Sox beat them in six games next fall.