8 Things To Look For: 2014 Masters
LOS ANGELES — The legendary comedic actor Tim Meadows once said, as Tiger Woods on a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit, “golf is great and I love golf and whatnot.” And he’s right, though I’m not sure what the “whatnot” is anymore since Tiger, well, ya know, gave up all the whatnot. Regardless, golf is nearly the perfect game in the sense that all its glory and goathood rests squarely on your shoulders. You’re not competing against anyone else except yourself and the golf course, which makes for a 5-hour battle of will and determination. The ultimate mental game, if you’ve ever swung a club you know exactly what I mean, golf pushes your limits in ways other sports can’t. I taught myself how to play 15 years ago, molded my swing after watching countless pros on TV throughout the years and reading magazines and infomercials, and am still a gigantic hack. Just when I think I have the game figured out, my ball striking goes into a funk or I can’t putt to save my life. This ever happen to you: if one aspect of you game is on point, another is completely off kilter? All the time right? It’s a good thing I’m not a professional. I’d have won and lost my Tour card a dozen times by now and more than once gone completely Tin Cup by breaking all my clubs out of frustration during a round.
As it were, I didn’t completely embarrass myself this past week at Lakeside Golf Course in Toluca Lake, Calif. in a Red Cross Celebrity Golf Tournament. What was I doing there? Good question. Let’s just say it’s good to know people. But it was hands down the nicest course I’ve ever played on, with pristine fairways and the smallest, neatly manicured greens I’ve ever seen in person. And fast. Dang were those greens fast. It was a modified scramble, so my final score 87 was much more generous than I would’ve shot had I been required to use my own tee shot each hole, but still, considering I’ve hit the links twice in the last 9 months, I’ll take it. Point is, the round was the perfect way to begin Masters week. And because I’m always looking out for you guys, here’s my 8 Things To Look For: 2014 Masters:
1.) Where Is Tiger Woods? — So Eldrick announced last week he was going to miss the Masters to have surgery to alleviate the pain in his aching back, thus missing his favorite even for the first time since 1994, ya know, when he wasn’t yet on Tour. We all know the next year he set the scoring record and took the golf world by storm. So let’s just assume that’s going to happen next year.
2.) Wait, Really? Tiger’s Not Playing? — Really! And I’m pretty bummed out about it (as I tweeted out shortly after his announcement), as Tiger is hands down my favorite golfer and a main reason people watch on Sundays, especially at Augusta where even though he’s been up-and-down the last few years, he’s always found in himself in contention heading into the Back 9. I really think his absence will affect ratings but I guess we’ll see if the Masters truly are Tiger-proof. It won’t be the same without him this year, that’s for sure. Think of all the great Augusta moments in the last 19 years that he’s been a part of! It’s amazing.
3.) Can Adam Scott Win This Thing Again? — Here’s the most crazy stat in the last five years of golf: 19 of the last 21 majors have been won by someone different. On top of that, there hasn’t been a consecutive Masters champion since Tiger in 2001-’02, so you’d think something has to give, right? Clearly Scott, an Aussie, has the game to repeat and he’s off to a good start this season with four Top 12 finishes in five events. Knowing he can win at Augusta is a big mental hurdle to overcome and with that in his back pocket he’s already a leg up on those who have faltered in years past.
4.) Who Is The Next Young American Champ? — Speaking of, and with Tiger out, I’m ready for a new, young American to come on the scene and really take charge and ignite some excitement among U.S. golf fans. It’s been a while. We need a stateside Rory McIlroy. So let me just throw out five names to keep an eye on in the next couple days:
Keegan Bradley: The Vermont native is 27, a Red Sox fan and will be wearing sick Jordan XI golf shoes throughout the tournament. (Hey, I’m easy to please.)
Harris English: The 24-year old is from Georgia, has five Top 10 finishes dating back to last October, and wait for it, we have the SAME BIRTHDAY. That makes him rootable in my book.
Ricky Fowler: Of course, any list of upcoming Americans has to include Fowler, who’s only 25 believe it or not. And while he’s struggled on the course of late, you know he’s going to have one of the craziest outfits out there, and that counts for something.
Webb Simpson: Remember, Simpson won the U.S. Open back in 2012, so you know he’s got major game. Plus, he’s only 28 and also has five Top 10s since October. Another major win here would really elevate his status as a serious contender to take Tiger’s place among American superstars.
Patrick Reed: Then we have Reed, who shocked everyone a couple weeks ago by donning the red shirt on Sunday a la Tiger and then went out and beat him. Only 23, he’s proven to have the moxie to hang with the big boys but Augusta chews up and spits out hopefuls for breakfast.
5.) Will Fred Couples Be Near Leaderboard This Weekend? — Freddy is like your cool uncle who lets you stay up late and watch the movie with some tities in it ,and maybe let you sip on his beer while you’re at it, which is why he’s one of the biggest fan favorites at this event each year. He also somehow seems to find himself in contention heading into the weekend. Couples, who won back in 1992, made a serious run last year before sliding off late and finishing 13th. As always with Couples, it’ll be how long is back can hold up in that Georgia heat.
6.) Will A Past Champion Make A Run? — There are 19 former champions in the field this year and those with the best realistic shot to contend include Angel Cabrera (2009), Adam Scott (2013), Phil Mickelson (2004, ’06, ’10), Charl Schwartzel (2011) and Bubba Watson (2012).
7.) How Many Times Will Jim Nantz Say “Hello, Friends”? — Get ready to hear it A LOT in the next four days. I’m talking like at least 438 times. And while we’re here, get ready for talk about the azaleas, Butler Cabin, Amen Corner, Hogan’s Bridge, Eisenhower Tree (which is gone from the 17th hole), Condi Rice being a member now and how it’s a tradition unlike any other. In fact, you might want to play a Jim Nantz Drinking Game or two while you’re crushing cheese sandwiches and watching the Masters package on DirecTV. Better yet, don’t. There’s no reason to end up in the hospital on Friday. It’s a long weekend of golf.
8.) Tiger’s Really Not Playing? — Unless he’s been secretly in the WWE the last month with Vince McMahon plotting what would be the coolest ruse ever, then yes, Tiger’s really not playing. Trust me, you’ll live without him.
Time To Let Johnny Just Play Football
LOS ANGELES — If “Varsity Blues” taught me anything about Texas it’s a) waffles dipped in peanut butter and washed down with maple syrup sounds amazing but looks disgusting, b) when your parents go to the Gun Club is a good time to have a sundae, and c) if you are extremely talented at throwing, running or hitting someone with a football you’re treated like a god. And rightfully so. I mean, who needs high school Sex Ed class when you can have show-and-tell with the teacher at the local strip joint?
Here’s what I know through observation about Johnny Manziel: he is famous for playing football in the state of Texas. That’s what happens when you become the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, compile 516 total yards and 4 touchdowns in winning your bowl game by 28 points, and behave like a rock star in the subsequent six months since. Texas A&M’s quarterback has also become famous for being famous; for showing up courtside at NBA Playoff games, carving up Pebble Beach and being photographed with models at bars. A sports version of Paris Hilton, only with talent and minus a sex tape, so far.
It’s a pretty good life, if you can get it. Manziel even came under fire earlier in July for leaving the Manning Passing Camp in Louisiana early due to “dehydration” and “exhaustion.” Reports, though, had Manziel out partying the night before with Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, among others. Johnny Football also appeared in the same day at SEC’s media day in Birmingham, Ala. and the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. Again, good life if you can handle it.
And that’s where the wheels have come off in the last few months. The “handling it” part. I tend to lean towards the “20-year olds like to act like 20-year olds” camp, and let him figure out his life along the way. Ya know, much like we all did. Jon Voight’s line from VB makes a lot of sense to me: when he’s eating in the diner and asks the cops if his boys are too much to handle; the cops quit complaining and say “no” and go on their way. We need to stop complaining, stop hounding and stop fishing in Manziel’s pond, and all this will go away and he can be just another wildly exciting and talented football player with oodles of potential.
I tweeted this a while ago and stand by it: I’m rooting hard for a fantastic Eff You season from Manziel this fall and then three months of “should he be the first QB taken in the Draft” debate. But mostly, I’m rooting for peace of mind for the kid. He didn’t ask for all this nonsense, but he’s not behaving like he doesn’t like it. In a way, all the great ones do. He needs to figure out what kind of hero he wants to be.
ESPN’s Wright Thompson wrote a pretty brilliant piece on Manziel and his family that posted Tuesday detailing his insane life and what it’s become. I strongly recommend it while at the same time feeling like I’m contributing to his exploitation by reading/writing about it. Alas, an argument for another time. Without giving too much away, I figured I’d run down some of the more surprising reveals in the piece, with some commentary, of course:
- The Manziels have money from oil: not surprising, I guess, but I’m glad this mystery has been solved once and for all. Maybe it was well known, but I always wondered how JF was “rich” in the first place. And how awesome was it that people used to think the family was a) mobbed up (I’m willing to bet back in the day the mob couldn’t pick out Texas on map) and b) the dad described it as “not Garth Brooks money” but still “a lot”? Good to know Garth is still the go-to country reference for some folks.
- Johnny is a golf club thrower/breaker: probably the least shocking reveal in the piece. Oh, you’re telling me this crazy person competitive athlete with a temper problem throws golf clubs and wants to break them after every bad shot?! Welcome to all of our hack golfing lives, buddy.
- JF has a personal assistant: not only is he a college student with a personal assistant but it’s a high school buddy nicknamed “Uncle Nate.” I’ve known a few people with assistants/managers and every time they started a sentence with “Well, my manager said…” I’ve wanted to punch them in the face. So I can see how this would make people believe Manziel isn’t exactly shying away from any unwanted spotlight.
- JF’s parents wanted to get “jffmom” and “jffdad” on their license plates: how awesome is that, that your parents are so proud of you they’re willing to suggest the F-word on their vehicles at all times in your name? I can see BrockmanMary’s yellow whip now: cfbmom. His sister should be ashamed for talking them out of this. They should at least change their Twitter handles to that, right? Or get hats. Something!
- Tiger Woods is an asshole: let’s be honest, that had to have been the least-shocking reveal in the whole piece.
- There’s a Pantheon of Overgrown-Boy Drinks: who knew? I anxiously await the rest of this list to slowly be leaked by Texas A&M this season.
- JF is friends with, and hung out with, Drake: Drake seems like the least-cool rapper I’ve ever seen. Drake should fly across the country to hang out with Manziel to pick up some cool pointers or something, not the other way around.
- The waiter casually asks JF if he wants another beer: this reminded me of the scene in VB when after his first win Moxon puts the bottle of Coke on the counter and the clerk quickly replaces with a six-pack of beer and says, “nice game ,son.” Just completely normal way of doing things, nothing to see here. #TexasForever
- JF is a tickler: so long as he’s not a Tickle Monster, we’re all set.
Day Off Golf — An Underdog Tale
LOS ANGELES — There are hundreds of way to describe golf. John Feinstein called it “A Good Walk, Spoiled.” Roy McAvoy said it’s, “the greatest game ever invented.” Others call it a testament of will, determination and focus, with a little bit of skill and luck mixed in. I say, if you can play golf, you do anything. I’ve played countless sports at all different levels and golf is the only one that brings such frustration and joy from one athletic move to the next. Concentration is key, perfection is unattainable. One shot can be perfect and the next a disaster. It’s glorious.
On Tuesday, Esco, The Zach Daddy, Buy Or Sellz and myself hit the links for some off-day golfing at Rancho Park. Divots were made. Snacks were consumed. Curse words were yelled from the hilltops and no records were broken; only our egos. Laugh at our terrible swings, be inspired (to do what, I don’t know) and enjoy. But mostly laugh.
Here is our story.