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How will Tiger Woods fare in return to golf?

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How will Tiger Woods fare in return to golf?

From Comcast SportsNet Thursday, August 4, 2011

AKRON, Ohio (AP) Add another list of numbers to show how much has changed in the world of Tiger Woods.

Geoff Ogilvy ran across a bookmaker's odds for the Bridgestone Invitational when he noticed Woods at 20-to-1. This would only be startling because Woods hasn't competed in three months while letting injuries to his left leg fully heal. In this case, however, Ogilvy considered that Woods has won a record seven times at Firestone, and until last year and never finished worse than fifth.

"Did you think you could ever get Tiger at Firestone at 20-1? Ever?" Ogilvy said to one of the caddies. "He was on 2-to-1 for a while."

Then he paused on the putting green, which was filled with players getting ready for a World Golf Championship that starts on Thursday.

"It's been an odd year," Ogilvy said.

The goal for Woods is to restore some normalcy, at least to his own game. He is coming up on the two-year anniversary of his last win on American soil. The last time he faced any competition inside the ropes, it lasted no more than nine holes at The Players Championship until he withdrew because of leg injuries.

Now, he claims he is as healthy as he has been in years - he wouldn't say how many years, just "plural." He has looked solid in a nine-hole practice round alone on Tuesday, and with Hunter Mahan and Arjun Atwal on Wednesday. Then again, practice rounds haven't always been a good indicator for Woods, except at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews in the summer of 2000.

What to expect Thursday? Not even Woods knows.

"I still haven't been in a competitive environment yet, so that's a totally different atmosphere," he said.

The Bridgestone Invitational features a 76-man field, which includes only four past champions in the 11-year history of this WGC event at Firestone - one win each for defending champion Mahan, Stewart Cink and Darren Clarke, and seven titles for Woods.

But that was the old Woods, the guy who won at least one World Championship every year since 1999.

The recovering Woods?

He said his expectation was to win, just like always. Some of his peers, who have seen his action over 20 winless months and haven't seen him the past three months, aren't so sure.

"No one expects him to come out and play well," U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy said. "I'm sure he expects himself to come out and play and compete, but given the length of layoff and considering that he's only been able to hit full shots for the last two weeks or whatever, it would be an unbelievable effort if he was to come back and compete. But I think just get through 72 holes and maybe finish top 20 would be a really good effort."

After playing the back nine under gray clouds, Mahan said this about Woods on Twitter: "The swing looks great and the knee looks even better."

Then again, Mahan is slightly biased because both employ Sean Foley as a swing coach.

Whatever the expectations, the level of curiosity about Woods is close to what it was when he returned from his sex scandal at the 2010 Masters. There was something about the way he left The Players Championship on May 12 that made it look as though he would never be the same, that the four surgeries on his left knee would keep him from dominating the way he once did.

Three months later, there was a confidence with Woods when he spoke about his health, and being patient to let his legs heal properly.

"I think for some of the young guys, they've never seen Tiger Woods play Tiger Woods golf," Mahan said. "They've never even come close to seeing it. I don't think he has to prove anything, but I think he's one of those guys, kind of like (Michael) Jordan, he takes every single thing that someone says and he's going to turn it into this massive gas on a fire that he's got burning right now. I think he's ready, man.

"A motivated Tiger and someone who has a challenge in front of him is a good thing for him."

Woods tees off at 1:40 p.m. with Clarke, a longtime friend who last month captured his first major at the British Open. Two groups behind them will be Adam Scott, noteworthy only because Scott now uses Steve Williams, whom Woods fired as a caddie a month ago. Woods is using Bryon Bell, a childhood friend who last worked for him six years ago at Disney.

Another reunion occurred during his practice round when he put his old Scotty Cameron putter - the one he used in 13 major wins - back in his bag. Whether it stays there won't be known until he tees off.

The field is comprised of the last Ryder Cup team members from both sides, selected winners on six tours around the world and the top 50 in the world ranking. Firestone South looks strong as ever, with rough framing the tree-lined fairways and greens that are as pure as ever.

It's a World Golf Championship, with an even greater prize waiting next week in Atlanta for the PGA Championship.

This week could go a long way in determining whether Woods can be a factor, there, too. Once a sure thing at Firestone, he now is an unknown.

"It would be maybe a little intimidating if you knew for sure that he was going to come back and play the way he did in 2000 or 2001," McIlroy said. "But who knows for sure what way the game is going to go?"

Why Steph Curry can never, ever chuck his mouthpiece again

Why Steph Curry can never, ever chuck his mouthpiece again

Stephen Curry knows he asked for this one. Begged for it. Wanted it so bad he not only ripped his mouthpiece out of his face but also wound up and fired it in the direction of a game official.

He has to be, and likely is, pleased that the NBA wanted nothing more than a $50,000 bite out of his newly fortified paycheck.

“It was a dumb thing to do. Stupid,” he said after shootaround Monday morning. “Learn from it and try to move on and be better.”

It was not nearly enough for the league that Curry apologized immediately after the mouthpiece-tossing incident that got him tossed in the fourth quarter of the Warriors’ 111-101 loss to the Grizzlies on Saturday. Apologies don’t carry much weight in these matters and they are entirely weightless when it’s a second offense.

And that’s what this was, as you may recall Curry flinging his mouthpiece late in Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. He was tossed from that game, too.

Of more importance, and what Curry has to take away from this is that he can’t afford another offense. Ever. Though he surely can afford it monetarily, it would rob the Warriors of their offensive catalyst.

Throwing a mouthpiece once is a forgivable mistake. Doing it twice is a relapse that some may forgive while others definitely will not. Doing it three or more times falls into the selfish category, even if selfishness is not a characteristic fairly applied to the two-time MVP.

It’s conceivable that no one in the NBA gets pushed and grabbed and knocked around as much, without a whistle, as does Curry. Part of this is on him, for not being better at selling calls. Part of it is on officials who typically use a different standard for him than those usually set for MVP-caliber players.

Through it all, and it has gone on for years, Curry rarely says a peep. He plays on, simmering, but staying on task.

“I think people on the outside automatically think that these guys can control everything and be robots and score 35 and be perfectly composed,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Monday morning. “But they’re all human beings, just like the rest of us. There’s going to be times where you lose your mind. There’s going to be times where you get angry and times where you’re in perfect mental and you’re playing at a high level and everything is under control.

But nobody can keep that level 100 percent of the time.”

Curry’s actions Saturday in Memphis were only partly the result of the officiating. The Warriors were losing, again. Curry was committing silly fouls, again. It was a buildup of unfavorable events and he lost it.

“We were playing terrible,” Curry said Monday morning. “I was frustrated because I was fouling. I thought I got fouled on the last play. The reaction was definitely a little over the top.

“Stuff happens. I’m going to try to continue to be myself and show some fire, but do it in a way that doesn’t take away from the team and misrepresent who I am.”

Curry said Monday that he didn’t bother to review his actions because he knew how unbecoming they were. He also expressed regret about lashing out. There was no need to brace for the fine he knew was coming.

Next time, though it won’t be a fine that will take a fraction of his check. Next time, it’ll be a suspension that will take away a piece of the Warriors.

MLS respects timing more than dominance, so Quakes have a counterpuncher's chance

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USATSI

MLS respects timing more than dominance, so Quakes have a counterpuncher's chance

The San Jose Earthquakes cheated the reaper Sunday, which is news in and of itself. I mean, they’re a playoff team so rarely that getting to a 35th game is quite the achievement, and they should not begin the arduous process of sobering up until Tuesday morning.

I mean, their playoff game with Vancouver is Wednesday night, so slapping themselves back into form is probably a priority.

They got an improbable stoppage time goal from Marco Urena Sunday against Minnesota to sneak through the back door into the final Western Conference playoff spot Sunday, their first appearance in the postseason in five years. It was as electrifying a moment as Avaya Stadium has seen since it opened, and one of the best goals in franchise history if only for its importance.

That said, the Quakes also enter the postseason with a losing record (13-14-7) and the worst goal difference (minus-21) for any playoff team in league history. They are the most cinder-based of the league’s Cinderella stories, and are dismissed with prejudice by most observers as being as one-and-done as one-and-done can be without being none-and-done.

This is a league, though, that has respected timing more than dominance. In 2016, the Montreal Impact finished last in the East and got to the conference final; in 2012, Houston (which was a relocated Quakes team) just snuck in to the postseason and reached the final; in 2005 and 2009, the worst (Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake) ended up first.

In other words, the Quakes’ pedigree, modest though it is, still allows it a counterpuncher’s chance. Its attack, which is third-worst in the league, playoffs or no, is matched by its defense, which is fourth-worst in the league. Their years as a de facto vehicle for Chris Wondolowski are coming to a close, sooner rather than later. They are in no way an elegant team. They are working on their second coach of the year (Chris Leitch).

But therein lies their mutating charm. Their postseason pedigree stinks, but there is a no compelling reason why they cannot cheat a result or two. After all, the lower scoring a sport is, the greater chance for an upset, and the Quakes’ history screams that no franchise could use one more.

So they head for Vancouver, a raucous crowd and a difficult side, carrying with them only their humble resume and the indomitable cheek demanded of the upstart. I mean, anybody in their right mind would much prefer the Whitecaps’ chances, but you gotta be who you gotta be.

Plus, the Quakes are getting a 35th game, which is more than they had a right to expect, all things considered.