The Masters today lived up to the hype. Very interesting. The big story, obviously, is that Tiger is just two strokes off the pace. Watching him today was intriguing. For the most part he was just what he always has been, and the rust wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. It was there, though. Two times really stuck out – a blown approach shot which he knew was bad as soon as he hit it (and threw a ridiculous temper tantrum), and a 10-footer for eagle that he would have had in better days. Still, though, it was a better showing than I was expecting, and I have an easier time believing he could win it – though I am still not betting on it.
What was most striking today was the impact of experience. In the Top 15 there are seven winners of majors, including five guys with green jackets, and three guys over 50. The best way to have done well today was to have done well in the past. The performances by Fred Couples and Tom Watson are pleasant surprises, but the most shocking thing to me was the play of Phil Mickelson. He has been beyond terrible all year, yet he played as well as he ever has at Augusta today. I won’t believe that he can keep it up until I see it, but it was a good start.
What is an appearance in the NCAA championship game worth to a coach of a mid-major? Twelve years, apparently. Butler’s Brad Stevens has been given a 12 year extension by the school. The money hasn’t been released, but you can bet it’s a fair bit more than the $750,000 he has been making. This will only keep the other schools at bay for a year at most, but it’s still a good and well deserved deal.
There was the least likely gem of a pitching duel possible today when the Rangers and the Jays played at Arlington. Second year Jay Ricky Romero was very good, giving up just one run in the seventh while striking out four, walking two, and throwing about 65 percent strikes. He was outshone, though, by Texas’ C.J. Wilson. The converted reliever was brilliant – nine strikeouts and just two walks in seven scoreless innings. Sadly, the bullpen failed Wilson, and he was no factor in a 3-1 loss. There are few things I like about baseball more than seeing an unexpectedly brilliant game like that. The Jays ended up winning two of three in Texas, and they probably should have swept. They aren’t a talented team, but they are feisty enough to keep an eye on.
Amazing stat of the day – three of the top seven scoring leaders in the NHL are Canadians who didn’t make the Olympic team – Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis, and Steven Stamkos – and the Canadians still won gold. There’s a good argument to be made that the second best team in the world right now would be Canada’s second team.