BLOG: The PGA Comes To Merion
By Bill Campbell
The Eagles And The OTAs:
The Eagles have had nearly full participation in their previous three sessions of organized team activities. However, those OTA’s were strictly voluntary. The
final OTA which began last week and will run through this week is not voluntary, which means that the players who have been conspicuously absent risk fines if they are not at the NovaCare Complex. That includes people like cornerback Cary Williams and left tackle Jason Peters.
All indications are that there will be no notable absentees. However Williams, whom the Eagles signed to a three-year, $17 million deal in March, missed several days last month including May 13-15, when he got married, another day to attend his daughter’s dance recital and another to attend to some dental work.
You have to wonder if the season’s start in September is weighing on some guys’ minds.
Meanwhile Williams’ former team, the Baltimore Ravens, missed some OTA’s due to weather problems. But they will meet with President Obama this coming week at the White House where the president will honor the Super Bowl champions. An Eagles spokesman did announce that both Williams and reserve quarterback, Dennis Dixon, a former member of the Ravens’ practice squad, would not be going to Washington. Hopefully, they’ll be working out in South Philly.
Cory Williams has admitted that he is behind in learning Coach Chip Kelly’s defense. But apparently it doesn’t worry him because he plans to catch up in training camp. Williams said recently, “The cream always rises to the top,” suggesting that he’s in that “cream” category.
As for Jason Peters, he’s missed the last two weeks of OTA’s tending to “personal issues”. Almost everyone remembers that Peters missed all of last season due to Achilles tendon surgery so one would think he needs all the OTA time he can get.
Safety Ken Phillips missed last Friday’s work-out because his wife is expecting their first child.
LeSean McCoy missed practice on Friday too although he was present in the morning, doing some lifting. But he left in the early afternoon on a personal matter, the nature of which was not disclosed.
The Golf Scene:
This week belongs to golf as the U.S. Open comes to Merion. Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott, the top three players in the world, will play together in the 113th Open, which gets underway on Thursday at 7:00 a.m. It runs through Sunday.
A quick look at the tee times reveals that Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Keegan Bradley will tee off at 7:11 a.m., followed by Sergio Garcia, Stewart Cink and Padraig Harrington at 7:44 a.m. In the afternoon, Jim Furyk, Graeme McDowell and Zack Johnson will start at 1:03 followed by Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott at 1:14 p.m. This threesome surely will draw the biggest gallery all week, even when they tee off on Friday at 7:44 a.m. from the 11th tee out in Haverford Township.
This is the third consecutive year that the U.S. Golf Association has grouped the top three players in the first two rounds of the Open and the first time that the world’s number one and two players have played together in a major tournament.
Many have wondered if Woods, now 37 years old, would return to his place in the golfing world but he has shown no lasting effects of the knee, neck or Achilles tendon injuries which hampered him in the past. Nor have his off-course problems kept him down. He’s having a big year, racking up four victories of late and appearing to be healthier and happier that he has been in some time. We’re hearing a lot about his new girlfriend, Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, who attended a gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with him last month. But now Woods returns to the art of sculpting his golf game.
Authorities are predicting 100,000 spectators during the week of the Open at Merion requiring additional volunteer staff to manage the crowds, food, sanitation, cars, transport and parking. They also forecast about $100 million stimulus to the Main Line thanks to this event. Of course, the biggest concern after traffic control is the weather which has been a big topic on the Golf Channel this week where they’ve been commenting round the clock on our giving some of the worst weather in PGA history so far – and showing us Tiger Woods, practicing at Merion in the rain.
The only hiccup in Woods’ season appeared about a week or so ago in the Memorial Tournament played at Muirfield, Ohio, an event he’s won five times. He tied for 65th there. He couldn’t make a putt, superb putter that he usually is. It was shocking to see him struggle on the greens there. When asked what he needed to work on to prepare for Merion, Woods answered, “Everything.”
He credits much of his improvement this year to the various swing changes he’s made but nothing was working at the Memorial. Yet he expressed his excitement about coming to Merion.
“All of the great champions down through the years have been great shot-makers,” said Woods, “Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino, David Graham. They’ve all been able to shape the ball. On a great course like Merion you have to be able to shape the ball.”
Clearly, this art was on his mind but he added, “You also have to have outstanding discipline. If you look at the list of players who have won here, they were all disciplined players.”
Woods appears to have put a lot of thought into this match. He’s already won ten major golf titles. In his first nine years as a pro. If he continues at this pace, he can tie or break the record of 18 held by Jack Nicklaus – the guy who lost at Merion to Lee Trevino in a play-off in 1971.
The Baseball Dopers:
It looks like Major League Baseball is trying to clean up its act when it comes to drugs, surpassing pro football, basketball and hockey with an aggressive anti-doping stance.
It’s about time.
Baseball is, at least, talking about more significant fines and suspensions of 100 days for drug use, to start. This is something that is, indeed, good for the short and long term health of the game. But you have to infer that baseball is most willing to go to war in the battle against players taking performance-enhancing drugs because the problem has arisen again despite the measures the sport already has taken—and it’s said that the names of the latest players to be caught using will be surprising because they are so well-known.
Major League Baseball is reportedly going to pursue suspensions of at least 20 players as a result of an investigation of a Miami clinic that allegedly is supplying drugs to players. This indeed would be another black eye for baseball but the other three major sports have to examine themselves as well.
Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., recently said, “Baseball is probably more looked at, more scrutinized, than the other sports.”
But that doesn’t mean that they are exempt from these problems.
The MLB first tried to get federal agencies involved in investigating the suspect Miami clinic, Biogenics, but they weren’t very interested and decided to cut a deal with clinic owner, Tony Bosch. The game indemnified him against liability in exchange for his records which would be used to build a case against the suspected players.
Amaro seems to feel that baseball has a very stringent drug-testing program and that the business currently under consideration proves it. But the art of getting away with doping always seems to be a step ahead of those who are trying to catch the users. It’s time that all players who are using these banned substances be exposed and for the other pro sports to get into this conversation.
Weekend Sports Results:
Palace Malice won a thrilling duel down the stretch at the Belmont last Saturday to beat Preakness winner, Oxbow, and Kentucky Derby champion, Orb. Palace Malice went off at 3-1, rewarding backers for $29.60, $11.20 and $6.90.
The other surprising feature of the Belmont was the surprisingly small size of the crowd — 47,562. It’s been 35t straight seasons we’ve had a Triple Crown winner. Affirmed won the three in 1978 and no horse has done it since.
Doctors predict that Jim Kelly, the once-great Buffalo Bills quarterback, will have a “successful outcome” after undergoing cancer surgery last weekend on his upper jaw. The Erie County Medical Center says the surgery went very well and that the 53-year-old Kelly should recover quickly.
Cleveland Browns receiver, Josh Gordon, was suspended without pay for the season’s first two games for violating the NFL’s substance policy. He used a banned cough medicine while recovering from strep throat in February.
And North Carolina’s leading scorer, P.J. Hairston, was arrested midweek in Durham on a marijuana possession charge.
Cleveland Indians all-star closer Chris Perez’s name also was in the news. He and his wife received marijuana in the mail –in their dog’s manure.
Who knows what next week will bring?
The two worst teams in the NL East played the longest major league baseball game in over three years last weekend. The New York Mets and the Miami Marlins played 20 innings on Saturday and 10 innings on Sunday with the Marlins winning both games. The Mets demoted first baseman Ike Davis along with two other players to Triple A Las Vegas after Sunday’s defeat. He’d been making $3.25 million playing first base since April 10th but was hitting 161 with 66 strikeouts. When it was his turn at bat on Sunday, Manager Terry Collins sent in a pinch hitter and benched Davis. He’s in quite a slump.
And the Phils are in a bit of a slump on the road. We’ll talk about that next week.