Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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I've written about Tiger, Rory, Spieth, Hoffman and Bubba so far this week, all available at startribune.com.
Wtih the blog, I like to be more informal, just to tell you what I got to see on the course.
-The fans (patrons!) I was around on Thursday reacted to Tiger Woods like he was in his prime. He generated the biggest galleries and drew the biggest cheers. I was stunned at how good his short game looked, given his troubles earlier this year, but he's having his old dispersion problems. In short, he doesn't know which way his misses will head.
His flailing shot from behind a tree on 17 was classic, old-school Tiger stuff. Fun to see even if he's in no condition to contend. He may, however, make the cut, which is more than I expected from him this week. And he has continued to play the nice guy, both in interviews and on the course. He put his arm around someone else's caddy walking to the putting green today, and was laughing and joking. I don't know if that's good for his competitive spirit, but it's interesting.
-Phil Mickelson still crushes his driver, and shot a 70 to tie for 12th.
-Rory McIlroy is seven shots behind Jordan Spieth. That's not insurmountable...unless Spieth is going to have a breakthrough week and run away from the field. McIlroy made two big mistakes when I was following him - hooking his drive into the creek on No. 2 and settling for par on a par-5, and having a chip roll back to his feet on No. 6, and salvaging bogey.
Those are his two flaws - hooking his driver and saving strokes with his short game. When he's on, he hits so many greens and dominates so many par-5s that his flaws don't hurt him.
-Justin Rose and Jason Day are the players on the first page of the leaderboard who, to me, offer the toughest competition to Spieth going forward, although Billy Horschel sounded very confident when he said, ``I'd love to be in the last pairing with Jordan on Sunday.''
Check in to Startribune.com for full coverage from The Masters.
Told you the Twins would score this season.
Charley Hoffman, who has one PGA Tour victory since 2010, took the early lead at the 2015 Masters with a 67. He eagled the 15th and shot 33 on the back nine. At the moment, Justin Rose is on the 17th hole and also is at five-under.
The last seven years, the winner of The Masters opened with a score in the 60s.
You can follow leaderboards elsewhere, so I'll offer personal observations from the course: It's packed. It's packed in places I haven't seen it packed before, and even around less-popular groups. I've never seen such a mob scene at Amen Corner.
It's difficult to see the more popular groups, at least from up close.
It's also stunning how quiet and still these large crowds can become when a player approaches the ball.
When you cover other majors, marshalls are constantly raising their arms and shushing the crowd. Here, the crowd quiets by itself.
There are some tough pin placements out there - on the ridge at No. 4, back right at No. 6, back left at 10, straight over the bunker on No. 12.
With Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson proving that lefties can win at Augusta, one popular question has been: Why now?
The most interesting answers:
1. Modern equipment allows lefties to play a fade without losing much distance, and a lefthanded fade is a necessary shot on this course.
2. As Watson noted, No. 12 is a pivotal hole, and it punishes shots that are long left and short right. Those are common misses for a righthander. A lefthander, Watson noted, usually misses short left and long right, which plays perfectly into the 12th green.
Newest podcasts at SouhanUnfiltered.com: Doug Mientkiewicz and Tom Kelly. Two great conversations with fascinating thinkers.
Walked Augusta National today. Saw a lot of salmon-colored shorts, pink-striped seersucker shorts, and heard this:
``Is that real grass?''
Yes, yes it is. That is real grass.
Picking the winner of a golf tournament has been silly since the days when it was reasonable to pick Tiger Woods against the field, but here are the golfers I think have the best chance to wear the green jacket (which does not go well with seersucker shorts):
-Rory McIlroy, the subject of my Thursday column, is the easy pick, for all the right reasons. He can hit a high and far, he can work the ball, he can putt, and he knows how to win under pressure. He has to be the favorite.
-Jordan Spieth: Playing well, contended last year at The Masters, great putter, wants to be great.
-Dustin Johnson: Seems to have straightened out his personal life, hits it as well as anyone on tour. The big question: Can he think his way around a course that will challenge your decision-making?
-Bubba Watson: The course is perfect for his game, but I can't believe he's going to become one of the rare players to repeat at The Masters.
-Jason Day: He's approaching best-player-to-never-win-a-major territory. Can he putt well enough on these tricky greens?
-Henrik Stenson: Had the flu all week. Can't imagine him having the stamina necessary to win.
Yes ,this course requires stamina. While golfers get picked on for not being great athletes in term of cardiovascular capabilities, walking 72 holes up and down hills under intense mental and emotional pressure will wear anyone out.
This is a beautiful course. It is also a challenging walk.
The Twins are 0-2. They lost to a great pitcher on Monday in a clean game. They looked horrible in a horrible game on Wednesday. They have yet to score.
Now, I believe the suspension of Ervin Santana had an emotional impact on the team, and also forced Ricky Nolasco, who should be a fourth starter, to take the ball in game 2. I believe Santana's suspension takes this team from having a chance to win 80-plus games to probably winning 76-78.
Outfield defense and bullpen depth are both concerns that played out poorly today.
-No team's fate is determined after two games. The '91 Twins were lousy for two weeks, and that turned out OK. If this were an NFL season, we'd be in the middle of the first quarter.
-This team finished seventh in the big leagues in runs last year largely because of contributions from Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas, who will be in the big leagues all year. Santana can hit. Dozier can hit. Mauer, when healthy, can hit. Vargas can hit. Plouffe has been relatively productive the last three years. Hunter should be fine. Arcia is a question mark but has lots of talent. Buxton and Sano could be in the majors by midseason.
I think the Twins will have to make a change in centerfield, and the bullpen will be a work in progress. But this team should score runs, and anybody who panics after two games should be watching a different sport.
In my latest podcast, Doug Mientkiewicz tells some stories I've never heard before, including what Terry Ryan said to him and Ron Gardenhire during a private and emotional meeting, all at SouhanUnfiltered.com
This is one of my favorite weeks of the year - covering the beginning of baseball season and The Masters.
Got to Augusta just in time for the aftermath of a shower. The forecasts are for intermittent showers all week, which should benefit long, high-ball hitters. So, yes, you should pick Rory McIlroy to win if you're in an office pool.
One of the first things I saw on the course today was a marshall cautioning a ``patron'' not to run. The ``patron'' - that's what Augusta National calls fans - turned and said to the marshall, ``Sorry, bro'.''
At The Masters, you may not carry a cell phone, run or lay down.
This is the rare case when I believe there are too few rules in play.
``Patrons'' should be ejected for using the following words:
-Bra' (not the garment, the Valley Boy/hipster pronunciation of ``Bro''
-You da man
The first time I saw Tyus Jones play, he was in eighth grade and starting at point guard for Apple Valley High. He spent most of the game throwing brilliant passes, but his team fell behind in the fourth quarter. I was about to ask the person next to me if he could shoot, when he started taking, and maknig, three-pointers, leading Apple Valley to a comeback victory.
Last night, in the national title game, Jones looked like exactly the same player.
If he declares for the draft, Jones would probably go in the middle of the first round.
I'd like to see him stay in college, become more of a focal point in Duke's offense, and get a little stronger. I could see him developing into a player with the same skill set as Steph Curry.
Now, that's a little ambitious. Curry is one of the best players in the NBA. But Jones reminds me of him, and at the least should be a quality point guard in the NBA.
Twins fans: You're not allowed to lament an Opening Day loss in which the Twins played a clean game.
You are allowed to lament the following:
-Santana's suspension putting pressure on the rest of the rotation.
-Santana's suspension placing more stress on an unproven group of middle relievers.
-Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson trying to play centerfield and produce offensively.
I'll be filing at least two stories a day all week at The Masters to the paper and Startribune.com.
I also just uploaded my latest podcast to SouhanUnfiltered.com: Former Twins manager Tom Kelly on Molitor, his stroke, broadcasting and spring training. Plus some old-time baseball stories.
Pinehurst, N.C. _ Martin Kaymer has reached 10-under par with a few holes left in his second round at the U.S. Open.
The last player to reach double-digits under par before the weekend at a U.S. Open? Rory McIlroy, when he set a record of 16-under when winning the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional.
The last player before McIlroy to do it? Well, no one.
Kaymer reached 10-under on his 32nd hole of the U.S. Open. The only player ever to reach 10-under quicker was, again, McIlroy at Congressional.
It rained at Pinehurst on Thursday night, and that has led to more-receptive greens. Kaymer is hitting the ball so well he has had no trouble holding greens, and when he made a bad swing on the par-3 6th, he easily got up and down from the bunker.
He’s threatening to make this a one-man tournament.
Former Gopher Donald Constable is two-over today after shooting an 81 in his first round. (I incorrectly called it an 82 earlier.)
Fellow former Gopher Clayton Rask tees off in about two hours.
I’ll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 from Pinehurst.
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