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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Just walked the front nine at Augusta National during practice rounds in preparation for The Masters.
I'm always struck by how pristine this place is. It is startling even when you expect it. Practice rounds were cancelled on Monday after a severe thunderstorm. It's still overcast, but dry, today.
First thought during the practice rounds: ``Huh. Mike Weir actually won this tournament once.''
I've already picked out my favorite grouping for Thursday: Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy will tee off at 9:52 Central time. Spieth is one of the best players in the game. McIlroy could this year become the best player in the game, and if he wins this week, he will have three-quarters of the career slam at the age of 24. Reed thinks he's one of the best players in the game.
You know what? He might be right. He's won three times on tour since joining the tour in 2011. He beat a great field at the WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier this year. I like that he's brash enough to call himself a top-5 player. Confidence is a great tool in golf.
I'll be filing posts and columns and tweeting from The Masters all week for the Star Tribune and startribune.com.
The Wolves blew it with their handlnig of the Dante Cunningham stuation.
Cunningham is alleged to have committed one of the most heinous crimes in our society. Yet the Wolves rushed him to Orlando, played him extensively, and then coach Rick Adelman acted like it was no big deal.
It's a big deal. While the NBA collective bargaining agreement states that a player shouldn't be suspended until he is given due process in our legal system, that doesn't mean the Wolves had to rush him to Orlando or play him like nothing had happened. Domestic assault isn't just a serious charge; it is a disgusting charge.
If I were the Wolves, I'd rather bench or suspend Cunningham than play him. I'd rather fight a grievance than let one mediocre player taint my organization's image.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 or so. I'll be calling in all week at the time, and will co-host Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon on Sunday from Augusta.
Phil Mickelson has been called a phony. He was the subject of an infamous anecdote, in which a golf writer overheard a player in a clubhouse, watching Mickelson prepare for a key shot in a tournament, yell at the TV for him to hit the ball in the water, not in such kind terms.
Some people see his salesman's smile and hide their wallets.
Here's the counterpoint to all of that: Mickelson has had one caddy his entire career, and not only has not never blamed his caddy for a loss, his caddy has become part of his family.
Mickelson has been so driven to win majors late in his career that he has enlisted short-game guru Dave Pelz and swing coach Butch Harmon, the man who helped launch Tiger Woods' career.
He has played on despite a particularly painful form of arthritis.
Of the game's great players, he spends more time signing autographs and slapping hands than anyone.
He's candid and entertaining in interviews.
He's the kind of guy who could cheer the great shots of Ian Poulter when the two played on Sunday at the Ryder Cup last year.
He has the guts to bounce back from what he called the most devastating loss of his life, at the U.S. Open at Merion, to win the British Open on the kind of course that used to flummox him. He committed to traveling to Scotland to play in the Scottish Open the week before the British, so he would be prepared to win.
If he's a phony, we need more of them in professional sports.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon today.
I've been lucky enough to cover just about every major sporting event in the United States, plus a handful of Olympics. If I believed in bucket lists, there would be one item left for me: Covering the British Open.
My friends who are golf writers say it is the most rewarding experience in sportswriting, to savor the history and the cultural differences one encounters on the other side of the pond.
Watching the British Open this morning, I was reminded by a conversation I had with Zach Johnson at The Masters.
I covered Zach's Masters win, and found him to be quite classy. He's also a completely admirable golfer, a player who can't rely on power and thus has become a technician: A great wedge player and putter. He won the Masters by dominating the Par-5s as three-shot holes, using his wedge to make birdies.
This year, Johnson didn't win, but in interviews I found him to be thoughtful and gracious.
He leads the British Open at the moment, at five-under. An Iowa native, he insists on playing the John Deere Classic the week before the British Open to honor his Iowa roots, meaning he has to deal with jet lag while preparing for the British.
He's a guy you can root for.
Radio schedule: Noon today and tomorrow on 1500ESPN with Judd & Dubay. Sunday: 9:30 Gardenhire Show, then 10-noon Sunday Sports Talk with at least one surprise guest.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
You've probably heard or read by now that Tiger Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty this morning for taking an illegal drop at the 15th hole on Friday in the second round of The Masters.
Woods played his third shot from the fairway. His ball hit the flag and caromed back, and to the left, and into the water. Woods decided not to play from the drop zone. He dropped a few yards from his divot, made a 6 on the hole and finished the second round three strokes off the lead.
Saturday morning, The Masters released a statement from Fred Ridley, chairman of its competition committees, saying that the tournament rules committee was ``prompted by a television viewer'' to review his drop. ``At that moment and based on that evidence, the Committee determined he had complied with the rules,'' the statement read, in part.
When Woods admitted during his post-round interview that he had dropped the ball well behind his divot to give him an advantageous yardage, the committee statement said, ``Such action would constitute playing from the wrong place.''
The committee met with Woods this morning and told him he was being assessed a two-shot penalty. He would have been disqualified under older versions of golf's rule book, but rule 33-7 was added in 2011 to address instances in which observers notify officials about inadvertent rules violations.
That's the news. Here's my opinion: Tiger is benefitting from The Masters' desire to have him on TV this weekend. Just Friday, the tournament assessed a penalty stroke to a 14-year-old for slow play, on a day when just about anybody on the course could have been penalized for slow play. After that happened, Tiger said, ``Rules are rules.''
I'm not always a letter-of-the-law guy, because golf's rules are too numerous and picayune, and sometimes just stupid. A player, for example, shouldn't be penalized when the wind blows his golf ball while he's preparing to putt. That's silly.
Here's why I think Tiger should withdraw: He admitted he broke the rule, and broke the rule while seeking an unfair advantage. Moving your ball back to a more desirable distance is cheating.
Any player should withdraw under these circumstances. Tiger should, especially. He gained an unfair advantage. He dropped the ball at an optimal distance, which allowed him to get up and down from the fairway and save a bogey when double or triple bogey loomed.
What if he wins his 15th major because he cheated? What if he subsequently wins 19 majors, breaking Jack Nicklaus' record? His record will be forever tainted.
There are many areas of gray here. If Woods had not conducted a post-round interview, he would be safe. But he did, so he shouldn't be.
The Masters looks bad, because the tournament committee looks like it is willing to punish a 14-year-old to the full extent of the rules, and willing to give a pass to a player whose presence affects TV ratings.
But there is room within the rules for The Masters to allow Woods to remain in the tournament.
That's why Woods needs to display some perspective and withdraw. He cheated. He admitted he cheated. He benefitted by cheating. He should withdraw.
One day after saying he never meant to say he couldn't win The Masters, Sergio Garcia convinced everyone he was right the first time. After shooting a 66 on Thursday, he shot 76 on Friday, falling from a tie for first to a tie for 15th.
Garcia looks for scapegoats and excuses when he plays poorly. Friday ,it was that dastardly wind.
``There were some shots you would hit well that would make you look a little bit silly, like what happened to me on 15,'' he said. ``I hit a great three-iron. It's almost dead calm when Angel (Cabrera) and Adam (Scott) were hitting. I hit mine, I hit what I thought was a perfect shot to the middle of the green and caught a huge gust and unfortunately it comes up short into the water.
``You know, those things you can't really control.''
Cabrera managed. He shot a 69.
The Masters penalized 14-year-old amateur Tianlang Guan a shot for slow play. The tournament is within its rights to do so, but hadn't called a similar penalty on another golfer since 1995.
Guan said he understood and accepted the penalty.
Tiger Woods has surged into a tie for the lead with Fred Couples, who spent the entire round stretching his always-touchy back, and Marc Leishman, the Australian playing in his third major. I'll write about Tiger and his strange band of competitors for the Saturday paper.
By the way, don't give Tiger another green jacket yet. Last year he was eight under in the first two rounds of majors and 15 over in the second two rounds.
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