A GRIP ON SPORTS
Who would have thought Phil Mickelson could pull it off yesterday? Certainly not me. Read on.
• When I was writing the post early yesterday morning, the TV was on, though muted, as the early part of Sunday's British Open played out. At one point I had to mention the names of possible winners, to make a point and to prove I was paying attention. As I typed in names, I briefly paused on Mickelson. My heart said yes, but my brain, who doesn't always get to make these calls, overruled sentiment and ordered me to ignore Lefty. There was no way he was going to win this thing. Not with his track record in Britain, not with the wind blowing like it was, not with another U.S. Open failure hanging around his neck like a wanna-be rapper's necklace. Made sense to me, so the heart was silenced (I root for Phil because he's just so goofy, with those awkward celebrations, the thumbs-ups that look so strange and that easy-to-induce smile; and, oh ya, his family's travails, from his wife Amy's breast cancer to his own painful disease he has to deal with each day) and the head's choice won. So when Mickelson birdied four of the final six holes to win his fifth major, my heart leapt with joy – and then punished the brain by inducing some burn for the entire afternoon (or it could just have been bad hotel coffee causing the pain). But Mickelson's win was worth a couple of Tums. After all, he's given the entire golf community some heartburn over the years, most notably at U.S. Opens. He's rarely contended in Britain, so winning that major didn't seem to be in the cards. Until he made a long bomb on 14 that seemed to juice up his game. Even a bad break on 16 didn't derail him. He just hit two laser-beam 3 woods on 17 to set up a pedestrian two-putt birdie, made a slider on 18 for another and, viola, he could wait as the guy engraved his name on the claret jug with a fingernail (pictured below). And hug his family enough times so everyone could get a picture.
• One other thing. If you asked me what the biggest difference was between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, I wouldn't sight anything golf related, per se. And I would shy away from the family angle, as you never know what is real and what goes on when the cameras leave. No, I would cite Mickelson's walk yesterday between the 17th green and the 18th tee. He seemed to slap hands with everyone in Scotland. Well, at least everyone lined up outside the walkway. Phil embraces chances to interact with the fans. And they return the gesture with cheers. It is hard for me to imagine Tiger doing that, though maybe he has and I just missed it. Not that there is a right or wrong way to deal with the people who, ultimately, make you rich, it just seems Mickelson's way is, how should I say this, more personable. And simply nice. I remember when I was in high school and attended my lone L.A. Open. My friend Kent and I watched Lee Trevino play the par 3 at Rivera with the sand trap in the green, then got all excited when he walked by and flipped his golf ball toward us. I don't remember whether I got the ball or not (I don't think I did) but I do remember the smile on Trevino's face as he acknowledged our cheers. He gave me a memory, just like Phil handed out yesterday.
• WSU: I talked with Klay Thompson the other day in Anaheim, mainly just touching base and catching up in between Klay's shooting sets at a practice facility. We did talk a little about Brock Motum and his quest to make the NBA (Thompson feels whoever finally signs Motum will have a discovered a hidden gem) and friends from his WSU days. For a more basketball-oriented Q&A, I will defer to this piece. ... Ted Miller looks back at five big upsets from last season. The Cougars had one.
• Golf: Though the last three British Opens have been won by guys in their 40s (the first time that has ever happened and they have been playing the tournament since Victoria was queen), youth was once again served at the Rosauers Open Invational. Though Corey Prugh isn't all that young anymore. Can't be. He's already won three of these things. Jim Meehan has the story from Sunday's win.
• Mariners: Six consecutive wins. Who could have seen that coming? Put your hand down, you're lying. But Sunday's staggering-to-the-finish 12-5 win over Houston gave the M's six consecutive wins and two consecutive series sweeps. (The big blow? Nick Franklin's grand slam, pictured.) The win also may have made it tougher for the Mariners to make a move before the trading deadline, as, according to those in charge, this group can be successful. Forgive us if we're a little more cynical.
• Seahawks: Another question before camp opens, and it has to do with the schedule.
• We are now in Las Vegas, home of the $14 a day Internet, so we're being a little creative to get this to you. It's just our way of slapping hands (figuratively) with all of you as we walk by. Until later ...