A GRIP ON SPORTS • Golf was, and is, a staid, old sport. Except when the Ryder Cup rolls around. Then all bets are off – or on. Read on.
• We lost Arnold Palmer recently, as the man who made golf cool for the masses died in Pennsylvania. But his legacy lives on and nowhere is that more clear than in Minnesota this week at the Ryder Cup matches. Golf isn’t all that staid anymore. At least it isn’t one week every two years.
The Ryder Cup pits the best American professional golfers against the best Europe has to offer. (Up until the late 1970s, the U.S. competed against the best of Great Britain, but that got to be two one-sided so the rest of Europe was added.)
As international competitions go, the Ryder Cup is pretty darn even over its history, though the European team has a distinct edge recently. And, as golf competitions go, this one has a distinct edge as well.
The fans are loud. Too loud at times. Call me a fuddy-duddy or a “get-off-my-lawn” guy, but cheering for bad shots just seems so anti-golf I can’t abide it. Still, the pressure-packed nature of the competition demands some sort of fan-interaction. Both of which brings us to yesterday.
Four of the European players were working on the practice green. Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan were continually missing a certain putt. Which led to a fan named David Johnson giving them a boatload of grief. About practice green putts.
I always thought folks from North Dakota were supposed to be mannerly. Well, at least we know they are tough. See, Henrik Stenson had heard enough from Johnson. The Swede walked over – if Johnson is from North Dakota, he and Stenson just might be related from way back – and challenged Johnson to prove he could do better.
Johnson took the challenge.
And he took it even when Justin Rose upped the stakes, slapping a $100 bill down next to the ball.
The video of Johnson’s wise-cracking – is there anything more American than laughing in the face of possible humiliation? – attempt at the putt is priceless. And the image of the putt slam-dunking into the hole, along with the celebration afterward, is something more than priceless. It is emblematic of what this competition has become.
Until Sunday. When it gets serious.
• WSU: When Bill Doba was relieved from his duties as WSU’s head football coach, he had a suggestion for then-Cougar athletic director Jim Sterk: hire Brady Hoke. Sterk didn’t take the suggestion, picking Paul Wulff instead. Now, after a long and winding road though college football’s landscape, Hoke finally gets to coach at Martin Stadium. As Oregon’s defensive coordinator. Jacob Thorpe has the story. ... Jacob also has video of a post-practice interview with linebackers coach Ken Wilson. ... The Cougar women’s soccer team lost at No. 1-ranked Stanford 2-1. ... The Oregon win last season led to quite possibly the best social media moment in WSU history. (OK, it’s a short history.) ... How will Hoke’s secondary hold up against the Air Raid? ... Elsewhere in the Pac-12, the weekend begins tonight in Seattle, where the Huskies will try to prove they belong in the nation’s elite this season. Stanford, which has been there for years, will try to keep Washington out. ... Colorado and Oregon State meet in Boulder on Saturday. ... The L.A. Basin will play host to the Arizona schools, with Arizona State facing USC and UCLA taking on Arizona in the Rose Bowl. ... California and Utah will pit differing philosophies in the Bay Area.
• EWU: Zach Wimberly is the Eagles most complete player. Jim Allen has the story on Eastern’s tight end, who once was on the defensive line. ... Jim also held a live chat yesterday, the transcript of which you can read here. ... Elsewhere in the Big Sky, the best game may be in Missoula, with Montana hosting Southern Utah. ... Montana State will play a lot of guys on the defensive line against Sacramento State. ... On the basketball front, former Weber State guard Joel Bolomby wants to make the jump to the NBA. ... Both Montana State and Montana have new faces.
• Idaho: The Vandals have reached all the way to Florida to come up with players, as Josh Wright’s story shows. ... Josh also has a story on the Vandals’ journey to the FCS, based on a Lewiston Tribune piece.
• Preps: It was a doubleheader night at Joe Albi on Thursday, with Tom Clouse having the coverage. Central Valley dominated Rogers 49-0 and Lewis and Clark did the same to North Central, 44-26, in a matchup of Spokane’s two oldest high schools. ... Greg Lee was at Mead’s volleyball win over district rival Mt. Spokane. ... We also has a roundup of Thursday's action. ... The News Tribune has an interesting story on private schools and the WIAA.
• Mariners: If the M’s want to make the postseason, they have no margin for error. They have to win out this weekend. They came through with a win last night, 3-2 over Oakland, though the ending wasn’t fun. Mike Zunino was the guy who had the most important hit, a late home run.
• The Ryder Cup matches are on the TV as I write this. Which might explain a few of the mistakes. Ya, that’s the ticket. Until later ...