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Tuesday, December 11, 2018  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: The British Open had a surprise winner who played with a surprising calm

Francesco Molinari of Italy holds the trophy after winning the British Open Golf Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland, Sunday July 22, 2018. (Martin Cleaver / Associated Press)
Francesco Molinari of Italy holds the trophy after winning the British Open Golf Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland, Sunday July 22, 2018. (Martin Cleaver / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • The drama that is a major golf tournament was on display in Scotland yesterday. Heck, even a sentimental favorite took the lead at one point. But the result probably would be considered anticlimactic for most everyone whose last name doesn’t end in a vowel. Read on.

••••••••••

• Tiger Woods. Rory McIlroy. Justin Rose. Heck, even Xander Schauffele. All had hopes British Open viewers might have been wishing to see fulfilled. But not even the power of positive thinking by millions was enough to overcome the steady, precise, unflappable golf played by Francesco Molinari.

Don’t say “who?” If you have watched golf majors in the past decade, you know who he is. He’s that Italian guy who always seems to hang around the leaderboard for a while until the weight of his country’s hopes proved to be too much down the stretch. That’s the romanticized version of his past, anyway.

But the real reason Molinari hadn’t won a major at age 32 is he wasn’t good enough. Until yesterday at Carnoustie. As guys with major titles fell by the wayside, as the crowd that was following his Sunday partner, Woods, grew and grew, he just kept playing solid golf, belying his national heritage.

If my dad were still alive, I’m not sure he would be more surprised that an Italian finally won a major – he always believed Molinari would be the guy – or that he would do it with such calm. 

It doesn’t matter, though. 

Not to Molinari. Not to his countryman. Not to anyone.

• Well, Woods, maybe. There were a few minutes Sunday when Tiger was actually alone atop the leaderboard. The Twitterverse went nuts. NBC’s ratings must have exploded. Then Woods’ game did the same.

A double-bogey on the 11th, a bogey on the 12th, and that was that.

But Sunday may have proven Tiger is capable of winning more majors. Not because of how he played necessarily, but how he handled the disappointment of losing. He didn’t throw a fit. He didn’t act as if the golfing gods had done him a disservice. He just dealt with it.

“I need to try and keep it in perspective because, at the beginning of the year, I would have said I’d be very lucky to even play in the Open championship,” Woods told reporters afterward.

At 42, Woods has seen the top and the bottom. He’s discovered the importance of life outside of golf. He’s a different man with a different attitude.

It’s an attitude that will serve him well. 

• By the way, no one had a better Sunday than Eddie Pepperell. I have to admit I had never heard of Pepperell before the final round. But his story was too good not to pass along. It gives hope to about a half-dozen golfers I know well.

•••

WSU: Around the Pac-12, the countdown to Wednesday’s media day rolls on, with at least one person hoping for a little honesty from the conference’s coaches. Good luck with that. … Yes, the 1998 season was something special for Arizona football. With special plays. … Colorado hopes it has some cornerbacks that will make special plays as well.

Indians: Host Salem-Keizer outscored Spokane 6-4.… Around the Northwest League, Everett clinched the North Division first-half title. … Tri-City got past Eugene.

Mariners: We shared a story yesterday about Ryon Healy’s slump. Just in time. It seems to be on the way out after he hit two three-run home runs to lead the M’s past the White Sox 8-2. … Marco Gonzales also played a major role with another strong pitching performance. … Mike Zunino was back in the lineup, though his bat took the day off

Seahawks: The Hawks’ roster doesn’t have the depth it once did. There are three interesting guys to watch, however, when camp opens later this week.

•••        

• We will be back in Spokane this afternoon and I can’t wait. Back home. Are their two sweeter words in the English language? Until later … 


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