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Sunday, September 20, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: Whatever happens at the PGA Championship today will have our (relatively) undivided attention

Brooks Koepka lines up a putt on the 13th hole during the third round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020, in San Francisco.  (Associated Press)
Brooks Koepka lines up a putt on the 13th hole during the third round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at TPC Harding Park Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020, in San Francisco. (Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Most weekends, even in the best of times, golf on television isn’t what one would call heartbeat-raising. In fact, dozing while watching golf is probably America’s new favorite pastime. But there’s something different about a major tournament. Four times a year – or three in 2020 – each putt among the leaders takes on the intensity of trying to make your way through a carnival fun house. With your first girlfriend. Such is the case this week.

•••••••

• It doesn’t hurt the PGA Championship around here when someone pops on the leaderboard from a few miles down the road. Yep, Joel Dahmen, the happy-go-lucky, bucket-hat-wearing golfer from Clarkston, enters the final 18 holes today four strokes out of the lead. That’s despite an up-and-down back nine Saturday.

But whether Dahmen wins is ancillary to our enjoyment. Oh sure, if he makes a charge today and becomes the first Eastern Washington product to win a major, we’ll all claim him as our own. And tell the story about that time he was leaving the parking lot at Bryden Canyon as we drove up – or something like that. That’s a given.

His participation, however, is just an appetizer. The menu is full no matter who wins. There is the Harding Park angle, done to death on CBS and ESPN but still significant nonetheless. There is the weather, which should play a part in determining who wins. There is history, as Brooks Koepka, pulling the Tiger Woods-lite injury card and getting treatment on his back this week, goes for a third consecutive PGA title, something only done once – ever.

And there is another local resident – sort of – atop the leaderboard this morning.

Dustin Johnson spends the non-tour part of his summers in the Inland Northwest, crushing balls on the driving range at the Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club. Part of the extended Wayne Gretzky family through a longtime relationship with Paulina Gretzky, Johnson has discovered the beauty of Lake Coeur d’Alene through the connection.

OK, it’s tenuous. But we’ll take it.

And we’ll take another day like Saturday when stars like Johnson, Koepka and Jason Day battled the course and some barely recognized players, like Dahmen (outside of the Inland Northwest), Scottie Scheffler, Cameron Champ and third-round leader Haotong Li. It’s what makes this major so special. The PGA always seems to include the Cinderalla Story aspect.

Heck, we can sort of hear Bill Murray mumbling a narration under his breath as the wind whips off Lake Merced.

• It got a little crowded in the CBS booth yesterday. And it was almost as if you could hear the passing of a torch.

Phil Mickleson, who, at 50, isn’t really a contender for major titles anymore, left the course after shooting even par, changed and made his way to join Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo on the broadcast. Was it an audition? If it was, it went well.

So well, in fact, you could almost hear Faldo offering to help Mickelson with his game, hoping to help him stay relevant on the Tour for a few more years, perhaps, until Faldo, 63, is ready to retire to the south of England or somewhere.

•••

WSU: Are you trying to tell me Larry Scott, the Pac-12’s overpaid commissioner with a Harvard education and a background in the world of professional tennis, would treat the #WeAreUnited players with condescension? No way. OK, that’s sarcasm. Theo Lawson, unlike me, shows professionalism in his coverage of the differing views of the meeting between the conference’s leaders and the representatives of the players’ group. … That Thursday night meeting, and how the players felt they were treated, is at the heart of many opinion pieces this morning. It is also continuing to open discussion concerning the role of college football in society. … Around the Pac-12 and college sports, the first FBS conference has pulled the plug on a fall season. The Mid-American Conference announced yesterday it is shooting for a possible spring start. … Oregon is trying to figure out how to get going with football. … Former USC linebacker Cameron Smith will have surgery to fix a heart problem. … Arizona State’s recruits are scrambling, as are every school’s. … Kevin Sumlin is sitting on a hot seat in Tucson. … In basketball news, Oregon State does have a new physical, low-post presence.

EWU: The pandemic did no favors to the Eastern Washington athletic program. The Eagles were already struggling financially and the impact of the coronavirus on the community and the economy reverberated through the athletic department. Ryan Collingwood takes some time today to delve into that in some depth.

Idaho: Former Vandal linebacker Sam Merriman has been honored by his hometown.

CCS: John Blanchette has our latest 20 for 20, covering the best athletes to pass through the local community college in the past 20 years.

Hoopfest: There won’t be thousands of people roaming the streets of Spokane playing hoops this month. This isn’t Sturgis, after all. But you can still participate in Hoopfest, albeit virtually. Ryan has more details about the online tournament.

Mariners: Before we watched golf (and then, later, while the leaders were warming up), we spent some time yesterday researching the Mariner bullpen. Mainly how much Jerry Dipoto was spending on the group. Not a lot. Do you know the M’s are sending more than seven times what they are paying the bullpen, in total, to Jay Bruce, the outfielder they had to take to get rid of Robinson Cano’s contract? Yep. And Bruce is playing in Philadelphia. (Which allows me to paraphrase W.C. Fields about rather being in the Seattle bullpen than playing in Philadelphia – and allows me to skew so old as to be irrelevant.) Anyhow, that research resulted in this Out of Right Field column, which ran in the paper this morning. … By the way, the M’s lost to the Rockies again last night. They had one hit in the 5-0 decision. … We also mentioned Jarred Kelenic in our piece. … Austin Nola is OK.

Seahawks: The NFL acted quickly in the Quinton Dunbar case, taking him off the exempt list. He still faces a suspension for being in the wrong place at the wrong time – or something like that. … What’s ahead this week at training camp?

Sounders: The MLS released most of its schedule for the upcoming month or so, and it includes a lot of matches on a short period of time. … The Sounders will play Portland twice.

•••       

• I spent so much time watching golf yesterday, I didn’t get anything done around the house, other than making a huge indentation on the Laz-e-Boy. So we’re off to mow, trim, weed a little and all that jazz before the leaders tee off this afternoon. Thanks to the magic of satellite radio, I can listen to the golf, though. It’s so edifying. “Johnson eyes a 7-iron. He’s 197 yards away. … He takes it back. (Thunk) … It’s in the air. … (Silence – followed by polite clapping) Yes, that will do.” Until later …

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The basketball court at the McCarthey Athletic Center is photographed before an NCAA college basketball game between Gonzaga and BYU, Feb. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Young Kwak) (Young Kwak / AP Photo)
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