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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: With all the issues confronting golf these days, recent runs of excellence should not be overwhelmed by static

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Shouldn’t excellence be award enough? Well, that and about $50 million. But, honestly, Scottie Scheffler and Nelly Korda deserve even more. Not money. Recognition. What the two are doing, at the same time mind you, is precedented, sure. But rare.


• Yes, we’re focusing on golf as we start another week of spring weather in Spokane. We wouldn’t be if the M’s were, say, five games to the good of break-even, instead of level. Or if the Seahawks were picking in the NFL draft’s top five Thursday. Or, heck, if we had something more exciting on the college basketball front to pass along other than the drip, drip, drip of transfer portal news.

We see the engagement reports. We know where golf stands in the American sports hierarchy. Tiger Woods is gone, folks, not literally of course but in the Q-score sort of way. The professional game on the men’s side is riven by a San Andreas Fault-like divide. The whole enterprise is broken.

And yet, here we are, on a Monday thinking about unsurpassed excellence. Scheffler. Korda. A tough game made to look easy. OK, relatively easy.

The two best golfers in the world are not related in any way. Other than by their last five tournaments. Scheffler has won four of them – and barely missed a putt to force a playoff for the fifth one, in which he finished second. One of those wins was a major, the Masters, a tournament he dominated late Sunday afternoon. He’s No. 1 in the world. Is the first on the PGA Tour since Woods to win four of five starts. And he hardly moves the non-golf needle a tick.

Korda has done even better on the LPGA Tour. She finished off her fifth consecutive win Sunday – she’s won four straight tournaments, after winning and taking a break earlier this season – with a quietly calm walk through the Chevron Championships’ final round, wrapping up her second major title. Having hoisted the trophy five consecutive starts puts her in the same company with Nancy Lopez (a hall-of-famer) and Annika Sorenstam (ditto). That’s it. Those three. And yet Korda is still probably better known for her familial relationships – dad Petr was a pro tennis standout back in the day and elder sister Jessica has won on the Tour before – than her smooth irons.

Heck, the 25-year-old doesn’t even have the solace of having won more money than the latest Powerball recipient, as Scheffler has.

In the past 42 days, the 27-year-old Gary Cooper-like Texan has earned – not given, as in the case of those who moseyed over to the LIV Tour – $16.3 million. That would rank third all-time in PGA Tour yearly earnings. Add in the $21 million he won in 2023 and his $14 million from ’22, the soon-to-be first-time father has earned $51.3 million since ascending to the top rung of the world’s golfing set.

Korda, playing on a Tour that is unified, lacks Saudi investment – and, being it’s for women, probably always will – and doesn’t have the media deals the men have, has earned $2.4 million this year and nearly $11.4 for her career, 23rd on the all-time LPGA list.

It’s concurrent excellence we have never witnessed. And yet, crickets in a way.

Neither Scheffler nor Korda have the attract-the-spotlight personalities of Woods or Michelle Wie or Arnold Palmer or even Sorenstam. The game isn’t easy to play and, for some, is unbearably hard under the glare of a million lumens. Others, like Woods or Palmer, blossomed. Scheffler and Korda? They seem to wear blinders while playing. It’s their way. Their zone. Effective, sure. Exciting? Not so much. Unless watching exceptionally polished play is exciting. To most golf fans it is. To the masses, personality is just as important. In that, golf is no different than any other professional sport – or have we already forgotten the Travis Kelce/Taylor Swift phenomenon from the fall?

Watching Scheffler carve up Harbour Town this weekend en route to the RBC Heritage title was like watching a cardiac surgeon fix a leaky valve. The procedure itself is fascinating to some, but others need Junior Mints falling from the gallery to pique their interest. Those latter folks? The LIV Tour is waiting. It’s on The CW. Right down the cable lineup from the Seinfeld reruns.

The rest of us just want to experience excellence.


WSU: New basketball coach David Riley has enticed an Idaho small-school star to Pullman, making Lapwai’s Kase Wynott his first 2024 recruit. The state’s Gatorade player of the year, Wynott holds Idaho’s all-time scoring record with 2,962 points. The 6-foot-6 wing was previously committed to Utah State until Danny Sprinkle left for the Washington job. Greg Woods has more in this story. … There is also this piece from Lewiston. … There are openings in Pullman due to news like this. Senior wing Andrej Jakimovski is gone, headed to the University of Colorado. The Big 12. Greg has more. … We also can pass along a story from Boulder. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, spring football practice is winding down everywhere, including at Washington. … As the last year of the Pac-12 (as we know it) winds down, folks at Oregon State are tired of getting beaten up. … Oregon doesn’t have that problem. The Ducks have hardly any problems, actually. … Depth is a problem Colorado is addressing. … There is some hunger at USC after the spring game. … Can Arizona State be relevant in the Big 12? … Arizona has added another player from San Jose State. … On the basketball courts, Oregon women’s coach Kelly Graves has put his house up for sale. Hopefully, he’s downsizing as his kids are grown. Or, if he leaves the Ducks, will be amiable to helping a semi-retired sports writer coach hoops. Always looking for great assistants. … Utah will be taller in the post next season, though maybe not as exceptional. … USC’s men have hired former Washington assistant coach Will Conroy. … Before we leave we want to pass on this story on Pat Tillman on the 20th anniversary of his death. No matter how many years pass, we shouldn’t forget Tillman’s sacrifice, his character, the folks he touched and the awful circumstances of his death.

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, last year Northern Colorado’s best men’s basketball player transferred to Tennessee and transformed the Volunteers. Now Saint Thomas will try to do the same for USC.

Indians: The weather wasn’t perfect at Avista on Sunday and neither were the Indians. Dave Nichols has this story from their 5-3 loss to visiting Everett, leading to a split of the six-game series. Spokane heads to Vancouver for another six-game series that starts Tuesday. … Elsewhere in the Northwest League, the Indians fell a game behind Eugene in the standings as the Emeralds topped visiting Vancouver 2-1. … Tri-City finished off its series in Hillsboro with a 9-3 win over the Hops.

Mariners: We missed most of the 2-1, 10-inning loss in the opener. We did, however, watch all of the 10-2 rout in the nightcap of the split doubleheader, made necessary by Friday’s awful weather. … Cal Raleigh has worked hard to improve.

Seahawks: For the Hawks to fill all their needs, they will have to make a bunch of trades for more picks throughout the seven rounds. … There is really no rush to draft a receiver but that’s when the Hawks usually make such a pick. … Picking a quarterback near the top of the draft is nothing more than a coin flip. But we also believe that about almost every pick.

Reign: Professional soccer in Seattle isn’t doing well. The Sounders are struggling and so are the Reign. The NWSL squad lost 2-1 at home Sunday.

Kraken: Roster moves have already started. Yes, there is change coming.


• One more story for you before you leave. It’s about cards. No, not playing cards. Baseball cards, football cards, basketball ones – and the like. Jason Shoot has a piece on a Sandpoint man who spends his time trading cards for financial gain. We always wonder how many millions of dollars we destroyed in the spokes of our Schwinn Stingray with the banana seat. Mickey Mantle never had a chance. Until later …