THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
GOLF: 144th BRITISH OPEN
Details/TV: At St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland, Thursday-Sunday, ESPN:
In Dan Jenkins’ new book, “Unplayable Lies (The Only Golf Book You’ll Ever Need),” a chapter about the “Greatest Moments” in golf’s history includes this entry: “Nature creates the Old Course at St. Andrews, which, in turn, creates the cashmere sweater and travel agents.” Of the 46 British Opens that Jenkins covered, eight were at this spot where historians agree is the magical place it all began. As for the best Open that Jenkins ever covered, it says it was 45 years ago – Jack Nicklaus’ 1970 victory in a playoff over Doug Sanders, after Sanders blew a 2/12-foot putt on the 72nd green that would have given him the title. And the funniest thing Jenkins ever heard about St. Andrews came from Sam Sneed, who won the 1946 Open and said: “It looks like there used to be a golf course here.” For this return trip to the birth of golf, “we take stock where the game stands,” says Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobio. “That’s one barometer that we can always use.” Adds Andy North, the ESPN analyst: “I think it’s hands down the coolest venue for the Open Championship. It may not be the most difficult course, the most memorable. But it’s the coolest.”
What isn’t so cool is the defending champ decided to play in a friendly soccer game with friends on July 4th and ruptured a ligament in his left ankle. So pity poor Rory McIlroy. All it means that even more of a spotlight goes upon Jordan Spieth, who has won the first two majors of the season, decided to play last weekend in a PGA event in Illinois instead of in Scotland as a warmup — and he won the darn thing, in two playoff holds — yet he can be the first Texan to win The Open since Ben Hogan.
“I don’t think it puts more pressure on Jordan that Rory is not there,” said ESPN analyst Curtis Strange, whose best finish in the British Open was tied for 13th in 1988 at the Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in England. “I think Jordan is such a focused, poised young man, and I think he’s going to have his hands full just trying to take care of himself. There’s a couple things that he is aware of that are real, real obstacles. One is jet lag. That’s a real thing. The speed of the greens, to get used to those is a real thing. It’s an enormous, enormous accomplishment he’s trying to achieve here, and I quite frankly have never been in that position. None of us really have. So just kind of do your thing. Paul Azinger, another ESPN analyst who tied for second at the 1987 British Open at Murfield in Scotland, said his favorite thing about Spieth “he’s not an entitlement guy. He works for everything he’s got, and he just seems grateful for it. He’s a breath of fresh air and kind of a throwback with a businesslike approach. I love the guy.”
ESPN has the first two rounds from 1 a.m. to noon on Thursday and Friday, then the third from 4-to-11:30 a.m. Saturday and the final round from 3-to-10:30 a.m. Sunday (both rounds airing tape delayed on Channel 7 from noon-to-3 p.m.).
Indians catcher Ray Fosse lies on the ground after his 12th inning collision with Cincinnati Reds’ Pete Rose. Rushing up to Rose, who scored the winning run for the National League, is San Francisco Giants Dick Dietz, while Leo Durocher, Chicago Cubs’ manager, applauds the 5-4 win. ( Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS)
86th MLB ALL STAR GAME:
Details/TV: At Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Tuesday at 5 p.m., Channel 11:
Talk about things that happened 45 years ago this summer – Pete Rose, barreling into Ray Fosse at Three Rivers Stadium in Cincinnati to give the NL the win in the MLB All-Star Game. If Rose doesn’t steal all of the thunder for just showing up in pre-game ceremonies, it’ll be up to guys like Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Adrian Gonzalez, Joc Pederson, Albert Pujols or, again, Mike Trout. It all depends on how the managers – Bruce Bochy from the Giants and Ned Yost from the Royals – manipulate their 34-man rosters and feel obligated to get everyone in. Greinke, who got into last year’s game and pitched one inning – he faced three batters in the fourth, struck out two of ‘em, and left after 12 pitches – has all the goods to be named the NL starter this time with an MLB-best 1.39 ERA and 35 2/3 scoreless innings streak.
Also: MLB HOME RUN DERBY
Details/TV: At Cincinnati, Monday at 5 p.m., ESPN:
The odds by Bovoda.lv make the Reds’ Todd Frazier as the 7/2 favorite to win this thing, with Albert Pujols (6/1) and Joc Pederson (7/1) not far behind. First one to hit the ball into the Ohio River should be declared the winner no matter how they’ve rearranged the rules again.
THE REST OF THE WEEK:
Joc Pederson and Bryce Harper meet up again in Washington D.C. for a three-game series starting Friday … Boston comes into Anaheim for its annual trip, starting Friday … the Del Mar season begins Thursday … the U.S. finishes the CONCACAF Gold Cup group play Monday (vs. Panama) before the knockout round begins on the weekend … More to see at this link.