Shots in the Darke

The Masters Golf Tournament just concluded with Jon Rahm claiming the sixth green jacket  for Spain in Masters history with a four-shot victory over a fading Brooks Koepka and a  surprisingly rejuvenated Phil Mickelson. “Rahmbo” shot a final round 69 and played steady golf in securing the win while Koepka, who led each of the first three rounds, struggled to a final eighteen of 75. In a four day session of nostalgia, tradition, and course beauty along with a healthy dose of Mother Nature (temperatures ranged from the 40s to the 80s with rain delays and suspensions of play not to mention three trees being blown down on Saturday near the 17th hole; thankfully no one was hurt) the usual Sunday afternoon theatrics played out among the azaleas.

Mickelson, with a final round of 65, became the oldest person in Masters history, at age 52, to record such a low score. Phil tallied seven birdies in his bid to overtake the leaders but just ran out of holes, making all old duffers feel better about themselves! Tiger Woods on the other hand had to withdraw in the third round as playing conditions and the course itself took its toll on him as he continues to deal with physical issues. Here’s the first trivia question of the column—name the other three Spaniards besides Rahm to win the coveted green jacket.

Let’s take a look at Major League Baseball after the first eleven days of the season. In the AL the Twins and Yankees have gotten off to 6-3 starts but the real story is the 9-0 Rays, who have won every game by four runs or more. Only the 1987 Brewers, who ran thirteen straight to open the season, have gotten off to a hotter start. But let’s take this with a grain of salt as the Rays’ victims have been three of the least regarded teams in baseball; the Tigers, Nationals, and A’s with four home games with the mediocre Red Sox next up. Still, the Rays have always been one of my favorites as they usually have one of the lowest payrolls and least publicized teams in the majors so good for them in running the table so far!

Over in the NL the Brewers have jumped to a 7-2 mark with the Pirates (yes, Pittsburgh!) and the Braves off to 6-3 records. After a ninth-inning rally Sunday and win over the Phillies  the Reds stand 4-4, much better than last year when their fourth win didn’t come until the 26th  game of the year (remember, or maybe best you forgot, last season’s 3-22 start!). Nick Lodolo continues to impress as evidenced by his 12 strikeout, no run outing Saturday—however the bullpen, once again suspect, couldn’t hold the lead and deprived Lodolo of the win.

Meanwhile, down on the farm, the Reds’ AA affiliate, the Chattanooga Lookouts defeated the Rocket City Trash Pandas (as always, one of my favorite team nicknames) 7-5 while being  held hitless! The Lookouts scored all seven runs in one inning via five walks, four hit batsmen, an error, and a wild pitch—hey, without looking at the boxscore, you would have thought that it was an offensive display of line drives and extra base hits!!

An answer to one of last week’s trivia questions was the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Well, those same Bobcats won the NCAA Hockey Championship Saturday night, coming from behind to defeat the Minnesota Golden Gophers by a 3-2 count in overtime. Trailing late in regulation the ‘Cats tied the score on a power play goal and then won in the FIRST ten seconds of overtime, giving Quinnipiac its first national title, the second for the state of Connecticut this past week,  joining the UConn mens basketball team!

Has anyone watched any XFL games, the spring pro football league? Does anyone care? I will say, that although I haven’t watched more than five minutes of any one game, that some of the rules are interesting. Check it out and see what your opinion is of the kickoff and extra point rules!

Here’s a second trivia question for you—of the XFL’s eight teams four appear to be above  average; DC, St. Louis, Seattle, and Houston. Can you come up with the nickname of at least two of those squads?

Those Spanish Masters winners in addition to Jon Rahm? Seve Ballesteros in ‘80 and ‘83, Jose Maria Olazabal in ‘94 and ‘99, and Sergio Garcia in ‘17.

NBA and NHL playoffs start this week, with the NBA kicking things off with the “play-in”  tournament consisting of the 7-10 seeded teams in both the East and West, meaning only ten  of thirty teams in the league DON’T make the playoffs! Should make for some interesting viewing as they finally get down to playing competitive games, albeit the pushing, shoving, traveling, and palming the ball will still continue!

If you came up with the DC Defenders, the St. Louis Battlehawks, the Seattle Seadragons, and the Houston Roughnecks you are truly a football fanatic! Sounds like great weather has finally arrived, at least for this week, so get outside and get active; also go support some of your favorite high school sports teams!