It Is… The Ryder Cup

Golf:  A gentleman’s game.  The epitome of civility.

But for three days every other autumn, civility turns to hostility.  Tranquility turns to frenzy.  All for a four-pound trophy of gold and timber.  It stands 17 inches tall, but in the golf world stands much taller.  It represents the pride and pageantry of competing for team and country.  It is… the Ryder Cup.

Samuel Ryder’s vision of an international match between the 12 best golfers from the United States and the 12 best from the British Isles became reality in 1927.  After a half-century of American dominance, the Great Britain and Ireland team expanded to include continental Europe in 1979, and what has followed biennially since has been extraordinary.

Four frantic affairs at The Belfry.  The War by The Shore.  The Miracle at Brookline.  Azinger’s personality pods at Valhalla.  The Miracle (or Meltdown) at Medinah.  Each ensuing edition has become part of the annals of Ryder Cup history.

The pressure here is like no other stage in golf.  Men accustomed to playing the ultimate individual’s game are suddenly playing for much more than themselves.  Some have crumbled under the unparalleled tension, while others have triumphed and become legendary.  Grown men have been reduced to tears, both of agony and of ecstasy.

This week, 24 of the greatest golfers in the world converge in Minnesota, each with the goal of helping their team pursue golf’s most glorious prize.  By Sunday evening, any one of them could be the hero with his name on a new chapter of golf history.

It is one of the greatest rivalries in sport.  It is the battle between Europe and the United States.  It is incomparable drama.  It is… the Ryder Cup.

 

 

Ryder Cup TV Schedule

Friday:  8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Golf Channel)
Saturday:  9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (NBC)
Sunday:  12 p.m. to 6 p.m. (NBC)

Ryder Cup Matches

1927:  United States 9.5, Great Britain 2.5
1929:  Great Britain 7, United States 5
1931:  United States 9, Great Britain 3
1933:  Great Britain 6.5, United States 5.5
1935:  United States 9, Great Britain 3
1937:  United States 8, Great Britain 4
1939-45:  no matches due to World War II
1947:  United States 11, Great Britain 1
1949:  United States 7, Great Britain 5
1951:  United States 9.5, Great Britain 2.5
1953:  United States 6.5, Great Britain 5.5
1955:  United States 8, Great Britain 4
1957:  Great Britain 7.5, United States 4.5
1959:  United States 8.5, Great Britain 3.5
1961:  United States 14.5, Great Britain 9.5
1963:  United States 23, Great Britain 9
1965:  United States 19.5, Great Britain 12.5
1967:  United States 23.5, Great Britain 8.5
1969:  United States 16, Great Britain 16 (U.S. retains the Cup)
1971:  United States 18.5, Great Britain 13.5
1973:  United States 19, Great Britain & Ireland 13
1975:  United States 21, Great Britain & Ireland 11
1977:  United States 12.5, Great Britain & Ireland 7.5
1979:  United States 17, Europe 11
1981:  United States 18.5, Europe 9.5
1983:  United States 14.5, Europe 13.5
1985:  Europe 16.5, United States 11.5
1987:  Europe 15, United States 13
1989:  Europe 14, United States 14 (Europe retains the Cup)
1991:  United States 14.5, Europe 13.5
1993:  United States 15, Europe 13
1995:  Europe 14.5, United States 13.5
1997:  Europe 14.5, United States 13.5
1999:  United States 14.5, Europe 13.5
2001:  matches postponed due to 9/11 attacks
2002:  Europe 15.5, United States 12.5
2004:  Europe 18.5, United States 9.5
2006:  Europe 18.5, United States 9.5
2008:  United States 16.5, Europe 11.5
2010:  Europe 14.5, United States 13.5
2012:  Europe 14.5, United States 13.5
2014:  Europe 16.5, United States 11.5

Twitter Picks for College Football Week Five

Game of the Week

#3 Louisville (4-0) at #5 Clemson (4-0)
Saturday, 8:00 pm ET, ABC
Favorite:  Louisville by 2
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Louisville- 2nd, Clemson- 3rd

 

Big Game Guarantee

#7 Stanford (3-0) at #10 Washington (4-0)
Friday, 9:00 pm ET, ESPN
Favorite:  Washington by 3
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Stanford- 8th, Washington- 12th

 

Upset of the Week

Missouri (2-2) at LSU (2-2)
Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, SECN
Favorite:  LSU by 13
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Closer Than the Experts Think

North Carolina (3-1) at #12 Florida State (3-1)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, ESPN
Favorite:  Florida State by 11
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  North Carolina- 18th, Florida State- 10th

 

Not Closer Than the Experts Think

#11 Tennessee (4-0) at #25 Georgia (3-1)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, CBS
Favorite:  Tennessee by 3
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Tennessee- 9th, Georgia- unranked

 

Overhyped Game

Arizona State (4-0) at USC (1-3)
Saturday, 8:30 pm ET, FOX
Favorite:  USC by 10
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Group of Five Game of the Week

Navy (3-0) at Air Force (3-0)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, CBSSN
Favorite:  Air Force by 7
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Is This Futbol?

#8 Wisconsin (4-0) at #4 Michigan (4-0)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, ABC
Favorite:  Michigan by 10
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Wisconsin- 6th, Michigan- 4th

 

Is This Basketball?

Oklahoma (1-2) at #21 TCU (3-1)
Saturday, 5:00 pm ET, FOX
Favorite:  TCU by 4
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Oklahoma- 19th, TCU- 24th

 

Toilet Bowl

Kansas (1-2) at Texas Tech (2-1)
Thursday, 8:30 pm ET, FS1
Favorite:  Texas Tech by 29
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Miscellaneous:  House Divided

Wake Forest (4-0) at NC State (2-1)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, RSN
Favorite:  NC State by 11
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

NFL Game of the Week

New York Giants (2-1) at Minnesota Vikings (3-0)
Monday, 8:30 pm ET, ESPN
Favorite:  Vikings by 5

 

 

For what it’s worth…

Overall Record:  23-24
Last Week:  8-4
College Overall Record: 22-22
NFL Game of the Week: 1-2

Game of the Week:  2-2
Big Game Guarantee:  2-2
Upset of the Week:  0-4
Closer Than the Experts Think:  1-3
Not Closer Than the Experts Think:  3-1
Overhyped Game:  2-2
Group of Five Game of the Week:  4-0
Is This Futbol?:  2-2
Is This Basketball?:  3-1
Toilet Bowl:  1-3
Miscellaneous:  2-2

For an explanation of the categories for Twitter Picks, click here.

Fast Five: Greatest Ryder Cup Matches

The 41st Ryder Cup matches are this weekend.  The biennial team match play event between the 12 best golfers from the United States and the 12 best from Europe is a spectacle of pride and pageantry, as players who are used to playing only for individual glory will face the tremendous pressure of playing for team and country.

While the Ryder Cup was an afterthought for its first 50 years, as the U.S. regularly dominated a team from Great Britain & Ireland, once continental Europe was included in 1979, the event exploded into the tremendous event it is today.

Here are five (okay, really six) of the matches from over the years that have made the Ryder Cup into golf’s greatest drama.

5.  2008:  United States 16.5, Europe 11.5, Valhalla Golf Club, Louisville, Ky.

This isn’t the only American Ryder Cup victory of my lifetime, but the only one I remember.  U.S. captain Paul Azinger split his team into three “personality pods” of four players each, pairing players with similar personalities instead of similar golf games.  The U.S. team, featuring six Ryder Cup rookies, responded in a big way, leading after every session and winning the matches with some clutch shotmaking throughout.  Azinger wrote a book on the pods strategy, called Cracking the Code, while Boo Weekley famously used his driver as a stick-horse (see below at 2:18).

4.  1969:  United States 16, Great Britain 16, Royal Birkdale Golf Club, Southport, England

Great Britain (it wouldn’t become Great Britain & Ireland until 1973, and Europe until 1979) had only won the Cup once since World War II (in 1957), but jumped out to an early lead on the Americans, and the teams entered Sunday Singles tied.  The score remained tied at 15.5 with the final match tied on the 18th, when American Jack Nicklaus, after making his own par putt, conceded the missable three-foot par putt of Brit Tony Jacklin, resulting in a 16-16 tie.  By Ryder Cup rules, the U.S. “retained the Cup” due to the tie, but Nicklaus’s move assured Great Britain would not lose outright for the sixth straight matches, and is known as one of the great displays of sportsmanship in history.  The gesture is known as “The Concession,” and Nicklaus and Jacklin would go on to co-design a course in Sarasota, Fla. called The Concession in homage to this Ryder Cup.  The pair also went against each other as Ryder Cup captains in 1983 and 1987.

3.  1985:  Europe 16.5, United States 11.5, The Belfry, Sutton Coldfield, England

Great Britain/Europe’s fortunes had not improved since those 1969 matches, as they had still not won since 1957 entering the 1985 matches.  After the U.S. took the opening session 3-1, Europe won each remaining session, clinching the Cup on Sunday with five matches still on the course.  After Scotland’s Sam Torrance made the Cup-clinching putt, he raised his arms to the sky and tears came down his face, as Europe had won their first Ryder Cup in 28 years.  These matches were not the closest or most dramatic in Ryder Cup history, but are among the most significant, as the Ryder Cup was reborn on September 15, 1985.

2.  1991:  United States 14.5, Europe 13.5, The Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, S.C.

This controversial Ryder Cup, played at course architect Pete Dye’s seaside gem near Charleston, is known as “The War By The Shore.”  Patriotism of the American fans was at a crescendo after the Persian Gulf War, and the Ryder Cup was just coming into its own, making this the perfect storm.  Add to that the ongoing Ryder Cup rivalry between Azinger and Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, which reached its peak at Kiawah, and the matches were the most boisterous in Ryder Cup history.  The back-and-forth affair came down to the final putt, a six-footer for German Bernhard Langer.  Had he made the putt, the teams would have tied at 14, and Europe would have retained the Cup, but Langer missed, giving the U.S. its first Ryder Cup win since 1983 by the narrowest of margins.  Unfortunately, many remember Langer more for this missed putt than for his two Masters victories.

1 (tie).  1999:  United States 14.5, Europe 13.5, The Country Club, Brookline, Mass.
2012:  Europe 14.5, United States 13.5, Medinah Golf Club, Chicago, Ill.

It wouldn’t be right to rank one of these memorable Ryder Cups over the other, with both having an unimaginable outcome.  American fans would likely choose 1999 as the best, while Europeans would take 2012, but both featured remarkable comebacks from an identical deficit in Sunday Singles.

In 1999 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., the Americans faced a 10-6 deficit entering Sunday Singles, something that had never been overcome to win a Ryder Cup.  But after Ben Crenshaw famously told the media on Saturday night “I’ve got a good feeling about this,” the U.S. won the first six singles matches to take the lead, then stood a half-point away from clinching the matches as Justin Leonard played the 17th hole against Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal, leading to the most controversial moment in Ryder Cup history.  Leonard holed a 40-foot birdie putt, forcing Olazabal to make his 25-footer to keep European hopes alive, but before Olazabal could putt, the U.S. team (and many wives/girlfriends, caddies, and assistant captains) stormed the green in celebration.  The over-the-top celebration was the black cloud hanging over what was, at the time, the greatest comeback in golf history, and is known as the “Miracle at Brookline.”

But while the 1999 American team came from 10-6 down to win on home soil, the 2012 European team faced the same deficit at Medinah Country Club in Chicago entering the final day, but as “visitors” on American soil.  The U.S. actually led 10-4 midway through the fourball matches on Saturday afternoon, before Europe pulled to within 10-6.  Similar to the U.S. comeback at Brookline, the Europeans won the first five matches in Sunday Singles.  Three pivotal matches turned in the final two holes, with Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, and Martin Kaymer each winning the last two holes (against Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, and Steve Stricker, respectively) to turn 1-up American leads into 1-up European victories, with Kaymer’s match clinching the Cup for the Europeans.  Ironically, Olazabal, who on the losing end of the clinching match in 1999, was the European captain in 2012, while the Americans were led by Davis Love III, who returns as captain this year.  After the matches, the European media dubbed the comeback the “Miracle at Medinah,” while some American media opted for the “Meltdown at Medinah.”

 

 

Ryder Cup TV Schedule

Friday:  8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Golf Channel)
Saturday:  9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (NBC)
Sunday:  12 p.m. to 6 p.m. (NBC)

Ryder Cup Matches

1927:  United States 9.5, Great Britain 2.5
1929:  Great Britain 7, United States 5
1931:  United States 9, Great Britain 3
1933:  Great Britain 6.5, United States 5.5
1935:  United States 9, Great Britain 3
1937:  United States 8, Great Britain 4
1939-45:  no matches due to World War II
1947:  United States 11, Great Britain 1
1949:  United States 7, Great Britain 5
1951:  United States 9.5, Great Britain 2.5
1953:  United States 6.5, Great Britain 5.5
1955:  United States 8, Great Britain 4
1957:  Great Britain 7.5, United States 4.5
1959:  United States 8.5, Great Britain 3.5
1961:  United States 14.5, Great Britain 9.5
1963:  United States 23, Great Britain 9
1965:  United States 19.5, Great Britain 12.5
1967:  United States 23.5, Great Britain 8.5
1969:  United States 16, Great Britain 16 (U.S. retains the Cup)
1971:  United States 18.5, Great Britain 13.5
1973:  United States 19, Great Britain & Ireland 13
1975:  United States 21, Great Britain & Ireland 11
1977:  United States 12.5, Great Britain & Ireland 7.5
1979:  United States 17, Europe 11
1981:  United States 18.5, Europe 9.5
1983:  United States 14.5, Europe 13.5
1985:  Europe 16.5, United States 11.5
1987:  Europe 15, United States 13
1989:  Europe 14, United States 14 (Europe retains the Cup)
1991:  United States 14.5, Europe 13.5
1993:  United States 15, Europe 13
1995:  Europe 14.5, United States 13.5
1997:  Europe 14.5, United States 13.5
1999:  United States 14.5, Europe 13.5
2001:  matches postponed due to 9/11 attacks
2002:  Europe 15.5, United States 12.5
2004:  Europe 18.5, United States 9.5
2006:  Europe 18.5, United States 9.5
2008:  United States 16.5, Europe 11.5
2010:  Europe 14.5, United States 13.5
2012:  Europe 14.5, United States 13.5
2014:  Europe 16.5, United States 11.5

College Football Power Rankings for Week Four

While Saturday was an entertaining day of college football, and there are repercussions for some in this week’s rankings, it doesn’t compare to this week.

The week started with Notre Dame, who lost to Duke on Saturday, firing offensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, and LSU, after a narrow loss at Auburn, fired head coach Les Miles (114-34 and a national champion at LSU, but that’s another discussion for another day).

This weekend will be wild, with Louisville traveling to Clemson for a top five matchup, and two more top ten matchups of Wisconsin-Michigan and Stanford-Washington.

As we head into this crazy weekend as the calendar turns to the second month of college football, here are the updated power rankings:

1. Alabama (4-0, Last Week:  1st, AP Poll:  1st)
Last Week:  def. Kent State, 48-0
This Week:  vs. Kentucky
The Crimson Tide dominated coach Nick Saban’s alma mater of Kent State on Saturday, coming off of their win over Ole Miss, and heading into the resumption of SEC play against Kentucky.  After this week it will be tougher for the Tide, as they face three straight ranked opponents before traveling to LSU.

2. Louisville (4-0, 2nd, 3rd)
Last Week:  def. Marshall, 59-28
This Week:  at #5 Clemson
Louisville’s offense continued to roll against Marshall, a week ahead of this Saturday’s showdown in Death Valley against Clemson, which will be the toughest defense the electric Cardinals offense has faced.  Quarterback Lamar Jackson has accounted for an unthinkable 25 touchdowns in four games, including 12 on the ground (no other player at any position has more than seven rushing TDs), with 526 rushing yards ranking him sixth in the nation… as a quarterback.

3. Clemson (4-0, 3rd, 5th)
Last Week:  def. Georgia Tech, 26-7
This Week:  vs. #3 Louisville
The Tigers have had their share of issues early in the season, but with Auburn being their toughest game thus far, they’ve been able to work on some things.  They won a little more comfortably at Georgia Tech than in previous weeks (besides the 59-0 South Carolina State game), but now face likely their toughest test all year against Louisville.  The Tigers should have some help at home in one of the nation’s best atmospheres, but they are home underdogs for the first time since 2013.

4. Michigan (4-0, 4th, 4th)
Last Week:  def. Penn State, 49-10
This Week:  vs. #8 Wisconsin
The Wolverines dominated Penn State, and have won each game by 17 or more, with three of their four wins by 37 or more.  This week, however, will be tougher when Wisconsin, fresh off their road win over Michigan State, comes to Ann Arbor.  Michigan needs to take advantage of this test, because it is the only one of their three remaining games against ranked opponents that will come at home.

5. Ohio State (3-0, 5th, 2nd)
Last Week:  idle
This Week:  vs. Rutgers
The Buckeyes got to enjoy football with the rest of us this past weekend, and will host Rutgers this week as they open Big Ten play.  Their conference slate features road tests with Wisconsin (Oct. 15) and Michigan State (Nov. 19), and home games against Nebraska (Nov. 5) and Michigan (Nov. 26).

6. Wisconsin (4-0, 10th, 8th)
Last Week:  def. #8 Michigan State, 30-6
This Week:  at #4 Michigan
While the Badgers’ win over LSU doesn’t look as strong now as it did at the time, the Badgers have a new signature win anyway, after a 24-point victory at Michigan State.  That game was week one of a five-game gauntlet, which continues this week at #4 Michigan, before continuing over their next four weeks (idle, Ohio State, at Iowa, Nebraska).  It will be very difficult for the Badgers to get through this stretch undefeated, but if they can it gets much easier in November as the race for the College Football Playoff heats up.

7. Houston (4-0, 6th, 6th)
Last Week:  def. Texas State, 64-3
This Week:  vs. Connecticut
Last year, with quarterback Greg Ward Jr. out injured, Houston suffered their only loss of the season at Connecticut.  This year, Ward will be in the lineup as his Cougars face the Huskies on Thursday night.  If revenge is on the minds of the Cougars, it could be a long night for Connecticut.

8. Stanford (3-0, 7th, 7th)
Last Week:  def. UCLA, 22-13
This Week:  at #10 Washington
The Cardinal scored late to take a 16-13 lead on UCLA, before scoring on a fumble return on the last play to win by nine.  While the Cardinal survived the trip to Pasadena, they will have to play better if they want to stay unbeaten this weekend, as they travel to Washington on Friday.  The Huskies, coached by former Boise State coach Chris Peterson, are a trendy team off to a good start, and could be quite the threat to the Cardinal’s playoff hopes.

9. Tennessee (4-0, 9th, 11th)
Last Week:  def. #19 Florida, 38-28
This Week:  at #25 Georgia
It was the best of games, it was the worst of games, when the Volunteers played Florida on Saturday.  Okay, that was too easy, but it really was a tale of two halves, as Florida led the Vols 21-3 at the half, before Tennessee outscored the Gators 35-7 in the second half on their way to a win that should give them the inside track in the SEC East.  Tennessee, who faces Georgia on Saturday in Athens, held Florida to 106 rushing yards in the win.

10. Florida State (3-1, 12th, 12th)
Last Week:  def. South Florida, 55-35
This Week:  vs. North Carolina
The Seminoles rebounded from their 63-20 loss at Louisville, using 38 first-half points on their way to a 20-point win at South Florida.  Dalvin Cook leads the Seminoles with 495 rushing yards, and should have a good day on Saturday when the ‘Noles face a North Carolina team that ranks 120th in rushing defense.  This week starts a stretch of seven straight conference games before Florida State’s regular season finale against Florida.

11. Baylor (4-0, 13th, 13th)
12. Washington (4-0, 15th, 10th)
13. Nebraska (4-0, 14th, 15th)
14. Miami (3-0, 16th, 14th)
15. Ole Miss (2-2, 22nd, 16th)

16. Texas A&M (4-0, 20th, 9th)
17. Michigan State (2-1, 8th, 17th)
18. North Carolina (3-1, 19th, unranked)
19. Oklahoma (1-2, 21st, unranked)
20. Boise State (3-0, 23rd, 24th)

21. Iowa (3-1, 24th, unranked)
22. Utah (4-0, unranked, 18th)
23. San Diego State (3-0, unranked, 19th)
24. TCU (3-1, unranked, 21st)
25. Virginia Tech (3-1, unranked, unranked)

Also Ranked in AP Poll:  Arkansas (3-1, 20th), Texas (2-1, 22nd), Florida (3-1, 23rd), Georgia (3-1, 25th)

Fell from Rankings:  LSU (2-2, LW: 11th), Georgia (3-1, 17th), Oklahoma State (2-2, 18th), Arkansas (3-1, 25th)

Column: Long Live The King

Arnold Palmer, a cultural icon who was “The King” of golf, died Sunday at age 87.

But while Palmer has died, his legacy will continue to be felt as long as the game of golf is played, and played competitively.

The King of Golf

Arnold Daniel Palmer was born September 10, 1929 in Latrobe, Pa., the son of the head pro and greenskeeper at Latrobe Country Club, introducing him to the game of golf at a young age.

Palmer attended Wake Forest on a golf scholarship, but after the death of close friend and teammate Bud Worsham in a car accident, Palmer dropped out of school and joined the Coast Guard.  When he returned to golf, he won the U.S. Amateur in 1954, and turned professional.

Palmer’s first pro win came at the 1955 Canadian Open, before his first major at the 1958 Masters.  Palmer won seven major championships (1958, ’60, ’62, ’64 Masters, ’60 U.S. Open, ’61 and ’62 Open Championship), and narrowly missed the career grand slam with three runner-up finishes in the PGA Championship.

While Palmer’s major championships were all within a seven-year span, he won at least one event on the PGA Tour every season from 1955 to 1971, before his final win in February 1973.  In all, Palmer totaled 95 professional wins, including 62 on the PGA Tour.

The King earned his fame and reputation in his four triumphs at The Masters.  Golf was once thought to be a sport that was impossible to televise, and when networks did begin coverage, it was only of a few holes of the vast venue of a golf course.  The first televised Masters was in 1956, just as Palmer’s career was beginning.

Palmer, a charismatic and handsome player, was perfect for the television cameras, and audiences were enthralled by watching Palmer prevail over the field.  Palmer, the game of golf at large, and golf on television all grew up during what many consider a “golden age,” as Palmer won four out of seven Masters tournaments from 1958-64.

Palmer’s style was to be aggressive, similar to many of the fearless players of today, and many have called Palmer a swashbuckler.  Palmer would take the risks necessary to pull off the big shot, and in doing so gained legions of fans known as “Arnie’s Army.”

Palmer’s connection with The Masters extended from his final win in 1964 to the present day.  Since 2007, Palmer served as the honorary starter of The Masters, hitting the ceremonial first tee shot each year, with Jack Nicklaus joining in the ritual since 2010 and Gary Player since 2012.

Palmer, who was the 1960 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, played on six Ryder Cup teams between 1961-73, and was the last playing captain of a Ryder Cup team in 1963, before he was a non-playing captain in 1975.  None of the seven U.S. Ryder Cup teams with Palmer involvement lost the event.  Palmer was also the U.S. captain at the 1996 President’s Cup, another American victory.

When Palmer moved on to the Champions Tour, the PGA Tour’s division for players 50 and older, he won 10 times, including five of the tour’s “majors”, between 1980-88.

The King of Business

Palmer had one of the great on-course careers in PGA Tour history, but remembering Palmer only for his golf accomplishments would not fully embody the legacy of The King.

Palmer and his legendary longtime manager Mark McCormack founded Arnold Palmer Enterprises, a company which managed Palmer’s licensing, endorsements, appearances and commercial associations.

This includes his work as a course architect, as Palmer helped build over 200 courses worldwide, including negotiations for the first golf course in China in 1982.  His most famous design is Bay Hill, the club which he also owns in Orlando, which hosts the annual Arnold Palmer Invitational, one of the biggest non-major tournaments on the PGA Tour.  For years, many players have used the event in late March as a final tune-up for The Masters, resulting in a great field;  Tiger Woods has won the event eight times, while the reigning champion is Jason Day, the world’s top-ranked player.

Palmer also designed two other active PGA Tour venues (Kapalua Plantation, TPC Boston), as well as The K Club in Ireland, which hosted the 2006 Ryder Cup.

Starting in 1991, Palmer partnered with businessman Joseph Gibbs to work towards launching a cable channel with 24-hour golf programming, and on January 17, 1995, Golf Channel went on the air.  Today, Golf Channel is a large part of the PGA Tour’s broadcasting rights contract, and can be seen in over 79 million homes.

Palmer’s business legacy also includes the Arnold Palmer, a drink which mixes sweet tea and lemonade, and is sold in country clubs and convenience stores alike nationwide.   An anchor on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Sunday night remarked that, while many do not necessarily know of Arnold Palmer’s golf legacy, nearly everyone knows what “an Arnold Palmer” entails.

After Winnie, Palmer’s wife of 45 years, died of cancer in 1999, Palmer began planning the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, a 285-bed facility which opened in 2006 in Orlando.  When discussing Palmer’s legacy in a statement on Sunday, Tiger Woods recalled that both of his children were born at the Winnie Palmer hospital.

The King of Kindness

Beyond his tangible golf and business accomplishments, many stories have been told since the news broke of Palmer’s passing about his simple kindness.  Many men who played on the PGA Tour after Palmer have said they got advice from him to look people in the eye, and to sign autographs legibly, when out meeting fans.  While Palmer had lots of fans, he always seemed to have time for all of them.

Palmer was a Freemason from 1958 until his death, and was also a licensed pilot from the late-1950s until 2011.  The ability to fly himself around the world, first playing golf and then as an ambassador for the game, enabled Arnold Palmer to be Arnold Palmer, and still, by all accounts, be the great family man that he was with his two children, four grandchildren (including PGA Tour player Sam Saunders), and nine great-grandchildren.

In 2012, just after his 83rd birthday, Palmer was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by U.S. Congress.  He is one of just seven athletes given the honor (Roberto Clemente, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus).  Upon giving Palmer the award, then-House speaker John Boehner summed up Palmer’s contributions wonderfully.

“He didn’t set out to change the game,” Boehner said.  “But he did. Arnold Palmer democratized golf. And made us think that we too could go out and play, and made us believe we could do anything really. All we had to do was go out and try.”

Arnold Palmer was, despite a fantastic career, not the greatest golfer of all-time, but he is the most iconic and still, 52 years after his final major championship, perhaps the most beloved.

Arnold Palmer is The King.  And while his life has ended, his legacy will be long-lived.

 

 

Fun fact:  Fred Rogers, of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, attended the same high school as Arnold Palmer in Latrobe, Pa., and graduated one year ahead of Palmer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arnold Palmer Career Statistics (PGA Tour)
734 starts
62 wins
245 top fives

388 top 10’s
574 made cuts
$1,861,857 career earnings
1958, 1960, 1962, 1964 Masters champion
1960 U.S. Open champion
1961, 1962 Open champion
1961, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1971, 1975 Ryder Cup
22-8-2 Ryder Cup record
17 consecutive seasons with a win (1955-71), tied for most all-time
1974 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee
10 Champions Tour wins
5 Champions Tour major championships

Column: Jose Fernandez Didn’t Live a Long Life, But Lived a Full One

Miami Marlins ace pitcher Jose Fernandez, one of the great young talents in the game of baseball, was killed early Sunday morning at age 24 after a boating accident off the coast of Miami Beach.

In a four-year career, Fernandez had proven himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball, going 38-17 with a 2.58 ERA in 76 starts for Miami, and was 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA in a career-high 29 starts this season.

A Bright Young Star

Fernandez was born in Santa Clara, Cuba on July 31, 1992, and grew up on the same street as St. Louis Cardinals infielder Aledmys Diaz.  The pair grew up playing the game together, and Fernandez cited Diaz’s family as a strong influence on his baseball career.

After Fernandez’s stepfather successfully defected from Cuba to Tampa, Fla. in 2005, Fernandez and his mother and sister unsuccessfully attempted to defect three times.  Finally, in 2007, the trio successfully emigrated from Cuba to Tampa, through Mexico and Texas, although Fernandez’s mother fell off the ship during the trip, requiring Fernandez to jump in the water to save her life.

Fernandez was selected 14th overall by the Marlins in the 2011 MLB Draft, and quickly rose through the Marlins’ minor league system, including throwing the first six innings of a combined no-hitter in 2012 with the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Class A/South Atlantic League).

Prior to the 2013 season, Baseball America rated Fernandez the top prospect of the Marlins, and the 5th ranked prospect in all of baseball.  The team’s original plan was to keep him in the high minors to start the 2013 season, but after injuries to other starting pitchers, Fernandez made the team’s opening day roster at age 20.  After a 12-6 record and a 2.19 ERA in his rookie campaign, Fernandez was named National League Rookie of the Year, and finished third in Cy Young Award voting behind Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright.

Fernandez missed most of 2014 and the first half of 2015 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May of 2014.  In 19 combined starts in 2014-15, Fernandez was 10-3 with a 2.71 ERA, and on September 25, 2015, set a major league record with his 17th consecutive win at home.

Fernandez was a candidate for the NL Cy Young Award for 2016, ranking fifth in wins and ninth in ERA.  After news broke of his death, some social media users began campaigning for Fernandez to be given the Cy Young Award posthumously, as a tribute to the career he had, and would have had if not for his sudden passing.

The American Dream

Some who knew Fernandez said Sunday that he has said “You were given freedom; I had to earn mine,” and Fernandez played the game of baseball joyously, clearly appreciating the opportunities he had to play baseball professionally in the U.S. after his Cuban birth.

On April 24, 2015, while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Fernandez became a U.S. citizen.  His American pride, as a naturalized citizen, was apparent on July 3, 2016, when the Marlins and Atlanta Braves played a game at Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fernandez appeared in awe and appreciation of the atmosphere and the military personnel in attendance.

Fernandez had announced last week that he and girlfriend Maria Arias were expecting their first child, adding another sad detail to this tragic story.

 

Fernandez’s passion was evident to anyone who watched any game he pitched.  A couple of times, opposing teams took exception to how Fernandez displayed his emotion (namely, the Atlanta Braves on two separate occasions), but based on the reaction of the baseball community at large, including current and former Braves players involved in those past disagreements, other players certainly appreciated how Fernandez played the game, and how much he clearly enjoyed playing the game.

Even Brian McCann, who shared words on the field with Fernandez in 2013 after he ran the bases slowly “admiring” his first career home run, was reportedly in tears in the Yankees locker room on Sunday morning when the news of Fernandez’s death was announced.  In the heat of battle, Fernandez was the opponent, but his loss shows how much affection everyone within the MLB fraternity had for the jovial pitcher.

A Big Loss For Baseball

Many within the Major League Baseball community shared their feelings on Fernandez on Twitter on Sunday:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At a Marlins press conference Sunday afternoon, Marlins manager Don Mattingly shared his thoughts on Fernandez, while team owner Jeffrey Loria released a statement.

“I see such a little boy in the way he played. Such joy. When you watch kids play Little League, that’s what I think about,” Mattingly said.

“Sadly, the brightest lights are often the ones that extinguish the fastest. Jose left us far too soon, but his memory will endure in all of us. At this difficult time, our prayers are with his mother, grandmother, family and friends,” Loria said.

The team’s game against the Atlanta Braves scheduled for Sunday afternoon was cancelled.

Longtime Sports Illustrated baseball writer Tom Verducci may have written the best description of anyone in the game on one of its darkest days in recent memory:

“The wickedness of his breaking ball was exceeded only by the wattage of his smile. His personality, not just his arm, made Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins one of baseball’s brightest stars in ascension. At 24, Fernandez not only played baseball well but also played it with elan. He mowed down hitters with an alluring combination of molten ferocity and boyish joy.”

In Fernandez’s last start on Tuesday, he held the Washington Nationals (the NL East Division champions) to no runs and three hits in eight strong innings.  While no one knew it was his final MLB appearance, his final game was an indicative representation of his formidable career.  Fernandez’s final out was Nationals 2B Daniel Murphy, a NL MVP contender, and when he returned to the dugout, Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds jokingly kissed him on the cheek after the terrific outing.

Fernandez’s death is the fourth in 2016 by an active professional baseball player, but the first by a player on a major league roster since Oscar Taveras’ death in 2014. His death is the youngest by a former All-Star in MLB history.

While Jose Fernandez lived a life that seems much too short after his tragic death, the 24 years he did have were lived to the fullest, as he appreciated the opportunities he had, and showed with his actions how much he loved what he did, and did well, playing the game of baseball.

 

 

Jose Fernandez Career Statistics (MLB)
2013:  12-6, 2.19 ERA, 28 starts, 172.2 innings, 187 strikeouts
2014:  4-2, 2.44 ERA, 8 starts, 51.2 innings, 70 strikeouts

2015:  6-1, 2.92 ERA, 11 starts, 64.2 innings, 79 strikeouts
2016:  16-8, 2.86 ERA, 29 starts, 182.1 innings, 253 strikeouts
Career:  38-17, 2.58 ERA, 76 starts, 471.1 innings, 589 strikeouts

Twitter Picks for College Football Week Four

Game of the Week

#11 Wisconsin (3-0) at #8 Michigan State (2-0)
Saturday, 12:00 pm ET, BTN
Favorite:  Michigan State by 5
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Wisconsin- 10th, Michigan State- 8th

 

Big Game Guarantee

#12 Georgia (3-0) at #23 Ole Miss (1-2)
Saturday, 12:00 pm ET, ESPN
Favorite:  Ole Miss by 7
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Georgia- 17th, Ole Miss- 22nd

 

Upset of the Week

Pittsburgh (2-1) at North Carolina (2-1)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, ESPNU
Favorite:  North Carolina by 7
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Pittsburgh- unranked, North Carolina- 19th

 

Closer Than the Experts Think

Kent State (1-2) at #1 Alabama (3-0)
Saturday, 12:00 pm ET, SECN
Favorite:  Alabama by 44
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Kent State- unranked, Alabama- 1st

 

Not Closer Than the Experts Think

#7 Stanford (2-0) at UCLA (2-1)
Saturday, 8:00 pm ET, ABC
Favorite:  Stanford by 3
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Stanford- 7th, UCLA- unranked

 

Overhyped Game

#17 Arkansas (3-0) vs. #10 Texas A&M (3-0)
Saturday, 9:00 pm ET, ESPN
at Arlington, Tex. (AT&T Stadium)
Favorite:  Texas A&M by 6
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Arkansas- 25th, Texas A&M- 20th

 

Group of Five Game of the Week

East Carolina (2-1) at Virginia Tech (2-1)
Saturday, 12:30 pm ET, ACCN
Favorite:  Virginia Tech by 12
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Is This Futbol?

#19 Florida (3-0) at #14 Tennessee (3-0)
Saturday, 3:30 pm ET, CBS
Favorite:  Tennessee by 7
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Florida- unranked (P.S. they’re the first team out), Tennessee- 9th

 

Is This Basketball?

Oklahoma State (2-1) at #16 Baylor (3-0)
Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, FOX
Favorite:  Baylor by 8
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  Oklahoma State- 18th, Baylor- 13th

 

Toilet Bowl 

South Carolina (2-1) at Kentucky (1-2)
Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, SECN
Favorite:  Kentucky by 3
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  both teams are unranked

 

Miscellaneous:  Game Most Likely To Be Won By Tigers, Volume II

#18 LSU (2-1) at Auburn (1-2)
Saturday, 6:00 pm ET, ESPN
Favorite:  LSU by 4
Stiles on Sports Ranking:  LSU- 11th, Auburn- unranked

 

NFL Game of the Week

Houston Texans (2-0) at New England Patriots (2-0)
Thursday, 8:25 pm ET, CBS/NFLN
Favorite:  even

 

For what it’s worth…

Overall Record:  15-20
Last Week:  4-8
College Overall Record: 15-18
NFL Game of the Week: 0-2

Game of the Week:  2-1
Big Game Guarantee:  1-2
Upset of the Week:  0-3
Closer Than the Experts Think:  1-2
Not Closer Than the Experts Think:  2-1
Overhyped Game:  1-2
Group of Five Game of the Week:  3-0
Is This Futbol?:  1-2
Is This Basketball?:  2-1
Toilet Bowl:  0-3
Miscellaneous:  2-1

For an explanation of the categories for Twitter Picks, click here.