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The Phillies v. Cardinals game on Tuesday night was nothing spectacular for either side. Starting pitchers Brett Myers (5.1IP, 5ER) and Adam Wainwright (6IP, 7ER) were both mediocre at best, while the combined pitching staffs slugged it out for a whose-pitching-staff-can-try-and-lose-the-most offensive shootout.

There was one story line that caught my attention, however, as I tuned into this game in the bottom of the eighth inning.

The Cardinals went down 1-2-3, sending the game into the top of the ninth with the Phillies holding a three-run lead. Entering the ninth, this game was in a save situation, so Phillies closer Brad Lidge began to warm up in the bullpen.

In the top of the ninth, however, the Phillies tagged on another run, making it a 10-6 game and no longer a save situation.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel followed the thought pattern of most managers in this situation: My closer is already warmed up, and even though this isn’t a save situation anymore he can go ahead and close this game out.

Manuel forgot one minor detail in his decision to send Lidge to the mound: the first batter due up in the bottom of the ninth was Albert Pujols.

Yes, that Albert Pujols. The guy who wrecked two years of Brad Lidge’s career with one swing.

"Oh God Please Hit The Ceiling or Something..."

"Oh God Please Hit The Ceiling or Something..."

Here is the play-by-play from the Cardinals ninth inning:

– B. Lidge relieved R. Madson
A. Pujols homered to deep left

Brad Lidge’s second pitch was a belt-high 94mph four-seam-fastball right over the heart of the plate that Albert Pujols delivered to a fan sitting in Section 346, Row ZZ, Seat 9. Translation: it went somewhere far, far away.

Well played, Charlie Manuel…

All I am saying is that if your team is in a non-save situation and the next batter up is your closer’s personal home-wrecker/life-wrecker/career-wrecker SIT THE KID DOWN!

Regardless of a boring game I found it entertaining to take a stroll down memory lane and watch Brad Lidge give himself whiplash watching a pitch sail towards Never-Land in the left field bleachers.

Despite Albert Pujols’ homerun being an A-Rod Homerun (meaning that it was hit in the ninth inning when his team was either down a lot or up a lot and helped the team in no way whatsoever), it was a no-doubter off the bat and Brad Lidge’s face as he watched it fly away was simply priceless.

If Brad Lidge blows eight of his next ten save opportunities and is removed from the closer role I’ll know why, and I’ll blame Charlie Manuel…

sk.

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As I write this, the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies are in the 7th inning of a Coors Field-esque showdown. Through six innings, the two teams have combined for 18 runs, 24 hits, 7 extra base hits, and a whopping 13.50 ERA…

The headline of the night, however, has nothing to do with the batter’s box. Instead, the most eye-popping statistics have come from the basepaths. The Rockies have eight steals as a team, including five from OF Dexter Fowler. Here is an example of the Rockies’ mindset on the basepath tonight:

– D. Fowler singled to shallow right
– D. Fowler stole second
– R. Spilborghs walked
– D. Fowler stole third, R. Spilborghs stole second

The gameplan seems simple, get on base and start running. I am most impressed because this is happening in an era of baseball where prominent base stealers have all but died off.

Rockies OF Dexter Fowler

Rockies OF Dexter Fowler

My dad used to tell me about how Rickey Henderson simply dominated games from the basepaths. Henderson would take a walk to lead off the game, steal second, then steal third, leaving the opposing team with no option but to concede the run. Fowler’s performance tonight hearkens back to the days when base runners regularly dominated baseball games. This isn’t to say that stolen bases aren’t significant anymore, but to say that there is no star-caliber player who is heralded for running wild nearly every time he is on base.

So far tonight Fowler has ran on nearly every opportunity he has had . He is five-for-five in steal attempts , and there is every chance he could end up with six or seven. In the fourth inning he singled and stole second, and had it not been for Ryan Spilborghs singling on an early pitch in his at-bat, Fowler would have probably made another run at third base.

Will Dexter Fowler end the drought of 100+ steal seasons in Major League Baseball? Probably not. But maybe Major League Baseball needs more base runners to run wild. It adds another dimension to the game that most fans aren’t used to seeing.

In a completely unrelated matter, there is still no news on the whereabouts of missing Padres Catcher Nick Hundley. He was last seen behind home plate in tonight’s game, but after the Rockies went eight-for-eight on the basepaths, Padres Manager Bud Black filed a missing person report in order to determine (as Black put it), “just where in the hell he was for the first six innings of the game.”

sk.

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Dear Soccer — I initially apologized for allowing Hockey to sneak onto our blog before an article was written about you. Golf soon followed, and it became clear that our relationship was far from monogamous. Unfortunately, my newest sin might be unforgivable… Writing about NASCAR before you… I may come back to you for an occasional hit-and-run (no NASCAR pun intended) but just know that our relationship might be on the verge of breaking — Love, Scotty

The Final Lap at Talladega

#39 Ryan Newman eludes #99 Carl Edwards on the Final Lap

Ricky Bobby was sighted at the Aaron’s 499 on Sunday night at the Talladega Super Speedway.

I am far from a NASCAR aficionado, but a lazy day at work somehow lead to a couple of guys in my bar turning on the final three laps of the Aaron’s 499 (formerly known as the Talladega 500, the Winston 500, the Maxi Tampon 500, and any other business NASCAR will sell its services to).

I wasn’t too enthused, as I don’t follow NASCAR and auto racing generally bores me. Regardless of the fact that I don’t follow NASCAR, however, the finish to this race was simply phenomenal.

Prior to tonight’s race, every NASCAR expert predicted #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. to either win the race or finish in the top five. Earnhardt has had incredible success at Talladega, and with the hot streak Hendrick Racing is on it would only make sense for Junior to win.

With three laps to go (when I started watching the race), Earnhardt was in second place behind #39 Ryan Newman. Despite trailing, Earnhardt was in the strongest position on the track. He was drafting Newman and preparing to make a pass on the final lap of the race.

It appeared as if Newman and Earnhardt were going to pull away from the pack until #99 Carl Edwards charged into contention from the outside lanes. Edwards was being pushed/drafted by #09 Brad Keselowski. Edwards and Keselowski pulled ahead of Newman and Earnhardt at the beginning of the final lap, and as they distanced themselves from the pack  it became clear that one of these two men would take the checkered flag.

As Keselowski and Edwards rounded the track at nearly 200 miles an hour, every viewer asked themselves “When is Keselowski going to make the pass?”

Coming out of the final turn, Keselowski tried to make the pass outside and was blocked by Edwards. This block opened up the inside track and Keselowski quickly jumped on it. Edwards tried to block the inside as well, but got there too late as Keselowski’s had already jumped on the opening. Edwards’ rear left panel caught the front of Keselowski’s car as he tried to make the block and the #99 car went airborne. Keselowski avoided wrecking and crossed the finish line to win one of the wildest races in recent memory.

Here is video footage of the final three laps (It’s three minutes long but worth watching):

The most amazing part of this race was not the crash at the end, however, it was how Carl Edwards reacted.

Everyone I was watching with yelled out “Edwards is so pissed!” and “Look at how fast Edwards is climbing out! He is going to find Keselowski.” Edwards’ true intentions, however, were downright hilarious.

If you don’t want to watch the entire video,  for the sake of humor you need to load it and watch from 2:00 to the end.

At approximately 2:00 of the above video, Edwards finally makes it out of his car and decides to finish the race the only way he knew how: on foot.

"Help Me Tom Cruise!"

"Help Me Tom Cruise!"

The comparison to Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is obvious, and Edwards’ body language while jogging to the finish line is both entertaining and humorous.

The commentators even pitched in to make this comparable to the final scene of Talladega Nights. One announcer says, “Not sure where Carl’s going… Maybe he thinks if he runs across the finish line it will count,” and the other soon follows with “Shades of Ricky Bobby.”

Between the suspense-packed final lap and Carl Edwards’ entertaining finish, I found the end of this race outstanding.

Seriously though, Soccer, when the World Cup starts you’ll get your turn.

sk.

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Remember the Sonics! is introducing a new feature called Guest Space. Any reader is welcome to submit their own work for consideration, as long as it falls within the realm of sports history, analysis, projections, etc.

The Guest Space premiere article is from Brian Hodges, an Oklahoma native and avid Oklahoma State Cowboys fan.

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I know it may be heresy to write about Oklahoma City sports on a blog named Remember the Sonics, but please hear me out.

Oklahoma City has never been known as a breeding ground for top-notch athletes. While Hall of Fame athletes like Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench, and Steve Largent were born and/or raised in Oklahoma City, their time of greatness has long passed. Since then, Oklahomans have been forced to find pride in gymnasts such as Bart Conner and Shannon Miller… And who really cares about gymnastics?

Despite a long run of mediocrity, the past year has been freakishly good for Oklahoma City sports. For example, in the last calendar year players from Oklahoma City hoisted the Heisman Trophy (awarded to the best player in college football) and the Naismith Trophy (awarded to the best player in college basketball).

Here are a few Oklahoma City athletes who had outstanding accomplishments last season:

Sam Bradford – Football – Oklahoma Sooners QB

QB Sam Bradford

QB Sam Bradford

In only his sophomore year, quarterback Sam Bradford led the Oklahoma Sooners to a BCS National Championship. Throwing for over 4,700 yards and 50 touchdowns earned him the Davey O’Brien Award (awarded to the best quarterback in college football) and the most prestigious award in college football, the Heisman Trophy.

At the conclusion of this year’s college football season, Bradford was considered one of the top prospects for the 2009 NFL Draft. Instead of turning pro, however, he decided to return to Oklahoma for his junior year.

Sam Bradford’s 2008 College Football Resume

  • Led Oklahoma to a 12-1 Regular Season Record
  • Won the Big 12 Conference Championship
  • Earned a BCS National Championship Bid
  • Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year
  • AP First Team All-American
  • AP College Football Player of the Year
  • Sporting News Player of the Year
  • Sammy Baugh Trophy Winner
  • Davey O’Brien Award Winner
  • Heisman Trophy Winner

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Blake Griffin – Basketball – Oklahoma Sooners PF/C

griffin

PF/C Blake Griffin

In his sophomore year, Blake Griffin led Oklahoma to the Elite Eight. Griffin owned college basketball this season, averaging 22.7 Points Per Game and an NCAA-Best 14.4 Rebounds Per Game while recording 30 double-doubles. He won every legitimate “Player of the Year” trophy in 2009 and is universally projected as the No.1 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Blake Griffin’s 2008-09 College Basketball Resume

  • Led Oklahoma to a 27-4 Regular Season Record and an Elite Eight Appearance
  • Big 12 Player of the Year
  • Adolph Rupp Award Winner
  • Oscar Robertson Trophy Winner
  • AP First Team All-American
  • Sports Illustrated Player of the Year
  • Sporting News Player of the Year
  • AP College Basketball Player of the Year
  • John Wooden Award Winner
  • Too Many Other POTY Awards to List

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Xavier Henry – Basketball – Putnam City High School SG

xavier

SG Xavier Henry

Oklahoma City’s athletic success carried over to the high school ranks as well.

Xavier Henry, from my alma mater Putnam City High School, was the No.1 ranked college basketball prospect by ESPNU for most last season. He is still considered a top 10 prospect by every major recruiting website.

The 6’6” shooting guard committed to Memphis but is now considering other options since head coach John Calipari accepted the head coaching position at Kentucky. According to various sources, he has narrowed his list to Kansas, Memphis and the now-Calipari-led Kentucky Wildcats.

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Oklahoma City Thunder – NBA Franchise – Established in 2008

Most sports fans know how the Oklahoma City Thunder came to be, but most (former) Seattle Sonics fans are unaware of the Thunder’s impact on it’s new city. 2008 will always be remembered as the year that Oklahoma City finally received a major professional sports team.

While the Thunder struggled through its first season in Oklahoma City, it has a strong young corps of players led by superstar Kevin Durant. The Thunder will have a lottery pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, and have an outside chance at winning the No.1 Pick and adding local icon Blake Griffin to their roster.

Despite this season’s failure, the OKC Thunder are quickly becoming a stylish pick among NBA writers for the “team of the future.” The only question is when the Thunder can put it all together and produce a winning season.

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While the three athletes mentioned above are still very young, their potential is limitless. It is yet to be seen whether they will follow former Oklahoma City football star Brian Bosworth by turning into one of the biggest flops in the sports history or follow one of the Hall of Fame athletes mentioned before and become a legend.

Regardless of where they go from here, their futures are bright.

Oklahoma City sports fans should live it up while they can, because I don’t see Okies winning both the Heisman and the Naismith awards again any time soon.

-BH-

Brian Hodges can be reached at bhodges@harding.edu

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I have officially butted my way into a blog v. blog debate currently between our friends at Snatch Sports and Two Big Boobs. Technically, I was invited by a writer at Snatch, but had I not been I might have just posted my own answer anyways. Why? Because I’m that much of an ass…

Here is this weeks question: What sports event has had the biggest social impact on humankind?

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To answer this question I think its important to fully understand what is being asked. There are a number of events that have heavily influenced modern sports, but in order to answer this question one must understand that it is asking for a sports event that had a social impact on humankind.

Those are three very difficult terms to link together, since most of the famous sports events had great influence over sports (not humankind as a whole).

My answer to this question is one of the most famous events in history. I know it seems cliche, but sometimes the most adequate answer is the most obvious choice.

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson

Remember the Sonics has chosen Jackie Robinson breaking the MLB Color Barrier in 1947.

When reviewing Jackie Robinson’s Major League Baseball debut, one must remember that his actions did not affect only baseball. Instead, they made an astounding social impact on the entire country.

Since the late nineteenth century, Major League Baseball (and a host of other professional baseball organizations) held an unspoken agreement to exclude blacks from play. These type of agreements were born out of both racist beliefs from league officials and racial tensions throughout America.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Major League Baseball operated without any black players for over fifty years (1890-1946), prompting black baseball players to create their own professional baseball league; the Negro Leagues. This league featured some of the most famous baseball players of the era, including stars such as Satchel Paige, Hank Aaron, and Josh Gibson.

In 1945 Jackie Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. His talent was noticed quickly, however, and towards the end of that season he was interviewed by Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey. Rickey signed Robinson to play for a Dodgers’ minor league affiliate, but Robinson soon climbed the ranks to the Major Leagues.

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers, effectively breaking the Major League Baseball color barrier.

The rest of his career is irrelevant to this debate, although he did play All-Star caliber baseball, won an MVP Award, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. What mattered the most concerning Jackie Robinson was his first game played in April of 1947. This was a sports event that held a social impact on all of humankind.

The NBA soon followed suit, breaking its color barrier in 1950, while the National Football League, whose color barrier had been broken years before, also saw an increase in the number of black athletes in its organization.

Robinson’s career has been recounted in books, movies, and magazines. His actions provided commentary on the racial relations in mid-twentieth century America, and also provided a rallying cry for blacks as they sought equality in the impending Civil Rights Movement. Consider that his first game played was so significant that it is listed in the History Channel’s timeline of “Black History Milestones.”

His legacy is immortal, his story is timeless, and his No.42 has been universally retired in Major League Baseball (sorry Mo Vaughn).

In my opinion, Jackie Robinson breaking the Major League Baseball color barrier is easily the sports event that has had the greatest social impact on humankind.

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Click Here to View Snatch’s Response – Curt Flood and the Beginning of Free Agency

Click Here to View Two Big Boob’s Response – Jesse Owens’ Performance at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Please Help By Voting on Which Event You Think is Most Significant!

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sk.

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The first week of Major League Baseball has shown a number of surprise stories. In the fantasy realms, men like Emilio Bonifacio and Nyjer Morgan have caught fire. In the real world, however, the most shocking facet of Major League Baseball thus far is its respective division leaders.

Here is a list of the current division leaders:

AL West – Seattle Mariners
AL Central – Kansas City Royals
AL East – Baltimore Orioles
NL West – San Diego Padres
NL Central – Chicago Cubs
NL East – Florida Marlins

Needless to say, the only current division leader that was expected to be where they are is the Chicago Cubs. The rest of these teams are simply over-achieving, right? Maybe not…

Here is a run-down of the current division leaders and whether each team is teasing their fans with a good first week or could actually compete in 2009.

AL WEST – SEATTLE MARINERS

The general response to Mariners hype is “No way! They lost 101 games last season!” While this is true, most people overlook the fact that two years ago this team won 88 games and led the AL wild card race for most of the summer.

This is not to say that the Mariners will certainly win, but as I said in My Opening Day Article, the Mariners are capable of winning.

The three necessary components I listed are Griffey’s production (already 1HR), Bedard’s health (a near-shutout gem in his last start) and the bullpen gaining some consistency (David Aardsma and Brandon Morrow already look like a devastating 8th/9th inning combination). If these pieces fall into place, the Mariners could contend this year.

More than any other factor, the Mariners may benefit from playing in a weak division. The Angels are aging, the Athletics are talent-starved, and the Rangers seem content to keep winning or losing 15-run ballgames. If the Mariners develop some consistency they could pull this one off.

Verdict: Contender

AL CENTRAL – KANSAS CITY ROYALS

"Poppin' Fresh" Billy Butler Leads a Mediocre Kansas City Offense

"Poppin' Fresh" Billy Butler Leads a Mediocre Kansas City Offense

One of the most encouraging things about the Royals hot start is that it has come mostly against other AL Central opponents (combined 4-1 v. Chicago and Cleveland), but that being said it will be difficult for Kansas City to maintain this pace.

The Royals offense has been horrid, and in their first five games it scored a combined eight runs (1.6 R/G). Despite this terrible offense, Kansas City has been able to win with consistent pitching. Eventually this will fall through. Zach Grienke has an ERA of 0.00, Kyle Davies has a 2.13, and Gil Meche has a 3.21. These are excellent numbers, but to expect this production all year is ludicrous.

Grienke and Meche will remain solid, but Davies (career ERA over 5) and the rest of the Sidney Ponson All-Star rotation will not keep up this pace. Eventually the offense will drag them down.

Verdict: Pretender

AL EAST – BALTIMORE ORIOLES

This one is a slam-dunk choice for me. I’m not going to say that the Orioles are a terrible team, but I am saying that their competition is just too good for them to maintain their current pace.

Yes, they rocked the Yankees. But they caught C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in their first pinstripe starts, and if you look at each pitcher’s next round you can see what they are capable of.

Yes, they took a series from the Rays. But they caught the Rays’ back end of the rotation. They did not have to face Scott Kazmir or Matt Garza, while taking wins from Andy Sonnanstine and some guy named Niemann. B.J. Upton is healthy and the Rays are just getting started.

Oh yeah, then there is that team from Boston…

Sorry to Orioles fans, but 2009 is not their year. Baltimore has a good corps of five players (Roberts, A.Jones, Markakis, Huff, Mora), but the other teams in your division are just too talented for Baltimore to actually compete this year.

Verdict: Pretender

NL WEST – SAN DIEGO PADRES

SP Jake Peavy

SP Jake Peavy

I’m starting to feel like a jerk while writing this, but some of the things I’m writing have to be said.

I will give the Padres a great asset that the Orioles badly need: a terrible division to play in. However, I can’t say that the San Diego Padres can contend this year.

San Diego has split a series with the Dodgers (2-2) and swept a three-game series from the knockaround Giants. Unfortunately for the Padres, none of this has been done in convincing fashion.

San Diego seems content to let their pitching win games for them. They play in PetCo Park, feature a good-but-not-great pitching staff and to date the Padres have not scored more than seven runs in a game.

Jake Peavy and Chris Young are good enough to carry a team in this fashion. Walter Silva, Kevin Correia, and Shawn Hill, however, are not. Eventually San Diego’s mediocre offense will drag them down.

Verdict: Pretender

NL CENTRAL – CHICAGO CUBS

Yes. Is that enough to say here?

As I mentioned in My MLB Predictions Article, I believe that the Cubs have what it takes to win the NL Central. They have a solid pitching staff (Rich Harden is their No.4 Pitcher… That’s nasty) and excellent offensive weapons.

I don’t need to type much to defend the Cubs, as they are a near-consensus choice to win the NL Central this year (some Cardinals/Brewers supporters do exist).

Verdict: Contender

NL EAST – FLORIDA MARLINS

SS Hanley Ramirez

SS Hanley Ramirez

In 1997 the Florida Marlins shocked the world by winning the World Series with a low-income crop of players.

Six years later, in 2003, the Marlins again won a World Series with a group of unproven players (who have now gone on to be stars).

Six years later, in 2009, the Marlins have come out of the gate 6-1 and feature some of the best young talent in baseball.

Many critics suggested that the Marlins lineup would struggle without Hanley Ramirez in the leadoff spot, but Emilio Bonifacio is the new leadoff man and the Marlins haven’t lost a step.

2009 NL MVP Hanley Ramirez (book it, it’s happening) might be the best player in all of baseball, and while the lineup of Bonifacio, John Baker, Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu, and Jeremy Hermida isn’t exactly “Murderer’s Row,” it is a serviceable offense.

The offense is average, but the pitching is outstanding. Many experts labeled the Marlins’ rotation of Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, Chris Volstad, Anibal Sanchez, and Andrew Miller as the best in the NL East. They have an unprecedented amount of young talent, and if the rotation can gain consistency then the Marlins could contend for the NL East crown this year.

Verdict: Contender

That’s my opinion on what division leaders are faking it and who might be around to play in October.

Comment with what you think is right, wrong, and anywhere in between.

sk.

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I spent Sunday afternoon firmly parked on a couch watching the final round of the 2009 Masters. The final round was packed with great shots, emotional rivalries, and yet an astoundingly anti-climactic finish.

By the end of day four the Masters became a virtual war of attrition. Instead of the best golfer emerging from the field, it seemed as if the golfer who made the fewest mistakes down the stretch earned this year’s green jacket.

Here is my summary of this year’s final round.

Tiger Woods v. Phil Mickelson

I actually laughed out loud when I saw that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were paired together for the final round of this year’s  Masters. Not because of their sheer hatred for each other, but because they both somehow entered Sunday seemingly out of contention.

"Shouldn't We Be the Last Pairing?"

"Shouldn't We Be the Last Pairing?"

Before the tournament started, many predicted that these two would spend the final round together, but no one predicted that both men would be seven shots off the lead.

Prior to the final round, I pondered over the media’s dilemma over who to cover: the two men who produce TV ratings (Tiger and Phil) or the golfers who actually stood atop the leader board (Perry, Cabrera, and Co.).

Fortunately for the media, Tiger and Phil’s play allowed them to cover both.

Phil came out scorching on Sunday, knocking in six early birdies en route to a 30 on the front nine. The high point came on No.8, when Mickelson stuck a shot out of the woods (he was literally tucked behind a tree) ten feet from the pin and converted for eagle. Mickelson birdied No.13 and No.15 to climb the standings, and after a par on the scenic No.16, Phil sat two strokes off the lead at 10-under.

Tiger watched and took notes for most of the front nine, but kicked it into gear in the back nine to get within striking distance of Phil and the leaders. He birdied 13, 15, and 16 to tie Mickelson at two strokes off the lead (10-under) with two to play.

Unfortunately for both men, a couple strokes was as close as they would get.

Mickelson picked up a bogey when he went swimming on No.12, and later on missed two crucial putts down the stretch; one for eagle on No.15 and one for birdie on No.17. Both were virtual gimmes for a player of Phil’s caliber, but he (much like the Mickelson of old) choked each one away. Mickelson was still close after his par on No.16, but the birdie-miss on No.17 and follow-up bogey on No.18 took him out of contention.

Tiger hit a dramatic birdie putt on No.16 (fist pump included at no additional cost), but fell face first on the final two holes. He bogeyed 17 and 18 to finish at 8-under, a score which left him undoubtedly out of this year’s chase for the green jacket.

Both men teased the nation by climbing back into contention down the stretch. As both faded away on the final two holes, golf fans begrudgingly accepted that this year’s champion would come from the remaining three horse race: Kenny Perry, Angel Cabrera, and Chad Campbell.

Mediocrity from the Leaders During Holes 1-11

When Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson fell out of contention in this year’s Masters, some golf fans probably quit watching. As much as I hate to give in to the allure of the most popular pros, it’s hard to sell players who lack star-power during the most popular tournament of the year.

Angel Cabrera

Angel Cabrera

Kenny Perry opened the day at 11-under, and sat there for the first 11 holes by hitting 11 consecutive pars. During this time, Tiger and Phil were creeping closer while Cabrera and Campbell remained only a few strokes back.

Perry’s par streak was consistent, but still one of the ugliest I have ever seen. He missed ten-foot-birdie-putt after ten-foot-birdie-putt to constantly remain even on the day. Once or twice he may have saved par from a difficult lie, but for the most part every par Perry knocked in was a disappointing tap-in after a painfully close birdie putt.

Chad Campbell played slightly better on certain holes, including a beautiful chip-in on No.3 for birdie, but after 11 holes he sat right where he had started the day at 9-under.

Angel Cabrera undoubtedly played the ugliest golf of all three men on Sunday, riding the typical Cabrera roller coaster of success. Cabrera hit back-to-back bogeys on No.4 and No.5, and added another bogey on No.11 to reach the stretch run at 9-under, two strokes back of leader Kenny Perry.

Excellence from the Leaders During Holes 12-16

Hole No.12 is where Kenny Perry, Angel Cabrera, and Chad Campbell seemingly came to life.

Perry birdied No.12 in magnificent fashion, breaking out of two different road blocks that restricted him for most of Sunday’s round; an 11-hole par streak and a complete inability to sink birdie putts. Perry nailed a 20ft birdie putt to take sole possession of the lead at 12-under.

Cabrera remained asleep for one more hole, waiting to birdie No.13. He also birdied No.15 and No.16 to reach 12-under (a score which carried him into the sudden death playoff). Had he been able to scratch out a birdie on No.17 or No.18, he could have won the green jacket outright.

Campbell reached No.12 in a tailspin, having bogeyed two of the previous three holes. He turned it around with a birdie at No.12, however, and also birdied No.13 and No.15 to reach 12-under on the day.

The pinnacle of hot play for holes 12-17 came on No.16, a treacherous par 3 which featured it’s traditional Sunday back-left pin placement. Campbell parred the hole while Cabrera sank a solid putt to earn a birdie, but Perry outshone them both.

Perry hit the shot of his life on No.16, a beautiful tee shot which rolled within inches of the hole and left him a tap-in birdie putt. This birdie vaulted Perry to 14-under on the round and gave him a comfortable 2-stroke lead with only two holes to play.

2-stroke lead with two to play… It had to be over, right?

Kenny Perry Gives Away a Green Jacket

Perry teed off on No.17 with a 2-stroke lead. He subsequently bogeyed No.17 and No.18 to fall back to 12-under, where Cabrera and Campbell happily met him for a sudden death playoff.

The worst shot of Perry’s tournament came on the tee box at No.18.

Kenny Perry Says "Playing it Safe is for Wussies... And Guys Who Win Majors."

Kenny Perry Says "Playing it Safe is for Wussies... And Guys Who Win Majors."

Chad Campbell was in the clubhouse at 12-under, and Cabrera was one stroke behind with one to play. All Perry needed was a par to guarantee a higher score than Campbell and press Cabrera to birdie the hole.

What should Perry have done? Take out an iron, drive the ball at the bend 160yds from the pin, and attack the green from there. The fairway bunker 300yds into the hole was noted by commentators and fans alike, and was easily reachable with an errant driver stroke. What did Perry do? Took out his driver and sent his chances to win the tournament outright directly into the fairway bunker.

From there, chaos ensued.

Cabrera parred, Perry bogeyed, and the previously mentioned three-horse-race suddenly turned into a three-horse-playoff.

Three Men All Try to Lose a Playoff Hole

Seriously though, I’m convinced after watching this playoff that neither Perry, Cabrera, nor Campbell wanted to win this tournament.

Here is a quick run-down of how the 2009 Masters sudden death playoff unfolded:

  • Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry sent good drives to the bend in No.18. Both men had an excellent look at the green. Kenny Perry thought to himself, “That felt good. If I’d have done it last hole I’d be wearing a green jacket right about now.”
  • Angel Cabrera sent his drive at No.18 into the woods. At the time, this virtually  eliminated him from competition in most fans’ minds.
  • Cabrera’s second shot was a punch out of the woods which hit a tree at full speed. Instead of careening further into the trees, however, it took a hand-of-god (no Argentinian soccer pun intended) deflection into the center cut of the fairway. It remains unclear whether Cabrera was sober at the time.
  • Perry hit before Campbell and right after making contact immediately showed his disgust with the shot. It tailed right of the green and left him an easy  but disappointing pitch onto the green, but a thin chance at birdie.
  • Now to Campbell. Think about it this way Chad: both of your opponents have taken their second shots and neither are on the green. If you can just put this ball on the green you will virtually guarantee a 2-putt par (and a push if they par as well) and also give yourself a solid chance at winning!
  • With this in mind, Campbell promptly put his second shot in the bunker.
  • Cabrera made a fantastic up-and-down for par, Perry nearly chipped in for birdie but settled for a par, and Campbell missed a 4ft par putt to eliminate himself.
  • The result: On to another playoff hole between Perry and Cabrera. Both men tried to give away the first playoff by respectively missing the green and going in the woods, but somehow mediocrity prevailed and they were each given another chance.
  • In the second playoff hole, it was again a battle of who could screw up the most. Perry ended up winning this competition by sticking his approach shot off the green to the left.
  • Perry duffed his chip and left himself an improbable par save. He missed the par putt, thus allowing Cabrera to two-putt for victory.
  • Cabrera obliged (sinking a clutch putt is overrated anyways) and earned his first green jacket with a tap-in for par.

And that’s how it played out. Cabrera won a sudden death playoff with two consecutive pars…

I was thoroughly entertained by the Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson show early on, then I was excited to see Kenny Perry’s hot run in the middle of the back nine. The cold finish by all three leaders at the end of the round really turned me off to the tournament, however.

Had Kenny Perry nailed his par putt on No.18 to seal the deal it would have been a Masters to remember. An improbable victor, a clutch putt to win, and a hot streak to close the day.

Unfortunately this tournament ended in a weakly fought playoff and a two-putt for victory…

In my opinion, this will soon be a Masters to forget.

sk.

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