Wednesday, May 22, 2024

College Baseball Month

For the next month, we'll be doing a fair amount of college baseball coverage.  The SEC Tournament is underway in Hoover, Alabama.  The double-elimination games start today with the following matchups (all times Central) (Baseball America rankings in parentheses):

9:30 A.M.  (2) Kentucky v. Louisiana St.
30 minutes after the first game:  (5) Arkansas v. S. Carolina
4:30 P.M.:  (1) Tennessee v. Vanderbilt
30 minutes after the third game:  (4) Texas A & M v. (14) Mississippi St.

So far, Kentucky trails 11-0 in the bottom of the 8th, as LSU has already hit two grand slams.  Not a great start for the Number-2 team in the nation.

Monday, May 20, 2024

PGA Championship Round Four

Events prevented me from watching the final round yesterday, but it was apparently another thriller -- the fourth time in four tournaments that Valhalla has put on a dramatic PGA Championship.  The Golf World is having a big fight over whether Valhalla is "too easy" to host the PGA, but I'd rather watch a close and competitive tournament won by a great player than a high-scoring tournament won by a mediocre player.  So I would definitely return to Valhalla in the future, if I ran the PGA.  In the meantime, here is a very strong top ten:

1.  Xander Schauffele-21 (62+68+68+65=263)

2.  Bryson DeChambeau-20 (68+65+67+64=264)

3.  Viktor Hovland (NOR):  -18 (68+66+66+66=266)

T4.  Thomas Detry (BEL):  -15 (66+67+70+66=269)
T4.  Collin Morikawa-15 (66+65+67+71=269)

T6.  Shane Lowry (IRL):  -14 (69+69+62+70=270)
T6.  Justin Rose (ENG):  -14 (70+67+64+69=270)

T8.  Billy Horschel-13 (69+69+69+64=271)
T8.  Robert MacIntyre-13 (66+69+66+70=271)
T8.  Scottie Scheffler-13 (67+66+73+65=271)
T8.  Justin Thomas-13 (69+67+67+68=271)

NBA Update

The quarter-finals ended up with three lower-seeded winners, and two teams won Game Sevens on the road.  That's a lot more drama than we usually get at this stage:

Boston 4 - 1 Cleveland
New York 3 - 4 Indiana

Oklahoma City 2 - 4 Dallas
Denver 3 - 4 Minnesota

That was a disappointing outcome for the Nuggets, who had looked like a Super Team until they lost the last two games of their series.  On the other hand, the draw appears to be opening up for Boston.  The odds to win the NBA Championship now look like this:

Boston:  -160
Minnesota:  +280
Dallas:  +500
Indiana:  +2600

Saturday, May 18, 2024

PGA Championship Round Three

Scottie Scheffler shot a 73 and falls back  to a tie for 24th place at 7 under.  Brooks Koepka shot a 74 and is mired in a tie for 47th place at 4 under.  But for the most part, we have a star-studded leaderboard.  Valhalla really has become one of the best tournament courses in the United States, and it will be a shame if this week's drama convinces the PGA to avoid a course that gives us such excellent tournaments.

For a long time, I thought the best way to judge a course is by how hard it is for the pros to make low scores.  But over time, I came to realize this is the wrong metric.  For years, the U.S.G.A. showed that you can trick up courses in ways that make it impossible for anyone to break par.  But if you do so, the results will not usually reward the best players.  What you want is a course that is good at distinguishing between the best players and those in the second tier.  To take just one example:  the players who can hit the ball the farthest should score better than the others -- and growing the rough in ways that punish long hitters is simply unfair.  

At Valhalla, Jack Nicklaus built a course that rewards great players.  Tiger won here in 2000.  In 2014, Rory McIlroy edged out Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler.  And in this tournament, Valhalla has once again done an excellent job of separating great players from the rest of the pack.  Here is the top 10 with one round to go, and as you can see it has an unusual number of stars at the top.  They have posted low scores -- not because the course is easy, but because they are very talented.  That's the type of result you want to see:

T1.  Xander Schauffele-15 (62+68+68=198)
T1.  Collin Morikawa-15 (66+65+67=198)

3.  Sahith Theegala-14 (65+67+67=199)

T4.  Shane Lowry (IRL):  -13 (69+69+62=200)
T4.  Bryson DeChambeau-13 (68+65+67=200)
T4.  Viktor Hovland (NOR):  -13 (68+66+66=200)

T7.  Justin Rose (ENG):  -12 (70+67+64=201)
T7.  Robert MacIntyre (SCO):  -12 (66+69+66=201)

9.  Dean Bermester (RSA):  -11 (69+65+68=202)

T10.  Lee Hodges-10 (71+65+67=203)
T10.  Justin Thomas-10 (69+67+67=203)
T10.  Harris English-10 (68+67+68=203)
T10.  Thomas Detry (BEL):  -10 (66+67+70=203)
T10.  Tony Finau-10 (65+69+69=203)
T10.  Austin Eckroat-10 (67+67+69=203)

Thursday, May 16, 2024

PGA Championship Round One

It's really hard to complain about the first round of the PGA Championship.  The weather was great and the leaderboard is packed with stars:

1.  Xander Schauffele-9 (62)

T2.  Tony Finau-6 (65)
T2.  Sahith Theegala-6 (65)
T2.  Mark Hubbard-6 (65)

T5.  Rory McIlroy (NIR):  -5 (66)
T5.  Robert MacIntyre (SCO):  -5 (66)
T5.  Tom Hoge-5 (66)
T5.  Tom Kim (KOR):  -5 (66)
T5.  Thomas Detry (BEL):  -5 (66)
T5.  Maverick McNealy-5 (66)
T5.  Collin Morikawa-5 (66)

We normally stick to the Top Ten in these reports, but Brooks Koepka and Scottie Scheffler are at 4 under par, Bryson DeChambeau and Viktor Hovland are 3 under, and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas are 2 under.  It's an excellent leaderboard.

According to the PGA Tour's web page, here are the players with the shortest odds to win:

X. Schauffele:  +275
S. Scheffler:  +400
R. McIlroy:  +500
B. Koepka:  +1200
C. Morikawa:  +1400
S. Theegala:  +2200
T. Finau:  +2500

If the next three days are like this, then golf fans are in for a treat.