Sunday, July 21, 2019

British Open -- Day Three Wrap-Up

Let's be clear:  J.B. Holmes, playing in front of a tumultuous crowd in Northern Ireland in the last group of the day, did not choke.  Holmes actually played quite well, birdieing the last hole for a 2-under par 69 -- his third straight round in the 60's.  He is now 10-under par for the tournament.  Other Americans also played well.  Brooks Koepka shot a 4-under par 67 to move to 9-under.  Rickie Fowler shot a 66 to move to 8-under.  Jordan Spieth shot a 69 to move to 7-under.  All of these men are bunched behind Tommy Fleetwood, trying to become the first Englishman to win the British Open since Nick Faldo did it back in 1992.  Fleetwood had a glorious round, posting a 66 that left him at 12-under par.

But Shane Lowry, who grew up in Ireland, and who still lives there, was on a different plane altogether.  All the hopes for any Irish person who was excited about seeing the British Open in Ulster -- after a 68-year absence -- were fulfilled today.  Lowry was very good each of the first two days -- posting back-to-back 67's to tie Holmes for the lead at the halfway point.  Today, however, on a cloudy day where a lack of wind left Royal Portrush relatively defenseless, played the round of his dreams.  He made three birdies on the front nine, to take the turn in only 33 shots.  But on the back nine he was even better, birdieing 10, 12, 15, 16, and 17.  When it was all over, he had an almost perfect round:  8 birdies, no bogeys, and a course-record 63.  It was a spectacular performance that had the huge Irish crowds roaring with joy.  And it blew open what had been a very close golf tournment before Lowry reached the back nine.

Of course now he has one more day to go.  And tomorrow is supposed to feature some "weather" as the British Open commentators put it.  In fact, the R & A is so concerned about weather conditions that they are sending everyone out earlier than usual -- much as the Masters did earlier this year.  Today Lowry teed off at 3:50 PM British Summer Time -- or 9:50 AM Central Daylight Time.  Tomorrow he and Tommy Fleetwood are scheduled to hit their first officials shots at 1:47 PM BST, or 7:47 AM CDT.  It's a shame for any American fans who will be in church when the final shots are made.  But on the other hand, if Lowry plays like he did today, there won't be that much drama.

One more point.  As far as I can tell, Royal Portrush is an excellent golf course.  There are very few lightweights at the top of the leaderboard, and the crowds have been spectacular.  I really hope that it will remain in the Open rotation.

1.  S. Lowry (IRL):  -16 (67+67+63=197)

2.  T. Fleetwood (ENG):  -12 (68+67+66=201)

3.  J.B. Holmes-10 (66+68+69=203)

T4.  B. Koepka-9 (68+69+67=204)
T4.  J. Rose (ENG):  -9 (69+67+68=204)

T6.  R. Fowler-8 (70+69+66=205)
T6.  L. Westwood (ENG):  -8 (68+67+70=205)

T8.  D. Willett (ENG):  -7 (74+67+65=206)
T8.  J. Rahm (ESP):  -7 (68+70+68=206)
T8.  T. Finau-7 (68+70+68=206)
T8.  J. Spieth-7 (70+67+69=206)

Friday, July 19, 2019

Bulgaria Update

Our old friends from PFC Ludogorets Razgrad have now won the top division of Bulgarian soccer for eight years in a row.  Every time they win, they qualify for the UEFA Champions League.  And several times, we have chased their progress as they attempt to make it to the group stages of that league -- an accomplishment roughly similar to having Murray State make the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

In 2013-14, they got to within one round of the group stages, before losing to Basel (SUI) by 2-6 over two legs.

In 2014-15, they won a thrilling playoff to reach the group stages, where they went 1-4-1 against Basel, Real Madrid, and Liverpool.

In 2016-17, they returned to the group stages, where they went 0-3-3 against Basel, Paris-St. Germain, and Arsenal.  Their third-place finish in the group is the best result in the history of Bulgarian club football.

Since then, they have not made it back to the group stages.  This year, they didn't stay in the Champions' League for very long.  In the first qualifying round, they were put up against Ferencvaros, the champions of Hungary.  On July 10, in Budapest, Ferencvaros got a goal in the 65th minute to take a 2-1 victory.  On July 17, the teams met in Razgrad for the return match.  Ferencvaros jumped out to a quick 2-goal lead after only 21 minutes, and held on for a 3-2 victory.  So Ferencvaros won the two-leg match by the aggregate score of 5-3.  They advance to play Valetta, the champions of Malta, while Ludogorets will wait for next year.

British Open -- Day Two Wrap-Up

The biggest news from Day Two of the British Open is that we said good-bye to some old favorites.  Tiger Woods shot a valiant 1-under par 70, but missed the cut due to his 7-over par 78 on Thursday.  Rory McIlroy, in his Ulster homeland, shot an even more valiant 65 -- but missed the cut (by one painful shot) because of his 79 on Thursday.  Phil Mickelson is gone after a middling 76 was followed by a middling 74.  And Adam Scott is gone after a 78 and a 73.  Of course, none of these folks did as poorly as our old friend David Duval, the 2001 British Open Champion.  Duval shot a 91 on the first day, followed that with a 78, and leaves the premises with a 27-over-par total of 169.

So who's left?  Lots of interesting folks, actually, including Campbellsville's own J.B. Holmes, who is tied for the lead with Irish fan-fave Shane Lowry at 8 under par.  other big names are circling the top, including Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Jordan Spieth, and Brooks Koepka.  Here is the current top 10:

T1.  J.B. Holmes-8 (66+68=134)
T1.  S. Lowry (IRL):  -8 (67+67=134)

T3.  T. Fleetwood (ENG):  -7 (68+67=135)
T3.  L. Westwood (ENG):  -7 (68+67=135)

T5.  C. Smith (AUS):  -6 (70+66=136)
T5.  J. Harding (RSA):  -6 (71+65=136)
T5.  J. Rose (ENG):  -6 (69+67=136)

T8.  B. Koepka-5 (68+69=137)
T8.  J. Spieth-5 (70+67=137)
T8.  A. Putnam-5 (70+67=137)
T8.  D. Frittelli (RSA):  -5 (68+69=137)

Oh, Kentucky

I was in Munfordville and got to pick up the July 11 Hart County News-Herald. My favorite item was the "Buzz Around Bonnieville" column by Linda Watts: "No matter where you call home, we all have the same basic issues facing our communities today; the lack of affordable housing, small businesses struggling to make it, trying to keep prices competitive while making enough to pay the bills and the older population facing loneliness with family members living miles away to pursue their careers." She used that as a springboard to talk about her thankfulness "that we live in a community that offers so many actives and opportunities for fellowship." She mentioned the recent county fair and an upcoming ribbon cutting and grand opening at Barbour's Fresh Produce in Munfordville.

Ryan Van Velzer of Louisville's WFPL lays out how Owenton avoided water contamination downstream from the Jim Beam spill.

A murder in Hazard has a local homeless shelter and the city reviewing its processes and policies. "Somehow we have to be a compassionate city, but we also have to protect our city," a city councilperson says in Katie Kelley's story in The Hazard Herald.

(Refugee) farm to (Hickory & Oak) table, in Bowling Green. Neat Madison Martin report for WBKO.

Ray Hagerman, president of the Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation, in the local Messenger: "Madisonville is at a 15-year record for open jobs, and our employers are struggling mightily to find the talent they need in those positions. Economic development has organized two job fairs in the first half of this year, and both had hundreds more available jobs than they attracted job seekers. Studies show that people with military experience tend to have a high rate of civilian work success, and so we see Fort Campbell as a crucial pipeline of talent for our community's prosperity. And we saw Madisonville Military Day as a great start to tapping into that talent."

The National Association of Agricultural Educators nabbed itself a couple of recruits from Caldwell County High.

Mural reveal! Today at 2 Central in the old Clinton Bank lot.

Turning to sports, forget about live racing at Ellis Park today.

British Open: Round One Wrap-Up

So they played the first round of the British Open Thursday -- but they weren't in Great Britain.  For the first time since 1951, the British Open is actually being played in Northern Ireland, at a course called Royal Portrush.  This change represents a major source of joy for the golf cognoscenti, who are always excited to see an old and famous course brought back into the rotation.  Sometimes it can be a huge success, as when Merion hosted the 2013 U.S. Open.  Sometimes it's a big disappointment, as when Olympia Fields hosted the 2003 U.S. Open.

So far, Royal Portrush looks like it will be a success.  Some of the great heroes crashed and burned, which is always a disappointment to the Middle-Aged Men Who Watch Golf.  Tiger shot a 78 and will probably miss the cut.  Ditto for Adam Scott (78), Phil Mickelson (76), and hometown fave Rory McIlroy (79).  (Once again, Rory will complete a calendar year without a major title.  He hasn't won one since 2014, and I am staggered by that fact).  On the other hand, the top of the leader board is full of interesting names, including J.B. Holmes, who would be a strong candidate for Kentuckian of the Year with a victory.  Sergio, Lee Westwood, Jon Rahm, and Brooks Koepka are all near the top, which indicates serious drama ahead.  Also, it should be noted that the top 15 players are all within two shots of the lead.

The rest of the world is trying to prevent the Americans from sweeping all four majors for the first time since 1982.  And they have a very good chance, as few Americans are currently in the top 10.  Here is the leaderboard after Day One:

1.  J.B. Holmes-5 (66)

2.  S. Lowry (IRL):  -4 (67)

T3.  A. Noren (SWE):  -3 (68)
T3.  W. Simpson-3 (68)
T3.  S. Garcia (ESP):  -3 (68)
T3.  D. Frittelli (RSA):  -3 (68)
T3.  R. MacIntyre (SCO):  -3 (68)
T3.  K. Aphibarnrat (THA):  -3 (68)
T3.  R. Fox (AUS):  -3 (68)
T3.  T. Hatton (ENG):  -3 (68)
T3.  T. Fleetwood (ENG):  -3 (68)
T3.  B. Koepka-3 (68)
T3.  L. Westwood (ENG):  -3 (68)
T3.  T. Finau-3 (68)
T3.  J. Rahm (ESP):  -3 (68)