I had a great time hanging out in San Antonio with my buddy Kevin Robbins, a former American-Statesman colleague who brought some of his University of Texas journalism students down for a close-up view of the coverage of a major sporting event like the Final Four.
Over dinner Friday night on the River Walk, the talk got around to the upcoming Masters. Kevin is a brilliant writer who recently penned “Harvey Penick: The Life and Wisdom of the Man Who Wrote the Book on Golf.” He’s also working on a book about Payne Stewart’s amazing 1999 season — which ended with his shocking passing in October of that year — that’s scheduled to be released in the fall of 2019.
I mention all of this because of an office conversation we had in 2010 after then-34-year-old Tiger Woods quit in the final round of The Players Championship. I wrote then that we had witnessed the end of of his prime, and that at that point of his career Tiger was more name than game, especially since his personal life was in tatters.
Kevin walked over to my desk. “You’re flat-out wrong, Ced, ” he said. “Tiger isn’t finished by any stretch.”
“Tiger’s done, Kev,” I said. “I know he’s still young, but he’ll never dominate again.”
Well, to steal a line from our casino friends, I’ve been playing with house money for about eight years as Tiger has struggled with health and personal issues. He hasn’t won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open, but the odds look to be changing.
Vegas has installed the 42-year-old Woods as a 12-1 favorite in Augusta, with the fifth best odds to win it all. Expect the book houses to make a killing because the Tiger money will come flooding in from all over the globe and someone else will win the tournament.
We don’t think Tiger will do it this weekend, but Robbins admitted to being a bit excited about his performances in his last two tournaments, mostly because there may be an I-told-you-so coming in my near future.
I love those feed-me-more green cards at the Brazilian steakhouses, by the way. I’m wondering if Tiger will be adding a green jacket to his red shirt-black slacks outfit come Sunday.
I’m taking Justin Thomas to win it by a nose over Jason Day and in case you missed it, broadcasting legend Jim Nantz previewed The Masters on last week’s On Second Thought podcast with yours truly and co-host Kirk Bohls, who’s writing from Augusta this week.
Basketball legend Charles Barkley spent some time with the media at the Alamodome this week and, as usual, he had a lot to say about a little bit of everything.
The CBS/TBS analyst railed against the current state of affairs of the two-party system in America, his running joke on the amount of overweight women in San Antonio, and the attention-hungry LaVar Ball — “I do not like him,” Barkley said.
Sir Charles saved his best stuff for the Arizona investigation. ESPN reported that coach Sean Miller was caught on a federal wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment to McDonald’s All-American Deandre Ayton to secure his playing services for the Wildcats. Barkley has spoken over the years about the night he offered a German teenager by the name of Dirk Nowitzki money to attend his alma mater Auburn after Dirk scored 50 points against a Nike touring team overseas.
“It would have been (Auburn’s) best investment since Cam Newton,” Barkley said.
When Ayton’s $100,000 price tag came up, Charles, in true Barkley fashion, didn’t hold back.
“They must have had closed bidding,” he said, “because I would have paid him more to come to Auburn.”
And you know he was only half kidding.
After Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale eliminated undefeated UConn with a late jumper in the NCAA women’s semifinals, she tweeted that her life was complete after her favorite player Kobe Bryant had tweeted a note of congratulations. The Black Mamba was in Columbus at the Final Four with his daughters, who are big UConn fans.
Bryant tweeted back, “Nah… it’s complete by finishing the job on Sunday @Arike_O #MambaMentality”
Well, by know by now that Ogunbowale, who wears Bryant’s No. 24 jersey number, hit another buzzer beater from virtually the same spot on Sunday to give Notre Dame a win over over Mississippi State for the national championship. Two semifinals, two late jumpers to knock out teams that entered the Final Four with a combined record of 73-1.
And another tweet from Kobe: “WOW! @Arike_O #lifecomplete #MambaMentality
At just 21 years of age, this kid will have a tough time topping a dream weekend of big buckets and correspondence with her idol.