The Grind: Rory rejoices, Natalie visits Santa, and Tiger denies Dufner
By Alex Myers
Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we thought the "Iron Bowl" was code for the U.S. Open at Merion this year. Heyooo! Bet you didn't think we'd start with a USGA joke! In all seriousness, the sports world is still trying to wrap its head around Auburn's remarkable upset over Alabama in college football, but that won't keep us from steering the conversation back to golf. In fact, as we'll point out, there's more of a connection between the two than you think. Let's kick things off, er, tee things off with what else has us talking.
Rory McIlroy: He's BACK! OK, so it was just a win at the Australian Open, but it did come in dramatic fashion and against Adam Scott. There are also plenty of recent examples of golfers breaking out of slumps thanks to late-year wins. At the very least, McIlroy tied girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki with one win in 2013. That should save him from some ribbing over the holidays.
Fred Couples: The Champions Tour star is done with competitive golf for the year, but he helped his favorite football team win a huge Monday Night Football game. Couples raised the flag before the Seattle Seahawks' spanking of the New Orleans Saints, firing up a fan base that also broke a Guinness World Record for crowd noise. He also probably looks a lot cooler wearing a football jersey than you do.
Jason Dufner: Speaking of golfers helping out their favorite football teams, remember when Dufner gave a pep talk to the Auburn Tigers before their season started? Sign this guy up as a motivational speaker! Dufner was denied by this week's tournament host, Tiger Woods, when he asked if the event's schedule could be changed so he could watch Auburn play in the SEC Championship Game. Wait, he got Tiger to respond on Twitter? That might be more impressive than his win at the PGA Championship.
Adam Scott: A closing bogey paired with a Rory McIlroy birdie kept Scott from claiming the Aussie Triple Crown, although, we admit, we didn't know there was such a thing until this past week. That blemish won't ruin a magical 2013 for Adam, but getting knocked out by Ryo Ishikawa in the first round of our Hottest Golfers Contest might. Speaking of which. . .
Hottest Golfer voters: Not to get all man-crushy here, but Ishikawa over Scott? Really? Even with those biceps?! Really? Even more disappointing is that Cheyenne Woods, a favorite of The Grind, is getting dusted by Belen Mozo. What are you people doing?!
Jack Nicklaus' dilemma: It looks like Nicklaus will have to choose between his beloved alma mater, Ohio State, and Florida State, for whom his grandson, Nick O'Leary, plays, in the BCS National Championship Game. In an interview, Jack said, "Blood is thicker than anything else." True, but still, that's a tough spot. It would be easier if O'Leary was just some scrub, but the dude is an All-American tight end.
A select group will tee it up at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, aka Tiger Woods' annual end-of-the-year money grab. Last place in the 18-man field paid $120,000 a year ago. Jason, we'll happily take your spot if you want to watch football instead.
Random tournament fact: How about a random (football/golf) fact instead? Hale Irwin, a former safety at the University of Colorado, is on the school's All-Century football team. Respect!
THIS WEEK IN DUSTIN JOHNSONDRAKE-PAULINA GRETZKY PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
Last week it was Justin Timberlake. This week it's Drake. Who's next? Kanye? Justin Bieber? OK, that exhausts our entire bank of pop music knowledge.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Yes, that's Natalie Gulbis and a friend sitting on Santa Claus' lap. He looks happy. . .
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
-- Sharmila Nicollet will beat Blair O'Neal in the next round of our Hottest Golfers Contest: 1 Million-to-1 odds
-- Jason Dufner will literally run off the course after Saturday's round: 2-to-1 odds (Odds would be higher, but it's tough to imagine Dufner actually running)
-- Even at 68, Hale Irwin would dominate a Champions Tour pickup football game: LOCK
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
The World's Cutest Golf Rapper, Caleb C, is back and he's bringing a bit more of an edge. Targets in his latest video include anchor putters and Justin Bieber. Well done.
Charl Schwartzel defended his title at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa. The South African also took over the lead in the 2014 Race to Dubai. Wrap-around seasons! . . . Verne Lundquist, who was on the call for that incredible finish between Auburn and Alabama said it equals Jack Nicklaus winning the 1986 Masters in terms of events he's covered. High praise from Mr. "Yes, Sir!" himself. . . . Black Friday shoppers are crazy. I braved/made the mistake of going to one store. After about 40 minutes standing in a checkout line, I saved a few extra bucks. Yippy!
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
What would Verne have said if Jack didn't make that putt?
Does Drake play golf?
What did Natalie Gulbis ask Santa for Christmas?