Golf gets its own big-fight hype, Natalie throws out a first pitch, Tiger meets Yao, and an all-time best tour WAG match up
Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we wish every week had the build-up of this year's WGC-Cadillac Match Play. A 90-minute selection show? Bingo machines spitting out ping-pong balls? Big boards?! Forget about the NFL Draft, this was exciting stuff (if you're really, really into pro golf). We're surprised "Group of Death" wasn't trending on Twitter. Maybe next year, the PGA Tour and Golf Channel can even take it a step farther and stage some promotional pre-match photos like the ones you see in boxing:
Man, Jordan Spieth looks intimidating. . . OK, time to shift from thinking about what's going to happen to what already did. There's a lot to get to -- and we don't have Golf Channel's army of analysts to break it all down.
Justin Rose: Rose was one over through six holes Thursday at the Zurich Classic and only shot 69. Then he posted rounds of 66, 65 and a 66 to win his seventh career PGA Tour title. Speaking of 66, that's how many holes in a row Rose finished without making a bogey -- the longest streak to close out a tour win in 25 years. With a runner-up at the Masters and this victory under his belt, Rose looks poised for a huge season.
Lydia Ko: On Friday, Ko turned 18. And on Sunday, Ko kept doing what she's been doing since she was 15: winning on the LPGA Tour. Ko defended her title at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, beating Morgan Pressel in a playoff for her seventh career LPGA Tour title. To put it in perspective, Rose was also a 17-year-old phenom once and it took him until he was 34 to win seven PGA Tour events. By the time Ko is 34, she's going to need a separate house just to hold all of her trophies.
Match Play format: We love the group-play/round-robin concept. Having guys fly all the way to this event only to get knocked out after 10 holes (Sorry, Stephen Ames) isn't fair or fun for the fans. This new format ensures we'll see a lot more golf from the biggest names and even more great match-ups. While picking the juiciest match or deciding on a "group of death," the best tour WAG match up is easy. In the opening round, we'll get former Miss Idaho Melissa Jones vs. Paulina Gretzky:
Their husbands might have pretty big crowds on Wednesday.
Jake Olson: If you haven't read John Strege's story on this young man, you should. Here are the broad strokes: Jake is a blind senior in high school who has shot a 78 and who will walk onto the USC (Yes, as in the Trojans) football team in the fall as a long snapper. We're all rooting for you, Jake!
Erik Compton: Speaking of inspirational stories, on Saturday night the two-time heart transplant recipient went to bed with a share of the lead and in great shape to pick up his first PGA Tour victory. But on Sunday, he only shot three under for his 30 holes to fall to T-12. Compton keeps coming close to being perhaps the most unlikely winner in tour history. Stop getting our hopes up and get it done, Erik!
Excavators as prizes: This was what a player would have won had he made a hole-in-one during the Volvo China Open:
First off, Volvo makes excavators? Secondly, unless you're a tractor nut like Louis Oosthuizen, I'm pretty sure a typical tour pro would much rather have a sports car.
Sitting on gators: Donnie Kuhlman is a PGA Professional and a world-class daredevil. Here he is sitting on a gator in the middle of a golf tournament he was playing in Tampa:
This brave foolish man lived to tell the tale, but we wouldn't advise you trying the same thing.
The PGA Tour heads to San Francisco's TPC Harding Park for the WGC-Cadillac Match Play, aka the most unpredictable event of the season.
Random tournament fact: Victor Dubuisson made the greatest back-to-back up-and-downs of all time from the desert in the final against Jason Day last year. That may sound like an opinion, but it's a fact.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
-- Justin Rose will wind up with more career wins than Lydia Ko: 1 MILLION-to-1 odds
-- NBC's Roger Maltbie will say "(Insert player name) would have a better chance of escaping Alcatraz than getting this up-and-down": 10-to-1 odds
-- Roger Maltbie will say "vagaries of match play": LOCK
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Sorry, Yao, but when you're that tall, that joke never gets old.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Rory McIlroy may be the world's best golfer, but apparently, he's not the sport's top-ranked arm wrestler. McIlroy got dusted by 17-year-old golfer Brad Dalke.
Sorry Rory ð’ªð¿ pic.twitter.com/vYgnRk0PF0
— Brad Dalke (@BradDalkeGolf) April 25, 2015
OK, so Dalke isn't your typical 17-year-old golfer. Even McIlroy, who spends as much time in the gym as he does in the golf course, was impressed by his biceps. Still, that's got to be a blow to the reigning Men's Health cover boy.
THIS WEEK IN MODELS PLAYING GOLF
Meet Katrina Brodsky:
A video posted by Katrina Brodsky (@keller_rose) on Apr 26, 2015 at 1:44pm PDT
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"I felt like I had gone cold in my round. I started off hot, had gone cold and [my caddie] said, 'Come on, just remember Steph Curry.' He went cold, but he kept wanting the ball. He kept shooting threes. He kept believing in himself. That was our mentality." -- Justin Rose comparing his strong finish to Curry after attending a Warriors-Pelicans playoff game on Friday in which the Golden State star hit a clutch three-pointer to send the game to overtime. Guess we know who has Justin's vote for NBA MVP.
THIS WEEK IN JORDAN SPIETH LIVING THE LIFE
The Dallas native was honored by Mark Cuban at a Mavericks game with a personalized jersey, which he used to rile up the team and the home crowd in Game 4 of Dallas' first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets:
It worked. After losing the first three games of the series, the Mavs won Game 4 to keep their season alive. Jordan Spieth is so hot right now.
THIS WEEK IN RICKIE FOWLER-ALEXIS RANDOCK PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
A photo posted by Rickie Fowler (@therealrickiefowler) on Apr 27, 2015 at 10:50pm PDT
Very sweet. But did the lovebirds visit Alcatraz? Nothing says romance like visiting a former prison and reciting lines from "The Rock" to each other.
THIS WEEK IN NATALIE GULBIS MAKING US FEEL BAD WITH HER TRAINING
Behold Natalie's super-human strength:
While in the Bay area, Gulbis also threw out the first pitch at the Oakland A's game:
A video posted by Natalie Gulbis (@natalie_gulbis) on Apr 24, 2015 at 8:10pm PDT
Nice toss, Natalie! Good to see all the work in the gym is paying off.
THIS AND THAT
Rory McIlroy plans to attend the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight in Vegas on Saturday night in the middle of the WGC-Match Play. If he makes it to Sunday's 36 holes, his fitness will be put to the test again. . . . Phil Mickelson won't attend the WGC- Match Play for a fourth straight year, citing "personal reasons." No word on whether "personal reasons" just means he doesn't like the event or whether he'll be at the big fight. . . . Bruce Jenner will address learning to play golf with breasts on an upcoming docuseries. Thanks to TMZ for that bit of breaking golf news! . . . And thanks to the GolfBeer Brewing Company for sending a large shipment of Graeme McDowell, Keegan Bradley and Freddie Jacobson beers to me in the office. In other words, the party for me winning my first Golf Digest major championship rages on!
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
How much are Rory and Phil betting on the fight?
Why hasn't Lydia Ko won a major yet? (Kidding)
Why wasn't there ever a sequel to "The Rock"? (Not kidding)