BlueDuckSports.com

June 30, 2009

It’s official. 

We are in the middle of transitioning from our wordpress domain to the new blueducksports.com address.  In the meantime it will currently redirect you to the wordpress blog. 

As a result, my review of the pathetic state of American soccer will be delayed.  But I promise you I will make mention of that absolute embarassment in the Confederations Cup finals soon enough.

In the mean time, here is a blue duck.  Neat.

blueduckaloneblack

Advertisements

Wimbledon 2009 Preview – Men

June 25, 2009

 

Wimbledon is the most storied tennis tournament of them all.  Center court at the Old England Club has given us many famous moments in tennis history.  This year the chances of history being made in London have increased because the defending champion, Rafael Nadal, is missing from the field due to injury.  The draw of 120 is exciting, as every year seems to offer an underdog who makes a run deep into the tournament.
With that, here are the predictions:

Top 4 contenders:
Roger Federer: The Tiger Woods of tennis, Federer is currently tied for the most grand slam titles all-time.  He’s already taken down the second grand slam tournament of the year, the French Open, which had eluded him his entire career.  With archrival and good friend Nadal out of the tournament due to knee tendinitis, Federer is everyone’s pick to win it all.  He’s got ice water running through his veins and never lets the big moments overwhelm him.  He’s calm, cool and collected in all high-pressure situations.  He’s been there, done that, when it comes to pressure.  He’s got the perfect demeanor to win the tournament that has all eyes on him.  Fans, commentators, sponsors; everyone is rooting for Federer to make history and break his tie with Pete Sampras for the record of most grand slam titles.

Federer rarely disappoints.

Andy Murray: All aboard the Murray train!  Every commentator is picking Murray as the 2nd favorite to win this tournament.  He’s on a tear this year, winning 4 tournaments and appearing in a 5th final.
Ranked third in the world, he’s now the second seed in the tournament with Rafa out.  He’s got the weight of a country on his back, as the UK’s great hope for keeping the title at home.  But will Tim Henman’s ghost be enough to overwhelm the young Scot?  It wasn’t too long ago that Henman was serving the role of England’s best shot at winning, and he caved each and every time under the mounting pressure of a nation of hope.  Can Murray overcome and deliver?

Andy Roddick: USA’s best hope to break a 22 Major tournament winless streak, Roddick has the game to succeed at this year’s Wimbledon.  He has pure power and has been playing at a high level this year.  There are only two questions about him that raise doubt: Is he healthy? Can he keep his head on straight?  After retiring from his last tournament due to a rolled ankle, he’s got to be healthy or this pick is wasted.

As far as keeping his cool, think of Roddick as more Djokavic than Federer.  He thinks he can berate the umpire and line judges because he’s a top-1o player.  But too often, fighting with the judges takes over his game and he can’t focus enough on the match at hand.

Tommy Haas: The aging German still has the game needed to win.  At 31, he’s one of the older players in the draw, but he’s also got the game that can win.  He’s only the 34th ranked player in the world, but this is the men’s game: rankings don’t indicate just how good these guys are.  That said, he is not a trendy pick to advance very far in the draw.  With only the hot-headed Novak Djokavic in his quarter, the veteran has a good shot at seeing semifinal action here in London.
Sleeper:
Lleyton Hewitt:  He’s been here, done that.  He’s on a renaissance of sorts, returning from near-retirement to make the fourth round of 4 of his last 8 majors.  Sure, he was eliminated day one in Australia, and in the third in France, but he’s won this one before.  He knows how to play and win on grass.  He definitely has the talent, but Ferrer stands in his way in round three, with Roddick a potential matchup in round four.

My Prediction:
I’m not going out on a limb here with the pick of the Swiss tennis god, Roger Federer.  You cannot deny his obvious talent, determination, and experience.  A former 5-time Wimbledon winner, and runner-up last year, Federer will make history by bagging his 15th Grand Slam title.  While the Murray story will be nice, Federer is destined to steam roll through this tournament to make the Grand Slam record his own.


Carebear’s Traveler’s Championship Preview/ Predictions

June 25, 2009
Connecticut has Womens Basketball and this

Connecticut has Women's Basketball and this

I don’t usually do previews of the smaller tournaments on tour.  To this point, I have reserved myself to cover only tournaments that Tiger participated in, and that were of major or near-major status.  I will make an exception, though for the big red umbrella.  Since this tournament takes place in my backyard, and I used Traveler’s employee’s passes to get into the Pro Am on Wednesday, I will do a preview.

First off, I have to say that they actually have a really talented field.  Despite the fact that the biggest name in the game isn’t present, Travelers managed to draw most of the other big guns to the dreary old Hartford area.  Partly because the US Open was very nearby and partly because Travelers and The TPC have done a great job developing the course’s practice facilities in the last few years.

But much to the players delight, this is not Bethpage.  For much of the day Wednesday, the weather was Bethpage-esque, though.  As heavy rain fell throughout the 6,800 yd layout to the point where when Sergio got to the 17th tee, he joked to the surrounding audience, “It’s sunny in Spain today.”  Yes, I said 6,800 yds.  This is not a monster.  It is a straightforward layout with a few holes down the stretch that could make for an exciting finish, but you do not have to be Alvaro Quiros or Bubba Watson(they hit the ball 8 miles each) to take down the Travelers.

With that in mind, here are my contenders:

My Four Horsemen: 

Brian Gay:

Though I feel bad for his caddie for having to take the constant snickering from the crowd as they walk by and see the back of his smock, I don’t feel bad because he’s making ten percent.   Thats about $274 grand this year.  Not too shabby.  But honestly, Brian Gay is playing remarkably well this season even though he is sixth to last in driving distance on tour.  His length was evident in missing the cut at the 7,426 yd US Open course last week, but The River Highlands does not present the same obstacles.  Look for him to be close to the top.

Zach Johnson:

I pick Zach in almost every tournament, but in the same regard as Gay, Johnson is accurate and purposeful with each shot.  He also missed the cut last week, and played pretty poorly at Muirfield as well, but look for him to bounce back in Cromwell.

Hunter Mahan:

Create a caption

 

This guy can hit it long, but he also won the Travelers in 2007.  The 27yr old Californian has been in the mix a lot this year with three top 10’s including two in majors and one last week.  He was robbed on Sunday at Bethpage when he hit the pin on the par-4  16th, and his ball ended up off the green.  The ball would have ended up close, and a birdie would have put Mahan at 3 under.  Instead he bogeyed, and was put out of contention.

He hits greens at a stellar rate, and the greens at the Travelers are a bit on the small side.  Mahan should be a factor by week’s end.

Corey Pavin:

Circa 1995

Circa 1995

Now.  He better not shave during the Ryder Cup.

Now. He better not shave during the Ryder Cup.

 

If the Ryder Cup Captain is gonna win anywhere this year, it is here.  He is last on the tour in driving distance, and is hitting greens less than half the time, but I’m rooting for him because he looks sort of like Billy Bob Thornton.  One year off the senior circuit, it would be nice to see Corey beat up on some young guns.

It would also be nice to see: Anthony Kim win a tournament.  Kim has struggled a bit this year, but showed signs of life last week at the Open.  He seemed to be in good spirits at the Pro Am, and has apparently lost 4 inches off his waist (if you see the guy in person, you realize, him losing 4 inches off his waist means he’s now shopping for slacks at Gap Kids.), but he would outdrive me by thirty yards so I will shut up.

With the course’s proximity to two of the largest casinos in the world, though, I think Kim’s chances are slim.  If I see him out I will buy him a beer.  If I see Sergio out I will gloat about the terrible US soccer team beating his Spaniards in a hideous game (yesterday’s news, sorry.)

My Final Thought:

This is hard for me to say, but at the Pro Am today the players were accessible as ever.  It was a Wednesday in rainy Cromwell, CT so needless to say, few were at the 17th tee to see Sergio tee off at 9:30am, but he treated everyone well, signed autographs until all were pleased, and he didn’t bitch once in the few minutes I was within earshot of him.  Though, I still will never root for the guy, maybe he’s not as big a douchebag as I thought, but he probably is.

My Bold Prediction:

Justin Rose will win it because he was the only golfer I didn’t have to say, “Hey man, nice drive” to, for him to say hello.  Other than Boo’s caddie, who chewed more tabacco than Lenny Dykstra in a hitting slump.

Hes Gotta Win Eventually

He's Gotta Win Eventually

I do have a good feeling about Ryuji Imada as well.


Confederations Cup Semi-Finals Keys To Victory: U.S.A. vs Spain

June 24, 2009
Soccer superstar or  Anime character?  You decide.

Soccer superstar or Anime character? You decide.

Okay, I realize I’m a bit late to the party here but at least I got this out a few hours before kickoff.

Today, the United States of America (U.S.A. if you’re into that whole acronym thing)  will be squaring off against Spain in the confederations cup semi-finals.  USA. is currently ranked 14th in the world with Spain ranked as the top team in the world.

In an effort to get this article out before kickoff I’ll make this short, which will be a relief to 99% of the readers who have read up to this far and probably have no idea I’m discussing a soccer match.

Keys to victory

USA:

–         Get the ball to Donovan/Dempsey in space.  These are the only players on the US team that can even compare in skill level to the Spanish team.

–         Do not force the ball to Altidore.  The Spanish have an extremely talented team.  They will cut Altidore out of the game if USA gets into its usual attacking style of kick the ball to him and running after it.

–         Play the quick attack.  This is by far the most important for USA if they are to have a chance.  USA cannot sit back and try and play possession.  They need to catch Spain off balance and not let them settle into defense.  USA pulled it off vs. Egypt and they will need to do it again today.

Spain:

–         Play the ball through the midfield.  Fabregas will be able to move at will with the ball in the midfield.  This is an area of weakness for the US and an area of strength for Spain, leaving a great matchup to exploit.  Fabregas is arguably one of the top midfielders in the game right now, with the ability to create something out of nothing at will.

–         Possess the ball.  The disparity in talent between the 2 sides is staggering.  If Spain is able to sit back and play its classic possession style of attack, there will be no chance for the US to initiate it’s quick strike attack style.

–         David Villa is probably the 2nd best player in the world right now, and paired with Fernando Torres, makes this Spanish team able to score on any possession.  Get the ball to them and do it often.

My bold prediction:

3-0 Spain with David Villa, Carles Puyol, and Fernando Torres each scoring 1.


Sorry Phil, Duval was a Better Story

June 23, 2009

Another US Open ended Monday with the expected result for Phil Mickelson.  NBC, ESPN, and Golf Channel commentators alike praised him for his fifth career runner-up finish in the biggest tournament in golf’s calendar year.  I just wonder how long it is going to take everyone to realize that Phil is a massive choker.

I almost feel as if I am breaking some rule by writing negative things about the guy right now.  I commend Phil for his play in the tournament.  He said all the right things this week, and did not let what must be a very stressful and scary situation in his home life affect his game.

For a while, I thought Amy’s situation may actually help Mickelson in this tournament.  That may sound naive and emotionally unattached to the situation, but think about it for a second.  Towards the end of the final round Phil was playing against a lot of amateurs when it came to major championship pressure.  Tiger was lingering, but failed to make a big charge.  David Duval is a different golfer than he was when he dealt with his major pressure, and Retief Goosen took himself out of contention before the turn.

Phil has not only dealt with Major Championship pressure before, but honestly, he has bigger issues than golf pressure right now.  These guys are all seizing up worrying about making a putt and Phil is worried about someone across the country.  Maybe it worked against him, but a lot of athletes can thrive when their mind is off the task at hand.

From a Disney standpoint, though, David Duval was the big story.  Duval winning wouldn’t have been as big a deal in the media as Phil, (because they all have crushes on him for some reason) but it would have been a much bigger story in the grand scheme of golf.  Duval was ranked somewhere in the high 800’s before the tournament and among the worst on the tour in driving accuracy and GIR.  These are not the makings of a US Open champ.

But David took his new confidence and new athletic physique to Farmingdale knowing he had a shot.  If Duval doesn’t get stuck under the lip of a bunker on the par 3, 3rd hole there is a good chance he wins the Open.  If he bogeyed that hole he would have finished tied for first.  He also caught other bad breaks, but as he said, “everybody did.”  Whether or not Duval is back is yet to be seen, but it was nice to see a guy who fell off the face of the earth back in contention.  Even if he is wearing a XXL instead of his former medium.

The Phil story is intriguing.  His wife is sick with breast cancer.  She is doing okay, but there is such an unknown future when it comes to cancer.  Did we catch it early enough?  If we get rid of it will it come back?, and any light shined on cancer in the public eye is important because it is such an epidemic these days.  Cancer really affects everybody.  So I really do commend Phil for playing and just bringing attention to it.  The Pga does more charity work than any other sport, and hopefully cancer research benefits from the Mickelson’s situation.  Does this make me want to root for Phil, though?  A little more than usual, but not really.

David Duval’s story is inspiring.  This is a man who also knows the perils of cancer.  David lost his brother to Leukemia when they were teenagers.  A bone marrow transplant from David to his brother failed.  He gained success through college and early amateur years and rose all the way to number one in the world before losing his ability to make cuts.  Duval came alive with a 67 out of the gate this week, though.  He hit fairways, he has the same great putting stroke, and his formerly aloof behavior with crowds was seemingly gone.  This was a new golfer, a new body, a new man.

You were almost waiting for the trainwreck to happen everytime Duval got close to the top on Monday.  After the bad bunker break most thought he was out of the hunt, but in a charge that was in line with his “never quit” message for the week Duval almost pulled it off.

Don’t get me wrong.  I give Phil a ton of credit even for coming out and playing, but his second place finish at an Open is expected, and it is overshadowing a performance that should not be overlooked.  Duval fought against golf demons to fight back to the top of a Major leaderboard, Phil was fighting against something else.  I am much more impressed by a runner up finish from the world’s 882nd ranked player than from the world’s number 2.


Carebear’s 2009 US Open Preview

June 18, 2009
Enough Said

Enough Said

The US Open is by far, the best tournament on the golf calendar.  It showcases the strongest and toughest golfers on a course that brings Fed Ex Cup hopefuls to their knees.  This year should be no exception.

There is plenty of drama leading up to the event.  Tiger won a couple weeks ago, and is playing some of his best golf since getting his bionic knee repaired;   Phil is trying to keep his mind out of his way with his wife battling a tougher fight than Bethpage; Sergio returns to the course where fans opened up to him so much that he saluted them…with his middle finger in 2002(I love New York), and Brian Gay tries to keep his dream season going with another win.

The elements will be a factor again at Bethpage as Thursday’s round will be plagued with heavy rain, and the outlook is gloomy the rest of the weekend as well.  So who will rise above the rain, the 7,445 yard course, the NY fans, and  the overall pressure of the biggest championship in golf to take the trophy?

Well, here’s my Nostradamus-like shot at picking the contenders:
My Four Horsemen:

Tiger Woods

I will never not pick Tiger.  In any golf event he is the favorite.  He drove the ball better than he has in years (maybe ever) at the Memorial.  He has switched to a 10 degree driver and it has paid off.  Woods also showed that he still has the balls to take a tournament with his precise approach shot on 18 two sundays ago.  If Tiger is still on, then no one else has a chance…  He could run away with this.

Camilo Villegas

Camilo is a strange little Colombian dude with a strange little Colombian swing, and a strange giant Red Bull buckle, but he keeps on putting up good scores and reminding Anthony Kim of what he could be if he didn’t drink Busch Light all day instead of practicing.
Camilo hits it long and hits greens.  He tends to run out of energy by Saturday, though, because he exerts himself by flexing every time a camera walks by.  It may be his time for a major victory.

Alvaro Quiros

Watch out Sergio.  This guy will replace you as Americas favorite Spanish golfer if he is even a little bit less of a bitch than you

Watch out Sergio. This guy will replace you as America's favorite Spanish golfer if he is even a little bit less of a bitch than you.

It is Quiros’s first US Open, and nobody knows who the hell he is, but he is basically a Bubba Watson, Sergio, Camilo Villegas hybrid.  Sergio because he’s Spanish, Camilo because he’s a prettyboy, and Bubba because he hits it 8 miles and wears big hats.
This guy averages over 315 yds off the tee.  If he hits it straight, he has a chance.  He has one win on the European tour this year (3 career), but has yet to be a factor on tour here in the States.  Watch out for the straw hat.

Nick Watney

Keeping with my theme of long hitters, Watney is a big lanky American with a great swing having a breakout season.  He almost took down Phil earlier in ’09.  He has 3 top 10’s this year and has only missed 2 cuts.  His tee time (1:14pm 1st hole) will be a fun one to watch, with all three guys JB Holmes, Watney, and Quiros capable of quarter mile drives.

Others names I wanna Drop:
David Toms, John Merrick, and Paul Casey.
ESPN is talking a lot about Ian Poulter.  That would be a victory for hair gel and visor-wearers everywhere.

Is there a potential Francis Ouimet in the field?

No.
Well, there never will be again, but if you want me to pick an amateur I have to go with Rickie Fowler.  He definitely has the game, but I doubt he has the mental ability to make the cut at Bethpage.  He dropped a 66 at the FBR earlier this year proving he can play with the tour guys and made the cut last year at the open, but this is not sunny California.

Best Potential Storylines:

There are a lot of them.   Kenny Perry coming back after his miraculous choke at the Masters to become the oldest major champion would be nice, Tiger winning is always good, Rocco beating Tiger will never happen but it would be pretty damn cool, but I think the outcome most are rooting for (other than Sergio running out of golf balls by the third hole Thursday) is for a Phil Mickelson victory.

Good Old Phil

Good Old Phil

Phil is going through a whole lot right now, and handling everything really well.  Mickelson will be the favorite among the New York fans, and is even turning people who are usually not big Phil guys into fans.  A Mickelson vistory would be a great storyline.  I still hate Bones, though.
My 1,000 to 1 shot:
Adam Scott pulls his head out of his ass (Or Kate Hudson’s) and takes the Open.


But Anyways:

The Masters is great early in the season, and Augusta is beautiful.  The Open Championship often gives golfers hell, and makes them play a game they’re not used to.  No one really cares about the PGA Championship, but the US Open is the most grueling, physically and mentally demanding challenge in golf year in and year out.

I almost made a pilgrimmage down to Long Island this weekend, but seeing as I’m broke and have HD I will do what we all should do.  Put some Pabst in a cooler, find a nice chair and prepare the mute button for Jim Nantz.  Count the mentions of Johnny Miller’s 63 in 1973 and enjoy Faldo talking about Poulter’s hair.  Lets hope for bad weather and pure irons, and this should be a fun weekend.


One of the Most Dominant and Foolish Performances in Sports History

June 1, 2009
Texas Austin Wood pitched 13 scoreless innings of relief on Saturday night versus Boston College.

Texas' Austin Wood pitched 13 scoreless innings of relief on Saturday night versus Boston College.

In the longest baseball game in NCAA history, Texas pitcher Austin Wood put on a performance for the ages.  The Longhorns outlasted Boston College in a 25-inning game that lasted a record 7 hours and 3 minutes, to win 3-2.

Even more impressive than the longevity of the game, is lefty Wood.  He entered the game with one out in the sixth inning and left 13 innings later.  Meanwhile, he mowed down 14 batters while shutting down the Eagles.  He wound up allowing one hit in those 13 scoreless innings.  Wood was an example of pure dominance.  It could be the most impressive display of pitching in college baseball history.

It could also be one of the most foolish performances in all of sports history.  Texas coach Augie Garrido allowed his senior lefthander in the game to throw 169 pitches, 120 for strikes.  Consider the fact that most big league starters don’t throw past 100 pitches very often, and it becomes clear how dangerous this outing was.  It was clearly irresponsible for the coach to ride his senior to a victory.  No pitcher is conditioned to throw that many pitches in an outing.  It is unfair of him to abuse the player in the attempt to win the game.  Consider that BC used 8 pitches in the game, Texas used only 3.  IN A 25-INNING GAME!  It’s unheard of.  The coach risked injury to the player in the hopes of advancing farther in the NCAA tournament.  If they win, the player and coach are the heroes.  If not, the coach always has next year.  The player who threw 169 pitches?  There’s no telling if he has a future, and throwing that many won’t help him.

Hats off for a terrific performance by Austin Wood.  He did what he had to do, which was shut down BC for the time he was asked to.  And a big thumbs down to the Texas coach who rode his senior’s left arm to victory.  To risk the health of a player that will never pitch for you next year is just foolish.  It unfair to put the player in that position.  But Wood persevered, dominating the opponent in a performance for the ages.