Posted on: August 8, 2008 3:40 pm
 

Alabama Fan Shows That Sports Too Can Be Inhuman

I missed this story. Completely. Had no idea about it. And in some way, I'm glad I did. It's just so inconceivable, so inhuman that I would rather not even know about it.

And until now, I did not know about it, living in permanent ignorance. Not on this planet, never on this planet.

On November 18th, 2005, the night before the annual Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama, Joey Barrett, Jr., a lifelong Alabama fan and now 25, went to a fraternity party at Auburn and yelled “Roll Tide!” A brawl then broke out, with Barrett stabbing one of the fraternity brothers.

The brother was hospitalized with a collapsed lung. Two others who were lucky enough not to get stabbed were also hospitalized.

Barrett then found a witness, who just happened to be clinically declared as mentally retarded, and offered him a car to admit to being the person who stabbed the brother.

And until now, I had not heard this.

Of everything that has happened. Of everything that I have heard of or seen, brawls breaking out at games, sometimes fatal, nothing like this.

Never have I seen a man go to a party in enemy territory with the obvious intent to start a fight a day before the game started.

Never have I seen a man be willing to stab someone just because he's a fan of a different team.

Never have I seen a man who would bribe a mentally retarded man, Louie Holtz, with a car to testify that Holtz stabbed the victim.

Never have I seen a man get off so easily.

Barrett, a semi-pro cage fighter who frequently takes part in “last man standing” competitions, must have known that he would incite a fight by yelling “Role Tide” at an Auburn fraternity party. He also must have wanted the fight, as he was armed with a knife.

He was set to take the stand in 2006, but claimed that Holtz would testify that he was the one who stabbed the fraternity brothers. No one involved in the fight recognized Holtz. No one. Then Holtz refused to testify. A mistrial was declared.

In the ensuing time, the investigation uncovered that Barrett and his legal staff had offered Holtz a car in attempt to bribe and convince him that he was the one who stabbed the brothers.

Barrett, who originally stood trial just for the first-degree assault charge, also was going to stand for bribing a witness.

And on Thursday, Barrett pleaded guilty to both charges, getting a deal that forced him to serve 18 months for the assault charge while concurrently serving one year for bribing the witness.

A year and a half in jail, that's all.

That's the story I wish I had not heard.

Had Barrett succeeded in killing the Auburn student, he would have been found guilty of second-degree murder. Not manslaughter, not assault. Murder. He was armed and had an intent to injure, even if it was not to kill.

He would have been serving a couple of decades in prison, not a matter of a 18 months in county jail.

Based on what he did, he's a lot more despicable that many convicted murderers and many people convicted of manslaughter, whether voluntary or involuntary.

And Barrett will also be out of jail long before any of these other people are out of prison.

As a sports fan, I don't get it.

As a human being, I don't get it.

Joey Barrett, Jr., an Alabama fan, went into an Auburn fraternity party either armed with a knife or with  knowledge of where a knife was that he could use, and intentionally incited a brawl. He wasn't at a game in the heat of the passion; he went in with the intent to fight and the intent to hurt. It's fairly obvious.

Then, he bribes a mentally handicapped man to admit to everything.

And all Joey Barrett, Jr. gets is 18 months in jail?

I want to think he was just drunk. I want to think Joey Barrett, Jr. made a drunken mistake and then got caught up in the moment and made a mistake he regrets, but I can tell this is not the case.

Even if he were drunk, it does not change the fact that afterwards, he tried to find someone to take the heat for the incident.

And I'm ashamed.

Barrett is an embarrassment to the Southeast Conference, to collegiate sports, to the United States; his sentence is an embarrassment to the United States judicial system.

There is no other way around this stone.

I'd like to have never heard this story, but now I have. And it pains me.

Not as badly as Barrett may have intended it to hurt a couple of innocent Auburn students, but fairly close. And I don't want this story to go away, at least not before you hear it. You probably want to ignore it because it is just so vile, just so wrong. What's the word?

It's just so... inhuman.

Try to comprehend it; you don't have the genetics to.

Barrett should be locked up as long as any murderer; he should be treated like one. He should get the ninth level of hell all to himself like Spencer Hall of the Sporting News blog argued.

He won't, but he should.

And now I never want to think of this story again. I never want to think of this story again.

Never again.

Please, never again.

Twenty days until college football season starts. That's my mind-set. Twenty days. Stories like this make those twenty days seem so much longer.

Stories like this make sports seem so unnecessary.

Posted on: August 6, 2008 11:32 pm
 

Pimlico Race Course as Good as Closed

This might as well be the end. This might as well be a funeral.

For the past two decades, every horse racing news out of Maryland was one of contraction. Whether it was the end of the Pimlico Special, the fabled stakes race that once pitted Seabiscuit versus War Admiral in a march race, or purse cuts or requests not to have race dates at Pimlico, it has been a near-constant struggle.

A state that once had the most important juvenile race in the country, the most important spring race for older horses, a breeding industry that sired countless champions, a fan base that came from every corner of the country and not just on the third Saturday in May, this is a sad turn of feet. And now it just got sadder.

On Wednesday, Pimlico shut down for training. While it has always been open for horsemen, even when the track did not have live racing, it won't anymore. Not until April, when the track's meeting opens again.

At the same time, the state announced the cuts of every single non-state-bred stakes race for the rest of the year. Every single one.

From the De Francis Memorial, a Grade I sprint race that is one of the most important post-Breeders' Cup races in the country, to the Laurel Futurity, which was once won by such champions as Count Fleet, Citation, Secretariat and Affirmed, all of whom became Triple Crown winners the year after their triumph in Maryland.

Odds are, they're also going to cut the Barbara Fritchie Handicap and General George Handicap, both held in February, considering the purse money continues to be lacking.

Much of this is probably related to the announcement that Magna Entertainment Corporation, which owns and operates Pimlico and Laurel, Maryland's two thoroughbred tracks, has had losses totaling more than an half billion dollars since 2005, including $67 million over the first six months of 2008.

Magna had a terrible first quarter, usually its best quarter, after losing eight live racing days due to drainage problems at Santa Anita in California, one of the company's two profitable facilities.

In 2007, Magna posted a first quarter profit of more than $2 million. In 2008, it lost $46 million in the first three months of the year

Finally, Magna was recently nearly taken off of the NASDAQ exchange after its stock price dropped below $1. To stay on the exchange, the company did a reverse 1 to 20 split, raising the value to $7.20 as of Wednesday morning.

And while all these facts might answer why these moves were made at this time, none of them cut to the chase of what is really happening.

Sure, this move is just a posture. Despite all the loses, Maryland racing could still at least maintain itself for the rest of the year at the current figures. But barely.

Magna has been asking for legislation allowing for slot parlors at the states two thoroughbred and two standardbred horse facilities for a decade with no success. The revenue generated from these parlors would be used to bolster the horse purses.

But even if these moves were just to help the cause to get slots, it doesn't change the fact that without this money, the tracks will continue to lose money and eventually, might close.

No one thought Hialeah Park in South Florida would close. Or Ak-Sar-Ben in Omaha, Neb. Or Detroit Race Course. Or Longacres Park in Renton, Wash. Or Arlington Park in Chicago. But they all did, some more than once.

Arlington Park closed for two years from 1998 to 1999 before reopening under the management of Churchill Downs Incorporated, hosting the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships in 2002.

Hialeah Park closed for the first time in 1990 and again in 2001, without reopening since. It is currently on the verge of being sold and saved.

The other three? All closed and long-since demolished, the only standing memory is the grave of Omaha, the Triple Crown winner in 1935 who was buried at Ak-Sar-Ben in the city whose name he honors.

Now Pimlico is bound to join the others, a lost treasure with nothing there to replace it.

If Pimlico does not get slots, how much longer can it keep its head above water?

How much longer can Magna afford to lose money on Pimlico when it is already losing millions each year on Great Lakes Downs in Muskegon, Mich., Remington Park in Oklahoma City, Okla., Portland Meadows in Portland, Ore., and Thistledown in North Randall, Ohio? Those properties have been on the market for four years without anyone willing to take the financial hit.

The simple answer? It won't.

The only thing that has kept Pimlico and Laurel Park afloat for the past decade has been the Preakness Stakes. The money brought in from gamblers on that third Saturday in May has done much to offset the losses of the other 364 days.

But each year, the losses of those 364 days continue to grow while the income from Preakness day continues to vanish.

Despite a record-setting attendance of more than 112,000 to see Big Brown win the Preakness this year, only the fifth-most money all-time was wagered on the event, a mere $73 million. Overall, there was a fall to $190.9 million from $228.7 million for the spring race meeting at Pimlico.

Last year, Maryland thoroughbred racing as a whole suffered a 4.1 percent decrease in overall handle, a fall of nearly $80 million from 2006.

Basically, in 2007, Maryland lost one Preakness in income.

Sure, gas prices make it more costly for people to travel, leaving them less money to spend at the tracks. But the dilapidated state of the facilities at Pimlico, located right in the slums of Baltimore, do not seem to invite anyone to come to the racetrack in the first place.

2006 was the only profitable year for Maryland thoroughbred racing this decade, as well as one of only two with an increase in handle from the previous year. Despite that, the Maryland Jockey's Club cancelled the Pimlico Special in 2007 before further slashing purses that June.

It's been a long spiral in Maryland and it only seems getting worse.

But there is hope.

After former governor Robert Ehrlich spent his entire term from 2003 to 2007 trying to get the state congress to pass legislation that would allow for slot machines at Pimlico and Laurel as well as Rosecroft, a standardbred facility in the state, it seems like the measure might finally succeed.

This Election Day, voters will head to the polls and vote on a referendum that will allow for 15,000 slot machines to be placed at the tracks in the state, generating $100 million for the horse breeding and racing industry.

But opponents say that too much money is going to the tracks and not the state. Additionally, of that money going to the tracks to bolster purses, only 42 percent will go to state-bred horses.

The rest will go to horses bred in other states and countries that are racing at Maryland's tracks.

Nevertheless, a poll conducted by proponents of the measure from May 19 to 21 of 803 Maryland residents showed 63 percent in favor and 34 percent against with a margin of error of 3.1 percent. But don't get too giddy.

Those numbers are nearly identical to those shown in Colorado in 2004 for a similar measure before it failed by a near 2:1 count in November. Early support does not mean November success.

If the measure fails, if Pimlico cannot make needed internal improvements to its dilapidated facilities and Maryland cannot bolster purses to compete with neighboring states, then Pimlico might as well not open again in April.

Once, Maryland hovered over neighboring tracks in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Now those states all have tracks with attached slot parlors.

While Maryland continues to offer about $200,000 a day in purses, Philadelphia Park has upped the ante to more than $300,000. Delaware Park has done almost the same.

Magna, after losing $575 million since 2005, cannot afford to lose money on Pimlico and Laurel again in 2009.

Maryland racing cannot afford to sit behind Delaware and Pennsylvania in the feeding order.

If worst comes to worst, the Preakness might just have to move.

What other choice is there if the slots measure does not pass?
Posted on: July 30, 2008 12:20 am
 

25 Greatest American Thoroughbreds (Part 1/6)

Eleven. Currently, that's the most important number in American horse racing. There have been eleven Triple Crown winners spread out over 59 years.

However, since the dawn of television, which for arguments sake was 1952, there have only been three horses that could claim all three legs.

For any American who could not get to Louisville, Ky., Baltimore, or Elmont, N.Y., the first time he or she saw a champion horse was in 1952 when CBS affiliate WHAS covered the Kentucky Derby and the signal was broadcast across the country. Hill Gail won the race as the favorite, but an injury kept him out of the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. He never won another major stakes in his career.

But there have been many horses that rose in the television era to become champions.

Some did it on the first Saturday in May; others won the Jockey Club Gold Cup; one filly even became an even bigger star in death.

For the next six articles, I will take you through whom I believe to be the 25 greatest routing American thoroughbreds since the first televised Kentucky Derby in 1952. There were only four rules in coming up with the criteria:

  1. The horse must have been bred in the United States. As great as Gallant Man was, he was bred in Ireland and therefore ineligible. Same goes for Canadian-bred Northern Dancer.
  2. The horse must have completed the majority of its body of work in either the United States. Very few American horses fall victim to this category and none that I seriously considered, but it still needs to be a rule.
  3. Only the horse's racing career is considered. I don't care if the horse became one of the best breeders of all time; if he or she was not one of the 25 best on the track, he or she won't make the list.
  4. I am only looking at the performance of the horse at one mile or longer, with the exclusion of juvenile races. There have been many good sprinting horses, but it is much more difficult to compare. Eventually I will come back with the list of the best mile-under horses, but that's not for this list.


I will reveal five per article. The sixth and final installment will include 15 great champions that just missed the cut.

Am I correct? Is there some horse that I've overrated? Underrated? That is for you to decide. Now I will present to you the bottom five horses in my top 25, even though in their day they were number one.

25. Skip Away - "Skip Away's a world-beater in the Hollywood Gold Cup!" - Luke Kruytbosch

Skip Away didn't win the Kentucky Derby. Somehow, he didn't win the Preakness or the Belmont either. After that, he was pure gold.

As a three-year old, he won the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Woodbine Million and Haskell Invitational in the fall on his way to winning the Eclipse for three-year old colt of the year. He is the only horse since 1984 to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown, not win any, not win the Breeders' Cup Classic, and still win that eclipse.

His win in the Jockey Club Gold Cup came over Cigar, who that summer had finished his record-tying streak of 16 consecutive victories.

His 1997 campaign would have won him the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year had it not been for the phenomenal juvenile Favorite Trick, the first two-year old to win it since Secretariat in 1972. Skip Away won the Massachusetts Handicap, Jockey Club Gold Cup for the second time, and Breeders' Cup Classic. His time in winning the Breeders' Cup Classic was a stakes record.

1998 was his shining year. He won nearly every race he entered, although he could not repeat in the Classic. Finally, Skip Away was awarded the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

Skip Away retired with 18 wins from 38 starts and more earnings than any horse buy Cigar. Not too shabby.

24. Alysheba - "And Alysheba, America's horse, has done it!" - Tom Durkin

Jack Van Berg had already been training for 30 years, dominating the Nebraska circuit while annually finishing in the top ten nationwide in wins. He won one Triple Crown race, but most of his horses were claiming and allowance-level. Then he found his legend.

It's remarkable how quickly the talent level has fallen off, but during the late 1980s there was incredible depth in the classic division. Sunday Silence, Easy Goer, Ferdinand, all true champions. Oh, there was also Alysheba.

Alysheba never won a stakes race before the Kentucky Derby in 1987. It seemed like he could not lose thereafter.

He won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, becoming in the process the first horse since Pleasant Colony to accomplish that feat. He ran a well-beaten fourth in the Belmont, although that was his first race without lasix since his juvenile year.

Alysheba won the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs that September before shipping to Hollywood Park for a chance at the Breeders' Cup Classic. There he was defeated by a nose to Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby champion.

As a four-year old, Alysheba showed his gut, winning three stakes races at Santa Anita, including the Big Cap or the Santa Anita Handicap, over Ferdinand. That victory made Alysheba the horse to beat that summer.

Although Ferdinand retired before the two had a chance to rematch in the Breeders' Cup Classic, there was still a solid field. With near-blackness in the “Midnight Classic” at Churchill Downs, Alysheba stole horse of the year honors with a three-quarters length victory over Seeking the Gold.

He retired as thoroughbred racing's richest horse with nearly $7 million in career earnings and 11 wins and eight places from 26 starts.

23. Round Table - "Now, at 5, as he keeps winning the big ones with his weight up in the relentlessly professional thoroughness of the New York Yankees in Ruth's day and DiMaggio's, the applause grows louder with each passing hour until it is a crescendo of appreciation and admiration for one of the greatest performers in the history of U.S. racing." - Joe Hirsch

Longevity has to count for something, right?

From ages three to five, Round Table dominated American turf racing.

As a three-year old, he won more than $600,000 nearly 50 percent more than Horse of the Year Bold Ruler. His most prestigious win was the United Nations Handicap at Atlantic City, his first of two victories in the event.

As a four-year old, he finally got his due. He dominated the winter circuit, taking the Santa Anita Handicap and Gulfstream Park Handicap on his way to winning his first seven starts of the year, He won the Arlington Handicap for the first time and Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap for the second time. He would again win more than $600,000, but this time he would earn Horse of the Year honors.

Despite six stakes wins in his final year as a five-year old, including victories in the United Nations Handicap and Manhattan Handicap on the turf, three-year old Sword Dancer won Horse of the Year in 1959 in one of the biggest coups in the award's history. Sure, Sword Dancer won the Belmont Stakes and dominated the New York handicap series, but he did not come close to what Round Table did.

Round Table also set an American record of 1:58 2/5 on the turf for 1 ¼ miles that year during his triumph in the San Marcos Handicap, a remarkable time especially considering he was carrying the heavyweight of 132 pounds.

Somehow, Round Table was only Horse of the Year once. 43 wins from 66 lifetime starts isn't a bad consolation though, is it?

22. Cigar - "The incomparable, the invincible, the unbeatable Cigar!" - Tom Durkin

Shocked to see Cigar this low? Well, don't be.

Yes, Cigar was a great champion, but he also dominated in a very weak era. The only true competition he faced was Holy Bull, and that was for one race. Holy Bull broke down on the backstretch of the 1995 Donn Handicap, ending his racing career.

Nonetheless, Cigar was a fine champion.

A nothing until his five-year old year, Cigar surprised everyone when he suddenly rose to the top of his profession. During that undefeated season, he won nine stakes: he won the aforementioned Donn Handicap and Gulfstream Park Handicap in Florida; he won the Oaklawn Handicap in Arkansas; he won the Pimlico Special in Maryland; he won the Hollywood Gold Cup in California; he won the Massachusetts Handicap; he won the Woodward at Saratoga; he won the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont.

Traveling all over the country, Cigar won everywhere, culminating it with his victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont.

As if 1995 was not brilliant enough, he decided to go global in 1996, winning the inaugural running of the Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba on the way to extending his winning streak to 16.

Although Cigar would eventually be upset by Dare and Go in the Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar that August and then finish third in the Classic, he still won Horse of the Year for the second consecutive year.

He retired $185 shy of becoming the first horse to win $10 million in his career.

His stud career was not nearly as successful, as Cigar proved to be sterile. He now lives out his days at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

21. Azeri - "The speed of Ruffian, the class of Lady's Secret, the heart of Personal Ensign. One of the greats of all time! THIS IS AZERI!" - Vic Stauffer

Azeri won 14 of her first 15 lifetime starts, the only loss coming with an awful trip in her first stakes race at Santa Anita in which she still managed to finish second.

After that defeat, Azeri reeled off 11 consecutive graded stakes victories, eight of which were Grade I events.

As a four-year old, she won the Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita before shipping to Oaklawn for the first of three victories Apple Blossom Handicap. Azeri followed that with back-to-back victories at Hollywood Park in the Milady and Vanity Handicaps, both races in which she would repeat in 2003.

From that point on, Azeri would not be touched for the rest of the year, concluding it with a dominating five-length victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Arlington Park. Azeri would become the first filly or mare to win Horse of the Year since Lady's Secret in 1986.

Azeri repeated in the Apple Blossom to start 2003, this time only by a head, as Take Charge Lady ran a game race to be second. Then in the Milady, track announcer Vic Stauffer observed as Azeri was “showing the speed of Ruffian, the class of Lady's Secret, the heart of Personal Ensign” and proved herself “one of the greats of all time.”

A tendon injury led to her defeat in the Lady's Secret Breeders Cup Handicap at Oak Tree Racing at Santa Anita, ending her season before a chance to repeat in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Although Azeri never fully regained her former form, she did win three Grade I stakes as a six-year old in 2004, including a third consecutive triumph in the Apple Blossom Handicap in Arkansas. The other two victories came in the Go For Wand Handicap and Overbrook Spinster Stakes, her first appearance at Saratoga and Keeneland respectively.

Finally, Azeri rode off into retirement with a fifth place finish against the boys in the Breeders' Cup Classic, ending her career with 17 wins in 24 starts.

Posted on: July 28, 2008 1:10 pm
 

You into the Brett Favre Saga? Me Neither.

Maybe I am alone; maybe I am out of touch; maybe I am just missing something. No matter what, I do not think it's a bad thing.

When I woke up this morning, I made my normal voyage over to ESPN.com. I don't like ESPN, never have and never will, but I need to make the trip in order to keep the proverbial enemy closer.

And there I see it.

A tag-line that seems as foreign to me as Louisiana electoral procedure. A tag-line that I would have hoped would be considered a cold-blooded lie. A tag-line so incomprehensible I was not sure whether to be afraid or laugh.

“Are you on Brett Favre watch? Us, too, so here's the latest from him:”

ESPN asked me, did not wait for my response, and told me anyway what was going on.

The network told me that he had not gone to camp, yet. That he hadn't been traded, yet. That he hadn't sent in his letter of reinstatement, yet.

Basically, ESPN told me that Brett Favre's situation is exactly the same as it was three hours after he retired.

And people care about this?

I look down the right side of the page to view the other, so-called secondary headlines. These are things that news status quo reports about Brett Favre trump, apparently.

Gold medal-winning gymnast Paul Hamm withdraws from Olympic games.

Goose Gossage inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Rafael Nadal wins the Rogers Masters to close in on Roger Federer's top ranking.

And those are just the news reports that interest me.

Champions were crowned in the Arena Football League, Tour de France, and World Cup of beach soccer. An unheralded golfer came back to beat John Cook to win the Senior Open Championship. A feature-length article about a player traded to the Harlem Globetrotters is almost impossible to find.

All of these, each and every one of them, clearly news, and each and every one of them is trumped by nothing.

And I'm supposed to believe that I'm the only person who does not care?

I am jonesing for football season unlike anything else, but this was never what I wanted. I never wanted a 24-hour-a-day media frenzy into each action Brett Favre has taken. Why would I? What am I learning? What do I get out of it?

Yet apparently, this is what everyone wants, at least according to ESPN.

Yes, ESPN thinks everyone wants to know everything Brett Favre, well, hasn't changed, from the last update. We apparently want to know every team that he hasn't been traded to, whether it is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Minnesota Vikings, the New York Jets, or whomever. Of course, we also want to know the thoughts of all the players on all of these teams that Brett Favre has not been traded to.

Gene Wojciechowski, never one to shy away from the easy, obvious argument, claims that nothing has happened because Green Bay is in a no-win situation. The Packers don't want to trade him to an NFC North team or wave him to where he signs with an NFC North team, but they also don't want to alienate Aaron Rodgers further. They also owe Favre at the very least the ability to play somewhere if he wants to play.

And that's all fine and dandy.

But we knew that four months ago.

We knew four months ago; we knew in the middle of his retirement speech when he said, “I still can play” and just a minute later reaffirming that with, “I know I can play;” we knew when he threw that interception in overtime against the New York Giants in the NFC Championship that Brett Favre would be back in 2008, even if it was not with the Green Bay Packers.

And yet, somehow, this entire saga in which nothing has happened is news? I don't get it.

When Brett Favre gets traded, that is news.

When Brett Favre gets waived, that is news.

When Brett Favre is reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell, that is news.

When Brett Favre reports to training camp, any training camp anywhere, that is news.

But when Brett Favre answers his telephone, when he considers doing something he's been considering for five months, when he fills out a form that means nothing until sent, that is news? I really just don't get it.

Maybe I am alone when I think ESPN is being just a tad bit presumptive when it assumes we are all hooked on the Brett Favre watch, stalking his every movement like only ESPN knows how.

Or maybe I am just out of touch.

But I'd like to think that I'm not. I'd like to think that there are some slightly more significant things going on in the world of sports.

I'd like to think Bruce Vaughan's birdie on the first playoff hole of the Senior Open Championship is a better story. It's a story that signifies that a career journeyman who never finished better than a tie for 22nd in one year on the PGA Tour, who previously only won two minor-league tournaments in his life, can still compete with and defeat someone who won 11 PGA Tour events in a major championship.

Isn't that what we want to hear?

There are definitely more riveting, more charismatic and heartwarming stories out there, even if ESPN is too caught up in the nothingness to let you know what is happening.
Posted on: July 27, 2008 1:48 pm
 

Quest for Another Gold: The World's Most Dominant

Quest for Another Gold: The World's Most Dominant Athlete

Behind all the talk about Roger Federer's recent slump and Rafael Nadal's and Jelena Jankovic's climbs towards number one is a story that few people care enough to know.

In tennis, there is dominance. Federer was almost the picture of it for nearly four years from 2004 to 2007, winning 11 of the 16 grand slam tournaments over that time period, making the finals of the latter 14. But in reality, he was second-best.

Federer's accomplishments on paper are shadowed by those of Esther Vergeer, a disabled 27-year old from the Netherlands. Since the end of January, 2003, Vergeer has won 340 consecutive wheelchair women's singles matches.

In fact, at one point she went 26 months without even dropping a set, a string of 120 matches and 240 sets.

But you probably have not heard of Vergeer. Unless you have gone to the tournaments where she competes, you definitely have not seen her play. You think ESPN is going to broadcast wheelchair tennis?

But there Vergeer has been, dominating her sport unlike anyone before her. Unlike almost anyone in any sport before her.

Vergeer still has a ways to go to catch Jahangir Khan, who won 555 consecutive squash matches from 1981 until 1986, but there's no reason to think she's going to slip any time soon.

On Sunday, Vergeer dismantled compatriot Korie Homan, the world's second-ranked player and the only person to take a set off of Vergeer this year, 6-2, 6-2, winning the British Open for the eighth consecutive year.

Homan had a point for a 3-1 lead in the first set, but Vergeer fought it off and won the next seven games, cruising to victory.

Vergeer now leads the series against second-ranked Homan 33-0, dropping only three sets out of 69.

While the 22-year old Homan has been improving, she still is not even close to the same league as Vergeer.

Additionally, age is not a pressing concern for Vergeer. Wheelchair tennis players frequently compete at the top level into their forties, allowing for a staying power that just doesn't exist in most other sports.

Wheelchair tennis is almost identical to regular, mainstream tennis, but there is one significant difference: the ball is allowed to bounce twice before it is returned.

Only the first bounce must land in the prescribed area of the court. If the first bounce is ruled in and the second bounce is out, the ball is still in play unless it bounces a third time.

But none of that diminishes what Vergeer has done.

What does attempt to diminish it is how little prize money she receives for all her success.

Vergeer, who has won 130 career titles in singles and 116 in doubles, receives about $1500 for each championship, not nearly enough to survive let alone prosper.

And she wins almost every tournament she enters, occasionally suffering a defeat in doubles.

"Prize money alone is not enough," Vergeer told talkabouttennis.com in 2007. "Winning a tournament earns me between $1000 and $1500, so I really need sponsorship money. I still live with my parents at the moment, so I manage to make ends meet. Next year, however, I'm moving out to live on my own and I'm not sure how much money that will leave me with"

Seven years of being the unquestionable top professional in her field and she was still living with her parents just to get by.

That's a shame.

Vergeer plans to keep going at least through the 2008 Paralympic games, practicing four times a week and conditioning semi-weekly, and probably continue beyond that. And although it is somewhat cliché, Vergeer aspires to be like Lance Armstrong.

"There are people I admire, like Lance Armstrong," she said in the same interview. "People who, in spite of whatever setbacks they're faced with, don't let things get them down. They fight for what they want to achieve, which I find a wonderful thing to see. I really don't like people who give up without even trying."

Vergeer and the other men and women on tour are playing tennis, the same tennis Roger Federer and Ana Ivanovic are playing, and nobody gives them even a glance.

And that too is a shame.

In April, Vergeer was asked by United States wheelchair tennis coach Dan James what kept her motivated to keep getting better.

“Every time I train, and I train with Maikel Scheffers right now, he's a guy so he's faster, he's stronger, he's better than me so he beats me. For me the motivation to practice harder so I can beat him maybe once or twice is big.

“I don't see the ceiling yet. I still see things I can better.”

That's a scary thought. How much better can things get than 340 wins in a row?

Yet Vergeer goes out on the court and wins, she goes out and gets the job done, because it really is a job to her.

Vergeer doesn't have the multi-million dollar mansion, the six or seven-figure salary, the name recognition. She most likely never will.

And that's the biggest shame of all.

You would think if someone was that good, she would at least get a nod every now and then. At the very least, you would think she should get that nod.

Sure, in January she won the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability, the first time since 2002 that she earned the honor. But how many of the previous champions get any attention?

Have you heard of Ernst van Dyk, the seven-time wheelchair winner of the Boston Marathon, setting a world record time in 2004?

Or 2004 winner Earle Connor, who despite setting world records for amputee sprinters in the 100-meters, 200-meters, and 400-meters runs on the same day in 2003, doesn't even have a wikipedia page? It may be a better thing that Connor is unknown, as only a few months after he won the award he was suspended for two years for doping.

But nobody gives Vergeer the attention she deserves, because if she got even an inkling of attention this is the type of story that could take off.

In a little more than a month, Vergeer will head to Beijing for the Paralympics. She will attempt to win her fifth and sixth gold medals, her third in each singles and doubles.

Borrow an unthinkable upset, she'll accomplish it.

Borrow an even more unthinkable upset, almost nobody will ever know.

Esther Vergeer might just be the most dominating athlete in the world. At the very least, she is clearly the most dominating in her sport.

Statistically, it's impossible to refute that.
Posted on: July 24, 2008 4:58 pm
 

Roger Federer: A Courageous, Stupid Prediction

Sometimes I keep my mouth shut even when I want to say something. In journalism, you have to. In this case, however, I should have spoken.

Watching the Wimbledon Gentlemen's singles final, which I wrote was the greatest sporting event I ever had the pleasure to see, I refrained from mentioning my observation that Roger Federer did not want to win the match before the middle of the third set. Yes, I saw it, as painful as it was. Federer clearly did not care for half the match if he won or lost.

There was no emotion, no adrenalin rush on the big break points, leading to a one out of 12 start on break point opportunities for Federer while Nadal was converting two-thirds of his. Every time there was a critical point, Nadal stepped it up while Federer was lackadaisical. Heck, he did not even seem disappointed when he dropped those first two sets.

At that point, I realized that Federer did not care anymore and I said it in private conversations, but I dared not publish it. How blasphemous! Claiming that the greatest male player of his generation did not care anymore if he won or lost? Who did I think Federer was, Justine Henin?

But after Roger Federer was unceremoniously defeated in his opening match of the Rogers Masters in Toronto, I need to put into writing my opinion: Roger Federer does not want it anymore.

Federer does not want to be out there playing; he does not want to win tournaments; he does not want to be the best player in the world. If he wanted it, he would not have succumbed to Gilles Simon. No, Federer does not care anymore.

I will take that one step further: Roger Federer is going to retire, if not immediately after the Olympic Games, then by the end of the year.

Federer wants Olympic Gold; there's no doubt about that. But besides that, what is left for him to achieve?

He knows he will never win Roland Garros unless Rafael Nadal is injured, and Federer is too classy of an individual to stick around solely with the hope that Nadal gets hurt. Federer would consider such a victory as shallow.

He knows that Nadal is younger, more energetic, and has a desire for greatness that Federer cannot match. Sure, he tried to for two and a half sets at Wimbledon, but in the end he failed, even playing at peak heart.

Roger Federer cried when he lost Wimbledon, not because he had given it his all and he was deflated because he lost, but because he knew that for half the match he hadn't given it his all and that he lacked the passion to ever give two and a half sets again. Federer saw that the end was coming.

Sure, he has the excuse that he had mononucleosis and the after-effects of it for the first four months of the year, but ever since it he has not been the same. He has lost to players that he should beat. He has been embarrassed by players who are expected to be his equals.

I made this prediction at Wimbledon, but I was too scared to put it into print. I was too afraid to be so dramatically incorrect.

That was my problem.

After seeing how Federer just did not show up for a match against Gilles Simon, I cannot withhold my opinion any long and claim journalistic integrity.

Roger Federer once wanted to be the greatest, not just of the day but of all time. He once wanted to take down Pete Sampras's mark of 14 grand slam titles and seven Wimbledon triumphs.

Somewhere along the line, between getting mono and losing to Gilles Simon in the second round of the Rogers Masters, Federer lost that desire, just as Justine Henin once did.

Sure, he said that he wants to play another five, maybe ten years, but he only said that because he was trying to convince himself that he wanted to keep going. In his heart he knew it was a lie.

For two and a half sets against Nadal, Federer wanted it not to be. But once he saw that even when he wanted to win he couldn't, he became convinced that this was the end. He showed his true mindset Wednesday.

I think he wants an Olympic Gold, but that's all that is left for Roger Federer. Anything else that he once wanted is no longer realistically obtainable.

Maybe he'll try to stick it out, try to win one more U.S. Open and remain number one for as long as he can, but I don't sense that. I sense that he is ready to call it a career.

Even if he tries to stick it out, I do not see him having the heart to gut out another major title.

Maybe I'm a fool; maybe I'm an idiot, but I don't want anyone to confuse me with a coward. That's why I'm writing this article. I have too much integrity to be one.

I was once a coward, just as Federer was once a great athlete; I should have written this article two weeks ago. I did not.

But now I cannot keep my mouth shut, even if I wanted to. I had to write this article.

Roger Federer is done, not because his talent is no longer there, but because he no longer wants to be the best player in the world. Especially after he saw that even for the fleeting moments in which he wanted it, he still might not be it.

You might disagree; you might see this as a slump, and maybe that's all it is. Maybe Federer will regroup and next year dominate the ATP circuit like he once did. Maybe Federer will win Wimbledon for the sixth time in seven years and regain the top ranking that he is on the verge of surrendering.

Such a scenario seems so much more far-fetched than what I'm arguing. It seems almost unfathomable right now.

I have enjoyed the ride, I have enjoyed the dominance that has so rarely been matched in any sport, even briefly, but it's coming to an end – sooner than most people, quite possibly even than Roger Federer, have the courage to admit.
Posted on: July 18, 2008 10:26 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2008 10:28 pm
 

Top 10 Golf Images of the Tiger Era

These are the 10 images that have defined golf since Tiger Woods first appeared in the Masters Tournament as an amateur in 1995.

I have made this the cutoff for simplicity reasons. Yes, there are great images from before, but I wanted images that defined this era.

Top 10 Golf Images of the Tiger Woods Era

10. Woody Austin, putter, ear, water

Seriously, I did not know which to put here. Woody Austin seemed destined to forever be remembered for one incident during the 1997 Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head. After a horrible putt, Austin began whipping his putter against his head repeatedly. Of course, we should have known Austin could do something that would outlive that. What we did not know is that he could outperform that twice.

Although it was quickly forgotten because of what happened one month later, Austin's ear cup is an amazing image. After making a putt from the fringe on the opposite end of the green to close within one stroke of Tiger Woods at the 2007 PGA Championship, Austin made a cup around his ear. Why did Tiger get cheers when he made shots like that and not Austin? Well, at least that's what Austin thought.

The last image? Well, it's fairly self-explanatory. Austin fell into the water after his shot in alternate-shot doubles at the 2007 President's Cup. David Toms, of course, hit the ball right onto the water's cusp, so I guess Austin has Toms to thank for that. And he should thank him. It's a lot less embarrassing to be remembered for that than it is to be remembered for striking a putter against your head.

9. Bruce Edwards and Tom Watson, 2003 U.S. Open

Bruce Edwards had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly called ALS or "Lou Gehrig's Disease," only a few months before he returned to the bag for Tom Watson's 2003 U.S. Open campaign.

No, that alone would make a touching story, but it pales in comparison to the image of Edwards and Watson at Olympia Fields Country Club walking up 18 with Watson's hand on Edward's back. For 30 years and eight major titles, Watson and Edwards were a team. Watson shared the first round lead despite his 53 years, but faded to 28th. Edwards would die less than one year later due to complications from ALS.

8. Payne Stewart, 1999 U.S. Open

This one is a double-image if you will. When you think of Payne Stewart, the first image has to be his "soaring eagle" pose after he made a 15-foot putt to save par to win the 1999 U.S. Open. The second is him clutching the U.S. Open trophy a few minutes later.

Even if Stewart did not die in the plane crash a few months later, these images would be just as iconic. I doubt if there would yet be a bronze statue at Pinehurst #2 commemorating the event, but there would be one day. His socks over the bottom of the trousers is as unforgettable as the joy he brought onto the golf course every time he played.

7. Ben Crenshaw, 1995 Masters Tournament

Harvey Penick, author of the Little Red Book, the highest-selling golf book of all time and mentor and coach to Ben Crenshaw for the previous 37 years of Crenshaw's 43-year old life, died just a few days before the Masters Tournament. The day before Crenshaw was a pallbearer at Penick's funeral.

Despite entering the week having missed three cuts in his previous four starts overall and outside the top-50 on tour in putts-per-round, Crenshaw miraculously found his game. After tapping in for bogey on the 72nd hole for a one stroke victory over Davis Love III, Crenshaw fell into his knees and covered his face while caddie Carl Jackson held him up. The crying didn't cease until he got his green jacket.

6. Justin Leonard, 1999 Ryder Cup

The United States had lost the previous two Ryder Cups by identical scores: 14 ½ to 13 ½. Heading into the final day, it looked like Europe would have to collapse just to win by that little.

Well, Europe did collapse, completely. The United States scored 8 ½ points to 3 ½ for Europe to score a remarkable 14 ½ to 13 ½ victory. That victory was clinched when Justin Leonard made a 45-foot putt on the 17th hole, clinching at least a halving of the match against Jose Maria Olazabal.

The celebration after that putt was criticized by the European side as Olazabal could still halve it if he matched Leonard's birdie, which he did, and won the 18th hole, which he did again. But the celebration occurred there on the 17th green.

5. Phil Mickelson, 2004 Masters Tournament

"Is it his time?" Maybe more famous than Mickelson's actual celebration was the call by CBS commentator Jim Nantz, but the image was pretty memorable itself. After years of heartbreak, years of never making that putt, Mickelson finally came through and made that putt to win a major.

He leaped into the air, both hands raised, the putter in his right hand, and his mouth open screaming joy. It's hard to remember when or even if his feet ever touched back on the ground. In the photograph, they never do.

4. Arnold's goodbye, 1995/Jack's goodbye, 2005

What more fitting place to say goodbye than St. Andrews?

Arnold Palmer required the Royal and Ancient Golf Club to change its rules in order to invite him to the 1995 Open Championship. Previously, only former winners under 65 were admitted. Palmer himself was 65. Now it is "former champions 65 and under."

Jack Nicklaus also took advantage of the rule change, albeit 10 years later. While Palmer continued to play stateside after 1995, Nicklaus made the Open Championship his farewell to competitive golf altogether.

Both made that walk over the Swilken Bridge on what is fittingly known as the Swilken Burn on the 18th hole, waving goodbye to the oldest major in the world.

3. Costantino Rocca, 1995 Open Championship

It's amazing how quickly we forget that Costantino Rocca hit one of the worst shots a professional golfer could possibly hit right before he made the 65-foot putt to force a playoff at the 1995 Open Championship. His second-shot chip from right off the green was completely gaffed, landing firmly in the "Valley of Sin" on the edge of the green. Then Rocca worked some magic.

Somehow, despite being completely deflated, Rocca made a 65-foot birdie to tie John Daly and force a four-hole playoff at the Open Championship. His reaction was legendary.

Rocca fell onto his knees and backwards, looking right into the skies. Then he fell to the ground and started punching the ground. Sure, he lost the playoff after emotionally draining himself on that 18th hole, but like the image that will follow, his celebration was a lot more lasting than anything the winner did that afternoon.

2. Jean van de Velde, 1999 Open Championship

You know the story. There's no point telling the entire thing. But that one moment needs to be discussed. Mistake after mistake by the unheralded Frenchman threw away the 1999 Open Championship, but it was the one correct decision on the hole that he's most remembered for.

For the only time on that 72nd hole, common sense prevailed. But that was not before Jean van de Velde took off his shoes and socks, rolled up his pants, and went down into the Barry Burn to see if he could hit his fourth shot out of it. He finally picked it up and took a penalty drop.

Dozens of pictures were snapped of him in the Burn , but none captured it quite as well as the one of van de Velde looking hopelessly at his ball. The disbelief in his stare is just iconic, as iconic as his collapse.

1. Tiger's fist pump, whenever

Does it matter which fist-pump this is referring to? Sure, I could have put the ball falling into the cup on the 15th hole at the 2005 Masters and Woods laughing, but that isn't as lasting.

No, I had to have Tiger's fist-pump at number one. Besides occurring more often than anything else on this list, it has grown to define golf over the past 15 years. It has become as synonymous with Tiger as Tiger has become with golf. How could it possibly not be the top image of the Tiger Woods era?


 

The site wouldn't let me upload the images, so here they are:


 

10a. http://s1.mcstatic.com/thumb/763908
/4630379/4/directors_cut/0/1/woody_
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10b. http://img.timeinc.net/golf/i/tours
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10c. http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images
/2007/09/29/sports/29golf-600.jpg
9. http://cache.viewimages.com/xc/3264
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8a. http://i76.photobucket.com/albums/j
17/Layno1806/payne_stewart_collage.
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8b. http://www.rollins.edu/olin/images/
olininfo_images/april_01/stewart3.j
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7. http://img.timeinc.net/golf/i/tours
/2008/03/masters_95_ben_299x357.jpg

6. http://i.pga.com/pga/images/rydercu
p/2006/photos/history/gallery/1999c
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5. http://assets.espn.go.com/i/magazin
e/new/phil_mickelson_masters2.jpg
4a. http://www.sportphotogallery.com/co
ntent/images/products/Sports/136091
2_10/main/1360912_10-search.jpg
4b. http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/imag
es/41118000/jpg/_41118208_jack_gett
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3. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sol/shared/sp
l/hi/pop_ups/05/golf_st_andrews_his
tory_&_landmarks/img/9.jpg
2. http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/imag
es/42433000/jpg/_42433110_vandeveld
e_get_270.jpg
1. http://s2nblog.files.wordpress.com/
2008/03/tiger.jpg

Category: Golf
Posted on: July 15, 2008 7:18 pm
 

26 Best Golfers to Win Only One Major Since World

I am going with the same criteria as I did for the 25 worst golfers to win a major championship, with one change: I am making it a top-26.

Why 26? It's simple. Steve Elkington is not in the same class as these other golfers, but his accomplishments make him appear to be. While everyone else arguably underachieved winning only one major, Elkington overachieved. But unlike every other overachiever in golf, Elkington time and time again stepped his game up in prestigious events. That deserves a mention, and thus he makes this list.

No winners since the 2002 PGA Championship are eligible. Yes, Jim Furyk will be on this list if he doesn't win another major, but I'm giving him more time since he won in 2003. Padraig Harrington also has a chance to get on here some day.

Also, the rankings are done based on performance. I don't care if you think someone was talented; if he didn't perform, he doesn't make the list. I am looking at how the players did in other majors and how they did overall. I got some flack for having John Daly on my last list because he was more talented than most of the other players. But statistically, he has been a mediocre golfer, one of the most mediocre to win a major championship, let alone two.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

26 Best Golfers to Win Only One Major Championship Since World War II


26. Steve Elkington – 1995 PGA Championship

Elkington is an interesting character. He won 10 PGA Tour events, one Asian Tour tournament, and once more on the Australasian Tour. Among his PGA Tour victories are two PLAYERS Championship and two triumphs in the winners-restricted event that begin each season. Elkington only won five normal tour events. He has been runner-up in the both the Open Championship and the PGA Championship, as well three other times in which he has finished third in a major. More so than any mediocre golfer, Elkington has stepped it up big time in the important tournaments and that earns him a place on this list. Most of the other golfers got on here because they underperformed; Elkington is a classic over-performer.

25. Al Geiberger – 1966 PGA Championship
Geiberger won 11 times on tour, including a Tournament Players Championship and MONY Tournament of Champions. He did not win an event after his PGA in 1966 until 1974, although he was runner-up in the 1969 U.S. Open. Overall, he recorded six top-five performances in majors. In 1977, he became the first player ever to shoot a round in the 50s.

24. Gay Brewer – 1967 Masters Tournament
Brewer recorded 11 top-10s in majors besides his one victory, at least two in all four majors. He also won 11 PGA Tour events. After his only major victory, Brewer never finished better than sixth in a slam and did not win a PGA Tour event for five years.

23. Bobby Nichols – 1964 PGA Championship
Besides his one victory, Nichols recorded four top-four finishes in majors, including losing by one stroke to Gay Brewer in the 1967 Masters Tournament. He too won 11 times on the PGA Tour, none bigger than his lone PGA Championship. He also won once on the Senior Tour.

22. Don January – 1967 PGA Championship

January finished in the top-10 16 times in major tournaments, including seven top-fives. He won 10 PGA Tour events, two of which were winners-restricted events. Although it doesn't affect his placing, he won 23 times on the senior tour, including one major.

21. Bob Charles – 1963 Open Championship
The Kiwi won five times on the PGA Tour, not including his 1963 Open Championship victory. He won eight times in his native New Zealand and four times on the European Tour. He was thrice the runner-up in a major, including twice in 1968. Overall, he had seven top-five finishes in major championships.

20. Tom Lehman – 1996 Open Championship

Lehman is the only person to be the 54-hole leader three consecutive years in the U.S. Open. Somehow, he has never won a U.S. Open. Despite being ranked number one in the world, Lehman has only five PGA Tour titles and two European Tour victories, one of which on each tour is the 1996 Open Championship. He also won THE TOUR Championship that same year. Six times Lehman finished in the top-three in a major, but only once on top.

19. Paul Azinger – 1993 PGA Championship
Azinger has won 12 PGA Tour events and two European Tour events. He has also finished in the top-10 10 times in majors, six of which were top-five performances. He was runner-up in the Open Championship in 1987 and the PGA Championship in 1988. He has finished in the top-five at every major at least once. Among his tour wins are the MONY Tournament of Champions and THE TOUR Championship.

18. Dow Finsterwald – 1958 PGA Championship
Finsterwald lost in the finals of the 1957 PGA Championship, but was able to get revenge in 1958 by winning the first year in which it was a stroke-play format. That 1957 defeat was the only runner-up Finsterwald ever had in a major, but he did finished third four times and in the top-five eight times. Overall, he won 11 PGA Tour events, but just the one major.

17. Justin Leonard – 1997 Open Championship
Leonard has been the runner-up three times in majors so far, all since his lone victory. There's still time for him to get off this list, but he hasn't been in contention since the 2004 PGA Championship, where he finished second. He has won 12 PGA Tour events, including THE PLAYERS Championship in 1998. His most recent victory came in June.

16. David Duval – 2001 Open Championship

Duval finished in the top-11 of all but four majors from 1998 until 2001. He never did so even once before or since. He was twice the runner-up in the Masters and also finished tied for third once. He also won 13 titles, all in a period of less than four calendar years. A number of factors led to Duval completely losing his game, but that doesn't matter. Just what he accomplished, even if it was only for a short time, was remarkable. Remember, he was the last player to take the top ranking away from Woods before Vijay Singh in 2004.

15. Jim Ferrier – 1947 PGA Championship
Ferrier finished in the top-10 15 times in majors, including seven top-fives after his lone victory. He was runner-up in the 1960 PGA Championship, thus denying what would have been the only person to win the PGA both in stroke-play and match-play. Ferrier won 14 individual PGA Tour events over his career in addition to four titles in four-ball competitions.

14. Ian Woosnam – 1991 Masters Tournament
Woosnam won 28 European Tour events, more than any other player with exactly one major title (Colin Montgomerie has won more titles but has zero majors). Twice he was awarded the European Tour order of merit. He had five top-five finishes in majors outside of his triumph and is one of 12 people to have been ranked number one in the world since the rankings debuted in 1986.

13. Tommy Bolt – 1958 U.S. Open

Bolt finished in the top-10 14 times in major championships, nine of which were top-five performances. He also won 14 individual PGA Tour titles. At the age of 52, he almost won the PGA Championship, as he was tied with Jack Nicklaus heading to the back nine. He finished third. That PGA Championship was held in February, not summer like tradition now dictates. Bolt is also one of the Hall of Fame's bigger snubs.

12. Ken Venturi – 1964 U.S. Open
Injuries derailed Venturi almost immediately after his only major title. He was twice the solo runner-up in the Masters Tournament, the first as the low amateur in 1956. Playing during one of the toughest eras in golf history, Venturi managed 14 PGA Tour titles and 10 top-10s in major championships. If he played in any other era or did not get carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists, he probably would have won much more.

11. Fred Couples – 1992 Masters Tournament
Couples had 25 top-ten performances in major championships and tied a record by making the cut 23 consecutive times in which he teed it up at Augusta National. He's had 12 top-five finishes, but only that one maiden triumph. Couples has won 15 PGA Tour events, including what is now known as THE PLAYERS Championship twice, and two European Tour events.

10. Tom Weiskopf – 1973 Open Championship
Weiskopf was four times the bridesmaid at the Masters Tournament among eight second and third place finishes at major championships. He won 16 times on tour, including five times in 1973. He tacked on a Senior U.S. Open in 1995 for what it is worth, which is something. But in lists like these it is worth nothing.

9. Kel Nagle – 1960 Open Championship
Nagle had seven top-five finishes in major championships, six of which came in a seven year period in the Open Championship. A native Australian, he had only played in majors twice before his 39th birthday, but defeated Arnold Palmer to claim one in 1960. He won 61 times in Australia and New Zealand, including once every year from 1949 through 1977 with the exclusion of 1961 and 1976.

8. Davis Love III – 1997 PGA Championship
Not including his win, Love has had eight top-five performances in major championships, including solo seconds in the Masters Tournament in both 1995 and 1999. He has won THE PLAYERS Championship twice among his 19 wins on tour, but that's not a major. Yes, some people call it the fifth major, but it's not. Calling it so would be calling Craig Perks a major champion, and nobody wants to do that.

7. Tony Lema – 1964 Open Championship
What can be said about Tony Lema? There is no doubt in my mind that he would not be on this list if his plane did not run out of fuel in 1966 on his way to a tournament when he was only 32. He had already won 12 titles, including five in 1964. He had already had eight top-10 finishes in majors over the past four years, including a second place in the 1963 Masters Tournament. Unfortunately, tragedies do occur and thus Lema has to make the list.

6. Lanny Wadkins – 1977 PGA Championship
Wadkins had eight other top-three finishes in major championships and 21 titles overall on tour, but only one major. He won the Tournament Players Championship once and the MONY Tournament of Champions twice. Wadkins's PGA triumph came in a playoff that greatly affected this list. Had he lost, he obviously would not be on this list. But neither would have Gene Littler...

5. Gene Littler – 1961 U.S. Open
Littler finished second in the U.S. Open in 1954, his first time in the field. It was one of nine top-five finishes in major championships, not including his win in 1961. He was a runner-up three times, including a solo second at the 1977 PGA Championship, giving him a remarkable 23-year top-two longevity. He won 29 PGA Tour events, the first oddly enough as an amateur in 1954 and last in 1977. To put that in perspective: he won his first event before Arnold Palmer won his first and his last after Palmer won his last. But Palmer had seven majors; Littler only had one.

4. Jerry Pate – 1976 U.S. Open
Besides his win, Pate had seven top-five finishes in majors, including two runner-ups. His career was basically over by 30, but not before he won 8 times on the PGA Tour. One of those victories was the Tournament Players Championship. Pate is a great example of a person who could have been so much more. Unfortunately, shoulder problems derailed him. He won his U.S. Open at the age of 23, one year after he took low amateur. Impressive.

3. Roberto DeVicenzo – 1967 Open Championship
What a stupid he is. DeVicenzo signed for the wrong score in the 1968 Masters Tournament, giving Bob Goalby the victory and keeping DeVicenzo out of a playoff. If you don't believe me, check out the picture at the top of the article. He had eight second or third place finishes in major championships and 17 top-10s over a 23-year period, despite playing in three or four majors in one year only twice. He won all over the world, including five times in individual events on the PGA Tour.

2. Tom Kite – 1992 U.S. Open

Kite had 27 top-10 performances in majors over four different decades, 16 of which were top-five. He was thrice the runner-up in the Masters Tournament and once in the Open Championship. He won 19 times on the PGA Tour and is the oldest player to lead a tournament through three rounds (2005 Booz Allen Classic at the age of 55). Kite could have easily won five majors; he didn't.

1. Lloyd Mangrum – 1946 U.S. Open
Who knows if Mangrum would have won a second title if not for World War II, but it's a moot point. Besides his victory in the 1946 U.S. Open, Mangrum finished in the top-three nine times and the top-10 25 times. He won 36 PGA Tour events, more than any player with only one major championship. And if it weren't for the war, he would have won more. He was one of the five best players of his era, an era that included Ben Hogan, Jimmy Demaret, and Sam Snead. He was their Phil Mickelson.

As a side note, no major champion from the 1980s made the list. Most people who won majors in the 1980s won two or three, keeping there from being that many people eligible. The only ones to get serious consideration were Hal Sutton (1983 PGA Championship) and Craig Stadler (1982 Masters Tournament).
 
 
 
 
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