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THE BRITISH OPEN & THE CLARET JUG

royal portrushTHE BRITISH OPEN & THE CLARET JUG

This year’s British Open, aka ‘The Open’ will be a special event in many ways. The Open is the only one of the four ‘majors’ on the professional golfers tour played outside the USA and this will be only the second time that the British Open has been played outside of England or Scotland.  The first was right here at the Royal Portrush, way back in 1951.

The coveted Claret Jug, which has been The Open tournament trophy since 1872, is currently in possession of last years winner Francisco Molinari and has been passed from champion to champion since Walter Hagen first won the current Jug back in 1928.  The Claret Jug is inscribed each year with the champions’ name and is considered one of the greatest honors in the sport of professional golf.

Now the Royal Portrush is not exactly Augusta National.  We won’t be seeing many flowers or majestic trees on the northern coast of Northern Ireland. In fact, on first glance, it’s a pretty desolate looking place to play golf.  But the 36 hole Dunluce Links, on which The Open will be played, is considered to be one of the top golf courses in the world and has been around since 1888.

The field contesting for the Claret Jug this year is full of talent and tightly bunched at the top.  Currently there are about 10-12 well known golfers who could conceivably bring home the Jug and the winners’ share of the nice $10,750,000 purse being offered at this years’ Open Championship.

All the big names will be there, starting, of course, with Tiger Woods who has not participated in tournament play since this disappointing performance at the US Open this year which did, however, end in a strong performance on Sunday to give Tiger Fans a boost and send wagering prices on the Big Cat moving once again. Woods has already won the Claret Jug three times.

Rory McIlroy won the British Open in 2014 in perhaps his best victory on the links so far.  He has since been one of the more consistent top golfers on the tour, and, of course, he is the local hero being from Northern Ireland himself. McIlroy will surely be the favorite among the large gallery expected to show up for the event as this on Rory’s home course. He will tee off as the wagering favorite as well, somewhere around 8-1.

Brooks Koepka is one of the new breed of golfers out on the links who takes advantage of all the modern technical aids available to the modern golfer which analyze and breakdown each and each and every move a golfer makes and lets them know how to make it better.  If the technology is there, why not use it.  Koepka is also one of the most physically fit golfers playing today.  Just look at him to see that.  He moves like a champ and is currently listed at 10-1 along with his friend Dustin Johnson who has yet to post a win on the ‘other side of the pond’.

Young Spanish golfer Jon Rahm follows at 16-1 with Tiger Woods at 18-1 and last years’ champion Francesco Molinari at 20-1 along with Xander Schauffele and Justin Rose.

However, listed at even longer odds, there lurks a considerable field of golfing talent which will also be vying to win the 2019 British Open and take home the Claret Jug….and a whole pile of money.

NFL OWNERS PUSH FOR 18 GAME SCHEDULE

nfl logo 2NFL OWNERS PUSH FOR 18 GAME SCHEDULE

They have been talking about this on and off for a number of years now.  Expanding the NFL season to 18 games would mean different things to different people.  To the owners it’s more money, for the coaches and players it’s two extra weeks of work, for bookies and players it’s expanded wagering opportunities.

The NFL, meaning Roger Goodell and his inner circle, has been in negotiations with the players union, the NFLPA, over the workings of a new CBA or Collective Bargaining Agreement which will govern most all interactions between players and league.  The current CBA agreement expires at the end of the 2020 season.

The issue now on the table of expanding the NFL schedule to 18 games serves to further complicate matters already being considered by adding one more factor into the equation when they were already trying to add apples and oranges and limes to make everyone happy.

As a concession to the players, the current proposal to increase the number of games to 18, the league is proposing that all players will be subject to a 16 game limit for the season.  The proposal holds the added attraction of providing more opportunities for more players to get into the games, like backup quarterbacks for instance.

Critics of the new plan claim that it will dilute the quality of the game leading to key players sitting on the bench when they are really needed on the field. At this point the players in general do not seem too excited about the proposed change to 18 games, however, none have actually come out publicly against it.

Many probably see it as additional opportunities to get hurt in one way or another, which is becoming more and more of an issue as players now are realizing that they practice a dangerous profession in which career ending injuries can occur in a split second, in play or in practice.

Of course the players will be making more money overall should the season expand to 18 games because that will mean increased revenue for the franchises and the players’ salaries and bonuses are based on league revenue.

NFLPA President Eric Winston told the Wall Street Journal, “They’re (the players) looking at it like, ‘Hey get back into the mine and start mining coal’”, although this is probably a bit more radical that most players are thinking.

So now the new CBA talks are getting underway and the schedule expansion will be only one of a myriad of issues discussed, and hopefully resolved. The once iron grip once held by Roger Goodell is yielding to transparency and public opinion at last and this time the players might actually make some important strides in areas where it really counts such as player safety and longevity. What an 18 games season would mean to that remains to be seen.

ROBOT UMPS HAVE ARRIVED

MLB LOGOROBOT UMPS HAVE ARRIVED

It’s not really a robot.  It’s not even all that exotic.  Utilizing a simple system of existing technology, the Atlantic League, aka the MLB minors, has implemented a system for determining strikes and balls which centers on a TrackMan computer which using Doppler radar to track baseballs passing through the strike zone.  The home plate umpire receives the signal from an ear piece connected to a common iPhone, and makes the call.

So, there are not really any real robots involved.  We watch the TrackMan system everyday as the rectangle depicting the strike zone on every pitch in every MLB game, we have already done that for years now.  What’s new under this system is that the umpires, for the first time ever, are not only paying attention to the TrackMan info, they are depending on it to make ordinary strike and ball calls.

Of course the umpires still have the power to override the computer if they deem it necessary. For example, a ball that bounces in front of home plate, but still goes through the strike zone, registers on the computer as a strike when the umpire, and everyone else, see it as a ball. That’s just one example.

Obviously the system is still in its infancy and being tested ‘off Broadway’, so to speak, in the Atlantic League.  There will still be plenty of people watching to see how it goes, but the experiment is hardly taking center stage at this point. Some still argue that giving the umpires veto power defeats the whole purpose of the automated system; many do not see it that way at all.

Local play by play announcers in the Atlantic League are playing it up by telling the fans that any blame for disagreements over calls should now be addressed to the computer, not the umpire.

Senior vice president for Major League Baseball Morgan Sword told reporters, “This idea has been around for a long time and it’s the first time it’s been brought to life in a comprehensive way”.  Sword also stated that the league had not received much in the way of negative feedback from the umpires.

Mr. Sword continued, “One of our focuses is not to replace the umpire.  In fact, we’re trying to empower the umpires with technology”.  Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said that there is no set timeline on when the technology will be used in the majors.

Not everyone is in favor of the ‘robot umps’ or even the idea behind them.  The game of baseball is not broken, why try to fix it?  Our ‘National Pastime’ has survived for well over 100 years using good old fashioned umpires to make the calls; to change that would be to change the game itself, wouldn’t it?

CLIPPERS SCORE NEW DYNAMIC DUO

clippers logo

CLIPPERS SCORE NEW DYNAMIC DUO

Oddsmakers all across the country had to rush back to their calculators and crystal balls when this years’ NBA Playoffs MVP announced that he had just made a deal to play for Doc Richards and the Los Angeles Clippers for the foreseeable future. Ex-Raptor Kawhi Leonard is moving to Los Angeles after signing at 4 year, $142,000,000 contract with the ecstatic Clips.

Just factoring that move into the calculations for the odds to win the NBA Championship next year caused the predictions to go haywire, then it was announced that veteran All-Star Paul George would also be joining Kawhi Leonard in LA and the numbers went into a scramble once again, finally leaving the Clippers as odds on favorites to win the NBA title in 2020 at some venues.

Los Angeles is once again looking like the center of the basketball world after the Clippers latest moves and the acquisition by the LA Lakers of Anthony Davis from New Orleans to partner up with LeBron James, and yes, that is an awesome duo of highly skilled opponents on any basketball court. However, looking at the rest of the Lakers depth chart, the LA Clippers seem to have a significant edge in both front line and bench players. The NBA season is long and endurance will become a key factor before it’s all over.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are both seasoned professional players in their prime.  Both are in their late 20’s and free from significant injuries, although George is nursing a sore shoulder at this time.  Both have displayed greatness on the court individually, together they should be a formidable force to reckon with.  Doc Richards must be laughing.

So the Clippers have moved from 10-1 all the way up to 11-4 overnight! The Lakers, who were listed at 7-5 after signing Anthony Davis, dropped to 4-1 after they failed to also sign up Kawhi Leonard.  However, bettors are still coming down heavily on the Lakers to win the NBA Championship for 2020. Las Vegas sports books took wagers up to $10,000 on the Lakers in June.  In fact, wagers on the Lakers to win the title have totaled almost 5 times the amount wagered on all other teams combined.

Now those numbers have already started moving with the announcement that the Clippers were obtaining the services of both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Thus far however, more money has been wagered on the New Orleans Pelicans to win the title than on the Los Angeles Clippers.

Funny how the balance of power seems to be working out in the NBA.  For a long time the Celtics and the Lakers were the dominant teams, then came the era of the Golden State Warriors.  Now, just as some of the air goes out of the Warriors franchise, here come the LA Clippers to pick up the slack and have their run at being NBA royalty for a while.  They have the coach, and now they have the players to make a real run at the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy for 2020.

Did the Lakers big moves inspire the Clippers to respond with Leonard and George?  Probably so, but it doesn’t matter who went first anymore because now the race is on, and it’s going to be a good one!

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