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PostLockdown Follies: Sports in the Covid-19 Era (David Duggan, USA, 08/11/20 3:54 am)
Five months after the lockdown, two-and-a-half months into the unceasing violence in our nation's cities, and three weeks after the re-commencement of team sports on this continent, there is at last something worth writing to WAIS about: the improbable victory by 23-year old Collin Morikawa in the Professional Golfers' Ass'n tournament.
Formerly the last of the so-called "Grand Slam" tournaments, this year's PGA was the 1st as both the 2nd-weekend-in-April Masters and 3rd-weekend-in-June US Open have been postponed to September and November (what?--I guess Augusta National is lovely two weeks after election day). That will give only three golf slams this year (quite like tennis which also cancelled the British Open, otherwise called "Wimbledon" and not to be confused with Joan Collins). Tennis has kept the US Open scheduled for late August into September, while the French Open has been postponed until late September to October 11. I'm predicting Paris temperatures in the mid-60s for the finals, not too far off from what may be expected in late May, where scarves and hats are de rigueur for the tennis-istes at Stade Philippe Chatrier and Stade Suzanne Lenglen.
This year's PGA was held at San Francisco's Harding Park, a municipal course bordering Lake Merced, re-branded as T[ouring] P[rofessionals']C[ourse] Harding Park for the tournament. Most "TPC" courses are these amphitheater-type spectator-friendly excresences with stands surrounding the "signature holes" (like the 17th par 3 at TPC Sawgrass [Florida] with its "island green"). There's no walking around the course like "Arnie's Army" of 50 years ago; instead fans camp out in one of the bleachers and ooh and aah as successive golfers bang shots far into the air. Harding Park is improbably (for Peoples' Republic SF) named for Pres. Warren Harding an avid golfer who died in San Francisco in late July 1923; the train carrying his body back to Washington passed outside Chicago's "Lying-In Hospital" while my grandmother was recovering from having delivered my father. Since the golf gods are enforcing "social distancing" at tournaments, there was no need for the stands you see at the other TPC courses. The sparse crowd of media types gave the tournament all the aura of a club championship.
Collin Morikawa (who?) becomes the youngest PGA tournament winner since Rory McIlroy in 2012 (Jack and Tiger both won the event before turning 24). His final round of 64 tied the 4th round scoring record (except TPC Harding Park was a par-70 unlike 1995's Riviera course where Steve Elkington shot a 7-under 64 to put him into a sudden-death playoff with tour favorite Colin Montgomerie--I guess the "double l" in Collin's name spared him the namesake jinx; no golfer named Colin has ever won a grand-slam golf tournament, just like no tennis player named David has won a slam--or the presidency of the United States for that matter). Starting 2 strokes behind 3rd- round leader Dustin Johnson (The Great Gretzke's son-in-law), Morikawa made the turn at 33, and came home with an improbable 31, including an eagle 2 on the 294 yard par-4 16th which provided the 2-stroke margin of victory. He drove the green (not that difficult for these guys with their tricked-out clubs that you can't buy at your local Dick's Sporting Goods), ending up 8-10' from the pin (reports vary). He drained the putt, parred the last 2 holes and waited in the clubhouse for Johnson and Scottie Scheffler to limp home. Morikawa's eagle on the 3rd-to-the-last hole may not become the stuff of legends (like Ben Hogan's 213-yard 1-iron from the deck of Merion's 18th hole to force a playoff in the 1950 US Open--heck, not even God can hit a 1-iron), but it was good for a nearly $2 million payday, some 500 times what Hogan made 70 years ago. Having had exactly 1 eagle in my golf playing days (now thankfully over), I can tell you that luck plays an out-sized role in that outcome. But in sports as in life it's always better to be lucky than good.
Baseball is now 3 weeks into its abbreviated 60-game schedule and Covid has wreaked havoc. The Cubs-Cardinals 3-game weekend series at nearby Wrigley was scrapped as 9 Cards have come down with the virus and the wags are talking about bringing back 84-year old Bob Gibson and 64-year old Ozzie Smith to complete their roster. So far no Cubs have been tested positive (thanks Mayor Lori and Gov. Jabba: you may not be able to keep the peace but you've kept the Cubs playing), and with 47 games to play they're in 1st place of the NL-Central. The White Sox are rocking along at a .500 clip with fewer games to play (and lose) before this season is mercifully over. Having had a mild case (I tested positive for the antibody 2 months ago), I'm not inclined to think that the disease is worse than the lockdown cure which we've suffered under, but when people have nothing better to do than riot, loot and vandalize, maybe the powers-that-shouldn't-be might re-consider the salutary effect that sports have on a civilized society.
JE comments: David, glad you're on the mend! Your golf-baseball update is a much-needed helping of "circus" in these troubled times. No one explains the technical side of sports better than you. When time allows, will you tell us what the pros' state-of-the-art golf clubs do that the cheapos do not?