Adam Scott defends decision to skip Olympics #Golf

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Former world number one Adam Scott has again defended his recent decision not to represent Australia at the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The Aussie pin-seeker claimed that a packed schedule around the time of the Games along with a severe lack of time with his family as the main reasons for his omission.

Speaking to the media following the Wells Fargo pro-am, he again outlined the busy calender that golfers have around the time of Rio and said it is just one of those choices that he and fellow golfers have to make.

“You know, I just don’t get to see my family enough,” he told reporters.

“I think I’m seeing them six days in seven weeks and it would have been six in nine weeks had I gone to the Olympics. Those are just the hard decisions you have to make. That’s the way it is, unfortunately, and that’s the event I decided to skip.”

The Olympics are squeezed between the PGA Championship in late July and the FedEx Cup play-offs beginning in late August.

His excuses have done little to quieten fellow Australians who have publicly ridiculed him for not being more passionate about the chance to win a gold medal for his country. But the decision was not easy.

“Well, the tough part was to choose not to represent Australia, I guess. That’s the tough part,” Scott said. “But I feel like I do that every week. I play over here or anywhere else outside of Australia, I’ve lived my life representing Australia and I feel I’ve tried to do the best job I can of that.

“Of course not everyone will understand my decision or like it, but not everyone’s in my position where I feel that’s something I’m not willing to sacrifice some family time for. But I think as well as the criticism, I think there was some very fair constructive comments about the whole thing, and some of my points of view and feelings were explained well, too.

“I hope it hasn’t had too big of a hit because I think that would be a little bit unfair. You know, we’ll all just move on. I’ll be back in Australia to play at the end of the year. I think I’m far from abandoning my country.”

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7 of the biggest Sporting Shocks of all-time

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The whole reason we tune into watch different sports week on week is to see the best in the world excel at what they do. 

But there is no better viewing in the sport than seeing an underdog triumph over a bigger, wealthier, more world renowned rival, especially if it is done over the course of a Championship or season as opposed to a one off game.

Leicester have achieved the ultimate coup in the 2015/16 Premier League season that will be difficult to ever top, beating 5000/1 odds to lift the trophy.

Here are 7 of the best sporting underdog stories as chosen by me.

Greece (Euro 2004)

Aside from Denmark in 1992, this is the biggest upset in the history of the European Championships. 150/1 outsiders at the start of the tournament, Greece emerged from a group  containing hosts Portugal, favourites Spain and minnows Latvia and from then on there was no looking back.

They went on to defeat France in the quarter-final, the Czech Republic in the semi-final and secure a 1-0 victory over Portugal in the final to cap off what was an amazing achievement in only the country’s 2nd ever appearance at the Finals.

All the more remarkable given the team had no superstars, only 8 players who played outside of the Greek league and a coach, Otto Rehhagel who masterminded another great underdog story in leading Kaiserslautern to the Bundesliga 7 years previously.

 

Phil Taylor (BDO World Championship 1990)

Many of you will know Phil “The Power” Taylor as the most decorated player in the history of professional Darts. What you might not know is that he was a 125/1 unseeded outsider when he won his first of 16 World Championships in 1990.

Entering the tournament having only won the Canadian Open in 1988 and being sponsored by friends and fellow players to travel round to tournaments before this. Taylor only dropped 3 sets in 4 matches en route to the final, where he would play mentor and number 1 seed, Eric Bristow. “The Power” destroyed his fellow Englishman 6-1 to kick-off one of the most dominant runs in the history of any professional sport.

In one of the last unified darts World Championships before what is now known as the PDC split from the BDO, Taylor became the biggest under-dog story of the darting world. A fitting triumph for a place in this list.

 

Goran Ivanisevic (Wimbledon Singles Champion 2001)

Arguably the biggest shock at a Grand Slam in Tennis history, the Croat stunned the world by becoming the first wild card to win the biggest tournament in the game.

Ivanisevic was ranked 125th at the beginning of the event and at odds of 300/1, it was inconceivable that he would be lifting the trophy. But victories over seeds Carlos Moya, Marat Safin, Tim Henman and Pat Rafter in a thrilling 5 set final clinched his only career Grand Slam in what would be his only career singles final at a Grand Slam.

Currently he is the coach of Croat Marian Cilic whom he has led to his only Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2014.

Foinavon (1967 Grand National Winner)

As many people will know, the 40 runner marathon contest at Aintree can turn up some big priced winners, just look at fellow 100-1 winner Mon Mome in 2009.

Foinaven however was the original Cinderella story back in 1967 in one of the most famous renewal’s in history. A 23 horse pile up at the smallest fence on the course (there after named Foinaven in his honour) allowed jockey John Buckingham, who only missed the pile up as they were so far behind, to steer his horse clear of the carnage and go on to win the race at a canter.

The owner, Cyril Watkins had so little faith in the horse, he hadn’t even bothered to go to the track to watch him run. It is one of the most iconic moments in the history of the place and the fact that there’s only been one 100/1 shot win the race since, he takes his place on the list.

Ben Curtis (Open Champion 2003)

Ben Curtis might be the biggest single underdog story in sport if you consider his achievements before and after his major win. Ranked 396th in the World at the time, he has only ever won 5 golf tournaments in his professional career to date.

He entered The Open as a 300/1 shot and carded a final round 69 to come from 2 behind and beat Thomas Bjorn and Vijay Singh by one shot. In doing so he became the first player since Francis Ouimet in 1913 to win his maiden major tournament and he is still the lowest ranked winner of a major since the ranking system began.

Curtis turned professional in 2000 and his highest finish in a major aside from this win was a T-2 in the 2008 PGA Championship. He has currently slipped down to a ranking of 527th having risen as high as 35th following his triumph at Royal St. George’s.

 

Kaiserslautern (Bundesliga Champions 1997/98)

The original Leicester City occurred almost 20 years ago in the German Bundesliga. FC Kaiserslautern, only promoted from the 2.Bundesliga the previous season, won the league by 2 points from defending Champions Bayern Munich.

Unlike Leicester however, they had splashed a bit of cash following their promotion. They signed Ciriaco Sforza from Internazionale in a great coup for the side along with Bulgarian international Marian Hristov, German winger Andreas Buck, and a young talent called Michael Ballack.

Manager Otto Rahhagel (remember him?)  popularized the phrase “kontrollierte Offensive” or controlled offence. He prefers a grass-roots approach to football, stressing the importance of at least two but mostly three big, strong headers in central defence. This defensive solidity saw them take top spot on on the 4th weekend of the season and never relinquished it. They remain the only club in the history of German football to win promotion to the top tier and follow that up by winning the league and given Bayern Munich’s domestic dominance, it doesn’t look likely that this record will ever be equaled.

St. Louis Rams (Superbowl Winners 1999)

The NFL prides itself on its “draft” system where by the worst team from the previous season gets the choice of the best players coming out of college, theoretically giving them the best chance to win next season.

This very rarely comes to fruition however as much like in football, in takes players time to adapt to the professional game, especially at the skilled positions. The 1999 Rams, their offense dubbed “the greatest show on turf” with Kurt Warner at Quarter-back proved why the motto “any given Sunday” rings true in the NFL. They went into the season projected to be the worst team in the League in previews, even worse than that years expansion team the Cleveland Browns.

They duly went 13-3 in the regular season securing their first playoff appearance since 1989 when the team was in Los Angeles. The Rams and it has turned out to be its one and only Super Bowl win to date. Wins over Minnesota and Tampa Bay brought them to the show and a 23-16 victory over Tennessee gave the 400/1 team at the start of the season, one of the biggest shocks in the history of the NFL.

5 Takeaways from #Masters2016

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With the first major of the year now in the books, eyes will turn to The US Open at Oakmont Country Club on the 3rd weekend in June for the next chapter on the road to the Ryder Cup this Autumn. 

So many intriguing story-lines are set to carry over to Pittsburgh in 2 months time. None more so than the final day of the US Open falling on Father’s Day and what better way for Danny Willett to possibly celebrate his first as a Dad than lifting his second major of the season?

With that in mind, here are my take-aways from this year’s opening major, The Masters.

#1. Danny Winnit

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The 28 year old Yorkshire native produced a stunning bogey free, 5 under par round on Sunday to seal an unlikely maiden major win in more ways than one.

Willet was the 89th and final man to register for the tournament following the pre-mature birth of his son Zacariah (his wife’s due date was April 10th).

While people will build this as a true underdog story, those who follow Golf closely won’t subscribe to that theory. Willett was ranked no.12 in the world coming into the tournament and boasted 4 career wins on the European Tour, the latest of which was in February of this year.

He finished T38 on his first outing at Augusta last year and has the composed short game and accurate driving which many perceive as essential for success in Georgia.

Was his win unlikely given the situation halfway through his final round? Yes. Is he going to be a Stewart Cink or a Lucas Glover and disappear after this win? Definitely not. This is a catalyst for a Ryder Cup appearance later in the year and a confidence boost for a player who has the game to contend at any major tournament he turns up at.

#2. Jordan Speith is Human After All

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Given the imperious nature of his short game, Speith has had 156 one putts in his 288 holes at major tournament’s in the last year, you could be forgiven for mistaking his robotic approach to the game for a lack of a nervous system.

But at around 5pm local time on Sunday April 10th, Jordan Speith showed that he is one of us after all.

Stepping onto the 12th tee with a 3 shot lead, seemingly unassailable given his previous track record, we all know what happened next.

Two heartbreaking dunks into the water later and the aura he has built up since he burst on the scene here in 2014 was shattered and for the first time I can remember, the 22 year old looked visibly shaken by a poor shot on the course.

How he reacts to this over the coming weeks and months will be very interesting to say the least. Rory McIlroy suffered a similar final round collapse in 2011 and he went on to win the US Open 2 months later. He has since said that if he didn’t bounce back in such a fashion, he doesn’t know whether he would have had the nerve to win his 3 subsequent majors.

Given that the Texan has already proven his nerve in winning two majors, the biggest question he will have to answer is, will that tenseness we witnessed over the closing holes become a problem or was this just a blip experienced by every previous great of the game.

#3. Career Grand Slam continues to elude Rory McIlroy

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With two rounds behind them, The Masters looked like it was going to give us the McIlroy  vs. Speith shootout over the final two rounds that millions of golf fans are dying to see.

Unfortunately for everyone, the Northern Irishman by his own admission was struggling mentally to deal with the pressure of the possible Grand Slam and the thrill of achieving one of his lifetime goals.

His continued failures at the Azalea covered course since his now infamous collapse in 2011 raise serious questions about if he will ever be able to overcome these mental lapses and close out one of the biggest achievements in golf.

Two of the main reasons for McIlroy’s struggle at the course are his inconsistency with his wedges and more than anything, his struggles with the putter. Too many times he fails to sink clutch putts to make birdie or save par inside 10 feet and his touch from 15 feet plus was sorely lacking this week compared to his rivals atop the leaderboard.

His length off the tee, usually a massive advantage on the modern golf course (long and wide) are nullified by the short tight fairways at Augusta National and unless he finds a way to adapt his game or has some form of epiphany with the short stick, it is hard to envisage his struggles around Georgia ending anytime soon.

#4. Similarity Breeds Success 

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The Masters is my favourite major each year.

Not just because of the possibility of many twists and turns right up until the final few holes, but mostly because you come back to the same location every year and watch the course grow, develop and confound some of the best players in the world no matter how many rounds they play.

Paul Azinger once said:

“This place always seems to have some kind of a ghost waiting around a pine tree or something for me. I remember all the places I don’t want to be.”

While it is great that the other majors can turn up at any given course any year and present different challenges is amazing but the tradition bred over 82 years at Augusta National is un-paralleled in any competition across most sports.

The history at every hole is evident when you see modern players attempt similar shots seen at previous tournaments and you can compare how players of many different eras played the course.

If you were to ask the entire PGA and European Tour if they could only win one career major, which one would it be? I vouch that a good 85-90% would reply with The Masters and that is an endorsement in itself.

Similarity breeds success but familiarity breeds contempt. Augusta National is one of the few places that can confound this saying. Talk to any of the longstanding patrons of the course or even players who traditionally qualify for the tournament yet struggle at the event say that they still love coming to the course.

Maybe it is time more events adopted a traditional approach perfected by this beautiful course in Southern Georgia.

#5. Course Management is King

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When looking for a possible winner of The Masters,  obvious aspects to look for are a strong wedge game and a hot streak with the putter.

Inevitably it pays to look at tournament leaderboards and stats from the couple of months leading up to the event but one aspect is routinely overlooked and that is course management.

Winner Danny Willett would probably known as an aggressive player but this week he judged perfectly when was the right time to go for the pin and when a lay up or avoiding the hazards was essential to low scoring.

A trait highlighted by Jordan Speith in recent season’s “whoever makes the least mistakes tee to green will have all the chances to win the tournament.”

Are you going on safari off the teebox? Your chance is diminished.

Are you having trouble finding the dance-floor with your irons and wedges? Your chance is diminished.

To be in a position to win The Masters you need to plot your way methodically around the golf course avoiding the many pit falls and traps naturally sprinkled menacingly on each hole. It is one of the few courses where bombing a driver 330 yards down the fairway is not necessarily the smartest play as it could leave you nastily stuck with an awkward stance on one of the many undulating areas of Augusta National.

It is important to keep this in mind when parting with any of your hard earned cash each year.

The pairings for opening rounds of The #Masters 2016 have been announced

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Two days before play begins at Augusta National Golf Club in the first golfing major of the year, The Masters, the pairings and tee times for the first two rounds have been announced. 

While each player will keep an eye on who their playing partners will be, they will without doubt be more eager to find out if they will have a morning or afternoon start on the first couple days of play.

Weather conditions often play a massive role in determining how the course plays and as such, each golfer will be monitoring forecasts constantly in the coming days in the hope they have been given the more favourable half of the draw.

Here’s a look at some of the selected tee times for the opening rounds:

Round 1 Tee Time (ET) Round 2 Tee Time (ET) Golfer 1 Golfer 2 Golfer 3
9:26 a.m. 12:33 p.m. Zach Johnson Rickie Fowler Cheng Jin
9:37 a.m. 12:44 p.m. Louis Oosthuizen Jason Dufner Patrick Reed
9:48 a.m. 12:55 p.m. Jordan Spieth Paul Casey Bryson Dechambeau
9:59 a.m. 1:06 p.m. Justin Thomas Emiliano Grillo Dustin Johnson
10:43 a.m. 1:39 p.m. Phil Mickelson Marc Leishman Henrik Stenson
11:05 a.m. 2:01 p.m. Adam Scott Kevin Kisner Brooks Koepka
12:22 p.m. 9:15 a.m. Charl Schwartzel Davis Love III Rafael Cabrera-Bello
12:44 p.m. 9:37 a.m. Bubba Watson Branden Grace Ian Poulter
1:06 p.m. 9:59 a.m. Jason Day Matt Kuchar Ernie Els
2:01 p.m. 11:05 a.m. Martin Kaymer Bill Haas Rory McIlroy

With the current forecast looking grim for Friday afteroon, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Bubba Watson will be happy seeing that they start early that day.

However, Thursday morning looks as if it will have the best conditions for scoring over both days so they will have to hope they can post decent opening cards from afternoon starts.

Getting off to a great start is key, and the manner in which the top contenders handle the groups they’re placed in will go a long way toward determining if they’re in the mix Sunday.