Talk about payback. Englishman Lee Westwood nearly wasn't granted an exemption into this week's St. Jude Classic. A regular on the European Tour as well as perennial leaderboard staple, Westwood fired a 7-under 63 to lead by a shot in Memphis after one round Thursday.
Westwood, by and large, is more known for his near-misses/chokes than victories. He kills in Europe, with some 20 wins, and has four more in Japan. But he's won only once on the PGA Tour and that was back in 1998. He lost the lead at last year's Players Championship, lost it at this year's Masters, was in the lead in the final round of last year's British Open, and was a shot away from being in the Rocco Mediate/Tiger Woods U.S. Open playoff in 2008. He's killed for three rounds a number of times only to gag down the stretch.
A win at the St. Jude would probably do little to change the perception of golf's third-ranked player. It might help, but until he gets it done on the final day of a higher profile tournament in America, fan's respect for him will likely remain across the pond. Regardless, I'd certainly look for him to be on the top of the leaderboard at next week's U.S. Open at some point. Maybe this time he'll stay there.
Nebraska in the Big Ten would certainly up the conference's profile given some recent lean years (see Michigan, specifically). The school could decide as early as today whether it wants out of the Big 12, and I'd love to see it happen. Ohio State is the odds on favorite to win it all this year in Vegas, and their schedule certainly sets up nicely for them with eight home games including Penn State and Michigan. The only real tests for the Buckeyes, assuming they live up to the hype, are Miami in week two, but that's also in Columbus, and at Wisconsin Oct. 16. Iowa could be a tough road game as well but it's hard to gauge the Hawkeyes. They vaulted into the national spotlight last year winning games despite numerous turnovers before it finally catching up to them. If Ohio-native Ricky Stanzi turns it around at the quarterback position and the team limits turnovers, that could be a huge game come Nov. 20.
4 Tom Izzo could be the next Cleveland Cavaliers coach. Makes no difference whatsoever. The team flat out quit against the Celtics earlier in the postseason, and nothing Mike Brown was going to say would've changed that. Izzo would have even less pull than Brown assuming LeBron returns. Despite all the team's ownership crying to the contrary, James comes back, he runs the show. There's no reason the Cavaliers shouldn't have won the Eastern Conference this year. LeBron quit and the team followed suit. He could be the greatest player of all time, but personally I think he's happier being a celebrity. Thankfully he hasn't release a rap album yet. You can say what you want about Kobe Bryant, but Bryant wins titles. Until LeBron can consistently make his team better, he'll never reach the status of Bryant, or a Michael Jordan or even a Magic Johnson.
The Browns have a nice little setup going on. New coach, new attitude, decent draft and the rest of their conference, with the exception of maybe the Ravens seems to be collapsing around them. If this trend continues, maybe, just maybe Cleveland can field a winner. Browns fans will take one away way they can get it.
The Cincinnati Reds currently are by and large the best of the regional MLB teams. That's not saying too much right now with the struggles of the Pirates and more notably the Indians, who are looking more and more like the ragtag bunch at the beginning of the movie Major League every day. For crying out loud, third baseman Andy Marte had three errors in one inning yesterday. Three! The Pirates have shown some promise but simply haven't been consistent. The Reds, in recent years anyway, have shown promise only to collapse usually right around this time. But Cincy has won 21 of its 35 games from behind, and has won 12 times in its final at-bat. Seems like something special is brewing in southwest Ohio, and it might just be the Reds' year.
"Remember fans, Tuesday is die hard night. Free admission for anyone who was alive the last time the Indians won the pennant."
'til next time ...
E-mail B.J. Lisko at email@example.com