When Irish Eyes Are Smiling: 5 Things I Think I Think Post-Open Championship

Image result for shane lowry
I’ll just leave this right here.

The road rose up to meet him. The wind was forever at his back. The sun shone warm upon his face. The rains fell softly upon his fields, and, until 2020 at Royal St. George’s, Shane Lowry will hold the coveted Claret Jug in the palm of his hand.

The 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush was a genuine Irish blessing to us golf fans, on a course equally as breathtaking as it was challenging. Although the storybook ending of a Northern Irishman winning this Open did not come to fruition (try making the cut next time, Rory), the golf world still saw an Irish countryman crowned as the Champion Golfer of the Year. As someone who was crowned Mr. Shamrock 2014 at his local Gaelic American Club, many friends have asked me how close I believe Shane Lowry’s smile has brought Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to finally uniting as one country. In terms of uniting the North and the Republic, on a scale of “26+6=1” to “A Nation Once Again”, it seems as though the top lad’s leprechaun grin has gotten us somewhere around “One Island, One Ireland” territory. With that said, let’s take a look at 5 things I think I think as golf’s 2019 major championship season officially comes to a close.

1) The US Open and Open Championship winners finished atop a major for the first time – and they were unflappable.

Neither Gary Woodland nor Shane Lowry left a trace of doubt en route to their first major victories at Pebble Beach and Royal Portrush, respectively. Kudos to both of these men for proving their mettle at some of the most demanding, high-profile golf venues on God’s Green Earth. Each performance tugged at the heartstrings, and Shane Lowry’s perfectly perfect “smile and wave” moment left every viewer (except the ones that bet the house on Rory McIlroy) grinning ear-to-ear alongside him. It was a moment, in the Open Championship’s return to the Island of Ireland, equally as legendary as Finn McCool building Giant’s Causeway.

2) JB Holmes pace of play is a legitimate issue, and Brooks Koepka was right to ridicule him.

JB Holmes may have been better served to stay home in Kentucky at the Barbasol Championship this past week rather than flying across the pond for tea and crumpets with Her Majesty the Qu- sorry, rather than playing golf in Northern Ireland. After an admittedly impressive first three days of the tournament, Holmes entered Sunday’s round in the top 5 with a legitimate chance to make a run at the Claret Jug. After 18 separate strolls averaging 400 yards apiece, all while attempting an activity vaguely resembling golf, Holmes posted an 87.

Quick aside to play everyone’s favorite Internet game that they’ve never seen before – Dan’s Faulty Points of Reference! Today’s point of reference: the New York Football Giants’ newest addition to the wide receiving corps, Golden Tate, played Royal Portrush approximately one month ago…and shot an 84.

Holmes’ T-67 finish reminded us all how hard it is to win the lottery, and how overwhelmingly average Holmes is relative to the rest of the PGA Tour. On top of that, he may not have finished the Championship by now (it is Tuesday, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating) had he not being playing alongside Brooks Koepka. JB Holmes plays golf at the same pace Sidd the Sloth crosses the land bridge in “Ice Age”. Brooks was right to publicly berate his slow play, and I am happy that he did it in such an entertaining way.

3) Brooks Koepka is on the brink of becoming a superstar that fans dislike.

Sure, this may be an exaggeration, but consider a world in which Brooks Koepka does not need to constantly claim that he does not practice and that he does not like golf very much. Brooks, if you’re reading this (and let’s be honest, of course you’re reading this), trust me – people will love you no matter what. You can drop the act.

As is the case with most 20-something year old golf fans, I was extremely entertained by Brooks’ initial interviews claiming things like “when you see me on TV, that’s when I’m playing golf” and “if I could do it over again, I’d play baseball (over golf) – 100 percent, no doubt”. Brooks is a ‘bro’, and is someone I would be absurdly lucky to grab a beer with. However, it has become abundantly clear to me that this is a guy who, despite his claims, certainly practices and enjoys golf. Honestly, how is it possible to believe that he does not practice golf when his last 7 major starts include 3 (THREE) victories, 2 (TWO) runner-up finishes, 1 (ONE) 4th place finish, and a (not so good, but even God took the 7th one off) 39th place finish at Carnoustie. Further, how can one take seriously that the guy does not like golf, when just a few years ago he was playing on the European Challenge Tour after failing to qualify for his PGA Tour card during the second stage of Q-School? Love for the game and unwavering self-assuredness is what kept Brooks on the golf course after failing to qualify for both the PGA and European Tours in 2012, whether he would like to deny that or not.

Bottom line, Koepka is one of the most well-liked, handsome, and charismatic athletes in history, and would be celebrated whether or not he admitted to a) practicing his sport and/or b) enjoying his profession. I understand that this makes me sound about as old and crotchety as a Jack Nicklaus fart, but I stand by the notion that he can work hard at and enjoy golf, all while being universally loved and touted as one of, if not the, coolest athletes alive.

4) Tony Finau will win a major championship before Rickie Fowler.

It feels as though Rickie Fowler has been pegged as “the best guy that hasn’t won a major yet” since before I knew how to read. Granted, I learned how to read in 2012, but still – it’s been a while. So long, in fact, that Rickie is approaching the front door of what I will call “Lee Westwood and Luke Donald’s House of ‘He’ll Win the Next One'”. Although Rickie is still consistently contending in majors, I am starting to subscribe to the theory that he will never win a major (and if he does, it’ll be the PGA Championship). Tony Finau, on the other hand, is someone that will win a major championship before I get the cojones to quit my day job.

From “Big Break” (golf reality television) star to PGA Tour star, Finau has finished inside the top 10 in 5 of the last 8 majors. Even more impressive than his 3rd place finish at this Open Championship was his 5th place finish at the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills, in which he challenged Brooks Koepka’s US Open repeat victory all the way until the 72nd hole. Finau has proven that he does not shy away from big moments – and it seems that his major championship ‘big break’ is moving as quick as his backswing.

5) Congratulations to the winner of the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush, Rory McIlroy.

I would once again like to offer my most sincere congratulations to the Champion Golfer of the Year, Rory McIlr – wait, oh, I’m sorry? Rory didn’t win this week? Haven’t we been talking for 3 years about how this was a guaranteed major for Rors? AND HE DIDN’T EVEN MAKE THE CUT?!?

It pains me to write this, because (I wish) Rory McIlroy is a dear, dear friend, but I must ask – why have the public and the media alike been giving Rory credit for dealing with his Portrush faceplant “gracefully”? The only thing McIlroy should be receiving credit for is managing to not hospitalize a member of the gallery with an errant shot. This guy played like an on-fire garbage can at a place where he has owned the course record for, quite literally, half of his life. Sure, it’s not “technically” his home course, but this Open Championship wasn’t pegged as McDowell’s or Clarke’s to win. For the last several years, this has been flagged as Rory’s Championship. I have been telling friends for years that Rory was going to win the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush, and now I look like a big, stupid idiot (pardon my French). Truly, though, Rory hit shots on Thursday that I didn’t even know he had in his arsenal. The skulled 8-iron that went about 60 yards over the back and right of the green and drilled the grandstand on 18 on Thursday was a personal favorite of mine. That shot – which came from the middle of the fairway, by the way – serves as a wonderful microcosm of what Rory’s Royal Portrush experience turned out to be. Until next time, Rors – I’ll see you back in Northern Ireland once I can figure out how the Rota works.

The Official Open Championship Drinking Game

Ladies and gentleman, it has arrived. Your official Biers Blog (DDons Edition) Open Championship Drinking Game is here. Mom, if you’re reading this, I promise I’m not actually playing this while I watch. One Capri Sun pouch to start, and then it’s water and carrots until I go to bed. Now, before we all go watch a bunch of guys make the most frustrating game in the history of the world look like the putt-putt track in Shelton, CT, allow me to share the Surgeon General’s Warning:

Warning: Please do not play this game. It might kill you. These things happen so often that, unless you’re the Joey Chestnut of drinking golden oat sodas*, you could very feasibly end up watching the final round from a hospital bed. Much like Bethpage Black (and Royal Portrush), this game is an extremely difficult game which we recommend only for highly skilled drinkers. 

*It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – you shouldn’t play this with liquor. Cmon, guys. Read a book… right after you read these rules.

  • Every time Tiger Woods grimaces on camera
  • Every time you hear a match referred to as a “golf game”
  • Every time you wished you looked like Brooks Koepka
  • Every time someone misses a putt within 5 feet
  • Every time you find yourself laughing at Rory McIlroy (commercials included)
  • Every time someone hits a low fade off the tee
  • Every time NBC/Golf Channel show a golfer and you think, “yeah, I could beat him in a 40 yard dash”
  • Every time you feel sad because the guy you could beat in a 40 yard dash is a professional athlete, and you’re not
  • Every time an announcer mentions the weather
  • Every time you see a Bank advertised on player’s outfits
  • Every time you see a Guinness Logo
  • Every time you see a Big 4 Accounting Firm advertised on player’s outfits
  • Every time you see a Bushmills Logo
  • Every time you wish this guy hadn’t retired
  • Every time NBC/Golf Channel does a “Playing Through” commercial
  • Every time you’re tempted to say “Brooks Koepka” like PFT Commenter
  • Every time they show a throwback clip of Tiger or Phil winning the Open
  • Every time you see someone chewing CBD gum
  • For as long as you hear the crowd yell “KUUUUCH” at Matt Kuchar

There it is, everyone. Please remember that this copyrighted blog post of the Biers Blog cannot be retransmitted, reproduced, rebroadcast or otherwise distributed or used in any form without the express written consent of DDons. Also, please don’t hold me liable – morally, medically, financially, or otherwise – for any negative outcomes related to this game, should you choose to play. Just remember, drinking out of a can or a bottle will never be as cool as this.

Russell Westbrook: The Case For The Minnesota Timberwolves

Hello, world. I’m writing about sports now.

First off, I would like to say thank you to my good friend Biers for giving me the platform to write down the things I typically shout at my unassuming roommates. Usually, I talk until they tell me “it’s 3:45am” and “this isn’t your apartment, you’re yelling at the ATM in a Bodega.” Sorry folks, but this is the Internet, and if OJ Simpson can imply that he is going to kill Supreme Leader Kris Kardashian due to “unfinished business” on his admittedly electric Twitter account, then I can tell you the things I think I think about sports. My initial installment – why the OKC Thunder should trade Russell Westbrook to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and why it is the ultimate “win-win-win” scenario.

First off, the Oklahoma City Thunder. The GM Wizard formerly known as Sam Presti is fresh off the heels of the largest, most impressive trade haul for a single player in NBA History – Paul George for 5 (five) first round picks, two (2) pick swaps, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA), and Danilo Gallinari (parentheses). The departure from Paul George in favor of draft picks and a young, promising point guard signals an era of rebuilding in Oklahoma City…so long as the team can move the 30-year-old Westbrook. The problem with moving Westbrook, of course, is Westbrook’s contract. Scheduled to earn just shy of $50 million at age 34, Brodie’s contract is, at best, the 3rd worst contract in the league. It pales in comparison to John Wall’s dumpster fire of a contract, and doesn’t make me laugh quite as hard as the thought of Chris Paul earning $44.2 million at age 36. Regardless, it’s not good, and it severely limits trading partners. This is why Minnesota makes so much sense. The Wolves own all of their own draft picks for the foreseeable future, a few of which OKC would look to acquire. Minnesota also has a relatively large expiring contract in Jeff Teague (1 year/$19 million). Perhaps most importantly, the Wolves are equally as interested as the Thunder in dumping a hyperbolically bad contract – 24-year-old Andrew Wiggins’ 5 year/$148 million deal – which could help match salaries to orchestrate a legal trade. The case from Oklahoma City, check.

Next up, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Aside from the fact that the team has been looking to get rid of Wiggins’ contract since man discovered fire, Westbrook to the Wolves makes an incredible amount of sense. The Timberwolves have not had a legitimate superstar on their team since moving Kevin Garnett to Boston over a dozen years ago. Folks, before you go wild, I don’t want to hear about how Kevin Love had a 30 point/30 rebound game a few times during his stint in the Twin Cities. Not a superstar. Russell Westbrook, on the other hand, is a bonafide superstar. The man has averaged a triple-double for three consecutive seasons, won an MVP, and has pledged his unwavering loyalty to one of the smallest markets in the NBA. The Timberwolves, another small market team, should be more than willing to give up Teague, a first rounder (or two), and Wiggins for Westbrook. It makes sense on the court, pairing Westbrook with Karl Anthony-Towns, and is a no-brainer for the team’s brand. A Wolves team with Westbrook, Towns, and Robert Covington could make a team like the Clippers, Lakers, or Jazz break a real sweat in the first round of the playoffs, and the team would be an instant contender for NBA League Pass team of the year. The case from Minnesota, check.

Finally, Russell Westbrook. Russ has developed a great relationship with Oklahoma City’s brass, particularly Presti, due in large part to mutual loyalty. Brodie loves Oklahoma City, and Oklahoma City loves him. Hell, they gave him his own day! Regardless, facts are facts – OKC is a tiny market, and Russ is a larger-than-life figure. The team cannot afford to treat Brodie poorly on his way out if they have any hope of retaining any future superstar that may pass through Oklahoma City. Russ has significant power in this process, and if he is anything like the rest of us (jury is still out as to whether he’s actually a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle), he is salivating over the opportunity to play with a true stretch 5 like KAT. Russell Westbrook operating in space is appointment television; the problem is, he has never played with a Center who can shoot, meaning he has rarely been given the opportunity to operate in space. All of that would change in Minnesota. KAT is one of the most skilled offensive big men in the game at just 23 years old, and OH MY GOD CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT THEY COULD DO WITH PICK AND ROLLS?!? Russ would be in a position to lead a team with a young, improving star, a capable cast of role players, make a gagillion dollars a year, and quite literally dunk all over the entire league for the foreseeable future. Need I say more? The case for Russell Westbrook, check. The case for this trade, checkmate. I’ll be awaiting the Woj Bomb, counting the amount of people shouting “THIS LEAGUE!!!” in the replies.

DDons

College Basketball IS Different

Here’s the deal. The NCAA is a terrible organization that does a lot of stuff that is objectively shitty. They have a hilarious track record of outrageous suspensions and penalties for things so harmful to the integrity of college sports such as

  1. Having the courage to make three Oklahoma football players donate $3.83 to a charity of their choice after *gasp* eating more than their allotted serving of pasta at a team banquet.
  2. Slapping Geno Auriemma with a recruiting violation after calling Little League World Series Star Mon’ae Davis and congratulating her on her success. Yeah we’re talking UCONN Women’s BASEKTBALL coach Geno Auriemma…
  3. Or when Utah basketball bought a player a plane ticket home which he REPAID to the school to attend a friends funeral, the NCAA stepped in, with their infinite wisdom, handing down suspensions.

We could literally do this all day.

What’s most appalling about the NCAA is their infinite quest to convince the world that they should unequivocally be allowed to profit off of their players by marketing their likeness, image, and brand while they get the pleasure of working a full time job while pretending to go to class. And look, this works for some. There are plenty of instances where a “student-athlete” is able to go to a four year school that they otherwise could not have attended, play sports, stay on the team and seriously get an education. I can point to a million examples of this even from my small north eastern private college where athletes actually embodied the ideal of being a student athlete because, frankly, our sports sucked. And this should continue, this is the part of the system that works.

But for a lot of players, going to school is not part of the plan. For college basketball this is clear as day. Zion Williamson will not be graduating college anytime soon. For a player of his skill and caliber, that is not why he is in college. He’s there because he needs to be there for a year to chase that bag next year in the NBA. And while he is there, Duke and the NCAA are making ridiculous money off of him. And he won’t see a cent of that (besides the duffel bag of cash Jeff Capel definitely didn’t give his father) until he plays his year and moves on. But for Zion, the exposure that he is getting will be intrinsic in his ability to get that Nike endorsement next year. Thing is, not a lot of players are Zion Williamson.

Look at the North Carolina team this year. They were stacked with senior talent. These kids have played for four years and most of them even helped the school win a national championship. What are they gonna have to show for it when its all done?

I fired up the old “mock draft” board on the awe-inspiring 1998 style website NBADraft.net no free ads but this guy is awesome and has been running this site from his Commodore 1000 since Perry Ellis was in diapers.

Commodore Amiga (1000)

I miss playing Backyard Baseball on this bitch.

Here’s his draft board

He’s got one upperclassman going in his top twenty, Rui Hachimura from Gonzaga who came from Japan was literally only recruited by Gonzaga and had to grind to prove himself to NBA scouts when he got there averaging only 4 and a half minutes per game his freshman season, 20 his sophomore season. Cameron Johnson, four year player from North Carolina is projected to go in the mid second round. Now, he could turn into Draymond Green or Patrick Beverly or even Goran Dragic and make money playing for many years but its far more likely a mid second round pick ends up out of basketball within five years. Cam Johnson will at least get a shot. But there are so many four year players who never do.

So basically we all know how this works, the NCAA creates this elaborate hoax that they are protecting student athletes, providing an invaluable service to them, and setting them up for success through a combination of sportsmanship, discipline, and a college degree. Well we all know how it actually comes out at the big time programs; kids go to school give it all for their team and get a fake degree having made no legal money along the way.

Lets bring it back to North Carolina, they actually are a prime example of this with a report coming out a few years ago describing how “student athletes” were getting majors in Swahili, literally taking FAKE CLASSES that required no attendance and one paper which some of these players couldn’t even write themselves as one professor described seeing “student athletes” graduating college without being able to fucking write.

So this supposed service the NCAA is offering its scholarship athletes is clearly a joke.

Or is it?

Through all the bullshit and purposeful spin that the NCAA propaganda machine creates on a seeming daily basis, including this outrageous video featuring a PAID ACTOR because their stupid bylaws prohibit and actual athlete from using their likeness to promote a product.

Much more accurate video imo.

What I’ve noticed is, there truly is something different about amateur athletics, especially college basketball. Let’s go back to that North Carolina team. Friday night in the sweet sixteen, North Carolina was upset by surprisingly awesome Auburn. As the second half began, it was clear that Chuma Okeke for Auburn was the best player on both sides of the court that night with 20 points on 8/11 from the floor. It seriously felt like he couldn’t miss and he really didn’t during that stretch.

Then the worst thing that can happen to an unpaid college athlete happened… Okeke got hurt, and would not return to the game.

And then one of the coolest things these eyes have ever seen happened as he was being helped off the court.

As your team is down 14 points, has no momentum, has just been blocked on four consecutive possessions and your return to the Elite Eight rests in peril there’s a lot going through your mind. Somehow, through all this, the entire UNC line up saw a dude who was absolutely cooking them all game go down and their empathy won out. It’s clear that college basketball does create these special moments that are profoundly different from any other sport as these kids grind all season trying to kill the guy across from them. But through this process, the ideals the NCAA promotes to justify their mistreatment of players shine through.

You can see it with the stars too.

Look at Zion here.

So overjoyed his buddy is dunking this dude is tryna touch the roof with his goddamn head. (h/t @NifMuhammadon Twitter for this gem) And apparently it goes both ways.

Here’s Barrett jumping for joy as Zion basically touches the rim with his head, did you know Zion can jump?

But lets break this down a little more. Zion Williamson is easily the best or second best player in college ball this year depending on your view of Ja Morant (mine is favorable that guy is incredible.) Here’s the thing, RJ Barrett shot the ball 270 times more than Zion this year. 270 more times.

That’d be like Klay Thompson taking 270 more shots than Kevin Durant in a two month stretch. Some shit like that in the NBA would tear a team apart. In fact it has, just look at the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder with Melo on the team (#STAYME7O.) Instead, these guys are so happy when the other one dunks they try to jump out of the gym from excitement.

Conclusions. Maybe there is something to be said for the NCAA because the product they create is absolutely special and unique. However, that can still be accomplished fairly and without all the hypocrisy that lies under everything they do and preach. Pay the players, stop pretending to be something you are not. Then, we can all just enjoy watching amazing young athletes choose to be their best selves and play their hearts out with class and dignity… while being properly compensated.

I hate Zion Williamson

A Biers Blog

(disclaimer; I’ve been a Duke fan since JJ Reddick convinced me I could be a college basketball player in 4th grade)

Good, I got you here. Now look, I really don’t hate Zion Williamson… and it seems like no one does. For a team as hateable as Duke has historically been, its this weird thing.

From the franchise that brought you the likes of:

And…

Image result for kyle singler duke

and all three (3!) of these guys…

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and most recently this guy…

Image result for grayson allen duke

So yeah, its weird to see a Duke team coming into the tournament with the number 1 overall seed, 20-25% of the money on them and still it seems everyoone likes this team. Look, when the season opened and Zion was still an unproven hoopmixtape dunker, everyone with a brain thought he was going to be the next big thing. But there was talk about his outrageous body measurements- 6’7″ 285 is insane – and “would a player with this body type make it in the NBA?!?” So, understandably, as with all things Duke, there was shade thrown Duke’s way.

A Thanksgiving break loss to highly touted, perennially overrated Gonzaga, the whispers start to gather. A mid January, court storming creating, barn burner loss against Syracuse; the whispers turn into shouts. Losing twice in three weeks to UNC which in the first game Zion busts out of his shoe tweaks his knee and sits out 39:22 of the game… and still, it seems like no one is going to jump ship and hate on this team. The reason why?

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This guy.

In a world of hateable Duke players, an admittedly smarmy coach, and anyone ready to up their twitter cred with anti-Duke jokes, Zion has captured the world.

In that first game against UNC where he busted through that cheap Nike fabric and showed that shoes cannot contain the massive human being that is Zion Williamson, Twitter did what it always does; make jokes.

Zion’s own shoe even joined the fray…

But among all of the jokes, something weird happened. People weren’t out there dancing on Duke’s grave. Instead, it felt like the whole world was actually devastated, sad to watch someone so incredibly talented go down to something as stupid as being too gigantic and monstrous of a person to allow something as simple as a shoe to contain them.

The king came down from on high to say some words;

(To be fair, LeBron would have totally gone to Duke)

Donovan Mitchell chimed in

Even 44 was visibly upset!

Speaking of, I’ve never seen a jacket as sneaky fire as this bad boy Obama was rocking

Former President Barack Obama talks with ESPN analyst Maria Taylor while attending the game between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Feb. 20, 2019, in Durham, N.C.

I don’t give a fuck about your politics, this is a powerful look.

All I’ve heard this year is how everyone wants Zion on their team. I got Celtics fans talking about trying to trade up to get him. I got Hawks fans salivating over the idea of Zion and Trae Young playing off eachother. I got Knicks fans all over it talkin bout “how good would he look in the orange and blue though!!!” Even Suns fans have convinced themselves that Zion could change everything.

Everyone wants Zion and everyone likes Zion. He’s captured the world with his dunks and his prescence. That million dollar smile doesn’t hurt either. Find me the biggest Duke hater in the world, not only do they like Zion, they may say something like “I guess I wouldn’t mind if he got the championship… as long as the Bulls draft him!”

Zion is bigger than shoes, he’s bigger than historic hate, Zion is a giant on and off the court and I’ll be rooting for him tonight to teabag every NDSU player he can on this journey to greatness. You should too. Zion is fun, sports should be fun, so if you don’t have a dog in the fight, why not root for the coolest player not named Ja Morant this March.