If you like watching golf, it’s been the best sport to see during these times.
The NBA and MLB have been in action, but it’s not the same without real crowds.
You can keep the cardboard cutouts of fans. Crowd noise piped in is acceptable.
I haven’t watched the NBA because I don’t want to see messages on the court or on the backs of the players’ uniforms.
Sorry, I only want the game. I get the game from the NHL, and I’m happy with that.
Baseball is still about home run or strikeout. Even starting extra innings with a man on second base, teams don’t try to bunt the runner to third and score with a fly ball. They still swing for the fences. That’s not the baseball I knew.
So golf has worked out well, in my opinion, and this past week the first major was held, the PGA Championship.
It was held at a public course in San Francisco, Harding Park.
That’s where the late, great Ken Venturi learned the game growing up. Venturi, if you remember, was a World Hall of Fame player and long-time broadcaster for CBS. He passed away seven years ago after capturing 14 PGA Tour championships, including a dramatic U.S. Open crown in 1964. Venturi was advised by his doctors to withdraw from the tournament on the final round due to dehydration from the oppressive heat wave. Risking heat stroke, Venturi ignored the medics and won the Open, his only triumph in a major.
He had played Harding Park a million times thanks to the fact that his parents worked at the course.
His mother, Ethel, assisted his father Fred, in the operation of the Pro Shop.
But it was as a commentator, that Ken Venturi sparkled.
He spent 35 years at CBS, working with a pair of gems during that that time, Pat Summerall and Jim Nantz, and was brilliant in his analysis.
I was in his company a number of times, and he was the definition of “class”.
The headline going in to the PGA Championship, was whether Brooks Koepka could win his third consecutive PGA title.
Koepka was two shots off the lead going into Sunday’s final round, and was openly confident he could win again.
But he also made reference to third round leader Dustin Johnson, when he remarked, “When I’ve been in this position before, I’ve capitalized. I don’t know, DJ’s only won one.”
Uh-oh. The one thing we’ve all learned about the game is, don’t tempt the Golf Gods.
That goes if you’re playing in your weekend foursome, or if you’re Brooks Koepka shooting for another major championship.
Watch what you say.
So, as it turned out, Koepka bogeyed the second, and the 7th, 8th, and 9th. He faded quickly, and wound up tied for 29th.
You could not have asked for a more entertaining competition for the final round as it developed.
There were 12 players within two shots of the lead early on the back nine.
At one point there were seven players tied for the lead.
Tiger Woods, finished in a tie for 37th, one-under par for the tournament. Putting woes shut down any chance he had.
I don’t know about TV ratings, except for the fact that when Tiger was hot, the rating went through the roof.
But there are plenty of youngsters now, who are out there and are talented and can win any week.
Two things bring viewers to the screens. Star power, and superb compeititon.
We had the latter this past week, not to demean the likes of Dustin Johnson, one of the world’s very best.
But Johnson doesn’t have the charisma, nor does he have the victories.
The spotlight eventually found another youngster, 23 years as a matter of fact. And a newcomer to the world of professional golf.
Collin Morikowa, who less than two years ago was finishing his senior year at the University of California in nearby, Berkeley, was competing in just his second major. He had two PGA Tour wins his previous 26 pro starts.
Still wet behind the ears, Morikowa, with an electrifying smile, outlasted many of the big names that today’s golf tour features, using guile, and a maturity unusual for his age, to do more than merely survive.
It was anybody’s title as the horde of contenders battled down the stretch.
But it really came down to two shots and a putt. That really sums it up.
Tied for the lead with five holes to play, Morikowa came up 55 feet short of the green with his approach at the par-4 14th hole.
It was a discouraging moment for the youngster who had 149-yards for his second shot, and was visibly disappointed, as expected.
Then came the first of two game changers. Morikowa with a tricky chip, knocked it in the hole for a birdie. Now, he had a one-shot lead.
Paul Casey, the Englishman, who is an outstanding player, and seems like a wonderful person, birdied 16, to move into a tie for the lead. Casey, 43, is one of those golfers who has played forever, and played well, has never won a major.
Now he had another chance.
Then it was Collin Morikowa’s turn on the 294-yard par-4.
With supreme confidence, Morikowa hit a magnificent drive to within 7-feet of the hole.
He could then two-putt for a birdie and take a one-shot lead. But he holed the putt for an eagle. A two-shot lead.
And that’s all she wrote.
A chip, and a drive to be remembered was the difference in a hotly-contested, and most entertaining first major of the golf season.
Collin Marikowa with Wanamaker Trophy
Switching gears here from the links to life.
In watching a documentary on the life of the legendary vocalist Frank Sinatra, one of his songs was performed in
a very brief 10-minute film he appeared in that received a special Academy Award.
The film was called, “The House I Live In”. It was released in 1945, and it was produced as a vehicle to oppose
all kinds of prejudice at the end of World War II.
I have heard this song many times, and have played it on the piano.
Hearing it again in the documentary made me reflect on the country as we know it today.
So here it is.
The House I Live In
What is America to me
A name, a map, or a flag I see
A certain word, democracy
What is America to me.
The house I live in
A plot of earth, a street
The grocer and the butcher
And the people that I meet
The children in the playground
The faces that I see
All races and religions
That’s America to me
The place I work in
The worker by my side
The little town the city
Where my people lived and died
The howdy and the handshake
The air of feeling free
And the right to speak your mind out
That’s America to me
The things I see about me
The big things and the small
The little corner newsstand
Or the house a mile tall
The wedding and the churchyard
The laughter and the tears
The dream that’s been a growing
For a hundred fifty years
The town I live in
The street, the house, the room
The pavement of the city
Or the garden all in bloom
The church, the school, the clubhouse
The million lights I see
But especially the people
That’s America to me
Better yet, Let’s hear it from Frank himself.
Go to YouTube.com and type in “The House I live in” Sinatra.
These are unsettling times, to say the least.
So, I thought I’d offer these lyrics.
With all that is going on, I think we could use it.