Going green

image from fingerfood.typepad.com It's a big weekend for sports with the Phillies diving deeper into the season and The Masters burning up the TV set down there in Augusta, Ga. Meanwhile, the Phillies play in their third home opener on Monday when they face the lowly Washington Nationals in D.C.

Yes, the vagaries of being the WFCs.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, the trip to the White House will be the only chance for the team to hobnob with the President. The White House announced today that President Obama will not throw the ceremonial first pitch at Monday's game.

The Nats will just have to find someone else.

Besides, the President is heading off to Mexico and Trindad after the Phillies' visit next Tuesday.

So while the Phillies will have to make do with a mere visit to the White House, a new Masters champion will likely get a congratulatory phone call from the President later this weekend. The way things are shaping up now it very well could be Lancaster native and Manheim Township grad, Jim Furyk. Midway through the second round Furyk is right there on the mix to win his first green jacket, which hardly seems like a prize at all.

But then again, the Masters is all about conformity. They make the caddies dress in those awful white jumpsuits and green Masters ballcaps, which kind of blends in with most of the players' attitude about uniqueness. White belts or large belt buckles seem to be the trend these days so the fairways at Augusta National suddenly look like bingo night at the Quiet Valley Retirement Village.

Of course the big white whale at the Masters is Phil Mickelson who has taken to doing ads for ExxonMobile these days. Then again, one has to figure that Mickelson spends enough cash buying gas for his plane so he might as well get some of it back.

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Finally, it's still a sad day around baseball as players react to the death of Angels' pitcher Nick Adenhart. Since 2002, Adenhart, from the DC/Baltimore suburb of Silver Spring, is the third Major Leaguer to die in an accident allegedly related to drunken driving.

As usual, Joe Posnanski captures it nicely. At the same time, the Los Angeles/California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels are no strangers to tragedy.

Fearsome foursome

Furyk & TigerCertainly the Masters isn’t what it used to be. The course has changed in order to reign in the game of one particular player and there is absolutely no way the proletariat will ever be admitted past the giant hedges and steely gates that separates Augusta National from all the chain stores, strip malls and sprawl that surrounds it.

The fact is Augusta National and the Masters is mainstream elitism on full display. I suppose folks can take that for what it’s worth, but they sure do know how to put on a good golf tournament down there. Better yet, Masters weekend could be the most properly hyped sporting event out there. Based on the TV ratings the NCAA Tournament doesn’t quite pack them in any more. Perhaps that’s because of the ridiculously tired and hokey “One Shining Moment” malarkey. Come on already, they’re pro athletes… enough with the fairy tales. The TV networks can save those tired old bits for the Olympics lest the protests and attention to China’s human-rights violations make advertisers squirm.

News, apparently, is a product too.

Anyway, Along with the Kentucky Derby, which one can attend and not even see a damned horse, the Masters is a must-watch event.

At least it is here. Hey, clearly I’m prone to hyperbole.

Nevertheless, a big sporting event demands bold predictions. Actually, how bold will it be to pick the best golfer in the world, or a guy who grew up in your wife’s neighborhood to win the biggest golf tournament in the world?

Nope, not bold at all.

Enough blathering. Here’s my prediction for the top foursome at this year’s Masters:

  • Tiger Woods – yeah, going out on a limb there.
  • Jim Furyk – what’s bigger… hitting a 20-footer at the buzzer to beat Lebanon to win the Section 1 title game for Manheim Township, or another Top 5 finish at the Masters?

Hey, at the time it was a pretty clutch shot…

  • Ernie Els – He’s won three majors (U.S. Open twice; British Open), but has finished second at the Masters twice in 2000 and 2004. Maybe he’s ready to breakthrough.
  • Padraig Harrington – the Irishman is the defending Open champ and has three Top 10 finishes in the last eight major tournaments. Then again, he’s also missed the cut in three of the last eight majors, too.

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The London Marathon also takes place this weekend. Here’s a prediction: Ryan Hall will become the first American-born runner to break 2:08.

Hall, of course, won last November’s marathon Olympic Trials in New York City and is coached by former Villanova standout, Terrence Mahon.