- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 21, 2009

Welcome to the 2009-10 U.S. Open.

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The weather was so wet during Thursday’s first round that the concession stands ran out of Michelob Dry by 10 a.m.

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Did you see how much water was on the 18th green? Until the squeegee squad came out, the flagstick looked like a periscope.

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The players - wisely - are preparing for any eventuality. A lot of them, I’m told, have replaced their umbrellas with inflatable rafts.

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Just wondering: If you carried a sextant in your bag to navigate your way around, would it count as one of your 14 clubs?

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On top of it all, Bethpage Black is the second-longest course in Open history, measuring 7,426 yards - or if you prefer, 3.67 nautical miles.

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Am I hallucinating, or was Al Roker briefly the leader in the clubhouse?

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Something I’ve always wanted to know: Who was the last pro golfer to hit a shot with a cigarette dangling from his lips? I’m not talking about smoking BETWEEN shots, which Arnold Palmer - and plenty of others - did throughout the ‘60s; I’m talking about smoking DURING shots.

A quick Google search turned up this passage from a Golf Digest article in 2000: “[Lloyd] Mangrum was a nerveless competitor, often playing pressure shots with slitted eyes and a cigarette dangling from his lips.”

So maybe it was Mangrum, who won his last PGA Tour event in 1956 and played in his final major in ‘62. But I’ve gotta believe somebody (Tommy Bolt?) sneaked a puff after that.

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Did you hear about the academic paper that’s about to be published by two professors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School? According to the New York Times, it offers statistical evidence that PGA Tour players “are so consumed with avoiding bogeys that they make putts for birdie discernibly less often than identical-length putts for par.”

Finally, a legitimate excuse we hackers can use for why we never get the ball to drop.

(And here I was under the impression the problem was my putting stroke, developed on some of the world’s toughest miniature golf courses.)

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The Penn profs pored over data on more than 1.6 million Tour putts - almost as many as John Daly took on the eighth hole at Pinehurst on the last day of the ‘99 Open.

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The principle involved, being more concerned about “avoiding a negative [bogey]… than gaining an equal positive [birdie], [is] known in economics as loss aversion,” the Times reports.

Or as Gordon Gekko put it in “Wall Street,” “I don’t like losses, sport. Nothing ruins my day more than losses.”

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One of the professors, Devin Pope, says, “Tiger Woods, the model of perfection and what an economist would think of as a rational agent, even he exhibits these biases. And if he exhibits these biases, why not business leaders?”

To which I reply: Where oh where was loss aversion when the derivatives market was going in the porta-potty?

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The Continuing Saga of Ryan Leaf couldn’t get any stranger, could it? On second thought, I guess it could. I mean, when he surrendered to authorities in Texas the other day to face burglary and drug-related charges, he could have been dropped off at the police station by Al Cowlings.

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In addition to all the hardware he’s collected, Alex Ovechkin is just the second player in NHL history to be named to the first all-star team in each of his first four seasons. The other guy, interestingly enough, isn’t named Gretzky or Orr or Howe; it’s Bill Durnan, who tended goal in Hall of Fame fashion for the Canadiens from 1943 to ‘50.

Naturally, I had to find out a little bit more about him. So I went to this Web site (habslegends.blogspot.com) maintained by a fellow named Joe Pelletier (aka the Hockey History Blogger) and came across the following information:

“Durnan had a very peculiar trait that helped him excel: he was ambidextrous. Instead of wearing a blocker, he would wear modified gloves on both hands. He would then switch which hand he used to hold the stick depending on which side of the rink the opposition was attacking from. Thus, the shooter would always be facing his big catching glove. He became known as Dr. Strange-Glove.

“It wasn’t a natural thing for Durnan though. A natural rightie, he worked very hard at it under the tutelage of [a] church league coach.”

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Idle thought: If that ambidextrous reliever in the Yankees system, Pat Venditte, doesn’t make it to the bigs, maybe the Caps can teach him to play goalie.

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Do yourself a favor, by the way, and check out Pelletier’s site. It has a nice page on the Capitals that pays homage to their greatest players.

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In case you’re curious, the last time a D.C. baseball team won a series at Yankee Stadium - before the Nats did it recently, that is - was Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, 1971. It was the expansion Senators’ last season in the District. Don Mincher hit a grand slam to help win the first game, and Bill Gogolewski threw a four-hit shutout to take care of the second. (We’ll fast-forward through the 11-1 New York victory in the closer.)

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How Things Have Changed Dept.: The three-game set in ‘71 attracted crowds of 8,950, 8,467 and 7,461 for a total attendance of 24,878. The series last week AVERAGED nearly twice that - 45,356.

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Of course, this was before George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees. The club was still owned by CBS, which thought running a baseball team was like running the Ponderosa.

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Read that Manny Ramirez has begun working out at Dodger Stadium in preparation for his reinstatement. He took those fertility drugs, after all, and probably has a bunch of baby weight to drop.

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The Astros’ Ivan Rodriguez caught his 2,227th game last week to break Carlton Fisk’s major league record. And this is really touching - the 32,425 fans at Rangers Ballpark, his old stomping grounds, gave him a crouching ovation.

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The Hall of Fame, no doubt, has already asked Rodriguez for a few pieces of memorabilia. Hey, how about sending his hamstrings - or are those going to the Smithsonian?

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And finally…

Sorry to see Rafael Nadal, the defending champ, won’t be playing at Wimbledon. I wouldn’t be surprised if the All England Club acknowledged his absence by flying a pair of capri pants at half-staff.


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