By NEAL FARMER
It has been said that if you succeed one time in three in baseball, then you are a success. Do that in golf, and you won’t make the cut.
Jordan Spieth had a three-stroke lead going into the final round on Sunday at the 146th British Open, one of the hallowed tournaments in golfdom. Then, he almost threw it away with several of those unsuccessful shots that happen from time-to-time, especially to us weekend warriors.
But Spieth tightened up and pulled out an unlikely victory, using his putter so well that those of us who follow golf will be talking about this win for a long time. He is now the fifth Texan to have his name on the Claret Jug, after Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino, Bill Rogers and Justin Leonard.
Spieth, 23, has 11 career victories and now has three of the four career grand slam titles, winning the 2015 Master and 2015 U.S. Open to go with this year’s British Open at Royal Birkdale. Win a future win at the PGA championship, and he will join Gene Sarazen, Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only to win at least one of each of those four tournaments. Do you realize that means he has decades to achieve the career slam?
He joins Nicklaus as the only players to win three majors by the time they were 23. Spieth turns 24 on Thursday.
Spieth bogeyed the first and third holes on Sunday to help him lose his three-shot lead. But saved his worst for the 13th, where Dr. Jekyll – or was it Mr. Hyde? — hit the ball so badly that it went onto a sand dune for what would be an unplayable lie. It will have to be remembered as one of the worst shots ever hit by a winner in a major. Even worse than when Seve Ballasteros hit into a parking lot. His third shot was after a drop at the driving range and was good enough to help him to make a bogey on the 13th. And the bogey meant Spieth lost the lead to Matt Kuchar. Many, no doubt, remembered at that point that Spieth had a five-shot lead in the 2016 Masters and lost by three strokes.
But there was a different storyline on Sunday. Spieth followed with birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie to set himself up with an unlikely three-stroke win. The eagle came on Hole 15, where he sank a 50-foot putt. A 50-foot putt. It was a gutsy performance that set the British attending the event to chin-wagging (translated into Texan: talking about how Spieth despite being in the weeds was later standing in tall cotton).
A University of Texas grad, Spieth will enjoy knowing that the Tower at the Main Buidling was lighted orange in his honor on Sunday night. (It’s a UT thing, and the way we UT grads celebrate championships. Aggies just say that UT changes the tower into a dayglow light stick. Whatever.)
The tournament was almost rendered a farce, in terms of the wind. Several players hit what appeared to be great drives multiple times, but then the wind caught the ball and blew it into a banana arc – causing players to yell “fore” to fans lining the holes who thought the initial flight looked great to them. (Some of us don’t need the wind to do that.)
Spieth celebrated by drinking wine from the Caret Cup. For the second time.
“This is a dream come true for me, absolutely a dream come true,” Spieth told the Associated Press. “I was able to drink a bit of wine out of it when Zach Johnson won it two years ago and a lot of people told me it was bad luck. I started to believe them a bit through nine holes today.
“But, boy, this feels good to have this in my hands.”
EUTAW BOUND – On Saturday, Marwin Gonzalez hit a homer literally out of the park in Baltimore. The ball went over the right field fence and landed on a sidewalk of Eutaw (pronounced Utah) Street. The spot currently is marked with a magic marker, which has a circle and the initial “MG.” The Orioles eventually will put a plaque on the area to commemorate monster mash. It is the fifth HR to hit Eutaw Street this year – all by opponents rather than Orioles.
I never heard how far the HR was estimated to travel, but it needed a stewardess. The shot was unusual as Gonzalez fell to his left knee as he connected on the offering from Baltimore’s Darren O’Day.
Ironically, Gonzalez did not start the game but originally had the night off. He came in when rookie Colin Moran fouled a ball off of his cheek when batting. Moran later was placed on the DL with a facial fracture, and doctors will decide whether to put the unlucky player under the knife or let him heal naturally. Moran had knocked a homer in his pro debut the night before, and now he is out indefinitely. That’s about the worst luck a ballplayer can have – welcome to the Bigs; now go to the hospital with a possible season-ending injury.
AT&T Sportsnet, formerly Root Sports, had a camera at the end of the dugout that showed Gonzalez returning to the dugout after the homer. He crossed himself like a good Catholic, and then pointed to the camera and smiled. As God is my witness, that is the first time I have seen Gonzalez smile during a game. After a game, yes. During an interview, yes. But not during a game.
Lighten up, Marwin. This is a fun season that may never happen again. Enjoy it. You’ll always have Baltimore.
McCULLERS’ STRUGGLES CONTINUE – Astros pitcher Lance McCullers struggled on Sunday, as he surrendered six earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. That is three-consecutive starts where he has not made it out of the fifth inning.
And there is more.
Collin McHugh, who has been out all year with an elbow impingement, threw four innings before falling apart in the fifth inning on Friday at Baltimore. He struck out four, walked two and allowed four hits, but was down 4-1 when he left because he gave up two, two-run homers.
Dallas Keuchel (neck) could be back by this Friday, and went five innings in a Class A rehab assignment last Saturday. But he has not proven himself against top competition since his injury.
It looks like none have built up their arms to be starting MLB pitchers yet. It appears thatBrad Peacock, Mike Fiers and Charlie Morton are going to have to continue to be starters until McCullers, McHugh and Keuchel build up their arm strength after their respective injures. A large lead in their division will allow the Astros the luxury of bringing the three previously injured starters back slowly. I hate to say it, but at this point, those three may not be the best starting pitchers on the roster. And Houston’s division lead could start to diminish, if the offense does not continue at its blistering pace.
SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION — The Touchdown Club of Houston is holding a fund-raising poker tournament at 6 p.m., Sat., July 29, at Whitmeyer’s Distilling Co., 16711 Hollister, Suite I, off of FM 1960 near Willowbrook Mall. Cost is $100 per person for 20,000 chips and re-buys at $50 per person. A meal is provided by Demeris Barbecue, and Karbach Brewing donated the beer. Whitmeyer’s whiskey is available to purchase.
The profits go toward a scholarship fund. You can purchase seats by using PayPal at touchdownclub.org. We need to know who is coming by Thursday.
The silent auction is stacked, as it has a Dallas Keuchel, Cy Young-signed orange Astros jersey; a Deshaun Watson-signed blue Texans jersey; a George Springer-signed baseball; a Nolan Ryan-signed HOF baseball; a framed, Jose Altuve-signed photo; a framed Earl Campbell-signed photo; a framed JJ Watt-signed photo; a VIP package for the Texas Bowl football game, with a parking pass; Texas A&M football signed by Kevin Sumlin; Baylor football signed by Matt Rhule; and a basket of bourbon, T-shirts and tour passes for Whitmeyer’s.
There also is a two-day pass to be won for L’auberge casino in Baton Rouge.
NERD ALERT – The new Star Wars film has a behind the scenes promo that I thought was great. But I am a Star Wars nerd.
NERD ALERT, PART DEAUX – This may be the coolest promo I have seen for a comic book movie — although I have to call BS on one aspect of it. A previous promo had a photo of Superman in it. A graphic has Superman’s logo in it, and there is a spot for six Super Heroes while only five are shown here. Superman is not dead and is back, dammit, I can just feel it. And that’s something that is very important to this nerd. https://www.facebook.com/JusticeLeagueOfficial/?hc_ref=ARR8hWNpH4JHyQWnI6eqigCrtBILsoDa3uDYEN81bPfy5LkWOArxcfkUw-FTflRyNNI&pnref=story
CLASSIC NOTES – Brahms Hungarian Dances, No. 5 in G minor, because you’ve heard it before, liked it and you just didn’t know what it was.
QUOTE OF THE DAY – “She was only a whiskey-maker, but he loved her still.”
Me, as another shameless promotion of Whitmeyer’s.
HOTTIE OF THE DAY –