It's here. It's all happening. High school football teams in Tennessee can get together in shorts and helmets. NFL training camps are on the horizon. The college kids will report at the end of this month. The time is now.
Side note: We'd like to wish our wonderful mother a Happy Birthday today. She's 49 — which is getting harder and harder to explain. And we'll share her insightful quote from 1984, when we were reviewing the draft list of the 14-year-old baseball players as the 5-at-10 Sr. was preparing to assemble our team for that summer. We got near the bottom, and we suggested one kid because he had batting gloves and sweat bands. Our mother quickly added, "The equipment is the easiest part of any game to obtain."
Amen, and pass the biscuits.
From the "Talks too much studios," pucker up buttercup.
Lefty closes the Open door
The reason we love major championships — be them individual sports like golf or tennis or the overall championships in the major team events — is because of the pressure and the prizes on the line.
The great ones in sports are measured in large part by how they preform in the biggest moments and on the biggest stages.
By that measure, Phil Mickelson put to rest any doubts about his greatness Sunday by storming to front and ripping the Claret Jug away from golf's best field. It was magical — his 5-under 66 was one of only 15 scores under par Sunday — and splendid. He became just the third player in the modern era to win a major by three or more shots after trailing by five shots entering the final round. (Faldo at Augusta in '96 and Leonard at The Open in '97 were the others.)
In fact, in winning his fifth career major, Mickelson turned in the most impressive final round at a major since Jack in 1986. It doesn't seem that long ago that we wondered if Mickelson would ever win a major before his breakthrough at Augusta in 2004. Now, it's hard not to look back at his river of "so-closes" and wonder what could of been.
That debate is for another time, because the now should be the discourse about Mickelson's magic. His combination of execution and artistry is breathtaking. When Tiger was controlling golf, he was overpowering people with his length, his will and his relentless efficiency, especially on the green. Tiger was Tyson. Mickelson is more of a mixture. He's more Ali, in that he has won with power and he has won with grace, and more times than not he has been his own worst enemy.
Sunday, Lefty flipped the script. He landed haymaker and made every move effectively. He also entered the rare Tiger-like putting zone on the back nine, when every putt he rolled looked pure and you started going from "No way he makes that," to "No way he misses that."
Well-played, Lefty, well-played indeed.
Tiger Woods also continued his free fall from the peaks of his power. He carded a 74, falling out of contention from almost the very start.
Woods, who has not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open, is mired in the longest major-less streak of his career and the question now is will he win another major rather than can he catch Jack's 18 major titles?
Woods has repeatedly said he is happy with his game and his swing. The results? Well, not so much.
Woods is faltering because he has lost the best club in his bag. No this is not an iron or a wood or even his putter, although that his the most affected. No Tiger is merely a great golfer right now — he's still No. 1 in the world after all. He is not the elite, ferocious competitor that he was in the 2000s, when he thought he was faultless and, more importantly, so did everyone else.
Woods' shortcoming are because his best golfing weapon was always a stainless steely will and mental toughness that refused to allow him to fail and simply did not allow anyone feel comfortable around him on the leaderboard.
That's gone. And that's gone forever — you can't put intimidation paste back in the tube — and that's why Tiger will never be Tiger again. Sure, he can win titles and maybe a major or three along the way — he's still a great golfer with four wins this year — but he'll never prowl the course and intimidate the field the way he once did.
That ship has sailed, docked and unloaded.
Congrats to ThatIDidKnow, who turned in an Open Contest sheet that had five names in the top 13. Well-played indeed.
Hits keep coming
We're going to debate UT football this week, and we'll get more into this year's Vols on Tuesday.
Today, let's just take a deep breath and drink in the recruiting roll that Tennessee coach Butch Jones is enjoying.
There was a stretch this weekend in which Jones was adding four-star prospects at an Danny Struggla strikeout pace — about one every 50 minutes.
Let's remember that the Vols are just eight months removed from the sea of turmoil that included at least one and reportedly several coaches turning down the UT job following another 5-7 season.
Jones has landed a series of recruiting haymakers, including adding two four-star receivers, a four-star linebacker, two four-star defensive backs and two three-star offensive linemen in the last week. TFP UT ace Downtown Patrick Brown details the run here.
This and that
— Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison was arrested for barking at a police dog. Morrison, who likely was going to start for the Gators, was arrested for resisting — his second run in with the law in five weeks — and has been suspended for the first two games. (Side note: Yes, UT is Florida's third game of the season.) When asked why he barked at the police dog, Morrison said, the dog barked first. Forget stand your ground laws, this is about marking your territory.
— UTC redshirt freshman Keionta Davis is ready to get back on the field, as Mocs football ace John Frierson tells us here. We believe Mr. Davis is going to be a stud duck for UTC. That is all.
— Prince William and his bride Kate are about to have a baby. Here's hoping they name the tot Jadeveon. Or Barkevious. (Those names are Slinky good — fun for boys or girls.)
Feel free to jive on any of the above or any of the not mentioned. (Hey the Braves are back in action... and Uggla just struck out again.)
If you need a talking point — and feel free to give us a call on the radio show Press Row, Mondays-Fridays on 105.1 FM and espnchattanooga.com — here are three:
— Where will UT's recruiting class end up ranked? Right now on verbals and such, they are No. 1 in almost every ranking. But signing day is miles to go before we sleep.
— Is Phil Mickelson a top-10 golfer all time? We think no, but he may be top 15 now. Where do you rank Phil all-time and where do you rank Sunday in the pantheon of one day showings.
— Will Tiger win another major?
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...