How historic, dramatic and spectacular was Tiger Woods’ Masters victory last Sunday?
It made me thank my lucky stars that I turned off I-70 East in, of all places, Columbia and got to watch the final holes. Ironically, I was heading home from a trip to Lawrence, Kansas.
With Les Miles at the helm of the KU football program for his first spring football game, there is a genuine buzz heading into the 2019 season. My Jayhawks will remain one of the nation’s worst teams for another season, but the entertaining and electric Miles is winning over the fan base.
There was a K-Club golf outing on Friday, a social gathering Friday night and hospitality tent before the game – which for the first time in KU history was held at night. Rapper Rick Ross braved a chilly, windy night to perform following the game and Miles joined him on stage for a bit.
I was so wrapped up in a wonderful weekend that I had not followed Woods’ Friday and Saturday rounds too closely. Going into Sunday he was two strokes down. He had a chance and I figured to be home by the time the final holes were played.
Somehow, I missed the announcement that Sunday’s round would begin an hour earlier because of pending inclement weather in Augusta, Georgia.
After enjoying my king-size bed until check out time, I hit the highway a bit after 11 a.m. and had no idea what was transpiring. By the time I got to Columbia, Woods had the lead with three holes left to play.
I had to see it. I turned off on Stadium Boulevard and found a place to view history. When Woods sank his final putt, the Champions restaurant erupted with a thunderous cheer. High fives everywhere. Strangers hugging strangers. It was cool.
I immediately called Earl Austin to tell him where I was at the moment of Woods’ triumph.
Twenty-two years ago, when Woods won the first of five Masters titles, I sat next to Austin at the St. Louis American office at 4144 Lindell.
Woods graced the cover of that week’s issue. It seems so long ago. It was so long ago.
Sunday didn’t transport the sports world back in time. It was proof to many of us that we’re older. But it also reminded us that perseverance and the will to succeed can help men and women overcome embarrassment, rehab, injury, surgery and a host of other demons.
Seeing Woods’ win on television was better than listening on the car radio. Maybe I had to see it to believe it. His win and the remaining ride in the car back to St. Louis capped off a truly special weekend – one that will be hard to top. We’ll see next fall, I guess.
Stephen stepped in it
I doubted that Woods could win another major tournament before last summer. After he was tied for the lead on the 11th hole of the British Open in July, my opinion changed.
Then, his Bellerive performance on the back nine of Sunday’s final round of the PGA Championship and second-place finish in August convinced me that he was going to win at least one more.
Among the sports talking heads that said it would never happen was ESPN’s very loud and very opinionated Stephen A. Smith. After Woods’ PGA performance Smith stated emphatically that Sunday would never come.
“Remember my words, quote me accurately: I never said that the man couldn’t play,” Smith said then. “I never said that he wouldn’t put forth a good performance. What I said was: is he going to win (another major)? The answer is no.”
Smith seemed to have forgotten those words immediately after Woods’ Masters triumph. He said on Twitter, “And if ever there was an athlete who personified perseverance, about overcoming trials and tribulations, it is @TigerWoods today. I never thought he’d win a major again. Now I think he’s gonna surpass (Jack Nicklaus’ record of major tournament wins. HE’s the shark in blood-infected waters. Everyone else is the prey!#UhOh”
Thanks to Kansas City Chiefs safety correctly calling out Smith via Twitter for his flip-flop.
“Smh... save it man!!! You was the first one to throw him down & drag him out...”
The 2019 PGA Tournament has been moved to the second weekend in May and it will be held at the Bethpage Black course in Long Island, N.Y. Woods won the U.S. Open there in dominant fashion in 2002 – he led all four rounds.
It’s a long, grueling course which is difficult to walk, let alone play championship golf on. Can Woods find some more magic and bring home his 16th major tournament win? Fans and oddsmakers seem to think so.
I’d be a fool to say he can’t do it. Just ask Stephen A. Smith.
This year’s U.S. Open in June is at famed Pebble Beach – another site of a Woods’ major championship. Could Woods be in contention? Darn right, he can.
I’ll leave you with this prediction. I think Woods will win at least one more major title. If he catches Nicklaus and wins 18, I would have to admit to being surprised. But not totally shocked.
MLB still lacks blacks
As Major League Baseball again put on its dog-and-pony show to celebrate Jackie Robinson on Monday April 15, it was doing so with the knowledge that it has few black players on its respective rosters.
Just 7.7 percent of the 882 players that were on Opening Day rosters are African American.
Eleven teams do not have more than one black player. That is more than a third of all MLB teams. Three teams do not have a black player. Disgraceful.
Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., told USA TODAY columnist Bob Nightengale baseball – not society – is falling short.
“Really, it's not a black problem or a white problem, but it's a baseball problem,” he said.
“I don’t think it's the intent of baseball not to have black ballplayers. But we have to find a way to get these kids back. We lost them to football. We lost them to basketball. We lost them to golf. People don’t see how cool and exciting this game is.
“The NFL and NBA has done a better job than we have in showing the fun side of the sport, having people talk about it whether it's on social media, commercials or the news.”
Reigning American League MVP Mookie Betts is black – and MLB does little or nothing to promote him to young, African-American fans.
Teammate David Price, a rare black starting pitcher, is dumbfounded as to why Betts is ignored by MLB and advertisers.
“Can you believe that,’’ Price asked.
“How can someone as likable as Mookie Betts is, as good a person as he is, and as marketable as he is, doesn’t have a commercial?"
Twenty years ago, there were twice as many black players in the Majors. Fifteen black players were on the respective All-Sar teams. Last year, there were just seven in the All-Star Game.
MLB has one black manager, Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It has zero general managers.
“There’s a lot of work to be done, but we’re seeing a lot of change at the grass-roots level’’ said Tony Reagins, executive vice president of baseball and softball development in the Commissioner’s office.
Reagins is a former Anaheim Angels GM and became only the fourth in MLB history when hired in 2007.
“We’re getting there," Reagins said. "We’re moving in the right direction. We’re becoming more culturally relevant. I think what we’re seeing now is more a celebration of the game, an energy, the uniqueness of the game. You don’t see the celebration of a bat-flip in any other sport.’’
As a lifelong black person and baseball fan, I certainly want to celebrate seeing more black players on the field. This would also lead to seeing more black people in the stands.
The Reid Roundup
Now that Jackie Robinson Day has passed, it’s time to honor the late Curt Flood. Fifty years ago Flood stood alone when he challenged MLB’s reserve clause and sought what is now called free agency. He lost his Supreme Court case and was blackballed out of baseball. But he is the reason players make hundreds of millions of dollars today… Donald Trump says he will give Tiger Woods the Congressional Medal of Freedom. He can always find a way to serve himself… If there is a such thing as a “wake-up call” for a player or team, the Golden State Warriors received one on Monday night against the L.A. Clippers after blowing a 31-point lead and losing DeMarcus Cousins for the entire postseason with a quad injury… I’ve been to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. To see it in flames and its spire tumble was chilling… Second baseman Kolton Wong is the St. Louis Cardinals MVP so far this season… While his production is much higher, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (.226) had a lower batting average than right fielder Dexter Fowler (.239) after Monday’s loss to the Milwaukee Brewers… Former St. Louis Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce will host his annual football clinic at Gateway STEM High School on Saturday, June 29. The free, non-contact clinic offers opportunities for youths to hone their football skills, learn the value of sportsmanship and build self-esteem off and on the field. All participants receive a T-shirt and refreshments. Space is limited to the first 250 youth in each of the two sessions (8-10 years from 9-11 a.m. and 11-13 years from 12-2 p.m.). To register, visit www.isaacbruce.org.
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1