Rory McIlroy (7-1), world No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson (10-1) and four-time champion Tiger Woods (14-1, with Justin Rose) are listed as the odds-on-favorite to capture the 83rd Masters (Thursday-Sunday, ESPN and Channel 2). Three-time champ Phil Mickelson (30-1) isn’t that outside the box at age 48. But defending champion Patrick Reed, who held off Rickie Fowler for a one-shot victory and two shots over Jordan Spieth, is just 60-1 as of the April 6 posting on VegasInsider.com. ESPN golf Curtis Strange, who once won back-to-back U.S. Opens on two different courses, thinks the reason Reed may not be getting a lot of attention for a repeat is because of the way today’s game is made up with such deep talent. “I just think it’s tough to repeat anywhere on Tour. Just quite simply, because it’s a year removed. And to win on Tour, you have to be so precise and so exact and so perfect, just about, for four days now; that’s the obvious. The second here is that you have a great field, and you know, the best players in the world are all there, and to beat them two years in a row is just a difficult task. You know, you have to be — especially with these green complexes and the speed of the greens, you’ve just got to be spot on, as they say. Two years in a row is just a tough — it’s just tough to do.”
Neither Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson nor Seve Ballesteros ever won back-to-back. The last back-to-back winner: Woods in ’01 and ’02, and Nick Faldo (’89, ’90) is the only other one to do it. Then there’s Jordan Spieth, who won it in ’15 after finishing second in ’14 and ’16. He sits at 20-1. Sounds too good to pass up.
Although with McIlroy, having won the Players Championship major last month, he just needs a Masters win for a career grand slam. A year ago, McIlroy was in the final pariing with Reed. In 2011, he had a four-shot lead in Sunday’s final round and shot an 80.
McIlroy explains how his wife, Erica, put it all into perspective for him: “She put it this: It’s like when you are a kid and you go to Disneyland. You think it is the only place in the world. When you are at Augusta that week, it’s the only place in the world. You drink the punch, everyone is wearing their Masters gear. It’s like Disney with your mouse ears.
You leave on Sunday night and all of a sudden you snap out of it. The week passed so quickly and you were in a daze because of the whole Augusta thing. You have got to strip that all away. It’s a golf course, it’s a golf tournament.”
Meaning, if McIlroy wins, he’ll look right into the CBS cameras and say, “I’m going to Disneyland!”
To watch it:
Wednesday: The Par-3 contest, ESPN, noon
Thursday and Friday: ESPN, noon-to-4:30 p.m.
Saturday: Channel 2, noon to 4 p.m.
Sunday: Channel 2, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Masters.com has streaming as well as featured groups and coverage of Amen Corner.
Texas Tech guard Matt Mooney wants to make sure all of Lubbock is in the proper mood no matter what happens during the NCAA men’s college basketball national title game against Virginia (Monday, 6:20 p.m., Channel 2) in Minneapolis. He says this because of rioting that ensured after the Red Raiders’ semifinal win over Michigan State. “Don’t burn down Lubbock before we get back,” Mooney said, suppressing a smile before heading out for a final practice Sunday. “I know it was crazy out there. Just be safe.” The city of Lubbock said in a statement that hundreds of fans gathered near campus and “engaged in extremely dangerous, and disappointing, behavior that included vandalizing property.” Why do such a thing? It’s not as if they can act as if they’ve been there – the school never has since the program was launched in 1925 — not even when Bobby Knight tried to coach ‘em up (2001-’08, seven wins in five post-season appearances. Before this, the farthest Texas Tech ever got in a post-season was a third-place finish in the 2013 NIT.
Virginia (34-3), the only No. 1 seed to make it into the Final Four, has 114 years of basketball in its history and 23 NCAA Tournament appearances, last making the Final Four in 1984 – the year after Ralph Sampson left. The Cavaliers go off as a 1.5-point favorite against Tech (31-6), with the over-under at 117.5 in what should be a defensive battle where the winning team might be lucky to score 60 points. FiveThirtyEight.com gives Virginia a 55 percent chance to win vs. Tech’s 45 percent. Going into the tournament, Virginia was a +600 to win it all, same as Gonzaga and only trailing Duke. Texas Tech was the ninth-best pick at 18-1.
The Clippers (47-34) go limping into the NBA playoffs with one final chance to end a nasty-looking three-game losing streak. The way it sets up now, they’re struggling to break a tie with San Antonio for the No. 8 seed and avoid Golden State in the first round beginning this weekend. Finish No. 7, and it’ll be a series starting instead in Denver with some altitude sickness. Their final home game — at Staples Center vs. Utah, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket – will be their last gasp to make their own travel choices. Sunday’s 27-point loss at Golden State is going to leave a mark — it’s also interesting how the Warriors and Clippers may look on opposite ends of the Western Conference playoff bracket, but in the Pacific Division, they’re Nos. 1 and 2.
And by the way, the Lakers finish up against Portland at Staples Center, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
The 45th Grand Prix of Long Beach has a new title sponsor – it’s accurate to say Accura is the one, right? – and for the first time, there will be no Miss Grand Prix named to be the “podium girls.” Is this progress? Writes Melissa Evans in the LBPost.com: “(Race CEO Jim) Michaelian added that it was wrong that of the 20 finalists, only three were selected to participate in the weekend festivities and collect prize money, leaving, presumably, 17 weeping losers: ‘Women don’t like competition,’ he said. Oh, and they didn’t have a sponsor, since Tecate beer pulled out. So it’s really a money issue? “The activities didn’t stir quite the reaction that we had before,” he continued. “The interest level had diminished … Most importantly, socially and culturally it was a concept that had become outdated. We asked ourselves, is this really something we want to keep doing? The consensus was that it had run its course.”
This race may have done the same, some in Long Beach feel. Remember the days of the Formula One competition? Do the Indy Cars bring that same kind of international notoriety? Alexander Rossi won the pole and the race last year over the 85 laps on the streets of the city.
The official website: https://gplb.com/
The weekend of events culminates with the race Sunday: 1:30 p.m., NBCSN
A week in Southern California for the Milwaukee Brewers. It may mean nothing to you, but families for local natives Christian Yellich (the reigning NL MVP), Ryan Braun (a former NL MVP) and Mike Moustakas have this probably circled on their calendar. First comes three in Anaheim against the Angels – Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:07 p.m., Fox Sports West, then a day off, then three more at Dodger Stadium against the Dodgers on Friday at 7:10 p.m. (SNLA, Channel 5), Saturday at 6:10 p.m., (SNLA), Sunday at 1:10 p.m. (SNLA) in what will be heavily advertised as a rematch of the NL Championship Series, where the Dodgers won in Game 7 at Milwaukee.
Also this week for the Dodgers:
At St. Louis: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 4:45 p.m.; Thursday at 10:15 a.m., all on SportsNet LA
Also this week for the Angels:
At Chicago Cubs, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 11:20 a.m., Fox Sports West
- In college baseball, No. 1-ranked UCLA (23-6, 9-3 Pac-12), winning two of three at No. 2 Stanford last weekend, takes a break from conference by playing host to the Big West leading No. 18 UC Irvine (21-5) on Tuesday (Jackie Robinson Stadium, 6 p.m.) and then staying home for three against East Carolina: Friday, 6 p.m., a Saturday doubleheader at 2 and 6 p.m.
= No. 18 UC Irvine (25-1, 5-1 Big West) at No. 23 UC Santa Barbara (23-5, 2-1), Friday at 3 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
= USC (12-18, 5-7 Pac-12) vs. Cal State Fullerton (14-14), Dedeaux Field, Tuesday at 6 p.m.; at Utah, Thursday at 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
= Cal State Northridge (15-17, 3-3 Big West) at Long Beach State (4-26, 0-3), Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
= Loyola Marymount (20-11, 9-3 leading the WCC) at San Diego State, Tuesday at 6 p.m.; at Page Stadium vs. University of San Diego, Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
= Pepperdine (16-11, 7-5 WCC) vs. UC Santa Barbara, Tuesday at 3 p.m.; at BYU, Thursday and Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m.
- NHL playoffs start Wednesday with no reason to start thinking about trying to grow a playoff beard for Southern Californians.
How the series begin:
Columbus at Tampa Bay, Wednesday at 4 p.m.
Pittsburgh at N.Y. Islanders, Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., NBCSN
Toronto at Boston, Thursday at 4 p.m., NBCSN
Carolina at Washington, Thursday at 4:30 p.m., USA Network
St. Louis at Winnipeg, Wednesday at 5 p.m., NHL Network
Dallas at Nashville, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., USA Network
Vegas at San Jose, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., NBCSN
Colorado at Calgary, Thursday at 7 p.m., NBCSN
- In the MLS, LAFC takes on FC Cincinnati at Banc of California Stadium, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., YouTube TV, KVMD, while the Galaxy is at Philadelphia, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet.