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Phil Mickelson holds the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course, Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Kiawah Island, S.C. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Weekend winners

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. Oh my, what a track. It's not often — Augusta, Pebble, St. Andrew's come to mind — that the course is as big as any star. And granted the improbable history that happened over the weekend at the Pete and Alice Dye masterpiece was the big headline. But that glorious and treacherous piece of land on the Atlantic was the second-biggest star there.

Memphis Grizzlies. Wowser, how about those guts? Overtime win over Golden State to get into the postseason in a play-in overtime win on the road on Friday. A Game 1 upset over the No. 1 seeded Jazz on Sunday completes a big-time weekend for the Grinders from Memphis. While we are here, the NBA numbers will be better this weekend, and sorry, LeBron, the play-in game is here to stay considering that the Lakers-Warriors game last week was the most watched game since the pandemic started that was not in last year's bubbled-NBA Finals.

Trae Young. Yes, there are two NBA entries this weekend. (And there could be more considering that a) Luka played great — I think he's my next favorite player and b) Luke talked some big-time smack to big-time smack talker Patrick Beverley in his dominant Game 1 showing as the Mavs grabbed control of their series with the Clippers.) But that the Hawks point guard went to the Garden and showed out before a near-full house at MSG including a game-winner with less than a second left. Money. Side note: Dude has to do something with that hair. Egad. And this comes from a full-blown, mullet-donning 50-year-old.

Braves bats. Egad, can they play the Pirates every other weekend? OK, Austin Riley is killing it. Ronald Acuña is Ronald Acuña, and when you take a lot-to-1 leads into the late innings, even the Braves bullpen feels competent. (Especially against those wordless Pirates who are wretched.) Riley is now hitting .320 with nine homers and 21 RBIs.

MLB big shots. The Yankees and the Dodgers completed weekend sweeps — New York over the White Sox and somewhere erstwhile curmudgeon Tony LaRussa is blaming those new 'Talkie' motion pictures for distracting his guys — and moved into heated races atop two of the best divisions in the sport. The Yankees (28-19) are winners of six straight and are still looking up in the standings to the 29-19 Red Sox and the 29-19 Rays, who have won 10 in a row. The Dodgers have won seven in a row, and are 29-18, which is the best record in baseball and in the NL West as the Padres, who have won nine straight, are 30-17.

 

Weekend losers

The Atlanta restaurant LeBilboquet. Hawks Hall of Fame and Atlanta sports royalty Dominique Wilkins tweeted this over the weekend: "In my many years in the world, I've eaten at some of the greatest restaurants in the world, but never have I felt prejudice or been turned away because of the color of my skin, until today in #atlanta In @LeBilboquetAtl #turnedawaybecauseimblack." Context matters, here too, because while we were not there and do not know the misunderstandings or the circumstance, we know that Dominique has never so much as whispered accusations and allegations of this magnitude. That matters. If Spike Lee cried the wolf that is this R-word — remember Lee publicly has started multiple times that the movie Hoosiers is racist because the mighty Bears of South Bend Central are coached by a Black man and they mismanaged the last-second scenarios — well, that's one thing. When the Human Highlight Film does, it commands my attention.

Brooks Koepka. Yes, he was in contention. Yes, he was battling through an achy knee. But you only get so many of these swings, you know? And while we're here, and this is crazy to think about, but Koepka's missed birdie putt on the final hole — or any of his wayward swings in a final round that certainly looked as if Brooks was nervous — cost him $240,000, which was the difference between solo second and the tie for third. And his post-round news conference made him sound like a whiner if you ask me. (And while we're here, world No. 3-ranked player Jon Rahm was equally as bitter after his finish, which ended with a disappointing bogey-bogey finish Saturday. Here are the details on his antics, which lasted one question with one snarky answer. As I've always said, give me honesty and realness, but Rahm's Saturday rant preceded a Sunday 68, so Rahm threw a hissy-fit in the middle of a top-10 finish at a major championship in which he made more than $260,000, Can we get a little perspective here, Jon? And while we're here, are these kinds of outbursts going to be more frequent considering the prize purse the Tour is going to split among the top 10 players in terms of star power? Because you can get as many Twitter hits and social media impressions by being a jack wagon as you can by being decent to some reporter trying to find a different angle.)  

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer. Hey, I know there are a lot of feelings out there about the virus and how to act as we strive for progress, herd immunity and normalcy. Whitmer, if we're being honest, is leading arguably the state that has handled this pandemic the worst. Maybe in the world. She and the public health officials have continued guidelines and restrictions, including no more than 6 people at a table at a restaurant. Well, a social media photo over the weekend showed Gov. Whitmer at a tight table with at least 12 people, all unmasked.  "Yesterday, I went with friends to a local restaurant. As more people arrived, the tables were pushed together. Because we were all vaccinated, we didn't stop to think about it", the governor said in a statement. "In retrospect, I should have thought about it. I am human. I made a mistake, and I apologize." This is about the hypocrisy, not the hysteria or the gotcha moment. If vaccinated adults want to have a dozen folks at a dive bar for a CoCola, then go.  And I know we kicked around some perceptions and policies of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week, and I am a much bigger fan of his than several others here. But read this Reuters story on Whitmer's gaffe and compare the kid-gloves treatment she gets compared to any number of hit pieces — from 60 Minutes on down to everyday Florida fish wrappers — on DeSantis without the blatant hypocrisy of Whitmer.

NASCAR. It may not be fair since I have not watched a lot of this season, which by all accounts has been quite resurgent in a lot of ways. The TV numbers have been better, the field has been competitive and deep, and the racing has been, according to those whose opinions on the matter I listen to, has been aces. But then we go and race in the rain, and I get the desire and the goal. It's different and it combats the dreaded Monday conclusion which hurts the tracks and the tracking numbers of viewers. But Sunday's wild and wet decisions were beyond cutting edge and crashed straight into the wall of stupid. Low visibility and slick conditions made Sunday's race on a road course in Texas look like an soggy 5 p.m. drive around 285. No thanks.

The NBA schedule. Hey, I get the TV positioning, but when the Hawks play Game 1 on a Sunday and a Game 3 in the same locale without travel considerations on a Wednesday, the breaks are too long. TNT has multiple platforms; so too does ESPN.

 

A PGA for the ages

Where do we start? Maybe with the mea culpa of after lamenting that the PGA Championship never feels like a legit major — and even being questioned about it in the mailbag — we got a timeless Sunday afternoon for the ages.

And the ageless.

It was, in a word, perfect. It was the crowds and confidence. It was fans and fear. It was poise vs. pressure, and every golfer in contention took a turn with each.

It was a world-class course hosting world-class competitors, and in the end, it was a 50-year-old golfer who has been celebrated as much for his grace in major failures as the glory of his major victories.

Phil Mickelson, became the face of the sport (again) in a sporting moment that in a lot of ways became the image of our return to normalcy.

The galleries were grand and the noise and tension as real as the hair on Spy's head. Or what's left of it.

The scene at 18 with fans flocking to experience the history of the moment was not lost on anyone, and the energy from the atmosphere was as clear on Whiskey Hill as it was from the fairway at Kiawah.

And Mickelson was the maestro for all of it.

We love sports for so many reasons, but high on that list is the chance to see something we've never seen, or could have never predicted.

That was Mickelson's moment Sunday. He has made news recently as he slid out of the world top 100 and that he needed a special invite from the USGA to continue his chase for that elusive U.S. Open next month.

Now? After his two-shot win at the terror that was Kiawah, he will be among the betting favorites as well as the emotional favorites. The US Open will be at Torrey Pines, in Mickelson's hometown of San Diego and a course he knows as well as you what this morning conversation will be posted.

And rightly so, he was magical this weekend, handling everything from the renowned young guns to the pressure to Koepka's pursuit to the conditions to the "What if" legacy questions that had to be lingering for a guy that until Sunday certainly had them hovering above a Hall of Fame career.

Yes, Mickelson was a Hall of Famer before this weekend, but now, his legacy has the exclamation point it so longingly needed.

Before, he was the guy with six runners-up at US Opens and 11 second-place finishes in major championships. He was a great, great player, but was he all-time great? And in ways the questions could be directed or summarized more as "What would have been if he and Tiger hadn't overlapped" and "Did all his close calls mean he actually underachieved in some ways for all of that world-class shot-making abilities?"

Now the legacy is cemented. He's the oldest major champion ever and the author of arguably one of the four or five most improbable and magical major championship victories in the game's history.

That list will forever start with Jack in 1986 and Tiger in 2019 at Augusta, and then you can add John Daly at the 1991 PGA in which he was the eighth and last alternate to get into the field and went on to win the tournament.

And Phil — on this course, amid this field and against Father Time himself — certainly has a spot in that conversation.

Now and forever.        
   
 

This and that

— OK, mixed weekend on the picks fronts, and we're going to need to figure out a way to get some of the weekend picks out there, you know. Like mid-round tournament leaders and live odds boost. For example, Devin Booker scoring more points than LeBron on Sunday got plus-140 odds, which made it a fun (and profitable) pick. We made some beneficial in-round golf picks throughout the weekend, too. And the Braves? Oh, thank you sweet Pirates. We're at minus-2.5 units officially here, and we'll go under Buckers-Heat 223 and over 227 in Portland-Denver, each for a unit. Deal? Deal. And baseball is a streaky game with lots of good teams streaking as we speak. Side note: Will Ferrell's streaking scene in Old School is comedy gold.    

— Side question for the group: As you watch these NBA playoffs and see the striking number of UK players making dazzling plays and doing incredible things, shouldn't Coach Cal have more than one banner for the last decade? Consider this: UK has arguably the best player on both rosters in the Phoenix (Devin Booker) and Lakers (Anthony Davis) series, the best player on the Knicks (Julius Randle, who is joined by multiple other UK alum in New York's rotation), the second- and fourth-best players in Miami (Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro) meaningful role players with the Clippers (DeMarcus Cousins), Mavericks (Willie Cauley-Stein) and Sixers (Tyrese Maxey), the most devastating injured player in the playoffs (Denver's Jamal Murray) and the best player on several non-playoff teams like Minnesota (Karl-Anthony Towns), OKC (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander), Sacramento (De'Arron Fox) and Houston (John Wall). That's as much talent as Saban has put in the NFL, no?

— One more, and if you were watching live like I was, how about that flop LeBron took when he was — GASP — blocked out by Chris Paul? I know he's a world-class drama king — he was pretty good playing himself in Trainwreck — but Chris Paul would not only need the 2x4 that Hacksaw Jim Duggan carried to the ring, he would actually need Hacksaw Jim Duggan to help if Paul was going to actually hurt LeBron. Egad.

— The New York Times published a very interesting Pfizer study on who is and who isn't taking the vaccine, and rather than breaking it down by party or skin color, the most consistent overlaps were by class gap. Which points to something that I have believed for a long time, that the biggest color divide in this country does not hinge on Black, what, brown or yellow. It swings on green, because my life is a heck of more like a college-educated Black father on the other side of the county (or the country), working an office job and sending his kids to public school than it is to Tim Kelly's, and that has nothing to do with the R after my name or the D after Kelly's.

— Another thing we talked about last week was that McCallie is requiring vaccines, and the hot button issue that is and will be. And I know there are some directly invested and passionate folks about this issue and that this one directly impacts their day-to-day life. In theory, big picture and with almost no expiation, my view on this is covered somewhat in both sides in this story and in this debate. An Instagram account called Medical Freedom for McCallie has begun and started a lot of back and forth on the topic, including a lot of frustrations from parents, who feel and support, big picture, this post on the site: "@medical_freedom_for_mccallie does not take a pro or anti vaccine position," a recent post read. "Our position is solely rooted in the rights and responsibilities of parents to make all medical decisions for their children. These health decisions are highly personal and private matters, and should be made without pressure from governments, businesses, and institutions." I have a hard time arguing with that, and I have every intention of getting both my kids vaccinated when they hit the age windows. (Our 12-year-old has had the first shot.) But I also do not fault McCallie, as a private institution in a country that should protect the decisions and the rights to make those decisions for private entities, making rules and requiring it if they believe it is better for their institution for whatever reasons. Not unlike they believe it's better to not have female students and to wear coats and ties.

— Here's Saturday's A2 column in which I got to share the story of Rick and Lisa, who were married last week in Room 10 of the near-ICU at Erlanger because Lisa's mother is suffering from terminal cancer. And the Mrs. took some a-MAZE-ing photos, so there's that.


Today's questions

OK, other than Phil Mickelson, who won the weekend? Who lost it?

(Want one more amazing golf stat: Collin Morikawa won the 2020 PGA championship at the age of 23 in his second major start; Phil won Sunday three weeks shy of his 51st birthday in his 112th major. Because, golf.)

(OK, one more Phil stat: Phil's first win was the 1991 Northern Trust Open, and the 30-year span is the longest in the history of golf. And who's to say Phil won't keep adding to that record in the months or years to come.)

(Yes, I have one more: In the 456 major championships since the 1860 Open Championship, there has been one 50-year-old major champ. Wanna guess who that is?)

(Heck, let's do one more: While his gap on the PGA Tour is record-setting between first and most-recent win, Mickelson's gap in overall wins is not even close to that since he won 10 months ago in Missouri. On the Champions Tour.)

As for multiple choice Monday, let's stay with the above four tournament wins.

In the last 35 years, which major championship win was the most improbable?

> Phil at Kiawah on Sunday

> Jack at Augusta in 1986

> Tiger at Augusta in 2019

> John Daly at the PGA Championship in 1991.

As for today, May 24, let's review.

Bob Dylan is 80 today.

John C. Riley is 56 today. What's his Rushmore, and if you ask me, dude is pretty underrated

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