PORT ARTHUR —
If Chris Stroud wins his first PGA Tour tournament Sunday, it won’t be one of those deals where he he’s sitting in the clubhouse with a score and the leader collapses. Though he’s only one shot off Matt Kuchar’s lead, 19 players are within four strokes. Somebody is likely to come out of the pack with a low number. The prediction here is that Stroud, who will be teeing off at 12:55 p.m. in the next to last group with Boo Weekly, is going to have to close with at least a 66 to hoist the trophy. And I honestly believe he’s up to it. When we talked earlier this week, primarily about an upcoming benefit tournament for Belle Oaks pro Bryan Jackson, Chris was as confident as I’ve ever heard him. He said that he felt his first tournament win was going to come on a course like Colonial, Harbour Town or TPC Sawgrass, where shotmaking was more important than length . . . For those who didn’t see Stroud’s birdie putt on the 18th hole Saturday afternoon, it was almost like his coming out moment on national TV. CBS’ Jim Nantz, whose ear I’ve bent many times about TV not doing Southeast Texas’ favorite golfer right, has told me repeatedly that he’d take good care of him when the right opportunity presented itself. Nantz kept his word Saturday afternoon, going on at length about Stroud, Lamar, his hometown of Groves, the Golden Triangle and a certain sportswriter. When Chris does win, and let’s hope it’s today, Nantz is the guy I want on the call . . . One final thought on today’s closing round. Chris will be trying to follow in the footsteps of Beaumonter Bruce Lietzke in winning the Colonial. Lietzke was a winner there twice — in 1980 and in 1992. He beat Ben Crenshaw by one shot with a 9-under 271 in ‘80 and dispatched Corey Pavin in sudden death in ‘92, after both shot 13-under 267.
Hardly a week goes by when the legend of Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel doesn’t grow. Latest eye-opening news on “Johnny Football” comes courtesy of SMU head coach June Jones, a former NFL quarterback, and West Coast QB guru George Whitfield Jr. Jones, as reported by Charean Williams in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, was quoted as saying Manziel is the greatest college football player he’s ever seen. Not one of the greatest, but the greatest. Then along comes Whitfield to talk about what Manziel did in San Diego during his “Zorro drill” in which a quarterback is blindfolded, takes a three, five or seven-step drop and throws the ball in the direction of a receiving clapping his hands. Manziel completed an astonishing 27 of 29 throws, prompting Whitfield to say, “I think he just proved he has the best antenna in football.” . . . Lest there be any doubt the Southeastern Conference collects far more top level talent than any other league in college football, consider some numbers from the recent NFL draft. The SEC had 63 players drafted, or more than double the ACC, which was second with 31. Even more stunning was the fact a combination of four SEC schools — Alabama (9), LSU (9), Florida (8) and Georgia (8) — had more players drafted (34) than any conference. Another amazing SEC draft tidbit concerned the number of players from the 2011 BCS championship game between Alabama and LSU that have now been drafted. Thirty-one players from those teams were selected in the last two drafts. And that number figures to go up in the next two drafts.
Gotta give oft-criticized Houston Astros owner Jim Crane major props for the recent wheeling and dealing that dumped George Postolos as team president, brought in Nolan Ryan’s son Reid to replace him and added Larry Dierker as a special consultant. Reid Ryan, to be sure, has much to prove about running a major league baseball team, but I have to believe hiring him was the first step to luring Nolan away from the Rangers and into a key role with the Astros. As for Dierker, a very bright guy who silenced a lot of skeptics when he was Astros manager, nothing but good can come from his input. Add in Houston’s sharp GM Jeff Luhnow, who learned about developing a farm system from baseball’s best in St. Louis, and Crane is assembling a sound foundation . . . Steve Collazo is on the road again, involved in yet another Athletes in Action basketball crusade. The former PN-G and Lamar football standout, who went on to make his mark as a high school basketball coach, departed the United States Friday as head coach of an AIA team that will be touring in Moldova (part of the old Soviet Union) for two weeks. It’s the seventh time, and fifth as a head coach, for Collazo to be asked to participate with an AIA team. Other tours have taken him to Brazil, South Africa, Chile and Russia. Prior to Friday’s departure for Moldova, Steve conducted a four-day camp with his players assigned to his team in Xenia, Ohio.
After his very stupid and very racist “fried chicken” remark toward Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia better hope that he’s in the opposite wave of tee times from Woods at the U.S. Open next month in Philadelphia. Woods may be a polarizing figure, but his galleries are large, loyal and boisterous. Garcia would do well to bring ear plugs and blinders. Getting paired with Tiger would be a worse nightmare for Sergio than hitting two balls in the water on the 71st hole of the Players Championship. And, by the way, don’t cut him too much slack for what some have called a heartfelt apology. It was far from that until TaylorMade-adidas, Garcia’s equipment sponsor to the tune of $16 million, got his attention . . . You have to think there’s some serious squirming going on at the upper levels of Baylor University, after female basketball star Brittney Griner was quoted as saying she was asked to keep her sexuality private during her college years so as to not create recruiting issues for the Lady Bears. As detailed by Time magazine last week, Baylor’s Student Policies and Procedures has a “Statement on Human Sexuality” that leaves little doubt about the Baptist school’s stance on homosexual behavior. And the New York Times pointed out that Baylor had a member of its business school advisory board removed when he was learned in 2005 that he was gay. On the other hand, that guy didn’t help Baylor win a national championship. What is it they say about “winning cures everything?”
No surprise about the Houston Texans being awarded Super LI in 2017. That’s been a done deal since the Florida legislature knocked out Houston’s only challenger by refusing to appropriate $350 million of taxpayer money to upgrade Met-Life Stadium. Though the NFL did commit to Houston in 2017, it wouldn’t lock in a date. Why? Because the greedy lords who oversee professional football are hoping to have come up with a way to force an 18 game regular season on the players. That, of course, could push the game back as far as the third weekend in February . . . If Kevin Durant was not already the all-time most popular athlete in the state of Oklahoma, he went over the top with his actions in the aftermath of the devastating tornado that flattened the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore last week. Durant, who was out of town at the time the tornado hit, immediately pledged $1 million of his own money to help the victims. Then he rushed back to Oklahoma and spent part of a day mingling, comforting and signing autographs for the victims. What a classy move by an always high-character guy . . . Michael Jordan must have done a double take when his Chicago Bulls coach, Phil Jackson, answered a question about which player he’d take to start a franchise, if he could pick anybody who ever played in the NBA. Jackson said he’d take Bill Russell. Then he said he’d flip a coin between Jordan and Kobe Bryant for the second pick. Five years from now, I’m thinking LeBron James would be the second pick. Maybe even the first.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
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