The Back Nine: A weekend to celebrate sports

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Florida wide receiver Jacob Copeland (15) dances with his team after the Orange & Blue Game on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Orange beat Blue 60-35. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend with plenty to celebrate whether you are a fan of Tiger Woods or Gator baseball or UF tennis or an injury-free spring football game.

10. I might have mentioned a debate we had about whether or not Virginia coming back from being the first No. 1 seed to lose in the first round to winning the whole thing was one of the greatest sports stories ever. Turns out, it wasn’t even the best sports story of the week. Seriously, have you ever seen an athlete happier to win something, anything, than Tiger Woods on Sunday? The dude has been through a lot — and let’s not skate over the fact that some of it was his own fault — and there were times we thought he might be done. Heck, he thought he was done. Instead, he was smart and patient and the best player in the field for four days. The hug he gave his son was pretty special and the one he slammed on my friend Glenn Greenspan, his PR man, might have broken a couple of ribs. The Masters was everything we thought it could be. And for that, I thank you.

11. So there are two questions that I have about the Masters. Actually, three. First, do we now think that Tiger can catch Jack Nicklaus’ record for majors. “I’m shaking in my boots,” Nicklaus told the Golf Channel. He was probably half kidding. It feels like Woods, if he stays healthy (and that’s a big if) might win the Masters three more times before he’s done. He knows how to win on that course. But he also had the Sunday lead at the British Open and he’s playing at a high level. So if I had to bet, I’d bet he at least catches Nicklaus. Second, if the Masters can move the biggest day of their tournament up to the morning to avoid the rain, why can’t the lunkheads who look at radar and still schedule baseball and softball regional games during the peak rain hours adjust as well? I’m being serious. And third, what was with the gum-chewing? Both Tiger and Phil were chomping through this Masters and could use some lessons in chewing with your mouth closed. Tiger said it helps control his appetite. I didn’t know that was an issue.

12. Florida’s spring game was about what you expected it to be, which is why it doesn’t bother anyone when there are pretend plays in a pretend game. Although I would not include a Lito Sheppard pick-six in the stats. I saw Chris Doering rushing to get back up to the booth after his touchdown catch. “I was afraid I’d drop it or get hurt,” he said. Congrats to winning coach Bryan Kornblau, who gave the best post-game presser in the history of spring games. We saw what we hoped to see, a pretty efficient offense that wasn’t pushed by the defense. Here’s the thing — we’ll know by the end of September what kind of team this is. Even with the two cupcakes and an early open date, we’ll know after Miami, at Kentucky and Tennessee. We’ll know that this team either still has a ways to go or that it’s ready to compete for a championship.

13. There was a lot of consternation when Andrew Nembhard declared for the draft because most Gator fans don’t see a guy who is ready for the NBA. But it doesn’t matter what you or I see. It matters what the scouts see. He’ll get his chance to show them and just going through the camps should help his overall game. My gut is that he wants to find out where he stands and it’s a great opportunity. If he comes back, great. If he stays in, it’s his life. Hopefully, he deals with the noise well because not all of it will be good. If he does go, I wonder if it affects Joe Lunardi’s early bracketology, which has Florida as an eight seed. It’s April. Take it to the bank.

14. You probably thought Florida’s season was about to hit the bottom of the well when it looked like the Gators were about to lose their second home SEC series down 4-3 in the ninth before Jordan Butler’s walk-off homer gave the Gators some life. Now we get to see if that potential spark can be fanned into a full-blown blaze because the Gators travel to LSU this weekend, tough environment for a team that has struggled to get anybody out on the road. Kevin O’Sullivan hopes the competitive light comes on for his team before it’s too late. We’ll see.

15. The Florida men’s tennis team has been pretty good this season. How good? Well, they just finished a 12-0 conference season and outscored their SEC opponents 70-14 in sweeping to the title. That’s dominant, peeps. Next up, the men host the SEC Tournament here in Gainesville. But let’s pause to remember that this was one of the great regular seasons in any sport in Florida sports history.

16. You know, I feel like we don’t know enough about the whole Will Wade thing to understand what he’s doing or what LSU is doing. It seems amazing to think he could be coaching in the SEC next year. I also know what was basically his starting five has turned pro. At any rate, the story he told LSU officials must have been a doozy because they bought it.”Yeah, when I said we made Javonte Smart a strong-ass offer, I was referring to the, uh, um, oh, that we would let him feed Mike the Tiger. Yeah. That’s the ticket.”

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Serena Williams, who was watching on Sunday — “I am literally in tears watching @TigerWoods this is Greatness like no other. Knowing all you have been through physically to come back and do what you just did today? Wow Congrats a million times! I am so inspired thank you buddy.” Perhaps the most amazing thing isn’t that Tiger won the Masters for the first time in 14 years but that it felt like the whole world was pulling for him.

18. I really appreciate all of the suggestions for stuff to watch during rehab. I award you this playlist:

• “Soul Fight” by The Revivalists and thanks for the suggestion from a certain emeritus athletic director.

• “Wake Me When It’s Over” from The Cranberries final album with the late Dolores O’Riordan.

• “Raise Well” by Luke Sital-Singh.

• “The Long Way Home” by John Paul White.

• And for an old one, “Hold On To Your Ego” by the Beach Boys. So much better than “I Know There’s An Answer.”

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I will chime in on Andrew Nembhard’s future. While he has great court vision, no doubt, it did appear (to me)this past b-ball season that Andrew has more slow twitch (type I) muscle fibers, than the fast twitch (type II) muscle fibers presently. Nembhard’s slow off the bounce, and he will get picked more than a strawberry bush in season, if he goes pro this soon. His inability to beat other college guards off the bounce would be my main concern, and my goal to improve upon this off season ‘IF’ I were Andrew. But I am not, so here’s to ”your future,” young man. Best wishes!

  2. 1) Golf? Really? Listen, I’m glad Woods rebounded and won the Masters, good for him, but golf? Really?

    2) A huge CONGRATS to the UF Tennis men. Awesome record and dominating season. They SHOULD be commended. Go win it all!

    3) I see the Football team somewhere in the middle between “a ways to go” and “competing for championships”, leaning more to the “competing for championships” end. 10 regular season wins is very attainable. With a little luck and a win over UGA, perhaps 11 wins.

    4) Nemhardt should test the waters but not take the plunge. He isn’t ready for the pro’s. Despite that, I said we’d have at least 14 losses this past season, we had 16, and got ragged pretty hard for it on these boards by the fan-boys and sunshine-pumpers, but in most every sport, it all comes down to coaching and player development. Nothing will change in that department in 2019 – 2020. I see at least 14 losses again for our basketball team next season.

    5) Serena Williams was brought to tears? Who cares what that vapid, self-absorbed, classless brat’s opinion is, or have we forgotten her tasteless remarks when she got whipped by teenage prodigy Naomi Osaka?

  3. No matter how much he wins, Woods will always be a lying, cheating POS. Just in case people have forgotten:

    https://nypost.com/2013/11/24/the-night-tiger-woods-was-exposed-as-a-serial-cheater/

    As for Nemhardt, how little does Mike White know his players? He runs two other guards out of town, claiming they weren’t team players, celebrating Nemhardt as a true team player devoted to the program and his team mates, and then Nemhardt bursts out laughing as he screams, “Team player? Cares about program? Psyche!!!! I don’t even plan on being here next year, you idiot! I am going to the NBA, baby!!”

    White: Who are you?

    Nemhardt: The kid who played you for a fool.

  4. With the way our fans have constantly been critical of Coach White, I could see him winning 23-24 games next year and leaving for another college job. Following the greatest coach in a prgrams history is tough. Not sure he will ever be accepted in Gainesville. Go Gators

  5. Nembhard is doing what a lot of highly rated Freshmen and Sophs do now. They have the great opportunity to put their name in for the NBA draft w/o hiring an agent, and get the same feedback as the ones that do get sucked in by agents, but can still go back. I really just see him taking advantage of it to find out what the pro scouts are looking for in his game to get better. If they tell him that he’s got the tools they need and can get better while getting paid and will get drafted then he may go. They may tell him to work on A,B, and C, and if those really progress, he would be looked at as a 1st rounder next year, and he’ll be back. My only hope is that he listens to the people actually involved with the NBA team’s decisions, and not those who think they know. But from what it seems to me, he seems to be a kid with his head screwed on straight and is looking for a future career and not just a quick six-figure paycheck. I expect to see him in Gator orange and blue next year.

  6. I’m not a Tiger hater, just a golf fan, but what I will never understand, playing some competitive golf myself is:
    (1) Competitive Golf, at the highest level, is the hardest “mind game” of all time. Considering how Tiger super nuked his nice family, how could he ever get his mind clear enough to play like he does??? Normal people could never do it.

    (2) Both Saturday and Sunday drives, how was he not stymie by the pines??? Only once, #10 Sunday, did one of his off line drives not leave him a clear view to the hole. If it had been me, three of those balls would have been between roots and up against a pine, for a big number.

    (3) I hope Tiger is a repentant man, etc., he sure doesn’t broadcast it. His family will continue to need much prayer as his kids reach the age of “Dad, why?” All those times, “why”. We all need forgiveness for sure, BUT that doesn’t mean we don’t have to live out the consequences of our actions.

    It was a great golf comeback achievement, but I can’t ignore the big picture. It clearly doesn’t matter to most people. Interest Golf story, but that’s all…not a hero of mine.

  7. I skim the golf news, especially about Woods. Bowling and golf are two sports where you have to be quiet while the player sizes up the shot, but at least in bowling you can holler your ass of at the ball as it goes down the lane. Nembhard doesn’t remind me at all of Bradley Beal. so there’s that.

    Now with my birthday coming up this Saturday, here is my 4/20 playlist. Wonder if HBC SOS would like it.

    The Joker, by The Steve Miller Band

    You Don’t Know How It Feels, by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

    Willin;/Don’t Bogart That Joint, My Friend, by Little Feet

    One Toke over the Line, by Brewer & Shipley for my oldie, 1970

    and for my REAL oldy: The Reefer Man, by Cab Calloway in 1932