The Back Nine has been battling a sinus infection, a bad knee and travel fatigue but you have to gut it out this time of year. Please hold the sarcastic concern, peeps.
10. Is it just me or is everybody kind of ready to get on with their lives? On Sunday after coming home from covering Florida’s SEC gymnastics win, I had two TVs going, Gator baseball on my laptop and softball on GameTracker. Meanwhile, I’m texting Jeff Cardozo in Oxford and trying to look up box scores from Friday for my radio contest. It’s time for all of us to take a week off, pay bills and do the yardwork we’ve been putting off. And then we’re right back at it with the Final Four and the Masters.
11. OK, so I didn’t get much right in my bracket but I will take some credit for having Butler in my Final Four. If only I could remember why I picked the Bulldogs. I liked that they were on a long winning streak and I liked the way they play defense. But logically, there wasn’t a sound reason, just a hunch. I gotta say, Butler is my team to root for next weekend now that I have had my favorite eliminated — whoever is playing Kentucky.
12. It has been a crazy tournament, the kind we were used to for so long before chalk raised its ugly head and started giving us favorites in the Final Four. While I was watching Kentucky lose, I saw SEC commish Mike Slive at courtside and started thinking how if the Wildcats won it all that would be seven of the last nine national titles in the two biggest sports for the SEC. Cha-ching. Another thought that I’m sure crossed your mind watching Michigan State-Tennessee — Florida beat both of them. And do you think people realize that Tom Izzo is one of the best coaches in the history of the game or are you so repulsed by the style of play that you can’t bring yourself to say it? All I know is he has won four NCAA games this time around by a total of 13 points.
13. How clutch was Brian Johnson Sunday? Oh, wait, I forgot that I’m not talking to a crowd that follows college baseball. After Florida went out to Oxford and lost twice, it was Johnson who was handed the ball. When he left in the sixth inning, he had not allowed a run and Florida was comfortably ahead. Ole Miss is one of the SEC’s better teams, so it was important for Florida to get out of there without getting swept. Speaking of clutch, Florida lost to Alabama in softball and trailed 4-0 in the second game before scoring seven runs in the last three innings. The big blow was Aja Paculba’s two-run homer in the eighth. UF then blew a 9-5 lead in the third game on Sunday but a pair of solo homers in the seventh gave the Gators a big win. Florida has now hit 56 homers this season and is well on its way to obliterating its own SEC record of 86. I remember when a softball home run was a big deal around here.
14. There were fewer than 6,000 fans in attendance in Jacksonville for the SEC Gymnastics Championships, which was a bit disappointing. What was a little surprising is that the meet didn’t attract very many of the Jacksonville Gator fans and alums. In fact, there weren’t a lot of Jacksonville people at the meet unless they knew Ashanee Dickerson. Most of the people in the crowd were hardcore supporters of their particular school’s gymnastics programs or were related to the gymnasts. Still, Florida did have enough support to help fuel UF to the win.
15. Chris Couch has returned from the dead. Most of you dismissed the former Gator golfer after his second shoulder surgery, but he is back and playing really well. His T-4 finish at Bay Hill Monday earned Couch more than $200K and pushed his earnings for the year to more almost $600,000. He needs to earn $850,000 by the middle of the summer to keep his Tour card because he is playing on a medical hardship exemption.
16. The Back Nine teed it up for the final event at Ironwood, the 23rd annual BJ Classic which is a benefit for the families of slain police officers. The bulldozers were there, ready to crank it up today as the course shuts down for a few months. We’re not much of a golf town as it is, but without one of the few public courses, we’re really a bad golf town this summer. The improvements should make Ironwood more playable, especially after rain. It has crippled the course in the past. I don’t know that I will enjoy it. Retirement from the game is a real possibility because of a knee that only allows me to hit a 7-iron 135 yards.
17. You know, the more I think about it, the more I am convinced Tiger Woods is sitting in his poker room at his home grinning at all the pundits who are convinced he can’t win at August in his first appearance since, well, since, uh, what do we call it? The Happening? The Revelation? The Perkins Incident? Anyway, I bet he’s sitting back grinning because he has a little Tim Tebow in him. You tell him he can’t do something and watch out. OK, that’s the only thing Tebow and Tiger have in common. But they both like to prove people wrong. And what better story than coming back to win the biggest tournament in the world?
18. Friend of mine got after the Back Nine for not recommending any music he had ever heard of before. He passed along this — “Mr Bones” by Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch and Fats Kaplin. The Back Nine gives it two thumbs up. Also, try “Shark’s Tooth” by Archie Bronson Outfit, and for the old schoolers let’s go “Warmth of the Sun” by the Beach Boys.