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Kaz's Korner

No Mickelson in PGA; No Rich Strike in Preakness

I’m not talking about major league baseball, NFL football, the NBA or NHL playoffs, but there are two events coming up this week that are very significant in their respective sports—the second major golf tournament and the second horse race for the Triple Crown.

The PGA Championship begins tomorrow at Southern Hill Country in Tulsa while the Preakness Stakes is set for late Saturday afternoon at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore. But the major golf tournament will be without defending champion Phil Mickelson and the Preakness will be minus Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike.

Both of these winners have opted out of their respective big events for various reasons. Mickelson, who also missed the Masters last month after coming under fire for comments he made supporting a breakaway golf circuit financed by the Saudi Arabian government, also withdrew from the PGA Championship despite being the defending champion.

Mickelson told his unofficial biographer Alan Shipnuck that he was willing to overlook Saudi Arabia’s human right’s record to get the new league off the ground. “They’re scary mother(expletives) to get involved with, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates,” Mickelson said in November.

Earlier last week, the PGA Tour told its members they will not be allowed to play in the first of those LIV Golf Invitational Series events scheduled next month in London.

After winning the Kentucky Derby as an 80-1 longshot, his owner Rick Dawson and trainer Eric Reed “decided not to push the colt into the second leg of the Triple Crown after only two weeks of rest, especially after winning America’s most famous horse race,” according to an article appearing Friday in the New York Times.

If Rich Strike did not get into the Derby because he was an alternate due to his point total, he would have run in this week’s Preakness. “Should we run in the Derby, subject to the race outcome and the condition of our horse, we would give him more recovery time,” Dawson said in a statement.

Dawson said one possibility was to run the horse, nicknamed Ritchie, in the Belmont Stakes in New York, giving him five weeks between races.

Several Kentucky Derby entries will be in the Preakness field including Derby favorite Epicenter, who is favored Saturday at 3-1 and Simplification at 8-1. Secret Oath (11-2) and Early Voting (6-1) will both make Triple Crown debuts and could be the Horse of the Year contenders with a win.

The PGA Championship will begin tomorrow without Mickelson and still will be very exciting to watch during the four days.

Some of the “old favorites” expected to tee off in tomorrow’s first round include Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson, just to name a few.

Some of the “newer faces” will be Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Sunday’s Byron Nelson winner K.H. Lee, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Patrick Cantlay.

In last year’s PGA Championship, Mickelson outlasted Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen in one of the great major championships in the history of the sport.

Spieth will be trying for the sixth time for his career grand slam in this tourney. His 13th-place finish in 2019 was the closest he’s ever come in the PGA Championship. Tiger won the last time a major was played on this course 15 years ago and four-time major winner McIlroy is playing his best golf in years.

Plenty of wind is forecast this weekend in Tulsa which makes me want to pick Justin Thomas to win. And even though he’s considered the favorite, I’ll take Epicenter in the Preakness Saturday!!!

KWICKIES…I can’t believe that Drew Brees quit his job as an NFL football analyst and is considering “un-retiring” and playing again. After a year’s layoff, he may not even beat out Jameis Winston as the New Orleans Saints’ quarterback.

Those Boston Celtics are tough when the chips are down, whomping the Milwaukee Bucks 109-81 in Game 7 Sunday. The Celtics are 25-0 all-time in Game 7’s.

And while on the subject of the NBA Playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks really put it on my pick to win it all—the Phoenix Suns—123-90 to advance to the Western Conference finals.

The red-hot New York Mets were the last major league team to lose a series this year. They went into Monday’s game against St. Louis as the first-place team in the NL East Division by 5½ games over Philadelphia.

And speaking of the St. Louis Cardinals, the battery combination of pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina won their 203rd game Sunday 15-6 over the San Francisco Giants to move ahead of the battery combo of Warren Spahn and Del Crandall, whose 202 wins came from 1949-63.

The snakebit Cincinnati Reds got a no-hitter from rookie pitcher Hunter Greene and reliever Art Warren, but still lost the game to the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-0 Sunday. The Reds are the worst team in the majors with a 9-26 record through Sunday.

South Korean K.H. Lee fired a 9-under 63 Sunday to win the PGA Tour Byron Nelson and finish a shot ahead of hometown favorite Jordan Spieth. It was Lee’s second consecutive win in the Nelson and netted him $1,638,000 for his effort.

JUST BETWEEN US…The Houston Astros’ 12-game winning streak ended Saturday night when the Washington Nationals overpowered them 13-6 Saturday night. But a brand-new streak began Sunday when aging ace Justin Verlander carried another no-hit effort into the fifth inning, gave up a pair of singles and left the game leading 2-0 after throwing 107 pitches. The Astros got their two runs from slump-ridden Martin Maldonado, who belted a two-run homer. The Astros went on to belt three more home runs (Yuli Gurriel, Chas McCormick and Jose Altuve) and won 8-0. The five scoreless innings reduced Verlander’s skimpy earned run average to 1.38 for the season. Houston will conclude its three-game series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park today at 5:10 p.m. And if you’re lucky enough not to have Spectrum as your cable gestapo, you can watch the game at ATTSW.


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