From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 26, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / June 26, 1999

Thoughts to consider while waiting for a tee time…Remember the complaints about Pinehurst #2 being the site for the U.S.Open? Those complaints have been quieted (well, except from John Daly) as much as a green side gallery. Few Opens have had the drama of this pastweekend’s.

You had a player looking for redemption (Payne Stewart) trying to hold off two of the game’s best young players (Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods) and probably its hardest worker (Vijay Singh) down the stretch. “Tin Cup?”This ending was better.

You had to wonder what Stewart was thinking walking to that 18th green, knowing he needed to make a 15-foot putt on a difficult USGA green to avoid a playoff with Mickelson. Were thoughts of the 1998 Open goingthrough his mind, an Open in which he lost a four-stroke lead to Lee Janzen in the final round? But here was a player who knew what Open pressure is all about. He hadalready had one title, in 1991, under his belt and few players probably have led the Open at one time or another than Stewart. That final putt, thefirst time an Open has been decided by a putt that long in its 99-year history, was set up by a 25-footer on 16 and a 6-iron tee shot that landed three feet from the pin on 17. How’s that for dealing with pressure?There are few classier players on the Tour than Stewart and now with three majors, there are now few better.

Speaking of class acts on the Tour, how about Mickelson? How many other players would be willing to leave an Open in which they are winning to see the birth of their child? Mickelson may not be a U.S. Open champion (yet)but he’s definitely a champion in life.

Predictions on Wimbledon? Pete Sampras (he’s got to be hungrier after watching Andre Agassi win the French Open) and Monica Seles (gut feeling).

The NBA could build a Hall of Shame with the bricks San Antonio and New York have been putting up during this year’s Finals. Until Wednesday night,neither team had been able to break the 90-point mark in a game yet. Atleast both teams have been equally inept so the games have been close.

But despite the low scoring, it’s been a pleasure watching the Knicks’ Allan Houston and the Spurs’ Tim Duncan. Both will be on the USA’s DreamTeam for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and both are deserving choices.

The NHL cannot catch a break. Here the league is, with Dallas and Buffaloplaying in one of the most intense, competitive Stanley Cup Finals in years while the NBA is having one of its most boring Finals and what happens? The season ends in controversy. Brett Hull’s winning goal in Game Six willrank up there with Don Denkinger’s safe call in Game Six (coincidence?) in the 1985 World Series in the list of controversial championship series plays. At least in the minds of Buffalo fans. Remember the old cartoon when Bugs Bunny played every position against a team named the Gorillas? That team consisted of players that looked like clones of Mark McGwire. That’s what the Cleveland Indians’ lineupreminds me of.

You have to wonder what is going through the minds of opposing pitchers when they face them. It’s one of those cases of “How do you want yourpoison?” Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez, David Justice, Jim Thome, Travis Fryman, Sandy Alomar Jr. Sounds like anAll-Star Game lineup.

And the scary thing is, the Indians have had their lineup intact only four times this season due to injuries and are still hitting over .300 andaveraging over 6.5 runs per game.

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