RacketBoy Writing: Best Nintendo 64 Racing Titles

My latest piece for RacketBoy was published this morning, and it’s a pretty long read. When you have a chance, check it out:

http://www.racketboy.com/retro/nintendo/n64/the-n64-racing-game-library

Is John Daly finding his way back?

John Daly by Keith Allison, on Flickr

 
Over the winter, a colleague of mine suggested that we start a different kind of golf fantasy game. The idea was simple enough: Get six people together, and do a draft. Trading and dropping players would be allowed, with total money at the end of the year determining the winner. Admittedly, my team has struggled this year, led by my first round pick, Jason Day. This week the stop on the PGA Tour is the last major of the year, the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s famed Ocean Course, and I made a pair of pickups. First, I scooped Alexander Noren, who’s having a tremendous year on the European Tour, and I also grabbed former PGA Championship winner John Daly, who won the 1991 PGA at Crooked Stick as the ninth alternate when Nick Price withdrew.
 
Now, it’s likely a commentary on the current state of my roster that I resorted to picking up Daly this week, but he’s very quietly put together his best season in years. With his T-5 last week at the Reno-Tahoe Open, Daly picked up his fifth T-20 worldwide this season. From 2006-2011, Daly finished in the top-20 a total of four times. Making things even better for Daly is that if he can put together a couple of solid finishes in the next few weeks, he could find himself inside the top-125 of the PGA Tour Money List, which would give him his tour card for next season. He currently sits about $150,000 behind Rod Pampling for the 125th spot, which would be easily made up with a good finish at Kiawah. Compare his season to this time last year, and Daly has jumped 396 spots in the World Rankings to his current spot of 219. Considering Daly hasn’t had his card since 2006, he definitely has more to play for than the average golfer this week.
 
Daly is one of the most polarizing figures in sports. Loved by fans and sponsors, he’s one of the biggest draws the PGA Tour has. There are few golfers who move the needle like Daly, but his behaviour on and off the course over the years has been troubling at best and destructive at its worst. The issues with alcohol, gambling, drugs and petulant on-course conduct are well documented, but none of these things have hurt him in the popularity department. It’s this popularity that has allowed Daly to receive more second chances than just about anyone in sports. Unfortunately for him and his fans, his awful play over the last few years has meant that Daly hasn’t been seen often, which seems inconceivable with his level of talent. His combination of prolific driving distance and silky smooth short game has rarely been seen in professional golf, and even now, Daly can do those things as well as almost anyone.
 
It’s no secret that the PGA Tour has never been the most flexible when it comes to rules infractions. Golf in general has always been about etiquette, and that’s certainly not going to change any time soon, but when Daly was winning and playing well, the PGA Tour had to put up with his transgressions. Outside of his incident at the Australian Open last year, Daly has been on his best behavior recently, and at age 46, he probably realizes he doesn’t have a ton of time left in his golf career to win tournaments. Watching Daly in Reno last week, he did something that we haven’t seen in quite a while. He made an eagle in the third round on Saturday, and as it was dropping in the cup, Daly pumped his fist and had a look of confidence on his face that he used to have when he was golf’s most exciting player. With Kiawah set up at over 7600 yards and the soft conditions due to the rain expected in the area, the course should favor a player of Daly’s skill set. It’s amazing that we’ve gotten to the point with Daly that a win this week would be just as unlikely as his win at Crooked Stick 21 years ago. Back then, no one would have predicted the type of fall that Daly has had, but golf is an unforgiving game, a fact that Daly is well aware of.
 
Here we are in 2012 at Glory’s Last Shot, the PGA Championship. For everyone, Daly included, it’s their last shot at winning a major this season. But Daly has way more riding on this then anyone in the field. Twenty-one years after his biggest victory as a professional, it’s not just his last shot at winning a major this year, it could be his last shot at redemption, and as Daly is wont to do, he’s going to give that shot all he has.

The ongoing struggles of Mike Weir

Mike Weir, 2003 Masters Champion by rottinam, on Flickr
Photo  by  rottinam 
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

1443.

That’s the current world ranking of 2003 Masters Champion Mike Weir. Of all 34 ranked Canadians, Weir sits 34th. It’s been a stunning fall from grace for the Brights Grove native who climbed golf’s highest mountain in April of 2003. Golf is known for one-hit wonders; guys who have a good week or two, win a big tournament and are never heard from again, but Weir was different. His five PGA Tour wins prior to putting on the green jacket, and the two victories after suggest that Weir was not supposed to disappear into the ether.

Weir spent 106 weeks in the top-10 of the World Rankings, peaking at number three for five weeks in 2003, behind only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Even now, despite not winning a tournament in nearly five years, Weir remains in 18th place in all-time career earnings at nearly $27 million. His lingering injury concerns, most notably a torn ligament in his right elbow that prematurely ended his 2010 season, have been a major driving force behind his struggles. He started the 2011 season on a major medical exemption, but didn’t earn enough money to retain his PGA Tour card. At this point, he’s relying mostly on sponsor invites to get into events. He’ll always be able to play in the Masters by virtue of his 2003 victory, and you’d have to think that he will always be invited to the Canadian Open, but outside of those tournaments, Weir’s going to have to earn his starts.

This week, Weir is playing in the Reno-Tahoe Open, one of the Tour’s “B” events. Most of the game’s biggest stars are of course in Akron for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, a tournament Weir hasn’t been eligible to play in since 2010. Two years ago, Weir had fallen considerably in the World Rankings to 90th. Fast forward to the present day and in that two year time frame, Weir has dropped a staggering 1353 spots further. Since last playing in the WGC-Bridgestone in 2010, Weir has played 29 events. He’s made three cuts, with his best finish a T52 in Spain earlier this year. The other events? Twenty-four missed cuts and two withdrawals.

At 42 years of age, it was only natural that Weir would begin to slow down, but some of the stats paint an ugly picture for Canada’s most famous golfer. These stats are updated through the Canadian Open last week, compared to his 2003 season.

  • Zero rounds shot under 70 through eleven events this season compared to 23 rounds under 70 in 2003.
  • On measured holes, he’s lost 30 yards of distance off the tee.
  • 38% FIR vs. 63% in 2003.
  • 43% GIR vs 65% in 2003.
  • Par 3 Birdie or Better: 9.6% vs. 17.2%
  • Par 4 Birdie or Better: 10.1% vs. 17.9%
  • Par 5 Birdie or Better: 24% vs. 46.5%
  • Scoring Average: 75.96 vs. 69.89
  • Scrambling: (48%) vs. (62%)
  • Avg. Distance after going for it: 85yds vs. 25yds

Weir was never a big hitter, but the loss of thirty yards off the tee, combined with the par-5 birdie or better average are probably the most alarming stats. Most pros make their move up the leaderboard because of par-5’s, and Weir clearly has lost the ability to do that. His trademark accuracy has also left him, as he’s dropped 25% and 22% in fairways and greens hit.

In his pre-tournament presser at the Canadian Open, Weir mentioned that he’s really looking towards next year and that any quality golf played before that would just be a bonus. Is he still hurt? He claims he isn’t, and that it’s just a matter of getting more reps on the course. The track record for most golfers after the age of 40 is not good, so Weir is already fighting an uphill battle even if he has a clean bill of health. Since winning the Frys.com Open in 2007, Weir has only finished in the top-10 fifteen times, and hasn’t had one of those top-10’s since the Humana in early 2010.

It’s not impossible that Weir finds it at some point, but the chances are getting slimmer by the day. I mentioned earlier that he wasn’t a one-hit wonder, and I do believe that. However, golf also has tons of stories of incredible highs and dizzying lows over an extended period of time. David Duval, Steve Stricker, John Daly, and potentially Paul Casey are just four examples of recent golfers who have succeeded and struggled with consistency.

Currently, Weir doesn’t have any tournaments listed on his site past the Reno-Tahoe Open. He may think he’s close to regaining his form, but without the tournaments, we may never find out.

Unrealistic expectations dog Tiger at Olympic

This story was posted on ScoreMobile on June 18th, 2012. It is no longer available on ScoreMobile, but similar golf features will be posted there frequently. Check out http://m.thescore.com/pga/news for more info.

Tiger Woods by Keith Allison, on Flickr
Photo  by  Keith Allison 
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

 
By Adam Sarson (Score Media)
 
The story felt so familiar.
 
Tiger Woods heading into Father’s Day weekend with a piece of the lead at the U.S. Open. The player who makes the needle move more than any other was in place to break his major drought at one of golf’s most historic venues. Many had given him the title, assuming it was a foregone conclusion that Tiger would rise to the occasion once again and defeat not only the world’s best players, but the USGA and their unforgiving terrain at Olympic Club. Those who gave him the victory, some of Tiger’s most ardent supporters, forgot about one thing, the same thing everyone keeps forgetting about: This is not the same Tiger Woods.
 
A few months ago, he was outside the top-50 in the Official World Golf Rankings. A win yesterday would have placed him second behind only Luke Donald. He is still one of the best players in the world, with just as many wins this season as any other golfer worldwide. He has had great rounds, good rounds, bad rounds and awful rounds. In other words, he’s a professional golfer, just as likely to fire a scintillating 64 as he is to blow up and shoot a 75 on a weekend at a major championship.
 
This of course would have been unthinkable ten years ago. Then again, lots of things have changed in those ten years. The purses are bigger, the courses have gotten longer and most importantly, the other players have gotten better. Ten years ago, how many players would have been pegged as potential major championship contenders? At most, the answer is likely five or six. Now? That number has at least doubled. The list still includes Tiger, but the competitive advantages that he used to have over the field are now gone. He’s no longer the heaviest hitter, the best iron player or the most consistent putter. On any given day, those attributes are still present, but week in and week out? Those days are over.
 
For the media, especially those who quietly want to see Tiger succeed; this is a difficult concept to grasp. Generational athletes like Tiger are put on a pedestal for their whole career, only to fall short of their own standards when their skills start to decline. Muhammad Ali, Willie Mays, Wayne Gretzky and Emmitt Smith are just a few of many who couldn’t keep playing at the highest level. But, the media, with the endless line of “Tiger’s back” or “Tiger’s done” stories, don’t seem to grasp the real issue at play.
 
Tiger is 36 years old. He has had four surgeries on his left knee and dealt with scandal that ruined his personal life. The list of major winners over the age of 35 is a short one, and his window to eclipse Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 majors is starting to close. He knows this better than anyone. There is no athlete on this planet that is more dogged in the pursuit of his goals than Tiger Woods. He’s not as good as he was, and never will be. The days of a superhuman Tiger Woods are not coming back, but you won’t see him fall into a pit of despair either. He still hits shots that most others can’t, and still draws crowds like no one else, but the customary consistency has started to fade.
 
Throughout his final two rounds on the weekend, analysts and commentators mentioned that his lackluster play over the last two days was unexpected, and something we weren’t used to seeing. If anyone has been paying attention over the last few years, this is exactly what we’ve been seeing. Flashes of greatness clouded by moments of poor shots and frustrated reactions. The fact that he had a share of the 36-hole lead in a major shouldn’t hide the fact that this inconsistency has become Tiger’s new consistency.
 
There will be a day when Tiger Woods wins another major, much like him winning at Bay Hill and Memorial earlier this year. How many more will he win? No one knows, but to count him out or assume that he’ll break Jack’s record are both ridiculous suggestions. It’s time that we stop looking at what Tiger Woods was, and instead focus on what he is: One of the world’s best, who still has many chapters to write in his incredible story.

RacketBoy Writing: The best sports games on the Sega Genesis

I grew up with the Sega Genesis. It was my first video game console, and while I had played games on other systems, the Genesis was really my introduction to gaming.  As a huge sports fan, the Genesis was all I ever needed to immerse myself in the events and athletes that I adored. To this day, the Genesis is widely considered the system with the greatest library of sports games available.

Name a sport, and there’s likely a game that attempts to recreate it on the Genesis. My second piece for RacketBoy explores the massive Genesis library and picks out the best games to play on Sega’s 16-bit machine.

http://www.racketboy.com/retro/the-best-sports-games-on-the-sega-genesis

RacketBoy Writing: Retro Selections for the Nintendo 3DS

A little while ago, I was fortunate enough to pen a piece for retro gaming site RacketBoy. Not only does the site have the absolute best in retro gaming guides for any platform, the RB community is really top-shelf.

For my first of several pieces for RacketBoy, I was able to discuss the best available retro options for Nintendo’s newest handheld, the 3DS. Obviously there’s more of a modern focus on the 3DS currently, but with the retro direction the games industry has taken in the last few years, I thought it was a good opportunity to highlight some of the lesser known titles on the system. Luckily Nick from RacketBoy agreed and gave me chance to write the article for his site and community. Check it out at the below link:

http://www.racketboy.com/retro/nintendo/3d3/retro-selections-for-the-nintendo-3ds