Mitch's Sports Report: Spieth, Bruins Suffer Similar Epic Collapses Down The Stretch
The biggest news at the Masters Golf tournament might have been three different players going hole-in-one on the 16th green a couple of days ago, and back-to-back Masters wins for just the fourth time in tournament history, if not for the painful collapse by defending champ Jordan Spieth, who started the back nine leading all competitors with a five stroke advantage but ended in third place, three strokes behind winner Danny Willett.
Spieth's meltdown is one for the ages, and one hole in particular, the twelfth, will live in infamy. Spieth went quadruple bogey on the par-three 12th, hitting two balls into the water to turn a one-stroke lead into a deficit from which he wouldn't recover. The only lost lead bigger was Greg Norman's six-stroke advantage that evaporated in 1996. Spieth looked like a lock to join a short list of greats in Jack Niklaus, Nick Faldo, and Tiger Woods as the only players to win back to back Green Jackets, but it was not to be. Meanwhile, Willett finished at five-under to become the first Englishman since Nick Faldo to win the Masters.
To Major League baseball and the Boston Red Sox will play their home opener at Fenway Park this afternoon with their new ace David Price on the mound, looking for his second win in as many starts. Yesterday in Toronto the Sox failed to complete a sweep of the Blue Jays, losing 3-0 despite a very good pitching performance from knuckleballer Steven Wright, who went six and two thirds innings, giving up just two first inning runs, only one earned, but was overshadowed by the Blue Jays' Marco Estrada, who pitched seven shutout innings and kept the Red Sox offense off balance all day with an excellent change-up. He yielded just five hits and struck out eight for his first win of the year. Meanwhile the Sox will face a Baltimore Orioles squad today that has yet to lose a game, coming out of the gates at 5-0 to match the franchise's best-ever start to a season, as the AL East shapes up to be one of the toughest divisions in baseball this season.
The Yankees and Tigers were rained out in Detroit yesterday, and the Yanks have a day off today before taking on the Blue Jays in Toronto Tuesday. The defending National League champion NY Mets are not off to the start they envisioned, now losers of two in a row to the Philadelphia Phillies, including yesterday's 5-2 defeat in the City of Brotherly Love. Obudel Herrera hit a two-run homer off Mets ace Matt Harvey in the sixth and Jeremy Hellickson went five and two thirds innings, giving up just the two runs on three hits while striking out five.
In the NBA, the Golden State Warriors have one regular season game left to play this season, and if they win it, they will break the record set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for most wins in a season. The Warriors matched the seventy-two win mark set by the team led by some guy named Jordan by beating the San Antonio Spurs 92-86 last night. The only thing standing between the Warriors and more history is the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night.
I should say a word or two about the end of the year collapse by the Boston Bruins, who should probably make their first off-season golfing date with Jordan Spieth so they can all commiserate. I could wait until the inevitable firing of Bruins' head coach Claude Julien, who should bear some, but not most of the blame for a second consecutive season in which the Bruins missed the playoffs on the final day of the season and played terrible hockey down the stretch to blow a seemingly safe lead in the standings that had them inside rather than outside the playoff bubble. The Bruins' embarrassing 6-1 loss to Ottawa on Saturday, at home, a game against a non-playoff team which, had they won, would have launched them into the playoffs with Detroit's loss the same day to the Rangers, was achingly familiar to its fan base, but it's emblematic of a bigger problem with this team that really stems from managerial and ownership hubris. The Bruins' front office decision makers seem to think they are hockey's version of the New England Patriots, that they can shed good and even star players the way snakes shed their skin and it won't affect the team's fortunes. This has occurred over multiple decades and eras with players like Johnny Boychuk, Dougie Hamilton and Tyler Seguin being only the latest to be shipped away with inadequate replacements filling their skates. This year's Bruins' self-destruct occurred exactly like last year's, and while that's a curious coincidence, it's not the least bit surprising. Playoffs for the team's that didn't disappoint their fans begin Wednesday.