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Cink stands tall and finds major success

At the time, it seemed a rather reasonable point of view, that some of us felt Stewart Cink hadn’t really bulldozed his way to classic heights in golf the way he should have. Could have.

Not that he should have been shaking Tiger Woods’ foundation, but at least Cink should have been right there knocking on his door.

There were grounds for that, if you feasted on events that took place here in Georgia, pre-Masters. In 1995, the Stanford University golf team came through on its way to a championship played at The Farm, near Dalton. In a team match played at Druid Hills, sort of a warm-up session, Georgia Tech competed against the Stanford team. Cink took out Woods, 3 and 2.

And he did it again the next week in the tournament at The Farm. Pretty darned impressive stuff, if you ask me. So I guess I let that influence my expectations beyond reality.

He wiped out the Nationwide Tour his first year as a pro. At Oakland Hills, I followed him most of two rounds and he finished 16th in …

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It’s nice having Turnberry back in the rotation

In wartime, Turnberry was a training field for the Royal Air Force, and traces of the runways may still be found there. It was years, though, before this scenic bluff on the Irish Sea, in the county of Ayrshire, became a golfing resort. It was years later that the Royal & Ancient finally included Turnberry in its British Open rotation. And it has been 15 years since the Open last visited, which is somewhat out of the ordinary.

Mainly, this is because Turnberry is kind of a “wildcard” in the established rotation that includes St. Andrews, Troon, Muirfield, St. George’s, Lytham and St. Annes and Carnoustie. The Championship is played on the Ailsa course, named for a domed rock that sits about 10 miles offshore.

And it might be said that it was the scene of the most memorable Open played in many a memory. Books have been written on it.

The year was 1977, my first Open, memorable at first by the pairing of Arnold Palmer and Sir Henry Cotton, who may have been a few years shy of …

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From 22nd round to top prospect, Hanson learned art of pitching

If I’m wrong about Tommy Hanson, I’ve got a feeling I’m gonna have a lot of company. And leading the parade will be Frank Wren, now feeling the heat easing off from his clearing the Braves roster of the other Tommy (Glavine) to make room for this Tommy.

Get in line to join in the apologia. Not to say that just because this tree of a kid has beaten the Yankees and the Red Sox in a row that they’re dusting off a corner of Cooperstown to make room for him.

There is a lot of pitcher in that body of his. In the first place, he’s constructed like a pitcher, but even more than that, he manages his game like a pitcher who has been doing it since Cy Young. Six-feet-six, lean and lithe, expressionless, never giving vent to distress and equipped with an above-standard collection of pitches in his arsenal. But, let’s get back to the beginning.

He came out of a community college in Riverside, Calif., and could have had a scholarship to Arizona State. Here the Braves intervened. They …

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Duval reaches out to Blackmon on road to recovery

In April 2005, Puggy Blackmon had a surprise telephone ring. The caller was David Duval, from whom Blackmon hadn’t heard in quite awhile.

“Can you come over to Augusta and meet me?” Duval asked.

Blackmon had been Duval’s coach at Georgia Tech and had worked with him at times since, but not recently. Instead, Duval had taken his golfing cares and woes to a number of “witch doctors,” as some of us are inclined to label those professionals whose specialty is “remodeling” Tour players — fairly or unfairly. Duval hadn’t made a cut in a major championship in three years and, for the most part, had disappeared from the game.

In other words, he had hit rock bottom. The Masters was coming up. He was running low on exemption and was turning to the coach he trusted most of all, although they hadn’t talked for the longest time.
“I was surprised,” Blackmon said. “You could have knocked me over with a feather,” and there he stood under the big tree at Augusta National waiting for their …

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Brace yourselves, but Braves should put Chipper on the market

OK, now it’s the Braves’ turn. After all those seasons of shoring up their roster with blockbuster trades in mid-season, at the expense of raiding the farm system, consider this: (Are you sitting down?) Tell the world they’re putting Chipper Jones on the open market. Anybody out there in need of a third baseman, or, on the American League side, a designated hitter?

I can hear all the gulps, and the screeches, and calls for my scalp. First place, forget where you saw this. This is not my choice at all, but considering the direction the Braves have taken the past four years, the lock is running low on sentimentality. Sure, Chipper is the face of the Braves. And the voice. He speaks for the team when anyone is looking for an opinion, or reaction to a news event. All of us seek him out, and he responds in his even baritone voice. He never lets you down. So to offer him for trade, hang him out there like a piece of meat for swap, a dreadful thought.

But think again. He deserves one …

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Glavine deserved better from Braves

Well, they led him to the altar, but they couldn’t convince him to say, “I quit.”

Speaking here of the “Tom Glavine affair,” which is not going away, and which the Braves will have plastered across their dossier for time to come. Coming on the heels of the indifferent dealing with John Smoltz — who tired of waiting for a commitment — we now have become witness to the end of an era: The Smoltz-Glavine-Maddux era, when the Braves had the three greatest pitchers they have ever had on their roster at the same time.

But, Glavine is the central figure here. Say his time had come, if you choose, but no one had ever given the slightest hint that he was being whip-sawed with such a dead-end decision: Take retirement or release. Then the heartless words spread across the television screen: “Braves Release Tom Glavine.”

If they were going to release him, then why this agonizing process of rehabilitation tests at Gwinnett and Rome? It was some kind of anxiety scene outside the Braves …

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Braves should show more patience with Francoeur

These are disheartening days for the Braves. For Jeff Francoeur in particular. For those who came to Turner Field to cheer him, but now who jeer him. When Mark Bowman, of MLB.com, wrote that this might be a pertinent time to consider locating another employer for him, oh, did that set off a firestorm! A flurry of conjecture.

Trade Jeff Francoeur? Homegrown hero? Onetime Sports Illustrated cover boy? Where did it all go?
Let me take you back to those Camelot days, when the Braves’ roster was plump with bright young prospects. There was a pod of them, all seeming to ripen at the same time. A sort of an informal Boy Scout troop of them, who went to each other’s weddings, and celebrated their togetherness like club members.
Remember their names, for some are long gone. Francoeur, Brian McCann, Macay McBride, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Langerhans, and two Canadians, Pete Orr and Scott Thorman.

McBride, traded to the Tigers, is recovering from arm surgery at Toledo. Orr and Langerhans are …

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International golfers reap harvest of U.S. championships

In case you haven’t noticed, an increasing number of our big-time golf championships have been slipping away across the seas.

Of course, that was the trend in the early years of professional golf in the USA. Scots and Brits came over in droves in the 20th century, when we were neophytes, and it wasn’t until 1911 that one of our native-born lads was able to capture the national championship, John McDermott. When a mere caddie, Francis Ouimet, whipped both of England’s best, the great Harry Vardon — whose grip you might use — and Ted Ray, in 1914, that set a golfing rage across our states.

Lately, though, those pertinent intruders have been stealing off with some of our most precious titles, brought brusquely to mind when Henrik Stenson, a Swede, won The Players Championship, right behind Sergio Garcia, who took the prize home to Spain a year ago.

If you’ll begin checking down the list from 1994, seven of the 15 U.S. Open championships have crossed the seas. It began with Ernie …

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Stage set for Tiger drama on Sunday

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The afternoon was dwindling away, and so was the USA’s hand in The Players Championship. The leaderboard was a mixture of nationalities — German, South Korean, Swedish, (Louisianan), English, another Swede, South African, (St. Simons Islander), and Australian, but the shuffling was still to come. Alex Cejka, the overnight leader from Germany, was still holding steady at the top and would remain so as the shadows lengthened, but he was growing increasingly unsteady the closer he came to the holes where so often this championship is decided.

Through it all, though, one name kept edging up the board after Tiger Woods had long ago finished — and was at his leisure. And Woods had done it with a modest round of 70, just two under par. Cejka is a 37-year-old import who has won 11 times around the world, but never in this country. He escaped from Czechoslovakia when it was Communist, and he was nine years old, in the company of his father, of course. After a …

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Players Championship has haggles that won’t go away

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — This is a golf tournament, The Players Championship, that has more angles than a Hercule Poirot movie. One year it’s the wind. Another year it’s the rain and the wind, and another year it’s the hard greens, or the rough. But since the powers of the PGA Tour have been able to switch the dates from soggy March to glistening May, happiness has taken hold. No more over-seeded greens, no more mud balls, which Tiger Woods deplored. “We caught mud balls all the time [in March],” he said, drawing from his memory bank.

But, just like the fleas on a dog and gnats in the summer South, two nagging haggles aren’t going away. The Players will never become a fifth major, no matter how gracefully it ages. One of the leading world-class players, Geoff Ogilvy, from Australia — and probably the best player not American — referred to it in a news conference the other day as “the best tournament in the world, not a major,” and never blushed. Nor did it set off a raging …

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