British Open Preview

As the world’s best partake in their final practice rounds, THE SPORTS DISPENCER is ready to deliver who and what to watch for at Royal Lytham & St. Annes for this year’s Open Championship.

Odds

Tiger Woods 7.5 to 1 — After three wins this year, Woods has cemented frontrunner status.

Lee Westwood 14 to 1 — With countless top-five finishes, Great Britain’s own is still searching for his elusive first major.

Rory McIlroy 16 to 1 — After falling off the map at recent majors, can McIlroy return to championship form?

Luke Donald 14 to 1 — The world number one finds himself in the same boat as fellow Englishman Lee Westwood.

Padraig Harrington 16 to 1 — With two Open Championships under his belt, Harrington is always in the conversation.

Phil Mickelson 28 to 1 — Last year’s runner up hopes to improve upon his career best performance.

Justin Rose 30 to 1 — Grouped with perennial contenders Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia, Rose hopes to make some noise early.

Jim Furyk 50 to 1 — After a quality U.S. Open performance, Furyk hopes to carry his success to Royal Lytham

Bubba Watson 50 to 1 — Bubba has found little success across the pond, but this year’s Masters champ is hoping to turn it around.

The Field (Any Other Player) 2 to 1 — With fifteen different victors in the past fifteen major championships, “Lady Luck” sides with the field.

Notable Tee Times (All Times Eastern)

4:09 a.m.: Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Zach Johnson

4:20 a.m.: Lee Westwood, Yoshinori Fujimoto, Bubba Watson

4:31 a.m.: Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Hiroyuki Fujita

4:42 a.m.: Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia

8:59 a.m.: Nicolas Colsaerts, Hunter Mahan, John Senden

9:21 a.m.: Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen, Keegan Bradley

9:32 a.m.: Rickie Fowler, Padraig Harrington, Manuel Trappel (A)

9:43 a.m.: Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy

Prediction

Sand save ace Seve Ballesteros remains the only golfer to have walked away twice with the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. This time around, Lee Westwood — ranked third on tour for sand save percentage — will survive the course’s 206 bunkers to earn his well-deserved first major win.

* Photos Courtesy of National Post, Bleacher Report, Washington Post

What do you think? Anything we missed? Who would you choose? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

Top 5 Tuesday: Most Polarizing Athletes

Athletes have long transcended sports. As cultural icons, they are loved and hated, idolized and vilified. Many fit this description, but we here at THE SPORTS DISPENCER scoured the records to compile five of sports history’s most polarizing figures.

5. Tim Tebow

As a college standout at Florida, Tebow was a member of two national title teams and became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. As a pro, he has proven his ability to win. Rooted in his strong evangelical faith, Tebow seems to do everything right.  However, many sports fans simply cannot stand him. Overexposure has led many spectators to detract from his accomplishments. His atypical throwing motion and exuberant personality may deter common sports fans, but until he falters, we are left to conclude that Tebow is indeed God’s quarterback.

4. Shoeless Joe Jackson

With a .356 career batting average, Shoeless Joe’s career accomplishments rank him among the best of the early twentieth century. His talented play puts him in the same conversation as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and the other greats of baseball’s infancy, yet one of history’s finest will never have his name read at Cooperstown. Because of his involvement in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, Shoeless Joe was banned from baseball. Jackson admits to early involvement but has refuted the idea that he helped throw the 1919 World Series. Many point to his twelve hits and .375 average as proof, but his poor fielding performance does not help his case. Even if he is acquitted by the MLB, it will be difficult for Jackson’s legacy to become disassociated with the scandal with which its long been intertwined.

3. Barry Bonds

With one swing of the bat, Barry Bonds launched a ball over the right-center field wall. The home run was his 756th, breaking Hank Aaron’s record for the most homers in baseball history. A fierce debate started soon thereafter. Many believed the Giants’ slugger had not broken the home record — he stole it. Bonds’ reported steroid use is up for heated discussion. He is a central figure in baseball’s steroid scandal, and his alleged involvement leaves many unwilling to recognize his accomplishments. In addition, his brash, insolent personality when dealing with both the media and his teammates leave few rooting for Bonds outside of the Bay area.

2. O.J. Simpson

At his peak, O.J. was a near unstoppable running back. At USC, Simpson won the Heisman by one of the largest margins in the award’s storied history. In the NFL, O.J. garnered six Pro Bowl selections and four NFL rushing titles, but perhaps his greatest feat was in 1983 when the Buffalo Bills back rushed for over 2,000 yards in a fourteen-game season. After he retired from football,  Simpson remained in the public eye. He delighted audiences with his appearances on The Naked Gun and Monday Night Football, but in the summer of 1994, public perception quickly changed. O.J. was charged with deaths of his Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman but was later acquitted in part due to his marquee defense counsel anchored by Robert Kardashian. Since his acquittal, many have questioned O.J.’s innocence until  2007 when he was sentenced up to thirty-three years for his involvement in a Las Vegas robbery case.

1. Muhammad Ali

Perhaps the greatest athlete of the twentieth century, Muhammad Ali is a true cultural icon. Long know for his unorthodox fighting style, Ali floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee en route to becoming the first and only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion. In 1967, however, the man formerly known as Cassius Clay made headlines with his refusal to be drafted into the United States military. His refusal to serve in Vietnam was well-documented. He notably remarked, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. No Viet Cong ever called me n*****.” His statement echoed the sentiment of many at the time but his remark came before widespread Vietnam protests had begun. Ali’s stance on Vietnam exemplified his willingness to voice his mind. As a boxer, Ali was known for his profuse trash talk and unwillingness to back down from a challenge.

Now in his seventies, “The Louisville Lip” has picked up a different fight. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1984, Ali turned to the role of activist, spreading awareness of the affliction while remaining one of America’s most notable public figures.

* Photos Courtesy of Red Clear Sports, ESPNInquistr

What do you think? Anything we missed? Who would you choose? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

Weekend Review

Federer Takes Wimbledon

At the age of thirty, Roger Federer had taken a backseat to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, but after a flurry of upsets and a masterful semifinal performance, the Swiss star found himself in the Wimbledon final yet again. Pitted against Britain’s own Andy Murray, Federer cruised to victory in four sets, notching his seventh Wimbledon and seventeenth Grand Slam victory while regaining his rank as number one in the world.

Rangers-Twins Thunderous Surprise 

In the top of the fourth inning, a close-hitting lightning strike and subsequent boom of thunder rattled Rangers ballpark, sending players of both teams scrambling for the dugout.  Said Rangers first baseman Michael Young, “That was the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard in my life.”

U.S. Men’s Basketball Team Announced

Over the weekend, the reigning gold medalist U.S. Men’s Basketball Team announced their 2012 roster. Injuries may have sidelined recent champs Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, but Coach K’s squad gladly welcomes the additions of Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and others to FIBA’s number one ranked team.

Dwight Howard Trade Rumors

Developments continue in the seemingly endless Dwight Howard saga. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Nets-Magic talks continue and are now covering 14 players, three teams and a possible fourth looking in to take MarShon Brooks. If the deal is completed, it may indeed grow to become the NBA’s all-time largest blockbuster.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of CS Monitor, Bleacher Report

Sunday Sports Preview

Euro 2012 Final (ESPN 2:45 ET)

After weeks of competition, Euro 2012 is prepared to come to a climactic finish in Kiev. The final pits together Italy and Spain, the last two World Cup champions, in what is sure to be a competitive match. Ultimately, the game will likely be decided in the midfield, where Spain’s Xavi Hernandez and Italy’s Andrea Pirlo will fight to dictate the match’s pace and momentum. Prediction: Spain’s fierce defense keeps Balotelti quiet, beating Italy to notch a second straight Euro title.

AT&T National (CBS 3:00 ET)

Behind a four-under-par 67, Tiger Woods shot up the leaderboard to pull within one shot of 54-hole leader Brendan De Jonge. Joining Tiger at six-under are Seung-yul Noh and Bo Van Belt. With six golfers within three shots of the lead, Sunday’s clustered leaderboard will not disappoint. Prediction: With a third straight round in the sixties, Tiger Woods edges  Brendan De Jonge to gain his third win on the year.

X Games Enduro X Men’s Final (ESPN 10:45 ET)

The 2012 Summer X Games come to a close in Los Angeles. In the event’s final competition, the Staples Center will be transformed into a dynamic and challenging Enduro X course. Poland’s Taddy Blazusiak will look to repeat but faces fierce competition from several world-class motorcyclists. Prediction: Mike Brown, last year’s runner-up, finds his away to the top of the podium.

* Photos Courtesy of Bleacher Report, Motorcycle USA

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

Weekend Review

After a thrilling weekend in the world of sports, fans are beginning to recover from two days of constant remote flipping. Carpal tunnel aside, THE SPORTS DISPENCER is here to take a look at what we learned from this weekend’s action.

Flawed Finals Format

For a reason unbeknownst to many, the playoff game format switches once the NBA Finals are reached, varying from a 2-2-1-1-1 to a 2-3-2 setup. Instead of benefiting play, it detracts from it. Take this year for example. The Miami Heat split Oklahoma City’s first homestand one game a piece. With three straight road games, the Thunder faced the daunting task of winning in South Beach to keep the series alive. If David Stern opted for the prefered 2-2-1-1-1 format, Oklahoma City is gifted the home court advantage they rightfully earned, and Miami would be forced to win the series in front of Chesapeake Energy Arena’s raucous crowd.

The U.S. Open Returns to Form

After the world’s best lit up the scorecards in 2011 at Congressional, the 2012 U.S. Open returned to its previous gut-wrenching form. After four days of intense competition, Olympic Club gave us a winner. Webb Simpson emerged from a crowded field to take the tournament with a four-round score of one stroke over par.

Euro’s Team to Beat

Behind a consistently explosive offensive attack, Germany has emerged victorious from Euro 2012’s Group of Death. The Germans held steady, winning three of three. Gomez and Podolski anchored the front line with midfield support from world-class players Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger. Expect the heavily favored German squad to cruise to victory in their quarterfinal matchup against Greece.

Junior Ends the Drought

After a 143-race losing streak, fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. found victory lane in the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway. The 37-year-old driver finds himself second in the Sprint Cup Standings and a likely contender to earn his first ever Sprint Cup title.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of Chicago Tribune, ESPN

Tiger on the Prowl at Olympic

On Thursday, all eyes at Olympic Club turned to the day’s marquee group — Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, and Tiger Woods. By the end of the round, two men’s dream of a U.S. Open Championship had collapsed and only one remained.

With a one-under 69, Tiger positioned himself tied for second and three strokes back of first-round leader Michael Thompson. Thursday marked the first-time since 2002 that Woods shot under-par in his first round at the U.S. Open, but the question remains: Where will Tiger be come Sunday?

At Memorial, Tiger’s fist-pumping birdie catapulted Woods atop the leaderboard and led many to proclaim the fourteen-time major champion the favorite this week at Olympic. Now with one round under his belt, Tiger is in the hunt for number fifteen.

Woods meticulously controlled the ball in Thursday’s opening round. On the green, Tiger showed both accuracy and consistency including a forty-five foot gallery-rattling birdie putt on Olympic’s par-four fifth.

Tiger practiced patience off the tee, opting for driver only when necessary. His ball-striking ability was on display while many of the world’s best collapsed around him. This afternoon, viewers will get a better look as the field takes shape, and if Tiger has proved anything, the world better take notice.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photo Courtesy of Telegraph