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.

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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.

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.

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

Eye of the Tiger

With one swing of the club, Tiger Woods sent trembles throughout the golf world. Off the green on Muirfield’s par-3 16th, Woods was left with a near impossible shot. Tiger drilled the chip, tied the lead, and left golf great Jack Nicklaus stunned from the gallery.

When describing the shot, Nicklaus remarked, “The most unbelievable, gutsy shot I’ve ever seen. Look at the position he was in. If he’s short, the tournament is over. If he’s long, the tournament is over. He puts it in the hole.”

Tiger held on for the win. The Memorial was Tiger’s second on the season and his seventy-third career win, tying Nicklaus for the second-most all-time. Tiger trails Sam Snead by ten, but his primary focus remains on Jack’s career majors mark.

As the U.S. Open approaches, Woods, a fourteen-time major champion, has positioned himself as the man to beat, but the question remains — is Tiger back?

After his win at Bay Hill, Tiger earned frontrunner’s status at this year’s Masters before stumbling to a disappointing 40th place finish. Woods’ win at Bay Hill, however, lacked one key element — a Tiger-esque moment. His fist-pumping birdie at the 16th seems to be the first iconic Tiger moment since news of the scandal broke in November 2009.

Down the stretch, Tiger took control. He did not coast to a victory; he birdied three of the final four to take it. Woods’ 16th hole miracle was an instant reminder of the Tiger of the past and a preview of things to come.

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

* Photos Courtesy of NY Times, ESPN