Pound for pound, the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook is as good of a golf tournament as you're going to find.
Beautiful course. Challenging course. Tight leaderboard. Every year the Valspar has everything you could want. Did you watch the final round Sunday?
The golf was exciting, and the story lines were intriguing. The leaderboard featured the last player to commit to the tournament, the tournament's last qualifier, a sponsor's exemption and a duel between two guys who had never won on the PGA Tour.
The tournament was nearly lost by one of them because the Copperhead Course's famed Snake Pit, No. 16, came into play. The leader, Adam Hadwin, drove his ball into the water and double bogeyed to fall back into a tie. But he rallied to win on the 72nd hole of the tournament.
Great fun. Exciting. The only problem? The names just weren't there.
Hadwin? Patrick Cantlay? Tony Finau? Dominic Bozzelli? Sorry, most casual golf fans have never heard of them, though one or two of them (Cantlay, perhaps?) could be huge someday.
For that reason, you feel a bit bad for Innisbrook because it has so much going for it. Great people run the tournament, and the golf was terrific. But this is how golf works. Sometimes recognizable names litter the leaderboard, and sometimes it's top-heavy in little-knowns.
Valspar is an awesome tournament. Here's hoping that next year it is blessed with recognizable names as well as great stories playing in the final three or four groups on the weekend.
The NBA has a major problem. In what should have been one of the marquee regular-season matchups of the season, the Spurs-Warriors game Saturday night was a complete joke. The Spurs were missing two injured stars, and Golden State coach Steve Kerr picked that game to rest four of his stars: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. Kevin Durant was already out with an injury.
I get it. Kerr is doing what is best for his team. But this cannot continue. This was a major embarrassment for the league, and it was great to hear the ABC announcing crew, which had the game in prime time, heavily criticize Kerr's move.
"This is terrible for the paying customer," ABC's Jalen Rose (below) said in the pregame show. "It's horrible for television partners. And it devalues not only the product, but what your ticket means when you purchase it now." Rose thinks there are ways for coaches to manage players' minutes or see to it that not every star rests on the same night.
"To me, it's wrong," ABC's Mark Jackson said. "You got to do a better job protecting (the fans)."
ABC's Jeff Van Gundy agreed, adding, "That the league allows it, this turns it into a fiasco. The schedule that the Warriors are playing is insane. … It's wrong in so many areas, and the Warriors and the league should refund the money here tonight."
Best broadcasting pair
I have a new favorite broadcasting team: ESPN's college basketball duo of Dave Pasch and Bill Walton. Clearly, Walton is either taking full advantage of the natural herbs that Mother Earth offers or no longer cares about the conventional way of calling a game. The thing is, he knows the game and still passes along serious knowledge between his Deadhead takes. And Pasch is quick to call Walton out for being a complete goofball.
In their best exchange Friday night during the UCLA-Arizona Pac-12 semifinal, Walton asked Pasch if he had heard on SportsCenter that Bob Seger might replace the late Glenn Frey with the Eagles. Pasch replied that no one could get on SportsCenter because "you were on for eight minutes and they didn't talk."
Sure was fun watching fans of the Dominican Republic go crazy Saturday night as their team rallied from five runs down to beat the United States 7-5 in the World Baseball Classic. The game was in Miami, but it felt like it was played in Santo Domingo.
Meantime, there's a bit of controversy in the tournament. U.S. manager Jim Leyland seemed a bit thrown that Rays pitcher Chris Archer, per Rays orders, left Friday's opener against Colombia after four perfect innings. As Tampa Bay Times baseball writer Marc Topkin wrote Sunday, Archer was following the Rays' orders and you can't blame Archer or the Rays. Many say that move suggests that the tournament isn't all that important to Americans. That's true. For Americans, it isn't as important as the major-league season. Nor should it be. Who cares what anybody else says?
Best coverage/worst bragging
There's no doubt that the person to go to for NFL free agency news is ESPN's Adam Schefter. His connections — gained through hard work and by being represented by the same firm that also represents many of the athletes he covers — makes him the most authoritative voice when it comes to free agency. So he was definitely must-watch TV as free agency opened Thursday. What was obnoxious, however, was ESPN's "Schefter Cam," a camera focused on Schefter as he worked the phones. Maybe ESPN meant that to be funny, but it came off as big-mouthed. Whoever's idea this was needs to know that it's the kind of thing that adds to ESPN's bad reputation for self-promotion.
• CBS's prime-time coverage of Clearwater's Keith Thurman fighting Danny Garcia on March 4 did nice numbers. A little more than 3 million people tuned in to the unified welterweight title. Compare that to the 1.6 million tt> that tuned in to the NBA prime-time game between the Clippers and Bulls at the same time.
• Already getting excited for an upcoming ESPN 30 for 30 documentary called Mike and the Mad Dog. The hour-long doc will center on one of the all-time great sports-talk shows, which featured New York's Mike Francesa and Chris "Mad Dog" Russo. The film will be shown at the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival in April. No word on when ESPN will air it, but you would figure it would be soon after that.
• Best interview of the week: Golf Channel's David Feherty with Phil Mickelson. Part 2 will be air at 9 tonight on the Golf Channel.
Three things that popped into my head
1 Though they are at different ends of Pinellas County and probably attract different types of sports fans, it's still a shame that the Valspar Championship and IndyCar's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg are held on the same weekend.
2 What fun coming up this week in Orlando at the NCAA basketball tournament. Not only are Florida and Florida State playing there, but we get to see "Dunk City," otherwise known as Florida Gulf Coast.
3 This past week's conference basketball tournaments, for some reason, were way more fun that in years past. The ACC with Duke's run. The Big Ten with Michigan's run. Even the Ivy League holding a tournament for the first time. Bring on March Madness.
tom jones' two cents