Summer Olympics: All About Golf

All About Golf

Golf is one of the world’s great games but it hasn’t been in the Olympics for 112 years. It returns, somewhat less than triumphantly, in this year’s Olympics.

How Does Golf Work?

The goal of golf is to propel a small, hard white ball into holes in the ground by hitting it as few times as possible with a club. The player who can do this 72 times over three days using the fewest hits (called strokes) wins an Olympic gold medal. Players are competing against each other, but their main adversary often seems to be the designer and landscaper of the course itself. In navigating one’s way to the hole, golfers must deal with fiendishly placed pits of sand, clumps of higher grass called rough, and any number of hills or man-made lakes or rivers.

Why do People Like Watching Golf?

Although I am not someone who enjoys watching golf (I almost fell asleep just looking for highlights to include in this post), I understand that many people do. One segment of people who enjoy watching golf are golfers! There’s something about having done it yourself that increases the enjoyment you get from watching others do it. Golf does have a wonderfully leisurely pace to it. Convention calls for announcers to speak quietly during broadcasts. All in all, there is a pastural quality to golf that’s appealing, even to the non-golfer.

Check out some highlights from the 2012 Olympics:

What are the different events?

There are only two golfing gold medals available, one for men and one for women, both in individual competition. This is a real shame, because golf has some very clever ways of transforming itself from an individual pursuit into a team game. These different formats are a large part of what makes men’s golf’s premier international event, the Ryder Cup, so popular.

How Dangerous is Golf?

Don’t golf through a thunderstorm. Otherwise, you’ll be okay.

What’s the State of Gender Equality in Golf?

Golf approaches gender equality in its format. The only difference is that women start closer to each hole than men do in recognition of the fact that they, on average, do not hit the ball as far as male golfers.


Bookmark the full Olympics schedule from NBC. Golf is from Thursday, August 11 to Saturday, August 20.

Read more about golf on the official Rio Olympics site.

What does "links" mean in golf?

Dear Sports Fan,

What does “links” mean in golf?


Dear Wade,

The term, “links” has two meanings within golf. It is used generally to refer to the course that golf is played on. A golfer might say to a friend of hers, “sorry, I can’t come over and collect kindling with you because I’m going to hit the links today. It also has a more technical meaning, referring to a particular type or style of golf course. If you haven’t ever bothered to dig into the history of the word links, you might find it easy to invent reasons for its general meaning. Viewed from above, a golf course, with its many kidney shaped fairways and greens, can look a little like a string of sausages. Perhaps that’s why it’s described as links? If you’ve never seen it written, you might think that it’s not “links” but “lynx,” the genus of small, predatory, wild cats. Why a cat? Who knows? Half of golf terms seem to be birds, so why not throw a cat in there? In truth, the history of the use of the word “links” in golf can be traced all the way back to the very beginning of the sport.

Although the very first golf-like games may have been played in what is now the Netherlands as early as 1261, golf historians tend to trace a direct line from Scotland in the 1400s to today. Golf must have been a fairly common sport by the mid-1400s and just as addictive as its modern counterpart, because in 1457 it was officially prohibited by the King of Scotland. Early golf enthusiasts faced several difficulties. As we already know, golf was outlawed at times, but even when it was legal, you needed a lot of uninhabited, non-farm land to play it on. The solution that many Scottish golfers found was to create courses near the shore, where the earth was sandy and the water brackish. Useless for farming, this land was ideal for the sport in many ways. The grasses that grew tended “to have short blades with long roots,” which made it hearty enough to survive being hit with clubs and balls, and when nibbled short by livestock, smooth enough for the ball to run on. The hard ground also encouraged the ball to bounce and roll further. The landscape also came with many natural impediments to golf – wind and rain blowing in from the sea, small streams that ran through the land and sandier patches that stopped the grass from growing and the ball from rolling. Instead of resisting these features, golfers embraced the challenge, and indeed, water hazards and sand traps are the two main artificially created obstacles on modern golf courses. The word the Scots used to describe this environment was “links” which comes from the Old English, hlinc, meaning “rising ground” or “ridge.”

Golf is no longer illegal and there are courses spread around the world in every environment imaginable. Although it can be used as a general term, links has retained its meaning as being descriptive of a certain style of golf course set in a particular type of environment. The most obvious visual difference between a non-links and a links course is that a links course will have few or no trees. Unlike a modern course, where the fairways (a safer area to set up a golfer’s next shot, because it has shorter, more even grass) and the rough (the opposite) are easily visually distinguished by color and texture, on links courses they are more difficult to distinguish. The same goes for the course’s greens which, on modern courses are planted with very soft grass to make the ball slow down and roll, but which on links courses may be more similar to the rest of the course. Water and sand are the key obstacles in all styles of golf course, but on links courses, they are either naturally occurring or carefully designed to give that impression. A key difference on links courses is the presence of some very dramatic walls that hold a green back from a sandy bunker.

As a result of the topographical and environmental differences, success on a links course requires different techniques from other courses. Tina Mickelson addresses this on a post she wrote for the PGA website. She identifies three key differences:

  • Because of the wind on links courses, players should drive the ball (the first and usually longest shot on any given hole) with a lower trajectory than on other courses.
  • Since the texture of the grass doesn’t vary as much between fairway and green, players should let the ball bounce up and onto the green as opposed to trying to loft it into the air and have it stick on the green.
  • The sand bunkers on links courses tend to be much more treacherous than on other courses. Mickelson recommends practicing very high shots out of sand, to get over the walls, and extreme prudence. It’s better to hit the ball the wrong way but onto the grass than it is to get stuck in the sand for shot after shot.

Golf enjoys tradition as much as any sport and as such, there’s a certain prestige to links courses. The downside of this is that lost of golf courses that don’t really fit the description of a links course call themselves one anyway, for marketing reasons. The benefit of golf’s attraction to its own past is that it gives The British Open, the only major tournament always played on a true links course, the enjoyable and rosy glow of long history and tradition.

Thanks for reading,
Ezra Fischer

How does scoring work in golf?

Dear Sports Fan,

How does scoring work in golf?


Dear Ian,

Scoring in golf is dead simple but that fact is obscured by the unnecessarily complicated language that golf uses to talk about scoring. It’s not all bad though, golf’s language is actually pretty enjoyable and easy to learn. Plus, the way that golf thinks about scoring expresses something about the essence of the sport which is useful to understand. We’ll run through how the scoring works and then explain how to talk about golf scores.

In any golf competition, the player who gets the ball into the hole in fewer hits, wins. It’s that simple! Whether you’re talking about a single hole, an 18-hole round, or a tournament which is usually four rounds of 18 holes each, the player who can complete play using the fewest number of strokes is the winner. Things can get more complicated with various team formats, many of which I explained in my post about the Ryder Cup, but the concept is always the same — use the fewest swings possible.

By now you might be wondering why, if the scoring concepts are so simple, the words used to talk about the score is so complicated. When you watch golf on TV or get into a conversation with golfers, you hear a lot of strange words like “par,” “birdie,” “eagle,” and “bogie.” Huh? Here’s the deal. Three concepts will make all of those vocabulary words make sense.

  1. Every golf hole and course are unique and of varying difficulty.
  2. Golf is designed to work equally well as a competitive sport played against other golfers and a puzzle played individually.
  3. No more than four players can play on a single hole simultaneously, so in any large competition, play is staggered across several hours. Despite this, both for the golfers and for fans, a way of expressing the standings at any moment is needed.

Golf’s solution is to express score in a relative way. Every hole on every course is given a number of strokes that the designers of the course think that an excellent golfer should be able to complete the hole in. That number is called par and is generally from three to five strokes. Instead of saying that a golfer used four hits to successfully complete a hole, her score is expressed relative to par. Here’s where the vocab words come in:

  • Par – Derived from the latin word meaning “equal,” par means that a golfer finished a hole in the number of strokes the course designers expected him to.
  • Birdie – A birdie is finishing a hole in one fewer stroke than expected.
  • Eagle – Once birdie was established as the term for one better than par, golf took off on the bird metaphors in that direction. An eagle is two shots better than par.
  • Albatross – An albatross, as you might have guessed, is three shots better than par. It’s very, very unusual.
  • Bogey – A bogey is the opposite of a birdie. A player who has shot a bogey has taken one more stroke than par to complete a hole. There are no separate words as players use more and more strokes to finish a hole, the way to express it is by adding a modifier before the word bogey. Two strokes worse than par is a double-bogey, three a triple-bogey, four a quadruple-bogey, and five a dear sports fan special. Just joking, I guess you’d call that a quintuple bogey…

The purpose of this is not to confuse beginners! Think back to our three principles of golf. Expressing scores relative to an ideal, almost platonic score that’s set for each hole and course is a remarkably effective way of making golf an exciting challenge even if played alone. Without needing to compare your score to a competitor’s, you can judge how well you’re doing. Shoot a birdie? Celebrate! Hit a double-bogey, cry a single tear and move on. If scores were simply expressed in an absolute way — five shots for a particular hole — there would be no way for a solitary golfer to know if she did well or poorly. As a bonus, by setting a par particular to each course, a golfer can move from course to course and still compare his play to previous rounds on other golf courses. Sure, the course he played today may have been more difficult than the one he played on a week ago, but if its par was set correctly, it was higher. Shooting par should be equally difficult on every course in the world.

The other element of genius to the relative approach to scoring is that it doesn’t matter where a golfer is on a course, you can always create a leaderboard by using their scores relative to par. Golfer A who has finished all 18 holes of a round and completed them in two shots more than par has a score of +2 or two over par. Golfer B who is halfway through the course and has used one fewer shot than expected so far has shot one under par or -1. Golfer C who just played the first hole and completed it in the expected number of strokes is currently at par or 0. You can line these golfers up easily to see who is winning at the moment.

  1. Golfer B — -1
  2. Golfer C — 0
  3. Golfer A — +2

Golfers B and C are still playing and can improve their score or mess up and make it worse while Golfer A is done and can do nothing but wait and watch but by using relative scoring, we can rank them at any moment of the day to see who is winning.

Hopefully this all makes sense out of the madness,
Ezra Fischer

Old media covers sports in old age

Snarky headline aside, the New York Times and Associated Press really has been on a roll lately with their sports coverage of the elderly. Two recent articles celebrating people whose unique perspective on sports is only partially due to their long experience on our planet. My suspicion is that these two characters would have been interesting subjects for profiles twenty years ago, forty years ago, even seventy five years ago!

A Hole in One for a 103-Year-Old Golfer

by The Associated Press in the New York Times

Gus Andreone, an 103 year-old resident of Sarasota, Florida, recently became the oldest person to hit a hole in one. Two things popped out to me in this short profile. First, in hitting a hole in one, Andreone took the record away from its previous owner, an 102 year old woman. I’d like to know what her story was! Second, I love that Andreone claims to have hit eight holes in one since 1939 and that he seems to fully expect to hit another in his life. Let’s hope he does!

He said he used a driver on the 113-yard 14th hole of the Lakes Course, like he normally does, but then noticed something different. The ball hit the ground about 30 yards from the green and then rolled into the hole, he said.

His golf partners jumped up and down, but Andreone kept his cool.

“I can’t say that I felt any different about one or the other,” he said of his most recent ace. “I just felt another hole in one.”

At 107, a Buffalo Bills Fan Who Sees It All

by Andrea Elliott for the New York Times

There’s so much to love about this profile of Evelyn Elliott, a 107 year old Buffalo Bills fan. It was written by her granddaughter, Andrea Elliott, and Elliott’s love and familiar granddaughterly bemusement come through brilliantly in her writing. Evelyn Elliott, the subject of the piece, is an inspiring woman. Although her first date with the man who eventually became her husband was to a football game, it wasn’t until after he became sick, six months before his death, (and 65 years after their first football date,) that she got into football. Since then, she has been a true fan of the Buffalo Bills and nothing in this article suggests that will change any time soon. The Bills were eliminated from the playoffs last weekend, after this article came out, and I’m sure Elliott is disappointed but I’m equally sure that she will be in her living room to watch them finish out the year against the New England Patriots this coming Sunday. She’s a true fan!

I kept trying to discern what it was about the game that captivated Grandma’s mind. I knew she paid close attention to strategy.

“What do you think happens in the huddle?” I tried.

“They decide what to do,” she sniffed (in the tone of “Are you an idiot or what?”).

I have interviewed militant jihadists, prosecutors, drug dealers and counterterrorism specialists at the Central Intelligence Agency. None of them prepared me for the challenge of extracting personal information from my grandmother.

At the beginning of the third quarter last Sunday, with the score tied, 10-10, I started up with my questions again. She frowned.

“I can’t concentrate when people talk,” she snapped.

Grandma’s spectator style might best be described as Zen. She watches the game closely and calmly, getting neither flustered nor excited. This disposition mirrors her general approach to life.

“I just go with it,” she likes to say. “I take it as it comes. Let the best man win.”


Cue Cards 9-29-14

Cue Cards is a series designed to assist with the common small talk about high-profile recent sporting events that is so omnipresent in the workplace, the bar, and other social settings.

Yesterday —  Sunday, September 28

  1. Football, football, football  — It was a full day of football, replete with amazing performances, unfortunate blunders, strange coaching decisions. With Monday comes a slew of analysis and heated debate. Brush up on your lines about all the games with our NFL One Liners.
    Line: How about them Cowboys? [They won big over the Saints, that’s how.]
  2. Europe retains the Ryder Cup — The verb retain will be used by almost everyone talking about the European victory of the United States in the Ryder golf tournament. This is because of a small wrinkle in the rules that calls for the defending champions (the Europeans) to hold on to the championship if the two teams tie after three days of play. This rule didn’t come into play — Europe beat the U.S. by a comfortable 16.5 to 11.5 margin — but the verb will anyway.
    Line: That’s three Ryder Cup wins in a row for Europe.
  3. Baseball playoffs are set — The last spot in the MLB postseason was settled yesterday when the Oakland Athletics clinched by beating the Los Angeles Angels. This eliminated the Seattle Mariners from contention. The dates and times for the playoffs are set, starting with two one game playoffs on Tuesday and Wednesday. If you’re curious, here’s how the baseball playoffs work.
    Line: Can you imagine playing 161 games and being eliminated on the 162nd? Brutal.

Cue Cards 9-26-14

Cue Cards is a series designed to assist with the common small talk about high-profile recent sporting events that is so omnipresent in the workplace, the bar, and other social settings.

Yesterday —  Thursday, September 25

  1. A Fitting Farewell to Derek Jeter  — Derek Jeter has been the shortstop of the New York Yankees for as long as I can remember. It seems like forever. In actuality, it’s been since 1996. He’s retiring after this year and last night was his last game at home in Yankee Stadium. He’s a divisive player, partially because the Yankees are at once the most popular and the most hated team in the league, but also because he’s widely thought of as a great player but a close study of his statistics often leaves room for doubt about how good he actually is. Last night, he further cemented his legend as a winner by hitting a single in the bottom of the ninth inning which helped his teammate score the winning run. Basically, as soon as he hit that ball, the game was over and the Yankees had won. Believe it or not, there were plenty of damp eyes among Yankees fans in the stadium and at home.
    Line: You couldn’t have written a more Jeter-like ending if you had tried.
  2. The Good Night for New York Continued in Football — Meanwhile, back in the NFL, the New York Giants were beating the Washington Redskins 45 – 14. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong for Washington, and everything that could go right, went right for New York. After many seasons playing with the same offensive coach and offensive strategy, the Giants installed a new coach and a new strategy over this past off-season. They started the season looking horribly. It’s possible they are a bad team that had a good night but it’s also possible that they just needed some time to get used to new ways of playing. On Washington’s side of the ball, the enthusiasm they had for quarterback Kirk Cousins when he took over for injured Robert Griffin III might be waning slightly (okay, dramatically) after he threw four interceptions in the second half.
    Line: Maybe Kirk Cousins isn’t the savior everyone thought he was.
  3. The Ryder Cup Begins — Not strictly, yesterday’s action, this international golf tournament started very early in the morning, East Coast time. So far, the European team is slightly ahead of the team from the United States, but that’s not bad for the U.S. because we were underdogs coming into the tournament. Play continues at 8:15 a.m. ET. If you’re curious about how the Ryder Cup works, read my explanation of it here.

How does the Ryder Cup work?

Dear Sports Fan,

How does the Ryder Cup work? I know it’s an international golf tournament but I’m not sure how it’s different from other golf tournaments.


— — —Ryder Cup

Dear Alf,

The Ryder Cup is a men’s golf competition that happens every two years between a team made up of golfers from the United States and a team of European golfers. It’s quite a bit different from most golf tournaments but I think that it’s actually more exciting and accessible for people (like me,) who aren’t golf fans ordinarily. Although it’s funny to joke about how complicated the event is — Bleacher Report’s intro to the Ryder Cup by Tyler Conway made me laugh out loud at its introductory statement, ” The 2014 Ryder Cup begins in less than a week, which means it’s time for one of the best biennial traditions in golf: explaining how this strange event works.” — but I don’t think it’s all that hard to understand. Let’s run through how it works and you can tell me what you think.

The Teams

Each team is made up of 12 golfers. Each team has a captain who, as part of his responsibilities, gets to choose three of the 12 players. Somewhat interestingly, although both captains are picked by continental golf league leaders (the PGA executive committee in the U.S. and the European Tour Committee in Europe,) only the European players get a chance to vote to ratify the selection. If a U.S. player doesn’t like his captain, too bad. The other nine players are selected automatically by selecting off the top of ranked lists of top golfers intended to reflect performance.

Tournament Format

The tournament is held over the course of three days. During those days, 28 separate competitions, called matches, are played. Each match is worth one point: a win gives a team one point, a loss, zero, and a tie, one half point. Whichever team has the most points after the 28 matches are complete wins the Ryder Cup. It is possible for the two teams to end the tournament with 14 points each. If that happens, the side that won the tournament two years ago keeps the title! This seems like a shockingly unsatisfying way to resolve a tie but, really, so many ways of resolving ties in sports, like shootouts in soccer, are unsatisfying. There’s something traditional in sports about the idea of having a tie favor the reigning champion. In boxing, this unwritten rule goes at least as far back as 1973. It states that, “you can’t dethrone a champion unless you beat him badly.”

There are three different formats for matches during the Ryder Cup: singles, fourballs, and foursomes. Of the 28 matches, eight are foursomes, eight are fourballs, and 12 are singles. Each of the 12 players on both sides must play one of the 12 singles matches but the captains have free-reign to select whoever they want to play in the foursome and fourballs matches with the only restriction being that no single player is allowed to play more than five total matches.


Players are paired against a single opponent. They play eighteen holes of golf together in direct competition. For each hole, whoever completes it successfully in fewer strokes gets one point. If they take the same number of hits to compete a hole, they each get half a point. Whoever has the most points at the end of the round wins the match for their side.


Fourballs is just like singles, except instead of two players, there are four in two teams of two. Each of the four players plays each hole but for each hole, only the best score from each team counts. For example, if USA 1 gets a six and USA 2 gets a four while Europe 1 gets a 3 and Europe 2 gets an 8, the scores from USA 1 and Europe 2 would be discarded and only the two best scores from each team would be compared. USA 2’s four would get lined up against Europe 1’s three and Team Europe would get the point for that hole. This format is also called “best ball.” It’s theoretically possible that a player could go through an entire round of fourballs and never have their score count if their partner does better on every single hole.


Foursomes is an even more intertwined teamwork based format. Like fourballs, each match is played with teams of two, but instead of both teammates playing each hole, they use a single ball and alternate strokes. If USA 1 drives the ball off the tee, USA 2 has to hit the second shot on the hole. They continue alternating until they get the ball in the hole or one of them sues for divorce. Just kidding, there’s no divorce allowed, but I can’t imagine a sports format more clearly designed to create friction between partners.

How Score is Kept

Unlike regular golf tournaments, the total, cumulative number of strokes a golfer takes doesn’t matter. Teams and players concentrate only on beating their opponent, so the score is kept relativistically between the two golfers or teams. CBS Sports’ guide to the Ryder Cup format does a great job with the scoring vocabulary for this tournament and match play in general:

2 up thru 11: A player/twosome who is 2 up thru 11 has won two more holes than their opponent(s) through 11 holes.

All Square thru 15: The match is tied through 15 holes.

Just like within a playoff series or soccer shootout, once a team is mathematically eliminated, the match is over. If a team is up by more strokes than there are holes left, the players pack up their bags and walk off the course. The exception to this is if a team is up by more matches than there are matches left — no matter what, teams play all 28 matches.

So When is it On?

The 2014 Ryder Cup is from Friday, September 26 to Sunday, September 28. It’s being televised on the Golf Channel (there’s a golf channel? yes, a golf channel) and NBC. The thing is… it’s in Scotland, still a part of the United Kingdom and still between five to eight hours from the continental United States. Play starts at 2:35 a.m. ET on Friday, 3 a.m. ET Saturday, and a civilized 6:15 a.m. ET on Sunday. If you do decide to watch some of it, I would recommend the foursomes matches on Friday or Saturday which have the highest potential for excitement and comedy and begin at 8:15 a.m. ET.

Good luck waking up and watching, let me know what you think,
Ezra Fischer

Why do Some Sports Play Through Bad Weather and Others Don't?

Dear Sports Fan,

Why do I always hear about baseball games being delayed or rescheduled due to a light rain and yet soccer games continue around the world in a downpour?


Sport, baseball. Hardest material, a wooden bat. Plays through rain? No.

— — —

Dear Jesse,

Thanks for the question! It’s true that sports react differently to the elements. I’m tempted to try to explain this culturally. I’m not the biggest fan of baseball, so it would be fun to bash them for not playing in the rain. A more fair explanation would probably explain that weather affects the trajectory of balls and that this is much more dangerous with a small, hard ball traveling at 95 miles per hour than a big soft ball flying at 35 miles per hour. What is most interesting to me is trying to explain the general phenomenon of why some sports play through bad weather and others don’t and if possible, coming up with a rubric that explains why.

There seem to be two or three simple rules that we can abstract to to explain how each sport deals with weather.

  1. If the sport is played inside, there should almost never be a weather related delay.
  2. The harder the hardest substance used in normal game-play is, the less likely the sport will be to play through bad weather.

Let’s see how these work in practice.

Pro or College Basketball, Volleyball, Boxing, Hockey, Ping Pong — all played inside and all safe from weather delays.

Soccer, Football, Rugby, Cross Country Running — all played outdoors and the hardest material involved is no harder than a soft, inflated leather ball. Their surfaces are all grass or dirt. The only weather that will stop these games is a lightning storm in the direct area of the game.

Golf, Baseball, Tennis, Cricket — all played outdoors and the hardest material is significantly harder than leather. Golf has metal clubs and hard resin balls, baseball has wooden bats and hard leather balls, tennis is played on concrete with fiberglass rackets, and cricket has wooden bats and a hard leather ball.

These rules work pretty well to predict whether a sport will play through bad weather or not with only a few exceptions. You may have noticed that football is in the play through the weather category despite its helmets being much harder than an inflated leather ball. Two possible explanations for this are that historically the helmets were made of soft leather or that because the helmet is attached to the body, its danger is not modified by the weather. Of course if we allow the historic state of sports to enter into the equation, we’d have to admit that tennis used to be played only on grass and clay and that the rackets used to be made of wood. Then again, women’s tennis attire once “included a bustle and sometimes a fur” according to one history of tennis. Basketball’s treatment of weather is modified by its setting. If you are in an outside basketball league, played on concrete, games will be canceled if it is raining. Cycling admittedly breaks this rule entirely. They ride in the rain even though their bikes are made of fiberglass and the roads are made of road. I can only explain this by saying that cyclists are a little crazy and that no rule is perfect.

These rules should help you if you ever need to know whether your tickets to a sport are in danger of being rained out or if you decide to invent a new sport and want to set reasonable weather expectations.

Thanks for the question,
Ezra Fischer


Cue Cards 7-22-13: Golf and Soccer

stk321064rknCue Cards is a series designed to assist with the common small talk about high-profile recent sporting events that is so omnipresent in the workplace, the bar, and other social settings.

Sport: Golf
When: Thursday through Sunday, July 17-21
Context: The British Open
Result: Phil Mickelson won
Sports Fans will be Talking About:

  • Tiger Woods — in golf, at least in the United States for the past decade or so, the story is almost always Tiger Woods. He was tied for second place after three of the four days in the tournament but had a bad last day. Once thought to have a good shot of becoming the golfer with the most major tournament wins, Tiger remains stuck at fourteen since his personal scandal in 2008.
  • Phil Mickelson — the winner will get some press too. He was tied for ninth coming into Sunday and played an incredibly good last round of golf on Sunday. This is particularly remarkable considering he was winning the last big tournament before he messed it up in its last day.

What’s Next: The next major tournament is the PGA Championships on August 8-11.

Sport: Soccer
Teams: The United States and El Salvador
When: Sunday, July 21
Context: The quarterfinals of the Gold Cup, a regional tournament held every year to determine the champion of the North American, Central American, and Caribbean region
Result: The United States wins 5-1
Sports Fans will be Talking About:

  • Streaking — The United States Men’s national team has now won nine games in a row, its longest streak ever.
  • Landon Donovan — For years Donovan has been the consensus best American player and the leader of its national team through three World Cups. In the last few months the new coach Jurgen Klinsmann has decided not to use Donovan for important national team games. This tournament has been seen as a chance for Donovan to prove that he is still a valuable enough player to be included in the US lineup for next year’s World Cup in Brazil. Donovan played very well yesterday and headlines today suggest that Donovan “has his swagger back” and “proved he belongs.”

What’s Next: The United States will face Honduras in the semifinals on Wednesday, July 24 at 7 pm. The other semifinal game is Panama vs. Mexico at 10 pm that night.

Cue Cards 6-17-13


Cue Cards is a series designed to assist with the common small talk about high-profile recent sporting events that is so omnipresent in the workplace, the bar, and other social settings.

Sport: Hockey
Teams: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Boston Bruins
When: Saturday night, 6-15-13
Context: Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Chicago won game 1 in triple over-time and had the 1-0 series lead.
Result: The Boston Bruins win 2-1 in overtime.
Sports Fans will be Talking About:

  • The Boston Bruins goalie, Tuukka Rask, played superbly in the first period to keep the Bruins in the game.
  • This was the second game in a seven game series and both games have gone to overtime. In two games the teams have played the equivalent of three games because of all the overtime needed.
  • In a seven game series, the team with the better regular season record gets four of the seven games at home. Chicago was at home for the first two games and with the series tied at 1-1, the Bruins now have three of the remaining five games at home. They have captured the home ice advantage.

What’s Next: Game 3 is Monday night at 8 p.m.

— — —

Sport: Basketball
Teams: Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs
When: Sunday night, 6-16-13
Context: Game 5 of the NBA Championships. The seven game series is tied at two games apiece.
Result: Spurs win 114-104
Sports Fans will be Talking About:

  • What’s wrong with the Miami Heat. The Heat were favorites because of their “big three” star players Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. Now they are one more loss away from losing the championship.
  • Alternating blow-outs. After a close game one, the teams have traded off winning games by at least ten points.
  • Spur Danny Green who was a highly regarded player in college but before this season a complete flop as a professional has been playing incredibly well. He had 24 points in the game and now has the record for most three-pointers made in the NBA finals in history.
  • Continuity (the Spurs best players and coach have been playing together for more than a decade) and coaching have the Spurs one victory away from winning the championship.

What’s Next: Game 6 is Tuesday night at 9 p.m.

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Sport: Golf
Tournament: U.S. Open
When: Thursday-Sunday,June 13-16
Context: Second of four major golf championships of the year – the four most high profile, prestigious tournaments in golf
Result: England’s Justin Rose won with a score of 1 over par – kind of like being valedictorian with a GPA of 2.5
Sports Fans will be Talking About:
  • The course won. It’s rare when you gather the best players in golf and none of them break par cumulatively over four rounds – but that’s what happened at this and last year’s U.S. Open. Both Opens were won by a player who shot one stroke over par, a pretty mediocre score for professional golfers and an indication of the traditional difficulty of the U.S. Open courses.
  • Tiger comes up short in another major. Tiger Woods is the best golfer of his generation but to be the best golfer of all time he has to break Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors won – he’s currently 4 behind and hasn’t won one since he was caught setting the record for most females slept with by a golfer in the history of one of the world’s most ancient sports.
  • Lefty comes up short again. Phil Mickelson (aka Lefty cause…uh…he’s left-handed) is perhaps the second most well-known American golfer active today. Unlike Tiger he’s best known for his tragic shortcomings in big tournaments, which include 5 previous runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open, several of which occurred in heartbreaking fashion. True to form he started the day leading the tournament but wasn’t able to close and lost by 2 strokes.
What’s Next: The next major golf tournament is the Open Championships, which are played in the UK – this year it will be hosted at Muirfield, in Scotland, July 18-21.