Is Merion Set Up for Tiger Woods to Break His Five-Year Drought in Majors?

Is Merion Set Up for Tiger Woods to Break His Five-Year Drought in Majors?

It’s almost hard to believe, but the last time Tiger Woods won a major championship was in 2008. In ’08, Maurice Cheeks was head coach of the 76ers, Brian Dawkins was wearing an Eagles uniform, and the Phillies were winning the World Series. Yeah, it’s been that long.

Woods is on the comeback trail though. He has four PGA Tour wins under his belt this year already to build off of his three from 2012, this after winning none at all for two straight years. Clearly Tiger has recovered, and he is on the prowl.

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A healthy, scandal-free Tiger Woods is probably the favorite to win any tournament in which he participates, and the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club this week is no different. Those of us who have not experienced the privilege of playing there have heard what a challenging course it is, but it is short, especially by Open standards at 6,996 yards – a length Golf analysts say could work to Woods’ advantage.

In Mark Cannizzaro’s Tiger-centric preview of the Open, the New York Post writer examined why Merion could be the place where Woods finally picks up his 15th major victory, and renews his quest to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18.

Merion should set up well for Woods for two reasons: 1, the weakest part of his game is his driver, and using a driver is not necessary on many Merion holes; and 2, no one thinks his way around the course better than Woods.

Woods’ victory at The Players Championship last month seemed to provide a blueprint of how he will play Merion. Woods surgically maneuvered his way around the tight and treacherous Sawgrass Stadium Course using many irons off tees to position himself for easier approach shots, hitting a driver only once in the final round.

Because Woods was striking his irons beautifully and putting well, it worked to perfection.

“Any time you can give Tiger a course that he doesn’t need to use his driver, I think, is to his advantage,” NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller said. “The way he won The Players Championship is very similar to what he’s going to do at Merion. If he doesn’t have to hit the driver, I think he’s going to be tough to beat.”

Of course, Tiger still has to go out and actually win the thing, which is always much easier said than done in this game. While he put up a solid effort at the Masters this year (tied for fourth), Augusta ultimately proved uncooperative, extending his slump to 0-for-15 in majors.

Whether you root for him or against him, Woods is always one of the guys you follow, and Cannizzaro says the pressure will be on this week. We’ll find out whether or not he's all the way back in greatest-golfer-in-the-world form.

>> After five years without major win, Open course sets up nicely for Tiger [NYP]

Conspiracy charge added for 3 former Penn State administrators

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Conspiracy charge added for 3 former Penn State administrators

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday allowed prosecutors to add a conspiracy charge against three former Penn State administrators, increasing their possible penalty if convicted of crimes for their handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.

Judge John Boccabella granted a request by the attorney general's office to tack on a related conspiracy count to the charges of endangering the welfare of children.

Prosecutors said each felony count carries up to 7 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

Jury selection is scheduled for March 20 in Harrisburg in the case of former university president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley.

The defendants sought permission last week from Boccabella for an appeal that could delay the trial. The judge has not ruled on that request.

They argue Boccabella erred when he declined to dismiss the child-welfare charges, arguing the statute of limitations expired, the defendants did not provide direct care for children and they are charged with actions that occurred before the law was revised.

Earlier this month, the judge dismissed charges of failing to properly report suspected abuse, and last year the Superior Court threw out perjury, obstruction and conspiracy charges.

The three administrators fielded a complaint in 2001 from a graduate assistant who said he saw Sandusky, then retired as an assistant football coach, sexually abusing a boy in a team shower.

They did not report the matter to police or child welfare authorities, but did tell Sandusky he could no longer bring children to the campus and they notified his charity for children, The Second Mile.

Sandusky currently is serving a lengthy state prison term after being convicted in 2012 of 45 counts of sexual abuse of 10 boys.

Last week, a new judge appointed to preside over his appeals under the state's Post-Conviction Relief Act scheduled a March 24 hearing at the courthouse near State College to "present and finalize the evidentiary portion" of the hearing.

Hits King Pete Rose on Phillies' Wall of Fame ballot

Hits King Pete Rose on Phillies' Wall of Fame ballot

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies have released their Wall of Fame ballot for 2017 and Pete Rose is on it for the first time.

Baseball’s all-time hits king joins Steve Bedrosian, Larry Christensen, Jim Fregosi, Gene Garber, Placido Polanco, Ron Reed, Scott Rolen, Manny Trillo and Rick Wise on the ballot.

The Phillies had to receive permission from commissioner Rob Manfred to include Rose on the ballot. Rose was placed on baseball’s permanently ineligible list in 1989 after he admitted to wagering on baseball during his time as manager of the Cincinnati Reds. The ban precludes him from appearing on the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Rose is still on the ineligible list, but Manfred has shown some leniency in recent years and Rose has been able to participate in some ceremonies. He was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds' Hall of Fame last summer. 

Rose was one of the stars on the Reds’ Big Red Machine, a club that won back-to-back World Series in 1975 and 1976. He came to the Phillies as a free agent before the 1979 season. He spent five years with the Phils and his leadership was considered key in getting a talented team over the top on its way to winning the 1980 World Series. 

The Phillies’ Wall of Fame ceremony will take place Aug. 12 at Citizens Bank Park. 

Fans have a voice in the voting, which is has begun on the team’s website -- www.Phillies.com. Fans can select their top three choices and the five finalists will serve as the official ballot for a special Wall of Fame selection committee.