Moving Day at Aronimink: Phil Martelli, Ian Baker Finch and the Anheuser-Busch Chalet

Moving Day at Aronimink: Phil Martelli, Ian Baker Finch and the Anheuser-Busch Chalet

   
I had originally purchased general admission gallery passes for all four days at this weekend's AT&T National. While they proved more than fine for the first two days, I will admit, as I did after the first round, that the allure of the private chalets and lounges was more than getting to me. A chalet, at least when it comes to golf, is a large corporate tent with stadium like seating and a special, sometimes complimentary, food and beverage hook up. In the past, I would have referred to such a structure as a tent. I would have been wrong. Trust me, it's a chalet.

I woke up Saturday morning to a call from my friend Jon, with whom I had walked the course on Friday. Jon, as it turned out, had lucked into two extra passes for day three. These were no ordinary passes, however; these tickets came complete with access to the Aronimink Golf Club clubhouse, private parking lot F and the Anheuser-Busch corporate chalet, which just happens to overlook the 16th green. Jackpot.

After coming to the mutual conclusion that I drove the least expensive car in lot F, Jon and I boarded the next shuttle headed for the course. As luck would have it, so did St. Joseph's University Men's Basketball Coach Phil Martelli. After a five minute ride down St. David's Road, I was able to catch up with Phil once inside the grounds. When I asked him what he was looking most forward to since Tiger was already finishing his round by the time we arrived, he responded:

"I'm just hear to take it all in. I'm here for everything. This is a great golf event for a great golf city. Granted, when Tiger's here, it's not just an event, it's an event. But honestly, this has just been great for the city and I'm excited to be here."

It was nice of Phil to take some time to chat with Jon and I; and, from what I observed both on the shuttle and at the course, he was shaking hands and making small talk with literally everyone who approached him. I know I'm usually pretty hard on the Hawks as a product of a certain institution up on Broad & Cecil B., but I will have to make a point to be a little kinder to Martelli in the future. His team will not be so lucky.

After making a quick pass through the clubhouse, we made it down to the driving range where we met up with CBS Sports golf analyst and the 1991 British Open Champion Ian Baker Finch. He revealed to us that he was familiar with more than a few of the area courses and had the privilege of getting on a very important local track Friday. For any of you golf fans who are potentially worried about the Merion Golf Club being too short for the U.S. Open coming in 2013, Finchy assured us that the greens and the rough will be more than enough for the West East Course to hold her own when the time comes. At a mere 6,800 yards, the Golf Association of Philadelphia and the members at Merion sure hope he is right.

One other quick note about the practice grounds, I spotted the 2009 PGA Champion Y.E. Yang hitting balls at the far end of the range at about 1 p.m. I quickly checked the tee sheet and discovered that Yang had missed the 36-hole cut and had evidently stayed around to do a little bit of work on the weekend. I watched for a few minutes as he pured wedge after wedge into the valley below. To skip ahead just a little, I found myself back at the range hours later, hoping to catch a glimpse of Tiger or any other big name hitting balls after their rounds. Though, I never saw Tiger, I did see Y.E. Yang. Again. Still hitting a wedge. At 4 p.m. Three hours later. Amateur golfers should learn something from the only man to ever take a 54-hole lead from Tiger Woods on Sunday at a major, learn to hit a wedge before you go breaking out the lumber.

Finally, we made our way to what we had built up in our minds as the greatest place on God's green Earth: the Anheuser-Busch chalet at 16. And you know what? It was great. Though the beer was by no means comp'd, as we had hoped, the unbelievable convenience of having, food, beer and a bathroom within a few hundred feet was a welcome change to the miles of hiking I did on Thursday and Friday. A day in the shade with a brew and bar stool, it's like I said, jackpot.

With just one more day to play, Englishman and European Ryder Cup lock Justin Rose sits atop the lead by four shots at -10 after turning in an impressive 67 on moving day. The tournament is his to lose. Unlike Phil at Winged Foot, I'm betting he pulls this one out. But who knows, there are grand stands down the left on 18. 

Fairways and greens, Justin, fairways and greens.

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Eagles Film Review: Carson Wentz's improvisation pays off big

Carson Wentz takes pride in not letting plays die easily. 

In Sunday’s 34-3 win over the Steelers, one play he didn’t let die ended up being the back-breaker in the blowout. 

We’re, of course, talking about the 73-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles at the 13:08 mark in the third quarter. Coming into the second half, the Eagles had a 10-point lead, but this touchdown pushed it to a 20-3 advantage and the rout was on. This play was a tone-setter (see story)

“That’s something that we talk about a lot,” Wentz said after the game. “We always say that a play is never dead. I like to make plays when we need to and everyone just does a great job of getting open in those situations.”

This was the first big off-schedule play Wentz has hit during his three weeks as the team’s starter, but the signs were there. In the Chicago game, there were several times where he showed his ability to extend plays. We broke them down in a film review last week (see story).

Throughout the week, Wentz had been compared to Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. One of the reasons was their shared ability to extend plays and make something happen. Big Ben showed his ability in the first quarter and almost connected on a huge touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton in the back of the end zone, but the receiver couldn’t pull it in. 

When Wentz got his shot later in the game, Sproles was able to pull it in, then make something happen with his feet. 

“I saw Carson scrambling this way,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Darren was literally right in front of me and when I saw him wheel, my first reaction was to find the sideline to see if he stepped out to be quite honest.  He hadn’t, and Carson just — it was like in slow motion — floated that ball up the sideline and Darren did the rest from there. It was a tremendous play from those two individuals. I guess the last thing I did is I always look back to make sure there are no flags on the ground on those long plays.”

There were no flags. Touchdown. Game. 

Let’s take a closer look at the play: 

Wentz is in shotgun with Sproles in the backfield with him. The Eagles come out with three-wide on the far side of the field and a lot of space on the near side. 

Stephon Tuitt, who actually had a pretty good game against the Eagles, takes this route to the quarterback. When he gets to left guard Allen Barbre, Barbre either didn’t see him or didn’t react quickly enough. 

While Sproles is still running his short out, Wentz feels the pressure and is able to step up through the hole created by Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks. As soon as he makes it through, Wentz still has his eyes downfield. 

Now Wentz is through the hole and sees Sproles finishing his out-route. This is when Wentz, on the run, motions to Sproles to take off. This is something we’ve seen Wentz do a few times during his three weeks as Eagles quarterback. 

Wentz was left with a tough decision here. He could have run for 10, maybe even 15 yards. It was wide open, but he decided to try to make a play with his arm instead. 

“I always want to be a thrower first,” he said. “Even when a play breaks down, I’m always looking [to throw] because that’s where the big plays are happening. If I scramble I might get 5, 10, 15, 20 yards, but I’m not that fast. I always want to get it to the guys that can make plays. We always want to make plays when they’re there, and that’s what happened.”

With the line of scrimmage at the 27, Wentz has enough awareness to run horizontally to make sure he didn’t cross. And as soon as Pittsburgh safety Mike Mitchell takes that first step toward him, Wentz sees how much room Sproles has to work with. 

Ryan Shazier, who was covering Sproles on the play, froze and then started to step toward Wentz too. He said he thought the quarterback crossed the line of scrimmage, but Wentz was aware enough to stay behind.  

Once Sproles catches the ball in open space, he begins to do Sproles things. Defensive back Sean Davis took a bad angle on him and once he gets close, the veteran turns it inside. Davis said he was trying to buy time for the rest of his defense to get there and stop Sproles. It didn’t work. 

“Man, it’s Sproles!” receiver Nelson Agholor said. “Did you think he was going to get tackled?”

While he’s blocking downfield, Dorial Green-Beckham actually trips himself up and does a somersault. But it didn’t matter — Sproles didn’t need a great block. He pretty much did it himself. 

“Anytime that you can put it in the hands of [Sproles] something special can happen on any play, and he did the rest of it,” Wentz said. 

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Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Michael Raffl had just finished playing alongside Travis Konecny, the 19-year-old kid that has Flyers fans abuzz about the now and future.

Yet for Raffl, he wasn’t thinking forward. Instead, he was looking back.

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t do that when I was 19, that’s for sure,” the 27-year-old said smiling, eyes wide open. “No, it’s impressive, he’s a really, really good hockey player.”

Konecny had that resounding affect Wednesday night at the PPL Center, recording a goal and an assist while leading the Flyers to a 2-0 preseason win over the Devils (see 10 observations).

He dazzled with speed and shiftiness.

He showed off vision and smarts.

When he touched the puck, he had everyone’s attention.

Paired with Raffl and Brayden Schenn in a game featuring mostly prospects, the 2015 first-round pick made the molding of Ron Hextall’s roster that much more difficult. With the general manager looking on, the highly touted winger started fast before making his imprint in a span of just four minutes and 34 seconds.

First, he redirected a blast by Andrew MacDonald to hand the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Not long after, the 2015 first-round pick deceived the defense to find Raffl right in front on a backdoor pass for a 2-0 advantage.

“We had a cycle play going and he had a nice fake up top there and I was just going to the net,” Raffl said. “Somehow I was all by myself and he saw me, put a perfect pass on my tape and I just went around the goalie and put it in.”

Following his first goal, Konecny nearly tacked on another less than a minute later when he appeared to hit the crossbar on a shot. He also flirted with a few more assists.

“I think I just played relaxed,” Konecny said. “I came into the game tonight trying not to do too much and just keep things simple. The main thing for me was getting pucks out of the zone, so I think I did that well tonight and hopefully I can keep building on it.”

Relieving pucks from the zone isn’t a problem when you possess the speed and skill of Konecny, who racked up 101 points last season at the junior level.

At just 19, that’s where he’ll have to return if he doesn’t crack the Flyers’ roster.

With cuts already made and more coming, that sometimes is on Konecny’s mind.

“It weighs on you a little bit. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it and it’s definitely the time I need to step up and make sure I’m playing good hockey,” Konecny said. “And just earning another day — that’s just the way I’m looking at it. Every day I wake up and just work hard and move forward from there.

“I think everyone comes into camp and tries to give them (management) a reason not to send you back and make it hard on them.”

Wednesday night didn’t hurt his chances.

“He played a good hockey game,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Had an impact offensively. He did a pretty good job. There’s some youthful mistakes in there, but overall, he had a real good night tonight playing with Raf and Schenner.”

Placing Konecny with two capable NHL forwards offered the Canadian an opportunity to prove what he could do if he was in fact on the big club.

“We played well together,” Konecny said. “I think from the start we just had a lot of communication, we talked in the room, in warmups, we all knew what we were going to do throughout the game and in certain scenarios.”

If anything, Konecny left an impression on Raffl.

“He’s a very smart player,” Raffl said. “Once he has the puck, he makes smart decisions with it. It was very easy to play with him out there. He plays a mature game and I really enjoyed it.”

Time will tell if more is in store come Oct. 14.

Loose pucks
Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon combined for the shutout. Stolarz started and made 11 saves over 29:23, while Lyon played 30:37 and stopped seven shots. “I like both of our guys tonight,” Hakstol said. “Stolie did a good job, he made a difference in this game in the first 10 minutes, those two or three really good saves there. Then Alex came in halfway through, which isn’t an easy thing to do and was ready to go and did his job.” … Schenn, MacDonald and defensive prospect Robert Hagg finished with an assist apiece. … With the roster currently standing at 49, the Flyers expect to make 15 cuts on Thursday. … Defenseman Nick Schultz is out four to seven days with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday night’s preseason game. ... The Flyers are off Thursday before likely practicing Friday ahead of Saturday's preseason game at 7 p.m. against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.