The Back Nine comes at you after an emotional weekend that will lead to a very long celebration of life for my father and no more lectures about how important family is. I’ll let you figure that out for yourself.
10. I’m going to start out with some football, which is the hook to bring you into any column in this neck of the woods. The reason I am starting with football is that I started thinking Sunday night about how SEC Media Days are not that far away and not much can happen between now and the voting for the order of finish. Let me be the first to say that predicting the SEC in July means very little, but it does give us some football to talk about. Hence, this segment of the Back Nine. I’m not going to give you my predictions, not yet. But I will predict the predictions (which sounds a little like that great song “Face the Face” by Pete Townshend) that the media boys and girls will lay on you in July. And it is pretty predictable.
6. South Carolina.
I’m not sure it’s ever been more of a two-horse race in this division.
2. Texas A&M.
5. Ole Miss.
7. Miss. State.
So, what do I win if I get all of these right?
11. And here is another thing, it’s difficult to find Florida players who will be on the preseason All-SEC team. Again, you don’t get a plague or a paver or even a certificate for making those teams, but my guess is that Kaiir Elam will be the only Florida player on the first team. I will say this – a lot of it is lazy voting based on who each team brings to the event. Florida is on a streak of four straight years with two players on the first team. Last year, it was the two Kyles (Trask and Pitts).
12. I like to give my Tailgate show partner Jeff Cardozo (who did three games by himself in Knoxville) a difficult time because he’s always talking about the monster home runs Kris Armstrong hits in batting practice and I come back with, “Well, do it in a game and I’ll be impressed.” So, he did. Armstrong’s three-run blast in the ninth saved the weekend for a Florida team that struggled to hold leads against Tennessee and still can’t get the hang of situational hitting. Florida probably isn’t going to win the division, three games out of first, but maybe these guys can get hot down the stretch. The funny thing is that these guys try to hit too many homers, but nobody was complaining when Armstrong’s blast left the bat.
13. Meanwhile, in the softball world, we are set up for what should be a monster weekend series between Florida and Alabama. The Gators (I’m guessing) were rooting for Alabama to beat Arkansas in their series this weekend because the Razorbacks entered the weekend unbeaten in conference play. Alabama took two-of-three and we have a three-horse race with Arky at 13-2, Florida at 10-2 and Alabama at 11-4. Florida goes to Alabama for a three-game series starting Friday night at 7 after a midweek game against UCF. Florida-Alabama softball is always high drama. Should be interesting.
14. OK, let’s get to the Masters, and I have to be honest, I kind of gave up on it and started watching a movie with my daughter Kelsey (“Kill Bill, Vol. 2”; don’t judge me). Then my wife came into the living room to tell me Hideki Matsuyama just hit it into the water and it was game on. I wasn’t rooting against him and we all know how important it was in Japan. I just wanted it to be close. He ended up winning by a shot, but it still never felt that close on Sunday. But I could watch a foursome of 20-handicaps play that course.
15. Although Billy Horschel did not enjoy playing it. Twice he went into Rae’s Creek with his socks and shoes off to hit balls out of the water and on Sunday it did not go well. Horschel is an emotional player and he was so upset he slammed his wedge into his bag a couple of times. He apologized for his actions on Twitter and it’s pretty much a dead issue. He’s the second former Florida player to apologize to the membership at Augusta. Chris DiMarco did in 2003 when rain forced delays and he didn’t return to finish up the last couple of holes of his round because he wanted to see his son Christian play baseball. He wrote a letter to the chairman. Twitter wasn’t invented yet.
16. I mentioned how big the softball series is this week, but there are two events that are even bigger. Florida begins competition in the NCAA finals in gymnastics on Friday in Fort Worth and begins play Thursday in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament in Omaha. As much as travel has become tedious for this old man, I would love to be in those cities for those events.
17. No, the Phillies’ Alec Bohm never touched the plate. Replay failed us again. It will continue to fail us. But if you are a Braves fan, keep telling yourself it was one of 162 games and everything usually evens out. But on Sunday night, it sure didn’t feel that way. That said, people who throw things in the field are idiots. You have a right as a ticket holder to boo. You do not have a right to litter the field.
18. The “Florida Four” today involves the Florida men’s tennis team, which wrapped up an undefeated SEC season with a 4-3 win over South Carolina on Friday. That means Florida had four matches where the winning team won four matches this year. A 4-3 win over Arizona, a 4-2 loss to Texas (the only loss of the year), a 4-3 win over Vanderbilt and the win over the Gamecocks were part of an 18-1 regular season. Pretty, pretty good.