Bob Lutz

Lutz online: Golf is pulling me back

Thank you, Rory McIlroy. Thanks for rescuing me from the depths of my golf depression.

Since all the news about Tiger Woods came out, not only have I distanced myself from golf, but I've played poorly, too. Every time I take a back swing, I think about Tiger's philandering ways and my ball shoots off right or left.

But just when I was about to give up on the game forever, a 20-year-old from Northern Ireland re-ignited my passion. Watching McIlroy tear up Quail Hollow on Sunday — needing only 18 strokes to get through the final six holes — captivated me the way I hadn't been captivated since, well, that other guy was playing his best.

I'm not following "that other guy" these days, although I did hear he didn't make the cut last weekend. Not that I took any solace in that — OK, who am I kidding? It was a laugh riot.

McIlroy has that flowing curly hair, that innocent smile, that "aw shucks" attitude that appears to be genuine, although who can you really trust these days? As far as I know, he doesn't frequent Perkins Restaurants, another plus.

There are a group of young guns who play as if they're eager to help everyone forget about Tiger, including American's Anthony Kim and Ricky Fowler, 18-year-old Japanese golfer Ryo Ishikawa and 17-year-old Italian Matte Monassero, among many others.

It would be foolish of me to say Tiger will never be heard from again. He most certainly will.

But it's refreshing to know that golf will survive with or without him. He missed the cut last weekend, but I watched two days of the Quail Hollow Championship without him and was entertained.

***

What is about quail that golf course owners and managers love so much?

A quick search of Google showed hundreds of courses in the United States that include "Quail" in their name.

There's Quail Hollow, of course. There's Quail Valley, Quail Ridge, Quail Creek, Quail Chase, Quail Lodge, Quail Canyon, Quail Point, Quail Crossing, Quail Meadows, Quail Run and Quail Heights.

All sound like really nice places. Which, I suppose, is what the word "quail" does for a golf course. It makes it sound classy, for some reason, although real quail are just common birds that rate no more than a couple of sentences in Wikipedia.

I suppose, though, that most words do go together well with "quail," although I wasn't able to find a Quail Hills golf course anywhere in the United States.

***

I ran across an incredible statistic concerning the Royals and ace right-hander Zack Greinke last week, before he lost 1-0 on Sunday to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Greinke, we know, has been one of the two or best three pitchers in baseball for the past couple of seasons. He won a Cy Young Award last season while pitching on one of the worst teams in baseball.

So far this season, Greinke's earned-run average is 2.27, a tick higher than the 2.16 ERA he posted last season. Yet his combined record in 2009 and 2010 is only 16-11.

And consider this: In Greinke's past 47 starts for the Royals, dating back to late in the 2008 season, Kansas City's record is 22-25.

So far, Kansas City has wasted one of the game's supreme talents. There's still time — despite all of his experience, Greinke is only 26 — but you wonder whether the Royals will ever be able to put enough talent around Greinke to compete for a championship.

***

Which surprises you most one month into the baseball season:

Matt Capps of the Washington Nationals leads the National League with 10 saves.

Detroit Tigers rookie Austin Jackson, acquired in a trade with the Yankees for Curtis Granderson, is batting .367, second in the AL. Granderson, meanwhile, is on the disabled list with a leg injury.

Arizona second baseman Kelly Johnson is tied for the NL lead in home runs with nine. Johnson was ushered out of Atlanta during the offseason.

I'm most surprised that anyone from the Washington Nationals leads the National League in any positive category.

***

I sure hope LeBron James stays in Cleveland after this season, whether the Cavs win a championship or not.

I know titles are important to King James, but he is already a mythic figure in Cleveland and in Ohio, having grown up in nearby Akron. James was honored in his hometown Sunday night before the official announcement of his Most Valuable Player award and thousands showed up. James sounded overwhelmed by the support and from everything he said, it sounded as if this is a guy who wants to stay close to home.

But dollars talk and James will be heavily pursued by some of the big-market teams with lots of room under the salary cap.

Hopefully, he stays in Cleveland and helps the Cavs build a dynasty. It sure feels like that's where he belongs.

***

Has Michael Beasley been the player you thought he would be after two seasons with the Miami Heat?

It's a legitimate question. Beasley looked soft in the Heat's five-game first-round series loss to the Boston Celtics. Perhaps he was intimidated by Boston's Kevin Garnett, who could intimidate Iron Man, for crying out loud.

There was a school of thought before the 2008 NBA Draft that Beasley should go No. 1 to the Chicago Bulls. I took a few classes in that school.

The Bulls instead went with Memphis point guard Derrick Rose. Chicago got it right.

The three players chosen in the 3-4-5 slots in '08 were O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, all of whom are doing better than Beasley.

This will be an interesting offseason for Beasley, especially if the Heat lose Dwyane Wade to free agency. He'll need to start showing more next season. I'm sure he's already testing the patience of Heat general manager Pat Riley.

***

I did some checking into how Wichita State's baseball team stacks up nationally in three important categories: batting average, earned-run average and fielding percentage.

The statistics I found were through April 25, but in games played through that date the Shockers ranked 55th in ERA (4.66), in a tie for 207th in batting average (.289) and in a tie for 199th in fielding percentage (.956).

WSU since has improved its batting average to .297 and improved its fielding percentage slightly to .957. But despite a couple of standout pitching performances at Illinois State over the weekend, the ERA is up to 4.79, thanks to ISU's 18-run outburst Saturday.

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