Why the Lakers had to be embarrassed, plus Tiger Woods is back but the Masters is still wide open

Happy Wednesday everyone. Hope you had a better night than the Lakers.

Let’s get straight to the point!

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Hello everyone, but especially to…

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TIGER WOODS (AND GOLF FANS EVERYWHERE)

Tiger Woods is back, friends. After practicing at Augusta National last week so what declaring himself a game time decision on Sundayfive-time Masters Tournament champion said “I feel like I’m going to play” at his press conference yesterday.

If all goes as planned by its 10:34 a.m. departure time tomorrowthis will be a truly remarkable cover.

  • Woods last played in a competitive event at the 2020 Masterswhich took place in November of the same year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A few months later he entered a serious accident involving a single car which immediately required several surgeries.

While the headline from yesterday’s press conference was that he was planning to play, Woods answered many more questionsnoting that although he has not played in a professional tournament for almost a year and a half, he expects to fight.

Of course he does. It’s Tiger Woods. Getting him back is great for the game of golf. I know what I’ll be doing at 10:34 tomorrow morning.

Honorable mentions

  • the Panthers are always on top our NHL Power rankingbut the Savage peak at the right time.
  • here are the best players in men’s college basketball transfer portal.

And not such a good morning for…

THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS

the Lakers have finally, fortunately and officially been eliminated from the NBA playoffs following their loss to the suns and Spurs victory at the Nuggets.

At the start of the season, the Lakers had the second shortest odds to win the championship, behind only the nets, but things escalated quickly. The reasons are, frankly, quite simple:

  • Russell Westbrook has never been a good fit alongside james lebron and Anthony Davisso much that coaches reportedly pressured to trade Westbrook on the trade deadline.
  • James and Davis, meanwhile, have constantly dealt with injuries. They have missed 62 games combined this season.
  • Thanks in large part to a depleted support record, the Lakers are 23rd in defensive rankings this season; for reference, they were first last year and third two seasons ago when they won the title.

What was perhaps most surprising was the Lakers’ complete lack of sense of urgency. On March 1, they woke up ninth in the Western Conference: not great, but far from a lost season, especially considering the injury issues they’ve had to deal with. Since then, they are 4-15. Only the Trail Blazers — a team in full-tank mode — are worse.

Now, two years away from their championship, the Lakers have more questions than answers. While their descent from title contenders to missing the playoffs is shocking, this end result may actually be for the bestwrites our NBA expert Sam Quinn.

  • Quinn: “The Lakers needed to be embarrassed. They needed this season to end in such a humiliating way that the franchise power brokers could no longer ignore how badly they had let things go. Any idea that they could adopt the same nonchalant attitude that informed that their trade deadline in the offseason had to be erased here and now. There is no momentum here. There are no positives to build on. There is a fundamentally broken team that needs quick and decisive action from supposed organizational leaders in order to be fixed.”

Not so honorable mentions

Ranking of the entire Masters domain 🏌

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One of my favorite exercises every spring is upon us again: ranking each player in the realm of masters. Our golf expert Kyle Porter did the honors, and his best player is looking for his first green jacket:

  • Carry: 1. Justin Thomas: He has it all. … Since the beginning of February, only Jon Rahm and Shane Lowry were better ball hitters, and JT rolled surprisingly well. Although he’s been a disappointment overall during his major league career, he strikes the perfect balance between having experience, owning one of the great tee-to-green games in the planet and not yet be jaded by failing too often (like Ernie Els). Namely: the average Masters champion wins after 6.4 attempts. This is JT’s seventh appearance.”

Meanwhile, the current world number 1 Scottie Scheffler – who has three PGA Tour wins this season, most of any player – comes in sixth:

  • Carry: “His rise from No. 14 to No. 1 happened in the space of six weeks, which means his golf has been hot, but he may not have long-term resistance there. Anyway, he’s been good in the big leagues. Of his last six starts has been a top 20 and four of them have been in the top eight. The match play event seemed a bit as the high point of his run, but maybe the run has one more peak.

As to where all 91 players (yes, including Tiger Woods) file, you can extract full ranking here and predictions and expert picks for the tournament here.

Bold predictions for the next MLB season ⚾

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Believe it or not, tomorrow is opening day. Baseball’s offseason hasn’t been quite smooth, but we’re getting a full 162-game slate, and I’m thrilled about it…even though my beloved Nationals probably won’t be very good.

Meanwhile, it’s time to be bold with some predictionsand MLB pundit Mike Axisa has a new face emerging as a star.

  • Axis: “When healthy, Byron Buxtonis a difference maker on both sides of the ball, and for my first bold prediction, I say Buxton will stay healthy this season. And because he stays healthy, he will win AL MVP. He’s so good and so talented, and at 28, Buxton is in his prime. A healthy full season for Buxton could include 40 homers, 30 interceptions and the best center field defense in the sport. A season of 10 WARS awaits.”

Mike also made his championship predictionand his probably not a team you expect.

Champions League recap: Man City and Liverpool claim first leg wins; the other quarter-finals start today ⚽

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Manchester City beat Atlético Madrid 1-0 and Liverpool beat Benfica 3-1 on the opening day of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. Kevin de Bruyne scored the Premier League leaders’ only goal in their win while Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz all scored for the Reds.

We will have two more matches to go today at 3:00 p.m. Paramount+.

Football guru James Benge predicts a close affair between the Blues and Los Blancos:

  • Benge: “Even if the Blues opt for a more cautious approach in the first leg, a top three Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz who has N’Golo Kante bringing the ball to them will need to be mitigated, particularly if Reece James is also at anything near its best. …So don’t be surprised if Carlo Ancelotti simply opts to pack up their defence… They know what Chelsea can do to them in the open. Their hosts tend to get tough in this competition. Don’t expect goals or even shots galore.

What we’re watching on Wednesday 📺

Chelsea v Real Madrid3 p.m. on CBS and Paramount+
Villareal v Bayern Munich3 p.m. on Paramount+
🏀 Nets at Knicks7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Lightning in the capitals7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 Suns at Clippers10 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Duck flames10 p.m. on TNT

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