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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wall St.’s highest-paid players of all time - 10 things to watch at combine -

Relieved Woods survives long, mistake-filled first round

MARANA, Ariz. -- Tiger Woods walked off the 18th green and found a phalanx of friends, adversaries and funny trash talk awaiting him as he ambled across the practice putting area.
Woods had been on the course nearly five hours, trading kicks in the shins with his first-round opponent at the Accenture Match Play Championship, barely surviving a match that was as entertaining as it was sloppy and uneven. Or perhaps specifically because of it.
"Slowpoke," caddie Brett Waldman deadpanned.
Woods, relieved to have merely advanced, laughed and didn't bother denying it.
"When you are hitting it here and here," Woods said, pointing extended arms in both directions, "it takes a long time."
Woods was nearly three holes down to Spain's careening Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano at one point, dodged several major bullets, hit a shot left-handed and spent much of the day in the prickly pear and cholla, but somehow gritted his was to a 1-up victory after saving par from the sand on the 18th hole.
"It was the epitome of match play," Woods said.
He was right, though it wasn't so much a case of artistic ebb and flow as it was staunch and cauterize. They chased each other into the desert, missed all sorts of potentially momentum-shifting putts, and left a swath of mangled Mother Nature in their wake.
"Neither one of us had our best stuff out there," Woods sighed, quite accurately.
Remember all the thrust-and-parry from the twosome before the match, about whether the other was "beatable." Turns out they were both right. If they had played nearly any other guy, they might have been tied to a Saguero and left as buzzard bait.
Both players would have posted 1-over 73s, and they mustered a combined two birdies on a back nine that was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Sure, it started entertainingly enough, sort of like watching insults being traded on a Married ... With Children rerun.
On the second hole, Woods slashed his tee shot into the native flora, and had to flip over an iron and hit a ball left-handed to get back in the fairway. Had he not made a six-footer on the third, he would have been 3 down. "If there was one day to beat Tiger Woods, this was it," said Fernandez-Castano. "And I didn't take the opportunity ... He played far away from his best."
Woods played far away from the golf course at times, too. At times, it was equal parts riveting and repulsive, like watching some NASCAR guy peeling what was left of his car off the wall at Daytona. A couple of times, it was like they were both determined to give away the match, with both hands, but the other guy was coughing up chunks of lung himself.
Theories quickly surfaced as to why they nicknamed Woods' adversary "Gonzo," and it mostly related to where he was hitting his tee shots. Woods was nearly as wild. On the 10th, after Woods had carved a driver deep into the desert, Gonzo wisely downshifted and pulled a 3-wood to keep the ball in play.
Trouble was, he hit the ball within a few yards of Woods, too, and had to take an unplayable drop when his ball was found squarely in a huge cactus. No worries, because Woods found his ball buried in a creosote bush, and when he took his stance, branches were peeking out between his legs. He chopped out the ball, but it hit squarely in the middle of a Saguaro cactus, and dropped straight down.
"We were both slapping it over there on the left on No. 10, he's taking an unplayable, I'm in the bushes and cactus, or cacti, whatever," Woods said.
OK, so he definitely learned that the plural for cactus is cacti, just on that hole alone. His next shot obliterated a small desert bush and landed in a rocky waste area short of the green, prompting Woods to issue a string of colorfully hyphenated words not fit for public consumption, none of which were "Fernandez-Castano."
By the time the hole was over, the Spaniard had won it with a bogey. Starting on the ninth, Woods played the next three holes in a gag-inducing 4 over, but was lucky only to lose two of the holes.
On the par-5 11th, Gonzo sliced his drive into a flash-flood area and had to hack it out, while Woods had a clean look at the green from 267 yards. He promptly pulled a 5-wood into yet another bush, moved his next shot about three yards, and bogeyed again.
As they bobbed and staggered into the back nine, Gonzo repeatedly had chances to put Woods on his heels, but could not deliver a single clutch putt. He missed an eight-footer on the 13th, and inexcusably left a 15-footer short on the 14th that would have won the hole and put Woods 2 down with four holes to play. After missing his birdie effort, he conceded a three-footer for par to Woods, who missed five putts from five feet in his last competitive round at Pebble Beach.
Aye carramba.
Fans didn't know whether to cheer or jeer, though most were definitely cheering on the American and openly pulling against the Spaniard, fair or not. At one point, five scantily clad Hooters girls emerged from a hospitality tent and lined up alongside the 14th tee, and a friend snapped a photo just as Woods walked past behind them, actually oblivious to their giggles, jiggles and cleavage.
As for the photo itself, we'll let you write your own caption for that one.
Woods hit one terrific shot down the stretch, driving the green on the 323-yard 15th, where he once lost a match to Tim Clark, for an easy birdie, his first since the eight hole. It also squared the match. Woods took the lead when Gonzo bogeyed the 16th.
Woods had a chance to win the match with a 9-footer on the 17th, and remarkably, blew it four feet past the hole and had to grind out the par putt to keep from giving the hole away. After missing the green from the middle of the 18th fairway, Woods saved par from nine feet at the last and won when Gonzo's birdie effort a moment later missed.
The two had exchanged a laugh about something a moment before they putted on the 18th, though Woods was unable or unwilling to explain the crux of the joke. Maybe they were just glad it didn't go extra holes, which goes double for most of the fans who were watching.
"I had my chances and I didn't take them," Gonzo said. "You can't do that with one of the greatest in history."

10 things to watch at combine
john clayton espn.com
Indianapolis hosted perhaps the best-run Super Bowl in the game's 46-year run. This week's return to Indy for the NFL scouting combine should be a breeze.
A total of 327 draft prospects started converging on downtown Indianapolis on Wednesday to be poked, probed and tested by NFL teams in the next seven days.
More than just draft research, the combine is to pro football what the winter meetings are to baseball. With the official league year starting shortly after the conclusion of the combine, teams will start talking trades, determining the value of potential free agents, working on getting under the salary cap and making other plans for the 2012 season.
Virtually every scout, coach, general manager, agent and most of the top draft prospects will be in town. Here are 10 things to watch in the 2012 combine.

1. Figuring out the quarterback hierarchy: Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is expected to go to the Indianapolis Colts as the first pick in the draft. Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III is the next quarterback pick, and, if the Rams can begin shopping his talents, a team will move up to the No. 2 selection to take him. But who's No. 3? Most teams have different ratings on the quarterbacks behind Luck and Griffin. The list includes Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M, Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State, Brock Osweiler of Arizona State, Kirk Cousins of Michigan State and Nick Foles of Arizona.

Luck and Griffin might run 40-yard dashes, but they won't be throwing Sunday, reserving their shows for their pro days in March. Tannehill is injured and won't work out. The rest of the quarterbacks need to do as much as they can to sort out this year's class. Each has to overcome questions. For Weeden, it's his age. He's going to be a 28-year-old rookie. If Osweiler measures out close to 6-foot-8, that could be a negative because very few quarterbacks that tall succeed. A good combine could help Cousins and Foles improve some second- and third-round grades.

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AP Photo/Dave Martin
Trent Richardson is trying to prove he's worthy of being a top-15 pick.
2. Placing the running backs: It's tough to be a running back these days. The move to a passing league has devalued featured backs. Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy in 2010, but that netted him only the 28th pick in the first round, when the Saints traded up to get him. The next back didn't go until the 38th pick.

This year's backs will be battling similar problems. Trent Richardson of Alabama is clearly the best back in the draft. In many circles, he's a top-10 pick. But he either has to run a good 40 time or convince a top-15 team in need of a running back that he's too valuable to pass up. As with the quarterback position, the combine starts the battle to see who is the No. 2 back and whether that back merits first-round consideration. Among the candidates are Lamar Miller of the University of Miami, Chris Polk of Washington, David Wilson of Virginia Tech and Doug Martin of Boise State.

3. QB-WR match game: A recent successful trend has been drafting a big, fast wideout to become the go-to receiver for a talented, young quarterback. The Falcons traded up to acquire Julio Jones to help out Matt Ryan. The Bengals had instant success putting A.J. Green with Andy Dalton. The Calvin Johnson-Matthew Stafford and Andre Johnson-Matt Schaub pairings created major problems for defenses.

Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State is considered the best receiver in a deep class of pass-catchers. The Rams found out last season that they lacked the receiving threats to advance the development of Sam Bradford. They have the second pick in the draft and could trade down to a team that needs Griffin, but trading down too much could cost them Blackmon. The Panthers, a team that used to emphasize defense and the running game, advanced into the quarterback age last season with the success of Cam Newton. They might be willing to trade up to get Blackmon.

Most of the top receivers, such as Michael Floyd, Mohamed Sanu, Alshon Jeffery, Rueben Randle and Stephen Hill, have great size. Good 40 times and great workouts could excite teams.

4. Hot corners: One of the highlights of the upcoming draft is the depth at cornerback. More than 10 corners could go in the first two rounds. Because recent combines have been on television, corners have treated combines like track meets. They train hard, and, if they have speed, they don't fear running at the combine. More defenses are looking for man-to-man corners, and the bigger and faster the better.

Taller cornerbacks such as Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama, Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina and Trumaine Johnson of Montana could really help themselves with great workouts. Because there are so many good prospects at corner this year, the combine will start sorting out where they might go.

5. Figuring out the hybrids: Because quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball so quickly, the premium in drafts is finding pass-rushers. One of the problems, though, is determining whether they fit as a 3-4 linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end. Melvin Ingram of South Carolina and Courtney Upshaw of Alabama are 270-plus-pound linebacker prospects, but 4-3 teams such as the Seahawks have to watch the workouts carefully to see whether these players could work as defensive ends in a 4-3. Nick Perry of Southern Cal and Whitney Mercilus of Illinois are undersized defensive ends. Would they fit better in a 3-4? Their workouts could help the teams in need of pass-rushers answer those questions.

6. Bulking up the middle of offensive lines: Guards and centers do not get selected often in the first round because teams in need of blockers prioritize the tackle position. But the recent successes of interior blockers such as Maurkice Pouncey of the Steelers and Mike Iupati of the 49ers have allowed teams to appreciate guards and centers more in the first round.

That's what makes this an interesting combine for guards David DeCastro (Stanford) and Cordy Glenn (Georgia) and center Peter Konz (Wisconsin). DeCastro has the dimensions of a tackle, but, because he's so dominant in the middle, he could go in the top 15. Glenn (6-6, 346 pounds) could be switched to tackle. Konz (6-5, 315) is considered the best center prospect. With a few more teams shifting to the 4-3, the value of guards and centers to protect the pocket of the quarterback will influence this combine.

Vincent Muzik/Icon SMI
If the Rams hold on to the No. 2 pick, USC's Matt Kalil could be their guy.
7. Competition at tackle: Matt Kalil of Southern Cal is considered the best offensive tackle in the draft and could go as high as the second pick if the Rams can't pull off a trade. Offensive line coaches will be hoping many offensive tackles work out to see which ones have the footwork to be a left tackle and protect the quarterback's blind side.

Left tackles are on islands blocking defensive ends and pass-rushing linebackers. Good combines could only help Riley Reiff of Iowa, Mike Adams of Ohio State, Jonathan Martin of Stanford and others.

8. Will the great run on tight ends continue? Thanks to Vernon Davis, Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and others, the NFL is in a golden era of tight end play. All of a sudden, it's hard to win without a top tight end who can stretch the seam or have a big presence in the middle of the field.

There are 14 tight ends at the combine, and all will be trying to prove themselves. Among the names to watch are Coby Fleener of Stanford, Dwayne Allen of Clemson and Orson Charles of Georgia. This doesn't appear to be a deep class, but the combine will begin to show whether it's a good one.

9. Franchises and franchise players: Starting Monday, teams with unsigned players will have 15 days to decide how they'll use the franchise tag. With agents for the top players here in Indianapolis, negotiations on long-term deals will be intense. With more than $700 million of cap room and more than 470 free agents, something has to give. Agents and general managers will be huddling up in coffee shops, restaurants and suites throughout the city.

10. Trade discussions, salary-cap cuts and Peyton Manning: The new collective bargaining agreement rolled back the value of top draft choices. Instead of six-year contracts that topped out at $78 million, the top pick settles for a $22 million, four-year deal. For the first time in years, teams won't fear trading into the top five. The Rams might as well set up a trading post to service teams such as Cleveland, Washington and Miami, which might want to trade up to acquire RG3.

It's not out of the question for swaps of draft picks to start as early as March, but the foundations of those discussions could start in Indianapolis. This week, teams should find out the final salary-cap number, which isn't supposed to go much higher than $120.375 million. And yes, the big offseason story remains Manning. Colts owner Jim Irsay could meet with Manning this week to sort out whether he will stay a Colt or be released.

While previous methods may have missed all-time greats, we ranked players from all eras.

This is 24/7 Wall St.’s highest-paid players of all time.
11. Alex Rodriguez
• Salary ratio: 10.18
•Sport: baseball (third baseman)
•Highest salary: $33 million (2009)
•Average player salary: $3.29 million (2009)
Story behind the salary

10. Babe Ruth
• Salary ratio: 10.66
• Sport: baseball (right fielder)
• Highest salary: $80,000 (1930)
• Average player salary: $7,500 (1930)
Story behind the salary

9. Bobby Hull
• Salary ratio: 10.8
• Sport: hockey (left wing)
• Highest salary: $270,000 (1973)
• Average player salary: $25,000 (1973)
Story behind the salary

8. Sergei Fedorov
• Salary ratio: 10.85
• Sport: hockey (center)
• Highest salary: $14 million (1999)
• Average player salary: $1.29 million (1999)
Story behind the salary

7. Wayne Gretzky
• Salary ratio: 11.07
• Sport: hockey (center)
• Highest salary: $3 million (1991)
• Average player salary: $271,000 (1991)
Story behind the salary

6. Ted Williams
• Salary ratio: 11.11
• Sport: baseball (left fielder)
• Highest salary: $100,000 (1954)
• Average player salary: $9,000 (1954)
Story behind the salary

Joe Montana is the only football player to make the list.

(Getty Images)
5. Joe Montana
• Salary ratio: 11.23
• Sport: football (quarterback)
• Highest salary: $4,000,000 (1990)
• Average player salary: $356,000 (1990)
Story behind the salary

4. Mario Lemieux
• Salary ratio: 11.5
• Sport: hockey (center)
• Highest salary: $11.32 million (1997)
• Average player salary: $984,000 (1997)
Story behind the salary

3. Ty Cobb
• Salary ratio: 12.59
• Sport: baseball (outfielder)
• Highest salary: $85,000 (1927)
• Average player salary: $6,750 (1927)
Story behind the salary

2. Michael Jordan
• Salary ratio: 13.98
• Sport: basketball (shooting guard)
• Highest salary: $33.14 million (1998)
• Average player salary: $2.37 million (1998)
Story behind the salary

1. Joe Sakic
• Salary ratio: 14.56
• Sport: hockey (center)
• Highest salary: $17 million (1998)
• Average player salary: $1.17 million (1998)

Michigan, Ohio State dominate recruiting

Is it time the Big Ten, long a title with an accounting error, be reclassified as the Big Two? That's exactly how national recruiting analysts are describing the Big Ten in terms of recruiting just days after Michigan made a monumental haul with eight commitments, including six last Saturday, to total 12 for the 2013 freshman class. That includes three players from Columbus, including receiver Jaron Dukes who committed on Wednesday. Ohio State, meanwhile, is working efficiently and has four pledges, including one five-star-rated prospect. ... Tom Lemming, the CBS Sports/MaxPreps recruiting guru said he's eager to sit back and watch how this plays out. "It looks now like the entire Midwest is down to Michigan-Ohio State."

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