The contrast between the two events couldn't be more different. One, the NHL's Winter Classic, was held on a cold, bleary New Year's Day on the frozen tundra of a transformed Fenway Park. The second, the 2012 Deutsche Bank Championship in Norton, Massachusetts, is staged at the TPC Boston during four sun-drenched late summer days. The DBC enjoyed its 10th anniversary in Boston and while doing so, it might've trumped the NHL extravaganza as the best sports event Boston has ever hosted.
Putting aside the obvious thrill of a Stanley Cup, World Series or NBA Finals game, along with the right of Bill Belichick passage that is the annual potential to host an AFC championship home game played by the New England Patriots, there is no other sports event in Boston where the very, very best compete with the stakes so high and the calendar marked with X's with four straight days of competition guaranteed in writing. There's no Miami Heat or Washington Caps in the way of this baby.
Yes, the annual Deutsche Bank Championship, held every Labor Day weekend on the outskirts of Boston, trumps them all. It's better than any All-Star Game, more powerful, enjoyable and relaxing than any NASCAR event -- never mind the trials, traffic and tribulations of trekking to New Hampshire. The golf tournament is a dream come true for all of New England's fun-loving, sports loving families. Spectators ranged from about six-months to some well into their 90s. While New York City has the best tennis players in the world on display for two weeks every late August-early September, Boston claims the best golfers in the world and the PGA Tour complies by staging the second round of the tour's FedEx Cup Playoffs at the Tournament Players Club.
But it's golf, you say?
Yes, it's golf! A tremendous spectator sport that, along with hockey, is much, much better in person than on TV. While NBC Sports did a fantastic job of covering the event with more cameras than an Academy Awards red carpet run, the thrill of seeing the best players in the world up close and personal brings the sport to life. The power behind the drives, the physics teacher, mind-blowing torque of human bodies turning and unleashing a stick at a small ball defies logic and gravity.
While most sports fans are accustomed to seeing the size of an NFL legend like Tom Brady, an NBA superstar like Shaquille O'Neal or even the 6'9" "small forward" that is the Celtics' Paul Pierce, or maybe even Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' 6'9" NHL All-Star defenseman, the most savvy sportsmen can't believe their eyes when a compact swing is unleashed by 5-10, 160-pound Rory McIlroy, the winner of the 2012 Deutsche Bank Championship. Ditto for tournament runner-up, the 5-10, 160-pounder that is Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa. Let me tell ya, they can hit it a mile and they have the mental toughness of Brady, Pierce and Chara all wrapped together by Michael Jordan. The successful PGA Tour pro has nerves of steel even when the pack of wolves that is No. 2 through No. 10 on the weekly leader board is breathing down your neck, applying pressure that might make a $5 million dollar Texas Hold "em hand seem more like a bath full of Calgon oil beads.
"You can't really let what the other guys are doing effect you in any way," said McIlroy as he fielded questions from the world's golf media sitting alongside a Wedgewood Blue Cup that would serve a nice appetizer cordial to Lord Stanley. "You've got to keep playing your game, keep trying to give yourself opportunities for birdies, try and hit the fairways, try and hit the greens. Obviously, you look at the board a few times and I saw I was a couple ahead of Louis and then a couple ahead of the next guys, I think it was Tiger."
"Once I got into the lead, I felt very comfortable and I just tried to keep applying the pressure, hit fairways, hit greens and it worked out for the most part," added McIlroy in an amazingly confident but humble manner. "I had a couple of wobbles there coming in (back nine bogey at 17), but I did enough in the early part of the round to have enough cushion to get the job done."
A job well done, as the No. 1 player in the world is in the best position going into the BMW Championship -- the equivalent of the PGA Tour's semifinals -- and the grand-daddy of 'em all, the Tour Championship where the players ranked in the top five amongst FedEx Cup qualifiers can take the big prize automatically if they win the Tour Championship at the East lake GC near Atlanta. McIlroy believe he's learned how to win while learning how to be more successful as the grind of the tour progresses.
"I think I've learned how to handle winning big events," he said, "and I can carry myself forward, not dwelling on what's happened, just moving forward, just trying to win another golf tournament, trying to put myself into position. There's a time and a place to celebrate and to enjoy what you've done and going into the playoffs isn't it. You have to focus on the week ahead. I'll get to Crooked Stick (Carmel, Indiana) tomorrow and start to prepare for that tournament."
"This run we're on, we just have to keep thinking about the next week, and once the Ryder Cup is over, for sure I'll think back and I'll celebrate and enjoy the great golf that I've played over the last few weeks."
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