Thursday, November 23, 2017
Golf

Tom Jones' Two Cents: Lay off golfer Brittany Lincicome

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Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

Out of bounds

Some people just don't get it. Like those who criticized Seminole's Brittany Lincicome for comments made two weeks ago.

The U.S. Women's Open is being played this weekend at a course owned by President Donald Trump. When asked about Trump possibly showing up, Lincicome told the Chicago Tribune, "Hopefully maybe he doesn't show up, and it won't be a big debacle and it will be about us and not him.''

She was so attacked on Twitter that she went quiet on social media for a few days last week. That's a shame.

I don't know Lincicome well, but I have been around her enough to know she is not a political person. Her comments were not anti-Trump. She was merely pointing out that Trump is huge news and anywhere he shows up, he will dominate the headlines. (He is attending the U.S. Women's Open.)

"I don't have anything against the president," Lincicome told Golfweek last week. "I'm not political. Him showing or not showing isn't a big deal. I wanted it to be more about us and not flip the limelight to him. It's our biggest week of the year."

Lincicome is right, and she did not deserve the criticism she got for sticking up for the LPGA.

Rocky times on Rocky Top

Want to know the football program that has become the poster child for the SEC being overrated? Tennessee. Every year we hear about how good the Vols are going to be, and then they go out and finish 9-4 and try to sell it like they had a good season.

Here is a telling moment: At the SEC football media days in Alabama last week, Tennessee coach Butch Jones was asked about last season being a disappointment.

"I don't view it as a disappointment," he said. "The way I view it is, we didn't accomplish everything we set ourselves out to. … So, was it a disappointment? No.''

Meantime, Alabama coach Nick Saban talked about not wanting to "waste a failure.''

RELATED: Catching 'Bama, Saban easier said than done for rest of the SEC.

So let me get this straight. Tennessee goes 9-4 and goes to the Music City Bowl and it's not a disappointment. Alabama goes 14-1, with that one loss coming on the last play of the national championship game, and it is considered a failure. Now you know the difference between those programs.

Minor matters

How big of a deal is Yankees slugger Aaron Judge?

So big that he managed to get a mention from Alabama coach Nick Saban at the SEC football media days last week. Saban did it while making a good point about the development of football players.

"Aaron Judge is a pretty good player, but the way I understand it is he spent a couple years in the minor leagues before he really came up and now he's a rookie that is pretty much a dominant player," Saban said. "Well, if that guy wasn't ready to play in football when he was 22 years old, he might not make the team."

Saban points out that the other three major North American pro sports leagues — Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL — have minor or developmental leagues. Football is the only one that does not.

The NFL prints money, so it could easily finance a league in which young players could develop. Then again, NFL owners are way too greedy to fund a project that might be good for developing players but lose a little money.

Lightning report card

Looks as if the Lightning is pretty much done with major moves in the offseason. What grade would I give it for its offseason moves? I'd say B.

The trade of Jonathan Drouin for Mikhail Sergachev is going to be a good one for Tampa Bay but not in the short term. Fans need to be patient with Sergachev, a 19-year-old defenseman, especially as Drouin scores goals in Montreal. But in a couple of years, Sergachev will be a valuable member of the Lightning's defense and Tampa Bay will be thankful to have the type of defenseman that's hard to find.

RELATED: Mikhail Sergachev thinks he's ready for the NHL.

The Chris Kunitz signing was solid, though Kunitz has lots of miles on him (he's 37) and he's probably more of a 15-goal guy now than the 25-goal scorer he used to be. Still, he offers grit and leadership, sort of like what Brian Boyle did.

The other significant move was signing 33-year-old defenseman Dan Girardi. Clearly, Girardi's best days are behind him. He cannot be expected to play the 25 minutes a game he used to play when he was in his prime with the Rangers. But if all you need is someone to play solid in his end, maybe on the third pairing, and kill penalties, block shots and give you a consistent 15 to 17 minutes, Girardi will fine. But he's not a game-changer.

Re-signing Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson was smart. The Johnson deal might not look so great in seven years when he is 32 and making $4.5 million. But for the next few years, Johnson will continue being a top-six forward who plays his best when the stakes are highest.

RELATED: Free agents Dan Girardi, Chris Kunitz add grit to Lightning.

Finally, the one under-the-radar move that I predict will really pay off is re-signing backup goalie Peter Budaj. Make no mistake, Andrei Vasilevskiy is the clear No. 1 and should start more than 50 games next season. That means Budaj will be called upon to play 25 or more. That's a good chunk of games. Budaj is mature enough to sit patiently if Vasilevskiy goes on a run but reliable enough to play a string of games if Vasilevskiy is injured.

You never know how valuable a backup goalie is until you need one, and Budaj is perfect in this role.

This looks to be a playoff team again, but until Steven Stamkos can prove he is healthy and the team defense shows it can reduce scoring chances, I'm not quite ready to predict the Cup.

Three things that popped into my head

1. So there were 23,368 to watch the U.S. men's soccer team beat Martinique at Raymond James Stadium on Wednesday in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. I know it was a Wednesday. I know it was the Gold Cup. I know it was Martinique. I know it was raining earlier in the evening. Still, only 23,000 and change? Just four nights earlier, 47,622 showed up in Nashville to watch the United States play Panama.

RELATED: Gold Cup games in Tampa could buoy Rowdies' MLS bid.

2. Still unsure what to make of Gators coach Jim McElwain. I think he knows football, and only two years in, he deserves more time to get Florida back on track. But I'm still not convinced he is the guy, like the way we were convinced that Urban Meyer was the guy when he was hired in Gainesville.

3. One thing I kept thinking while covering the SEC football media days in Alabama last week: SEC fans are crazy. They like football the way I like cheeseburgers. The world would just be empty without it.

RELATED: It's still quarterback or bust for Florida.

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