AD Main Menu

Recognizing some of sports' lesser known fantastic feats

Doug Ferguson
Defending Masters' champion Adam Scott, of Australia, helps Bubba Watson, left, with his green jacket after winning the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 13, 2014, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip

We all know the famous records and accomplishments in sports. There's Barry Bonds and his home run records (career, 762; season, 73). There's Emmitt Smith's all-time NFL rushing mark (18,355 yards). There's Brett Favre's touchdown passes record (508).

But there are quite a few remarkable statistics that are not officially records, yet might be as surprising and impressive as any official record.

Here are five feats that are as fun as they are remarkable:

Strike one, strike two, uh

Remember Game 7 of the 1960 World Series? The underdog Pirates beat the mighty Yankees 10-9 in the bottom of the ninth on Bill Mazeroski's walkoff homer. What made this game so unique, other than being the only Game 7 walkoff homer in World Series history? The game did not have one strikeout. Think about that. Amazing, right?

This third is a charm

Everyone knows that Tiger Woods (right) is one of the greatest golfers in the history of the sport. His 14 majors are four behind all-time leader Jack Nicklaus, and Woods' 79 PGA Tour victories are second to all-time leader Sam Snead (82). Not only has Woods dominated on this side of the ocean, but on the other side, too. Bet you didn't know this: Woods is third on the all-time European Tour list with 40 victories. That trails only Seve Ballesteros (50) and Bernhard Langer (42).

The greatest number

Did you fully appreciate just how good Wayne Gretzky (above) was as a hockey player? In case you've forgotten, these numbers will prove that he really was the Great One. Follow along. Gretzky is easily the all-time NHL leader in points (combination of goals and assists.) Now get ready to be blown away. Don't even count Gretzky's goals. In his career, he had 1,963 assists. If you just count those, he would still be the all-time points leader in NHL history. Mark Messier is second on the all-time list for points with 1,887 (694 goals and 1,193 assists). Oh, one other thing, Gretzky also happens to be the league's all-time goal scorer.

Major runner-up

Speaking of golf, the biggest question over the past few years has been whether or not Tiger Woods can ever pass Jack Nicklaus on the list for most major victories. Nicklaus won 18 majors and Woods, with 14, might not have enough left in his tank to catch him. But, honestly, this race should never have been close. Nicklaus should have won way more majors. He finished runner-up in a major a remarkable 19 times. Woods, by the way, has been a runner-up six times.

Only one

Derek Jeter's fabulous baseball career is making its farewell tour this season, his 20th in the big leagues. Over that time, Jeter has played in a lot of big games. In fact, by definition, almost every single one has been meaningful. Elias Sports Bureau provided this statistic that's almost too incredible to believe: Jeter has played in just more than 2,600 regular-season games. On only one occasion -- one! -- were the Yankees mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. That was in September 2008, when the Yankees finished in third place behind the Rays and Red Sox.

Tom Jones is a sports opinion columnist for the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times.

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- One of golf's most exciting players squeezed most of the drama out of the Masters on Sunday. That's just fine with Bubba Watson.

All he cared about was slipping into that green jacket.

Instead of hitting a 40-yard hook out of a forest of Georgia pines -- the signature shot in his playoff victory two years ago -- the final act Sunday at Augusta National took place on the 18th green. Watson had a three-shot lead and consulted with his caddie on a 15-foot birdie putt.

"I went over to him and I said, 'I'm not very good at math, but we've got four putts, right?'" Watson said.

This was more about great golf than Bubba golf.

Watson kept his poise during an early burst of birdies from 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, turned the tournament in his favor with consecutive two-shot swings to close out the front nine, and coasted to a 3-under 69 to win the Masters by three shots over Spieth and Jonas Blixt of Sweden.

"Small-town guy named Bubba now has two green jackets," Watson said. "It's pretty wild."

Watson made it look routine over the final hour. On a Sunday when Spieth was trying to become the youngest winner in Masters history and 50-year-old Miguel Angel Jimenez had a chance to become the oldest major champion, Watson turned in another masterpiece and joined an elite group as the 17th player to win multiple Masters.

Surprisingly for Augusta, the most compelling action was on the front nine.

His only nervous moment was a drive so mammoth around the corner on the 13th hole that it clipped a few trees and still went some 360 yards, leaving just a sand wedge into the par 5. That was his lone birdie on the back nine. No one got closer than three shots the rest of the way.

"The shot out of the woods made me famous," Watson said. "But this one was a lot better for me and my nerves."

This was nothing like the Masters he won two years ago, especially when it was over.

His wife and newly adopted son were home in Florida in 2012 when Watson made four straight birdies on the back nine and won on the second playoff hole with his great escape out of the trees.

When he tapped in for par on 18, there was 2-year-old Caleb -- decked out in a green-and-white striped Masters shirt and green tennis shoes -- walking toward him. Watson had tears streaming down his face when he scooped him up, a prize as great as the green jacket.

"Seeing him back there ... what an amazing feeling as a parent," he said. "And then throw on the green jacket on top of it just changes everything."

After high-fiving the crowd on his way to sign his card, Watson returned to Butler Cabin to take back that green jacket after slipping it on Adam Scott a year ago.

"After giving it away last year, I wanted it back," Watson said. "I told Adam we could just swap it back and forth every year."

Spieth could only watch from the side of the green.

He dazzled the massive crowd early by holing out for birdie from the front bunker on No. 4, and making back-to-back birdies to build a two-shot lead through seven holes. Bidding to become the first player in 35 years to win a green jacket in his first try, Spieth looked to be well on his way.

But he three-putted for bogey on No. 8 -- the first 6 on his card all week -- as Watson got up-and-down for birdie to tie for the lead. Spieth then made a rookie mistake, leaving his approach below the flagstick on No. 9 and watching it roll back into the fairway, setting up another bogey and two-shot swing.

Whatever prayer he had might have ended at Amen Corner.

His tee shot on No. 12 found Rae's Creek. He missed a short birdie attempt on the 13th.

Watson was too powerful, too experienced, too tough to beat. Spieth closed with six pars for a 72 and tied for second with Blixt, who never went away but never really threatened. Blixt shot a 71.

"Obviously, I've worked my whole life to lead Augusta on Sunday. And although I feel like it's very early in my career, and I'll have more chances, it's a stinger," Spieth said.

Watson finished at 8-under 280 and goes to a career-best No. 4 in the world.

Jimenez, the ageless wonder from Spain, shot 71 and finished alone in fourth. Matt Kuchar lost a share of the lead with a four-putt double bogey on the fourth hole and never challenged again. He closed with a 74 and tied for fifth with Rickie Fowler (73).

Nine players were separated by three shots at the start of the final round only for this to turn into a two-man show. For the opening two hours, it was anything but dull.

After trading pars on the opening hole, either Watson or Spieth -- sometimes both -- made birdie or bogey over the next nine holes.

Spieth holed out from a bunker for birdie on the tough par-3 fourth. He made back-to-back birdies with a 12-foot putt on the seventh for a two-shot lead.

Two holes to close out the back nine changed everything. Amen Corner swung the Masters in Watson's favor for good.

Watson won for the second time this year, and his second major puts him at the top of the Ryder Cup standings.

He was guided all week by a simple game plan of hitting fairways and greens, and he was calmed by knowing that regardless of how it turned out, he still had a green jacket. Now he has two of them.


By DOUG FERGUSON
Associated Press