Gorch on the Porch: Time to watch more golf

Tiger Woods tees off from hole 16 during the Hero World Challenge golf tournament at Albany Golf Club in Nassau, Bahamas, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Dante Carrer)

So there I was just chilling on a Friday afternoon at home, eating some bacon and watching the Golf Channel.

That’s a heavenly combination — golf and bacon. I’m sure News-Dispatch news reporter Ben Davis and Michigan City girls golf coach Drew White agree.

It’s been a while since I had a reason to watch the Golf Channel. But the last three days provided a perfect return to channel 78 on XFinity.

On Friday at 12:35 p.m. was the high point on the ninth hole when a very familiar face had a hellacious approach shot on the par-5 ninth hole at the Hero World Challenge, then drained an eagle putt.

That familiar golfer was a 41-year-old Tiger Woods, and it was his first eagle in a competitive tournament since the 2015 Wyndham Championship.

And it gave him the lead in the 18-man field at 8-under par.

He finished the day at 7-under, five shots back of Charley Hoffman, who had 12 birdies on Friday.

The result of some of Tiger’s shots on Friday were texts back and forth between myself, Davis and fellow sports reporter Mike Whitlow, who said at one point, “I’m losing my mind.”

It doesn’t matter how Tiger did on Saturday since this is basically an exhibition tournament, albeit against some of the top players in the world. He did struggle on the front nine on Saturday, but as long as he finishes rounds and stays healthy, golf is better to watch.

Sure, I still watch the majors and a couple other tourneys — I do love watching the Players Championship at Sawgrass with its famous island green — but if Tiger is back, I’ll be back watch the Wyndham Championship or the John Deere Classic or the Western Open, because Tiger is Tiger.

You may disagree, but the television ratings say otherwise (hey, if our President can bring up TV ratings in any argument, so can I) … and that’s not fake news.

I still call Tiger the greatest golfer of all time. Before readers older than my age of 47 chime in, yes I remember Jack Nicklaus. I still recall watching the 1986 Masters where he won his 18th major at the age of 46. But Tiger won his 14 majors in less than half the time it took Jack to win 18 (Tiger’s first came in 1997 and his 14th was in 2008, while Jack won his first in 1962).

And at 41 years old, there’s still plenty of time for Tiger to catch Jack as long as the surgically repaired back holds up, and I’ll be watching every tournament.

• State’s best college basketball team: Speaking of stuff I’ll be watching, how about this coming Thursday night’s game that could decide whose the best college basketball team in Indiana at the moment?

No, I’m not talking about Indiana, which got beat by Michigan on Saturday, or Notre Dame, though Mike Brey’s team will likely have another multi-round run in March.

On Thursday night, Purdue will host the state’s only undefeated NCAA Division-I men’s basketball program.

That would be Valparaiso, which is 8-0 under second-year head coach Matt Lottich for the best start for the program in 73 years.

Sure, the Crusaders’ schedule hasn’t been overwhelming. But they have beaten other mid-majors Samford, UNC-Wilmington and Utah State last Tuesday in the Mountain West-Missouri Valley challenge.

Yes, Valpo has changed conferences for the second time in a decade. The Crusaders went from the Horizon League to the Missouri Valley this year. The only problem is that they were a little late, again.

Valpo moved from the Summit League to the better Horizon League, just as Butler — fresh off a pair of NCAA Tournament runner-up finishes — moved to the Big East. Now Valpo moves into the MVC just as recent Final Four team and top-10 ranked Wichita State moves to the American Athletic Conference.

The MVC is still a step up for the Crusaders with top mid-majors Northern Iowa, Missouri State and Indiana State (which throttled Indiana to start the season). And if Valpo can garner a couple high-profile wins — starting with Purdue on Thursday — it could be ranked in the top 25 soon.

There’s also a prominent local connection with Marquette graduate Ryan Fazekas on the roster. He’s sitting out this season after transferring from Providence, but he’ll still have two years of eligibility, and he’s getting a front row seat to be part of one of the best mid-majors in the country.

Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at sgorches@thenewsdispatch.com or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.

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