Dan Wetzel

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Dan Wetzel is an award-winning sportswriter, author and screenwriter. He has covered all levels of basketball as well as college football, the NFL, MLB and NHL. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October.

  • Tom Watson gets the gift of goodbye from Augusta

    AUGUSTA, Ga. — As he marched up the big hill and toward the 18th green here at Augusta National, here at his 43rd and final Masters, 66-year-old Tom Watson took off his cap and waved it in acknowledgement of the cheers and adoration and thanks coming at him in waves. He was side by side with his caddie, Neil Oxman, tearing up at all the walks they've made together.

    Oh man did the gallery here love this. Golf lives for tradition and timeless sentimentality and an old champ, an old great taking a final goodbye walk tends to stir up the soul. Watson was at 8-over, sure to miss the cut, but after saying he wouldn't competitively play here again, it didn't matter.

    A hero's farewell he would get.

    "It was special," Watson said.

    Eventually Watson would get to the green and start clapping back to the fans. Once it got quiet he damn near drained a looping 66-footer for birdie and the place lost it again.

    No sport treats its old guys better than golf, not

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  • Meet the guy who had to ask his boss if he could play the Masters

    Sammy Schmitz hits to the ninth green during the first round of the Masters. (AP)Sammy Schmitz hits to the ninth green during the first round of the Masters. (AP)AUGUSTA, Ga. — As part of their longstanding effort to grow the game of golf, Augusta National invites a small number of amateurs to compete each year in the Masters.

    Often they are young, future stars. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson all came here as heralded teenage amateurs. Current U.S. Amateur and NCAA champion Bryson DeChambeau will turn pro soon.

    Then there is Sammy Schmitz, who finished up Friday afternoon at 12-over par, a mile from the cutline, yet to cheers of a huge throng of family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances and probably even a few strangers who still couldn't believe he, or they, were even here to begin with.

    Schmitz is 35 years old, a husband and father of two young girls who hails from Minnesota, lives in Wisconsin and has a real job as a regional director for Healthcare Services Group.

    He is your prototypical weekend golfer. By nearly any standard he's a terrific player, a former Division III All-American who once gave the old Hooters Tour a shot.

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  • The Masters found its new favorite son

    AUGUSTA, Ga. — The galleries were three deep, five deep, hopelessly deep. They trampled up and down the hills here at Augusta National. They surged around greens and tee boxes. Those in the back craned their necks even if it was pointless.

    They roared at every sunk-putt. They never had to react to the disappointment of a bogey. A lot of young men were clad in burnt orange. A lot of young kids got propped up on their father's shoulders. A lot of young women kept fixing their hair, just in case.

    This is Jordan Spieth's third Masters but he's already its biggest attraction, the fan favorite and such a dominating player that once again the event is being played on his terms, to his soundtrack of hollering fans. At just 22, Spieth has turned Augusta National into his personal playground, throwing up low numbers on the scoreboards and drawing throngs to a level approaching the heyday of Tiger Woods.

    A massive gallery watches Jordan Spieth tee off on the 12th hole. (REUTERS)A massive gallery watches Jordan Spieth tee off on the 12th hole. (REUTERS)In his first appearance in 2014, Spieth finished runner-up. Last year he became just the

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  • A Masters single-day ticket will cost you four figures

    AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods isn't here, but the sky-high prices for Masters badges on the secondary ticket market don't just remain from his heyday, they are actually eclipsing them.

    The get-in price for a "badge" – as Masters tickets are called – to Thursday's opening round have ranged from $2,100 to $2,900 all week at online brokers.

    "It's definitely higher," said Chris Leyden, a content analyst for SeatGeek.com. "A single-day badge will usually cost between $800-$1,200. In 2013 it was high and it ran about $1,200-$1,400. This year has been on the high end of that and right now [Wednesday afternoon] it will cost you about $2,500 to get in on Thursday.

    "It's certainly a hot ticket."

    The Masters closed its wait list for tickets in 2000 because demand was so high. (REUTERS)The Masters closed its wait list for tickets in 2000 because demand was so high. (REUTERS)That's for a single admission for a single day and is inline with figures across the online secondary ticket market, as well as ticket brokers who work Washington Road outside Augusta National.

    According to StubHub.com, prices for Thursday were up 31.3 percent from 2014, the last time Woods missed the

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  • One amateur golfer asked a question that could change the sport forever

    AUGUSTA, Ga. — Those that knew him as a kid say Bryson DeChambeau was never one to accept an answer, especially involving the conventional wisdom of golf, without an explanation. "Why?" was his favorite question. He was curious and intelligent and inquisitive and more than willing to push back if the answer didn't make complete sense.

    So there he was at 18 years old, approaching Mike Schy, his California-based golf coach, and throwing a bold question that has a chance to change the game of golf, which generally isn't something eager to change.

    "Why can't the clubs be the same length?" DeChambeau recalled here this week, where the now 22-year-old reigning US Amateur and NCAA champion is preparing to play in his first Masters. He'll tee off Thursday morning with no less than defending champion Jordan Spieth.

    Golf clubs, most notably irons, come in varying lengths. A  2-iron has a long shaft; a pitching wedge has a far shorter one. There are myriad reasons why but the most basic is that

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  • Tiger Woods resembling a relic from a bygone era

    AUGUSTA, Ga. – The Grill Room here at the Augusta National Golf Club includes a wall with three display cases built into it. Tradition holds that a Masters champion donates a club from his victorious year to be displayed, often the one most critical to winning.

    So there’s Arnold Palmer’s 1-iron from 1958 and Ben Hogan’s 4-wood from 1951 and Bubba Watson’s pitching wedge from 2012. It serves as a small, understated, yet completely mesmerizing trip through golf history.

    Tiger Woods hasn't won the Masters since 2005. (AP)Tiger Woods hasn't won the Masters since 2005. (AP)There in the middle display case sits a King Cobra Driver, circa 1997, the weapon a then-21-year-old Tiger Woods used to annihilate the field and this famed course. He finished 18-under par, producing records in both margin of victory (12 strokes) and television ratings (an estimated 44 million tuned in on Sunday). It changed just about everything in a sport that is resistant to change much of anything.

    They don’t hang banners or retire numbers around here.

    So we’re left with not much more than that old, now comically

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  • Why the dominance of Geno Auriemma and UConn is good for sports

    At the age of 7, Geno Auriemma emigrated from Italy to Norristown, Pa., and engrossed himself in the twin passion of Philadelphia: basketball and busting chops.

    It's proven to be an effective biographical mix. There's the immigrant's mentality of seeing limitless possibilities. There's the young student who saw learning every intricacy of a game as an entre into American life. And there was the development of a caustic wit that allows no one, no matter how great, to be placed too high on a pedestal.

    The result, all these years later in Storrs, Conn., is an alpha male running the alpha dog of women's basketball programs.

    On Tuesday, Connecticut plays Syracuse for its 11th national title and fourth consecutive, all under Auriemma's Hall-of-Fame coaching. The Huskies are 37-0 and on a 74-game win streak, each victory by double digits.

    Geno Auriemma and the Huskies are seeking their fourth straight national title. (Getty Images)Geno Auriemma and the Huskies are seeking their fourth straight national title. (Getty Images)There's a debate over whether Auriemma's Huskies are good or bad for women's basketball, which completely misses the broader point of what is going on

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  • Left for dead, Big East still alive and thriving thanks to Villanova's surprising run

    HOUSTON – Over the last decade or so, the football-driven machinations of conference realignment attempted to make impossible the following bit of reality: Villanova, of the Big East, is playing for the national title on Monday.

    If College Sports Inc. couldn’t rewrite the rules of basketball so you received a couple extra baskets if you had an 80,000-seat stadium on campus, it could try to squeeze everyone out with money and TV contracts and bloated conference memberships. It could try to leave the Big East, where basketball matters most, as some relic of the past, a quaint but ultimately quiet old place.

    Villanova 95, Oklahoma 51 – and, yes, you could hear that Big East roar here.

    Try as it might, football couldn’t kill the basketball star.Josh Hart scored 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting to lead Villanova over Oklahoma. (Getty)Josh Hart scored 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting to lead Villanova over Oklahoma. (Getty)

    “Well, the game was played in a football stadium,” John Paquette, the Big East's longtime associate commissioner, said with a smile in reference to the NFL’s cavernous NRG Stadium. You can’t fault the conference for enjoying every moment of this.

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  • Villanova carrying flag for Philly as it chases a national title

    HOUSTON – The culture of the city of Philadelphia is full of endless internal squabbles and heightened micro-neighborhood loyalties – North Philly and South, Main Line and Fishtown, heck, you can stand on the same corner and argue whether the area is called Fairmount or Art Museum.

    In Philly, they love to argue, mostly about everything and mostly with each other – on street corners and talk radio and city hall. It’s not even the clichéd debates, either. Geno’s or Pat’s? Hell, everyone knows someplace better.

    But for all the rollicking noise that comes from its fractured self, there is that moment when someone from the outside takes a swing at the place and everyone rallies together. That is Philly, standing proud despite being forever trapped in the middle of the power corridor of Washington and New York.

    So maybe college basketball was the perfect sport for Philly, which isn’t to say it rivals the popularity of the Eagles or anything like that. Nothing does.

    No, Philly hoops is

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  • Welcome to the NCAA Final Four, where 'cheating' isn't cheating and everything's swell

    HOUSTON – The fact that on Selection Sunday, the NCAA mistakenly sent a text to South Carolina inviting the Gamecocks to the men's basketball tournament, only to quickly reverse course – Steve Harvey style – and say the invitation was meant for someone else instead is, well, pretty comical.

    At least it is unless you're a member of the South Carolina basketball program, which instead got stuck in the NIT.

    "Regrettably, a text meant for another institution went to South Carolina instead," Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president of men's basketball championships acknowledged here on Thursday. At least, the NCAA didn't Snapchat a middle finger to Valpo.

    Welcome to the 2016 Final Four, which ought to just toss out its old marketing slogan ("The Road Ends Here") and go with a new one ("Hey, Nobody's Perfect").

    Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was suspended nine games earlier this season. (AP)Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was suspended nine games earlier this season. (AP)Clerical snafus, a leaked bracket that (thankfully) undermined a dreadful two-hour selection show and a semifinal game featuring North Carolina and Syracuse, who were both involved in recent

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