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Bohls: Golfers worry about Big Brother watching and listening

Kirk Bohls
Austin American-Statesman
Justin Thomas walks off the 14th tee during a practice round Monday at the Austin Country Club in advance of this week's Dell Technologies Match Play Championship.

While I got ya, here are nine things and one crazy prediction:

1. Big Brother. Yes, He’s always watching. Eavesdropping, actually, as PGA Tour players have to be as worried about prying live microphones as they do fairway bunkers. Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth know that only too well after off-the-cuff, on-the-air remarks that got them into some trouble. Spieth told me, “I don’t feel like the players get protected. It might be cool to the consumer, but I think that’s something that might become a clash.” He’s right because while maybe entertaining, it’s far too intrusive. You can only imagine what an NBA or NFL player might say on an open mic. Jon Rahm echoed Spieth’s sentiments, saying, “Over four hours we still need the privacy to be able to talk freely amongst us and make jokes. I don’t think people realize how vulnerable us athletes are out there because you have cameras and microphones all over the place. It’s about the competition, not about what we say.”

More from Bohls: Masters champ Dustin Johnson cream of the crop for Austin's Dell Match Play

2. Sit and wait. We know everyone and his brother thinks they know how to fix the Texas basketball situation. But I’ll be surprised if it’s quickly resolved, so fans might settle in and let it play itself out. Chris Del Conte took his sweet time before he pink-slipped Karen Aston a whole 20 days after her season ended and did so after he was assured he had Vic Schaefer in hand. Del Conte got that one right and is not a man who does things in a hurry. For now, Longhorn Nation should be open to pretty much every scenario out there, even Shaka Smart taking another job. It's that fluid. Of course, it didn’t help that 11-seed UCLA easily dismissed Abilene Christian and committed just eight turnovers, 15 fewer than Texas had against the Wildcats. Texas must consider keeping a classy coach with integrity who is well-liked by his players and who just won the Big 12 Tournament or firing a coach who’s yet to win an NCAA Tournament game in three tries.

Don't look for Dustin Johnson to be playing in this year's Summer Olympics in Tokyo. The golfer has said he intends on skipping the Olympics because of scheduling.

3. Tokyo, anyone? Dustin Johnson said last week that he’d skip competing in the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer because of a crammed schedule that includes the Open in July and the Ryder Cup in September. Justin Thomas, on the other hand, is pumped about the chance if he gets one of the U.S. team’s four picks. “I’m ecstatic to have the opportunity to do so,” Thomas told me Monday. “I hope I qualify because I think that would be one of the coolest honors that I’ve ever had. It’s probably the only one of the tournaments that I would brag about playing in. So I would be honored to, and I hope I get the opportunity.”

MORE:Defending champ Kevin Kisner draws tough challenge in WGC-Dell draw

4. Who needs sleep? Not Bobby Stringer. The outstanding superintendent for Austin Country Club for the last 13 years got in about 4 1/2 hours Monday night and will likely go without most of this week as he readies and maintains the golf course for the WGC-Dell tourney. He and about 60 volunteers from as far away as Argentina and Seattle and Muirfield Village in Ohio who are on hand to help. “I think the primary playing surfaces — the greens, tees, fairways and approaches — are as good as they’ve ever been,” Stringer said. “We took a hit in the rough area with the storm, but other than that, we’re good.” ACC completely redid all the sand traps on the course with premier white bunker sand out of Sheridan, Ark., in the summer of 2019 and renovated all the tee boxes from 419 Bermuda to the lush Zeon Zoysia grass, a task that took 4 1/2 months without ever closing the course to members. “I would say it’s more coarse for sure,” Stringer said. “The firmer the sand, the better you can hit out of it.”

Kentucky players warm up before the start of their second-round game against Iowa on Tuesday in the NCAA Tournament at Greehey Arena in San Antonio.

5. It’s about respect. The Second-Class Citizen Tournament hosted by San Antonio is off and running with the same spectacular play and stunning upsets of the men’s side, apparently, without all that much support from the NCAA. It continues to dump on the women and spend the majority of its time mostly promoting the men’s tournament. Now we know about the more than inferior weight room equipment and less reliable COVID-19 testing and less promotion of the women’s side. The NCAA must get its act together, and it falls on the head of NCAA President Mark Emmert. It’s about equity and respect and doing the right thing. ... With so many upsets by double-digit seeds in the men’s tournament — nine won in the first round and four have reached the Sweet 16, not even counting 8th seed Loyola-Chicago — does that make this the most exciting tournament ever or did the selection committee screw it up? There’s nothing like it in sports, even if a 3-seed like Texas gets knocked off in the first round. It’s just a shame the Big Dance lasts only three weeks instead of 12. Let’s reduce the regular season and go to a 12-week tourney. It could save America.

6. Start your stop watches. When I asked Steve Sarkisian about his team speed, the new Texas coach seemed genuinely happy with it. “I think our team speed appeared to be good. I mean, we're a pretty athletic team when you look at the secondary, when you look at the wide receiver position, when you look at the running back position.” When linebacker DeMarvion Overshown and wideout Troy Omeire return, they will “add to it clearly.” … As for players who “jump out offensively, you look at (running back) Bijan (Robinson), you look at (running back) Roschon (Johnson), you look at (slot receiver) Jordan Whittington. I think all three of those guys are pretty versatile, pretty talented players. I think defensively (cornerback) Anthony Cook has really stood out to me from an athletic standpoint. I think (cornerback) Josh Thompson has stood out to me. You know, those are probably the two that jumped out. I mean, clearly as a defensive lineman Alfred Collins is a very gifted athlete. I know that doesn't necessarily always relate to team speed. But when you're athletic up front, those things go a long, long way." … Sark’s smart to say he’d rather not dwell on the past. It really serves no purpose, so long as he listens to his players and addresses their concerns head-on. “I didn’t want to keep digging into the guys about how things were before, good, bad or indifferent,” he said. “There may be some things that were done before that are really good that maybe we can implement and maybe some things that we choose to avoid because they weren’t so good. I don’t know yet.”

MORE: Texas coach Steve Sarkisian sensing buy-in from Longhorns

7. Play ball … differently. A week ago, Major League Baseball announced it was implementing several rule changes throughout the minor leagues for 2021 now that it has total control and can use the farm clubs as litmus tests and potential rule changes. Among them are increased sizes of bases in Triple-A from 15-inch squares to 18-inch squares; a requirement that Double-A infielders must have both feet in front of the outer boundary of the infield dirt (MLB is considering forcing at least two infielders on each side of second base, starting in the second half of the season); an electronic strike zone in the the Low-A Southeast League; a faster pitch timer of 15 seconds in the Low-A West League; a requirement that High-A pitchers have to step off the rubber before attempting a pickoff throw (sorry, left-handers); and a strict limit of two pickoff throws to a base per plate appearance or risk of a balk. Guess they’re hoping a bigger base leads to a dozen or more infield hits. Whatever. As for defensive shifts, I say let ‘em. Hitters should be taught to hit ‘em where they ain’t or bunt ‘em instead of hitting over the shifts, and I love the strategy of shifts. I can’t ever see the idea of restricting pickoff attempts working, but that may be the most boring, time-extending exercise in baseball. Maybe limit the entire number of pickoff throws like mound visits per game. I like the art of stealing bases, but don’t give them a free pass. I would think by now civilization has come to grips with the fact that robotic strike zones are coming to the major leagues and sooner than later. I don’t like that idea and instead just wish the real umpires would expand their strike zones to something bigger than a bureaucrat’s heart. 

8. Scattershooting. While wondering whatever happened to George Tucker, who combined with Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite to give Texas its first national golf title in 1971 against the likes of Houston’s Bruce Lietzke and Tom Jenkins, Florida’s All-Americans Andy North and Gary Koch and Wake Forest’s Lanny Wadkins.

9. On the couch: Do not rent “Nomadland” if you’re looking for car chase scenes. It shines a much-needed light on homelessness (or “houselessness," as terrific actress Frances McDormand puts it), van living and the detached and forgotten in this country. Sad and tragic, this film plays out with the stark reality that so many Americans faced after the recession set against a beautiful backdrop of mountains and deserts. Gave it seven ducks.

10. Crazy prediction: The winner of the WGC-Dell will come from a golfer outside the top nine in the world rankings. I’ll take No. 10 Patrick Cantlay over Collin Morikawa.