When he is not furthering his Hall of Fame resume on the baseball diamond, John Smoltz loves to play golf.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised, if injected with truth serum, Smoltz admitted that he likes golf better.  He is so good that Tiger Woods once said the right handed pitcher was “the best amateur golfer I have ever played with.”  High praise from perhaps the greatest golfer of all time.  It is a mutual admiration, for sure.  Just before his start on Wednesday at McCoy, Smoltz and I discussed the upcoming U.S. Open, to be played at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale New York.  The renowned course is widely acclaimed to be one of the toughest tests of skill out there.  Smoltz has never played the Black course, but he says it is “on his list”.  Being who he is has allowed John Smoltz to play some of the greatest golf courses in the world.  Many times with Tiger.  A couple of weeks ago, Peter Gammons of ESPN told me about a match between Smoltz and Woods.  Tiger took it so seriously, that he didn’t speak to Smoltz until after the round was over.  Incidentally, Tiger birdied 11 of the last 12 holes, for the win.  Gammons said it would be a treat if he could caddy for the duo after the season is over.  Smoltz said “it could easily be arrranged.”  The bets between Smoltz and Woods are not confined to just when the two play together.  As Smoltz was going to play at another U.S. Open course, Oakmont, outside Pittsburgh, Woods bet him that he couldn’t break 80 on the course, about three weeks before the Open was to be contested there.  After 16 holes, Smoltz was 8 over par.  He had to finish one over on the final 2 holes to win the bet.  Smoltz suddenly realized he could either finish the round and possibly win the bet, or call it quits.  If he played the last 2 holes, he risked getting a hefty fine and incurring the wrath of Atlanta Braves manager  Bobby Cox.  Smoltz decided he better get to the ballpark.  “Oakmont was the toughest course I’ve played.”  I asked Smoltz about this week’s Open.  He didn’t hesitate a moment.   “Tiger will win, no doubt.  He’s ready.”  I asked him about Phil Mickelson and his chances.  “I know Phil and the emotion will definitely help him.  I know his make up, Phil will make a good run, but Tiger will win.”  The emotion of playing while his wife Amy is preparing to be treated for breast cancer may be helpful or it could hurt him. According to ESPN’s Andy North, a 2 time U.S. Open champion, “Mickelson needs to get off to a good start and the flow of emotion from the crowd could definitely help.”  We didn’t talk about pitching, but Manager Ron Johnson is confident that if Smoltz says he’s ready to go to Boston, he believes. “Smoltzy’s word is good enough for me.”  Terry Francona has said that Smoltz will pitch on June 25th against Washington.  The Red Sox will use a 6 man pitching rotation, at least in the short term.  R.J. says the Red Sox brass knows what they’re doing.  “I’ve never had any experience with a six man rotation, but I trust those guys.”


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