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Dire times in the Windy City

It's been a long summer for the Cubs and fall and winter won't be much better for the Bears. Before anyone wearing green and gold boxers starts reveling in the certain and imminent misfortune of the Monsters of the Midway, let me stress that this forecast is totally unscientific. No "Poor Richard's Almanac" educated speculation here. The observation is based on recent encounters with my in-laws in Joliet and several of my wife's high school friends at a class reunion. But the opinions about the depth of the Bears' ineptitude were so strong and so unanimous that it's hard to dismiss the sense of impending pro football doom for the Windy City.

To hear the folks south of the border tell it, in a nutshell, the Bears offensive line couldn't block you and their defensive backs couldn't cover me. "I don't think Cutler is going to have any time to throw," said someone at the reunion. "He's gonna spend a lot of time on his back," a nearby friend agreed. Those two guys, who had only last year at this same gathering, dissed the Packers, saying that Aaron Rodgers was a fluke and with Brett Favre gone, "They'll be lucky to finish ahead of Detroit," then spent the next ten minutes telling me how fabulous the Pack was going to be (the 59-point bust-out against the Colts was nationally televised) and that Green Bay's offense was the greatest assemblage of firepower since the '27 Yankees.

An August homage from the flatland to the boys of the Frozen Tundra? This was the sound of desperation.

Later that night, we visited my brother-in-law, Jack, who was watching the end of the Bears' 14-9 loss to Arizona at Soldier Field. "I don't see them winning three games," Jack said looking at a newspaper that listed the team's schedule. "Will they beat Green Bay? Minnesota? New England? The Jets? The Giants? Dallas?" Not many Bears fans are answering yes to any of those propositions.

"We're waiting for Jay Cutler's post game news conference," said Tom Waddell, the former …

The Red Hot Chilli Pipers played Irish Fest Sunday.
The Red Hot Chilli Pipers played Irish Fest Sunday.

Rockin' with red-hot Pipers

Five minutes after I walked through the front gates at Irish Fest, a hale and hearty lad wearing a kilt strode purposefully in my direction. He glared at me, as if to say, "I dare you to make fun of my wardrobe."

No chance. I had come here specifically to see a bunch of guys wearing kilts.

My one can't-miss summer concert was not happening at the Bradley Center or the Marcus Amphitheater. It was at the Leinie Rock Stage Sunday afternoon. The Red Hot Chilli Pipers. The boys were back in town.

I was leaving the Fest last year, headed for the north exit, when I saw the Leinie's marquee advertising the Pipers, who were just finishing their evening set.

I thought, what the heck? This is just some Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute band doing a bunch of covers. No harm in checking them out. I caught the Pipers last three songs. I had never heard anything like it and vowed to catch the band's full show in 2010.

The Pipers are from Scotland, winners of the BBC program "When Will I Be Famous?" in 2007. They are plenty famous in Milwaukee. About 500 people filed in early to get the best seats, waiting in the stands an hour before showtime. I was among them and it was worth the wait.

The Pipers feature three bagpipers but so much more. I am a son of Galway (not just a saying, my family, three generations ago, really is from Galway) but in my deepest, darkest, private Celtic heritage moments, I must admit sometimes hearing a certain sameness in the music at Irish Fest; tunes that can sound a bit too whimsical for my taste.

No whimsy here. In addition to the bagpipers, there is a keyboardist, two guitarists, three drummers (one on a full kit, a second on a portable drum and a third playing bongos) and three guys in the horn section (known as "The Horn Supremacy"). A dozen dudes producing kick-butt rock and roll, a sound big enough to shatter the Blarney Stone.

And these guys know how to make an entrance. They slowly filtered on stage while t…

PGA Tour members only need to compete in 15 events to remain eligible for the tour.
PGA Tour members only need to compete in 15 events to remain eligible for the tour.

PGA needs to get its house in order

"There's a changing of the guard on the PGA Tour, a new breed," said CBS announcer Jim Nantz near the end of Sunday's telecast from Whistling Straits.

Nantz, who is paid handsomely to broadcast golf, was clearly trying to muster up some audience enthusiasm and a sense of promise for the game's immediate future. But his proclamation sounded hollow. Something about the tone of his voice that suggested that even he didn't believe what he was saying. There's no doubt that most American sports fans don't buy it.

The reason? Most American sports fans will never get the chance to see "the new breed" play in person. As soon as these "young lions" establish themselves as big stars, they'll follow in the footsteps of their predecessors. They'll just stop playing. Outside of the majors, the Players Championship, Jack's tournament in Ohio, Arnie's event in Florida, the World match play tournament and some of the Fed Ex Cup playoffs, these guys will shut it down. Because they can.

When Tiger Woods made his professional debut at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open, I was part of the press corps covering a massive, impromptu news conference after he completed his opening round (there's a picture of me as part of that media throng in Tiger's book, "How I Play Golf." My brush with greatness!). When the interview was over, Woods strolled back to the clubhouse. "Take a good look," a colleague said to me. "That's the last time we'll ever see him in Milwaukee." My colleague was right. Tiger never came back here. Because he didn't have to.

What other sport has a set up like this? Imagine if NASCAR allowed its drivers to compete in only the races in which they wanted to run.

Sorry, all you folks in Bristol, Martinsville, Richmond, Dover, Darlington, New Hampshire and Watkins Glen. Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Dale Jr., Kurt and Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick are skipping this week. But you can see them at Daytona, Talladega, Charlotte and I…

Derek Lamely tries not to let Whistling Straits' No. 7 get the best of him Tuesday during a PGA Championship practice round.
Derek Lamely tries not to let Whistling Straits' No. 7 get the best of him Tuesday during a PGA Championship practice round.

Plenty of action at Whistling Straits

HAVEN, Wis. - Growing up in Belleville, Ill., Derek Lamely had never seen anything like this.

"Where did I wind up?" Lamely asked as he walked onto the seventh green Tuesday during a PGA Championship practice round at Whistling Straits.

"Up here," shouted a fan in the gallery, who stood on a large, densely vegetated hill overlooking the putting surface. "But you just missed the heavy stuff."

"Oh, goody!" Lamely exclaimed as he found his ball buried in the deep rough facing the lakeside green.

"You've got a bit of a backstop for the shot," playing partner Bryce Molder shouted to Lamely.ste

"What backstop? The lake?" Lamely sounded unconvinced.

Wisconsin's most famous golf course is sending a message to the world's most famous golfers:

Bring it on.

"It's not so great down here," lamented Jason Bohn who found the bunker by the lake on the seventh just before Lamely's unfortunate shot.

Featuring holes with nicknames like "The Pinched Nerve," hosting a flock of Scottish blackface sheep that traverse terrain that has elevation variations of up to 80 feet, Whistling Straits, with its never-ending network of pot bunkers and wild, natural vegetation surrounding the fairways, is ready for the big boys.

Veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez, who has finished in the top ten in every major, seemed unconcerned about the layout. He had a stogy in his mouth on the practice tee. It was a.m.

The 2009 British Open champion, Stewart Cink, talked about the challenging course during an interview with the UK's Sky News.

But a great number of the foreign media followed one golfer who was the only competitor I saw playing by himself today. And we're not talking about Tiger.

Ryo Ishikawa strolled solo up the seventh fairway. It was a royal stroll. The lake seemed to part before him. The guy's a rock star and he knows it. Ishikawa won a tour event in his native Japan when he was 15. He doesn't turn 19 until next month. This past May, he shot a 58 to win another Japanese tournament. He was the circuit's leading…