Stop and smell the azaleas

“I’m hoping my putter is on point,” tweeted Troy Merritt last night from Augusta. We all do. “I’m hoping my putter is on point,” tweeted Troy Merritt last night. We all do. That’ll probably be the most important club in his bag as a new chapter in Merritt’s pro golf career is opened today at the Masters in Augusta. The former Boise State standout is set to tee off at 9:27 our time this morning at the Masters with former Masters champion Ian Woosnam and South Korean Byeong-Hun An. This will be Merritt’s first tournament in three weeks, since he tied for third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and earned $365,400. Maybe he’ll have a chip on his shoulder after seeing his hometown listed as “Meridian, Ohio” in the Masters program. But Merritt is sure to pause from time to time to take it all in.

This initial Masters appearance is the culmination of a golf journey that began in Burley, detoured through Fridley, MN, and Division II Winona State, and really got going once he transferred to Boise State in 2006. By the time he was a senior, Merritt was dominant. Including his WAC championship, he won seven tournaments in 2008, the most in Division I-A. Merritt won the PGA Tour’s Q-School in 2009, leading to his first season on the big circuit in 2010. That rookie year ended with Merritt capturing the 125th and final tour card for 2011 on the final day of the season. By the time 2013 arrived, Merritt found himself back on the Tour. But he fought his way back, making the FedExCup Playoffs for the first time in 2014 and earning his first PGA Tour victory last summer at the Quicken Loans National. And that’s what qualified him for Augusta.

The Japanese branch of Boise State football is back in Tokyo after another fruitful stay with the Broncos. For the ninth year, a group of coaches and players from Hosei University, a private school that features a blue turf field and sports blue and orange, spent a week at BSU to soak up all it can about American football, returning last Sunday. This year Hosei brought three coaches, including head coach Hitoshi Aoki, who has won five Japanese national championships. This year’s entourage also included seven players representing virtually all position groups.

The Hosei guests watched four full practices and spent about eight hours watching drill and technique tape in the Bleymaier Football Center. And,for the first time since they started visiting Boise State in 2007, Hosei was also able to see the Broncos’ Pro Day. The Tomahawks’ coaches and players were on hand to see representatives from all 32 NFL teams and two CFL clubs as they worked out 19 pro hopefuls. “No doubt Hosei will be back in about a year,” said one Bronco staffer. “Rumor has it the Tomahawks are looking to invite the Bronco coaches across the Pacific Ocean to check out the second most famous blue turf in the world. We’ll see how that plays out.”

With the Blue & Orange Game coming up Saturday night, it would be a shame if special teams coordinator Kent Riddle has decided he already showed his hand in last week’s Boise State scrimmage. With the Broncos lumbering through punt and punt cover drills, Riddle called a fake. Leighton Vander Esch, the up-man in the formation (and soon-to-be fan favorite), rambled 15 or 20 or 25 yards, depending on when you think the whistle should have been blown. Hopefully they’ll dust something else off out of the trick bag on Saturday.

Read between the lines of Boise State coach Bryan Harsin’s comments to the media yesterday, and he’s not totally enamored with what he’s seeing in spring football. That puts the Blue & Orange Game under the microscope for Bronco players. “The one thing we’re trying to get done is seeing who will compete, see the guys that can take the drills, the techniques and actually go apply it,” said Harsin. “We just don’t do that very well right now.” The newer guys in the program have to get it—and fast. “Some of the new faces have a long ways to go, just with the understanding of how to be a good football player, and do it consistently,” Harsin said. He doesn’t lump quarterback Brett Rypien in with those who aren’t reaching the standard. Harsin is very happy with the work his sophomore quarterback has done this spring.

James Webb III didn’t wait until getting his NBA evaluations. Webb is now officially a former Boise State standout, as he has hired an agent and is ineligible to return to the Broncos. He could have waited until after the NBA Combine next month to make his decision to enter the NBA Draft pool final had he not hooked on with an agent. Webb led the Mountain West in rebounding this season with 9.1 boards per game and was sixth in scoring with a 15.8 average. But his three-point accuracy dropped dramatically, and that’ll be important as he auditions for NBA scouts.

We know Webb won’t be playing basketball in CenturyLink Arena. It would have been a possibility—be it with the Idaho Stampede or another D-League team—if Webb is drafted in the second round or goes unselected in the NBA Draft in June. Interestingly enough, UNLV’s Patrick McCaw and Stephen Zimmerman are in that boat, too. McCaw, a 6-7 sophomore guard, and Zimmerman, the Rebels’ freshman 7-footer, have both declared for the draft.

As the Idaho Stampede staff puts its belongings in boxes and exits, we have to give a shoutout to general manager Steve Brandes, who had been with the team for 14 years. Brandes was originally hired as an account executive in 2002 by then-GM John Brunelle and assistant GM Bryan Gates (before he became head coach). Brandes was always passionate about the franchise—a good guy with a bright future.

To put up the numbers former Boise Hawk Josh Donaldson did last year for Toronto, you have to stay healthy. Donaldson did while batting .297, hitting 41 home runs and knocking in 123 runs on the way to American League MVP honors. But three games into the 2016 season, he is hobbled. After launching a three-run homer at Tampa Bay last night, Donaldson was unable to run out a ground ball later in the game and limped off the field. The injury is being called a calf strain, and Donaldson is listed day-to-day. Those three runs were it for the Blue Jays, who lost 5-3 to the Rays.

This Day In Sports…April 7, 2013:

The Davis Cup quarterfinals wrap up an electric three-day run in Boise with Novak Djokovic’s four-set win over Sam Querrey, giving Serbia a 3-1 victory over the U.S. Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 player, severely twisted his ankle just three games into the match against Querrey but he played through it to send his team to the semifinals that September. The tie (as it is called) turned on Day 2 when the world’s No. 1 doubles team, Bob and Mike Bryan, was upset by Serbia’s Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac, with the marathon fifth set going 15-13. The event drew 24,715 fans over three days in Taco Bell Arena.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)