BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Tom Watson gives an edge to the long hitters at rain-soaked Shoal Creek. Watson figures guys like Bernhard Langer, Kenny Perry and Fred Couples could have an easier time of it on some holes in rainy, chilly and windy weather at the $2.2 million Regions Tradition starting Thursday. It is the first of the Champions Tours five major championships. "The par 5s really play into their hands," Watson said on Wednesday. "The rest of us, were stretching it getting to the par 5s, especially when it gets wet. "With the predicted rains, it will be tough to get to these par 5s. But Kenny and Freddie Couples shouldnt have a lot of problem." Then theres Langer, who has already won twice this season and reached 20 victories on the 50-and-over tour. "The way Bernhard Langer is going, we need to break his leg," Watson joked. The weather could once again have a big impact on the scenic 7,145-yard, par-72 Shoal Creek course. Rain shortened the pro-ams on Wednesday with more showers expected on Thursday and temperatures possibly plunging into the 40s over the weekend. Play was twice suspended in last years Tradition, the second straight year rain and/or lightning had affected the tournament. It remains to be seen if rain can slow down Langer, coming off his third victory at the Insperity Invitational and finishing eighth at the Masters. "The rain will make the course play much longer," the German said. "The rough will be heavier because of the wet grass. The greens will be a little bit slower. Id rather see the other conditions, but Ive played well in all sorts of conditions. You just have to adjust and do the best with what you find." Langer finished second behind two-time winner Tom Lehman in 2012 and 10th last year. He beat Couples by a stroke at The Woodlands in Texas on May 4. David Frost held on for a one-stroke win over Couples last year at Shoal Creek. Couples opened the season tying for second with Jeff Sluman in Hawaii, behind Langer. "Fred Couples made it pretty clear, I think, in Hawaii, that hes trying to win the Schwab Cup, so were trying to give him some competition here and make it hard for him," Langer said. Fellow World Golf Hall of Famers Watson and Colin Montgomerie arent as well acquainted with the course as some of their peers. Watson, a two-time Masters champion, is competing in the Tradition for the first time since the events debut at Shoal Creek in 2011. He finished tied for 32nd. His history with the course goes back a few decades, though, to the 1984 PGA championship won by Lee Trevino. Watson said the Bermuda rough was so deep "they had three marshals on each side of the fairways because you could lose your golf ball." "Lee Trevino, it was right in his wheelhouse," he said. "He hit the ball so straight off the tee, and he just rarely missed a fairway. And thats what you had to do on this golf course." Montgomerie of Scotland is nearing his anniversary on the 50-and-over tour and makes his Shoal Creek debut. He said the course has a good reputation. "Ive heard a lot about it," Montgomerie said. "You talk about youre going to Alabama and then you say Shoal Creek and everybody in golf knows where youre going or where youve been. This is one of those classic courses. Having played nine holes (Tuesday) and nine holes today, I understand what theyre talking about. A very, very good golf course. "You can drive the ball great but at the same time its more of a second-shot course where I can see there are some pins in awkward places — backside, middle, front, whatever. It will be a great test. Im looking forward to trying to challenge this course." John Collins Hawks Jersey . - The Pittsburgh Pirates plan on keeping promising left fielder Starling Marte playing alongside National League MVP Andrew McCutchen for years to come. Atlanta Hawks Jerseys . The club announced Friday that Mauro Biello will be kept on as an assistant to coach Jesse Marsch when the Impact join the MLS in 2012. http://www.authenticbasketballshophawks.info/pete-maravich-hawks-jersey/ . Inter moved five points behind fourth-place Fiorentina and eight points behind third-place Napoli, which visits relegation-threatened Sassuolo on Sunday. Alex Len Jersey . Or maybe he already did. Clark hit his first homer, Wily Peralta pitched into the seventh inning, and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Miami Marlins 4-1 Wednesday night. Tracy Mcgrady Hawks Jersey . Amare Stoudemire had 22 points and 10 rebounds, Carmelo Anthony scored 21 and the New York Knicks won their eighth straight game, 93-92 over Philadelphia on Friday night, sending the Sixers to their 23rd straight loss.Back in the day, the same four of us (Jon, Ian, Darren, and I) would meet up at Montreals legendary Copacabana to watch whatever game was on. We were regulars at the bar, a kind dive where you could just drop in and know someone familiar would be around to have a beer with. The kind of place where the adult beverage of choice was quickly placed in front of you upon your arrival. We were there to watch games, but it was more than that. We were a bunch of writers, at different points in our careers and lives, getting away from our lives. It was group therapy. With beer. There were few better nights in those years than a good Habs game at Copa. Friends would come in and out, for a period or two, for a drink or four. Partners would join us, or not. Between periods wed chide each other the way friends do, bemoan each others losses, celebrate each others victories. We played a game within the game called JägerMuller. If Habs assistant coach Kirk Muller appeared on screen (not including wide angle or crowd shots) the last person to yell JägerMuller had to buy a round of Jägermeister for the group. This often led to empty wallets and foggy third periods, but JägerMuller was ours and it made a contextual experience all that more unique, all that more memorable. As time passed, the opportunity to watch sports as a group got more and more challenging. Copa closed. People had kids, moved away, traveled for work, or had partners who wouldnt permit them to indulge in Tuesday night binge drinking. But we live in the high speed digital age, an age ruled by social media and easy communication. The four of us opened up a Facebook thread that was for any sort of conversation: dating woes, the challenges of child rearing, the merits of wasabi peas, politics, the importance of Tums to men in their 30s, the overwhelming fear of ones own mortality, the petulance of poets, why soccer sucks. We tried Skype and Google Hangouts, but as aging writers we found we preferred the anonymity of messaging, the quiet comfort of watching the game both alone and in the company of those we love. But for the most part the thread is for watching hockey games together from afar, often still with our favourite adult beverage in hand, though the days of JägerMuller are over. That games virtues, like nachos, dont transfer well through the digital ether. The Facebook threads message count is somewhere in the mid-40 thousand range as of this writing, and growing each day. An exponential explosion is expected during the playoffs, though Jon (a Jets fan) and Ian (a Leafs apologist) will be forced to cheer for their second favourite teams. The virtual bar that the digital age has provided us pales in comparison to their company, but it has allowed us to stay close, to continue to care about each other the way we did when were separated by city blocks and not oceans and responsibilities. But the bar that we left just a few years ago is not the same bar where sports are enjoyed today. Its a lesser venue. Consider the bar argument. No longer can hours be spent fighting over what year Gretzky scored 50 goals in 39 games, what round Luc Robitaille was drafted in, the rate at which Randy Carlyles hairline has been receding. Answers are too quickly found on our phones, and the shortened distance of knowledge does not promote an expanse of conversation. Pluus, the bars too busy tweeting cleverness in 140 characters, or arguing with some 12-year-old in Abbostford over whos the better d-man, Subban or Weber.dddddddddddd Or instagramming retro-filtered photos of our cocktails. Or adding the waitress as a friend on Facebook. Theres a grand irony in the fact that the same advents that have made watching sports a more communal experience with those who cant be in our presence has had the opposite effect on those in our presence. On the off nights where my friends cant meet up in the digital bar, and I dont have the wherewithal or funds to hit the real bar I, like most, watch games with Twitter open. But instead of finding a substitute for those who cant be with me, Im overwhelmed by the faux-expertise and bravado that ends up in my feed. Just because you have a blog and 45 Twitter followers doesnt exactly make you Bob McKenzie. I appreciate fandom and respect the free speech virtues of the medium, but holy hell @HabsFan4lyfe69 if you cant spell Michel Therrien, you really shouldnt be offered the privilege of publicly questioning the size of his manhood. The amount of valuable discourse is too often overshadowed by the sycophantic, or vile, or uninformed. Just look at what happens when Joel Ward scores in overtime or Jason Collins steps on the court the first time. The degenerate xenophobes bear their virtual white sheets in the comfortable anonymity or ignorant ignominy of cyberspace. There are no bouncers online, no bartenders with the ability to cut off the flow of alcohol. But sports are the last collective viewing experience, with the possible exception of the Oscars. With the advent of PVRs and streaming video you can watch Scandal whenever you please, but the sport still requires a live audience. No one wants to watch the game later. Even if youre stuck at work, on a plane, or at your boyfriends sisters third intervention, you can tune in, not miss a shot, a goal, a fight, or a one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments that only sport can provide. In 2010 when the Habs made their magical run to the Conference Finals, one of us couldnt make it to Copa to watch the game. Jon was stuck in a hotel room in Vancouver, watching it on his own. There was no thread then. We didnt all own smartphones. No one said "blogoshpere". The Jets were still the Thrashers. Maybe two of us were on Twitter. So as the bar counted down the minutes of Game 7 of an improbable 5-2 Habs win and an improbable series upset over the heavily-favoured Penguins, I called Jon and placed my flip phone open in the middle of our table. He listened as we sung "Olé, Olé, Olé", as we cheered and piled into the streets, as we mocked Sidney Crosby. Strangers would come pick up the phone and speak to him in English and French about the game, about the city, and about the Habs and dreams of 1993. That night was a microcosm of how we watch the games now, the birth of how fandom and friendship defies distance in a digital age. It was a living analogy of how in four short years the experience of watching sports would change. Not all for the better, of course. But Ill put up with a few egotistical bloggers, the occasional Twitter tantrum, and the death of the bar argument if it means I can watch sports the way I want, from wherever I am, with the people I love. With beer. ' ' '