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US Open Qualifying; Flowers and Chocolates For Hit Spectator



This isn’t necessarily the busiest time of the year for Jeff Hall, though it might be the most complicated.

Hall is the managing director of rules and competition for the USGA, and as the final stage of qualifying gets going for the U.S. Open, his job is to crunch numbers to figure out how many spots to allocate Monday to the 10 qualifying sites across America.

Two sectional qualifiers are done. The Japan qualifier last week was awarded four spots for 40 players. The England qualifier was Monday, and 13 players out of 95 qualified for Oakmont on June 16-19.

There’s a science to the process — and a lot of math.

“You’re going to have some subjectivity,” Hall said. “But with the OWGR, it’s also objective.”

That would be the Official World Golf Ranking, and Hall said his computer experts help merge world ranking data with USGA data to figure out the strongest fields and how to distribute the spots available.

What makes the U.S. Open stand out is that in most years, roughly half of the 156-man field has to qualify.

Typical of golf at this level, there is bound to be some complaining about one site getting too many spots and another not getting enough, and most of the attention is on the so-called PGA Tour sites (Columbus for those at the Memorial and Memphis, Tennessee, for those planning to play the FedEx St. Jude Classic).

Hall’s advice is to “take the names out and look at the data.”

The work doesn’t end with Monday’s sectional qualifying. Perhaps the most mysterious part — at least to the public — is the U.S. Open alternate list. That list also is determined by how many spots were allocated to each qualifier.

It would seem the strongest fields — Columbus, Memphis, London — would be first in line for alternates. But that’s not always the case.

For example, if the USGA is torn between giving 14 or 15 spots to Columbus and it opts for 15, then that site might not be high on the list of alternates. Or if the Dallas site gets only five spots instead of six, it likely would move toward the top of the list.

Once the USGA compiles the order for the alternate list from sectional sites, it depends on who withdraws. If a player from a sectional qualifier withdraws, the alternate from that section gets in. If it’s an exempt player — Tiger Woods, for example — then it goes off the top of the main alternate list. The main list also is used if no alternate from a section can get to Oakmont in time.

If all that isn’t enough for a mathematical migraine, Hall has one more equation.

Because the U.S. Open has one more cutoff from the world ranking on Monday of the U.S. Open, he has to figure how out many possible players can crack the top 60 and be sure to save space for them — which means limiting how many spots are given to sectional qualifiers.

So if Hall saves five spots for players to get into the top 60 and only three make it, the other two spots go to alternates on the main list.


FINAU’S GESTURE: Tony Finau is not the first player to hit someone in the gallery with an errant tee shot. However, he took an extraordinary step by showing up at his victim’s house the next day to check on her well-being and bring flowers and chocolate.

Finau’s shot hit a woman in the head on the 11th hole Saturday at the Colonial, and she was still on the ground and bleeding when he arrived.

The woman was identified as Elisa on Instagram when she posted side-by-side photos — one of her bloodied head, the other posing with Finau holding flowers and a bag. Finau found her address and made the special delivery, then stayed to visit with her family. She needed a few stitches, but was doing well.

Elisa referred to it as a “very stand up gesture” on Instagram and included hash tags of “iforgiveyou”, “prettyawesome”, “FOOOOREE”, “ouch” and “classact.”

The 26-year-old Finau told the PGA Tour’s website that the gifts were “the least I could do.”

“I wanted to make sure I was on good terms with her and her family and just make sure she knows that I didn’t just hit her and I don’t really care,” Finau said. “We’re not out here to hit people. I wanted to make sure she knew that at least I cared.”


JUTANUGARN JUGGERNAUT: All it took was three weeks for the LPGA Tour to have a battle for the top.

Lydia Ko still has an enormous gap atop the women’s world ranking and likely will stay there for some time. However, Ariya Jutanugarn now has an LPGA Tour-best three victories (Ko has won twice), and her third straight victory Sunday in Michigan moved her within about $120,000 of Ko on the money list.

Consider how the landscape would appear if the ANA Inspiration had turned out differently.

Jutanugarn had a two-shot lead with three holes to play in the first major of the year. She made bogey on the final three holes, hooking her tee shot on the par-5 18th into the water. Ko laid up on the 18th and made birdie to win.

Ko has won the last two majors. Jutanugarn has won the last three tournaments. Next week is the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Washington.

“I badly want to win my first major,” Jutanugarn said.


RYDER CUP ASSISTANTS: European captain Darren Clarke has selected Thomas Bjorn, Padraig Harrington and Paul Lawrie as his Ryder Cup assistants.

For Bjorn, this will be his seventh time to a Ryder Cup dating to 1997. He was on three winning teams as a player, and this will be his fourth stint as a vice captain. The last time Bjorn was not part of the European team was at Valhalla in 2008.

Harrington, who played in six Ryder Cups, was one of Paul McGinley’s assistants last time at Gleneagles, while Lawrie has played in two cups.

Clarke still has two more assistants to pick. The matches start Sept. 30 at Hazeltine.


FOUND IN TRANSLATION: The LPGA Tour has chosen New York-based TransPerfect to be its official provider of translation and interpretation service.

The LPGA Tour, the first truly global golf tour, has 2,300 members around the world who are teaching or club professionals, or players. Its website is available in six languages, the tour says fans from 235 countries visit the website each year.

TransPerfect, certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, will translate documents and provide interpretation to help the LPGA with its members, partners, players and help promote the tour and its players in global markets. The multi-year deal also includes live interpretation at the four player meetings each year and translating LPGA regulations and anti-doping protocol.


DIVOTS: Emiliano Grillo said on Twitter that he made his first bogey of the week at Muirfield Village without ever hitting a shot. “I just asked for an ‘Arnold Palmer’ at Mr Nicklaus’ house,” he tweeted. … The Kittansett Club across from Cape Cod will host the U.S. Senior Amateur in 2022. It will be the club’s first USGA championship since the 1953 Walker Cup, when the U.S. team featured Gene Littler and Ken Venturi. … Kyle Reifers, who caddied at Muirfield Village as a teen, is playing for the 14th time in the last 16 weeks. He only missed the World Golf Championship at Doral and the Masters, for which he was not eligible.


STAT OF THE WEEK: With his tie for third at Colonial, Ryan Palmer became the 58th player to surpass $20 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour.


FINAL WORD: “They both fit great.” — Jordan Spieth, asked to compare the green jacket from the Masters with the plaid jacket from winning at Colonial.

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Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020



Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.

Theo Bair (MLS)

This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.

Source: Pixabay

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)

Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.

Baseball by andrewmalone, on Flickr

Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone

Connor McDavid (NHL)

McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.

Chuba Hubbard (College Football)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.

2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.

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Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo



Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.

Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.

Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.

“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”

Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.

Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.

“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”

Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.

“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”

Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.

Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.

“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”

After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.

“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”

None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.

“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.

Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.

“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”

That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.

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Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month



NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.

The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.

Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.

“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.

“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”

It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.

For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.

Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.

A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.

It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.

Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.

“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.

“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”

Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.

“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.

“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”

And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.

“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”

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