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Day’s Ascent Launched by last year’s Canadian Open Win



OAKVILLE, Ont. — When Jason Day walked off the 18th green at Glen Abbey last July, there’s no way he could know the impact it would have on his career trajectory.

But looking back now, the world’s top-ranked golfer is quick to acknowledge that winning the 2015 RBC Canadian Open triggered what amounts to the best 12-month stretch of his professional life.

How’s this grab you for a year’s worth of work?

Six PGA Tour wins, including the Canadian Open. A win in the WGC-Dell Match Play. And, last but certainly not least, his first major title, at the PGA Championship.

Day’s spectacular stretch harkens back to the glory days of Tiger Woods, when he was running over the competition around the world. No. 1 in the world? Darn tootin’

“Knowing that this event would springboard me to six wins, a major championship, getting to No. 1 in the world, I’d be very surprised by that,” Day said Wednesday, a day before opening defence of his Canadian Open title.

“It’s amazing how important this event was to me to really get my career going and get it off in the right direction. You know, it’s been a pretty crazy eight months or so and, yeah, it’s exciting.”

Exciting, sure.

But not nearly as dramatic as his final three holes in the last round a year ago, when he effectively snatched the tournament away from Brantford, Ont.’s David Hearn, who so badly wanted to re-write the tournament’s decidedly non-Canadian record book, and crowd favourite Bubba Watson.

A 21-foot birdie putt on the 18th sealed it for Day, who promptly … uh, hmmm, err, nevermind. He can’t remember what he did then.

“When you have putts like that, as a kid, you try to work on what pose you’re going to do and what you’re going to do, fist-pumps and stuff,” Day said. “It was just raw emotion that came out of me and I can’t remember what I did until I watched the film.

“I could say those three holes gave me the confidence needed going into the future tournaments, especially the PGA.”

A couple weeks after conquering Glen Abbey, Day won his first major at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisc. After that, less than a month apart, Day won two FedEx Cup playoff events.

This year, he’s won three more times, the most recent being The Players Championship in May. And now he’s on top of the world, just as some, including his caddy, Colin Swatton, predicted he would.

“I always thought I could play golf like this,” the 28-year-old Australian admitted. “I’ve always talked to Colin about it … and he thinks that’s exactly what I should be doing. But I know how much work I had to put into it. I know what I had to do to get to this position and it’s a bit of a grind. It really is.

“It’s tough and it’s boring. The process sucks sometimes. But the little things, when it’s boring and you don’t want to be there, that’s the times when you’ve got to.”

That work ethic, the drive to succeed, won’t allow Day to lay back and enjoy the fruits of his labour. Some would take their foot off the gas, back off a bit now, but that doesn’t sound like it’s part of Day’s strategy.

Exactly the opposite, in fact.

“I can’t get too complacent with where I’m at,” Day said. “I know that I’m currently ranked the best player in the world. But, you know, I need to work hard. I need to work harder than I ever have before to keep that spot. I need to work harder than I ever have before to win tournaments, because it’s only going to get tougher.”

Day may be one of the most popular guys on tour but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to be the best in the game. Don’t let the humble, nice guy act, which appears quite real, fool you.

Like all the greats in every sport, Day wants to win. And win again. And again, until there is nothing left to win.

“I’d like to win everything from here on in,” he said. “That’s the goal when you’re coming into events. You’ve got to somehow want it more than the next guy. I feel very motivated right now with how DJ (world No. 2 Dustin Johnson) is playing. He’s playing tremendous golf and he’s on (my) heels. He could play well here in the next few weeks and take over my spot and I don’t want that to happen.”

Day’s reign atop the PGA Tour could continue this weekend.

If the golf experts are to be believed, the Canadian Open will likely be a two-horse race between Day and Johnson, who broke through to win his first major title at the U.S. Open a month ago. Johnson might even be the favourite, despite Day’s status in the rankings.

But should Day win again? Well, who knows exactly what might happen.

After all, nobody would have predicted the run of success last year’s Open sparked.


Andrew Gyba might be sweating more than anyone wandering around Glen Abbey this week.

And with good reason. The beige grass fringing the firmed-up fairways is clear proof that despite his hard work — and any rain dances — Gyba hasn’t exactly been rewarded with lush conditions.

Gyba, the superintendent of the club, has been in tough preparing the Abbey for the RBC Canadian Open due to near-drought conditions in the area this summer. A lack of rain might be great for vacationers but it does nothing to help ready a golf course for a four-day pro tournament.

“We’ve had a few challenges, I think mostly weather related and a lack of rainfall,” said Gyba, who is working his third Open. “We did get a little bit of rain (more than a week ago) but prior to that, I don’t think we’ve had a drop on the property for about two months. One of the downfalls is the rough is a little thin out there. However, right up the middle the golf course is holding up well.”

No rain has also made the greens firm and fast, which Gyba counts as a positive.

“They are rolling very true,” he said. “They are incredibly consistent. Green speeds are good, so things are good so far, yeah.

“We have some very extreme weather coming, it looks like, for the tournament this week so hopefully we’re in a good position that the greens can handle all the abuse they are going to take and keep rolling true and consistent through the entire event.”

An infestation of emerald ash borer, a pest native to Asia, forced the removal of some trees, which has opened up the course a bit. It has also brought the course back to the design golf legend Jack Nicklaus envisioned when he drew up the plans in the mid-70s, Gyba says.

“Pushing those trees right off the edge of the fairway (on the 16th hole) is actually a lot truer to Mr. Nicklaus’ design,” he said, using Muirfield Village in Ohio to illustrate his point. “I think a lot of these areas are truer to his design now than they were in the past.”

That may be true but it doesn’t mean Glen Abbey will be any greener this week.

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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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