PGA crowns youngest ever FedEx Cup champ

543200.jpg

PGA crowns youngest ever FedEx Cup champ

From Comcast SportsNet

ATLANTA (AP)For much of the day, it all seemed so confusing.

This guy is going to win. No, no, that one can still pull it out. And lets not forget the player whos not even in contention.

In the end, the point scenarios didnt matter a bit. This one was decided on the course, not by a computer.

And what a finish it was.

After staying alive with an astounding shot from the water, Bill Haas defeated Hunter Mahan on the third extra hole of a winner-take-all playoff to capture the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup and golfs richest prize early Sunday evening in the dwindling light of East Lake.

My hands were shaking, Haas said. This is pretty cool.

He looked out of it on the second playoff hole when his shot from a fairway bunker trickled down the hill alongside the 17th green and wound up half-submerged in the water.

Haas figured his ball was fine until he heard the groans from the grandstands behind the 18th hole.

I thought it was a nice shot, he said. I thought, That cant be in the water. I never would have thought that when it was in the air.

His brother, who was on the bag, delivered the bad news.

Yeah, caddie Jay Haas Jr. said, I think it is.

Bill Haas didnt throw in the towel. Instead, he put his right foot in the pond and delivered a shot worthy of a massive payoff, water flying upward and the ball spinning toward the cup, settling just 3 feet away.

It was an all or nothing shot, Haas said. If I dont pull it off, Im shaking Hunters hand.

He saved par and headed back to the par-3 18th for the third time in less than an hour. This time, he played it safe, driving left of the green, chipping to 3 feet and rolling in the biggest putt of his young career. Mahan failed to salvage par after driving into a bunker, the difference between winning and losing nearly 10 million.

Im sure my money people, whoever I have helping me out with money, they would suggest that I maybe invest a little, Haas said. I need to think about it long and hard, but I do need to give myself some sort of reward, some sort of toy or whatever it may be.

He certainly earned itif nothing else, for the way he persevered. He squandered a three-stroke lead down the stretch and his first shot of the playoff banged off a grandstand right of the 18th green. He chipped to 10 feet and made a downhill putt to keep himself alive. In hindsight, that was just as amazing as the shot out of the water at 17.

I hit horrendous shots, Haas said. I just fortunately hit really good recovery shots.

Coming down the stretch, more than a half-dozen players had a shot at the FedEx Cup. Even Webb Simpson, who began the week leading the points but finished 10 shots back in 22nd place.

Then, it all came into focus. When Haas and Mahan claimed spots in the playoff, everyone could put away their calculators and their criticism of the convoluted system that determines a champion.

The winner of the playoff would win it alleven though Haas still wasnt sure he had captured both the tournament AND the FedEx Cup until he did a television interview alongside the 18th green.

Both trophies were there and there was no other player, he said. I looked at my wife and she nodded her head, so that was when I realized.

Haas earned a combined 11.44 million, including 10 million for capturing the FedEx Cup. Mahan had to settle for 864,000 as the runner-up and 700,000 for finishing seventh in the FedEx Cup.

A long, tough day. A lot on the line, Mahan said. I couldnt have been happier about how I played. I just couldnt make a putt.

Haas won for the first time this year, and the payoff could be more than just a massive bank deposit. Fred Couples makes his final captains pick on Tuesday for the Presidents Cup, and Haas put on quite a show.

It definitely put me in the talk, Haas said. I did what I could do.

Even if Couples wasnt watching, his assistant captain had a great view: Jay Haas, Bills dad, was in the gallery and raised his arms as his 29-year-old son delivered the riveting conclusion.

Im proud of him the way he came back, the father said.

Only a week ago, Bill Haas was poised to make the Presidents Cup on his own until a 42 on the back nine at Cog Hill. He was atop the leaderboard Saturday at East Lake until a bogey-double bogey finish.

We were eating dinner, Jay Haas said, and you wouldve thought he was the worst golfer in all of Atlanta and maybe Georgia. He was way down on himself.

He almost let it get away from him again. Haas had a three-shot lead when he walked off the 15th green, only to make bogey from the trees on the 16th and bogey from the gallery on the 18th for a 2-under 68.

Mahan had to make par on the 232-yard closing hole. He hit a clutch chip the biggest weakness in his gameand holed a 5-foot par putt for a 71 to join Haas in the high-stakes playoff.

Simpson, the top seed, closed with a 73 that made it possible for anyone who won the Tour Championshipexcept for Aaron Baddeleyto pass him.

Luke Donald, the No. 1 player in the world, made birdie on the 18th hole for a 69. He needed a three-way tie for second to capture the FedEx Cup, and could have done it had Mahan and Baddeley both made bogey on No. 18 in regulation. Instead, both made par.

Donald wound up in a tie for third with K.J. Choi, who needed birdie on the 18th to get into the playoff. Choi shot 70.

Charles Howell III also needed a birdie to get into the playoff, but came up well left of the green on No. 18 and settled for bogey. Jason Day had a 30-foot birdie putt to join the playoff and gave it a strong run. He missed a meaningless 4-footer coming back and settled for bogey.

Haas was at No. 25 in the FedEx Cup standings, making him the lowest seed to capture golfs biggest prize. He joins a distinguished list of FedEx Cup winners that includes Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk.

No need to beat himself up anymore.

Anything can happen, Haas said. Anything did happen.

After wild seventh, Carson Fulmer wants another big-time opportunity for White Sox

After wild seventh, Carson Fulmer wants another big-time opportunity for White Sox

The White Sox called up Carson Fulmer from Double-A Birmingham a week ago with the expectation he could add a strong, powerful arm to the back end of a bullpen that’s been taxed quite a bit this season. 

After he struggled in his first high-leverage appearance in the majors, though, the White Sox remain confident their 2015 first-round pick will be an important part of the team’s bullpen down the stretch this summer. 

Fulmer only threw 12 of 30 pitches for strikes and allowed three game-deciding runs in seventh inning of the White Sox 7-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers in front of 22,611 at U.S. Cellular Field Friday night. The leverage indexes of Fulmer’s first two appearances on the West Coast — which spanned 2 2/3 scoreless innings — were .01 and .05 (a leverage index of 1 is average), with those coming in a 8-1 loss and a 6-1 win. On Friday, Fulmer’s leverage index was 2.98. 

Fulmer said nerves weren’t behind his erratic outing, in which plenty of those 18 balls weren’t close to the strike zone. 

“I want to be in those situations,” the 22-year-old Fulmer said. “When you go out there and don’t do your job, it’s obviously frustrating. But you have to have a quick memory and throw it over your shoulder and prepare yourself for tomorrow.”

Fulmer’s electric mid-90’s fastball and wipeout curveball were rendered ineffective by his inability to command them in his two-thirds of an inning. He walked Justin Upton, gave up a single to Tyler Collins and walked Jarrod Saltalamacchia to load the bases with nobody out, and after a pair of groundouts brought a run in, he walked Cameron Maybin to re-load the bases.

 [SHOP: Get your White Sox gear right here]

After that walk, Fulmer was pulled in favor of Nate Jones, who surrendered a go-ahead, ultimately game-winning two-run single to Tigers All-Star first baseman Miguel Cabrera. 

At some point, the White Sox were going to have to test Fulmer. With starter Jacob Turner only lasting 3 1/3 innings, and Fulmer looking comfortable in his first two appearances in the majors, manager Robin Ventura calculated that the seventh inning Friday was a prime opportunity. 

“He’s going to have to have it sooner or later,” Ventura said. “From the way the first (two) went, we felt comfortable he was going to come in there and be able to do that. But tonight, that doesn’t happen. But you have the confidence he can come back from this and be very effective in that spot.”

Morneau, who’s provided offense for bullpens over 14 major league seasons, agreed with his manager’s confidence in Fulmer. 

“We see a lot of good things in him,” Morneau said. “It’s obviously not up to me, but hopefully we get him back out there quick and let him settle back down and get comfortable, because he can really help this team.” 

White Sox relievers entered Friday with the fifth-highest leverage index in baseball, a product of the high volume of one-, two- and three-run games this team has found itself in this season. All those stressful innings — as well as Jake Petricka’s season-ending injury and Zach Putnam’s elbow issue from which he isn’t likely to return anytime soon — have put a considerable strain on Jones, Dan Jennings, Matt Albers, Zach Duke and David Robertson.

Fulmer, by virtue of being in the White Sox bullpen, will get another opportunity at a high-leverage inning. And while his first foray into a pressure-packed relief appearance didn’t go well, he hopes to quickly get a chance to put Friday in the rearview mirror. 

“I can’t ever use the excuse of it being my first big-time experience, especially for me being put in that situation,” Fulmer said. “Hopefully I get the opportunity to do it again. I’ll continue to stay prepared, just like I was tonight, and hopefully the odds turn in my favor. That’s all I can control.” 

Sky see winning streak snapped in loss to Connecticut Sun

chisksy.png
Associated Press

Sky see winning streak snapped in loss to Connecticut Sun

ROSEMONT, ILL. 

Jonquel Jones had her first-career double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds — both career highs — and Alex Bentley scored 21 points to help the Connecticut Sun beat the Chicago Sky 94-89 on Friday night.

Alyssa Thomas and Jasmine Thomas added 16 points apiece and Chiney Ogwumike had 10 for the Sun (8-16).

Jones scored five consecutive points to cap a 13-4 run that gave Connecticut a 78-74 lead with 4 minutes left and the Sun led the rest of the way. Connecticut hit all eight of its free-throw attempts in the final 42 seconds to seal it.

Elena Delle Donne led Chicago (11-13) with 20 points. Cappie Pondexter added 16 points, and Tamera Young had 14.

The Sun, ranked 11th in the AP WNBA power poll, made 26 of 32 free-throw attempts — both season highs and committed a season-low seven turnovers.

The fifth-ranked Sky shot 52.3 percent (34 of 65) from the field.

Game changer: Dexter Fowler’s return fuels Cubs in Milwaukee

Game changer: Dexter Fowler’s return fuels Cubs in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE – Cubs fans, Dexter Fowler feels your pain: “It sucks being on the couch and watching your team struggle.”

It only took five pitches on Friday night at Miller Park before Fowler answered the questions about how much this lineup missed his presence and how long it would take him to get back into a rhythm.

“You go, we go” is what manager Joe Maddon tells Fowler, and a sellout crowd of 42,243 roared when the All-Star leadoff guy hammered a 94-mph Jimmy Nelson fastball off the black batter’s eye in center field, setting the first-inning tone in a 5-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

“I was just happy to be back around the boys,” Fowler said after going 3-for-4 with a walk, three RBI and two runs scored in his return. “It’s like being back home.”

Fowler’s strained right hamstring alone doesn’t begin to explain all this, because he had been hitting .207 in June, the rotation cooled off, the bullpen became unreliable and a 24-games-in-24-days stretch wore this team out before the All-Star break. But the Cubs were 27 games over .500 and had a 12.5-game lead in the division on June 19, the night Fowler went on the disabled list with what sounded like a minor injury.

If panic didn’t completely set in around a first-place team, underlying issues kept bubbling to the surface, the Cubs losing 15 of their last 21 games before that summer vacation.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

But the second-half Cubs (58-37) now look energized, beating the American League’s best first-half team (Texas Rangers) and the defending National League champs (New York Mets) at Wrigley Field before rolling up Interstate 94 for a virtual home game.

Now here comes Fowler, who jumpstarted the offense again with the bases loaded in the second inning, lining a two-run double down the left-field line and saying postgame that he felt no lingering issues with the hamstring.

“He’s an asset at the top of the lineup,” winning pitcher Jason Hammel said. “Tough at-bat. And he can get you. It was nice to see him run around out there again.”

Yes, Hammel (9-5, 3.35 ERA) ate a handful of potato chips to help prevent cramping in the 86-degree heat, lasting five innings before five relievers combined to hold the Brewers (40-54) scoreless the rest of the night. For all the buzz about Theo Epstein’s front office upgrading the bullpen by the Aug. 1 trade deadline, Maddon may already have a shiny new toy in Carl Edwards Jr.

The skinny right-hander entered the game in the sixth inning, with a runner on second, and cut through the heart of Milwaukee’s order, forcing Ryan Braun to ground out and striking out Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter on six pitches combined.    

Just like that, the Cubs are getting answers from within, after all the outside noise screamed: Do something! The fans chanted “Let’s go, Cubbies!” before closer Hector Rondon got the final out and his 17th save. This is again looking like the team Fowler envisioned when he turned down the Baltimore Orioles for a one-year, $13 million guarantee, shocking the industry by showing up in Arizona in late February.     

“It’s really apparent how important he is to us,” Maddon said. “It just looked right.”