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Clippers Win Game 7
Add-On….posted Wednesday morning…
--The Nets toyed with the Bucks Monday night in Brooklyn, 125-86, despite playing without James Harden, out with his reinjured hamstring; New York taking a 2-0 series lead as the teams head to Milwaukee. Kevin Durant looked super, an effortless 32 points, 12 of 18 from the field, 4 of 6 from three.
The Nets shot 21 of 42 from downtown.
Teams aren’t supposed to beat the Giannis-led Bucks this easily. Harden’s status for Game 3, Thursday, is uncertain as of now.
--Also Monday, the Suns won Game 1 of their battle with the Nuggets, 122-105, as Chris Paul, 21 points, 11 assists, led a balanced attack…Mikal Bridges (23 points), Deandre Ayton (20) and Devin Booker (21).
--The Clippers won Game 7 against the Mavericks Sunday and then had to turn right around to face the Jazz in Salt Lake City on Tuesday in the opener of the next round and it was more than they could handle, falling 112-109. Los Angeles had a 14-point, first-half lead but ran out of steam.
Donovan Mitchell had 45 for Utah, the Western Conference’s top seed, while the Clippers’ Paul George was a miserable 4 of 17 from the field.
--Philadelphia evened its series with Atlanta at 1-1, the Sixers taking Game 2 in Philly 118-109, as Joel Embiid shook off the cartilage tear in his right knee and powered his way to 40 points and 13 rebounds.
--Denver center Nikola Jokic won the regular-season MVP award, marking the first time in 21 years that a definitive center was selected for the honor.
In his sixth NBA season, Jokic set career-highs in points (26.4), field-goal percentage (56.6%) and assists (8.3) and matched his career-high in rebounds (10.8).
Jokic also played in every game, a major feat despite a shortened offseason after leading the Nuggets to the Western Conference finals.
Jokic far outpaced runner-up Joel Embiid in the voting. Steph Curry was third.
--Tom Thibodeau got the Knicks back to the playoffs, guiding them to their second-best record in 20 years, and it was worthy of the Coach of the Year award for 2020-21, as determined by a panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the league. The Knicks went 41-31 in the regular season before falling to the Hawks in five in the first round of the playoffs.
Phoenix’s Monty Williams actually received more first-place votes than Thibodeau, 45-43, but Thibodeau had 351 total points to Williams’ 340 in what was the closest balloting since this version of voting was introduced 19 years ago.
Stanley Cup Playoffs
--The surprising Montreal Canadiens completed a four-game sweep of Winnipeg, Monday, 3-2 at the Bell Centre.
The Canadiens are an amazing 34-0 all-time when leading a series 3-0.
And once again netminder Carey Price, while only facing 16 shots on goal, got the job done and now has a 1.97 GAA in the eleven games of the playoffs thus far, Montreal having come from down 3-1 to the Maple Leafs to pull that opening series out in seven.
Price for his lengthy career has a 2.50 GAA in the regular season, 2.36 in the 81 playoff games he has been in. Ergo, he’s clutch.
--I watched the Bruins take on the Islanders in a critical Game 5 of their second-round series in Boston on Monday and the Isles took their second straight, holding on 5-4 to take a 3-2 series lead, Game 6 back at The Barn on the Island, Wednesday.
New York is spunky, Boston decidedly chippy.
--The Dodgers are one of the teams sweating bullets over Major League Baseball’s looming crackdown on pitchers doctoring the baseball. For one, Trevor Bauer. L.A. invested $102 million on him over three years, $85 million the first two, after which he can opt out, and he’s a relatively pedestrian 6-4, 2.40 thus far.
The concern in his case is the spin rate. In a 4-2 loss to the Braves on Sunday, the spin rate and usage of Bauer’s four-seam fastball were noticeably down. Bauer held the Braves to three runs in six innings, but he didn’t pitch well, allowing a season-high 10 baserunners.
Bauer has not denied previously using foreign substances to improve his grip on baseballs, coming as close to admitting he did without actually saying it.
But now the Dodgers have this investment, and, asked if he could be the caliber of pitcher the Dodgers paid for if the league takes substantive measures to discourage the use of foreign substances, Bauer replied, “Go look at the 2018 numbers and tell me what you think.”
That season he was 12-6, 2.21 for Cleveland, though he had a mediocre 2019 (albeit with lots of strikeouts) before being lights-out in the Covid-shortened campaign of 2020.
--The Yankees and their fans are sweating for a different reason…they suck. And the Yankees are not supposed to suck like this. [I’m gunning for a Pulitzer, as you can see.]
The Yanks lost their last four, including getting swept by the Red Sox for the first time at home in 10 years, Boston helped by a brutal call in the bottom of the ninth Sunday night, New York then losing in 10.
The Yanks are 26th in baseball with runners in scoring position, for starters, and with the team 6 ½ back of first-place Tampa Bay, there are calls for manager Aaron Boone and/or GM Brian Cashman to be fired.
Well, they broke their skid Tuesday night, the Yanks defeating the Twins 8-4 in Minneapolis, but remain 6 ½ back of Tampa Bay, the Rays beating the Nationals 3-1.
But earlier in the day on a Zoom conference call with reporters, Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole was asked directly if he had used Spider Tack, a sticky paste that can greatly increase the spin on pitches, while on the mound and Cole totally embarrassed himself in his halting response.
“I don’t know quite how to answer that, to be honest,” after hemming and hawing roughly 15 seconds for an answer. “I mean, there are customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to youngers players from the last generation of players to this generation of players. I think there are some things that are certainly out of bounds in that regard, and I’ve stood pretty firm in terms of that, in terms of the communication between our peers and whatnot.”
He added: “This is important to a lot of people that love the game, including the players, including fans, including teams. If MLB wants to legislate some more stuff, that’s a conversation we can have, because ultimately we should all be pulling in the same direction on this.”
Over the weekend in an interview with The Athletic, Minnesota third baseman Josh Donaldson singled out Cole when discussing today’s game, plunging batting averages and pitchers’ spin rates.
“Is it coincidence that Gerrit Cole’s spin rate numbers went down after four minor leaguers got suspended for 10 games?” Donaldson said. “Is that possible? I don’t know. Maybe. At the same time, with this situation, they’ve let guys do it.”
--The Angels (29-32) have been hanging in there without Mike Trout and in an 8-1 win over the Royals Tuesday, Shohei Ohtani launched a two-run moonshot in the first, the longest home run of his career, an estimated 470 feet.
--In the Dodgers’ 5-3 win over the Pirates Tuesday in Pittsburgh, the Pirates’ Ke’Bryan Hayes launched a high fly ball down the right field line that hit the foul pole. Hayes wasn’t sure if the ball would stay fair, but as he watched it in flight and started to make his turn toward second baes, he veered slightly off course and missed the first base bag.
The Dodgers picked up on this, asked for a replay challenge and after further review, Hayes was rightfully called out.
--In the Women’s College World Series, it is Florida State and Oklahoma for the championship as the Lady Seminoles have won four consecutive elimination games, after dropping their WCWS opener to UCLA Thursday. They defeated Alabama twice to make the finals.
Oklahoma had lost its first-round game as well, the Sooners in a shocker to James Madison before they got their mojo. It’s the first time in the 39 years of the WCWS that two teams that lost their first games advanced out of the loser’s bracket to the Championship Finals.
Last night, FSU then took Game 1 of the best-of-three series 8-4.
--All are in agreement. By obtaining star wide receiver Julio Jones from the Atlanta Falcons for draft picks (a 2022 second-rounder and a 2023 fourth-round selection), the Tennessee Titans may have taken a giant step towards making the Super Bowl.
The Titans lost two of their top pass-catchers in free agency – Corey Davis to the Jets and tight end Jonnu Smith, signed by New England – but the odds for Tennessee winning the Super Bowl improved from 35-1 to 30-1 (William Hill / Caesars Sportsbook) with this move.
Over the past 10 seasons, Jones leads the NFL with 58 100-yard receiving games. The Titans as a team have had 50 in that span.
His 95.5 receiving yards per game is the best per-game average in NFL history. [Calvin Johnson is next at 86.1. Jerry Rice is at 75.6, in case you were wondering.]
Meanwhile, Falcons QB Matt Ryan can’t be happy, but he does have first-rounder Kyle Pitts to throw to, like 15 times a game, I’m picturing. Wouldn’t you, if you were Ryan?
--We note the passing of former Giants coach Jim Fassel, who died of a heart attack the other day in Las Vegas. He was 71.
Fassel coached the Giants from 1997-2003, winning NFL Coach of the Year honors in 1997 and leading the team to Super Bowl XXV three years later where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens.
He reached the playoffs three times in the seven seasons and compiled a 58-53-1 record, but he was fired after going 4-12 in 2003, replaced by Tom Coughlin, and for some reason Fassel never got another shot at a head coaching job.
--Saturday and Sunday in watching the coverage, it was obvious in how the PGA Tour applied its Covid-19 protocols with regards to Jon Rahm the week of the Memorial tournament that Rahm had not been vaccinated. Had he been, he wouldn’t have been subject to the contact tracing regime he was forced to submit to starting last Monday.
The thing that I didn’t know is just how long Rahm could have gotten vaccinated. A lot of younger Tour players haven’t had the opportunity to get the shots until relatively recently because their state may not have opened the process up to their age group, but in Rahm’s home state of Arizona, they opened up to all adults way back on March 24.
It was a mistake that almost surely cost Rahm $1.675 million had he held on to his six-stroke third-round lead.
So upon further reflection, while I like Rahm’s mature statement after he was forced to withdraw, he has to go into the December file for “Idiot of the Year” consideration.
--Cameron Young, a 24-year-old former teammate of Will Zalatoris at Wake Forest, won back-to-back Korn Ferry events, leaving him one shy of a battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour, though he fell short in his next outing. But he then took medalist honors in U.S. Open qualifying at his regional and is headed to Torrey Pines.
--However, Rickie Fowler came up just short in his bid to qualify Tuesday for the U.S. Open. In a rain-delayed qualifier, Fowler had to go out for his final five holes Tuesday morning and he needed three birdies. He ended up one shot shy.
Rickie hasn’t missed the U.S. Open since 2010 and had to go through 36-hole qualifying because of his plunge down the world ranking, well beyond the top 60 in the world (he’s currently No. 87) who were exempt from qualifying.
--Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera was extradited from Brazil to his homeland of Argentina on Tuesday to face charges of assault against three former female partners.
Cabrera, 51, was arrested in Rio de Janeiro in January on charges of assault, theft, illegal intimidation and repeated disrespect to authorities. He had been on Interpol’s “red code” list, which is used to seek the location and arrest of a person wanted by a legal jurisdiction or an international tribunal with a view to his or her extradition.
Cabrera had been on the run, but Tuesday, television networks in Argentina showed him being handed over by authorities near the border city of Puerto Iguazu. A trial is expected to begin in July.
Cabrera won the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont and the 2009 Masters.
--Back to the U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club, I posted before the playoff between Yuka Saso and Nasa Hataoka, a two-hole aggregate affair, Saso capturing the title on the third hole with a 10-foot birdie putt, after the two both parred Nos. 9 and 18 to start out the playoff. She is the first player from the Philippines, male or female, to win a major. She’s also all of 19 years old, tying Inbee Park as the youngest to win the U.S. Women’s Open at 19 years, 11 months and 7 days.
Understand Saso overcame double bogeys on Nos. 2 and 3 to start out her final round, as she birdied 16 and 17 to get to 4-under and the playoff with Hataoka.
Third-round leader Lexi Thompson wilted down the stretch.
Saso picks up a five-year exemption on the LPGA Tour for winning a major.
--Coco Gauff was ousted in today’s quarterfinal action, nonetheless her longest run yet in a major. There is zero juice left in the women’s bracket.
--On the men’s side, Tuesday, 2 Daniil Medvedev lost his quarterfinal match to 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, while Nadal and Djokovic play their quarterfinal matches today.
--I didn’t have a chance last time to note the passing of Clarence Williams III, “Linc Hayes” on “The Mod Squad,” as well as Prince’s father in “Purple Rain.” He was 81. The cause of death was colon cancer.
Lenny Kravitz wrote on Twitter: “When I was a kid growing up in NYC Clarence Williams III was a face on TV that I identified with and that inspired me. From the Mod Squad, to Purple Rain and Sugar Hill, he always performed with dynamic energy. Rest in power, king.”
Williams’ was raised in New York by his musical grandparents. He started his acting career on Broadway. But his breakout came with “The Mod Squad,” which he led with Peggy Lipton (all us guys had a crush on her) and Michael Cole. Bill Cosby had seen Williams perform and told Aaron Spelling he should consider him for the role of Linc. The show ran on ABC from 1968 through 1973. It was a trailblazing show for attempting to portray the hippie generation of the time.
But there were dry spells after for Williams and he often crashed on Cosby’s couch to keep a roof over his head. He was saved in part by director John Frankenheimer, who began picking him for various roles in his movies, like “52 Pick-Up,” “Against the Wall” and some episodes of “Tales from the Crypt.”
Williams never fretted over his longtime association with “The Mod Squad,” though.
“All most people know about me is the two hours they’ve invested in a movie theater or the time spent in front of their TV,” he said in an interview in 1999. “There’s so much entertainment out there right now, it’s difficult to break through and become part of the national consciousness. It’s nice to be recognized, and I have no problem with it at all.”
--The oldest male chimpanzee living in an accredited North American zoo died last weekend at the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens. He was 63.
“Cobby” had been a hand-reared performing chimpanzee before he was brought to the San Francisco Zoo in the 1960s, back when Willie Mays was patrolling center field at Candlestick Park, I hasten to add, and Rick Barry was leading the NBA in scoring with the San Francisco Warriors (1966-67).* Zoo officials believe old age was a factor in Cobby’s death.
*John Brodie had his best statistical season with the 49ers in 1965, leading the NFL in touchdown passes with 30, while completing a then unheard-of 61.9 percent of his passes…but I digress.
The average life expectancy of the 100,000 to 200,000 chimpanzees living in the wild is 33 years, while it is between 50 and 60 years under human care, the zoo said.
Chimps get away with a lot in captivity. Having had one throw his s--- at me at the Berlin Zoo, I can attest to that. [Thankfully it was juuust a bit outside….] You never see them get punished for such behavior.
Chimps are also not highly thought of when it comes to the All-Species List, currently coming in at No. 109 given their penchant for ripping your face off if given the opportunity.
On my list of animals that scare the hell out of me….I’d put Chimps at the top, seeing as I don’t come in close contact in the course of my daily routine with hippos, gators (except in Kiawah) or leopard seals. Coyotes are, however, all around my area and in the park I use for exercise. Confronting one would scare me as well.
Speaking of gators, and crocodiles, the latter species attacked a British woman swimming in a lagoon in Mexico. According to The Guardian, Melissa and Georgia Laurie had been taken to the lagoon by a local guide when Melissa was attacked and Georgia, an experienced diver, found her floating face down and managed to fight off the crocodile as she was dragging Melissa back to the boat.
Georgia suffered injuries to her hands and Melissa was placed in a coma to prevent her injuries from becoming infected.
“They were swimming after dark in the bioluminescent waters when Georgia heard Melissa cry,” the women’s father said. “She had dived to try to find her sister before finding her on the surface.
“But when she was bringing her back to the boat the crocodile attacked again,” he said. “Georgia had to fight it off. She kept punching it in the head.”
The tour guide had a reputation for taking customers to dangerous locations, and in this case not the location where all legal certified sanctioned tours take place, a sister said. They didn’t know this until it was too late.
Next Bar Chat, Sunday, June 13.
[Posted Sunday p.m.]
Had a good visit with our Dr. Bortrum today. Caught him up on the golf. It’s difficult.
French Open Quiz: Rafael Nadal is going for an unfathomable 14th French Open title. Name the only four with at least three in the modern/Open Era. Answer below.
--The Clippers forced a Game 7 with a 104-97 win over the Mavericks in Dallas on Friday, as Kawhi Leonard once again came up big when it mattered most, hitting 18 of 25 from the field on his way to 45 points. At one point, Leonard scored 15 consecutive points to end the third quarter, 42 of his 45 coming in his final 30 minutes.
Clippers guard Reggie Jackson said after: “The baddest man on the planet.”
Mavs star Luka Doncic said: “He destroyed us.”
Leonard joined Jamal Murray, LeBron James and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to score at least 45 points while shooting at least 70% in an elimination game, according to Elias Sports.
So just now, in Game 7, Leonard and the Clippers prevailed 126-111. Kawhi with 28 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists, and Marcus Morris Sr. with 23 on 7 of 9 from three.
Two ACC alum, Terrance Mann (Florida State) and Luke Kennard (Duke), combined for a big 24 off the bench, 5 of 8 from three, for L.A.
Meanwhile, the legend of Luka Doncic continues to grow, even in defeat, the 22-year-old just an amazing superstar…46 points, 14 assists.
Imagine…the Clippers lost the first two at home in the series, then ended up winning all three on the road.
--Saturday, the Nets opened their series with Milwaukee with a solid 115-107 victory in Brooklyn, even as the Nets lost James Harden in the first minute, Harden reinjuring his hamstring. Awful luck.
But Kevin Durant (29), Kyrie Irving (25) and Blake Griffin’s best game as a Net (18 points, 14 rebounds), along with the always clutch Joe Harris (19 points, 5 of 9 from three), overcame Giannis’ 34.
Game 2 Monday.
--Thursday, the Lakers lost to the Suns, 113-100, in Game 6 of their series, Phoenix taking it 4-2. It was the first time in his career that LeBron James lost in the first round of the playoffs.
And as Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal put it, “The season turned out to be a wasted one for a star who doesn’t have many of them left. James is now 36 years old with 18 years of NBA experience. He’s been in the league for half of his life, and soon there will be players who weren’t born when he was a rookie. He was long ago pushing the limits of longevity. What he’s doing at this age is without precedent: He is still the game’s most dominant force.”
James won his fourth title last season, but Michael Jordan has six. LeBron wants to equal that, but injuries began to catch up with him this season, missing 26 games with a sprained ankle (the lengthiest absence of his career).
It didn’t help that Anthony Davis had calf, and then in the end, groin issues.
Pretty amazing that for the first time in a decade, the NBA Finals won’t feature LeBron or Steph Curry, ergo the sport’s biggest television draws.
Meanwhile, in Game 6 for the Suns, Devin Booker had a monster effort, 47 points.
--Wednesday night, after I last posted, the Knicks lost to the Hawks in Game 5, 103-89, Atlanta finishing off New York 4-1. It was pathetic, though it was a fun season for Knicks fans and the franchise is on the right track.
But as Mike Vaccaro wrote in the New York Post:
“Slowly, the reality of the moment began to sink in, tearing at the faith of the 16,512 people who’d gathered here hopeful for a basketball respite, if not a full-on resurrection. Slowly the season began leaking away bit by bit, piece by piece, minute by minute.
“At last, there was genuine quiet at Madison Square Garden. At last, the flock fled for the exits, headed for the subway platforms, headed for the summer.
“Summer’s here, and the time is right for sighing in the streets….
“ ‘We have something to build on for the future right here,’ Julius Randle would say.
“But the words tumbled out with great difficulty for Randle, who will have to lie with the residue of this series all summer, all next season.* The Knicks probably wouldn’t have had enough even if Randle had been the equal to his regular-season self; the Hawks are that talented, and unlike all three games they played (and dropped) to the Knicks during the regular season they were at full strength.
*Randle ended the series 28 of 94 from the field, .298 percent.
“But you have to believe – have to know – that the series would, at the least, have looked different. It would’ve felt like less of a mismatch. A year ago, stung by a disappointing regular season, fueled with ambition, Randle attacked his offseason in Dallas with a ferocity that paid dividends all across the season….
“You have to believe these five games will serve as Randle’s gasoline this time….
“A new day beckons. Another step awaits. Summer’s here, quicker than anyone was prepared for.”
--So Atlanta opened up against Philadelphia today and raced off to a 74-54 halftime lead, Trae Young with 25 points and 7 assists at the intermission, as Sixers coach Doc Rivers inexplicably put Danny Green on Young.
So then Rivers switched to Simmons in the second half and Young cooled off, finishing 35 and 10.
Philly mounted a terrific fourth-quarter rally, going on an 11-0 run to cut it to 118-115, but Atlanta’s Bogdan Bogdanovic hit a clutch 3-pointer, and then the Sixers intentionally fouled John Collins at 121-118 and the Hawks barely held on 128-124.
For Philadelphia, Joel Embiid, who many didn’t think would play due to injury, was a force with 39 points.
Yes, this should be a terrific series, but only if Embiid can stay on the court.
Wake’s John Collins was clutch himself with 21 points.
--After two tough losses Thursday and Friday in San Diego, 4-3 and 2-0, the Mets sent Jacob deGrom to the mound Saturday and the DeGrominator did his thing, seven shutout innings, 11 strikeouts, the bullpen finishing up a 4-0 win.
DeGrom, 5-2, lowered his ERA to 0.62, having given up just four earned runs in 58 innings.
In all nine starts this season, deGrom has not permitted more than one earned run.
Us Mets fans, let alone Mets broadcasters, have long run out of superlatives to describe deGrom’s performance. We know a bad outing or two is in the cards, but when?
So the Mets faced off against the Padres this afternoon, 3 ½ games ahead of the Braves in the NL East, and it’s “Mets Win! Mets Win!” 6-2, Marcus Stroman now 5-4, 2.41. Getting a split in Bobby C.’s San Diego is huge.
--The Yankees enter tonight’s contest with the Red Sox at the Stadium 5 ½ games back of first-place Tampa Bay, 4 ½ behind Boston. What’s worse, in losing nine of their last 12, they are playing not just awful baseball, but the team is immensely boring, totally one-dimensional. The fans in the Bronx are getting pissed. They deserve to be.
Even Gerrit Cole (6-3, 2.26) was shelled on Thursday by the Rays, 9-2, yielding 5 earned in five innings.
--Friday, Shohei Ohtani gave up a leadoff homer on an underthrown fastball, and it didn’t shake him. He maintained his mechanics, deployed his vicious splitter and mostly shut down Seattle for six strong innings, yielding four hits with a season high-tying 10 strikeouts, as the Angels won 3-2, Ohtani now 2-1, 2.76.
Saturday, Ohtani then clubbed his 16th homer of the season in a 12-5 win over the Mariners.
Ken P. alerted me to the fact that Jarred Kelenic is on an historically bad streak. The phenom and former Met had a big second game in the big leagues back on May 14 with three hits…two doubles and a home run, but since then talk about struggling. He entered today in an 0-42 skid with 18 strikeouts. He’s 8 for 83 overall, .096.
So at least for now, Mets fans can feel better about their part of the trade that sent Kelenic to the Mariners…closer Edwin Diaz, who is having a very solid season thus far. Another piece of that trade, Seattle pitcher Justin Dunn, was placed on the IL this weekend with shoulder inflammation.
--Speaking of Ken P., I mentioned to him Friday night that I hadn’t been following Houston’s Carlos Correa and was surprised at his solid season thus far. The guy with monster talent hasn’t been able to stay on the field due to injuries, with just one full campaign under his belt, but he’ll be an intriguing free agent if he stays healthy the rest of the way in 2021.
The still just 26-year-old shortstop has played in 55 of Houston’s 58 games, 10 home runs, 32 RBI, batting .286.
So Ken writes Saturday and says that after my note, he took the first flight to Buffalo to watch Saturday’s Blue Jays-Astros contest (Buffalo, Toronto’s latest home). Toronto won 6-2, Vlad Guerrero Jr. with his MLB-leading 18th home run, Correa with three hits.
I’d call that rather impulsive on Ken P.’s part and for this he receives the home version of “Bar Chat: The Game,” whenever we get around to making it.
--I saw the Orioles clobbered the Indians 18-5 today, and I’m thinking as I click on the box score, great, Trey Mancini must have driven in like seven. Nope. 0-for-6. Go figure. [Cancer survivor has 44 ribbies on the season.]
--MLB is set to announce a crackdown on pitchers’ application of foreign substances on baseballs in the coming weeks, having informed owners the other day of its intentions. The decision is spurred by rampant use across the majors, which is viewed as a significant reason for offensive struggles this season.
Dodgers catcher Will Smith said Friday, “I guess you see it across the league where some guys are blatantly using it.”
The MLB batting average is .236 through Saturday, lower than 1968’s .237.
--In the Women’s College World Series, we entered play today with four teams left.
Unseeded James Madison, No. 1-seed Oklahoma, 10 Florida State, and 3 Alabama.
--Like many of you I was watching the end of the third round at the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, when Jon Rahm walked off the 18th green, six-shot lead in hand after a truly dominating 64 (on top of a morning 65 that included an ace), when he was confronted by two tour officials.
My initial reaction was, ‘I didn’t remember any kind of rules controversy,’ then, like Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo announced after, we all had the thought of some family tragedy as Rahm’s knees buckled and he covered his head with his hands, saying, “No way, not again.”
But it took a few moments to learn (and credit to CBS for sticking with the story), that Rahm had tested positive for Covid-19 and was forced to withdraw. Nantz and Faldo, like all of us, were stunned…and relieved it wasn’t worse.
Rahm had a sixth PGA Tour title firmly in his grasp, as well as a winner’s check for $1.7 million.
It’s been almost exactly a year since the PGA tour restarted amid the pandemic, and where there have been a number of players contracting the virus – some of which led to forced withdrawals from tournaments – we had never seen anything like what happened Saturday.
In a statement released by the PGA tour, it was explained that Rahm had been informed Monday he was subject to contact-tracing protocols after coming in close contact with someone who had tested positive. Rahm had tested negative every day since and showed no signs of having the virus.
On Saturday, however, his test following the second round came back positive at about 4:30 p.m., or while he was playing a back nine he would shoot 30 on. Rahm wasn’t pulled off the course then because the PGA Tour’s medical advisor requested a second test of his sample. That positive result didn’t come back until just minutes before Rahm finished his round.
Rahm issued a statement:
“I’m very disappointed in having to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament. This is one of those things that happens in life, one of those moments where how we respond to a setback defines us as people. I’m very thankful that my family and I are all OK. I will take all of the necessary precautions to be safe and healthy, and I look forward to returning to the golf course as soon as possible. Thank you to all of the fans for their support and I’m looking forward to watching the showdown tomorrow afternoon with you all.”
Rahm now must remain in isolation for ten days, with negative test results, before he would be cleared to play, which would be at the U.S. Open.
It was not known if Rahm had been vaccinated, and tour officials couldn’t comment on that. But the tour said that under their protocols, which align with CDC guidelines, a person who is fully vaccinated would not have been subject to contact tracing unless he showed symptoms and Rahm is currently asymptomatic, i.e., draw your own conclusions.
“That’s obviously really disappointing,” said Patrick Cantlay, the 2019 Memorial winner who then inherited a share of the 54-hole lead with Collin Morikawa at 12-under 204. “It’s kind of the worst situation for something like that to happen, and he played awesome today and it’s just, it’s really, it’s a shame. It’s unfortunate.”
Cantlay, who said he already had Covid-19, played in the final threesome on Saturday with Rahm and Scottie Scheffler, who tested positive for Covid in September and had to miss the U.S. Open.
Rahm played the first two rounds with Morikawa and Xander Schauffele, and both of them clearly knew he was in Covid protocol because they didn’t high-five him after his hole-in-one, completing his rain-delayed second round.
If you placed a bet on Rahm, this counts as a post-tee off withdrawal with the sportsbooks, meaning no refunds.
So we had the following leaderboard heading into the fourth round….
Branden Grace -9
And in the end, while no one seemed to want it, Cantlay captured his fourth PGA Tour win, second at the Memorial, defeating Morikawa on the first hole of sudden death. Great stuff down the stretch.
Cantlay acknowledged it after…it’s a different situation with Rahm in the field today. Mark R. said there will be an asterisk forever.
But as Tony Soprano would have said, ‘Whaddya gonna do?’ [I believe Mr. Soprano is alive and relatively well in Nova Scotia, by the way.]
--Brooks Koepka didn’t play this week, but Bryson DeChambeau and the feud between the two exhibited itself in the form of the gallery at Muirfield Village taunting and yelling jabs at Bryson.
DeChambeau was hit with cries of “Go Brooks” or “Brooksie” throughout a day that because of rain on Thursday, saw him play 33 holes.
“Oh, they weren’t taunts at all, it was flattering,” DeChambeau said.
DeChambeau, who said he did not ask for anyone to be removed, but clearly did, said of Koepka, “Look, I’ve got nothing against him. I’ve got no issues at all. If he wants to play that game, that’s great. I’m going to keep trying to play my best game and when it comes down to it, when somebody’s that bothered by someone else it is flattering.”
[Security removed about 10 spectators for taunting Bison, some of the comments made during his backswing. They were quick to admonish anyone who did the same on Saturday, and there were far fewer incidents than Friday.]
The feud goes back two years, when Koepka called out DeChambeau for slow play. There have been other issues in the interim.
“Look, I’ve got noting against him,” DeChambeau of Koepka. “I’ve got no issues at all. If he wants to play that game, that’s great. I’m going to keep trying to play my best game and when it comes down to it, when somebody’s that bothered by someone else it is flattering.”
So after the issues made their way to social media on Friday, Koepka posted that he appreciated the support from the gallery, and then said he was buying beer for them.
“What’s up guys, it’s Brooksie. Just wanted to say, ‘Hey, thank you guys for the support.’ I heard a bunch of you were shouting my name at the golf tournament today. I know I’m not playing, but thank you for showing support.”
DeChambeau then said he believes the PGA Tour will need to step in if the feud leads to more poor fan behavior. He said he was aware of Koepka’s beer offer but had not seen the video posted to Twitter.
“I think that’s something that the tour needs to handle, it’s something I can’t control,” DeChambeau said after the third round. “I tried to take the high road numerous times and I think that from my perspective, I’ll continue to keep doing so and people are going to do what they want to do. So it is what it is.”
--On the women’s side, they held the U.S. Women’s Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco, and after two rounds, 17-year-old amateur Megha Ganne from Holmdel, N.J., was tied for third, two strokes behind the leaders.
And she was still T3 after three, four behind leader Lexi Thompson.
Well, today, third-round leader Lexi Thompson choked, pure and simple, bogeying 3 of the last five holes, including 17 and 18, some miserable chips along the way, and two golfers I never heard of, Yuka Saso and Nasa Hataoka, are in a playoff as I go to post.
Meanwhile, Ms. Ganne shot a 6-over 77, finishing T14, but gave a delightful interview after. We know one thing…she has terrific parents…and at the end of the day….
Ganne will be turning pro after some major amateur events and could be a real game-changer.
[She also has no social media accounts! Love it!]
--In the Men’s NCAA Tournament finale, it was 3-seed Pepperdine beating 4 Oklahoma in match play, 3-2, for the title, its second in school history, the other in 1997.
--A women’s field already losing No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka, lost No. 1 Ashleigh Barty to injury in her second-round match. And then today, Serena Williams fell 3-6, 5-7 to Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina (love the name).
--On the men’s side, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic all advanced into the Round of 16. For Djokovic it was a record 12th consecutive time, while for Federer, it is a record 68 trips in the majors. All three are in action Monday.
Well, it wasn’t 68 after all for Federer, as Sunday he withdrew.
“After two knee surgeries and over a year of rehabilitation it’s important that I listen to my body and make sure I don’t push myself too quickly on my road to recovery,” the 20-time Grand Slam champion said in a statement. “I am thrilled to have gotten 3 matches under my belt. There is no greater feeling than being back on court.”
Federer, who turns 40 on Aug. 8, was competing in his first major tournament since the 2020 Australian Open, after which he had a pair of operations on his right knee.
Federer had said last month he didn’t see himself being ready to contend for the French Open title, having his sights set on Wimbledon, where play begins on June 28.
Some are criticizing him for not conceding during his third-round match…I don’t know enough about the timing.
Today, 2 Daniil Medvedev ousted 22 Christian Garin in straight sets in his fourth-round match.
Kyle Larson won his third of the year, ninth career, at Sonoma Raceway, beating teammate Chase Elliott. And now team owner Rick Hendrick has a 1-2 finish four races in a row, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the 1950s, if I heard it right.
Thoughts on Coach K’s Retirement
Erick Smith / USA TODAY
“The idea that Mike Krzyzewski was going to retire as the Duke men’s basketball coach soon was pretty obvious. The reality of his pending departure was made more inevitable as he turned 74 and the Blue Devils missed the tournament during an erratic Covid-19 season that also saw nearby rival Roy Williams leave North Carolina.
“Speculation about future successors has been going on for years, so the school wasn’t caught flat-footed when Krzyzewski finally made the decision to walk away. There were plenty of former Duke players and assistants on his coaching tree to choose from. Names that had been discussed for more than a decade with each going up and down as they navigated their careers as head coaches.
“So the decision to select associate head coach Jon Scheyer as Coach K’s replacement when he finishes his 42nd season at the school was as jarring as the thought of Krzyzewski no longer being on the Duke sideline after next year….
“It was just 11 years ago that Scheyer was leading the Blue Devils to the national title as a player. Now, with seven years experience as a Duke assistant, he steps into arguably the biggest shoes to fill of any coach in the history of college athletics.
“That’s how big of a shadow Coach K has cast during his tenure…
“His personality and success have put Duke as the epicenter of college basketball. There’s no middle ground. You either love or hate the Blue Devils, with most of the school’s many rivals falling in the latter category.
“The curious decision to pick Scheyer wasn’t just in his lack of experience. It’s also that it cast aside several other options with significantly more seasoning.”
Mike Brey, Tommy Amaker, Johnny Dawkins, Jeff Capel. Former star point guard Bobby Hurley. Quin Snyder, who has led the Utah Jazz this season. All inside the Duke family.
Brad Stevens was another who seemed like a perfect fit. As Erick Smith writes: “The thought has always been that Duke is the one job that would entice him back to college basketball. It’s been noted many times Krzyzewski holds Stevens in high regard. It was a home run hire.”
But then it was announced Stevens was leaving the bench to become the Celtics’ director of basketball operations, Danny Ainge retiring from the post.
“Given all the options in play, there’s a feeling that Duke could have done better. That the program deserved someone with a bigger pedigree. Those were also the feelings when Krzyzewski was hired [Ed. after five mediocre seasons at Army.]
“Scheyer, however, faces much greater scrutiny and has less rope than his mentor. The Blue Devils didn’t make the tournament in Coach K’s first three seasons and there were calls for his firing with his record at 38-47. They made the tournament the next year. And the rest of his tenure, as they say, was history.
“Now it’s up to Scheyer to make his own history. It’s an incredible unknown for such a known quantity of a program.
“On the bright side, there are options if things don’t go well.”
--Essential Quality beat Hot Rod Charlie to take the Belmont Stakes in a terrific finish, the two dueling down the stretch, Essential Quality winning by 1 ¼ lengths. Preakness winner Rombauer was third. For jockey Luis Saez it was his first Triple Crown victory.
Trainer Brad Cox could be a double Triple Crown winner with Mandaloun if Bob Baffert-trained Medina Spirit is disqualified.
Essential Quality had gone off as the Derby favorite but finished fourth.
Earlier, Baffert was suspended for two years by Churchill Downs after Medina Spirit tested positive for a steroid in two different postrace drug samples.
The suspension begins immediately and lasts through the 2023 Spring Meet at the racetrack.
--A Tom Brady rookie card sold for $3.107 million at the Lelands Mid-Spring Classic Auction, marking the most ever paid for a football card in public auction.
The price tops the record of $2.25 million, set just two months ago, when another Brady rookie card was sold by Lelands.
The card selling for $3.107 million is a 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Rookie Ticket Autograph edition. It is a higher grade (Mint 9) than the one that Lelands sold for $2.25 million earlier this year (NM-MY 8.5).
There are only seven of the Mint 9 examples in existence, with none graded higher.
Also, the football from Brady’s first career touchdown pass sold for $428,842 at the auction. The consignor of the ball was the fan who caught it after receiver Terry Glenn, the beneficiary of Bray’s 21-yard TD strike, tossed it into the stands following his celebration.
--From Antonia Noori Farzan / Washington Post:
“A heroic rat who discovered more than 70 land mines during five years of service in Cambodia is retiring this month.
“Magawa, an African giant pouched rat, has traversed the Southeast Asian nation to sniff out mines left behind after decades of war. During that time, he’s helped to clear more than 2.4 million square feet of land and saved an unknown number of people from injury or possible death, according to APOPO, the organization that trained him.
“ ‘Although still in good health, he has reached a retirement age and is clearly starting to slow down,’ APOPO announced this week. ‘It is time.’”
APOPO is a Belgian nonprofit group that has been teaching rats to detect land mines for more than 20 years, with Magawa (whose name means “courage”) the most successful graduate. In September, he was awarded a gold medal for bravery from British charity PDSA, an honor that had previously only gone to dogs.
According to APOPO, the reason African giant pouched rats like Magawa are used is because they are light enough to avoid triggering the mines. As the Post notes, “most mines require roughly 11 pounds of pressure to be activated. The rats searching for them weigh approximately three pounds at most, and not one has been injured or killed at work.”
The rats, with their strong sense of smell, can detect the chemical compounds found inside explosives. They are trained through a process using bananas and other food rewards in exchange for successfully completing a task. They stop and scratch at the ground to alert their handlers when they’ve picked up a scent.
--The other day I talked about the exploding bald eagle population, which is wreaking havoc in western Canada, like with small pets disappearing.
But this week we learned an Idaho farmer claims he has lost 54 of his lambs in a series of bald eagle attacks that began in April.
Rocky Matthew, who owns a farm near Murtaugh Lake, didn’t know what was killing his lambs until he witnessed one of the eagles attack his flock, he told The Times-News.
Matthews told the newspaper that eagles have nested on his farm for over 20 years, but have never launched attacks on his animals.
The farmer believes the eagles, who typically prey on fish, resorted to killing his lambs because the lake took longer to warm up this year.
Matthews has opted to move his livestock closer to his barn in the hopes the eagles will stay away.
--Shu, good luck in California.
Top 3 songs for the week 6/5/65: #1 “Help Me, Rhonda” (The Beach Boys) #2 “Wooly Bully” (Sam The Sham and the Pharaohs) #3 “Back In My Arms Again” (The Supremes)…and…#4 “Crying In The Chapel” (Elvis Presley) #5 “Ticket To Ride” (The Beatles) #6 “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” (Herman’s Hermits) #7 “I Can’t Help Myself” (Four Tops) #8 “Just A Little” (The Beau Brummels) #9 “Engine Engine #9” (Roger Miller) #10 “It’s Not Unusual” (Tom Jones…very good week, A…)
French Open Quiz Answer: Winners of three or more in the Open Era, aside from Nadal.
Bjorn Borg 6; Mats Wilander 3; Ivan Lendl 3; Gustavo Kuerten 3.
The Brazilian Kuerten’s only three major titles were all at Roland-Garros (1997, 2000, 2001). Totally forgot about this guy.
Next Bar Chat next Sunday. Perhaps a midweek Add-On…check later Wednesday.