NCAA

Golf's final major ends in thrilling fashion

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Golf's final major ends in thrilling fashion

From Comcast SportsNet Monday, August 15, 2011
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. (AP) -- A rally that ranks among the best. A collapse hardly anyone saw coming. There was even a guy in a red shirt Sunday, pumping his fists with each clutch putt in the final, frenzied hour of the PGA Championship. In a major filled with unfamiliar names, Keegan Bradley delivered an unforgettable finish. Bradley was five shots behind with only three holes to play after his chip shot raced across the 15th green and into the water, leading to a triple bogey. That's when he reminded himself that no lead was safe on the final four holes at Atlanta Athletic Club. "I just kept telling myself, 'Don't let that hole define this whole tournament,'" Bradley said. Instead, it led to one of the most stunning turnarounds in a major. Bradley made back-to-back birdies, including a 35-footer with a belly putter that rattled into the cup on the 17th. Then came a monumental meltdown by Jason Dufner. Unflappable all afternoon, he hit his tee shot in the water on the 15th for the first of three straight bogeys that led to a three-hole playoff. Bradley birdied the 16th hole in the playoff -- his first outright lead of the day -- and went on to win by one shot. The son of a PGA professional in Vermont, wearing red for his alma mater -- St. John's -- Bradley became only the third player in at least 100 years to win a major championship in his first try. The Wanamaker at his side, Bradley took out his cell phone and took a picture of the oversized trophy. It wasn't long before he posted it on Twitter with three hash tags -- "pgachampion. triplebogies. happiness." "It feels unbelievable," he said. "It seems like a dream and I'm afraid I'm going to wake up here in the next five minutes and it's not going to be real." The final major of the year was hard to believe in so many ways. It was Bradley, a 25-year-old PGA Tour rookie who was ranked No. 108 in the world, who ended America's longest drought in a major that had reached six. He became only the third player in at least 100 years to win a major on his first try. All this after Tiger Woods missed the cut and finished out of the top 100 for the first time in a major, and U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy -- the favorite at the PGA -- hit a tree root in the opening round and played the rest of the week with his right wrist heavily taped. He tied for 64th and finished 19 shots behind. Then came the finish -- a rousing rally for Bradley, a sad collapse for Dufner. It brought back memories of Ed Sneed making bogey on the last three holes of the 1979 Masters, and even Arnold Palmer losing a seven-shot lead with nine holes left in the 1966 U.S. Open. Dufner played that four-hole finish in 3 under for the week -- never once making a bogey -- until the final round. Sunday was different. He made three bogeys in regulation, another on the 17th in the playoff to fall two shots behind, and a birdie on the last hole in the playoff only made the score seem closer than it was. Dufner, now winless in 148 starts, closed with a 69. "Everybody has struggled on them," Dufner said of the final four holes. "Unfortunately, I had the lead and I struggled on them. ... That was the deciding factor, and Keegan made a couple birdies there, and I made a couple bogeys." Bradley, best known until now as the nephew of LPGA great Pat Bradley, moved to No. 29 in the world. He won earlier this year at the Byron Nelson Championship in a playoff, again after the leader faded on the closing holes. The win makes it seven straight majors by players who had never before captured a Grand Slam event, the longest streak ever. Bradley, who became the first major champion to use a long putter, can only hope more will follow. "I don't want to be one of the guys that kind of disappears," Bradley said. "I would love to be up in a category with the best players and be mentioned with Phil Mickelson, one of my idols. I hope I don't disappear. I don't plan to." Mickelson had been the last American to win a major at the 2010 Masters, and perhaps it was only fitting that one of his proteges ended the drought. Mickelson has been playing money games during practice rounds at the big tournaments with Bradley, wanting him to be prepared to play for something more prestigious than cash. The kid must have taken the lessons to heart. He never gave up when he had every reason to do just that. "This guy's the guttiest player I've ever worked for," said his caddie, Steven "Pepsi" Hale. "There's no quit." Bradley was two shots behind when he arrived at the pivotal stretch of the course. From left of the 15th green, he hit an aggressive chip that came out too hot and rolled into the water, leading to a triple bogey. Dufner watched it all unfold from high on the hill as he waited on the 15th tee, his lead suddenly up to four shots over Anders Hansen, who was in the process of making bogey. For the first time all day, Dufner showed a trace of emotion, wincing slightly when he saw the flight of his tee shot take the ball into the water right of the green. He still poured in a 12-foot putt to at least escape with bogey. His lead was still four shots, and when he split the middle of the 16th fairway, he seemed to be on his way. Then came an unlikely chain of events. Bradley stuffed his shot into 8 feet for birdie on the 16th. Behind him in the final group, Dufner hit into the right bunker, blasted out to 10 feet and made bogey. Now his lead was down to two shots. Dufner arrived on the 17th tee in time to watch as Bradley rattled in a 35-foot putt, pumping his fists as his caddie stood behind the hole holding the flag over his head with both arms. Dufner did well to find the middle of the green for what appeared to be a safe two-putt par. But he ran his first putt 10 feet by the hole and three-putted for bogey. Just like that, they were tied. With the pressure as great as it had been all day, both played the 18th the same way -- dry. Both had long two-putts for par from one side of the green to the other. They finished at 8-under 272. Dufner's 5-iron on the opening hole of the playoff -- the uphill 16th -- came within an inch of hitting the hole and stopped 6 feet away. Bradley answered with a shot into 4 feet and made the birdie, while Dufner missed his putt. On the 17th, Dufner again three-putted for bogey to give Bradley a two-shot lead going to the 18th. The final drama for Bradley was watching his 6-iron descend toward the green, clearing the lake with not much room to spare. Dufner rolled in a birdie, but by then it was too late to recover from his mistakes. "I'm so new at this situation, I don't know if I appreciate it as much as I will -- soon," Dufner said. "I might look back in 10 or 15 years and be disappointed if I never get another chance." They finished one shot ahead of Hansen, whose lone bogey of the final round -- on the 16th hole -- kept him out of the playoff. The Dane closed with a 66, matching the best score of the final round. The group tied for fourth included 2001 champion David Toms (67) and two others who stayed in the game until the very end. Robert Karlsson got within one shot of the lead with a 5-foot eagle putt on the 12th hole. The Swede never made another birdie, though, and finished with three straight bogeys for a 67. Scott Verplank holed out a bunker shot on the 16th and was tied with Bradley going to the 17th, but his tee shot bounced off the wall and into the water for a double bogey. He closed with a 70.

Limping Love leads Stanford to Big Game win over Cal

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AP

Limping Love leads Stanford to Big Game win over Cal

BOX SCORE

PALO ALTO — Bryce Love rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown despite missing most of the fourth quarter after aggravating an ankle injury, and No. 20 Stanford held off California 17-14 on Saturday to keep its Pac-12 title hopes alive.

K.J. Costello completed 17 of 26 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown, Ben Edwards made a key interception in the fourth quarter and Cameron Scarlett rushed for 49 yards on the final drive in place of Love to help the Cardinal (8-3, 7-2 Pac-12) milk the clock and win its eighth straight Big Game.

Stanford can earn a spot in the Pac-12 championship game against USC but needs some help.

The Cardinal can get there if No. 15 Washington State loses to No. 16 Washington next week. If the Cougars — who beat Stanford 24-21 on Nov. 4 — beat the Huskies, they get the nod because of the tiebreaker.

The nation's leading rusher going into the game, Love was held in check most of the game by Cal's defense and sat out the final 11:43 after re-injuring his ankle that has bothered him for the past month. He did stay on the field long enough to score a 57-yard touchdown — his 11th run of 50 yards or longer this season.

Scarlett, Love's primary backup all season, also came up big for Stanford. Scarlett rushed for 61 yards, the majority coming on the Cardinal's last drive that took the final 7:25. Scarlett's 2-yard gain on 4th-and-1 kept the drive going.

Patrick Laird ran for 153 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries while Ross Bowers passed for 182 yards and a touchdown for California. The Golden Bears (5-6, 2-6) need a win in their final game to become bowl eligible in coach Justin Wilcox's first season.

THE TAKEAWAY

California: The Bears made the Cardinal sweat and kept the game a lot closer than many thought possible. Wilcox's defense did a good job bottling up Love most of the game but couldn't stop Scarlett on the final drive which was huge. Still, there are plenty of positives for Cal to take out of this one.

Stanford: It wasn't the best game for David Shaw's team but the Cardinal gritted it out and held off a pesky Cal team that had plenty to play for. The conference title can still happen but before that Stanford has a pretty big game coming up against Notre Dame.

UP NEXT

California: Ends the regular season at UCLA on Saturday.

Stanford: The Cardinal stay home and will host No. 9 Notre Dame on Saturday. Stanford has won the last two and six of last eight against the Irish.

Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots

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AP

Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders cornerback David Amerson didn’t practice all week, but ran just well enough to be considered “doubtful” for Sunday’s game against New England.

Translation: Outlook for Sunday is not good, but Jack Del Rio’s fingers remained crossed real, real tight. The Raiders hope there’s a way he can be active against Tom Brady’s buzz saw attack, because their cover men are beat up.

Amerson has missed two straight with a foot injury, and has dealt with injury all year. Gareon Conley’s season officially ended Monday, when he was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Antonio Hamilton and Demetrius McCray were already there.

Reggie McKenzie hasn’t reached out for reinforcements. That leaves TJ Carrie, Dexter McDonald and Sean Smith to play cornerback. Carrie’s been the rock, a sure tackler who hasn’t made spectacular plays but doesn’t give them up. McDonald has been forced into action, with holes let in his game.

Smith should be the No. 1 guy in this group, the steadying presence on the outside. That hasn’t been the case this year, where he lost a starting job in training camp and sub-package snaps during the season, only to have injuries to Conley and Amerson bring him in the fray.

He’s also been dealing with felony assault and battery charges in Los Angeles stemming from a July 4 incident in Pasadena.

Smith has been a lightning rod for fan criticism, a byproduct of his $9.5 million salary this year and explosive plays allowed early in the year.

If there’s an anvil weighing on his mind, teammates insist you’d never know.

“We’re human at the end of the day,” Amerson said. “You feel it, but you have to find a way to remain even keel and professional and do your job well.”

Smith will be counted on heavily Sunday against New England, especially if Amerson can’t play as expected. He has proven vulnerable to speed without help and proper disruption at the line of scrimmage, though that hasn’t been an issue lately because the Utah alum has recovered well after a rough start.

He got pulled after struggling against Vernon Davis in Washington. He didn’t play against the Chargers after giving up two huge plays to Baltimore the week before.

Amerson originally sprained his foot in Week 7 against Kansas City – he hasn’t played since – and Smith was called upon to respond. He wasn’t targeted in that game, and has been strong in coverage ever since.

Smith has allowed three catches for 12 yards in four targets over the last two games. The ninth-year veteran insists he wasn’t doing anything markedly different, and had zero interest in patting himself on the back for recent jobs well done.

“I’m not,” Smith said. “I’m out there doing my job, man, the best way I can.”

Smith says the off-field distractions during a roller-coaster season, one of his career’s most trying yet, haven’t impacted him much

“Nope. Not at all,” Smith said. “As long as I wake up a Raider, I’m all right. I’ll deal with whatever happens. I’ll always be there for my guys, and I’ll do whatever it takes to help our team win.”

Raiders defensive backs laud Smith’s locker room presence, saying he’s an excellent teammate. Cornerbacks in general must have a short memory when things go bad, to refocus and prevent that from happening again. Smith apparently has that in spades.

“I know how things go, especially when you have a target on your back,” Amerson said. “Sometimes you get hit with the perfect pass and you give up some plays. You can’t do anything about that but take advantage of the next opportunity. Sean’s a good player, and he definitely has that mindset.”

Smith will lend experience to this big game, something the Raiders need after suffering so many injuries.

"It sucks that so many of us have gone down,” Smith said. "You want to have all your guys out there, but that’s the NFL. Injuries happen. As long as everybody comes to work and acts like a pro, we’ll be all right. We all have a job to do. We all would like to start, but you have to be ready when your number’s called.”