Raiders

Remember this: At the Masters, no lead is safe

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Remember this: At the Masters, no lead is safe

From Comcast SportsNet
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- The seven shots Rory McIlroy took on the 10th hole last year at the Masters remain a blur. So was the rest of his final round at Augusta National, where the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland made the wrong kind of history. He started with a four-shot lead. He finished 10 shots behind after an 80, the highest closing round by a 54-hole leader in 56 years. If nothing else, it was a reminder how tenuous a lead can be in the final round. Especially at the Masters. "It's a course that makes you really nervous," Geoff Ogilvy said. There is an art to playing Augusta, which explains why nearly 40 percent of the Masters have been won by eight players. For those seeking their first green jacket, let alone their first major, finishing it off can be a challenge. Greg Norman lost a record six-shot lead in 1996. Ed Sneed had a five-shot lead in 1979, and was still three shots clear with three holes remaining when he made three straight bogeys and lost in a playoff. Ken Venturi was on the verge of becoming the only amateur to win the Masters in 1956 when he blew a four-shot lead. Like McIlroy, he shot an 80. McIlroy's blown lead is enough of a memory going into the Masters. Adding to the emphasis is a bad habit of 54-hole leaders failing to win this year on the PGA Tour. Kyle Stanley had a three-shot lead playing the final hole at Torrey Pines when he spun a wedge into the water and three-putted for a triple bogey, losing to Brandt Snedeker in a playoff. A week later, Spencer Levin had a six-shot lead in the Phoenix Open when his game imploded on the back nine. He shot 75 and Stanley -- of all people -- rallied from eight shots behind to beat him. Charlie Wi lost a three-shot lead at Pebble Beach and Phil Mickelson won with a 64. The next week at Riviera, Mickelson and Keegan Bradley shared the 54-hole lead and both wound up losing to Bill Haas in a playoff. In 14 stroke-play events on the PGA Tour, only five players have gone on to win with at least a share of the third-round lead. With that kind of history, protecting a lead is not easy. "Not even close to easy, as we've seen," Nick Faldo said. He should know. Faldo is the only player with multiple Masters wins who has never had the lead going into the last day. Along with his win over Norman in 1996, he came from five shots down in 1989 and three shots behind in 1990, both times winning in a playoff. "That's the beauty of the Masters," Faldo said. "We come back every year, all those stories are compounded, from victory and failure. That's what makes it so special. The players will be reminded of it. Anything more than three or four shots, and you're making assumptions. If you were to carry a decent lead into Sunday, you'd need a steel-trap mind to survive." That was never a problem for Tiger Woods. He was either leading or tied going into the final round in all four of his Masters wins -- along with his other 10 majors. Woods never saw it as a burden, though. "The beauty of having a lead is that you can make those mistakes and still win," Woods said. "But the only problem is if some guys make a run and they get some momentum going, and you're going the other way, you give them a big shot of energy. You've seen some of these guys pull off some pretty low rounds. It doesn't take much. If you get off to a poor start and the other guy gets off to a quick start, four or five shots can be made up in a few holes." That's how it was for Woods last year, but only for half of his round. He made up a seven-shot deficit in nine holes, going out in 31 with a birdie-birdie-eagle stretch on the front nine as McIlroy stalled. Woods wasn't alone, of course. Charl Schwartzel started his round with a chip across the green for an improbable birdie, and holing a wedge from the third fairway for eagle. Three holes into the final round, McIlroy's lead already was gone. Jack Nicklaus never coughed up the lead going into the last round at a major, although twice he failed to win when he was tied -- at Turnberry in his epic duel with Tom Watson in 1977, and at Augusta when Charles Coody beat him in 1971. Even so, he remains annoyed at a blown opportunity in the 77 Masters, when he was tied with Watson and in the group right in front of his newest rival. He had 156 yards to the pin when he heard a big roar from behind -- Watson made birdie. "I changed my thought pattern, and I shouldn't have," Nicklaus said. "I had a 6-iron in my hand, planning to play it by the hole to the right and have that 15-foot putt right of the hole to win the golf tournament. I tried to stuff it in, hit it fat, hit in the bunker and let Watson play the last hole any way he wanted, which was really stupid. "I mean, here I am, 37 years old, and I still make a dumb mistake like that," said Nicklaus, who made bogey and lost by two when Watson took par on the 18th. "It's one of the few that I can turn around and kick myself for what I did." Stuart Appleby's demise at the Masters began early in 2007. He had a comfortable lead until taking a triple bogey on the 17th hole of the third round. With a one-shot lead over Woods on Sunday, he started with a tee shot into the trees for a double bogey. Appleby rallied to rejoin the lead until a 7-iron into the water on the 12th. Woods wasn't much better, and Zach Johnson wound up winning. "It's not 18 holes of golf, it's 18 holes of emotion," Appleby said. "If you can keep your emotions in check at a high level, you will be a world-class player. When you see a player struggling to finish, it's purely not keeping your emotions in check." McIlroy was that kind of player last year. When he looked back on tape, he noticed that he was looking at the ground, not walking with his head up and that boyish bounce in his step. He believes now he wasn't ready to win a major. Boy Wonder atoned for that quickly. Two months later, he became a major champion with a record win at the U.S. Open. Perhaps it was only appropriate that of all the text messages and phone calls of support in the days after the Masters, the most meaningful was a call from Norman. "It was great coming from him, because I'm sure he knew how I felt," McIlroy said. "He said a couple things to me that I found very useful and put into practice, especially weeks like this where there's so much hype and there's so much buildup. I've said this before, but create this little bubble around yourself and just try and get into that and don't let any of the outside interference come into that." Received 040412 08:02 am ET

Reports: Peters to speak on Marshawn’s behalf during appeal hearing

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USATSI

Reports: Peters to speak on Marshawn’s behalf during appeal hearing

First it was Marshawn Lynch coming to the defense of Marcus Peters. Now, it appears the Oakland native is returning the favor. 

The Chiefs cornerback will be speaking on behalf of Lynch during the Raiders' running back's appeal of his one-game suspension, according to multiple national reports. The appeal will take place on Monday.

Lynch was ejected in the second quarter of the Raiders' 31-30 victory over the Chiefs on Thursday night. After the Chiefs and Raiders saw themselves in a heated exchange from a controversial late hit by Peters on Derek Carr, Lynch ran off the sidelines and came to the defense of his close friend Peters with multiple Raiders going after the young defensive back. 

But in doing so, Lynch put his hands on an official and was immediately ejected from the game. He was then handed his one-game suspension on Friday.

“They can say what they want to say, but one thing’s for certain: Family do come first," Peters said to Logan Murdock of The Mercury News on Thursday.

FOX Sports was first to report the news.

Skal Labissiere showing signs of growth: 'The NBA is still super new to me'

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AP

Skal Labissiere showing signs of growth: 'The NBA is still super new to me'

The 2017-18 Sacramento Kings season is about development and finding a core to build around. De’Aaron Fox is already showing signs that he is the long-term answer at the point guard position, but the Kings need more than an army of one.

Buddy Hield, Justin Jackson and Willie Cauley-Stein are being given a chance to play rotational minutes early in the season, and flying under the radar is second-year big, Skal Labissiere.

Early in the season, Dave Joerger has relied heavily on veteran Zach Randolph for big minutes at the power forward position, but Labissiere is quietly building momentum. Three games is an extremely small sample size by any standard, but Labissiere is heading in the right direction.

“Whatever coach wants me to do, that’s what I’m going to do out there,” Labissiere told NBC Sports California’s Kayte Christensen after the game. “I’m just going to go out there and play hard and help this team get a win.”

In 23.7 minutes per game so far this season, Labissiere is averaging 11 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, .7 steals and .7 blocks. If he were playing starter minutes, those numbers project substantially higher.

Labissiere burst on the scene in Sacramento after the DeMarcus Cousins trade during All-Star weekend last season. Before getting an opportunity in the rotation, he spent plenty of time in Reno and behind the scenes working on his game with the Kings’ coaching staff. He played 33 total games during the 2016-17 season, including 26 straight to finish the year.

“I’m still trying to get comfortable, I’m still learning,” Labissiere said. “The NBA is still super new to me, I haven’t even played a full season yet. As a group, we’re still learning each other. I think by mid-year, we’ll be fine.”

The 21-year-old Haitian-born big came into the league with a sweet jumper, but he’s added more range in year two. He hit his first 3-pointer Saturday night against the Denver Nuggets, but throughout camp you could see him shooting with the guards and there are plenty of sets where he’ll get opportunities as the season pushes forward.

In addition to adding the long ball to his arsenal, Labissiere has also worked to improve his playmaking ability. He’s averaging 3.7 assists per 36 minutes and that number has a chance to improve as the team’s chemistry on the court improves.

“The offense runs through the bigs, so we have to be able to make plays for the guards,” Labissiere said. “I’ve been watching a lot of tape trying to figure out where the help is coming from, where I can pass the ball, who I can pass the ball to. That’s one thing I’ve been working on.”

Labissiere still has plenty to learn. He’s struggled with turnovers early in the season and he needs to add strength to hold his position in the post. But his offensive game is advanced and it won’t be long before the Kings turn to him more and more as a weapon.

Sacramento has plenty of young breakout candidates entering the season, but few have the ceiling of Labissiere. The early returns are promising.