Cubs

Meet the 2012 Masters champion

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Meet the 2012 Masters champion

From Comcast SportsNet
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Sometimes, winning a golf tournament or putting on a green jacket can change a guy's life. Bubba Watson insists he's not that guy. Maybe that explains his ability to pull off the impossible when the pressure was boiling over at the Masters on Sunday. Perched atop pine needles far right of the fairway with a better view of a TV tower than the green, the left-hander hooked his way out of trouble and into history. His 155-yard curveball landed on the green and beat South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen on the second hole of a playoff and turned Oosthuizen's double eagle earlier in the round into the second-best shot on a day filled with magic at Augusta National. While Oosthuizen failed to get up and down from in front of the green, Watson wrapped it up with a no-stress two-putt on the 10th green to clinch his first major, then sobbed hard on his mother's shoulder. A bittersweet celebration. His father, Gerry, died 18 months ago after a long bout with cancer. But waiting at home for him is his wife, Angie, and their adopted newborn son, Caleb. "The thing is, golf is not my everything," Watson said. "But for me to come out here and win, it's awesome for a week and then we get back to real life. I haven't changed a diaper yet, so I'm probably going to have to change a diaper soon." Watson insists the shot that earned him the green jacket wasn't as ridiculously hard as it looked. Mostly because of his attitude. He hasn't taken formal lessons and insists he has never hit a ball perfectly straight. His motto, as he explained to caddie Ted Scott on the day they met six years ago: "If I have a swing, I have a shot." So when he blocked the tee shot on No. 10 into the woods, behind the gallery, onto the pine straw, way back in jail, he felt no sense of panic. "I get down there, saw it was a perfect draw," Watson said. "Even though the tower was in my way, I didn't want to ask if I could get relief or anything, because it just set up for a perfect draw -- well, hook. That's what we did. We just kept talking about you never know what's going to happen out here. Anything can happen." Can and pretty much did on this day. The excitement started with a pair of holes-in-1 on No. 16 by Adam Scott and Bo Van Pelt, each of whom was playing for position, not the championship. The fireworks really started when the leaders got on the course. Standing on the fairway, 253 yards from the hole on the par-5 second, Oosthuizen hit a 4-iron that bounced on the front of the green, then rolled toward a cup that looked like it had a magnet in it. The ball dropped and the South African was the owner of the fourth double-eagle 2 in Masters history and the first on the second hole -- to say nothing of a two-shot lead that moments earlier had been a one-shot deficit. He held that lead for most of the day, but realized as the round went on that there's nowhere else to go after you've touched the sun. "When something like that happens early in your round, you think that this is it," Oosthuizen said. "That was my first double eagle ever. So it was tough. It was tough the next five holes to just get my head around it and just play the course." He played it solidly, if not spectacularly, and finished at 10-under 278. Watson, meanwhile, saved his charge for where they usually come at Augusta -- the back nine on Sunday. He made a tricky 6-foot putt on No. 13 to start a string of four straight birdies. The fourth one put him in a tie for the lead and the leaders, in the same twosome, finished par-par to set up the first playoff at Augusta since Angel Cabrera of Argentina won in 2009. There was a four-way tie for third at 8 under -- Britain's Lee Westwood, Sweden's Peter Hanson, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson. Mickelson, going for his fourth green jacket, looked like the favorite coming into the day but dug himself a hole on No. 4 -- a 10-minute sitcom that could've been titled "Typical Phil." There was the tee shot off a railing and into the trees, well left of the green; the two right-handed hacks from the woods, the first of which popped up and moved about a foot; the blown flop shot from a trampled down area where the fans had been standing; then, of course, an out-of-this-world up and down from the sand to save 6. "There was no place to go other than back to the tee," Mickelson said, referring to his decision not to take an unplayable lie. "So I took the risk of trying to hit it a few times." His wasn't the ugliest shot of the day. That belonged to Hanson, who hit a dead shank on the par-3 12th, a shot so bad it didn't even make it close to Rae's Creek. He entered the day with the lead and shot 73. "I think it was a good test," Hanson said. "I mean, like I said yesterday, it was a good test of emotion, being out, how I can handle myself." Westwood got in the mix, but it was a double-bogey 6 on Friday that more or less gave him too big a deficit to overcome. He shot 68, matching Watson for the best final round among the top six. But it's a guy named Bubba who was celebrating his first major while Westwood still waits. And Oosthuizen remains stuck on one major -- the 2010 British Open -- and clearly in awe of what he witnessed at the end. "I had no idea where he was," Oosthuizen said. "Where I stood from, when the ball came out, it looked like a curveball. Unbelievable shot. That shot he hit definitely won him the tournament." Watson is the fifth left-hander to don a green jacket over the last 10 years and gives Americans back-to-back majors -- Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship -- after they'd gone a record six straight without. This one will be celebrated back home in Florida, with little Caleb in his arms and his father in his thoughts. "He'd say, You still need to practice. You missed that fairway. You were under the trees a couple of times. You missed the first putt,'" Watson said with a smile. "No, he would be excited. Just like my mom was excited. We didn't have any words. We just cried in each other's arms."

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: