Cubs

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.

Ben Zobrist breaks down how Dodgers pitching has made Cubs offense disappear

10-18_yu_darvish_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Ben Zobrist breaks down how Dodgers pitching has made Cubs offense disappear

Ben Zobrist didn’t look for any deeper meaning in Kyle Schwarber’s first-inning homer off Yu Darvish on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, or hope that one swing could change the entire momentum of this National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Zobrist knows what it takes to win in October, the Cubs identifying him as the missing piece to their lineup after he helped transform the 2015 Kansas City Royals into a championship team, and then getting a World Series MVP return on their $56 million investment.

That “Schwarbomb” turned out to be fool’s gold, the only run the Cubs would score in front of a quiet, low-energy crowd of 41,871, the defending champs one more loss away from golfing/hunting/fishing/signing autographs at memorabilia shows.

“That was great to get a homer, but I’d rather see some hits strung together,” Zobrist said after a sloppy 6-1 loss, standing at his locker for almost 10 minutes, answering questions in the underground clubhouse. “I’d like to see a couple doubles together, a few singles, three or four hits in an inning. We just haven’t done that.

“That’s what makes rallies. They’ve stayed away from those kinds of innings. That’s why they’re ahead right now.”

Darvish – Jake Arrieta’s replacement in the 2018 rotation? – canceled out the two singles he allowed in the first inning by getting two of his seven strikeouts and answering some of the questions about how he would respond to all the pressure in October.

Darvish – a trade-deadline acquisition that had echoes of Theo Epstein’s “If not now, when?” explanation for last year’s Aroldis Chapman trade – walked one of the 25 batters he faced and pitched into the seventh inning before handing the game over to a lights-out bullpen.

“There’s nothing that we didn’t see beforehand on video,” Zobrist said. “It’s just a matter of we need him to make more mistakes, and we got to take advantage of those mistakes when he makes them.

“When he got to 3-2 counts, he wasn’t throwing a heater. He was throwing the cutter, and it’s a tough pitch to hit. You have to sit on it, and even then it’s got good movement to it. He kept us off-balance.”

Forward-thinking manager Dave Roberts is at the controls of a Los Angeles bullpen that can match up against right- and left-handed hitters, target locations, unleash upper-90s velocity, execute the elevated fastball that messes with eye levels and lean on All-Star closer Kenley Jansen for multiple innings.

The Dodger relievers essentially put together a no-hitter that lasted nine-plus innings across Games 1, 2 and 3. Together, they have pitched 10.2 scoreless innings, facing 36 batters and allowing two hits and a walk and hitting Anthony Rizzo with a pitch.

“They kept the ball on the edges and kept us off-balance,” Zobrist said. “They’re not throwing the pitch in the middle of the plate when we need them to. They’re keeping it on the edges and those are hard (to hit). When you got guys with good stuff on the mound, you need them to make some mistakes for you, or at least start walking some guys.

“When they’ve gotten in those situations with a three-ball count, they’re still making the pitch when they need to. They’re not walking many guys – and we are.

“That’s why they’re up 3-nothing.”

Zobrist (4-for-23 this postseason) is now more of a part-time player/defensive replacement, no longer the switch-hitting force who dropped the bunt at Dodger Stadium that helped end the 21-inning scoreless streak during last year’s NLCS.

Zobrist insisted the Cubs are still all there mentally, not checked out after a grueling first round against the Washington Nationals and a brutal walk-off loss in Game 2 at Dodger Stadium. He owns two World Series rings and one has the Cubs logo and this inscription: “We Never Quit.”

“We keep it loose all the time,” Zobrist said. “We know what’s at stake. And we don’t shy away from it. We look forward to the challenge ahead. It would be a great story for us to be able to come back in this series and win this series.

“We make adjustments, we take advantage of mistakes and we come out with a victory tomorrow. That’s what we have to do.”

Winter is coming for Cubs team that looks checked out of 2017

Winter is coming for Cubs team that looks checked out of 2017

Kyle Schwarber took a Babe Ruth swing on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, posed for a moment and dropped the bat out of his follow through, watching that Yu Darvish pitch soar 408 feet out toward the left-center field bleachers.

Those carefree Cubs relievers shown on the video board – wait, was that John Lackey bouncing around? – danced in the bullpen in the first inning. This is exactly what the Cubs wanted: Grab an early lead? Check. Get one of their big boys going? Check. Energize the crowd of 41,871? Check.

That sense of momentum lasted less than the time it takes to buy a beer or go to the bathroom at Wrigley Field, because the Los Angeles Dodgers look like the unstoppable force this October.

Now Wade Davis may never pitch in this National League Championship Series and Wednesday night could be Jake Arrieta’s final start in a Cubs uniform. Winter is coming after a 6-1 loss left the defending World Series champs looking mentally checked out of 2017.

The Cubs played AC/DC and Motley Crue in their underground clubhouse and answered questions about why they believe they can match the 2004 Boston Red Sox who took down the New York Yankee Evil Empire, becoming the only team to come back from an 0-3 deficit since the LCS expanded to a seven-game format in 1985.

But Kris Bryant’s glassy look and bloodshot eyes told a different story, the reigning NL MVP admitting how “draining” those five games felt against the Washington Nationals in Round 1.

“But you kind of expect that around this time when games mean a lot,” Bryant said. “It takes a lot of energy to get ready for these games, and at the end, you feel wiped out. It’s expected.”

But no one could have predicted this lack of buzz in Wrigleyville, which felt less than a lot of midweek games during the regular season. A silence fell over the old ballpark when Andre Ethier – who has three homers across the last two seasons combined – lined a Kyle Hendricks pitch off the video board in right field to lead off the second inning.

Hendricks – who has made 10 postseason starts across the last three years and kept the Dodgers completely off-balance last October on the night the Cubs clinched their first NL pennant in 71 years – watched in the third inning as Chris Taylor crushed another home-run ball that bounced off the roof of the batter’s eye in center field.

“I wouldn’t say we’re running out of gas,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “Every time we step on the field, I feel like we have a pretty good chance of winning. We’re going to come into the clubhouse tomorrow positive and just ready to strap it on.”

The Dodgers will be out for beer and champagne on Wednesday night and the chance to kick back and watch the Yankees and Houston Astros expend all their energy in the ALCS.

Dodger manager Dave Roberts – who pushed all the right bullpen buttons in Games 1 and 2 (eight no-hit/scoreless innings combined) – toyed with the Cubs by letting Darvish hit against struggling reliever Carl Edwards Jr. with a two-run lead and two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth inning.

Darvish showed bunt on all four pitches – and drew a four-pitch walk and slammed his bat to the ground in celebration. The fans booed after Edwards struck out Taylor on three pitches to end the inning.

“We were there just as much as any other game,” said Ben Zobrist, last year’s World Series MVP. “Mentally, there was no letdown. Physically, there was no letdown. It was just a matter of them capitalizing on some mistakes that we made. That’s part of the game. And they didn’t make a lot of mistakes.

“They played better baseball than us tonight. That’s why they got the W.”

The Cubs committed two errors in Game 3 and then had a National-style meltdown in the eighth inning, from Zobrist misjudging the flyball to right field that dropped in front of him, to Mike Montgomery throwing a wild pitch, to catcher Willson Contreras getting crossed up on a swinging strike three, his glove nowhere near Montgomery’s 92.7-mph fastball, which crashed into his right arm and ricocheted into the visiting dugout.

A three-run game became 6-1 – and head for the exits and then the offseason. There was Albert Almora Jr. in the ninth inning, driving a ball into the ivy in left field and sprinting right into lead runner Alex Avila at third base, bailed out only because Kike Hernandez waved his hand to signal a ground-rule double.

At least that made All-Star closer Kenley Jansen work the last three outs, accumulated stress that might benefit the Yankees or Astros more than the Cubs.

“They are done,” an NL scout wrote in a text message. “You can see it in their faces.”