Cubs

He's back: Tiger birdies 17, 18 to win Chevron

604558.jpg

He's back: Tiger birdies 17, 18 to win Chevron

From Comcast SportsNet
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP)The birdie putt on the final hole to win. The sweeping fist pump. The red shirt.

It all looked so familiar Sunday afternoon in the Chevron World Challenge, where Tiger Woods ended a drought that once would have seemed inconceivable. He went 749 days and 26 tournaments without winning as he tried to repair his image, his personal life and a golf game that used to be the best in the world.

When the final birdie putt from 6 feet disappeared into the cup, Woods swept his arm across the air, yelled through the din of the gallery and slammed his fist in a celebration that was a long time coming.

He birdied the last two holes for a 3-under 69 and won against an 18-man field at Sherwood Country Club. It was a two-man race against former Masters champion Zach Johnson over the final hour. Even so, winning is all that ever mattered to Woodsnow perhaps more than ever before.

Any different? Woods asked about his win. It feels great. Kind of hard for me to elaborate beyond that. I know its been awhile, but for some reason, it feels like it hasnt. As far as making the putt and the feeling afterward, I think I was screaming something. But it was just that I won the golf tournament. I pulled it off with one down, two to go.

To go birdie-birdie is as good as it gets.

The last time Woods won was Nov. 15, 2009, at the Australian Masters for his 82nd title worldwide, and his seventh win that year, back when winning at least looked routine for him. Twelve days later, Woods crashed his car into a fire hydrant outside his Florida home, and stunning revelations of extramarital affairs soon emerged. It cost him his impeccable image, his marriage and four major sponsors.

He has added three sponsors in the last five months. He showed signs of coming back with nine solid rounds in the wind in Australia, finishing third at the Australian Open and delivering the clinching point for the Americans in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

It wasnt clear if Woods was elated or relieved, whether he felt satisfied or vindicated.

It didnt really matter to him.

It just feels awesome, whatever it is, he said.

A two-shot lead on the back nine had turned into a one-shot deficit as Woods faced a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole. He thought Johnsons birdie putt was going in until it stayed just high of the hole. Woods adjusted his line ever so slightly and drained the putt to pull even going to the 18th.

From 158 yards in the middle of the fairway, Woods hit 9-iron that landed on the slope and rolled down to easy birdie range.

If this win felt different than the last one, Woods wasnt saying.

They all feel good, he said. Theyre not easy. People dont realize how hard it is to win golf tournaments. Ive gone on streaks where Ive won golf tournaments in a row, but still I dont think Ive taken it for granted. And I know because of how hard it is.

Johnson had done just about everything right on the back ninea tough birdie putt on the 13th to tie for the lead, a spectacular pitch from the putting surface, over a ridge to 4 feet to escape with par, and a 12-foot birdie on the 16th to take the lead.

He had a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th that never had a chance, and stood to the side watching a familiar sightWoods making clutch shots at the end of a tournament to win.

If the man is healthy, thats paramount, Johnson said. I mean, hes the most experienced and the best player Ive ever played with. In every situation, he knows how to execute and win.

Although those situations have been rare of late, Woods looked as if he had not forgotten how to win. The only other times he has been in contention this year were the Masters and the Australian Open.

I felt normal, felt very comfortable, Woods said. Ive been here so many times that, you know, I just feel very comfortable being here in this position. Was I nervous? Absolutely. Always nervous in that position. But its a comfortable feeling, and I enjoy being in that position. For some reason, its kind of a comfort to be in there with a chance to win.

Woods won the Chevron World Challenge, which he hosts for his foundation, for the fifth time. He finished at 10-under 278 and donated the 1.2 million to his foundation.

The win moved him from No. 52 to No. 21 in the world ranking, and likely will send expectations soaring for 2012. Woods will not play again until starting next season in Abu Dhabi at the end of January.

There were similar expectations last year, even though Woods blew a four-shot lead in the final round at Sherwood and lost in a playoff to U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. Woods said that was more smoke and mirrors. He only had one shot back then, and took the lead because he made a bunch of putts.

Is there reason for expectations now?

I think theres always expectations, Woods said. So be it.

Johnson closed with a 71 and took home 650,000 for the holidays. Paul Casey, who opened with a 79, had his third straight round in the 60s to finish alone in third at 5 under.

Tiger can have a long career, Casey said when he finished. We might look back in another 10 years and actually forget about the last couple of years.

These last two years are starting to feel like a blur for Woods, this year in particular. He never looked as low as he did when he hobbled off the TPC Sawgrass, withdrawing from The Players Championship after a 42 on the front nine because of leg injuries that ultimately kept him out of competition for three months, including two majors.

Then he missed the cut at the PGA Championship and failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

But his peers noticed a difference about the way his game was coming together in Australia, and it appears to be going in only one direction as Woods headed home to Florida.

Last year I played with him here the first round and I thought, Wow, this guy is back, Steve Stricker said. You could tell this time around, hes got even more confidence, more game. He feels even better about the direction hes headed.

Woods tournament has been a good stepping stone for others over the years. The most recent example was Jim Furyk, who won in 2009 and then had his first three-win season the next year and captured the FedEx Cup.

No one ever imagined Woods needing a boost, but that might be the case.

I dont think were going to see another 2011, if that makes sense, Furyk said, alluding to Woods failing to reach the FedEx Cup playoffs this year. If he steadily progresses, keeps getting confidence and moving forward, hes going to return and be one of the best players in the game again.THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP)The birdie putt on the final hole to win. The sweeping fist pump. The red shirt.

It all looked so familiar Sunday afternoon in the Chevron World Challenge, where Tiger Woods ended a drought that once would have seemed inconceivable. He went 749 days and 26 tournaments without winning as he tried to repair his image, his personal life and a golf game that used to be the best in the world.

When the final birdie putt from 6 feet disappeared into the cup, Woods swept his arm across the air, yelled through the din of the gallery and slammed his fist in a celebration that was a long time coming.

He birdied the last two holes for a 3-under 69 and won against an 18-man field at Sherwood Country Club. It was a two-man race against former Masters champion Zach Johnson over the final hour. Even so, winning is all that ever mattered to Woodsnow perhaps more than ever before.

Any different? Woods asked about his win. It feels great. Kind of hard for me to elaborate beyond that. I know its been awhile, but for some reason, it feels like it hasnt. As far as making the putt and the feeling afterward, I think I was screaming something. But it was just that I won the golf tournament. I pulled it off with one down, two to go.

To go birdie-birdie is as good as it gets.

The last time Woods won was Nov. 15, 2009, at the Australian Masters for his 82nd title worldwide, and his seventh win that year, back when winning at least looked routine for him. Twelve days later, Woods crashed his car into a fire hydrant outside his Florida home, and stunning revelations of extramarital affairs soon emerged. It cost him his impeccable image, his marriage and four major sponsors.

He has added three sponsors in the last five months. He showed signs of coming back with nine solid rounds in the wind in Australia, finishing third at the Australian Open and delivering the clinching point for the Americans in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.

It wasnt clear if Woods was elated or relieved, whether he felt satisfied or vindicated.

It didnt really matter to him.

It just feels awesome, whatever it is, he said.

A two-shot lead on the back nine had turned into a one-shot deficit as Woods faced a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole. He thought Johnsons birdie putt was going in until it stayed just high of the hole. Woods adjusted his line ever so slightly and drained the putt to pull even going to the 18th.

From 158 yards in the middle of the fairway, Woods hit 9-iron that landed on the slope and rolled down to easy birdie range.

If this win felt different than the last one, Woods wasnt saying.

They all feel good, he said. Theyre not easy. People dont realize how hard it is to win golf tournaments. Ive gone on streaks where Ive won golf tournaments in a row, but still I dont think Ive taken it for granted. And I know because of how hard it is.

Johnson had done just about everything right on the back ninea tough birdie putt on the 13th to tie for the lead, a spectacular pitch from the putting surface, over a ridge to 4 feet to escape with par, and a 12-foot birdie on the 16th to take the lead.

He had a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th that never had a chance, and stood to the side watching a familiar sightWoods making clutch shots at the end of a tournament to win.

If the man is healthy, thats paramount, Johnson said. I mean, hes the most experienced and the best player Ive ever played with. In every situation, he knows how to execute and win.

Although those situations have been rare of late, Woods looked as if he had not forgotten how to win. The only other times he has been in contention this year were the Masters and the Australian Open.

I felt normal, felt very comfortable, Woods said. Ive been here so many times that, you know, I just feel very comfortable being here in this position. Was I nervous? Absolutely. Always nervous in that position. But its a comfortable feeling, and I enjoy being in that position. For some reason, its kind of a comfort to be in there with a chance to win.

Woods won the Chevron World Challenge, which he hosts for his foundation, for the fifth time. He finished at 10-under 278 and donated the 1.2 million to his foundation.

The win moved him from No. 52 to No. 21 in the world ranking, and likely will send expectations soaring for 2012. Woods will not play again until starting next season in Abu Dhabi at the end of January.

There were similar expectations last year, even though Woods blew a four-shot lead in the final round at Sherwood and lost in a playoff to U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. Woods said that was more smoke and mirrors. He only had one shot back then, and took the lead because he made a bunch of putts.

Is there reason for expectations now?

I think theres always expectations, Woods said. So be it.

Johnson closed with a 71 and took home 650,000 for the holidays. Paul Casey, who opened with a 79, had his third straight round in the 60s to finish alone in third at 5 under.

Tiger can have a long career, Casey said when he finished. We might look back in another 10 years and actually forget about the last couple of years.

These last two years are starting to feel like a blur for Woods, this year in particular. He never looked as low as he did when he hobbled off the TPC Sawgrass, withdrawing from The Players Championship after a 42 on the front nine because of leg injuries that ultimately kept him out of competition for three months, including two majors.

Then he missed the cut at the PGA Championship and failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

But his peers noticed a difference about the way his game was coming together in Australia, and it appears to be going in only one direction as Woods headed home to Florida.

Last year I played with him here the first round and I thought, Wow, this guy is back, Steve Stricker said. You could tell this time around, hes got even more confidence, more game. He feels even better about the direction hes headed.

Woods tournament has been a good stepping stone for others over the years. The most recent example was Jim Furyk, who won in 2009 and then had his first three-win season the next year and captured the FedEx Cup.

No one ever imagined Woods needing a boost, but that might be the case.

I dont think were going to see another 2011, if that makes sense, Furyk said, alluding to Woods failing to reach the FedEx Cup playoffs this year. If he steadily progresses, keeps getting confidence and moving forward, hes going to return and be one of the best players in the game again.

Javy Baez leads Cubs to huge win with a little help from Pedro Strop

Javy Baez leads Cubs to huge win with a little help from Pedro Strop

For the second time this season, Pedro Strop has added another chapter to the legend of El Mago.

And for at least the second documented time over the last few years, Strop also helped give Javy Baez the motivation needed to lift the Cubs to victory.

On an 0-2 pitch from Mets reliever Seth Lugo in the eighth inning, Baez smacked a 3-run homer into the right-field bleachers, notching the Cubs shortstop another curtain call and sending the 39,077 fans at Wrigley Field into euphoric bliss.

"That was big. He was so frustrated," said Strop, who picked up his 9th save in the 5-3 victory. "When I was walking to the 'pen, he was so frustrated after that first strikeout [against Jacob deGrom]. He was like, 'He's not throwing fastballs, just sliders!' I was like, 'Bro, it's good that you know that. So go up with another plan. Do your thing. You're gonna win this ballgame.'"

Baez's 100th career homer accomplished exactly that and in doing so, changed the entire tone and tenor of the first weekend of summer on Chicago's North Side.

There's no way the Cubs wanted to go into a four-game set with the contending Atlanta Braves after having just dropped three of four to a hapless Mets team that is melting down inside the clubhouse. It also would've been the Cubs' ninth loss in their 13 games, but Baez's clutch blast helped them salvage a series split and maintain sole possession of first place entering a new week of baseball.

"That's the last thing you want to do is lose another one," said Cole Hamels, who gave the Cubs 7 strong innings, but did not factor in the decision. "... That's the momentum we need to take forth, especially with the series that's coming up."

It also continued one of the strangest/coolest statistical oddities of the 2019 MLB season, given that it came on an 0-2 count.

Baez now has more homers after falling behind in the count 0-2 this year than NINE other MLB teams and nearly half of his homers (9 of 19) have come after getting into the extreme pitcher's count:

What makes Baez so tough on 0-2 counts?

For starters, he's never afraid of striking out, possessing a fearless nature Joe Maddon and other Cubs players have admired for some time.

But Hamels also provided some great perspective on why Baez might be so good in a count when pitchers typically dominate:

"I think that's kinda the difficult part with him — sometimes it can always be 0-2 with him," Hamels said. "Even if you haven't thrown a pitch yet, you treat it like 0-2. If that's just the nature of what pitchers do to him — if it's considered almost always an 0-2 count — he's gonna get really good at it because that's just the way he survives and the way he lives and plays the game. 

"With him though, being a teammate, you just know that he's never out of it. He's trying to hit a homer every at-bat, every pitch. That obviously can make a pitcher think a little bit longer and maybe try to be too perfect and therefore that's why they make mistakes."

The win puts a nice bow on what was otherwise a sloppy weekend for the Cubs, who often looked flat at the plate and made uncharacteristic mistakes on the basepaths and in the field. 

Prior to that homer from Baez, the Cubs had only managed to push across 1 earned run in 13 innings against a Mets bullpen that entered the weekend with a 5.39 ERA and more blown saves than any other team in baseball.

It's the second time in just over a week where the Cubs managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but the last time (Anthony Rizzo's homer off Kenley Jansen last Saturday in L.A.) apparently wasn't enough to spark the team to get back to their winning ways. 

Was this Baez blast enough to wake the team from their midseason slumber and be this year's seminal moment that we all look back on in September? 

ICYMI: 35th anniversary of The Sandberg Game, Bulls' offseason begins with productive draft night, Zack Collins homers for his first MLB hit with White Sox

coby-white-silver-draft-night.jpg
USA TODAY

ICYMI: 35th anniversary of The Sandberg Game, Bulls' offseason begins with productive draft night, Zack Collins homers for his first MLB hit with White Sox

The Bulls and the Blackhawks made top 10 draft selections that they hope will have a long-term impact on their respective franchises. The Bulls nabbed speedy North Carolina guard Coby White with the 7th overall pick, while the Blackhawks got center Kirby Dach at No.3 overall in the NHL draft. The Cubs and White Sox both had intriguing weekends, while Sunday marked the 35th anniversary of one of the biggest moments in Cubs history. 

Cubs

Sunday marked the 35th anniversary of "The Sandberg Game". This is the game that many recognize as the moment Ryne Sandberg became a household name. The infamous June 23, 1984 game between the Cubs and the Cardinals took place on NBC’s “Game of the Week.” The game also played a huge part in the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry becoming perhaps the best that the MLB has to offer.


The 2019 Cubs are waiting on closer Craig Kimbrel t reach game-ready status. In the meantime they have activated veteran Tony Barnette off of the Sunday 60-day injured list. Between their newfound six-man rotation and their now, crowded bullpen, the Cubs are hoping they possess enough depth to gain some ground in the race for the NL Central crown. 
 

Bulls

The Bulls, by all accounts, had a very successful 2019 NBA Draft night. They got their PG of the future in North Carolina guard Coby White and selected a rim-protecting big man in Arkans center Daniel Gafford with their second round selection. The Bulls front office is confident in White’s versatility paying off big time and he certainly will help Chicago get out in transition more often. White stole the show on draft night, having quite the candid reaction to finding out the North Carolina teammate Cam Johnson got selected by the Phoenix Suns at No. 11 overall.

The next step for Bulls fans will be seeing the Bulls draft picks (along with some undrafted free agents and fringe NBAers) play in NBA Summer League action. Bulls fans will be pleased to hear that the Bulls summer league schedule does have them facing off against 2019 No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson on July 8, 8:30 p.m

 

White Sox


It’s been a whirlwind of a week for White Sox youngster Zack Collins. After getting a walk in his first taste of MLB action, Collins turned heads with a home run in the second game of his MLB career. Collins gave White Sox fans a preview of what to expect down the line. Collins is going to hit for power and hopefully draw his fair share of walks along the way. He certainly showed off that potential on Friday night.

 

Blackhawks


The Blackhawks chose center Kirby Dach with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. The Blackhawks had many options at the No. 3 pick, but they went with Dach with the hope that the 6-foot-4, 197-lb center has the type of game that will shine through in high-pressure moments. It’s a good omen for the Blackhawks that the last time the draft was in Vancouver, they selected franchise center Jonathan Toews (back in 2006). Here’s to hoping that Dach can one day have the same type of impact as “The Captain”. But now all the attention has shifted to Sunday, when the negotiating window for NHL free agents opened up. And the Blackhawks are expected to be one of the more active teams throughout this process as they prepare for July 1.