Cubs

Meet the 2012 Masters champion

727424.jpg

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."

Javier Báez joins Cubs All-Decade Team at second base, where El Mago was born

Javier Báez joins Cubs All-Decade Team at second base, where El Mago was born

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

There may not be a player in baseball more exciting to watch than Javier Báez.

Whether at the plate, in the field or on the bases, Báez is a human highlight real. He’s one of the most powerful hitters in baseball; he has a cannon for an arm, exemplary defensive range and is a tagging maestro. He’s a dynamic baserunner who uses his elite baseball instincts to go station-to-station while magically avoiding tags along the way.

Yeah, there’s a reason Báez is known as “El Mago.” It’s not a matter of if he’ll make an incredible play each game, but a matter of when. Things come easy for the 27-year-old full of flair who makes the most difficult plays seem routine.

Báez is a career .270/.310/.484 hitter who’s hit 110 home runs in parts of six big-league seasons. One of those long balls came in his big-league debut (Aug. 5, 2014), a go-ahead blast against the Rockies in the 12th inning. The legend of El Mago was born.

Báez is the Cubs starting shortstop, though that hasn’t always been the case. Starlin Castro was the starter in 2014; Addison Russell claimed the title from Castro in the second half of 2015, holding it down until late in the 2018 season. Russell hit the injured list that August as the Cubs simultaneously acquired Daniel Murphy in an attempt to jump-start the offense.

By the time Russell returned, Báez was a clear-cut NL MVP candidate. The latter still bounced around the infield from time-to-time, but with Murphy entrenched at second, shortstop became Báez’s primary position. He’s been the starter ever since.

Báez has played 2,646 2/3 career innings at shortstop compared to 1,856 at second base (and 629 1/3 at third). He’s exclusively a shortstop these days, but the El Mago second base days aren’t forgotten.

Báez was the co-recipient of the 2016 NLCS MVP award (along with Jon Lester) and has started back-to-back All-Star Games (2018 at second, 2019 at shortstop). He was the runner-up for the 2018 NL MVP award, posting career highs across the board: .290/.326/.554, 34 homers, 111 RBIs, 129 OPS+.

And yet, it feels like Báez is only getting started. Nevertheless, his career to date has more than earned him a spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team at second base. With that, we'll leave you with this:

Adam Boqvist's entry-level contract with Blackhawks officially kicks in

boqvist.jpg
AP

Adam Boqvist's entry-level contract with Blackhawks officially kicks in

The youth movement is underway in Chicago and it's happening quicker than expected.

Adam Boqvist played in his 10th NHL game of the season on Sunday, officially triggering the first year of his entry-level contract. That means he will become a restricted free agent at end of the 2021-22 season. If he appeared in nine games or fewer, his contract wouldn't have kicked in until next season, which would've bought the Blackhawks an extra year of Boqvist playing at a cap hit of $894,167.

"Maybe that was a discussion very early on but as far as coach perspective, we like him," head coach Jeremy Colliton said on whether he and GM Stan Bowman had conversations about burning Boqvist's first year. "I think he's played well and it's an opportunity with some injuries to give him some ice time. He's handled it well so far."

Boqvist is the second rookie on the Blackhawks this season to burn their first year, joining No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach. Whether the decisions were dictated by circumstances or not, the Blackhawks have seen enough of both of them to feel they can have an impact on the team in the short term without hindering their developments in the long term.

The number to watch now is 40. Like Dach, if Boqvist appears in 40 or more games this season, it will count as a full season and bring him one year closer to unrestricted free agency. Any player that's accrued seven full seasons or is at least 27 years old as of June 30 of that respective year can become an unrestricted free agent.

Boqvist appeared in six games for the Blackhawks during the month of November before getting reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League on Nov. 14 when Connor Murphy was ready to return from his groin injury.

But with Calvin de Haan (shoulder) expected to be out long term and Duncan Keith still out with a groin injury, the Blackhawks called up Boqvist for insurance and because they lacked defensemen with offensive upside. It appears he will remain with the big club for the time being and it serves as a chance for their No. 8 overall pick in 2018 to prove he can handle NHL minutes on a consistent basis during a desperate time for the Blackhawks.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.