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Why Nicklaus still believes in Tiger

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Why Nicklaus still believes in Tiger

From Comcast SportsNet Friday, September 16, 2011

INCHEON, South Korea (AP) -- Jack Nicklaus says Tiger Woods can still beat his record of 18 major championships -- provided he can stay in control of his mental game. Nicklaus said Friday that Woods can achieve the feat "if he gets the five inches between his ears squared out." "I mean Tiger has a great work ethic, he's a great competitor, the most talented kid on the planet right now," Nicklaus told The Associated Press in an interview. "He's not going to go away." Woods has 14 major titles, but has not won any tournament since revelations of infidelities in 2009 led to the collapse of his marriage and a break from the sport. This season has been partly derailed by injuries, but Nicklaus also praised the decision by U.S. captain Fred Couples to include Woods in the 12-member Presidents Cup team that will take on non-European players in Australia in November. "How could you not pick him," the 71-year-old legend said. "I mean he's Tiger Woods, he's the best player in the game. He may not be playing his best today, but he's still Tiger Woods." Nicklaus made the comments while in South Korea to attend a Champions Tour event played on a course he designed in the port city of Incheon west of Seoul. He also said it is crucial for golf to stage a successful tournament at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro to help the game grow further internationally. "Golf is now an Olympic sport," Nicklaus said. "And we've got to keep it in the Olympics. We've got one shot in 2016." How successful those Olympics are for the sport is important, he said, because there will be a vote the following year to decide if it goes beyond the 2020 Games. Nicklaus expressed concern, however, about the slow progress in constructing the facilities for the event, but remained hopeful that he will be awarded the task of designing the course together with former women's great Annika Sorenstam. Golf is returning to the Olympics as a sport for the first time since 1904, with the tournament held in the seaside region of Barra. A course needs to be built by 2015 when test events begin. "I've led my game and (Sorenstam) has led the women's game and I think we both have the ability more so than anybody else to put something together that would fit what they need," he said. Others who have expressed interest in designing the course include Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Nick Faldo and Greg Norman, who would team up with Lorena Ochoa. Nicklaus stressed that the Olympics will be by far the biggest sports event ever organized in Brazil, and that officials must realize they're facing a tough deadline to get things done. "You've got to get ready for it, prepare for it. And to get people to understand the sense of urgency is very difficult," he said. "And the sense of urgency needs to be there, otherwise the success of an event is in jeopardy." Nicklaus' many course designs around the world are part of his way to leave a legacy in the game that goes beyond his playing days. Now he's trying to add to that by giving more young people a way into the sport in a time when many families are struggling economically and lots of kids turn to cheaper and more accessible options. He cited football and basketball as examples, where children play with modified equipment and rules, such as smaller balls and lower baskets, to make things easier. "Kids have got to have some success, they have success early in these other sports, but they don't get this success early in golf," he said. "In golf, it's a hard golf ball, the same golf ball that the pro is playing and a hard golf club," Nicklaus said. He added that he is working on developing equipment to help make it easier for young people to play in public parks. "One of the things I'm working on very hard right now is trying to figure out how can we leave a legacy" so that people want to play the game, he said.

Lauri Markkanen's struggles are a daily storyline, but the solve isn't simple

Lauri Markkanen's struggles are a daily storyline, but the solve isn't simple

MILWAUKEE — When Thad Young played for the Pacers, this was, according to Young, that team’s scouting report on Lauri Markkanen:

“He’s a guy who can score in different levels of the game. He can shoot the midrange. He can take you off the dribble and do his hanging fade to get his shot off. Or he can step behind the line and tee up some 3s,” Young said. “So we tried to keep him seeing bodies so he wouldn’t take the ball from one side to the other.”

Markkanen’s struggles — and the Bulls’ usage of him — is becoming an almost daily storyline. It certainly dominated Monday’s postgame questioning after the Bulls dropped to 1-18 versus winning teams with a 111-98 loss to the Bucks.

For the second time in three games, Markkanen failed to score in the second half. Seven of his 11 attempts came from 3-point range — all of which he missed. His eight points came from two putbacks and four free throws.

That’s it.

“He missed some shots he normally makes. That happens,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I thought he was moving well. He had a couple great cuts to the basket, opportunities at the rim. That’s what we want from him — inside, outside.”

But that’s not happening enough. Fifty-three percent of Markkanen’s attempts this season have been 3-pointers. That’s up 11.5 percent from last season and 4.1 percent from his rookie season.

Too often, Markkanen is being relegated to playing as a stationary, 3-point shooter and not the dynamic, multifaceted scorer for whom Young’s Pacers teams prepared.

“Yeah, I think I can do a lot of good things besides just shoot threes,’’ Markkanen said. “Haven’t really been able to do that lately. Just have to figure out the way I can attack the rim more and get to the free-throw line. I need to figure out my spots.”

This is not meant to fully absolve Markkanen, who has indeed missed open looks consistently this season. For the second straight game, Markkanen joked about how Boylen called a play for him on the first possession, only for Markkanen to turn it over.

Markkanen also again acknowledged the sore left ankle he is playing through as he tries to reach his well documented goal of playing all 82 games. Markkanen called the ankle “not normal but getting there” and also shook off banging knees with Donte DiVincenzo that left him running hobbled for a few possessions.

Markkanen said he has no problem talking to Boylen about his usage and, as is his nature, looked inward.

“We’ve talked about it. He ran some plays for me. I turned it over. He does run some stuff for me. I just have to make the plays,” he said. “If you shoot the ball like [I have], you don’t really deserve touches. Can’t really complain.

“When you’re feeling it and actually making shots, it would be good to get closer to the rim and kind of keep it going. A lot of our plays I screen and pop.’’

The Bulls tied their franchise record with 48 3-point attempts. Boylen said that was the gameplan since opponents averaged 40 3-point attempts and 17.5 makes in the Bucks’ mere six losses.

Never mind that even if the Bulls hadn’t gone ice cold in the second half to finish with 14 makes that adding 3.5 more makes would’ve still left them on the losing end. The Markkanen problem is bigger than a math problem.

“I think the system complements him to the point where he has a lot of freedom to do different things,” Young said. “If he’s open, he takes a 3. If he’s not, he tries to make a play. He’s doing the best he can, just like me and any other guy on this roster. He has to continue to believe in what we’re doing.”

Markkanen now has nine single-digit scoring games after posting just four last season. He has nine 20-point games after registering 22 last season.

This is a huge season for Markkanen not only because his success is tied into the success of the Bulls’ rebuild but also because he’ll be eligible for an extension of his rookie contract following this season.

“I know he’s going to work. And he cares. He has high character,” Boylen said. “I believe in him. And our team believes in him.”

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Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich puts Nolan Arenado trade talks to bed

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USA TODAY

Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich puts Nolan Arenado trade talks to bed

Were you hoping the Cubs could pull off a miraculous deal for Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado? If so, at ease.

In an interview with Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich squashed any chance of Arenado getting dealt this winter.

“With the season coming up and spring training on the horizon, we are going to start focusing on that,” Bridich told Saunders. “We have listened to teams regarding Nolan and really nothing has come of it. We are going to move forward pretty much as we expected — with Nolan in the purple and black and as our third baseman.

“So, we can put this to bed and collectively look forward to the upcoming season and work toward that.”

There you have it.

The chances of the Cubs swinging an Arenado deal were always slim-to-none. The 28-year-old signed a lucrative contract extension with Colorado last February and is still owed $234 million through 2026. The Cubs have money coming off the books each of the next few seasons, but they would have had to clear payroll to acquire Arenado this offseason.

Furthermore, it’s questionable if the Cubs would have put together an enticing enough package for the Rockies. Chicago's farm system has grown barren through the years, and now that it’s slowly improving, it wouldn’t have made sense to trade prospects away.

Monday’s news isn’t completely bad for Cubs fans. The Cardinals were also reportedly interested in Arenado, and Bridich’s statement means St. Louis won’t be acquiring Arenado anytime soon, either.

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