Nationals

A close call for Geoff Ogilvy and the Masters

A close call for Geoff Ogilvy and the Masters

Geoff Ogilvy came within one stroke of not having to spend the next three months thinking about the Masters.

Ogilvy tied for fourth in the Australian PGA Championship in the final week of official golf this year. He will end the year at No. 51 in the world ranking, falling just short of cracking the top 50 to earn an invitation to Augusta National.

Thirteen players were added to the 2013 field by finishing the year inside the top 50 - Paul Lawrie, Francesco Molinari, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Branden Grace, Bill Haas, Nicolas Colsaerts, Jason Day, Hiroyuki Fujita, Matteo Manassero, Thomas Bjorn, Jamie Donaldson, George Coetzee and Thorbjorn Olesen.

Only two of those are full PGA Tour members (Haas and Day), though they have far more opportunities to get into the Masters by either qualifying for the Tour Championship, winning a regular PGA Tour event or finishing among the top 30 on the money list.

There's still plenty of time for Ogilvy and Henrik Stenson (No. 53). Invitations will be offered to anyone winning a PGA Tour event before the Masters (except for the Puerto Rico Open, held opposite a World Golf Championship event), and anyone who gets into the top 50 after the Houston Open.

The field now is at 83 players expected to compete, leaving the Masters in good shape to keep the field under 100 players. Still to be determined is whether the Masters will continue to take winners of all PGA Tour events now that five additional events get full FedEx Cup points.

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THE POULTER COLLECTION: The garage in Ian Poulter's expansive new home in Orlando, Fla., might be mistaken for a Ferrari dealership.

Poulter has two of them in the garage at Lake Nona, and he even built a hydraulic lift to stack them on top of each other. Asked how he decides which one to drive, the Ferrari California or the Ferrari FF, he said it depends on how much time he has to bring one down from the lift.

But he's not stopping at two.

``I've got two more coming,'' he said before leaving the World Challenge in California.

After winning the HSBC Champions and its $1.2 million prize, Poulter said he ``already spent the check last week.'' Turns out it was on a third Ferrari, an Enzo. He didn't get into details as much as he did with the FF, which was customized to include his tartan to line the interior.

As for the fourth Ferrari?

``I'm not going to tell you what it is until I have my hands on it,'' Poulter said. ``It was the first of its type to come off the production line. It was a vehicle I can't say no to. It's a really a special piece.''

Poulter doesn't look at the Ferraris as a hobby, the way some people collect fine art or even baseball cards.

``You can say it's a level of investment,'' he said. ``It's one of those cars that's going to stay good forever.''

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NBC IN HAWAII: As if the scenery in Hawaii doesn't already make for good television, Tommy Roy plans to take it up a notch.

Roy, the executive producer for golf at NBC Sports, is bringing his crew to Hawaii for the opening two events on the PGA Tour schedule. The Tournament of Champions and Sony Open will be televised by Golf Channel (NBC and Golf Channel are under the Comcast umbrella).

It's the first time Roy has worked golf in Hawaii in 30 years, though he might not get the same unforgettable moment - Isao Aoki holing out a wedge for eagle on the 18th hole to win the Hawaiian Open at Waialae.

``I was in the truck with Aoki holed out,'' Roy said. ``It's pretty exciting to come back on the 30th anniversary.''

Roy said he plans to add ``quite a few cameras'' to better show the mountainous terrain on the Plantation Course at Kapalua for the season opener. NBC used to broadcast from Kapalua when the tournament was part of the silly season in November.

He also is pleased with the camera locations for the Sony Open, which sits along the ocean down from Waikiki Beach. Roy said there would be an 80-foot tower on the 16th fairway for visuals of the 16th green, with the ocean as a backdrop. Behind the green are four skinny palm trees in the shape of a ``W'' for Waialae, and Roy said he is moving the TV stand that was located at the base of that ``W.''

The formation of the trees is reminiscent of the ``Big W,'' where the cash was buried in the 1963 movie, ``It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.''

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CRUISING INTO ROOKIE SEASON: Patrick Reed is wrapping up an unforgettable year next week when he marries Justine Karain, who was with him each step this year as his caddie. Despite having no status, he played 12 times on the PGA Tour, making through Monday qualifying six times. That didn't get him anywhere, so he had to go through the final two stages of Q-school. And despite a slow start in the final stage, he went 68-67-68-67 the last four rounds to barely get his card.

Next up is his Dec. 21, followed by a cruise from Dec. 28 to Jan. 5.

Reed, however, wants to stay sharp for his rookie debut at the Sony Open in Honolulu, so he's bringing his clubs with him on the honeymoon.

``They're going to let me hit balls off a mat and into the ocean,'' he said.

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DIVOTS: Fred Funk is not done with the kids. The 56-year-old Funk received a sponsor's exemption to play in the Sony Open next month. John Daly also received an exemption into the first full-field event of the 2013 season. ... Two weeks after Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand was co-medalist at Q-school on the LPGA Tour, her 17-year-old sister, Ariya, won the Ladies European Tour qualifying tournament by five shots. ... Arnold Palmer will be writing a regular column for Golf Channel.com. In his first column, the King applauded the USGA and R&A for its ban on anchoring clubs, such as the belly putter. ... The European Tour has launched a Japanese version of its website. It's the first non-European language of the website. ... The Safeway Classic on the LPGA Tour raised $1 million for charity this year, pushing its total to $17 million since 1972, with $14 million of that coming in the last 17 years.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Zach Johnson is the only American among the top 50 in the world who didn't play anywhere overseas the last two years except the British Open.

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FINAL WORD: ``I have never in my life been a schmoozer. That's just not my style. You earn it or you don't. They will or they won't. I just can't go that way.'' - Larry Nelson, on his chances of ever being a Ryder Cup captain.

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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

After a week that gave several teams the opportunity to prove themselves in the National League East, the only team that did so was the Miami Marlins.

They aren’t as bad as we thought they were.

As for everyone else, each fan base should be disappointed.

The Atlanta Braves missed a golden opportunity to pull away from both the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. Instead, they actually lost ground to BOTH teams that were playing each other.

Philadelphia did leapfrog the Nationals in the standings, but they continue to leave wins on the table due to their bullpen. This is all while Washington went 4-4 on an eight-game homstand.

And if you’re the Mets, I need to say no more in regards to disappointment. Look out because the Marlins are now on your tail.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 44-32
Last 10: 6-4
Upcoming Series: vs. Cincinnati (3), @ St. Louis (3)

It is hard to take a team seriously when they lose two out of three to the Baltimore Orioles in their home park.

Both were in demoralizing ways. First, Sean Newcomb went seven innings allowing only a single run, then two relievers gave up a combined six runs in the ninth. Despite a comeback in the ninth, they wouldn’t eventually fall in the 15th (!) inning.

And yes… we can attest, this sucks…

Second was Julio Teheran allowing four to score before Atlanta even got an at-bat. There was a wistful rally for the rest of the game, but ultimately they came up two runs short.

Missing on a golden opportunity to emerge as the frontrunner in the NL East, the Braves dropped the ball. Once excited for a finalized rotation to be back together, there are still some gaps to fill. The team averaged 6.8 runs this week and managed only two wins.

And still no Robert Acuna Jr.

Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 41-34
Last 10: 7-3
Upcoming Series: vs. New York Yankees (3), vs. Washington Nationals (4)

Winning series will get you in the postseason. Taking two-out-of-three over the St. Louis Cardinals and the Nationals gives them four straight series wins.

None of those series victories were bigger than taking two at Nats Park.

In those six games Odùbel Herrera had 12 hits, four home runs, nine RBIs for a .444 average. He is leading the charge for a team that scored 39 runs in only six games.

Their starters are giving them quality outings as well. With each starting pitcher this week having a 1.40 WHIP or lower, there has been no downtick from them. However, all of their losses are attributed to their bullpen, including three blown saves.

On June 18, they optioned their closer Héctor Neris to Triple A after giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning. While he did have a 6.00 ERA, and a 9.45 ERA in June, he did get the job done in the final innings of games. On 13 save opportunities this year, he got 10 saves.

They hope Seranthony Domínguez (four saves) can turn around the bullpen as they make a push to the All-Star Game.

Washington Nationals

Record: 41-35
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: @ Tampa Bay Rays (2), @ Philadelphia Phillies (4)

All things considered it wasn’t the worst week for the Nationals. Despite losing a series to Philadelphia and dropping a Gio Gonzalez start to Baltimore, Washington gained a half game on the Braves.

But, you have to demand better on an eight-game homestand. These games may be the ones that could haunt the Nats come late-August and September.

Yet there are a lot of highlights this week.

-Juan Soto retroactively hit a HR on his first-ever MLB at-bat
-The Nats pick up reliever Kelvin Herrera in a career-year
-Despite trailing by four, and a rain delay, the Nats came back

Most importantly though Bryce Harper is out of his funk.

…and the fire is back, which may be the most important headline this week.

New York Mets

Record: 31-44
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: vs. Pirates (3), @ Marlins (3)

Finishing up a 10 game road trip with a 3-7 record, all the Mets needed was a return home.

Wrong, New York followed that up by getting swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field.

And one of those losses, just one, featured seven Dodger home runs.

Also another of the few productive players for the Mets could be heading to the DL. Centerfielder Brandon Nimmo (.283, 12 HR) took a pitch off of his hand this past weekend.

Miami Marlins

Record: 31-47
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: vs. Diamondbacks (4), vs. Mets (3)

A 3-3 West Coast road trip is not too shabby for the Marlins who are playing .500 ball in the month of June (11-10).

It gave the opportunity for Kyle Barraclough to pick up two more saves, bringing his total up to seven this season. His stellar relief performances will likely garner him the honor as the Marlins’ lone representative in the All-Star Game next month.

He’s pitched 11.2 straight innings of hitless baseball. Barraclough has also not allowed a run since May 8 (19 appearances).

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Voting Results: Adams out, Harper down one spot after this week's voting

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Voting Results: Adams out, Harper down one spot after this week's voting

The countdown to the MLB All-Star game in Washington ticks on, but the stars of its host city struggled this week in the voting.

Last week, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and Matt Adams dropped one position from the first week's ballot. This week, the downward trend continues, perhaps a sign of the ambivalence among Nationals fans following a mixed record since week two's update.

The Nats won three of their seven games last week with a blowout 2-12 loss to the Phillies on Friday. Maybe they're feeling bogged down by the incessant rain delays in the DC-Maryland area

Regardless, Bryce Harper dropped another spot on the fan voting ballot this week to settle in the No. 3 spot among outfielders with 1,403,335 votes. Leading him are No. 1 Atlanta Braves right fielder Nick Markakis with 1,829,276 votes and No. 2 Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Matt Kemp with 1,498,827 votes. It's worth noting that Harper trails Kemp by less than 100,000 votes, a very reasonable gap to recover from, and leads No. 4 Colorado Rockies centerfielder Matt Blackmon by over 400,000 votes, a somewhat safe separation. 

Matt Adams, however, was not so lucky. After dropping from No. 14 to No. 15 last week, he fell out of the top 15 in this week's voting. In this week's results, only 8,000 votes separate Nos. 14 and 15, so it's okay to be hopeful that your vote will make a difference. 

Trea Turner is still holding onto the No. 5 spot in the shortstop category, with an over 100,000 vote increase from last week's voting update pushing him up to 380,331 votes. The shortstops' rankings haven't changed since last week, so the San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford, Braves' Dansby Swanson, Chicago Cubs' Addison Russell and Colorado Rockies' Trevor Story remain in the top four spots.

Nats fans, now's the time to keep casting those votes to keep your favorites on this year's National League roster. You can keep voting until July 5 at 11:59 p.m. ET, up to five times every 24 hours. Read more about how to vote for your favorite players in the MLB All-Star Game HERE

The 2018 National League - American League matchup is in Washington, D.C. on July 17.

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