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Graham finds success in first season at ASU

Graham finds success in first season at ASU

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Sitting in a sparse office that still had pictures leaning against the wall, coach Todd Graham spoke about changing the culture at Arizona State, of adding discipline to a program in need of a healthy dose.

That was in April, just after his first spring game as the Sun Devils' coach.

Nine months later, Graham's office looked more like an entertainment lounge, with a huge TV hanging in the corner, massive leather recliners and colorful photos hanging on the walls.

After an eight-win season that included a comeback over rival Arizona and a bowl blowout, the program he took over has that new and improved look, too.

``I think, no doubt, we have laid a solid foundation,'' Graham said. ``I don't think it's dry yet, so by no means have we arrived yet, but I am very proud of where we're at.''

Graham was faced with a daunting task when he arrived in the desert, taking over a program with a history of mediocrity on the field and apathy from its fan base.

Stumping like a politician, Graham spoke to anyone who would listen to pump up interest in the Sun Devils, promoting his plan to turn them into winners with an exciting but disciplined brand of football.

He backed it up once the season started.

Led by dynamic sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly, the Sun Devils rode Graham's high-octane offense to a 5-1 start and rallied from a four-game losing streak to win their final three games, including two big punctuation marks to end the season.

The first came against Arizona in the regular-season finale, when Arizona State rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Wildcats 41-34 and capture the Territorial Cup, one of Graham's top priorities for the season.

The Sun Devils capped that emotional victory with a momentum-for-next-year win at the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco by steamrolling Navy 62-28 for their first bowl victory since the 2005 Insight Bowl.

``We go on that four-game losing streak and you hear Arizona State football is cratering again, but I never once saw any bad body language from our players,'' Graham said. ``I never saw any of our guys flinch, question anything that we were asking them to do, and that's how I know we got to their hearts, really built some trust. I was impressed by that.''

That trust might be Graham's biggest accomplishment, not what his team did in the standings.

Under previous coach Dennis Erickson, the Sun Devils were known as a loosely reined bunch waiting to commit the next personal foul.

Once Graham arrived, he turned it into a yes-sir, no-sir operation, installing a dress code, a prohibition on cursing, no hats, earrings or headphones allowed in the football offices.

Graham's players bought into it wholeheartedly, going from worst in the Pac-12 in penalties to best with 30 fewer penalties than the next closest team, Stanford.

``If you would have come in here screaming, `Sit down, shut up, take your earring out,' I think you would have had a lot of pushback,'' Graham said. ``Our philosophy is not that. We treat these guys like young men. You act like a 13-year-old, we're going to treat you like a 13-year-old. But we asked them, `When you come into the building, would you take that earring out?' as a physical gesture that this isn't about you, it's about team.''

Even with success, Graham couldn't escape questions about his loyalty to the program.

After short stints in previous coaching stops, particularly his one-year run at Pittsburgh, the perception was that Graham was a coach who wouldn't stick around for the long haul, someone who would bolt if a better opportunity presented itself.

Graham assuaged concerns in the months after getting the job with his whirlwind tour and built the program in his own image, yet when the season ended and job openings cropped up, the rumblings started up again.

Not that he cared.

``I'm committed to be here. It doesn't bother me,'' Graham said. ``I can tell you my wife and I bought our dream house, we're paying it off in the next three years and win, lose or draw I'm going to be living out there at the base of the McDowell mountain range.''

The future doesn't look too bad for the Sun Devils, either.

Kelly will be back after setting a school record by completing 67.1 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,039 yards and 29 touchdowns. Leading rusher Marion Grice will be back, as will talented freshman running back D.J. Foster.

The Sun Devils also got a big boost when defensive lineman Will Sutton, the first ASU player to earn consensus All-America honors since Terrell Suggs in 2002, announced he will return for his senior season rather than head to the NFL.

Graham had a solid first recruiting class in 2012 despite having just a few months to work on it and has been busy scouring the country for talent leading up to signing day next month.

``It's been going pretty well so far,'' Graham said. ``We're well on our way to 2013.''

Francesco Molinari wins Open Championship for first career major title

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Francesco Molinari wins Open Championship for first career major title

It was only a mere three weeks ago that Francesco Molinari closed with a final round 62 en route to a dominant eight-shot victory at the 2018 Quicken Loans National. 

On Sunday, his eight-under total was good enough for a two-shot win over Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele.

The 35-year-old played his final round alongside Tiger Woods, who shot a 5-under-par 66 in Saturday's third round that left him at 5 under through 54 holes and four shots back of the leaders. His 66 was his first weekend round in the 60s in the Open since 2007.

The 14-time major winner had to settle for a closing round of 71 on Sunday. It was his first Open since missing the cut at St. Andrews in 2015.

Molinari continues to be one of the world's hottest golfers, notching his third win in the last five starts. 

Some of golf's best weighed in on Sunday: 

When it was all said and done, on a day that featured difficult Carnoustie wind conditions, Francesco Molinari emerged victorious hoisting the Claret Jug. 

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Nationals trade Brian Goodwin to Kansas City Royals

Nationals trade Brian Goodwin to Kansas City Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  -- Outfielder Brian Goodwin has been acquired by the Kansas City Royals from the Washington Nationals for minor league pitcher Jacob Condra-Bogan.

The 27-year-old Goodwin hit .200 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 48 games for the Nationals this season. He bruised his left wrist diving for a ball and did not play from April 15 until May 15, when he had two at-bats. He went back on the disabled list, returned June 1 and is hitting .171 (7 for 41) since.

Condra-Bogan, 23, went 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 16 relief outings with Lexington of the South Atlantic League and one appearance with Wilmington of the Carolina League, also Class A.

The trade was announced Sunday.

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