Nationals

Kapalua now in a different golf landscape

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Kapalua now in a different golf landscape

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) Paradise can leave a lasting impression.

Steve Stricker was just starting to pull himself out of a deep slump in 2006 when he was reminded by his daughter, Bobbi Maria, how long it had been since he last won on the PGA Tour. She was 8 at the time and won a tournament for juniors at their home club in Wisconsin, no more than three or six holes.

``She comes home all excited and says, `Daddy, I won, I won! We're going to Hawaii,''' Stricker once recalled.

He had to break the news to her.

Stricker was the one who had to win a tournament for them to go to Kapalua to start a new season, and he did that the following year.

As traditions go in golf, starting the year on the rugged coast of Maui is relatively new. The Tournament of Champions began in Las Vegas in 1953, moved to La Costa Resort north of San Diego in 1969 and stayed there 30 years until coming to Kapalua.

This was the 15th year the tour has started at Kapalua, and there has never been another year like this one. A tournament that was supposed to end on Monday didn't start until Monday because of three days of powerful wind - one gust measuring 48 mph - that had the locals drawing comparisons with a 100-year storm.

About the only good that came out of such freak weather was that it took attention away, however briefly, from the PGA Tour winners who stayed home and missed out on the endless days - the top four players in the world ranking, for starters, led by Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.

It's not a new problem, but it's still a problem. And it contributes to a future as cloudy as Molokai at sunrise.

Kapalua has a contract only through this year to host the tournament.

Hyundai's three-year deal as the title sponsor of the Tournament of Champions expires this year, even though corporate officials sounded optimistic about renewing and there are strong signs it will happen.

It doesn't help that Mother Nature was in a bad mood this week. Few things in golf cause a knee-jerk reaction like bad weather.

There were suggestions to move the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am to the end of the West Coast Swing after the tournament was canceled by rain in 1996, completed nearly seven months after it started in 1998 because of rain, and shortened to 54 holes a year later because of - you guessed it - rain.

Since then, Pebble has had more than its share of glorious weather.

The rain was so bad in California in 2005 that the Nissan Open at Riviera went five days to get in 36 holes. The next week, the Match Play Championship at La Costa was postponed one day because the entire course looked like a water hazard. Woods wondered if it might not be better for the PGA Tour to spend February in Florida and March in California. It sounded like a reasonable idea until a Champions Tour in Florida was shortened to 36 holes because of rain.

Wiser heads will realize that golf is an outdoor sport. It's not a disgrace when weather causes problems. It's a miracle it doesn't happen more often.

The issues on Maui go beyond weather.

The PGA Tour is going to a wraparound season in the fall, meaning the real season-opener will be in October at the Frys.com Open. There already will be six tournaments in the books before the Tournament of Champions next January.

Is that a problem? Not when you consider that for 33 years, the Tournament of Champions was held after the Masters.

``We are not terribly concerned about it,'' said Steve Shannon, vice president of marketing for Hyundai. ``I think there is that aspect of it's the start of the year, so even if it's literally not the first PGA Tour event, there's something about the start of the year, and there's something about this location.''

Still to be determined is what he meant by location - Kapalua specific or Hawaii in general?

Kapalua tends to get the brunt of the bad weather. There can be what the locals call ``pineapple showers'' along this portion of the coast, while only 20 miles away there is abundant sunshine and less wind. Still, the Plantation Course is the only course in Hawaii that Golf Digest ranks among the greatest 100 courses in America (No. 97). It's unlike any course the PGA Tour plays all year with dramatic changes in elevation and stunning views of the Pacific, such as humpback whales breaching and surfers at Honolua Bay.

The bigger concern is getting more players to come, though that's been an issue for years now.

Woods hasn't been back since 2005, when he started taking uninterrupted breaks in the winter. Phil Mickelson stopped coming a decade ago, suggesting the wind and slope allowed bad habits to creep into his swing. Adding to the list of absentees is Europe producing some of the best players. The European Tour season stretches deep in November, and some players simply want a long break going into the new season.

The 30-man field this year was hardly a disaster, and the leaderboard going into the final round featured a top five of Dustin Johnson, Stricker, Masters champion Bubba Watson, FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker and former PGA champion Keegan Bradley. A lot of tournaments would love to have a leaderboard like that.

Years ago, an idea was tossed around to expand the field by offering a two-year exemption to the Tournament of Champions and include all past champions of the event, with the idea of getting Els and Sergio Garcia to the event because they didn't win the year before. Sure, having them at Kapalua would have helped. But the biggest mistake golf can make is to change rules around any one player, even a player like Tiger Woods.

Besides, Els and Garcia both won on the PGA Tour last year and were eligible to start the year in Kapalua. Neither of them showed up.

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Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman tests positive for COVID-19 with Opening Day 12 days away

Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman tests positive for COVID-19 with Opening Day 12 days away

The New York Yankees could be without their top relief arm on Opening Night against the Nationals.

Manager Aaron Boone announced Saturday that Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman is experiencing “mild symptoms” after testing positive for the coronavirus and will be away from the team “for the foreseeable future.” Chapman is the third Yankees player to contract the virus after infielder DJ LeMahieu and reliever Luis Cessa tested positive in early July.

Boone’s announcement comes 12 days before the Yankees are scheduled to take on the Nationals in D.C. to kick off MLB’s abbreviated 2020 season. New York will play three games against Washington in the only series between the two clubs this year.

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However, if any team is built to absorb the loss of its closer, it’s the Yankees. Boone said that reliever Zack Britton would be the “natural guy” to handle ninth-inning duties if Chapman isn’t ready for the start of the season. New York’s bullpen also includes Adam Ottavino, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle, each of whom—like Britton—would be a closer on most other teams.

On Friday, MLB and the players union announced that 28 of the 30 MLB teams had at least one player or staff member test positive for the coronavirus between intake screening and monitoring testing. Overall, 83 of the 11,149 samples collected have come back positive—a rate of 0.7 percent.

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Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Howie Kendrick among several Nationals players still not in Summer Camp

Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Howie Kendrick among several Nationals players still not in Summer Camp

WASHINGTON --More than a week into the Major League Baseball’s reboot, and its gleefully-named and grotesquely-sponsored Summer Camp, the Nationals are still in wait-and-see mode.

Two players tested positive for Coronavirus at intake screening. The team is not obligated to release their names and cannot do so without the player’s permission. So, what we do know is Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Howie Kendrick are among multiple players not yet in Nationals Park for workouts 12 days before the season is scheduled to begin.

Their health and safety is paramount. However, when they are not working with the team, the organization needs to formulate a baseball-specific plan to go forward without them, should the need arise. And, that time is close because the preparation window is closing.

RELATED: HOW WILL MLB'S NEW EXTRA INNING WITH A RUNNER ON SECOND RULE WORK STRATEGICALLY?

“Right now, we’re taking things one day at a time,” Davey Martinez said Saturday. “I’ve got to put eyes on these guys and see where they’re at. I know Soto was actually working out pretty good in the Dominican back home, so was Robles. I talked to those guys. We talked to the strength-and-conditioning guys. They think they’re in really good shape. They worked really hard. We’ll have to get them on the field.

“The biggest thing is they can be in great shape, but how much baseball shape have they done? To me, where something happens, if anybody strains an oblique, you’re looking at a significant amount of time. You’re probably looking at almost a whole season here with only 60 games. We got to be careful, we’ve got to see where they’re at. Then once they get here, we’ll determine whether they’re going to be ready or not.”

The Nationals have three exhibition games scheduled before the season opener against Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees. They can carry 30 players into that game. Martinez is trying to worry about who is in the stadium since he has no control over the clearances for the players who are not.

“We’re in a difficult situation,” Martinez said. “We really are with these guys. We’ve done everything we can. I know our strength guys have Zoomed with them and actually put them on some kind of workout program and watching them do what they can do in their apartment. You’re talking about some of our younger players, too. We don’t want to get them hurt. We’ve got to be smart. We’re also talking about a shorter season where we’ve got to win games right away. We’ll see how these guys come in and for me, it’s the baseball shape....Standing on their feet for seven, eight, nine innings.”

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Catcher Raudy Read played first base during Saturday’s intrasquad workout at Nationals Park. He was there in part because Read could well be a first baseman in the long-term. The Nationals also needed another body at the spot because Eric Thames -- their lone true first baseman available -- played for the opposing side.

The team variations spread across the infield and into the outfield because Soto, Robles and Luis Garcia remain in quarantine.

Martinez said “hopefully” the players in quarantine will be with the team soon. Even if they are, their window to be prepared for Cole is extremely limited, which is going to force the Nationals to start making contingency plans.