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Why are American NBA stars skipping the FIBA World Cup?
Almost every big-name star is sitting out the tournament, and only some of them have obvious reasons for doing so. USA Basketball’s senior men’s team is losing steam at an alarming rate. In the past few weeks, the roster expected to defend the United States’ FIBA World Cup championship this summer in China lost its two biggest stars, Anthony Davis and James Harden, and two key shooters in Eric Gordon and C.J. McCollum. Just before this piece was published, Bradley Beal withdrew due to the impending birth of his child, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes. Former FIBA stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, Paul George, and Kyrie Irving were already out for various reasons. In fact, of the 11 Americans on the All-NBA team this past season, only two are currently slated to participate in the World Cup: Damian Lillard and Kemba Walker. There were 20 NBA All-Stars this season who are eligible for USA Basketball service. Only four remain on the roster: Lillard, Walker, Khris Middleton, and NBA champion Kyle Lowry, who had thumb surgery after the season and might not be back in time. Here’s what the depth chart looks like going into camp after the recent pull-outs. Guards: Lillard, Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Lowry.Wings: Middleton, Tobias Harris, Jayson Tatum, Harrison Barnes, P.J. Tucker.Bigs: Kevin Love, Andre Drummond, Myles Turner, Kyle Kuzma, Paul Millsap, Brook Lopez. Lillard is the team’s best talent. Four of the five best players on the team are guards. Keep in mind that five years ago, Lillard was cut from a World Cup roster because Team USA had so many stars. (The player that got Lillard’s spot? Derrick Rose. Welp.) How times have changed, for Lillard and especially for USA Basketball. There’s no good answer for why this is happening. The senior men’s team has its best coach ever in Gregg Popovich. Steve Kerr and Lloyd Pierce are assistant coaches. The opportunity to spend a couple of months with that coaching staff, both stateside and overseas, sounds like a dream. Contrary to popular belief, the World Cup actually is important even though American fans don’t pay much attention: the clearest way to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics tournament is to finish top two among Western Hemisphere teams in the World Cup. Now, Team USA is still talented enough to easily finish top two among the seven North American, South American, and Caribbean teams (Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, United States, and Dominican Republic). Most of those teams have also suffered some attrition due to retirements, NBA commitments, and injuries. And if something wild happens and the United States really falls apart, there’s a last-chance tournament before the Olympics next summer, at which point the stars could come out and clinch a spot fairly easily, one would imagine. In fact, the United States is still the overwhelming favorite to win the World Cup, even with this stripped-down roster. The senior men’s team hasn’t lost a tournament game since 2006, when the U.S. finished third under Mike Kyrzyzewski in the reboot tournament after the embarrassment of the Athens Olympics in 2004. Serbia and Spain are Team USA’s biggest rivals for the title, and since Giannis Antetokounmpo has announced he will play for Greece, you can’t count out the team that beat the Americans in 2006. But yes, USA Basketball is the huge favorite, even without Harden, Davis, and everyone else. The question here is, why they are without everyone else. There’s no security or health issue keeping stars away, as there was in Athens 2004 (terrorism threats) or Brazil 2016 (Zika virus). The host nation is China, still NBA stars’ favorite foreign market to pitch. Popovich is well-liked and known to more NBA stars than Coach K had been. There hasn’t been a major injury suffered in international tournament play or preparation since 2014, and that didn’t seem to have a huge impact on the 2016 Olympic roster. Is it complacency? As mentioned, the Americans haven’t lost in a tournament in more than a decade. Wounded pride sparked American NBA stars to participate beginning in 2006. There’s no wounded pride on the world basketball stage at this point. Is that a necessary component to getting a higher level of commitment from the best players? Is it a lack of pre-existing friend groups and cliques? From 2006 through 2012, the senior men’s team was defined by the LeBron-Wade-Melo-Bosh crew. Around 2014, we saw the sprouting of the Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving friendship that rocked this summer’s NBA free agency. Lillard is fully committed to Portland for the next half-decade. Walker is off the market. Mitchell, Tatum, and Zion Williamson, if he gets added to the team, are on rookie deals. None of these players seem all that connected together. It’s a pretty random group. Is it pressure from teams? There hasn’t been any public suggestion of that. It’s possible that given the enormous contracts being doled out these days, there has been behind-the-scenes requests by teams to skip the summer. Or, perhaps players are doing the math themselves. Is it politics? Is the allure of proudly wearing U-S-A across your chest less appealing now than in, say, the years 2008 through 2016? That might be true, though 2006’s high level of star participation sticks out, and the presence of Popovich and Kerr should calm fears of being misunderstood on the world stage. Is it the fact that USA Basketball has not stuck to its guns on requiring stars to eat their vegetables (playing in the FIBA World Cup, which most American fans and merch buyers don’t care about) to get their dessert (playing in the Olympics, which tons of Americans watch and love)? Is it the timing of the tournament at the end of the NBA offseason? The World Cup championship game is Sept. 15. There are preseason games the first week of October. It’s likely some combination of these factors, personalized for each star player. But whatever the case, this is easily the weakest Team USA has been heading into a major tournament since 2004 (maybe even 2002, when the Americans finished sixth as a host nation) and it’s exactly what Jerry Colangelo and the leadership of USA Basketball has worked to avoid over the past 15 years. Dame, Kemba, Pop, and the others will probably still cover the United States in basketball glory. But it won’t be as easy as it could have been, and it’s worth figuring out why it’s heading back in this direction.
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Shane Lowry won The Open and then he went to ‘f***ing party’
Shane Lowry started Sunday shackled with fear and doubt about winning the Open. So when he got it done, he partied accordingly. In addition to the great golf from start to finish, Shane Lowry was consistently candid all weekend at Royal Portrush. There was no hiding how nervous or scared he was about the position he was in chasing the British Open and a career-defining moment. Lowry was not the athlete telling you it was just another game or he was just taking it one day at a time or that he wasn’t thinking about the trophy. Quite the opposite. Aside from the world-class golf and opportunity to win a major sporting championship, the quotes from Lowry were vulnerable and in a small way, relatable. This may be how you feel before a massive test or opportunity or day you know will be life-changing. “I’ll go to bed thinking about holding the Claret Jug tomorrow evening. It’s only natural, isn’t it? We’re human. We’re not robots. We can’t not think about things. And when you try not to think about something you end up thinking about it more, so you might as well talk about it. So we talk about stuff. Talk about everything.” “I got home late last night and I tried to go to sleep and I couldn’t. This morning I was awake early and I went for a walk with my coach, and we just had a bit of a chat, and I told him I was so scared of messing it up. I’d say I was more scared than actually having doubt in my head.” “I sat in the car park in Carnoustie on Thursday, almost a year ago right to this week, and I cried. I didn’t -- golf wasn’t my friend at the time. It was something that become very stressful and it was weighing on me and I just didn’t like doing it.” “I kept on telling [caddie Bo Martin] how nervous I was, how scared I was, how much I didn’t want to mess it up.” “I suppose I didn’t even know going out this morning if I was good enough...” If you’re the kind of person who is supremely confident and thinks you will succeed or win or get it done or pass every single time without a hint of doubt or nervousness, congrats. As for the rest of us, myself included, I loved hearing this from the person playing the best golf in the world last week. He’d lost a four-shot lead before on a Sunday at a major and there was real fear there about if he could close on this Sunday. And then when he trudged through the 18 holes of doubt and anxiety to win the Claret Jug, he partied his ass off with the people he loves and helped get him there. Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner tracked Lowry and his people until their final moments at Royal Portrush on Sunday night. It’s a great read (go there now) and ends with Lowry screaming in joy out the window of his SUV as they peeled off into the night. Where were they headed? Someone from Lowry’s group told Lavner, “We’re driving down to Dublin and we’re going to f---ing party.” We now have a snippet of said party and it’s a perfect clip of Lowry unshackled from all the doubt that was there the in the morning. Win The Open ✅Party like you won The Open ✅Catch an interview with the Champion Golfer of the Year @ShaneLowryGolf now on @GCMorningDrive pic.twitter.com/DlGoROKdJC— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) July 22, 2019 Lowry is a world-class golfer but he’s not Rory McIlroy or Brooks Koepka or Jordan Spieth. John Huggan of Golf Digest relayed a great story (go read it right now too) of legendary golf coach Pete Cowen coming to Ireland for a consult on the junior boys talents. The Irish golf operation considered it basically a trip to confirm that they had a stud in McIlroy. Cowen, however, noticed someone else in the background. “Rory’s going to be great.” he said. “But there’s another good one out there. The little fat lad with the glasses.” Lowry owned the crowd all weekend and seems to be admired by his fellow pros and the press that interacted with him both this week and in the past. But even with his Claret Jug, Lowry is not some superstar that will be on the cover of every brand campaign or magazine. He’s probably not one of the talents that you’re going to see contending a multiple majors every summer. That’s what makes the clip of the party so satisfying. There are almost always drinks and songs with the Claret Jug winner the Sunday night of The Open. And you always smile watching it or reading about it. With Lowry, I smiled more because I knew I was watching a a jubilant person who’d shared just how terrified he’d been all day.
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Who will be the NFL’s oldest player 10 years from now?
It probably won’t be Tom Brady (but let’s not rule anything out). Russell Wilson has a lot in common with Tom Brady. Both are resilient, accurate quarterbacks who’ve led their teams to new heights. Both follow alternative diets to keep their bodies churning at a high level (nanobubbles for Wilson and avocado ice cream for Brady). And both know when they want to leave the NFL behind — at the ripe age of 45. Wilson recently tossed out an estimate of 10-15 more seasons in Seattle, giving the one-time Super Bowl winner the chance to match Brady’s goal of playing halfway through his fifth decade before hanging up his cleats. And while the Seahawks’ quarterback has absorbed his fair share of damage behind a perpetually rebuilding offensive line, it may not take much of an exaggeration to think he can get there. In seven seasons as a pro, he has yet to miss a single game. That gives him an edge on Brady, whose torn ACL in 2008 resulted in the team’s only missed postseason since 2002. So let’s gaze into the crystal ball and examine the NFL in 2029. Roger Goodell is gone, replaced by a rule-spouting robot that actually works this time. Revenue hits an all-time high when Thursday Night Football games are broadcast exclusively on Real Player (it makes a comeback). The shield remains protected ... and Wilson is hoping to be the oldest non-kicker and non-punter to take the field. Over the past decade, only five non-kickers have played into their 40s. Four of them were quarterbacks (Brady, Brett Favre, Mark Brunell, and Matt Hasselbeck). The fifth is longtime Dolphins long snapper John Denney. Still, there’s a chance a Jerry Rice-type position player who contributes along the sideline long into his NFL career. Whoever is jockeying for position as the league’s most senior player will have to combine talent and longevity while avoiding injury. So who are the candidates to be 2029’s elder statesman? I started with quarterbacks currently in their late 20s or early 30s who wouldn’t be terribly rerouted if their athleticism declined with age. Then I eliminated some players who’ve missed long spans due to injury — sorry, Andrew Luck and Jimmy Garoppolo, but Brady is the exception and not the rule. From there, I took a similar look at offensive linemen (a not-inconsequential piece of the league’s 40+ club), wideouts, and defensive backs (shoutout to Charles Woodson and Darrell Green) to produce some educated guesses. Here are my candidates as to who will the league’s oldest active player one decade from now, starting with Seattle’s prized possession (we also ran most of these guys through FaceApp’s aging filter in order to let Russia know which skill position players it should look out for in 2029). Russell Wilson Position: QBAge in the 2029 season: 40/41 years old Wilson takes more damage than most quarterbacks; he’s been sacked at least 40 times per season over the last six years and was dropped for a loss on nearly 11 percent of his dropbacks last season. This would be a rock-solid reason to root against his durability, but the Seahawks quarterback somehow blanks this damage with no lasting outward effect. Whether it’s tiny bubbles or just a Wolverine-like ability to heal, Wilson stays on the field enough to give Pete Carroll the confidence to make Paxton Lynch and Geno Smith his backup quarterbacks, and in 2019, he’ll take the field without one of the league’s worst OL coaches designing his protection. Either way, Russ is on board with the idea of playing until he can get his AARP card. Told y’all I’m gonna play a long time! #SilverFox pic.twitter.com/GUbCtzCuj5— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) July 17, 2019 Cam Newton Position: QBAge in the 2029 season: 40 years old Much like Wilson, Newton is a potent mobile quarterback who absorbs more hits than the average passer and mostly shrugs it off — he’s only missed five games in eight seasons so far, though he’s had two shoulder surgeries. But while Wilson is an accurate enough passer to deal with a loss of mobility in the latter half of his career, Newton may struggle to adjust to a less athletic gameplan in the pocket. Then again, the former MVP completed a personal-best 67.9 percent of his passes with last season’s motley crew of receivers, so Newton could be better suited for his golden years than previously thought. Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford Position: QBAge in the 2029 season: 41 years old Playing into your late 30s as a quarterback is as much about sticking around as it is pure talent. Cousins and Stafford could each come from the third tier of starting quarterbacks (good, not great) to last as part-time starters and veteran mentors as 2030 looms. Both rely on big arms and wouldn’t suffer terribly from a lack of mobility behind center. The fact that both are considered solid locker room presences would give either the opportunity to be the bridge from old guard to new franchise quarterback for a rebuilding club one decade from now. Taylor Lewan Position: OTAge in the 2029 season: 38 years old There’s a long list of linemen who could play into their late 30s, including Joel Bitonio, Kevin Zeitler, or either of the Pouncey brothers. Instead, I chose Lewan to follow the Andrew Whitworth model and take the field as a valued pocket-protecting presence at the stately age of 38. Entering the NFL at age 23 means he’d be coming into his 16th season as a pro in 2029 — a big number for sure, but he has less wear-and-tear than other linemen who jumped to the league at 21. Lewan is a powerful, mean blocker who has shown little hesitation when it comes to trash talk. If he can avoid injury, that competitive fire could keep him in the league for the next decade. Honorable mention here goes to David Bakhtiari, who has improved as he’s gotten older but also struggled with nagging injuries throughout his career. If nothing else, the soon-to-be 28-year-old takes care of his body the way only an elite lineman can: #Packers David Bakhtiari and Aaron Rodgers do a little Chug Off at the Bucks-Raptors game. [@LoriNickel]pic.twitter.com/wN0BXEi2yL— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) May 24, 2019 Julio Jones Position: WRAge in the 2029 season: 40 years old Jones’ outstanding career has been predicated on otherworldly athleticism, balance, hands, and field awareness. As the first part of that equation wanes those last three traits, plus his 6’3, 220-pound frame, should keep him productive well into his 30s. Exceptional wide receivers find ways to contribute as the age by adding new tools to their arsenal every year. Rice, Tim Brown, and Larry Fitzgerald have all done it (even if Rice was the only one to do so into his 40s, so far). That’s a group with whom Jones can keep pace. Chris Harris Position: CBAge in the 2029 season: 40 years old Versatile cornerbacks have been able to fight through the sands of time en route to late-career oases in the past, and a 40-year-old Harris could fit the bill come 2029. The All-Pro corner is a tough defender who overcame average speed and explosiveness to stick to opposing wideouts like glue. With experience playing safety at Kansas, he’s also versatile enough to move to the middle of the field and remain a tackling machine once his top-end speed can no longer match up with opposing deep threats. He’ll have to remain healthy — the broken leg that ended his 2018 is cause for concern — but the Broncos’ top corner could wind up sticking around for another decade. Tom Brady Position: QBAge in the 2029 season: 52 years old I dunno, I’m not ruling anything out with this guy.
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Brooks Koepka will shame his colleagues into fixing golf’s slow play problem
Photo by Richard Heathcote/R&A/R&A via Getty Images Brooks Koepka played one of his worst major rounds of the year on Sunday, but it was what he did in between the shots that had us cheering. Even in defeat, Brooks Koepka won our hearts and minds on Sunday at the British Open. That’s a line usually reserved for the mawkish TV essay about an athlete’s class or heart. In this instance, it’s just a reference to Koepka discarding the delicacies of playing golf with a colleague. Koepka’s DGAF-ness has always been an element to his approach, but as he’s risen to the top of the game and won four major championships, he’s become much more comfortable speaking on it. He does not care for other players’ sensitivities or some unwritten gentlemanly traditions of the game. Koepka is in a place where he feels he can call out other players for slow play or “acting like a child,” as he characterized Sergio Garcia earlier in the year. So when the Sunday tee sheet came out and we saw that Koepka was paired up with J.B. Holmes, the potential for discord or a bothered Brooksy increased significantly. Holmes is an egregiously slow player. Everyone on Tour knows this. The TV coverage knows it. The hundreds of golf watchers tweeting angrily know it. And he’s not some sneaky slow player. It’s conspicuous and excruciating. It started from the very first tee on Sunday, where, amazingly, Holmes was not sure what club to hit. He hit second after Koepka, and 58 seconds elapsed from the moment the first tee announcer finished belting his name and his iron striking the ball. Koepka took 23 seconds. NBC announcer Paul Azinger, who has a fondness for Holmes going back to their 2008 Ryder Cup win, added, “He had to have known what club he was going to hit for 23 hours!” But Holmes dragged it out before a double cross yank sailed way left out of bounds. Hitting two off the first tee was certainly not going to speed up play, but Holmes added to the duration by then changing clubs for the second tee shot. The first tee false start set the tone for the entire day. Holmes had not even gotten to his interminable plumb-bob procedure and Koepka was likely already out of patience. But then Brooksy started with four straight bogeys and any small reservoir for abiding Holmes’ pace ran dry. There was this short film, lasting four seconds but with a protagonist and antagonist, a beginning, middle, and plumb-bob pay-off at the end. classic. pic.twitter.com/vUwSZwr3CT— Matthew Wiley (@wiley77) July 21, 2019 Apparently, Koepka’s disgust at the plumb-bob prince went beyond just outward reactions. He also got the rules officials involved as well, pointing at a make-believe watch, according to Will Gray of Golf Channel. Walking off 12 green, Koepka stares at an official and points to his non-existent watch.— Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) July 21, 2019 This is just not a wall that comes down often in pro golf, where a player is actively agitating for the rules official to do something about his playing partner. The players are typically working together and partnering up against the rules official. After the round, Koepka addressed the pace and tried to convey his trouble with it in an objective way. “I’m ready to go most of the time,” he said. “That’s what I don’t understand when it’s your turn to hit, your glove is not on, then you start thinking about it, that’s where the problem lies. It’s not that he takes that long. He doesn’t do anything until his turn. That’s the frustrating part. But he’s not the only one that does it out here.” He’s not getting at some subjective “feel” part of playing a shot that varies from player to player. He’s getting at the nuts and bolts that every single player can do no matter their process of playing a shot. Get your glove on and be ready to go. Holmes seems to have particular trouble with this and it turned his win at one of the PGA Tour’s best and most pleasing-to-watch events, the Genesis Open at Riviera, into a slog earlier this year. So walking off greens and mimicking a watch may seem outside the customary treatment of a pro golf colleague, but it’s for the greater good here. Koepka is now a leader in the game, beyond just his world No. 1 ranking. “If I’m in a group, we’re going to be on pace no matter what,” he said after the round. “I’m usually ready to go, as soon as the guy’s ball is coming down.” Whether intentional or not, he’s doing his part to mitigate a problem that degrades the watchability of his sport. It did not help that Holmes needed 87 shots on Sunday to get into the clubhouse. The fact that he was alongside an irritated Koepka probably didn’t make it easier to play pressurized major championship golf in challenging weather. But playing golf in the allotted time you’re supposed to is a skill. There are those that can do it better than others in the suggested time (40 seconds) and when you cannot do it as well, you should be negatively impacted. It puts those with the greater skill, those who can play the great shots in the time you’re supposed to, with their rhythm stifled and at a disadvantage. How backwards is that? Brooks alluded to this incongruity at the start of the year when he panned the governing bodies for “not having the balls” the penalize slow play. “I think it’s weird how we have rules where we have to make sure it’s dropping from knee height or the caddie can’t be behind you and then they also have a rule where you have to hit it in 40 seconds, but that one’s not enforced,” he said. “You enforce some but you don’t enforce the others.” PGA Tour rules official Slugger White recently said in an interview he won’t give out slow play penalties because he worries about the trickle-down effects it may have, like taking money out of a player’s pocket that could go to a meal (a fancy one no doubt) or kids’ school (a pricey private one most likely). Koepka’s actions on Sunday may seem cold, but changing the pace of play problem won’t be warmhearted. It will take open and harsh critiques of slow players and those that exacerbate the problem, including the PGA Tour officials and the governing bodies that run these majors and refuse to give out penalties. If penalties won’t be assessed, maybe it will take their faster colleagues with lofty standing in the game, like Koepka, bringing pressure and shame on them.
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Shane Lowry wins the 2019 Open Championship
Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images At the first Open on the isle in 68 years, an Irishman takes home the Claret Jug in a dominant performance. Pray for bartenders across the island tonight. No luck of the Irish, it was all dominance. In the first Open on the island in over a half-century, an Irishman will take the Claret Jug will likely raise more than one pint out of the famous trophy tonight. Shane Lowry is your newest major winner, and the 2019 Open champion. For most of Sunday, we got what you get when a player is head and shoulders above the rest of the field — a completely uncompetitive and relatively boring laugher of a Sunday. Real highlights or jump-out-at-you moments are hard to pinpoint. Lowry started with a bit of a blink on the opening hole, and that might have been the last moment there was any doubt who’d take home the Claret Jug. Shortly after Rickie Fowler and JB Holmes hit their first shots of the day out of bounds, Lowry hit a nervy opening tee ball of his own — a quick low hooking rocket that settled just short of the white stakes on the left-hand side of the first. That led to an opening bogey, and a par from Tommy Fleetwood put him within three of Lowry’s lead. At that very moment, it seemed like we might be headed for a competitive final round. Then two things happened: the weather rolled in and the field around Lowry cratered. With heavy rains rolling in and out, the list of names that might have an outside shot to run down Lowry and apply pressure collapsed. Brooks Koepka opened with four consecutive bogeys. Rickie Fowler opened with a double bogey that ended his chances. JB Holmes, who started the day in third, shot a front-side 41 en route to posting 87 (!!) on the day. At any point that Lowry seemed to get sideways for a half-second, two more competitors had ejected completely. It made for a mostly boring day of golf — despite the fantastic crowds and scenes that Portrush and the people of Northern Ireland delivered all day. The moment from my iPhone @theopen pic.twitter.com/xvgzX7Wi28— MattAdamsGC (@MattAdamsFoL) July 21, 2019 Still, that laugher of a final round might have been worth it for the finishing celebration. Lowry had the Northern Ireland crowds behind him all day, rallying and cheering for the Irishman from the southern part of the isle. Guinness-powered throngs were in full throat behind him all weekend, and the absurd scene at the 18th gave scenes of Tiger’s charge up the 18th at East Lake from last fall. Shane Lowry wins by six! #TheOpen pic.twitter.com/KMyRQwlAyC— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 21, 2019 There are plenty of storylines here you can latch onto. There is, of course, the obvious theme of an Irishman winning the first Open on the island since the R&A left the in the 1960s. I’m frankly not qualified to speak on what any of this does or doesn’t mean and oversimplify a highly complicated history into a sporting storyline, but it’s clear it meant something to Lowry and the crowd on this Sunday. After the round, he told of golf’s power to unite Ireland and the love that he felt from the Northern crowd. You’re going to get several pieces on all that, and what it means for the sport, and what it means for the two countries in the coming days — and that’s fine. It’s a storyline that’s hard to ignore. But, that shouldn’t downplay the implications from Lowry himself. It’s a big turn for his career overall, who’s going to vault his name into the conversation among the top-tier players in the world now. This is a guy now with a nice set of wins to his name — the Irish Open, a WGC, a premier Euro Tour event in the middle east, and now a Claret Jug. He places himself instantly into the conversation for the 2020 Ryder Cup for Europe. This won’t be the end of Shane Lowry. He’s a top-end talent now with the confidence and validation of a major championship — and should now be one of the guys we talk about coming into future majors. He’s also the kind of character that golf does not have enough of so a win that puts him in the spotlight is only good for the sport and those who watch it. But for now, it’s time for a pint. And another pint. And another pint. Pray for your bartender across the Irish isle this evening.
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The fastest mile ever run deserves a deep rewind
It’s July 7, 1999, and two runners are barreling toward the finish line of a mile race with a world record in reach. To fully appreciate this incredible moment in track and field history, you need to remember how Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenya’s Noah Ngeny got to this point. You need to remember the history of the mile run, which is an unusual and sort of atavistic event within the sport. You need to know how its record has progressed over the years, in fits and starts marked by head-to-head battles. And you need to know the history of these two men: How El Guerrouj has literally tangled with Algerian legend Noureddine Morceli, whose record he’s trying to beat, and how Ngeny helped El Guerrouj beat another one of Morceli’s records before this. You need to rewind! Check out this episode of Rewinder above, and if you’d like to see more episodes, take a look at our playlist.
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Live results and round-by-round coverage of Pacquiao vs. Thurman
Photo by J. Yim/Getty Images We have a live blog for Saturday’s pay-per-view, featuring Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman We’re here for our live coverage of the pay-per-view boxing card on Saturday, featuring a main event between Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman for the WBA (super) welterweight title. We’ll have round-by-round coverage of the three main card bouts, including scoring. The current round and bout will live at the top of this article, while previous rounds and bouts will be listed below. Pacquiao vs. Thurman results Manny Pacquiao vs. Keith ThurmanYordenis Ugás vs Omar Figueroa Jr.Sergey Lipinets vs. John Molina Jr.Luis Nery vs. Juan Carlos PayanoCaleb Plant def Mike Lee via TKO in Round 3Efe Ajagba def. Ali Eren Demirezen via unanimous decisionAbel Ramos def. immy Williams via TKO in ROund 4Genisis Libranza def. Carlos Maldonado via TKO in Round 4John Leo Dato def. Juan Antonio Lopez via KO in Round 5 In his last bout, Manny Pacquiao showed the boxing world that, while maybe not at his peak, he can still absolutely destroy opponents. His hand speed hasn’t dropped nearly as much as many assumed, but his next bout, against Keith Thurman, will be one of the greatest challenges of his illustrious career. There’s a difference between this and his previous few bouts. He impressed us when he knocked out Lucas Matthysse, and he handled Adrian Broner without issue. Many believed he won against Jeff Horn. But none of those guys were absolute top contenders with ridiculous knockout potential. This is possibly the most dangerous bout Pacquiao could have taken in 2019. Pacquiao, 40, has a 61-7-2 record as a professional, with wins in his last two bouts. He has 39 wins via knockout and 22 by decision. He’s an eight-division world champion who currently holds the WBA (Regular) welterweight strap. He’s trying to take Thurman’s WBA (Super) welterweight title, but if he beats him, he’ll be the first. Thurman, 30, is 29-0 with 22 victories via knockout. His résumé includes wins over Josessito López, Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter, Robert Guerrero and plenty of others. He’s beaten nobody of Pacquiao’s caliber, but then again, Pacquiao isn’t exactly in his prime. He’ll still be tough to beat, especially if Thurman continues to show signs of rust after an extended layoff between his previous two bouts. He won a majority decision over López his last time out, and was rocked once in the seventh round. If he gets sloppy against Pacquiao, he’ll find himself rocked, and then some. And that’s why this fight is such a good one — it’s hard to predict. It should be easy to see any number of victories for both fighters, and you could say that both are taking a risk by accepting the fight to begin with. The three-fight pay-per-view card will be introduced by a three-fight preliminary card on FOX, beginning at 7 p.m. ET. The highlight of that card is an IBF Super-middleweight title bout between Caleb Plant and Mike Lee. The pay-per-view main card begins at 9 p.m. and also features two other welterweight contests. The opener will pit Sergey Lipinets against John Molina Jr. Lipinets is 15-1 with 11 knockouts. His lone loss came to Mikey Garcia, though he wasn’t that far out of that bout. His most recent win was over Lamont Peterson, where he looked much better than he did against Garcia and Erick Bone. Molina is 30-8 with 24 knockouts, perfectly capable of beating somebody like Lipinets, but who Lipinets needs to beat to stay in contention. The co-feature will pit Yordenis Ugás against Omar Figueroa Jr. Ugás is 23-4 with 11 knockouts, while Figueroa remains unbeaten at 28-0-1 with 19 knockouts. Ugás is one of the more interesting journeyman boxers out there, as he was initially a hyped prospect who suffered a big loss to Johnny Garcia in 2012, but then went on to be an effective gatekeeper who actually kept the gates — ending the unbeaten streaks of Jamal James and Bryant Perrella. Now Figueroa is in his sightlines. Figueroa is another fighter who tends to exceed expectations, all the while being someone who has struggled with his conditioning and weight over the years. Either way, it’s an interesting stylistic matchup and is more interesting than even the main event on paper. Below is all you need to know to watch on Saturday. We’ll have live coverage. All times Eastern Viewing information for Pacquiao vs. Thurman Date: Sat., July 20 Time: 7 p.m. (undercard), 9 p.m. (PPV main card) Main Event Walkout: 11:40 p.m. (approx.) TV: FOX (undercard), Pay-per-view Online Streaming: FOX, FITE TV Pacquiao vs. Thurman fight card PPV Main Card Welterweight: Manny Pacquiao vs. Keith ThurmanWelterweight: Yordenis Ugás vs Omar Figueroa Jr.Welterweight: Sergey Lipinets vs. John Molina Jr.Bantamweight: Luis Nery vs. Juan Carlos Payano Undercard Caleb Plant vs. Mike LeeEfe Ajagba vs. Ali Eren DemirezenAbel Ramos vs. Jimmy WilliamsGenisis Libranza vs. Carlos MaldonadoJohn Leo Dato vs. Juan Antonio Lopez
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3 things to know for the final round at The Open
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images Some traditional links weather is coming for the final round at the Open, where an Irish favorite has emerged and the scariest player in the game lurks. The final men’s major of 2019 is set for Royal Portrush. We have a stout leaderboard with a mix of styles and countries represented. Conditions have been relatively benign at this Open, where a new 54-hole scoring record was set on Saturday night. That’s expected to change for the final round. Here are 3 quick things to have you ready for Sunday’s final round: 1. Shane Lowry is at home, in control, and the favorite Take a moment to breathe and appreciate what we saw on Saturday, because there have been few major rounds ever that have been as perfect, historic, memorable, and dominant as the Irishman’s third-round tour of the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush. If you started the day assuming Lowry might stumble, you probably weren’t alone. Lowry’s had major experience (more on that in a minute) and a nice year, but with a stacked leaderboard of stars around him, it’s completely reasonable to think the guy outside the top-30 in the world with just a single win in the last four seasons might not stick. After all, we’re just one year removed from the guy basically hating golf and cutting ties with his caddy at this very event. And then came Saturday. A flawless, perfect-game 63 that featured eight birdies and no bogeys on a course where there’s plenty of places to get caught up. The entire afternoon was golf at its best, flawless shot after flawless shot — the type of A-1 stuff The Open’s been a consistent venue for over the last few years, from Frankie Molinari, to Branden Grace, to Henrik Stenson. Lowry is putting on a SHOW right now at Royal Portrush. pic.twitter.com/GZVTp6iCN3— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) July 20, 2019 There’s no question Lowry will have a rowdy, massive fully-throated crowd behind him tomorrow. Home is this island. Hell, listen to this. This is more ‘home football game’ than golf tournament — and it absolutely rules. I can't even begin to describe how mad the fans are going out there. It's a good 20mins since Lowry finished and they've not stopped singing. Amazing atmosphere. pic.twitter.com/BkEkIOtleQ— Michael McEwan (@MMcEwanbunkered) July 20, 2019 That’s an adaptation of Hey Baby, at a golf tournament, for an essentially homestanding player that just shot 63. Sometimes golf is cool. But tomorrow’s still the test. How much has he mentally repaired himself from the four-shot U.S. Open lead at Oakmont a couple years back? Will the massive support and attention he’s going to get tomorrow comfort him — or shake him? Or will all the good vibes he’s gotten from this place over the years, including at the 2009 Irish Open where he won as an amateur, power him to a Claret Jug? The way Lowry goes tomorrow, the tournament goes. If he backs up, the door will be open for top names — Brooks, Rickie, Justin Rose, and more. If not, well, this thing will be over quick. Place a big order of Guinness just in case, Portrush. 2. Millennials are ruining The Open. The R&A has gone soft! One defining element of the oldest major championship in golf is the weather. It blows and rains sideways for at least a portion of almost every British Open, and they play through it as they have since the 19th century. Tee times were adjusted in 2014 at Royal Liverpool but that’s only because the storms forecasted were of the rare severe kind with lightning. What’s coming late on Sunday at Portrush is supposed to carry heavy winds and a bit of rain. The gusts are expected to hit 35 mph with sustained winds blowing about 20 mph. That’s classic links weather, the kind every advertisement and vignette for the Open touts. But the R&A apparently thinks it will be too severe, opting to move tee times up an hour as a precaution. A separate underlying concern here is that the balls may not stay put on the greens if it blows too hard. That gets us down a totally different rabbit hole of the ball flying too far forcing these tournaments to speed up greens as some sort of defense against absurdly low scores, which then in turn makes the greens unplayable if the wind blows too fast. We went into this in much greater detail when play at St. Andrews in 2015 was stopped for a full day because the balls would not stay still on greens that were faster than the seaside course had originally been designed for. An hour in advance is not too drastic a schedule change like the Masters moving everything up half a day to avoid Georgia thunderstorms this April. It will give the Open some extra cushion but the reason given still runs counter to everything we understand the Open to be. 3. Beware Brooksy No one may be able to come close to the blistering Shane Lowry, but the best bet for a chaser going low in the Sunday conditions is Brooks Koepka. The margin will be significant thanks to Lowry’s Saturday round, but Koepka is just a hot putter away from making it interesting. Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images Koepka’s incredible run of sub-70 rounds at the majors continued on Saturday in a round where he made absolutely nothing on the greens. Koepka guessed he hadn’t made more than one or two putts outside four feet. His tee-to-green game is as good as ever so this failure to have it translate to a good score has had the deadpan Koepka visibly pissed off on multiple occasions up on the greens. If you’re looking for a chasing option, it’s Koepka. That may sound obvious given his recent form at majors and the little fact that he’s the No. 1 player in the world. But the fundamental signs are all there at this specific tournament. He’s made only four bogeys in three rounds, so he’s as dialed in as ever. There’s just nothing going in with the putter and that’s the club that can be the most fickle from round to round. As for everything outside the putter, Koepka declared after his third round that “No one in the field has hit it better than me.” For a chaser, he’s also got the forecast he needed — one that can vaporize players ahead of him who may not be hitting it as sharp as he has this week. He’s viewing the tougher weather conditions as an advantage because of the way he’s hitting it and now coming from the chasing position. Beyond the natural talent and his No. 1 ranking, the signs are all there and set up for a Brooks chasedown to juice this Sunday at the Open up even more. Here’s your leaderboard at the 54-hole mark: :
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