ATLANTA — After Xander Schauffele hit his approach to eight feet on the 18th hole Thursday at the Tour Championship, Matt Kuchar, the other player in his pairing, sidled up and said, “You’re putting for a 59.”
The scoreboard showed Schauffele at 10 under on the par-70 East Lake course. But Kuchar was kidding, and he elicited a chuckle from Schauffele, who had started the tournament at four under as the Tour Championship’s highly anticipated staggered-scoring format made its debut.
Schauffele, 25, missed his birdie attempt. But his bogey-free six-under 64 was the low round of the day, vaulting him into a three-way tie for the lead in the tournament, which is the FedEx Cup playoff finale. Schauffele shared the top spot with the world No. 1, Brooks Koepka (67) and Justin Thomas, who started the day at 10 under and treaded water with a 70.
It seemed fitting that Schauffele, who has broken 70 in eight of his nine career rounds at East Lake, was the one to post the low score of the day, erasing Thomas’s two-stroke lead.
Two years ago, Schauffele and Thomas combined to provide the most compelling argument in favor of the tweaks to the playoff format that were instituted this year.
With a birdie at the last hole, Schauffele, then a rookie, won by a single stroke over Thomas, who had already sealed the FedEx Cup championship with players still on the course on Sunday.
And even though he won the sweepstake, Thomas’s face registered disappointment at missing out on the door prize, which was not a good look for selling the excitement of the FedEx Cup finale.
Did Schauffele appreciate being a thorn in Thomas’s side once more?
“It’s just Thursday,” Schauffele, a two-time winner this season, said. “I’d love to be a thorn in someone’s side on Sunday.”
Rory McIlroy, who started five strokes behind Thomas, voiced his skepticism of the staggered format in a news conference on the eve of the tournament. McIlroy’s worry, he said, was that Thomas would open with a low round and drain all the drama from the tournament.
“You’ve just got to go out there and try to play some good golf and not look around you and not look at what other guys are doing,” McIlroy said Wednesday, “and trust that by the end of the week things will hopefully even out.”
McIlroy, the 2016 FedEx Cup champion, followed his own advice, posting a 66 that left him alone in fourth, one stroke off the pace.
Like McIlroy, who birdied three of the final six holes, Koepka finished strong. He played the final four holes in three under. Koepka wore all black on Thursday, but pictures of him without a wardrobe seemed to be what most people wanted to discuss on Thursday.
Koepka had posed naked for ESPN Magazine’s September Body issue, and some images were made public this week. Some of the shots were taken at Floridian National Golf Club, his coach’s home base, and Koepka said he won’t soon forget dropping his robe to hit from a tee box near where the coach, Claude Harmon III, was conducting a lesson.
“I’m up on the tee box,” Koepka said, “and they had all their camera stuff set up in front of me face-on, but around the corner I see Claude teaching this, maybe 12-year-old kid, and his mom is just over there. I’m like ‘This is awkward,’ and Claude’s peeking around the corner laughing.”
Koepka added, “I’m pretty sure everybody that was at the golf course saw me that day, but whatever.”
Did he feel self-conscious?
“I never really thought about it,” Koepka said, adding: “I enjoyed it. I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.”
Koepka adhered to a strict diet in the weeks leading to the photo shoot and shrank to 187 pounds, whittling 20 pounds from his 6-foot frame. Compared with that, it was easy to shed the three-stroke deficit that he had at the beginning of the day.
“It’s nice to be tied for the lead after the first day,” Koepka, the front-runner for Player of the Year honors, said, adding, “Three more days to grind it out and finish the year strong.”
Karen Crouse is a sports reporter who joined the Times in 2005. She started her newspaper career at the Savannah News-Press as the first woman in the sports department. Her first book, “Norwich,” was published in January, 2018.@bykaren
Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch are now a tag team for life.
Lynch, whose real name is Rebecca Quin, announced the WWE superstars’ engagement on social media Thursday night. The picture she posted was of her standing next to a shirtless Rollins on a rocky beach with her hand on his chest to show off the ring.
“Happiest day of my life. For the rest of my life,” she wrote.
The couple’s relationship was public in April when they attended a concert together. They had a program together on WWE television that culminated in a mixed-tag-team match. They defeated Lacey Evans and Baron Corbin at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view in July to retain their respective titles.
Lynch, the Raw women’s champion, is one of the industry’s hottest characters and Rollins, whose real name is Colby Lopez, is the Universal champion and won the Raw tag team belts with Braun Strowman this Monday on Raw, making him one of WWE’s most prominent stars. Lynch appeared headed for a match at Clash of Champions with a returning Sasha Banks.
LOS ANGELES (AFP) – United States sprint star Christian Coleman could face suspension after failing to make himself available for three drugs tests, multiple reports said on Thursday (Aug 22).
Coleman, 23, the fastest man in the world over 100m this year and the favourite for next month’s World Championships in Qatar, has missed three separate tests in the past 12 months.
Britain’s Daily Mail and The Times newspaper reported that Coleman, a late withdrawal from last Sunday’s Diamond League meeting in Birmingham, is challenging one of the alleged “whereabouts” failures.
Under internationally recognised anti-doping rules, athletes are required to make their exact whereabouts known to drug-testers up to 90 days in advance in order to facilitate out-of-competition testing.
Athletes who fail to make themselves available for three drug tests are treated the same as athletes who fail a drug test and face an automatic suspension.
Any suspension of Coleman would represent another bodyblow against athletics just as the sport attempts to move on from the Russian doping scandal.
Coleman, the world record holder over 60m and world indoor 60m champion, has emerged as the most likely successor to Usain Bolt following the Jamaican sprint king’s retirement in 2017.
Coleman was a silver medallist at the 2017 World Championships in London behind mentor Justin Gatlin, and has a personal best of 9.79sec. He has the quickest 100m time of 2019 with a world leading 9.81sec set in Stanford, California in June.
The circumstances of Coleman’s alleged missed tests were not revealed.
Coleman’s agent, Emanuel Hudson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency, meanwhile, would not confirm a case involving Coleman.
“In general, for any potential violation a full investigation will be conducted and the case must be resolved before information is made public by USADA,” a spokesman told AFP.
OLYMPIC BAN THREAT
Depending on the dates of Coleman’s missed tests, if confirmed, he could miss the world championships and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Other athletes who have been suspended following three missed drugs tests include 2016 Olympics 100m hurdles champion Brianna Rollins-McNeal.
Rollins-McNeal was banned for a year by USADA after missing three tests in 2016 – two of them after she forgot to update her whereabouts details while attending a fete in in her honour held in her hometown and another when travelling to the White House to meet President Barack Obama for a reception.
However some athletes have successfully staved off a possible suspension after three missed tests. In 2016, British cyclist Lizzie Deignan, then Lizzie Armitstead, escaped suspension after taking her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Deignan argued that one of her three missed tests should be declared invalid because a doping control officer had not followed procedures correctly and tried hard enough to locate her.
Coleman’s failure to notify testers of his whereabouts was greeted with scepticism by US distance runner Kara Goucher on Thursday.
“Missing 3 tests in a 12 month period is bad,” Goucher wrote on Twitter.
“You can literally text an update of your location at any time. Will be interesting to see if he is able to dispute one of the missed tests.”
A decorated member of Canada’s national para hockey team is calling it a career after 59 international games and a shelf full of gold and silver hardware.
Bryan Sholomicki, originally from Winnipeg, wrapped up a stellar run on Wednesday, officially announcing his retirement via Hockey Canada.
Sholomicki told 680 CJOB’s Sports Show that hitting the ice and trying sledge hockey a few years after a serious motorcycle accident was a mix of therapy and exercise.
“I loved hockey growing up. I was always playing,” he said.
“It was one of those things that I knew was a great recovery for me after the accident. Once I was able to get back on the ice, I was right in there, and felt right back at home there.”
Sholomicki was a quick study on the sled, and began getting noticed by national scouts soon after he picked up the sport in 2012.
“You get to know people in the neighbourhood you’re playing in, so you have a few national players here and there showing you the ropes,” he said.
“I was very fortunate that I had a couple guys spotting me. I think I made the national development team a year and a half after I first started playing. I had one camp with them, then I went to the tryouts and I was drafted into the national team.”
That was the beginning of an international career that saw Sholomicki collect a gold medal and four silvers in World Championship competition, a bronze at the World Sledge Hockey Challenge, and, most memorably, a silver medal at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
“It’s hard to describe it in words… you’re meeting all types of people from all over the world, and you’re seeing how they train and what they do,” he said.
“You meet a lot of friends, even if they’re rivals on the ice.
“My first game at the Paralympics, I scored a hat trick against Sweden, so that was a nice high for sure.”
Sholomicki said he’s seeing international interest and awareness in the sport growing, and more countries giving financial backing to national para-sports programs.
At this point, though, the 38-year-old is content with watching from the sidelines.
“I’m going to focus on my family and work. I’m a contractor as well, so now I can focus on business, just taking some time to myself, and family,” he said.
“They backed me so much through this experience. To be away 100-plus days of a year, it’s pretty hard on the family. I appreciate them allowing me to live my dream like that.
You’ll be shocked to hear this, but a member of the Houston Rockets organization thinks people don’t properly appreciate James Harden.
In the past, there was the Rockets’ official Twitter pulling a Kanye West and whipping out stats after Harden lost last season’s MVP award to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Then there was Rockets general manager Daryl Morey casually saying Harden is a better scorer than Michael Jordan.
Now, we’ve got the man himself quibbling with his MVP loss.
James Harden has a theory about why he lost MVP
During an interview on Houston-area radio station 97.9 The Box, the topic of Harden’s historic season last year came up. After some prodding from the host, Harden began discussing the MVP race and his public perception.
Harden’s biggest point of grief: a media narrative that formed around him.
The discussion begins around the 6:08 mark in the video below.
The full transcript of the exchange:
Host: I know you won’t say it, but I’m going to say it. I was pissed off when the MVP went down. I swear to god, I turned my TV off and I said ‘It’s politics, man.’ I know you probably don’t get involved, man I was hot.
Harden: Nah, but I think the same way you think.
Host: This man just had a historic year.
Harden: One for the books. Even when I’m gone, they’re going to talk about it.
Host: Did you get hot? Were you mad?
Harden: It’s out of my control. I think once the media, they create a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year. I think they just take the narrative and run with it the entire year. I don’t want to get into any details, but all I can do is control what I can do. I went out there and did what I was supposed to do at a high level, you know what I’m saying? A few seasons where anybody’s ever done that before.
Harden doesn’t specify what exact narrative cost him the MVP, but the Rockets superstar isn’t lacking for possibilities. They could include criticisms of Harden as a ref-dependent volume scorer, Harden being considered the NBA equivalent of a system quarterback and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks quickly establishing themselves as the East’s biggest upstart.
22PHOTOSJames Harden through his careerSee GalleryJames Harden through his careerApr 2, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) goes to the basket and scores against Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) and center Jonas Valanciunas (17) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY SportsNEW YORK – JUNE 25: James Harden poses for a portrait prior to the 2009 NBA Draft on June 25, 2009 at the WaMu Theatre in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2009 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden reacts after committing a foul against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game 3 of their NBA Western Conference playoff series in Oklahoma City, April 22, 2010. REUTERS/Bill Waugh (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook (L) and James Harden watch the action against the Dallas Mavericks during Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference Final basketball playoffs in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, May 21, 2011. REUTERS/Bill Waugh (UNITED STATES- Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant (L) and James Harden celebrate against the Dallas Mavericks during the second half of Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference Final basketball playoff in Dallas, Texas May 19, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)Oklahoma City Thunder’s James Harden (13) dunks the ball guarded by Los Angeles Lakers’ Jordan Hill (27) as the Oklahoma City Thunder play the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference semi-final playoffs series in Oklahoma City, May 14, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Smith/Pool (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (R), guard James Harden and injured player Eric Maynor (L) celebrate after their team defeated the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference basketball finals in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, June 6, 2012.REUTERS/Steve Sisney (UNITED STATES- Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson tries to block a shot by Houston Rockets guard James Harden (L) during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Toronto December 16, 2012.REUTERS/Mike Cassese(CANADA – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)Houston Rockets James Harden (L) drives to the basket past Los Angeles Lakers Darius Morris during their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles April 17, 2013.REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)Houston Rockets guard James Harden takes a defensive position against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second half of their Game 2 NBA Playoffs basketball game in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Bill Waugh (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)Feb 14, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Western Conference guard James Harden during the 2014 NBA All Star game Player Press Conferences at New Orleans Hyatt. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY SportsJames Harden of the U.S. goes for a basket over Serbia’s Nemanja Bjelica during their Basketball World Cup final game in Madrid September 14, 2014.REUTERS/Sergio Perez (SPAIN – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)Nov 2, 2015; Houston, TX, USA;Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) celebrates against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the third quarter at Toyota Center. Rocket won 110 to 105. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY SportsNov 7, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles the ball as Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) defends in the first quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsJan 10, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) is embraced from behind by Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley (2) following Houston’s 121-114 victory against the Charlotte Hornets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY SportsJan 17, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts during the second half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 109-103. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsJan 20, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) controls the ball during the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsFeb 18, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) and Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts in the three-point contest during NBA All-Star Saturday Night at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsFeb 18, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Western Conference guard James Harden of the Houston Rockets (13) laughs with Western Conference guard Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors (30) during the NBA All-Star Practice at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY SportsMar 20, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles against the Denver Nuggets in the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY SportsHOUSTON, TX – MAY 11: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets brings the ball up court during the game against the San Antonio Spurs during Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 11, 2017 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)HOUSTON, TX – MAY 11: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets talks with the press after the game against the San Antonio Spurs during Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 11, 2017 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)Up Next
Of course, this argument would hold a lot more water had Harden not just won MVP the previous year. Not to mention that he received endless coverage during the season for his absurd 30-point streak. This might be crazy to hear for some members of the Rockets organization, but maybe, just maybe, Antetokounmpo — the hyper-efficient, paint-dominating Defensive Player of the Year finalist — was just really good?
After complaining about the media narrative undermining him, Harden and the host then discussed … how much the media covered his historic scoring streak.
Host: Every night on ESPN, we’re saying he just did this record, he did this record, 30 in a row …
Harden: People were tuned into how many points that I was going to score in the next game. It was a theme. I can’t control that, the only thing I can control is coming back next year, be better than I was, winning the ‘ship.
There’s no doubting Harden’s place in history as a great scorer. His 36.1 points per game last year was the highest total of any player in NBA history not named Michael Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain. He, alongside Stephen Curry, has helped shape the modern game into what it is today.
However, that reputation, or any other narrative, didn’t unfairly give the MVP to Antetokounmpo, which is what anyone insinuates when doubting last year’s awards race.