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Fowler returns to Abu Dhabi seeking upturn in form

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Rickie Fowler flew home from the 2016 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with more than just the Falcon Trophy. The win over a stellar field last January boosted Fowler's belief that a first major title was within sight. Lifting him to a career-high No. 4 in the rankings, it also sparked talk about whether he should be included in the conversation with golf's so-called 'Big Three,' which comprised Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy at the time. 'It would have been nice to kind of continue that form,' Fowler said Tuesday on his return to Abu Dhabi Golf Club. Instead, that proved to be the only victory of 2016 for Fowler, the United States' triumph in the Ryder Cup notwithstanding. His best finish at a major was a tie for 33rd at the U.S. PGA Championship and he ended the year ranked outside the top 10. U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama and — most recently — Justin Thomas are among those who have accelerated past Fowler, who said his dip in status is pushing him to play better in 2017. 'Golf's so deep right now,' Fowler said, 'and it will be nice if we can get Tiger back for a full season.' Fowler's chances of a successful defense of his Abu Dhabi title improved Monday when McIlroy — at No. 2, the highest-ranked player in the field — withdrew because of a rib injury. Still, the field remains strong, as always in this event which starts Thursday. The third-ranked Johnson is making his debut, while two more current major champions — Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett — are there, too. 'He's obviously one of the best players in the world,' Fowler said about McIlroy. 'It was fun to have him in contention with me last year here. 'Does that make me look at the tournament any differently? No. You know, it's one less top player in the world I'm going to have to beat, but the field here is one of the best fields on the European Tour.' Refreshed after spending time over Christmas and the new year with family and friends, Fowler cannot wait to get back on the course. Particularly after seeing Thomas — one of his best friends — winning back-to-back events in Hawaii. 'It's inspiring and motivating,' said Fowler, currently the world No. 14. Fowler's main focus is tailoring his schedule to give him the best chance at winning a major. He said that will mean playing events in the weeks leading up to the majors, rather than using that time to rest or work on the range. The Masters is already in his sights. He was renowned as a slow starter to seasons until last year, when he won in Abu Dhabi and then lost the Phoenix Open in a playoff to nearly reduce him to tears. That didn't translate to a good performance at Augusta National in April, though, as he opened with an 80 and failed to make the weekend. 'Obviously looking to peak,' Fowler said, 'getting the first few months going, heading the right direction and peak that first week of April.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Walker enjoys the views and his game, takes lead at Kapalua

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer br /> KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — With a chance to take the lead at Kapalua, Jimmy Walker missed in the one spot he was trying to avoid. The way he was hitting his wedges Thursday, it really didn't matter. Walker hit a tough pitch to a tight pin on the elevated green to 3 feet for birdie on the par-5 15th, and he nearly holed a lob wedge from 78 yards on the final hole for an 8-under 65 that gave him a two-shot lead in the SBS Tournament of Champions. He's still three days away from atoning for a playoff loss to Patrick Reed two years ago at Kapalua, though it was an ideal start for the PGA champion in ideal conditions on the west end of Maui, except for a short burst of pineapple showers. Jim Herman got in one last round with his former employer — President-elect Donald Trump — a few days before Christmas, then came out to the Plantation course where he once got in a round of golf in tennis shoes and rental clubs while on his honeymoon. Herman, a former assistant at Trump National, was 6 under through 13 holes when his round stalled. Even with four wedges in hand over the final five holes, he had to settle for pars and a 67. Justin Thomas and Ryan Moore also were at 67. In his first competition in three months, Jason Day had a pair of three-putts but still managed a 70. Defending champion Jordan Spieth wasn't so fortunate. He never got his putter going, turned a birdie into bogey on the 15th and had to birdie the final hole for a 72. Walker had the Tournament of Champions in hand two years ago until Reed holed out from a fairway to start an unlikely rally and won in a playoff. Walker won the following week on Oahu at the Sony Open for the second straight time. 'I love the scenery. I'm a very visual person, so I enjoy looking out and watching the whales when I'm walking around. Just a pretty place,' Walker said. 'Everybody's in a good mood. I love stepping off the plane and the air is just awesome. Something does it for me here.' Walker was curious about a short club in his bad when he came to Kapalua, though it wasn't any of his wedges or his putter. He was so determined to be more accurate off the tee that Walker cut 2 inches off his driver while at home at Texas during the offseason. He liked the way it felt and had Titleist make him one without the duct tape. Hitting fairways is not a big issue on the expansive Plantation Course, though it showed his willingness to go old school to fix a longtime problem. This driver is 42 inches, just an inch shorter that a typical driver a generation ago. 'I didn't bring anything else, so this is the club I've got with me,' he said. 'This is a tough golf course for that because it's such a big place and you want to just kill it, and I had to keep reminding myself today why I put it in and why did it to hit the fairway, hit the middle of the fairway.' He was in the middle of the fairway on the 15th with caddie Andy Sanders reminding him to hit it hard, that through the green was better that leaving it at the bottom of a deep swale to the right. But with the ball below his feet, and the wind coming out of the left, he wound up bailing out. 'That was probably my favorite wedge shot,' Walker said. Daniel Berger made bogey on the par-5 18th and was at 68, along with Jason Dufner. The group at 69 included Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama, who is going after his fourth consecutive victory worldwide. Herman qualified by winning the Shell Houston Open and brought back strong memories. He abandoned the mini-tours, took a job at Trump's course in Bedminster, New Jersey and got married. The honeymoon was a cruise around the Hawaiian Islands, and he had seen enough of Kapalua that when the ship stopped on Maui, Herman headed for the Plantation course. 'I see the pictures on our computer all the time,' he said. Herman never imagined returning as a PGA Tour winner, but what a journey. He became Trump's regular partner, Trump encouraged him and helped back one last bid to play professionally, he finally got to the big leagues and made it back to Kapalua. The round with Trump was just before Christmas. They were partners. They won. Not much changed. 'He's the same guy to me,' Herman said. 'But now I get to call him Mr. President.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

5 questions for a new year, starting with Tiger Woods

br /> DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — The new year in golf is consumed by an old topic, this time with a twist. Instead of wondering when (or if) Tiger Woods will play, the question now is how will he play? And here's another question: Who ever imagined a time when the guys he beat for so many years would be rooting for him to play better? 'I think we've proved that golf does not need Tiger to be successful,' Brandt Snedeker said last month in the Bahamas. 'That being said, golf is better when Tiger is around. I don't think we need Tiger necessarily any more. We all want Tiger. I think golf is a better product, it's better TV and I want to see Tiger play again. It's fun. You see the crowds he brings and he still has an innate ability to do something only a couple of guys can do.' No one commands attention like Woods. The biggest problem for golf might be battling the perception that it matters only when Woods is playing. Compared with last year, that's a nice problem to have. There remains a battle for supremacy, minus any talk about a 'Big Three.' Europe has to face a Midwestern crowd, this time in the Solheim Cup. Two of the majors are going to courses that have never held one — Erin Hills for the U.S. Open, Quail Hollow for the PGA Championship. The first tee shot of the year is Thursday. Answers to a few topics will take months to sort out. TIGER WOODS By most accounts, Woods made a successful return in the Bahamas, except for the one that matters. He finished in 15th place out of 17 players and 14 shots out of the lead. But it was a start, and a healthy one. The best bet is that Woods will return at Torrey Pines at the end of the month, and with each event, the measure will shift form his health to his score. Jack Nicklaus is mostly curious about his motivation, and he speaks from experience. Nicklaus won his 16th and 17th majors at age 40, and he refers to his final major in the 1986 Masters as 'an accident in many ways.' 'It's really difficult when you've had as much success as I had over a long period of time to charge your batteries, day after day, and go back out and say, 'Man, I want to do this again.' That's what he's going to have to do,' Nicklaus said. 'Whether he can do that or not, I don't know. That's going to be the question.' THE BATTLE FOR NO. 1 Jordan Spieth started last year at No. 1, won three times and fell to No. 5. Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy were separated by 0.76 points of their world ranking average going into last year, so some movement was inevitable. Day has been at No. 1 since the end of the March, and while there is slightly more separation at the top, there are a half-dozen players or more who could end 2017 at No. 1. McIlroy came on strong at the end of the year. Dustin Johnson won the U.S. Open and was the PGA Tour player of the year. Henrik Stenson won his first major and became a threat every time he teed it up. Hideki Matsuyama ended last year by winning four of his last five tournaments. A different player has finished No. 1 for the eighth consecutive year. Odds are this will be the ninth. MAJOR MYSTERIES No one knows what to expect at the U.S. Open for the second time in three years. The USGA took golf's second-oldest championship to Chambers Bay in the Pacific Northwest in 2015, and now heads to Erin Hills in the middle of Wisconsin. The last time the U.S. Open went to two courses in a three-year span that had never held a professional major was Hazeltine (1970) and Pebble Beach (1972). Then again, Pebble had been around since 1919 and hosted the U.S. Amateur four times. Erin Hills opened in 2006. The PGA Championship is going to Quail Hollow, the North Carolina club's first time holding a major, though it has held the Wells Fargo Championship since 2003. CUPS RUNNETH OVER The Americans will be going for a third straight victory in the Solheim Cup when it goes to Iowa this summer. Nothing brings out passion in team golf quite like the United States vs. Europe. The Presidents Cup also holds some intrigue. The International team has lost six straight times and has won only once since the Presidents Cup began in 1994. More pressure would seem to be on U.S. captain Steve Stricker, not only because the Americans haven't lost since 1998, but because he is the likely Ryder Cup captain for 2020 at Whistling Straits in his native Wisconsin. Speaking of Ryder Cup captains, expect the next American skipper to be named next week. But those matches are two years away. WHAT WILL PHIL DO NEXT? Phil Mickelson was runner-up at a major for the third straight year since his last victory, which was the 2013 British Open at Muirfield for his fifth major. The focus, as always, will be whether Lefty can complete the career Grand Slam at the U.S. Open. At age 46, and having gone through two hernia operations in the offseason, it would seem a victory anywhere would suffice. Mickelson, however, shouldn't be ruled out after last year. He made 10 birdies in a Ryder Cup singles match against Sergio Garcia. He shot 267 at the British Open, matching the fourth-lowest score in major championship history. Just his luck, he got only a half-point against Garcia, and he was runner-up at the Open. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2017

Put the pedal to the metal

With their playoff hopes fading fast, Mahindra is just out to take everything it can out of the last three games in its Philippine Cup schedule. Losing to TNT Wednesday, the Floodbuster seem like a longshot of crashing the quarterfinals of the very first PBA conference this season. However, that doesn't mean Mahindra has taken everything for a loss so far in its All-Filipino campaign. “We’re still going game to game right now. We really have a nothing-to-lose-everything-to gain kind of attitude. It’s either we’re going to tank mode or we lift ourselves up from failure,' top deputy Chris Gavina said. 'I’m a big fan of believing that your failures lead to your success, so we’ll build off of this,' he added. After going on a mini two-game winning streak that put life to their otherwise woeful season, the Floodbuster looked primed for an upset after taking over the KaTropa at halftime, erasing an early 10-point deficit to post a six-point lead. Mahindra just wasn't able to sustain in the second half, leading to yet another disappointing defeat, it's sixth in eight games. 'It was a tough loss. We had the momentum for sure,' forward Alex Mallari said who ended up with a game-high 19 points for the Floodbuster. 'We had the momentum going into the second half and I don't know, we took off on the gas pedal. We Weren't aggressive,' he added. Basically looking for a miracle to make the playoffs at this point, Mahindra need not look far to find recipe for success. 'At this stage for us, it's all about team basketball,' Mallari said. 'Just go back to our last two games where we succeeded. Just be aggressive. If you're open, shoot it. Get some threes up. Keep assists coming. We need a lot of it. And defense as a group -- me, including everybody. So we'll get back on the drawing board and try to get another win,' he added.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8 .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 18th, 2017

Mavericks edge Bulls, win third straight

em>By Jay Cohen, Associated Press /em> CHICAGO (AP) -- Wesley Matthews made a go-ahead 3-pointer from the wing with 12 seconds left, and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Chicago Bulls 99-98 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) for their first three-game winning streak of the season. Six players scored in double figures for the Mavericks, including all five starters. Harrison Barnes had 20 points, Seth Curry added 18 and Dirk Nowitzki finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Dallas trailed 98-96 after Jimmy Butler made a long jumper over Matthews with 23 seconds left, but Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle decided against a timeout and Deron Williams drove into the lane before kicking out to Matthews for the triple. Chicago had one last chance, but Dwyane Wade missed a potential game-winning jumper from the corner on his 35th birthday as time expired. Butler finished with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds for the Bulls, who had won two in a row. Robin Lopez scored 21, and Wade had 17 on 8-for-21 shooting. Wade's fadeaway jumper gave the Bulls a 94-90 lead with about 3.5 minutes left, but they were unable to close out Dallas. Chicago has dropped four in a row against the Mavericks, including a 107-82 loss in their first meeting of the season. Chicago played without forward Taj Gibson, sidelined by left ankle soreness. Paul Zipser, a second-round pick in last year's draft, started in Gibson's spot and finished with five points and three rebounds in his 13th game of the season. Gibson, averaging 12 points and 7.3 rebounds, could return Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) at Atlanta. He had played in every game this season. Dallas put together a 15-4 run spanning halftime to open a 64-51 lead on Barnes' turnaround jumper with 8:38 left in the third. But Chicago kept chipping away at the deficit, and Lopez's three-point play off a pass from Butler trimmed the Mavericks' lead to 76-74 heading into the fourth. Williams had 11 points, nine assists and six rebounds for Dallas, and reserve J.J. Barea scored 12 points. Matthews went 3-for-5 from three-point range and finished with 11 points. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Mavericks: /strong> /em>C Andrew Bogut missed his third straight game with a right hamstring strain. em> strong>Bulls: /strong> /em>Butler received his Olympic championship ring during a pregame ceremony. He helped the U.S. win gold in Rio de Janeiro last summer. F Doug McDermott, who scored a career-high 31 points in Chicago's 108-104 victory at Memphis on Sunday night (Monday, PHL time), finished with seven points on 3-for-10 shooting. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Mavericks: /strong> /em>Visit Miami on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). The Mavericks have lost nine of their last 10 regular-season games against the Heat. em> strong>Bulls: /strong> /em>Visit Atlanta on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). The Bulls have dropped five in a row against the Hawks, including a 115-107 defeat at Atlanta on Nov. 9 (Nov. 10, PHL time). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Chile amateur goes from no big victories to Masters

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   HONOLULU (AP) — Toto Gana hit what he described as the 'best shot I've hit in my whole life,' a wedge to 3 feet for a birdie to win the Latin America Amateur Championship and earn a trip to the Masters in April. His best shot produced his biggest trophy. Asked what his greatest achievement in golf was before his victory in Panama, the 19-year-old from Chile said: 'I didn't have any achievements, to be honest. I had won a couple of tournaments at home when I was really, really young.' The Latin America Amateur completed its third year, a stroke-play tournament created by Augusta National, the USGA and the Royal & Ancient to spur growth in that part of the world. It follows the successful launch of the Asia Pacific Amateur. The Asia Pacific Amateur is producing a higher pedigree of champions — Hideki Matsuyama won twice, and the winner last year was Curtis Luck, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion. The last two Latin America winners were surprises — Gana and 16-year-old Paul Chaplet of Costa Rica last year. The other winner was Matias Dominguez of Chile, who was a junior at Texas Tech. Gana said the only hard part about his victory was beating Joaquin Niemann of Chile, one of his best friends who won the Junior World in 2015 at Torrey Pines. 'I really never thought I could win this tournament because all the other players have won many other tournaments, very big tournaments,' Gana said in a conference call after his victory Sunday. 'What I did was keep a cool head. When I saw that I had a chance to win, I believed in myself that I could do. And I gave it my all.' Chile will have a player represented at Augusta National for the second time in three years. The only other Chilean player at the Masters was Enrique Orellana, who missed the cut in 1964. Gana has flair, and he showed how much passion he has for golf when explaining how he got started. 'When I was a little boy, 8 years old, my stepfather taught me to play golf on the practice range,' he said. 'When I shot a really nice shot, I never quit.' Gana will be enrolling at Lynn University in Florida. ___ BLOOMING START: Justin Rose played the Sony Open as part of the new 'strength of field' regulation on the PGA Tour that requires players who played fewer than 25 events last year to add a tournament they had not played in four years. Rose was so excited about this year that he might have started earlier if he would have been eligible. He failed to win a PGA Tour event for the first time since 2009. But in a year slowed by injury, Rose geared himself for golf's return to the Olympics and won the gold medal in Rio. That was worth an exemption into the four majors (Rose already is eligible for them), but the PGA Tour did not offer a spot in SBS Tournament of Champions. 'I didn't inquire,' Rose said about Kapalua. 'But in my mind, I was surprised that it didn't count in a way, just because, why wouldn't it? It's a one-off thing.' He thought maybe the tour would only give a spot to Kapalua if the gold medalist was already a PGA Tour member, much like it treated the HSBC Champions early on in its World Golf Championships history. Rose chuckled, however, when he realized his history in Hawaii. 'It's funny enough, I don't have the right to say I should have been at Kapalua,' he said. 'Because I've won six years in a row and I've only been once.' A birdie on the final hole at the Sony Open gave him second place alone, which was worth $648,000. ___ PLAYING TO HIS STRENGTH: Jason Dufner is the defending champion at the CareerBuilder Challenger, where he won last year for the first time since the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill. What changed? Very little. He attributed the drought to a neck and shoulder injury that he suffered at the 2014 Masters. Dufner tried to play through it all year until he was forced to pull out of his title defense in the PGA Championship at Valhalla, which kept him off the Ryder Cup team. Playing with the injury led to bad habits with his swing, which led to bad shots, too many memories of bad shots and eventually shattered confidence. 'People don't realize, once you start playing, you have to redo everything,' Dufner said. 'You see it with a lot of guys coming back. It takes them 6, 8, 12 months. I spent 2015 trying to get back to where I was.' Where he wants to be is one of the top ball-strikers in the game. As for putting? He manages. Dufner has finished no higher than No. 143 in the key putting statistic over the last four years, and while he has to pay attention to his setup, it's not as though he's going to abandon what got him here (his swing) to pour everything into becoming Jordan Spieth. 'I've been putting bad for 17 years,' he said. 'It's tough to change. I can hit it good enough to make up for it. I'll wait for my weeks where I putt good and try to win.' ___ THE RACE TO MEXICO: Mackenzie Hughes won the RSM Classic, and his first thought was going to the Masters. Now that it's beginning to sink, the Canadian rookie has reason to consider other tournaments that were not on his schedule at the start of the season. First up is the World Golf Championship in Mexico. The top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings through the Honda Classic are eligible for the Mexico Championship, and there are only six tournaments between now and then. That's also true for Pat Perez, who tied for third at Kapalua and is No. 3 in the FedEx Cup. Rod Pampling is at No. 6. The other World Golf Championships event in March is based off the world ranking, so those three players have much more to do for them to get into the top 64. One player who might have secured his spot was Kevin Kisner, who shot 60 in the third round of the Sony Open and wound up in a tie for fourth. That took Kisner from No. 51 to No. 41, making it difficult to fall that far in two months. ___ DIVOTS: Justin Thomas moving to No. 8 in the world means that six of the top 10 players are under 30. ... The Golf Writers Association of America has voted former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem for the William D. Richardson Award for outstanding contributions to golf. For the GWAA's award for press cooperation, it was a tie between Ben Crenshaw and Stewart Cink. They will be honored at the GWAA annual awards dinner on April 5 in Augusta. ... The three courses used for the CareerBuilder Challenge — PGA West Stadium Course, PGA West Nicklaus and La Quinta — ranked among the top 10 in easiest courses on the PGA Tour last year. ... The fourth Latin America Amateur Championship will be played at Prince of Wales Country Club next year in Santiago, Chile. ... The European Tour now has eight events in its Rolex Series with China-based HNA Group signing a five-year deal to be title sponsor of the French Open. That will raise the purse to $7 million in line with other Rolex Series events. ___ STAT OF THE WEEK: Justin Thomas hit 34 drives that went at least 330 yards during his two weeks in Hawaii — 20 on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, 14 at Waialae Country Club. ___ FINAL WORD: 'If there's no defense, then you ought to be able to make birdies. If there's wind, you ought to be struggling.' — Kevin Kisner. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 17th, 2017

Libero Jen Reyes set to join former NU teammates at Foton

While University of Sto. Tomas had its mini reunion with Petron, former and current National University players are setting their own with the Foton Tornadoes. Seasoned libero Jen Reyes bolted out of the Tri-Activ Spikers to join her former Lady Bulldogs teammates Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Jaja Santiago and Ivy Perez at Foton. The two-time Philippine Superliga Grand Prix champion Tornadoes lost most of their core players including their pair of defensive specialists Bia General and Kara Acevedo after their contracts expired. The Santiago sisters, Perez, EJ Laure and Maika Ortiz are the only holdovers of the team. Jaja Santiago and Laure of UST are unavailable for the Invitational Conference that will open next month because of their commitments with their respective schools.    And the acquisition of Reyes is the start of the team’s rebuilding process. The multi-awarded libero played for Petron for three seasons after transferring from Cignal, helping the Tri-Activ Spikers capture the 2014 Grand Prix and 2015 All-Filipino Conference – a historic 13-0 tournament sweep – crowns.  'Pinakamahirap na desisyon ay magpaalam sa Petron family ko. I spent the last three years of my career sa Petron. We won together, we lost together, para na kaming pamilya,” said Reyes. “But now it’s time for me to face a new challenge. Looking forward ako sa bagong chapter ng buhay ko ngayon.” Reyes has an impressive resume making her a prized defensive gem for any team. The libero has played in numerous international tournaments including consecutive appearances in the AVC Asian Women's Club Championship in 2015 with Petron and in 2016 as a local import for Foton. She also played in the 2016 FIVB Women's Club World Championship.  Aside from General and Acevedo, the Tornadoes also lost Cherry Rondina, setter Rhea Dimaculangan, spikers Patty Orendain and Carol Cerveza and middle blocker Angeli Araneta. Rondina and Dimaculangan transferred to Foton’s Grand Prix archrival Petron.         --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 16th, 2017

Thomas caps off record week with trophy at Sony Open

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   HONOLULU (AP) — Challenged only by the record book, Justin Thomas won the Sony Open on Sunday with the lowest 72-hole score in PGA Tour history. Thomas capped off his wonderful week at Waialae that began with a 59 with his second straight victory. He two-putted birdie from 60 feet on the par-5 18th and closed with a 5-under 65 to set the record at 253. Tommy Armour III shot 254 at the 2003 Texas Open. 'It's been an unbelievable week. Unforgettable,' Thomas said before going to sign his historic card. Make that two weeks. The 23-year-old from Kentucky won the SBS Tournament of Champions at Kapalua last week by three shots, then destroyed the full field at the Sony Open to win by seven shots. Thomas is the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 (Buick Open and Bridgestone Invitational) to win back-to-back weeks by three shots or more. 'I felt like I was trying to win a tournament for second place,' Jordan Spieth said, summing up the helpless feeling of everyone. That honor went to Justin Rose, who closed with a 64 to finish alone in second. Spieth shot a 63 to finish alone in third. The first full-field event of the year on the PGA Tour was a one-man show. Thomas began the final round with a seven-shot lead and no one got closer than five shots all day. His only nervous moment was an 8-foot par putt on the sixth hole when he was five shots ahead. He made that, and the rest of the day was a Pacific breeze. Thomas joined Ernie Els in 2003 as the only players to sweep Hawaii, and this performance might have been even better. Thomas was 49-under par for his two weeks, compared with Els at 47 under. Thomas joined Johnny Miller (1974 and 1975) and Tiger Woods (2003, 2008, 2013) as the only players since 1970 to win three of the their first five starts in a PGA Tour season. It started last fall with the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. He moved to No. 8 in the world. 'He's got full control of his game, full confidence, and he's executing under pressure,' Spieth said. 'It's a lot of fun to see. Certainly stuff that myself and a lot of our peers have seen going back almost 10 years now. He's certainly showing the world what he's capable of.' No one ever lost a seven-shot lead in the final round of a PGA Tour event, a fact that never entered the conversation on a balmy afternoon at Waialae. Thomas, thinking more about the trophy and another record when he started the final round, took no chances early on. He was 1 over through seven holes, making a soft bogey with a three-putt from 45 feet on No. 4 and a tough par save on No. 6, and still no one got closer than five shots. But when he poured in a 20-foot birdie putt on the eighth, Thomas shifted into another gear. That was the start of four birdies in five holes — the exception was a birdie putt he missed from just inside 10 feet — and he stretched his lead to as many as nine shots. Waialae was vulnerable all week with not much wind, fast fairways and greens that were softer than usual. Thomas produced the eighth sub-60 round in PGA Tour history on Thursday. Kevin Kisner had a shot at 59 on Saturday until missing a 9-foot eagle putt on his final hole. And on Sunday, Chez Reavie made a hole-in-one with a 6-iron on the 17th hole that gave him a shot at a sub-60 round. Only a bogey on the sixth hole (he start on No. 10) stopping him, and he had to settle for a 61. That matched the third-best score of the week. Even in easier conditions, no one played like Thomas. He felt the nerves early, perhaps knowing that he could only lose with such a big lead. But when he made the turn with a six-shot lead, it was a chase for the record, and there was no stopping him. He hit a lob wedge over a bunker to 3 feet for birdie on the 14th, made a 12-foot par save on the 15th and picked up the last birdie he needed on the par-5 18th by easily reaching the middle of the green. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 15th, 2017

Thomas sets 36-hole record and leads by 5

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer br /> HONOLULU (AP) — Justin Thomas finished with another eagle and put himself in the PGA Tour record book again Friday in the Sony Open. One day after his 59 made him only the seventh player in PGA Tour history break 60, Thomas made an 8-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole at Waialae for a 6-under 64 to set the 36-hole scoring record on the PGA Tour. Thomas was at 17-under 123 and had a five-shot lead over Gary Woodland. The previous mark was 124, last matched at the 2015 BMW Championship by Jason Day at Conway Farm. 'It's cool,' Thomas said. 'Just like yesterday, anytime you can get your name in the record book, it's awesome. I had no idea until I finished.' Thomas started slowly, not picking up his first birdie until the fifth hole. Irritation from a three-putt bogey on the eighth hole got him going, and Thomas ran off four straight birdies around the turn. From there, no one got closer than four shots on another ideal day for scoring off the shore just up the road from Waikiki Beach. Woodland made a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for his second straight 64. Woodland and Thomas as part of the final group could be a real power show — Woodland is regarded as one of the premier power players in golf, though he has been far more reserved off the tee, despite being tempted to hit driver. 'I did that my first couple times here and that didn't work out for me,' he said. 'I'm very comfortable with where my game is. Driver feels great, I just don't get many opportunities out there. I'm not complaining about being in the fairway, either.' Thomas wasn't bashful. He smashed a 355-yard drive down the 12th fairway that set up a flip wedge to 12 feet for his fourth straight birdie. He also took an unusual line on the 14th, hammering a high drive over the trees and bunker down the left side and back into the fairway, leaving him 70 yards to the green on the 430-yard hole. He pitched that up to just under 5 feet and missed the putt, one of the few he failed to convert. Zach Johnson had a 61 and Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose shot 64. They were in the group seven shots behind along with Hudson Swafford, who opened with a 62 but could only manage a 68. Jordan Spieth felt empty after rounds of 65-67, partially because he was nine shots behind and primarily because he had as many chances as Thomas over the last two days. Only one of them has been converting putt after putt. 'Just has a really cold putter this week,' Spieth said. 'I think it added to the frustration on the green, because the game is looking so easy to him. I felt like I was hitting the ball in the same location, I'm just being outdone on the green. That's something a little abnormal to me.' That made Thomas, his best friend in golf for the last 10 years, chuckle. 'Now he knows how a lot of people feel,' Thomas said. Thomas never made it to the North Shore on Thursday after his 59, though he was happy to have missed out on Spieth and Smylie Kaufman's ocean adventure that included a capsized kayak. He approached the next day like any other, trying to hit good shots, get birdie chances and expand his lead. He ticked every box, even picking up a record he knew nothing about. Thomas rolled in a 12-foot birdie from the collar left of the 15th green, only to give the shot back with a tee shot he pulled into the bunker. From the left rough, with the sun in his face, he belted it out and onto the green for another closing eagle. Coming off a three-shot victory last week at Kapalua, he is in prime position to join Ernie Els in 2003 as the only players to sweep Hawaii. 'He's not stopping, as we can see,' Spieth said. 'Someone has to go out and chase him.' Rose was one shot out of the lead when he finished — Thomas had yet to tee off — and was hopeful of staying in range. Rose knows from experience that starting strong and holding it together for four rounds isn't easy. He shot 60 in the first round at Disney in 2006, stretched his lead early in the second round and by the end of the week was five shots behind the winner. 'You definitely need the mindset when you're that far ahead to keep the accelerator down,' Rose said. 'But it's hard to keep that sort of momentum going, for sure.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 14th, 2017

Thomas will take his 59, and a trophy would be a bonus

div>DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer /div> div>  /div> div>HONOLULU (AP) — Two islands, two big moments to celebrate, and Justin Thomas had to think about which meant more to him. /div> div>  /div> div>He won at Kapalua, but that won't put him in the record book. Winning a PGA Tour event happens 47 weeks out of the year. /div> div>  /div> div>And then on Thursday in the Sony Open, he made a 15-foot eagle putt on the final hole to shoot 59 . That gets him in the record book with the eighth sub-60 round in PGA Tour history. But he still hasn't won the tournament. /div> div>  /div> div>That won't be decided for three more rounds, and history is not necessarily on his side. Of the previous seven sub-60 rounds, only three players wound up winning — Al Geiberger at the Memphis Classic in 1977, David Duval at the Bob Hope Classic in 1999 and Stuart Appleby at the Greenbrier Classic in 2010. Duval and Appleby each shot 59 in the final round. /div> div>  /div> div>So which was the greater feat? Which brought more satisfaction? Winning a tournament or shooting 59? /div> div>  /div> div>'On paper, it would be today,' Thomas said. 'I have a chance to win a golf tournament every week. I don't have many chances to shoot 59.' /div> div>  /div> div>Oddly enough, only when he thought he had a chance did he start thinking he was out of chances at Waialae Country Club. /div> div>  /div> div>Golf's magic number — even though Jim Furyk holds the record with a 58 , any score that starts with 'fifty' is still magic — first crossed his mind when he two-putted for birdie on the par-5 18th to make the turn in 29. /div> div>  /div> div>'As well as I was driving it, I can go shoot 6 or 7 (under) on this side and really, really post history,' he said. /div> div>  /div> div>He birdied the next two holes. On the par-3 fourth, he hit 7-iron to 5 feet for birdie. He was 9 under through 13. And then he started to think that maybe this wasn't going to be his day. Thomas missed a 10-foot birdie chance on No. 5 and still doesn't know how his 30-foot birdie attempt on the No. 7 didn't go in. /div> div>  /div> div>Spieth and Daniel Berger — all of them were born in 1993 and graduated high school in 2011 — were as much into this pursuit as Thomas, if not more. Spieth wrapped his hands around the back of his neck when Thomas didn't make the putt on No. 7. /div> div>  /div> div>'When those didn't go in, I was kind of saying to myself, 'Maybe this isn't meant to be.' I thought some of the things that happened earlier in the day, I was kind of curious if I was going to post a number or if it was just an unbelievable round,' Thomas said. /div> div>  /div> div>He made eight birdies and two eagles. Equally important — maybe even the key shot for him — was a 10-foot par save on the eighth hole. That kept him at 9 under going to the par-5 ninth, his final hole which is 506 yards and easily reachable with a good drive. /div> div>  /div> div>He thought he hit a good drive. It wasn't easy. Instead of clearing a fairway bunker down the left side, Thomas saw it hit top of the bunker. /div> div>  /div> div>'I saw some sand flying and I was ready to punch something,' Thomas said. 'I was pretty upset about that, because I felt like all chances right there were gone.' /div> div>  /div> div>That's when Berger saved the day. /div> div>  /div> div>Berger, who beat out Thomas for PGA Tour rookie of the year in 2015, also was in the bunker. Thomas already was planning to hit wedge out of the sand and take his chances from the fairway. At worst, he shoots 60 or 61. /div> div>  /div> div>But then Berger hit a 4-iron out of the bunker and onto the green. Thomas asked for a 5-iron. /div> div>  /div> div>'This isn't a time for me to lay it up,' he said. /div> div>  /div> div>From 207 yards, with as good a shot as he has hit, Thomas cleared the lip and hit it to 15 feet. Berger was just outside of him, so he got a good read — the putt broke to the right — and he poured it in. /div> div>  /div> div>Thomas joined Duval as the only players to break 60 with an eagle on the last hole. He joined Furyk as the only players to break 60 with a bogey. /div> div>  /div> div>He just wasn't sure what to make of it. This wasn't the stoic Duval fist-pumping his way around the green. Thomas held both arms to the side, and he punched the air with his right fist only after seeing Spieth and Berger celebrating far more than he was. /div> div>  /div> div>'I think I got more excited from seeing them get excited than I did my putt going in,' Thomas said. 'I thought about it going up to the green. I'm like, 'If I make it, what am I going to do?' It's not like winning a tournament. You have three days left to try to play well. So I didn't really know how to react. I never had a putt on the last hole on a Thursday mean that much.' /div> div>  /div> div>And that's where he was on Friday. Back to work. His name is in the record book, but not yet the trophy. /div> div>  /div> div>The only other player to shoot 59 in the opening round was Paul Goydos at the John Deere Classic in 2010. He was runner-up to Steve Stricker, who opened with a 60. /div> div>  /div> div>Thomas only had a three-shot lead over Hudson Swafford when the day ended. /div> div>  /div> div>No matter. It's already a great week. /div> div>  /div>.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 13th, 2017

Island adventure for Jordan Spieth, Smylie Kaufman

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   HONOLULU (AP) — The fishing didn't quite work out for Jordan Spieth and Smylie Kaufman. The kayak wasn't much better. Not long after Spieth watched good friend Justin Thomas shoot 59 at the Sony Open, he decided to join Kaufman for an island adventure . It was all that. They abandoned plans to fish from the shore, especially when Kaufman's first cast landed a few feet in front of him. So they wandered out in a two-man kayak. Spieth put his phone in a plastic bag. Kaufman held onto his. They were surprised by a few waves, especially the one that broke on top of them and toppled the kayaks. As Kaufman tried to climb back into the kayak, another wave got them. 'Chasing a sea turtle 'crush' was a bad idea,' Kaufman tweeted. 'That's when our fishing trip took a turn for the worst. Lost the fishing poles but survived.' Moments later, Spieth saw a plastic bag floating on the water. It had enough air in it to float, and his phone was safe. Spieth thrust both arms in the air and celebrated as if he had just won a tournament. Kaufman wasn't so fortunate. By late afternoon, when the S.S. Minnow made it back to shore, Kaufman put his water-damaged phone in a bag of white rice. 'An old college trick,' Spieth said. Kaufman removed the phone, filled with replies to his Instagram, and they were blurred. Spieth pulled out his phone, and it was in good enough shape for him to watch video of their wobbly entry into the water, the kayak capsizing and Spieth finding his phone. Maybe the Texan had it right when he said last month about the Hawaii swing, 'Try and make it last as long as possible,' Spieth said. 'Because once you get off the islands, it's back to reality.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 13th, 2017

Fresh off a victory, Justin Thomas joins the 59 club

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   HONOLULU (AP) — Staring over the top of a bunker on his final hole, the prudent play for Justin Thomas might have been to make sure he got out of the sand and avoided a big number. But then, Thomas didn't care about a big number. It was about golf's magic number. 'This isn't a time for me to lay it up,' Thomas said Thursday at the Sony Open. He hit a 5-iron so clean and so high that it carried 207 yards into a light Pacific breeze to 15 feet on the par-5 ninth hole at Waialae Country Club. Thomas poured in the eagle putt for an 11-under 59, becoming the seventh player to post a sub-60 round in PGA Tour history. For a brief moment, he reacted as if it were little more than the perfect finish to a great opening round. He stretched out his putter that was still in his left hand, smiled and punched the air with his right fist. Only when he looked over at Jordan Spieth and Daniel Berger, the two witnesses to a 59 that Thomas made look easy, did the sense of history start to hit him. Berger thrust his arm in the air. Spieth, his best friend in golf since they were 13, crouched as the ball neared the cup and delivered a left-handed fist pump as both raced over to congratulate him. 'I think I got more excited from seeing them get excited than I did my putt going in,' Thomas said. 'I thought about it going up to the green. I'm like, 'If I make it, what am I going to do?' It's not like winning a tournament. You have three days left to try to play well. So I didn't really know how to react. I never had a putt on the last hole on a Thursday mean that much.' It was different from the feeling he had four days ago when he won the SBS Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. That was his third victory on the PGA Tour, and the 23-year-old Thomas is sure to win more. 'I don't have many chances to shoot 59,' he said. Jim Furyk was the last player with a sub-60 round when he closed with a record 58 at the Travelers Championship last summer. Furyk also had a 59 in 2013 at the BMW Championship, joining the exclusive group that includes Al Geiberger (1977 Memphis Classic), Chip Beck (1991 Las Vegas Invitational), David Duval (1999 Bob Hope Classic), Paul Goydos (2010 John Deere Classic) and Stuart Appleby (2010 Greenbrier Classic). This was special because he made it look so easy. He began by pitching in for eagle from 35 yards. Thomas never hit more than a 7-iron into the par 4s at Waialae on a perfect day for scoring — very little breeze, fast fairways and soft greens. That 7-iron was chipped under the trees and into a bunker on No. 8 when he was trying to save par. His only bogey came on his second hole, the par-3 11th, when his tee shot went into a bunker and he missed an 18-foot par putt. Duval was the only other player to shoot 59 with an eagle on the last hole. Furyk at Conway Farms is the only other player to shoot 59 with a bogey. Spieth was more nervous than Thomas and far more demonstrative. Thomas had a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 7 that looked good even when it was inches from the cup until burning the edge. Spieth clutched the back of his neck and was still asking how the putt didn't fall when he walked onto the next tee. He was talking to himself, of course. He gave Thomas his space. 'It's like sitting on the bench with a teammate throwing a perfect game,' Spieth said. 'It was awesome. What an awesome last five rounds he's had.' Thomas first thought about a 59 when he found an extra long tee at the par-5 18th and figured that was an omen for him to tee it high and hammer a high draw, which left him only an 8-iron into the green. He narrowly missed his eagle putt and settled for a 29. The way he was playing, he expected to go lower, and he did. 'When I was on 18, I thought about 59. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing, but I just knew that I was driving it well,' he said. 'And if you drive it well out there, you can make a lot of birdies.' He followed with three birdies in four holes, and two years at Alabama was enough for him to start doing the math. 'He had full control of his golf swing,' Spieth said. Spieth and Berger were along for the ride. They all graduated high school in 2011 and grew up in junior golf. They were together a few weekends ago at a resort in Maui ahead of the Tournament of Champions. And they put on quite a show, with Spieth and Berger each shooting 65. On only three holes — No. 15, 5 and 8 — did someone in the group not make birdie or better. Their best-ball score was 17 under. Thomas started to think a 59 wasn't in the works when he was fooled on a 10-foot birdie chance on No. 5 and the putt on No. 7 somehow stayed out. He kept his hopes alive with a 10-foot par save on No. 8, knowing he could get home in two on the par-5 ninth hole. And then he hit into a bunker. 'I saw some sand flying and I was ready to punch something,' Thomas said. 'I was pretty upset about that, because I felt like all chances right there gone.' But then he saw Berger hit out of the bunker with a 4-iron, and Thomas took 5-iron and 'absolutely flushed it.' One putt later, he posted the eighth sub-60 score in history, and became the youngest to shoot 59. Thomas planned to go to the North Shore in the afternoon. Even watching from the beach, he can appreciate the feeling of catching a big wave. He's on one right now. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2017

Pelicans, minus Davis, hand Nets eighth straight loss

em>By Jeffrey Bernstein, Associated Press /em> NEW YORK (AP) — Tyreke Evans scored a season-high 29 points and the New Orleans Pelicans, playing without All-Star big man Anthony Davis, defeated the reeling Brooklyn Nets 104-95 on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Terrance Jones added 24 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans (16-24), which improved to 6-13 on the road by winning both games during its stay in New York City. Jrue Holiday scored 21 and Solomon Hill had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Davis missed the game with a bruised left hip sustained during Monday night's (Tuesday, PHL time) 110-96 win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. He participated in pregame warmups in Brooklyn, but didn't shoot. Davis is second in the NBA in scoring, averaging 29.1 points. He ranks sixth with more than 12 rebounds per game. Brook Lopez led the Nets with 20 points and Sean Kilpatrick had 18, but Brooklyn has dropped eight straight and 13-of-14. Brooklyn led 94-91 after Lopez's basket with 3:35 left, but didn't score again until Joe Harris hit 1-of-2 free throws with 23 seconds remaining for the team's final point. Jones contributed six points in the 13-1 run to end the game, including the go-ahead basket with 2:44 remaining. Trevor Booker gave the Nets their largest lead, 56-48, with 1:51 left in the second quarter. Brooklyn used a 10-2 spurt in the third to open a 77-70 advantage and was ahead 79-73 heading into the fourth. Evans tied it at 84 on a three-point play with 8:29 to go, and the score remained close until the Pelicans' late surge. Harris finished with 15 points, while Caris LeVert and Bojan Bogdanovic each scored 10 for the Nets. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Pelicans: /strong> /em>Buddy Hield is the only New Orleans player to see action in all 40 games this season. He has started exactly half of them. Nets GM Sean Marks played for New Orleans from 2008-10, appearing in 74 games and averaging 2.7 points and 2.8 rebounds. em> strong>Nets: /strong> /em>Booker returned to Brooklyn's starting lineup after missing Tuesday's loss to the Hawks with a bruised left hip. Kilpatrick is the second-leading scorer (14.8 points per game) of any current undrafted NBA player. Only Wes Matthews of the Mavericks (15 ppg entering Friday, PHL time) has a higher average. strong>NEW YORK, NEW YORK /strong> The Pelicans spent nearly all week in New York City. 'If we're here any longer, we're going to have to take out a small business meal loan to continue to eat,' coach Alvin Gentry said. 'Obviously, this is a great city. You can do a million things here and have a million left to do.' strong>OH FOR 2017 /strong> The Nets have yet to win since the calendar turned to the new year. Brooklyn has won only once (on Dec. 27, PHL time, 120-118 over Charlotte) in almost a month. The team's previous win was a 107-97 victory over the Lakers on Dec. 14 (Dec. 15, PHL time) strong>EIGHT IS ENOUGH /strong> The Nets' eight-game losing streak ties the Pelicans, 76ers and Lakers for the longest in the NBA this season. However, Philadelphia has won four of five, the Pelicans have won two straight and the Lakers had won two of three entering Thursday night's (Friday, PHL time) game at San Antonio. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Pelicans: /strong> /em>New Orleans visits Chicago on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). The teams meet again in New Orleans on April 2 (April 3, PHL time). The Bulls have won four in a row in the series, sweeping the Pelicans in each of the last two seasons. em> strong>Nets: /strong> /em>Brooklyn visits Toronto on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). The Nets lost 116-104 there on Dec. 20 (Dec. 21, PHL time). The teams play again next week (Jan. 18, PHL time) and next month (Feb. 6, PHL time). The Raptors have won five straight in the series, including all four meetings last season. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 12th, 2017

McIlroy says he resents Olympics for making him choose sides

  DUBLIN (AP) — Rory McIlroy says he resented how the Olympics forced him to decide whether he would represent Ireland or Britain and that it reached a point that it 'wasn't worth the hassle' to compete in Rio de Janeiro. In an interview with the Sunday Independent in Ireland, McIlroy explained why he was so critical of golf's return to the Olympics during a press conference at last summer's British Open. McIlroy, the four-time major champion from Northern Ireland, cited concerns over the Zika virus as his reason not to go to Rio. He told the Irish newspaper that when the International Olympic Committee announced in 2009 that golf would be part of the program for the first time since 2004, 'all of a sudden it put me in a position where I had to question who I am.' 'Who am I? Where am I from? Where do my loyalties lie? Who am I going to play for? Who do I not want to (upset) the most?' McIlroy said. 'I started to resent it. And I do. I resent the Olympic Games because of the position it put me in. That's my feelings toward it. And whether that's right or wrong, that's how I feel.' McIlroy said he sent a text message to Justin Rose to congratulate him on winning the gold medal in Rio for Britain. He said Rose thanked him and asked if McIlroy felt as though he had missed out. 'I said, 'Justin, if I had been on the podium (listening) to the Irish national anthem as that flag went up, or the British national anthem as that flag went up, I would have felt uncomfortable either way.'' McIlroy told the newspaper. 'I don't know the words to either anthem. I don't feel a connection to either flag. I don't want it to be about flags. I've tried to stay away from that.' McIlroy was among several top stars who opted to skip the Olympics, most citing the Zika virus. He had been scheduled to play for Ireland until announcing in June he would not be going. Jordan Spieth did not announce his decision to miss Rio until a few days before the British Open. McIlroy spoke after Spieth, and the Olympics was brought up again. McIlroy dismissed the notion that he had let down his sport, saying, 'I didn't get into golf to try and grow the game.' He also said that he probably wouldn't watch Olympic golf on TV, only 'the stuff that matters.' 'Well, I'd had nothing but questions about the Olympics — 'the Olympics, the Olympics, the Olympics' — and it was just one question too far,' McIlroy said. 'I'd said what I needed to say. I'd got myself out of it, and it comes up again. And I could feel it. I could just feel myself go, 'Poom!' And I thought, 'I'm going to let them have it.' 'OK, I went a bit far,' he added. 'But I hate that term, 'growing the game.' Do you ever hear that in other sports? In tennis? Football? 'Let's grow the game.' I mean, golf was here long before we were, and it's going to be here long after we're gone. So I don't get that, but I probably went a bit overboard.' McIlroy said Olympic golf didn't mean that much to him. 'It really doesn't. I don't get excited about it. And people can disagree, and have a different opinion, and that's totally fine,' he said. 'Each to their own.' McIlroy, who is to play the South African Open this week, said he has never been driven by nationalism or patriotism because of where he was raised. 'And I never wanted it to get political or about where I'm from, but that's what it turned into,' he said. 'And it just got to the point where it wasn't worth the hassle.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 9th, 2017

Redick and Paul help Clippers overpower Heat 98-86

em>By Beth Harris, Associated Press /em> LOS ANGELES -- J.J. Redick scored 25 points and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Miami Heat 98-86 on Sunday (Monday, PHL time) for their fourth straight victory. Chris Paul had 19 points, 18 assists and one turnover, and DeAndre Jordan added 18 rebounds to help keep the Clippers unbeaten in the new year after they closed 2016 on a six-game skid. Goran Dragic scored 24 points, and Hassan Whiteside had 15 points and 13 rebounds for Miami. The Heat shot 37 percent and had three technical fouls. The Clippers broke it open with a 43-21 run that spanned the second and third quarters. Redick scored 14 points and Paul added 12 as they stretched the lead from one point to 23 points. Redick hit three triples and Paul added another. From there, Miami outscored the Clippers 24-14 to end the third, but still trailed 80-66 after Redick's fast-break layup off a steal by Brandon Bass beat the buzzer heading into the fourth. Marreese Speights scored 12 of his 19 points before fouling out in the fourth when the Clippers built their lead back to 20. strong>TIP-INS /strong> em> strong>Heat: /strong> /em> G Dion Waiters received a flagrant-2 foul and was ejected after shoving Redick in the back of his head under the basket with 3:09 left in the third. Coach Erik Spoelstra was hit with a technical in the third as was Dragic. G Josh Richardson was out with a left foot sprain and F Luke Babbitt sat out with the flu. They fell to 6-12 against the West. Whiteside returned after missing four games with a right retinal contusion. em> strong>Clippers: /strong> /em> Paul recorded his 8,000th assist in his 805th career game, fourth-fastest in NBA history to the mark. Starting G Austin Rivers was out with the flu after playing with a 101-degree temperature on Friday (Saturday, PHL time) at Sacramento. Rookie F Brice Johnson, who has yet to play this season because of a herniated disk in his lower back sustained in the preseason, isn't likely to return anytime soon. strong>WHAT A DIFFERENCE /strong> Whiteside was back at the scene of his breakout two years after he had a then-career high 23 points and 16 rebounds off the bench for the Heat against the Clippers at Staples Center. The Heat won 104-90 on Jan. 11, 2015, in an afternoon game just like Sunday (Monday, PHL time). At the time, Whiteside had been out of the league for two years after playing briefly with Sacramento. The Clippers were one of 29 teams that declined him a preseason tryout; the Heat was the only team to work him out. 'Very quickly after that we ended up starting him,' Spoelstra recalled of that 2015 game. 'He went on a run there for about three weeks where he was having those kinds of impacts, and we were winning those games. When he's playing on that kind of level, and impacting the game at both ends of the court, we're a totally different team.' strong>HE SAID IT /strong> 'We started being too clever. We started switching things defensively. Hell, I didn't even know what we were doing at times. It was confusing me.' -- Clippers coach Doc Rivers on the team's overly elaborate defensive changes during their recent six-game skid. strong>UP NEXT /strong> em> strong>Heat: /strong> /em>Visit Golden State on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time) in the next-to-last game of a six-game trip, their longest of the season. em> strong>Clippers: /strong> /em> Host Orlando on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Thomas takes 2-shot lead over Matsuyama in Kapalua

DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer br /> KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Justin Thomas, who as a skinny kid in Kentucky had to hit driver to reach a par 3 in junior golf, stood on the 14th tee at Kapalua trying to decide if 3-wood would be enough to drive the green on a par that was playing 287 yards up the hill. His caddie thought driver was the club, and Thomas took it from there. 'It needs to be something hot to run up there,' he said. 'And I just nuked it, and hit it low and just enough to scoot up the ridge.' The ball bounded onto the green to 20 feet, and Thomas made that for eagle . It was enough for him to take control Saturday at the SBS Tournament of Champions, ultimately leading to a third straight round of 6-under 67 and a two-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama, who had a 66. Perhaps it's only fitting that those who will be in the final group. Thomas, who was at 18-under 201, is the only player to beat Matsuyama over the last three months. The 24-year-old from Japan has won four of his last tournaments dating to Oct. 16 at the Japan Open, a streak that includes seven-shot victories in Japan and at a World Golf Championships event in Shanghai. Thomas beat him by three at the CIMB Classic at Malaysia, and Matsuyama wasn't much of a threat that final round. He is now. 'If I'm near Hideki in the tournament, that's usually a pretty good thing on Sunday,' Thomas said. 'He's obviously a tremendous player and he's on an unbelievable run here the last five events. I actually had no idea I was the only one to beat him in the last five events, which is absurd, the fact he's won four of his last five. ... But there's a lot of great players out there. I just need to go take care of my job.' There might not be as many players to beat in this winners-only field after Thomas gave himself a little separation. Only five players were within five shots of the lead going into the final round, with Dustin Johnson seven shots back and world No. 1 Jason Day eight shots behind. Thomas was only mildly perturbed that his lead wasn't greater. Following his eagle on the 14th, he smashed another drive that caught the slope on the par-5 15th and rolled to the bottom of the hill, a 348-yard drive that left him only 180 yards to the elevated green. But his shot was a clunker coming out of the short rough, and while he hit a tough pitch to 6 feet, he read a fraction too much break in the putt and had to settle for par. 'I had 8-iron twice and made par,' he said of his week. On the short 16th, he pounded another drive within 60 yards of the pin, but his wedge came up well short and he missed from 15 feet. He also looked back to how he closed out the front nine, with a soft bogey on No. 7 and missed birdie chances of 10 feet on the par-3 eighth and a 3-footer on the par-5 ninth. 'I'm definitely not disappointed with today, but I left a lot out there,' Thomas said. Matsuyama made three birdies over his last five holes, starting with a chip-in on the 14th hole, to get into the final group as he goes for his fourth straight victory 'Justin doesn't have any weaknesses at all in his game,' Matsuyama said. 'He hits it long, has a marvelous short game, putts well, hits the ball well. We've got to go low tomorrow to be able to catch him.' Memorial winner William McGirt, one of 11 players playing the Plantation course at Kapalua for the first time, played bogey-free for a 66 and was four shots behind, along with Ryan Moore (71) and Jimmy Walker (70). Moore was tied for the lead until Thomas drove the 14th green for his eagle and Moore missed a 15-foot birdie putt. On the next hole, Moore's tee shot plugged into the steep face of a bunker and he had no choice but to pitch out sideways, leading to another bogey. Walker spent most of the gorgeous afternoon wincing over putts that kept burning the edges of the cup. 'Plenty of looks. Nothing went in,' Walker said. 'That's just kind of frustrating, especially the finish. I had a good look on 17, and then to not get that up-and-down on 18 is a bummer. ... I'm hitting the putts the way I feel like I need to hit them. They're just not going in.' Thomas has won twice in his three years on the PGA Tour, both in Malaysia. Jordan Spieth, meanwhile, had another double bogey, this one on his second hold. He ended with a three-putt par on the 18th for a 70 and was 10 shots behind. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Raonic beats Nadal, keeps Brisbane title defense on track

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal was up a set and had a break point against defending champion Milos Raonic when he sent a forehand just wide. It was a mistake the 14-time Grand Slam champion wouldn't recover from. Raonic made the most of the reprieve, holding serve in that fifth game of the second set and then attacking Nadal's serve in the eighth to swing the momentum his way in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 quarterfinal win Friday at the Brisbane International. The top-seeded Raonic broke Nadal's serve again to start the third set, and calmly held on for only his second win in eight matches against the Spaniard. Raonic served 23 aces and hit 50 winners to just 19 for Nadal, who could only convert one of his seven break-point opportunities. As well as the big, deep service returns, Raonic also repeatedly went to the net, trusting his instincts and putting pressure on Nadal. 'Today the mentality behind the match was what sort of kept me around,' Raonic said. 'Some moments things weren't looking great. I wasn't efficient coming forward. I was missing some shots I shouldn't be. I was rushing. 'But at least I kept myself there, and I was able to always recuperate the next point. That's what I have to be most proud of.' Nadal, coming back from a layoff after an injured left wrist curtailed the end of his 2016 season, beat Raonic in an exhibition tournament last week. But Raonic played with more intensity in Brisbane, and Nadal said a couple of lapses were costly. 'Probably if I put that passing shot forehand cross, I had the break in the second set, big chance that we will be here one hour before with a victory,' Nadal said. 'That passing shot was long, and that's it. Then he had the break and match changes.' Nadal said three wins at the exhibition tournament, two wins and a close result in Brisbane gave him confidence his progress was good ahead of the Australian Open, where he is desperate to make amends for a surprising first-round exit last year. Still in contention to start back-to-back seasons with a Brisbane title, Raonic will play seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov — a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 winner over No. 4 Dominic Thiem — in the semifinals. U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka and third-seeded Kei Nishikori will meet in the other semifinal match. The second-seeded Wawrinka beat unseeded Kyle Edmund 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4 to reach the semifinals in his first trip to the Brisbane tournament. In the previous three years, Wawrinka won the title in Chennai in the first week of the season before heading to Australia for the season's first major. Wawrkina has a 4-3 lead over Nishikori in career head-to-heads, including the semifinals at the U.S. Open last year, but Nishikori won two of the three meetings in 2016. Nishikori has now reached the semifinals four times in seven visits to the Brisbane International, needing just an hour for a 6-1, 6-1 quarterfinal win over Australian wild-card entry Jordan Thompson. 'I think I played one of the best matches so far, really dominating from the baseline and serving good today,' Nishikori said. 'Everything was working well.' U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova will play Alize Cornet in the women's final on Saturday. Cornet was leading 4-1 when French Open champion Garbine Muguruza retired with a right thigh injury. Pliskova beat sixth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-4 in the other semifinal match. 'A little bit of luck never killed anybody,' said Cornet, who finished last year ranked No. 46 but now expects to be seeded at the Australian Open. 'I'm just going to take it. I really enjoy the fact that I'm in the final. It's a big day for me, yeah.' Muguruza didn't think the injury setback would trouble her at the Australian Open. 'It will not stop me,' Muguruza said. 'Cornet was playing good. I couldn't match her level today. I had some pains, and I thought it was smarter to take care of my body.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

Wawrinka, Nishikori to meet in Brisbane semifinals

JOHN PYE, AP Sports Writer br /> BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori will renew a growing rivalry when they meet in the semifinals of the Brisbane International. Wawrinka dropped the opening set in a tiebreaker against unseeded Kyle Edmund on Friday but recovered for a 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4 win, reaching the last four in his first trip to the Brisbane tournament. In the previous three years, Wawrinka won the title in Chennai in the first week of the season before heading to Australia for the season's first major. 'Was a tough match, for sure. Long match. Quite humid, also. Also tough physically. But, in general, I think I'm feeling good and ready (for the semifinals),' Wawrinka said. 'For sure, I want to win more matches here and not stop now.' Wawrkina has a 4-3 lead over Nishikori in career head-to-heads, including the semifinals at the U.S. Open last year, but Nishikori won two of the three meetings in 2016. 'We always play a really tough match,' Wawrinka said. 'We played each other few times already last few months, so it's going to be interesting to see. We practiced here this week. I'm sure it's going to be a good match.' Nishikori has now reached the semifinals four times in seven visits to the Brisbane International, needing just an hour for a 6-1, 6-1 quarterfinal win over Australian wild-card entry Jordan Thompson. Thompson beat former top 10 regular David Ferrer in the second round but against Nishikori, he only managed to hold serve twice. Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open finalist, only made 11 unforced errors and didn't face a breakpoint. 'He was, I guess, a little bit tired, for sure. Against David, he was playing great match and maybe he wasn't 100 percent today,' Nishikori said. 'But for me, I think I played one of the best matches so far, really dominating from the baseline and serving good today. Everything was working well.' Seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov had a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over No. 4 Dominic Thiem and will meet either defending champion Milos Raonic or 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in the semifinals. In the women's semifinals, French Open champion Garbine Muguruza retired with a right thigh injury while trailing Alize Cornet 4-1 in the first set. Cornet advanced to a final against either U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova or sixth-seeded Elina Svitolina, who ousted No. 1-ranked Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals. 'When she decided to stop, I was a little bit surprised, but a little bit of luck never killed anybody,' said Cornet, who finished last year ranked No. 46 but now expects to be seeded at the Australian Open. 'I'm just going to take it. I really enjoy the fact that I'm in the final. It's a big day for me, yeah.' Muguruza has had a run of injuries in Brisbane. She retired after one set last year and withdrew entirely in 2015. She didn't think the latest setback would trouble her at the Australian Open. 'It will not stop me. I just felt a little bit exhausted on the court,' Muguruza said. 'Cornet was playing good. I couldn't match her level today. I had some pains, and I thought it was more smart to take care of my body.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

Champion Beermen clash with Blackwater to open 2017

Following a much-needed holiday break, action in the PBA Philippine Cup continues Friday with two-time defending champion San Miguel Beer looking to pick up where it left off from 2016. The champs, with a league-leading 5-1 record, are looking to start the year right against the surprising Blackwater Elite. Winners of their last four, another victory by the Beermen would put them 1.5 games ahead of the nearest competition, making an early run at the playoffs and a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, the Elite are out to bounce back following a Christmas nightmare after losing to the previously winless Mahindra Floodbuster in overtime. A win by Blackwater in that game, which they led by 15 points in the fourth quarter, would have made the Ever Bilena franchise a top 2 team entering 2017. However, the Elite now settle with a 4-3 record heading into a matchup against the red-hot Beermen. Gametime is set at 7:00 p.m. at the MOA Arena. In the first game at 4:15 p.m., both Globalport and Meralco have the chance to erase some bitter holiday memories as both squads sqaure off following separate losing skids. After an impressive 3-1 start, the Batang Pier lost two games over in one week around Christmas that pust back to .500 with a 3-3 record. Meanwhile, the Bolts' Philippine Cup struggles appear to have resurfaced as Meralco has lost three in a row for a 2-4 mark. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 5th, 2017

A clean slate and a fresh start for Jordan Spieth

br /> DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer   KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Three victories around the world. A chance to win another major. A Ryder Cup victory. Jordan Spieth had every reason to celebrate his year. Part of him, however, couldn't wait for it to end. 'I was happy when the ball touched down and 2017 started,' Spieth said Wednesday. He wasn't the least bit bothered by what he achieved last year, especially a pair of PGA Tour victories that ran his total to eight before he turned 23. He just knew he faced endless comparisons with the year before, and even matching that was going to be close to impossible. Spieth was coming off the best season in golf over the last 40 years by anyone not named Tiger Woods. His five victories included the Masters and U.S. Open and as close as anyone has come to the modern Grand Slam. He capped it off with a FedEx Cup title and all the big awards. And it didn't help when he started the next year with an eight-shot victory in Kapalua. 'Off of this week last year, it didn't necessarily help my own and anyone else's expectations, given the performance that we had,' Spieth said. 'But I also knew that wasn't realistic to continue to do. It's also a 30-something event ... which makes your chances of winning significantly higher, even though it is a world-class field. 'But I learned a lot on both end of things, highs and lows, which I didn't really have many lows in 2015,' he said. 'I think I can use that to my advantage.' One bad swing on the 12th hole at Augusta National could have changed that. Spieth lost a five-shot lead on the back nine of the Masters and never caught up, and then he never had much of a chance. But consider his outlook a year ago. Asked what he would consider a good season, Spieth at first joked, 'Last year.' He's not one to be specific about goals, though he did mention giving himself a serious chance in a couple of majors and closing out individual events. He had a chance in one major. He closed out victories at Kapalua, Colonial and the Australian Open. The Masters was the only tournament he had a chance to close out and let get away. Not a bad year. Just not like the previous year. And now, 2015 is far enough in the past that it's easier to look forward. Another reminder is the world ranking. Even with three victories and a runner-up in a major, Spieth went from No. 1 to No. 5. 'Just have to get it back,' he said. It starts on a Plantation Course that is far different from a year ago, when Spieth became only the second player in PGA Tour history to finish 72 holes in 30-under par or lower. It was dry with light wind throughout the week. This year, nearly two months of rainy weather makes has made the fairways lush. More rain this past weekend made it so soggy that instead of balls running down the fairways, tee shots were backing up from pitch marks. That would seem to be more suited to U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson, who will be paired with Spieth in the opening round. Then again, length has nothing to do with why Spieth loves it here. In his only other appearance in 2014, he was in a three-way tie for the lead going into the final round and finished one shot behind Zach Johnson. 'I think this course, a lot like Augusta National, a few other ones, with the amount of slope and uneven lies and the amount of imagination you need in approach shots and on and around the greens, it brings out more the feel side of my game,' Spieth said. 'More kind of the quick-twitch, reactionary-type golf that I just love playing and I feel like is my DNA, my golf DNA. So that's why I feel like I've had success. 'When your swing isn't a driving range swing other than tee balls, I tend to hit the ball better than I do if it's just a dead-flat golf course,' he said. 'I don't know necessarily why. I think it's just the strength of mind to be able to adapt my swing to different lies.' Spieth has played only twice since the Ryder Cup, winning the Australian Open and tying for sixth in the Hero World Challenge. He's not alone. Jason Day, the world's No. 1 player, last played Sept. 23 at the Tour Championship. Dustin Johnson played only twice since the Ryder Cup. Everyone gets a chance to see where their game is against a 32-man field in paradise. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2017