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It’s a big week for golf
Two key tournaments tee off Thursday — one women’s, one men’s. Here’s what you should know about them:
LPGA: Women’s British Open
This is the first women’s major of the year. Normally there are five of them. But, well, you know what happened, and the Evian Championship in France was cancelled. After the British, the three U.S.-based majors will be played over the next few months. The ANA Inspiration is in mid-September, the Women’s PGA Championship in mid-October, and the U.S. Women’s Open in the very ungolflike slot of mid-December.
From a Canadian perspective, the big story this week at Scotland’s Royal Troon is the return of Brooke Henderson. The world’s seventh-ranked player hasn’t appeared in a tournament since late January. Most of that layoff was due to the pandemic, but Henderson also opted out of the first three events since the restart — including last week’s Scottish Open.
Henderson is only 22 years old, but the Smiths Falls, Ont., native has already won more major-tour events than any other Canadian golfer in history. Her nine LPGA titles include one major — the 2016 Women’s PGA Championship. She’s finished in the top 10 at every major except one — the British Open. Henderson did tie for 11th in 2018, but this has been the toughest major for her. In her other four appearances she tied for 61st, 50th, 49th and 41st.
The only other Canadian in the field this week is 39-year-old Alena Sharp of Hamilton, Ont. She’s ranked 103rd in the world, and her best British Open finish is a tie for 23rd in 2007. Sharp has never cracked the top 16 in a major.
Several top South Korean golfers elected not to make the trip to Scotland, including world No. 1 Jin Young Ko and No. 3 Sung Hyun Park. The betting favourite is No. 2-ranked American Danielle Kang. She won the first two events of the LPGA Tour’s restart and tied for fifth at the Scottish Open last week. That was a good sign for Kang, who has struggled on links courses. She’s missed the cut in five of her nine British Open starts and has never cracked the top 40.
That might open the door for fellow American Stacy Lewis, who’s coming in hot after winning a four-way playoff to take the Scottish Open title on Sunday. She won the British in 2013 and has three other top-eight finishes, so seaside golf seems to suit her just fine. Read more about the players to watch at the Women’s British Open here.
PGA: The Northern Trust
This is the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs — a set of three tournaments over the next three weeks that will decide the champion of the 2019-20 season. After the Northern Trust comes the BMW Championship, then the Tour Championship. All the events are held at courses in the United States.
The top 125 golfers (based on a season-long points system) are invited to this week’s tournament in Boston. Points from the regular season carry over, and golfers will add to their totals based on where they finish in this week’s event. When the Northern Trust ends on Sunday, only the top 70 in the standings get to move on to the BMW Championship next week. The same rules will apply there, except only the top 30 in the standings after that tournament advance to the playoff-ending Tour Championship.
That’s when things get tweaked to set up the final showdown. The No. 1 golfer in the standings heading into the Tour Championship will start the tournament with a score of 10-under par. The No. 2-ranked guy starts at 8-under, No. 3 at 7-under, No. 4 at 6-under and No. 5 at 5-under. Everyone below that gets put in groups of five. So the guys ranked 6th-10th start at 4-under, 11th-15th at 3-under, and so on until the players ranked 26th-30th start at even par. Then it’s simple: whoever wins the tournament is the FedEx Cup champion.
There’s a ton of money at stake in the playoffs. The FedEx Cup champ gets $15 million US, and the total prize money for the playoffs is $60 million. That’s on top of the $10 million already handed out to the top 10 golfers when the regular season ended on Sunday. $2 million of that went to the regular-season champ, Justin Thomas. He’s currently No. 2 in the world rankings, which are separate from the FedEx Cup standings.
Other golfers to watch this week include world No. 1 Jon Rahm (10th in the FedEx Cup chase) and defending Cup champ Rory McIlroy, who’s No. 3 in the world rankings but only eighth in the Cup standings. Rising young star Collin Morikawa is up to fifth in the world and second in the Cup race after winning his first major at the U.S. Open two weeks ago. Big-hitting, smooth-putting Bryson DeChambeau (fourth in the standings) is always fun to watch. Tiger Woods is seeded 49th despite playing only five times this season. Former world No. 1 Brooks Koepka pulled out today, citing nagging knee and hip injuries. He hasn’t won a tournament in more than a year and was 97th in the FedEx Cup standings, so he would have been hard-pressed to advance past this week anyway.
Four Canadians qualified for the playoffs, and they all have a good shot at moving on. Nick Taylor is 37th in the Cup standings, Adam Hadwin 44th, Mackenize Huhges 52nd and Corey Conners 56th.
New video supports Raptors president Masai Ujiri’s claim that a security guard incited their altercation at last year’s NBA Finals. The incident occurred right after the Raptors captured their first championship with a Game 6 win over the Warriors at Oakland’s Oracle Arena. The newly released body-cam footage shows an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy pretty clearly escalating their interaction into a confrontation — and quickly. As Ujiri approaches, the Toronto executive is taking his security credential out of the inside pocket of his suit jacket while he continues toward the celebration on the court. But the guard immediately puts hands on him and shoves him backward. An angered Ujiri mentions that, hey, I’m the president of the Raptors. He gets another shove. Ujiri then responds by shoving the cop before the men are separated. Should Ujiri have had his credential fully out as he approached the court? Yes. But he was in the process of producing his pass. There was no need for the guard to turn this into a physical altercation so quickly. Ujiri filed a countersuit yesterday against the deputy, who had sued Ujiri over the incident, claiming he was injured. Read more about the latest developments and watch the video for yourself here.
More good news for Masai: the Raptors went up 2-0 in their first-round series today. Underdog Brooklyn gave them a game, but Toronto got a big defensive stop that led to the clinching basket with a few seconds left and won 104-99. Fred VanVleet had a tough shooting day but topped the Raps in points again with 24 and added 10 assists. Norman Powell also scored 24 for Toronto. Game 3 is Friday at 1:30 p.m. ET.
The NBA playoffs got really interesting yesterday. Both No. 1 seeds, stunningly, lost their opening games. First, East top dog Milwaukee got waxed 122-110 by Orlando, the lowest-regarded team in the playoffs. The night ended with the West-leading Lakers losing 100-93 to Portland. Milwaukee is a good bet to rebound, but the Lakers might be in trouble. Beyond superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, their roster is painfully thin and has looked out of step since they arrived in the bubble. The Blazers are strong for a No. 8 seed and they seem to have much better team spirit around the magnetic Damian Lillard, who “only” had 34 points last night (relatively quiet by his bubble standards). The best matchup on tap tonight is Dallas vs. the Clippers. Second-year star Luka Doncic nearly led the Mavs to a Game 1 upset despite the ejection of sidekick Kristaps Porzingis.
Tampa Bay joined Vegas in the second round of the NHL playoffs. These teams were popular picks to meet in the Stanley Cup final, so it’s fitting that they’re the first to win their series. Vegas finished off Chicago in five games last night, and this afternoon Tampa did the same to Columbus by rallying late for a 5-4 OT win. It had to be sweet for the Lightning, who last year were swept by the Blue Jackets in the opening round in one of the biggest upsets in NHL playoff history. Later today/tonight, Boston (vs. Carolina), Colorado (vs. Arizona) and Philadelphia (vs. Montreal) can all end their series with Game 5 wins. Vancouver and St. Louis are tied 2-2 heading into their Game 5 at 10:30 p.m. ET. Get caught up on all of yesterday’s action by watching Rob Pizzo’s two-minute recap video here.
The Blue Jays lost another young star to injury. Three days after hot-hitting shortstop Bo Bichettte was placed on the 10-day injured list with a sprained knee, exciting rookie pitcher Nate Pearson landed there too with elbow tightness. Toronto’s top prospect had an impressive big-league debut in late July, tossing five shutout innings vs. Washington. But he wasn’t as good in his second start, and his next two were objectively bad. In a combined 6⅓ innings, Pearson coughed up 12 runs on nine hits while walking seven batters and striking out only four.
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