Tagged in: history

Matsuyama makes history with Masters triumph

Hideki Matsuyama made history on Sunday as the first male golfer from Japan to collect a major championship.

Ten years after making a sterling debut as the best amateur at Augusta National, Matsuyama claimed the ultimate trophy with a triumph in the Masters.

Matsuyama closed with a 1-over 73 and a one-shot victory that was only close at the end, and never seriously in doubt after Xander Schauffele‘s late charge ended with a triple bogey on the par-3 16th.

Moments before Dustin Johnson helped him into the green jacket, Matsuyama needed no interpreter in Butler Cabin when he said in English, “I’m really happy.”

So masterful was this performance that Matsuyama stretched his lead to six shots on the back nine until a few moments of drama. With a four-shot lead, he went for the green in two on the par-5 15th and it bounded hard off the back slope and into the pond on the 16th hole.

Matsuyama did well to walk away with bogey, and with Schauffele making a fourth consecutive birdie, the lead was down to two shots with three to play.

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The next swing all but ended it. Schauffele’s tee shot on the par-3 16th bounced of the hill and dribbled into the pond. His third shot from the drop area went into the gallery. He wound up with a triple-bogey 6.

Never mind that Matsuyama bogeyed three of his last four holes.

All that mattered was that uphill walk to the 18th green, needing only to blast out of the bunker and take two putts for the victory.

That’s what he did, a final bogey for a one-shot victory over 24-year-old Masters rookie Will Zalatoris, who closed with a 70 and stayed on the practice range just in case of a playoff.

Matsuyama ended at 10-under 278 for his 15th victory worldwide, and his sixth on the PGA Tour.

He was far from a sure thing, closing at 40-1 to win the tournament at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Matsuyama could be found upward of 60-1 prior to the tournament at some sportsbooks, making him one of the biggest long shots to win Masters since Danny Willett in 2016.

He was not a popular choice for bettors either. As of Thursday, he accounted for only 1% of the money that had been wagered on the odds to win the Masters at William Hill sportsbooks.

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Man City’s Aguero has Barcelona, PSG, Juventus as transfer options – sources

Sergio Aguero is considering interest from Juventus, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain after ruling out a return to club football in Argentina following confirmation of his exit from Manchester City this summer, sources have told ESPN.

The 32-year-old, who is the highest-scoring non-Englishman in Premier League history with 181 goals, will leave the Etihad at the end of the campaign after City confirmed on Monday that he would not be offered a new contract to replace his existing deal, which expires on June 30.

Aguero had previously stated that his ambition, at the end of his stay at City, was to return to Argentina to play for boyhood club Independiente. But sources have told ESPN that Aguero considers he can still perform at the top level in Europe for at least two more seasons and the forward is now ready to take advantage of his free agent status this summer to secure a move to one of the game’s top clubs.

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ESPN reported recently that Barca were monitoring Aguero’s situation at City amid concerns that Lionel Messi will leave Camp Nou at the end of this season.

PSG are also interested in the Argentina international, while Juve are another option with the Italian champions keen to plan for life without Cristiano Ronaldo in the event of the former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward leaving the Turin club at the end of the season.

Sources have told ESPN that Aguero is aware of interest from within the Premier League, but after 10 years in England, the player would prefer to move to Europe.

Having signed for City in a £35 million move from Atletico Madrid in 2011, Aguero has won four Premier League titles, five EFL Cup trophies and one FA Cup in his time at the club, with his winning goal, four minutes into stoppage time versus QPR in May 2012, sealing City’s first title in 44 years and becoming one of the most memorable moments in Premier League history.

But injuries, and a spell on the sidelines with COVID-19, have restricted Aguero to just four Premier League starts and one goal this season.

In total, he has made just 14 appearances in all competitions, scoring three goals. Aguero is now fit, however, and ready to contribute to City’s push for an unprecedented quadruple of Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup and Champions League this season.

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Dallas Cowboys fire defensive coordinator Mike Nolan

Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will not be returning to the Dallas Cowboys for the 2021 campaign, the team revealed Friday.

Last season, the Cowboys (6-10) allowed the most points in franchise history (473) and concluded 31st in the league in run defense. In the season-ending loss to the New York Giants, they allowed 23 points, including 20 in the first half, to an offense that had not scored more than 19 in five weeks.

The unit played better down the stretch with 12 takeaways in the final four matches after getting just 11 in the first 12 games, but that was aided in part by facing backup quarterbacks in Cincinnati, San Francisco and Philadelphia.

“I am appreciative of my relationships with both Mike and Jim, and I am grateful for the contributions that both of them made to our team under difficult circumstances in 2020,” coach Mike McCarthy said in a statement. “These are never easy decisions to make, and we wish them, and their families, the very best in the future.”

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Speaking on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas at different times during the season, owner and general manager Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones lamented the jarring scheme switch — from a 4-3 look to a hybrid look — made by the Cowboys during an offseason in which the coaches could only meet virtually with the players.

Unable to get hands-on experience until the start of an abbreviated training camp, the Cowboys defense struggled badly. They finished 23rd in yards per game (31st vs. the run, 11th vs. the pass) and 28th in points (29.6). The Cowboys allowed 69 plays of 20 yards or more, including 51 passes and 18 runs.

In the three other times the Cowboys allowed a franchise record in points, the organization either made a scheme modification or a coaching change.

After allowing 436 points in 2010, Jason Garrett was named the full-time head coach after taking over for Wade Phillips at midseason, and he hired Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator. In 2013, they allowed 432 points in Monte Kiffin’s first year as coordinator, and he was replaced by Rod Marinelli. After giving up 405 points in 2004, Bill Parcells switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme but kept Mike Zimmer as his coordinator.

McCarthy and Nolan have a long background together.

In 2005, Nolan hired McCarthy as his offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers, which helped propel him to earning the Green Bay Packers head job a year later.

But the defense could not find its footing. While they suffered some injuries to Leighton Vander Esch (collarbone, ankle), Trysten Hill (knee) and Trevon Diggs (foot), they were not hit as hard as the Cowboys’ offense.

Their bigger free-agent pickups were either hurt in training camp (defensive lineman Gerald McCoy), did not make the team out of camp (safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix), were traded (Everson Griffen) or were released because of poor play in the middle of the season (defensive tackle Dontari Poe, cornerback Daryl Worley).

If the Cowboys look in-house for a substitute, George Edwards spent the year as a senior defensive assistant. He was Zimmer’s defensive coordinator from 2014 to 2019.

But the first question that must be answered is what type of scheme the Cowboys want to use. In Green Bay, McCarthy employed a 3-4 scheme for most of his tenure. If he wants to continue with the hybrid look Nolan attempted to use, adding players to fit the scheme will be an offseason priority. In all but three years of his time in Green Bay, the Packers used a 3-4 scheme.

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Manager Aaron Boone will turn to rookie Deivi Garcia to start Game 2 for New York Yankees

By taking the mound in Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series versus the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, rookie Deivi Garcia will make history.

The 21-year-old Dominican-born pitcher will become the youngest player to make a postseason start in New York Yankees franchise history (at 21 years and 140 days).

Despite only six major league starts under his belt, manager Aaron Boone said he opted to go with Garcia due to the maturity he has displayed this campaign.

According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, the only other 21-year-old to make a postseason start for the Yankees was Whitey Ford in Game 4 of the 1950 World Series (21 years, 351 days).

“We deliberated on that a lot over the last several days,” Boone stated Monday ahead of Game 1 of the ALDS at Petco Park in San Diego.

“Masa [Masahiro Tanaka] will now go in Game 3. So just like slot and Deivi in between [Game 1 starter Gerrit] Cole and Masa was the way we wanted to go.

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“I think the way he’s pitched, and the way he’s handled himself and handled every situation so far. I felt like I wanted to go this way a couple days ago but wanted to continue to flesh it out because we could. Ultimately today, this morning, decided this is the way I wanted to go. I just felt [we had] a lot of good options there, [different] ways we could have gone. I don’t worry about him not being able to handle it, mentally, emotionally and all those things and I know he’s looking forward to it.”

The rookie right-hander concurred.

“Super excited,” Garcia said of his reaction upon hearing the news from Boone. “When they finally told me that I was going to get the ball for Game 2, what can I say? Just so excited about it. At the same time, very thankful for the opportunity and I will try to go out there and do the best I can.”

Tuesday’s start will also make Garcia the fifth-youngest player in American League history to make a postseason start, and the youngest player born outside the United States to make a playoff start in the AL.

Overall, only Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers Julio Urías (20 years, 68 days) and Fernando Valenzuela (five times) were younger in making a postseason start among players born outside the U.S. Garcia, who stated he idolized Hall of Fame starter Pedro Martínez growing up in the Dominican Republic, reiterated that it was an honor to make pinstripes history.

Including a subpar outing at Fenway Park, Garcia finished the coronavirus-shortened 2020 regular campaign with a 4.98 ERA in 34⅓ innings pitched.

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Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu wins AL batting title

New York Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu has made batting title history. LeMahieu clinched the American League batting title Sunday and became the first player in the modern era to gain a batting title in each league. He’d previously won the National League batting title with the Rockies in 2016, hitting .348. LeMahieu led MLB in batting average both times.

“Guys don’t win batting titles in both leagues, because you win it in one league, they probably keep you,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly, the 1984 AL batting champ, told reporters following Saturday’s game (NYY 11, MIA 4), including the Associated Press. “It’s a different game nowadays.”

The modern era starts in 1900 and Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty won the batting title in each league at that time. Delahanty won the 1899 NL batting title with the Philadelphia Phillies and 1902 AL batting title with the Washington Senators, but the 1899 batting title is disputed, hence LeMahieu being the first in the modern era.

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The only other player to attain the batting title in multiple official leagues was Pete Browning.

He won the 1882 and 1885 American Association batting titles with the Louisville Eclipse and the 1890 Players’ League batting title with the Cleveland Infants.

LeMahieu, an impending free agent poised to land a significant payday, is the first Yankee to collect the batting title since Bernie Williams hit .339 in 1998. 

Anderson (.335) won the batting title last year and LeMahieu (.327) ended second. This is only the seventh time in history the same two players finished first and second (in either order) in the batting title race in back-to-back years, and the first time since Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams did it in 1956 and 1957.

Of course, LeMahieu’s batting title this year occurred in an unusual 60-game campaign as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s difficult to consider it on par with a 162-game batting title. That said, you can only play the schedule you’re given, and every team played the same number of matches. This is baseball in 2020.

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Royals announce Alex Gordon’s retirement after 14 years

Alex Gordon, who hit one of the biggest home runs in Royals history and gained seven Gold Gloves in left field, announced his retirement on Thursday.

The Royals stated Gordon will play out the final four matches of the season, making Sunday his last game in the major leagues.

Gordon, who was the second overall pick in the 2005 draft, played his entire 14-year career (2007-20) with the Royals. He is one of three Royals position players to play at least 14 campaigns in Kansas City, joining George Brett (21 seasons) and Frank White (18).

Both of those players have had their number retired by the team. Gordon is the Royals’ all-time leader in leadoff home runs (14) and hit-by-pitches (121). He is also in the top 10 for multiple franchise career statistics. That contains home runs (190, 4th), doubles (357, 5th), extra-base hits (573, 5th), hits (1,641, 6th) and RBIs (749, 6th).

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After making his debut as a third baseman, Gordon was sent to Triple-A following a slow start and moved to left field. Gordon thrived in this new position, winning seven Gold Glove awards.

Gordon’s biggest moment came in the 2015 World Series. With the Royals trailing 3-2 in Game 1, Gordon stepped to the plate with one out and crushed a home run to center field off Mets closer Jeurys Familia.

The Royals went on to win in 14 innings and took the championship in five games.

Gordon re-signed with the Royals on a $4 million, one-year contract after his $72 million, four-year deal expired following the 2019 season.

Born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Royals and has since become one of the most popular players in the franchise’s half-century existence.

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Arizona Cardinals making Budda Baker highest-paid safety in NFL history

The Arizona Cardinals are making two-time Pro Bowl selection Budda Baker the highest-paid safety in NFL history by giving him a four-year extension worth $59 million, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Baker was Arizona’s second-round pick in 2017, and his rookie contract was set to expire after this campaign.

The deal will average $14.75 million per year, but no other financial aspects were disclosed. The Cardinals announced the four-year extension Tuesday.

Baker’s extension comes four years after the Cardinals gave another star safety, Tyrann Mathieu, a long-term extension. Mathieu’s deal was for five years and worth $62.5 million, but he was released after the 2017 season. Baker is the first second-round pick to receive either an extension or second deal under general manager Steve Keim, who was hired in 2013.

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The 24-year-old Baker is coming off his second Pro Bowl year and his first as a safety.

He recorded 147 tackles last season and led the NFL with 104 solo tackles, the only player with at least 100 solo tackles in 2019.

Baker does not have an interception since entering the NFL in 2017 from the University of Washington, however, and has played the most coverage snaps (1,261) of any player during that span not to have intercepted a pass.

He also has recorded 33 quarterback pressures since entering the NFL, the most by any defensive back during that span. Baker has been a steady presence for the Cardinals in both their pass and run defense. Arizona permitted just two completions of 30 yards or more last season.

Baker has also been a factor in Arizona’s run defense. His 33 run stuffs, defined by NFL Next Gen Stats as tackles on run plays for no gain or a loss, are tied with Jamal Adams for second most among defensive backs since 2017.

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Giolito pitches 1st no-hitter of year, White Sox top Pirates

Lucas Giolito pitched the first no-hitter of the pandemic-delayed major league campaign, striking out 13 and permitting just one runner in leading the Chicago White Sox over the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0 Tuesday night.

With the seats at Guaranteed Rate Field empty, the hollers of his teammates echoed around the ballpark after right fielder Adam Engel extended to catch Erik Gonzalez’s slicing drive toward the line for the final out.

“I’ve been working for this type of game for a while now and it’s really cool that we got it done,” Giolito stated.

An All-Star last year, the 26-year-old Giolito (3-2) matched his career high for strikeouts set in his previous start versus Detroit.

Only a four-pitch walk to Gonzalez leading off the fourth inning got in Giolito’s way of perfection. The right-hander threw 101 pitches and made quick work of the Pirates — Pittsburgh came into the game batting just .229 this season and has the worst record in the majors. The White Sox rushed toward the mound after the final out to celebrate Giolito’s first career no-hitter.

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Giolito was fully aware in the later innings what was at stake.

“After the seventh, six more outs, looking at who I was facing, became very, very, very possible,” he said, “and then we were able to get it done.”

Giolito said his approach never wavered.

“Just staying with the same, like, mental routine for every single pitch. One pitch at a time. Full focus, full execution, straight through the target,” he said.

Giolito pitched the 19th no-hitter in White Sox history and first since Philip Humber threw a perfect game at Seattle in 2012. This was the seventh time the Pirates have been held hitless, previously by Washington’s Max Scherzer in 2015.

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson made a nifty play on a grounder by Bryan Reynolds up the middle in the seventh to preserve the gem. In the ninth, Gonzalez hit a liner that Engel, a fleet center fielder for most of his career, caught on the run at knee-high height.

“Yeah man, I think I got it,” Gonzalez said. “With that at-bat, I was a little bit mad because I don’t want to be part of history.” Giolito improved to 30-28 in his big league career. He made his debut with Washington in 2016, then was traded after that season to the White Sox in a package for outfielder Adam Eaton.

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Tokyo Olympics officially postponed until 2021

For thousands of athletes around the world, it would have once been considered a nightmare scenario.

And on Tuesday, it became official.

In an unprecedented and unavoidable turn, the International Olympic Committee and Japanese government agreed to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics “to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021” due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

It is the first time in modern Olympic history that a global health issue has disrupted the Games.

“The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times,” the IOC and Tokyo 2020 organizing committee said in a joint statement. “And that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.”

Organizers said the Olympic flame will stay in Japan during the delay, and the Games will also continue to formally be called “Tokyo 2020,” even as they move to 2021.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and IOC president Thomas Bach formally agreed to the decision Tuesday, amid intensifying pressure and public pleas for clarity from athletes and governing bodies alike.

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While the Olympics have previously been canceled during periods of war, and complicated by boycotts, this is the first time they have ever been suspended.

It is not immediately clear whether the Games will be moved to the summer of 2021 or the spring, when Japan’s famous cherry blossoms are in bloom.

“A lot can happen in one year,” stated Toshiro Muto, CEO of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee. “So we have to think about what we have to do.”

The decision to move the multi-billion dollar event will have widespread political, legal, logistical and financial ramifications, both locally in Japan and around the world. 

It also figures to cause headaches and heartaches across the international sports community — for federations and leagues that must now adapt their schedules, and for the 11,000 athletes who had spent years training to compete this summer.

Beyond finances, this decision will also cause substantial disruptions for athletes, many of whom have put off college or other opportunities to train full-time with the objective of peaking in July. Now, they will have to put their training on hold. Some might be forced to give them up altogether — their Olympic dreams dashed, a nightmare come true.

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