Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jason Day Leads In Byron Nelson Championship

Australian golf legend in the making Jason Day was so sick early Thursday that he almost withdrew from the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Instead, he got rest, drank plenty of liquids and took 66 shots. He was under the weather and 4 under par at the TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas.

He was thinking about withdrawing from the Byron Nelson Championship. Then he realized it looked like rain and he'd left his umbrella in the car. Walking to the parking lot, Day pictured himself getting behind the wheel and heading to his home in Fort Worth. He ended up toughing it out, and "it was probably a good idea," he said with a smile.

Jason Day was long gone before the day actually ended. Play was delayed for 3 hours, 43 minutes because of lighting and rain. Play was suspended at 8:29 p.m. because of darkness and will resume at 7:15 a.m. today with second-round tee times pushed back one hour.

Jason Day birdied four of his first six holes on his way to a 4-under 66 for a share of the first-round lead when play was suspended late Thursday.

The threatening skies that sent Jason Day fetching his umbrella never actually drenched the TPC Four Seasons course, but the radar looked so scary there was a delay of 3 hours, 44 minutes. Joe Durant finished with an eagle and a birdie to match Day at 66. Steve Elkington, Hunter Mahan and Jarrod Lyle were still on the course with scores of 4-under.

Steve Elkington will have two holes left, Hunter Mahan three and Lyle seven when play resumes at 7:15 a.m. Friday, pushing back the start of the second round by an hour. Thursday's late starters are the first to go off Friday, which means it will be a long day for them.

Among those working overtime will be 16-year-old Jordan Spieth, a high school junior from Dallas and the reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion. He's the first high schooler to get a sponsor's exemption into this event since Tiger Woods in 1993, and he showed he belongs by shooting even par through 11 holes.

Jordan Spieth woke up nervous and held his emotions in check during the delay by playing table tennis, shopping for souvenirs and putting. After a raucous ovation at his introduction, he ripped his tee shot down the middle, beyond his two playing partners. He parred the first four holes, then dropped in a birdie. He finished with a par putt and walked away saying, "I wanted to keep playing, I didn't care how dark it was."

Dustin Johnson was part of a group tied for second at 3-under, one shot behind. He's No. 9 on the season's money list, the top earner in this field.

Defending champion Rory Sabbatini was among a pack at 68. Vijay Singh and Rickie Fowler got off to poor starts in their quests to qualify for the U.S. Open. Both need to be near the top of the leaderboard to get into the top 50 in the world rankings by Monday's deadline, but both were stopped at 2-over. Rickie Fowler had two holes left, Vijay Singh three.

Although the weather made for a long afternoon, it helped Jason Day. He used the down time to recover from the strength-sapping eight-plus holes he'd played.

"I just kind of sat down and rested," Jason Day said. "I just sat down at a table with a bunch of friends and my wife and we sat there and talked, drank a lot of water, tried to keep up with my nutrition at least in there."

After the restart, he sure kept things interesting: two birdies, two bogeys and several scrambling pars — like on No. 1, his first full hole after the break. His tee shot was so poor it landed on the cart path, against a fence.

"I don't think any player has been over there except me today," he said.

Jason Day's season has been a lot like this round, spurts of great shots and bad ones, and ever-present illness. His physical problems began at the season-opening tournament in Hawaii. He's seen about six 6 is and allergies, and he's been given a bunch of different medicines.

Turns out he has a chronic sinus infection. He was given a shot and a batch of heavy antibiotics that should finally clear things up — but only after they threaten to clean him out. That's why he stood on the driving range wondering if 18 holes was a good idea.

"I really didn't think I was going to play this morning," he said.

Now the really weird part: The longer Day's medical woes have dragged, the better he's played. He's had three top-25 finishes this season, all in the last five weeks.

Jason Day suggests it's because he's practiced less and lowered his own expectations.

"I think I'm going out there and trying to play smarter golf," said Jason Day, who is only 22 but grew up being described as Australia's answer to Tiger Woods. "I didn't chip and putt as well as I would like to at the start of the year, and everything is turning around nicely now."

That breakthrough, first PGA Tour win would be even better.

Boxing News: Amir Khan Refused Ricky Hatton

Boxing world was a bit shock when Ricky Hatton, in an interview at Sky Sports, offered to promote WBA light welterweight champion Amir Khan, saying “I am certain with my help he can become the big star that his talent deserves.”

The 23-year-old Khan was quick to respond to Ricky Hatton, saying in an article at the, “Ricky is a good friend, but I already have Golden Boy Promotions behind me and my own company Khan Promotions. If I needed some help, I would phone him for advice, but things are going well for me right now.” Indeed, Amir Khan is working with Golden Boy Promotions now in an effort to try and become a huge mega star in the United States like his hero Manny Pacquiao.

It’s a gamble but Amir Khan is going to give it a try. Chances are, Khan will fail to become a huge star in the U.S. like Manny Pacquiao, but he will likely become as popular as Paulie Malignaggi, whom he recently defeated by an 11th round TKO last Saturday. If Khan wants to become a bigger star, he needs to step it up a couple of levels and start facing guys like his mandatory WBO light welterweight interim champion Marcos Maidana, and other top guys like Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander. Those are all tough fights for Khan but ones he needs to win for him to at least get to the level of popularity of Malignaggi.

Beyond that, Khan will need to face a huge star like Floyd Mayweather Jr. to become a big mega star. Manny Pacquiao won’t likely ever fight Khan because he sees him as a friend and not someone that he would like to fight. Khan, if he does get a fight against Mayweather, would have very little chance of beating him unless the fight takes place many years in the future when Mayweather is in his 40s. 

Right now, Mayweather would likely embarrass Khan and instead of Khan becoming a huge mega star like Mayweather, he would just another one of Floyd’s victims. You don’t become a huge mega star by getting trounced by Mayweather, unfortunately. It just doesn’t work like that.

A good start for Khan in becoming somewhat popular in the U.S. would be for him to step up and fight Maidana instead of a small lightweight. There is talk of Amir Khan possibly fighting WBO lightweight interim champion Michael Katsidis next instead of Maidana or some other top fighter from the light welterweight division. 

Amir Khan says “I would love to fight Maidana next. He can punch but is slow and can be hit. I would love to shut him up.” I wasn’t aware that Maidana was doing a lot of talking in the media.

At any rate, this is good news that Khan is interested in fighting Paulie Malignaggi. Of course, Khan said he was interested in fighting Maidana before his bout with Malignaggi, but instead of fighting Maidana, Khan said he wasn’t popular enough in the U.S. for him to fight him right now. Khan then opted to fight Malignaggi. 

Amir Khan needs to show boxing fans that he’s not afraid to fight Maidana, because more than a few think that Khan is running from Maidana and afraid to fight him. Amir Khan could quiet his critics if he stepped up and chose to fight him rather than the lightweight Katsidis.

Amir Khan wants to fight on July 31st, so he’s going to have to make a decision pretty soon about who he will be fighting next. Paulie Malignaggi would be the best opponent if Khan wants to win respect among the hardcore fans, but his promoters want him to fight the better known Michael Katsidis, even though he’s a lot smaller than Amir Khan and fights at a lower weight class.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

MLB News: Dodgers Win 9 Straight

Another baseball history marks the spot as the Dodgers kept winning games after losing Manny Ramirez last year, so they know the drill now that Andre Ethier will be disabled as long as six weeks. They didn't let the official loss of Ethier to a broken finger, or a shaky start by Hiroki Kuroda, keep the win streak from reaching nine Tuesday night with a 7-3 victory over the Astros and sweep of the two-game series.

"We're playing well," said manager Joe Torre. "We have a nice confidence right now. We had a lot of contributors tonight, we did a lot of little things. We're not going to be the same without Ethier, but so far, so good."

Hiroki Kuroda squandered a first-inning three-run lead but regrouped to go six innings and raise his record to 5-1 as Casey Blake, James Loney and Ramirez each drove in a pair of runs while the bullpen threw three more scoreless innings.

"Every team goes through adversity and you hate to see it with one of the best hitters in the lineup," said Casey Blake. "It changes the dynamics of the lineup a little bit, but we've got guys who can step in. We showed that the last few nights. Last year with Manny gone, it was Juan Pierre. We were a good team with Juan Pierre."

The nine-game streak is the longest for the Dodgers since 2006. They've won 11 of their last 12 and the opposition has been held to no more than three runs in each of the nine wins, the first time for a Dodgers team since 1980. This was the fourth win since Andre Ethier's injury and the winning streak is the longest for the Dodgers since they reeled off 11 straight in 2006.

"(Ethier) is just as much of a threat up there as Manny is, but that's not necessarily what wins games," said Russell Martin, whose hitting streak reached 13 games. "If we keep pitching and doing what we've been doing we'll be tough to beat. Obviously, you'd rather have him in the lineup, but if you don't, you pick each other up and do what you can, each individual to best of his ability."

The Dodgers gave Hiroki Kuroda a 3-0 first-inning lead with a two-out rally, James Loney singling in two, stealing second and scoring on Blake's RBI single. But Carlos Lee led off the bottom of the second with a home run to left field off Kuroda.

The Astros used a two-out rally in the third to tie the game, with Lee singling an 0-2 pitch up the middle with the bases loaded for two runs, but Kuroda shut down the Astros for the next 3 1/3 innings. The Dodgers regained the lead in the fourth on Jamey Carroll's sacrifice fly to shallow right field that scored Loney.

Houston starter Bud Norris sealed his fate by walking Kuroda to lead off the fifth. Martin singled, Xavier Paul bunted them over and with first base open Houston manager Brad Mills had Norris pitch to Ramirez, whose two-run single chased Norris.

"Matt Kemp is no easy pickings," said Torre, who had Kemp batting behind Ramirez. "I'm glad I'm on this side and don't have to make that decision."

Said Norris: "First base is open, but I've got to attack there and the guy on deck's no slouch either. I threw the pitch I wanted to throw and he hit it, I got to tip my cap. He's Manny Ramirez."

Blake added a solo homer in the eighth, the 150th of his career and third hit of the game. Blake was hitting as high as .328 on April 25, but in the three weeks since, has hit .159 to bring his average down to .233 entering this game.

"It's been frustrating," he said. "I was telling my wife about it. You want to do so well to help the team. I've gone down the path where I sit in beg and brood over it, driving myself crazy, lost a lot of sleep about my swing. I've tried that route. I hope I've gotten smarter with age, staying confident and patient. I know things are going to turn around and I'll come out on top of this thing."

A key play in the game was a running catch at the fence by Ramirez, who shaded Jeff Keppinger toward center field and ran down his two-out drive with a runner on first in the seventh off Ronald Belisario. On deck was Lance Berkman, and Torre said he would have brought on Hong-Chih Kuo to face him, earlier than desired, had Ramirez not caught the ball.

Instead, Hong-Chih Kuo pitched a perfect eighth inning and over his last eight innings has allowed no runs, two hits with nine strikeouts. Ramon Troncoso pitched the ninth as the bullpen as turned in 15 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings over the last six baseball games.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kobe Bryant Scores 40 Makes Lakers Win

The basketball fans soared high kickin' some buts when the Lakers struggled to the end of the regular season and then were dominated in Games 3 and 4 by Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs. But, we're seven games removed from that and it was also the last time the defending NBA champions lost.

Kobe Bryant started playing like Kobe Bryant again as Los Angeles Lakers' 128-107 win over the Phoenix Suns, Kobe Bryant had 40 points, including a remarkable 21 points in the third quarter of the Western Conference finals opener. Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday at Staples Center.

It really wasn't much of a game once Kobe Bryant took over. It was the fifth consecutive game in which Bryant has scored more than 30 points. He scored his 40 on 13-of-23 shooting from the field while making 11 of 12 from the line. He made three of six three-pointers.

Perhaps the greatest praise for Kobe Bryant came from two-time MVP Steve Nash of the Suns, who was held to a below-average 13 points.

"I don't think we sent him to the line a lot," Phoenix Suns' player Steve Nash said. "I don't think we let him inside a lot, but still he scored a ton." Kobe Bryant played only 35 minutes as he left the game with about nine minutes to play and nothing left to prove. As the game wound down, even the normally nervous Lakers crowd started to loosen up, chanting: "We want Boston."

The Boston Celtics have a 1-0 lead over the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference finals, with Game 2 on Tuesday.

"Kobe had an outstanding game," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said in an understatement of fact. "Pau (Gasol) played a fine game and so did Lamar (Odom)."

Pau Gasol contributed 21 points while Odom had 19 points and 19 rebounds. "Kobe carried a lot of the offense tonight," Phil Jackson said. "He came in and was going to shoulder the game."

Kobe Bryant's health is a constant topic around Los Angeles. The Times reported on Monday that he recently had a "significant" amount of fluid drained from his knee, something Phil Jackson verified although he said it was not done this past weekend.

And Kobe Bryant certainly made everyone forget about his date with a syringe early when he came out and scored 11 points in the first quarter. But there was an anxious moment with 1:46 left in the opening period when he slipped as he drove down the lane and fell on his injured knee. It hushed the sellout crowd of 18,997. But what was hurting him was his head, which banged into Phoenix guard Jason Richardson as he fell.

How did he respond? He got up, stayed in the game and sank a 17-footer at the buzzer. It was that kind of game for Bryant.

"When he's making those shots, there's not a whole lot more you can do about it," said Suns Coach Alvin Gentry.

"Every time he plays, he takes it personal. . . . He knows how important the first thing is."

Amare Stoudemire was the main reason the Suns were only seven points behind at the half before Kobe Bryant took over in the third. Stoudemire scored 15 of his 23 points in the first half and was the Suns' leading scorer. Richardson added 15 points with Robin Lopez contributed 14.

Besides Kobe Bryant, another subplot around Los Angeles has been the future of Jackson. He is in the last year of a contract that pays him $12 million a year. He said he would decide his future after the playoffs but in a radio interview he did before the weekend he said he was leaning toward retiring.

Is Lakers Ready For The Western Conference Finals?

Basketball superstar Kobe Bryant recently had fluid drained from his right knee and has not practiced in the week since their last game, and Andrew Bynum says his torn knee cartilage feels a little worse. Both will try to shake off their injuries Monday when Lakers face Phoenix in Game 1.

The Lakers haven't played since completing a sweep of Utah a week ago, but the circumstances are more considerable, the results more weighty when they begin the Western Conference finals Monday against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center.

They're four victories away from a 31st appearance in the NBA Finals, but they'll get there only if Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum shake off knee injuries that have basically kept them off the practice court the last week. Kobe Bryant recently had a significant amount of fluid drained from his swollen right knee, The Times has learned, and hasn't practiced since the last round. Andrew Bynum practiced only once and said the torn cartilage in his right knee was "getting a little worse" after making it through Saturday's scrimmage.

Ready or not, here come the run-and-gun Suns.

"We need some different company out on the court," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said with a smile Sunday after yet another day of practice.

Phil Jackson was a little more somber when discussing Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum, the former averaging a solid 32 points a game in the conference semifinals, the latter totaling only six points the last two games against the Jazz.

Jackson, on Bryant: "He came out [Sunday] and shot a little bit and tried to get in rhythm. We hope that he's on board and his game is right at that point where it needs to be."

Jackson, on Bynum: "I thought he played well [Saturday] and we're hopeful that he's going to be at that level."

Neither Kobe Bryant nor Andrew Bynum spoke to reporters Sunday, but it's been unusual to see Bryant off to the side watching and Bynum padding around in flip-flops as teammates run up and down the court at the team's El Segundo training facility.

Their teammates have shrugged off their absence.

"At this point of the year, we need those guys during the game," forward Lamar Odom said. "If they've got something that's ailing or something that's aching, that's bothering them, I'd much rather have them ready for game time."

Phoenix Suns won't take pity on the Lakers, bringing an offense that created a sweep in the last round, the Suns throttling the San Antonio Spurs behind the ageless legs of Steve Nash, the lively pick-and-roll game of Amare Stoudemire and the suddenly consistent shooting of Jason Richardson.

The Suns are shooting an impressive 41.7% from three-point range and averaging 105.8 points in the playoffs, almost five more than the Lakers. They will push the pace with the ever-crafty Nash in an up-tempo offense that somehow has a degree of control to it.

"It's not so full-out run as, say, Oklahoma [City]," Jackson said. "This team has some sense behind what they're doing on their runs."

The Lakers will counter by pounding the ball down low to Pau Gasol and, if possible, Andrew Bynum. They also have put a premium on getting offensive rebounds to limit the Suns' fastbreak opportunities.

"That's something we're going to focus on," Lamar Odom said.

The Suns will have gone eight days since their last game, one more than the Lakers, and they'll have a minor slice of history on their side, having eliminated the Lakers in the first round in 2006 and 2007.