August 22, 2014

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It’s crunch time for the Ryder Cup
Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 8:07 PM

Associated Press


HOYLAKE, England — The end of the British Open means the Ryder Cup is getting closer and there are a couple of regulars still not in the team.

That starts with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

They both have two tournaments remaining before qualifying ends at the PGA Championship. The top nine earn automatic spots on the U.S. team that goes to Scotland at the end of September to try to win back the cup.

Tom Watson has three captain’s picks.

Woods will have to rely on a captain’s pick unless he finishes at least third at the Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship. Mickelson has more realistic chance. He is the equivalent of $198,056 in earnings behind Zach Johnson in the No. 9 spot and money counts double at the PGA Championship.

The Open went a long way toward sewing up a few spots on the team. Rickie Fowler, a runner-up at Hoylake, moved up to No. 3 and locked up a spot. Jim Furyk, who closed with a 65 to finish alone in fourth, moved up to No. 4 and can expect to be at Gleneagles. Right behind him is Dustin Johnson, with Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar trailing. The top seven look pretty solid barring some really bad play, or the right combination behind them winning.

Where it gets tight is at the bottom. Only $430,275 separates Jason Dufner at No. 8 from Webb Simpson at No. 15. Of the next five players behind Zach Johnson, Mickelson is the only one with Ryder Cup experience.

In dire need of some good finishes are Keegan Bradley (No. 16), Brandt Snedeker (No. 28) and Hunter Mahan (No. 34).

Snedeker and Mahan are playing the Canadian Open this week.

AMERICAN FALL: American golfers suddenly have their work cut out for them to get back toward the top of the world ranking.

Justin Rose of England won at Congressional. Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland won the British Open and Sergio Garcia of Spain was a runner-up. And just like that, there are no Americans among the top five for the first time since the end of 2011.

Adam Scott of Australia remains No. 1, with McIlroy at No. 2. Henrik Stenson (Sweden) is No. 3, followed by Rose and Garcia. That’s one Aussie and four Europeans atop the world ranking. Americans do occupy five of the next six spots — Bubba Watson is the highest-ranked American at No. 6 — and they have 11 in the top 20.

Tony Stewart initially opposed stock cars at Indy
Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 8:06 PM

Associated Press


INDIANAPOLIS — Drivers always say there’s something magical about Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the opportunity for NASCAR to race there opened the door for one of Jeff Gordon’s most treasured victories.

It was a race Tony Stewart initially opposed.

Stewart, a die-hard open-wheel driver at the time of the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994, was one of the many IMS loyalists who firmly believed NASCAR did not belong on the hallowed grounds of the speedway. The Indiana native had grown up dreaming of one day winning the Indy 500. Until 1994, it was the only big race.

“I was one of them that absolutely thought it was a crime,” Stewart recalled. “I’m a purist. I’m old school. It’s always been sacred ground to me.”

He wasn’t in Indy when NASCAR made his debut and had to watch the race later on a replay.

Stewart’s mind was instantly changed.

“There were other people that I knew that were dead against it that went just to see what it was going to be like and they came back and felt the same way,” he said. “I think everybody changed their mind and their opinion after they saw that first one.”

The 20th anniversary of NASCAR’s first race at Indy is Sunday, when Gordon will go for his fifth Brickyard win.

A California native, Gordon moved to Indiana before high school to race around the Midwest. Like Stewart, he was enamored with Indy but his path into NASCAR made him believe he’d never get a shot to race at the speedway, which has been home to the Indy 500 since 1911.

Then the speedway opened its gates to NASCAR and a 23-year-old Gordon won the inaugural event. It was only his second career victory but remains one of the biggest in a career of 89 wins and four championships.

“My love for Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500 goes way back to when I was racing in California and I was racing open wheel cars on an oval,” he explained. “Sprint cars were what I looked up to and what I loved to watch as a kid. The drivers were my heroes. The (Indy 500) was one that I always put on the calendar that I was going to watch. I always wanted to race there and to get that opportunity, especially an opportunity to win, it just is a way to live out a childhood dream.”

Hoyer, Manziel set to battle for Browns’ QB job
Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 8:05 PM

Associated Press


BEREA — It’s time for football, Johnny.

After months of having his off-field behavior analyzed, scrutinized and criticized, Johnny Manziel will again be the center of attention.

This time, though, it won’t be for swigging champagne on an inflatable swan but during his first NFL training camp as he and Brian Hoyer battle for the Browns’ starting quarterback job.

The Hoyer-Manziel showdown will dominate camp until someone is named the winner and that decision from first-year coach Mike Pettine will not come until the third exhibition game (Aug. 23).

Manziel earned his “Johnny Football” nickname during a stellar career at Texas A&M, where his daring, dazzling scrambles and improvisational skills made him a college star. It’s probably not going to be nearly as easy for him at this level.

The Browns drafted Manziel in the first round, selecting him to hopefully end a decade-plus problem at the game’s most vital position. It may be only a matter of time before Manziel unseats Hoyer, a career backup who started three games last season before tearing his right knee ligament.

Hoyer enters camp with a slight lead in the starter’s competition. It’s up to him to keep it.

A lifelong Browns’ fan, Hoyer, who has full medical clearance, is determined to hold off Manziel. The pressure will be immense as every pass, incompletion, interception and touchdown will be viewed and examined by media members and thousands of fans, who had to register online just to be able to watch practices this summer.

Cleveland fans appear divided over Hoyer — the hometown hero — and Manziel, the fun-loving curiosity.

The Browns, too, will feel some heat — from fans, TV networks, advertisers — to push Manziel along.

Let the duel begin.

Delphos Minor League co-champs/Tourney runners-up
Written by Staff Reports   
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 8:03 PM
The Pirates were the Delphos Minor League regular-season co-champions and Minor League Tournament runners-up. Members of the team are, front from left, Tanner Jones, Kevin Pohlman, bat boy Maddox Kroeger, Avery Schulte, Danny Schleeter, Lucas Grothaus and Braylon Scalf; and back, Assistant Coach Scott Scalf, Gavin Holdgreve, Eli Coil, Head Coach Randy Holdgreve, Mason Rowe, Jason Gillespie and Assistant Coach Josh Gillespie. (DHI Media/Amy Holdgreve).
NFC Central Previews
Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 8:00 PM

Associated Press

Lions will try to move on from 2013 collapse

DETROIT — It's been five years since Detroit drafted Matthew Stafford with the No. 1 overall pick and in that span, the Lions have progressed from miserable to maddening.

Needless to say, that's still not good enough.

"We think that our talent level is approaching a point where we should be contending — and we are not there now," general manager Martin Mayhew said.

Mayhew made that comment in December, when the Lions fired coach Jim Schwartz after a late collapse cost the team a playoff spot. Schwartz took Detroit to the postseason in 2011 but that was his only playoff appearance with the team — and amid heightened expectations, the Lions went 11-21 in the two years since.

So now Jim Caldwell is coaching the Lions and the front office is hopeful he can help Stafford take another step forward after a promising but uneven start to his career. The 26-year-old Stafford has thrown for more than 4,600 yards in each of the past three seasons but threw 19 interceptions in 2013, his most since his rookie season.