Corbin got a phone call informing him of the switch just as he was about to fall asleep.
ANOTHER NEW LOOK
GOING, GOING …
Corbin got a phone call informing him of the switch just as he was about to fall asleep.
ANOTHER NEW LOOK
GOING, GOING …
BOSTON (AP) — Steve Pearce blooped the ball to the edge of the outfield grass, and Red Sox second baseman Brock Holt was there.
He planted his feet. He raised his arm to catch it.
But something wasn’t quite right.
Holt lost the ball in the sun, allowing it to glance off his glove for a two-run single that tied the game as the Toronto Blue Jays rallied from an early deficit to take the lead for good and hold on to beat the Boston Red Sox 8-6 on Thursday.
“As weakly as I hit it, I didn’t” expect it to fall, said Pearce, who had three hits. “When you put the ball in the air, sometimes (the fielder) just can’t do it. Day game, clear sky. It was a great time for it.”
Ryan Goins followed with a two-run single to give the Blue Jays the lead. Justin Smoak homered twice, but it was a 140-foot duck snort that turned things around and allowed Toronto to leave Boston with a split in the four-game series.
“I don’t care how hard it’s hit, it’s a two-RBI knock. Then Goins comes right behind me, keeps things rolling,” said Pearce, whose team lost nine of the first 10 games of the season and haven’t been above fourth place since. “We’ve had a lot of things going against us, so it’s nice to finally have something go for us.”
Dustin Pedroia had three hits, including a three-run homer, while serving as designated hitter on a 90-degree day at the end of a grinding homestand. Including the 15-inning game on Tuesday with Toronto, the AL East-leading Red Sox played 76 innings in about 144 hours — the equivalent of 8 1/2 games in six days.
But it was the sun more than the heat that was the problem, especially for the right fielders and anyone else who tried to field a popup.
“During day games it’s always pretty bad for the right side of the field — second basemen, right field,” Holt said. “It was one of those balls that wasn’t really high enough where I could do anything to move myself and maneuver myself to get that out of the sun. … I tried to stay with it as long as I could and unfortunately couldn’t make the play. So that one’s on me.”
Dominic Leone (2-0) earned the win. Toronto starter Francisco Liriano got just five outs, allowing three runs in the second, but the Blue Jays came back with four in the third to take a 5-3 lead against Doug Fister (0-4).
Roberto Osuna pitched the ninth for his 24th save.
Smoak has 26 homers and 62 RBIs this season. His previous career highs were 20 and 59.
“We still have 2 1/2 more months left in the season so I just try to keep my head down and keep going,” he said.
Smoak’s RBI single in the sixth gave Toronto a 7-3 lead, then Pedroia’s homer in the seventh made it a one-run game. Smoak added his second homer in the ninth.
Mookie Betts had two hits and two RBIs for Boston.
Liriano gave up three runs — two earned — five hits and a walk, striking out one. He gave up back-to-back doubles to Xander Bogaerts and Sandy Leon, and Betts scored two with a single to give Boston a 3-1 lead in the second.
But the Blue Jays came back with four in the third, when Fister walked four batters and also gave up run-scoring singles to Pearce and Goins. Fister allowed six runs, seven hits and four walks, striking out three in 4 1/3 innings.
Goins ended the fifth inning when he raised his bat to protect himself from an inside pitch and wound up grounding it back to reliever Fernando Abad. Home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman signaled a fair ball, Abad made the casual throw to first, and Hanley Ramirez, seemingly confused, paused before stepping on the base. Goins remained on his knees in the batter’s box, smiling, long after the rest of the players cleared the field.
Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez left Wednesday night’s game with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.
Red Sox: Leon was hit in the left foot by Russell Martin’s foul tip in the fourth inning. The training staff came out to look at it, and the Boston catcher remained in the game.
Blue Jays: Marco Estrada (4-6) faces Trevor Bauer (7-8) in the opener of a three-game series against Cleveland.
Red Sox: Chris Sale (11-4) will start the opener of a three game series against the Angels, facing Ricky Nolasco (4-10).
Mississippi football coach Hugh Freeze has resigned after five seasons, bringing a stunning end to a once-promising tenure.
The school confirmed Freeze’s resignation in a release Thursday night. Assistant Matt Luke has been named the interim coach. A press conference was scheduled for late Thursday.
The Rebels had a quick rise under Freeze, recruiting at a high level and reaching an apex with a Sugar Bowl victory over Oklahoma State following the 2015 season.
But an NCAA investigation — alleging 21 charges of academic, booster, and recruiting misconduct — has overshadowed much of that success, especially over the past year. The school has already self-imposed several penalties, including a one-year postseason ban for the upcoming season.
Freeze — who was making more than $5 million per year — had a 39-25 record over five seasons, including a 19-21 mark in the Southeastern Conference.
The 47-year-old Freeze’s shocking exit — just a few weeks before preseason camp begins — completes a stunning fall for a coach considered one of the profession’s rising stars a few years ago.
Freeze took over after Houston Nutt was fired during a miserable 2011 season that ended with a 2-10 record. Ole Miss immediately improved under Freeze, finishing 7-6 in 2012 and winning the Birmingham Bowl.
The Rebels continued to surge on the field and on the recruiting trail over the next several seasons. They signed some of the nation’s top recruits in 2013, including defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, receiver Laquon Treadwell and offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil. They helped push the program to eight wins in 2013, nine in ’14 and a 10-3 record in ’15.
But Ole Miss’ newfound ability to recruit at a high level drew the attention of the NCAA, which was already investigating the school for a handful of violations that occurred during Nutt’s tenure.
The school has received two Notice of Allegations letters from the NCAA over the past two years. The first alleged 13 rules violations, including nine that were classified as Level I, which the governing body deems the most serious.
But the case expanded in April 2016 after Tunsil became the story of the NFL draft after a bizarre video of him smoking from a gas mask-bong contraption was posted on his Twitter account just before the selections began.
There was also a post on Tunsil’s Instagram account showing an alleged text conversation with a football staff member about arranging payment for bills.
Though the NCAA didn’t appear to find much from that particular exchange, the governing body did reopen its investigation, sending a second NOA earlier this year that expanded the case to 21 allegations, including 17 that are Level I.
Freeze, a north Mississippi native, had an unlikely rise to major college coaching, spending about a decade as a successful high school coach in Memphis, Tennessee, before landing a job at Ole Miss in the mid-2000s under Ed Orgeron. After Orgeron was fired in 2007, Freeze became the head coach at Lambuth, a tiny NAIA school in western Tennessee.
He became Arkansas State’s offensive coordinator in 2010 and was promoted to head coach in 2011, leading the Red Wolves to a Sun Belt Conference title before being hired at Ole Miss.
Freeze’s specialty was on offense and the Rebels were especially efficient on that side of the ball. Behind quarterbacks like Bo Wallace and Chad Kelly, Ole Miss was consistently one of the best schools in the SEC through the air.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee doesn’t mind adopting an underdog mentality a year after the Volunteers failed to meet preseason expectations.
The Volunteers have been picked to finish third in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division by the league’s media. They didn’t have any first-team selections on the media’s preseason all-SEC team.
One year ago, Tennessee was the preseason East favorite but ended up splitting its eight conference games.
“Right now we’re in the weeds,” senior safety Todd Kelly Jr. said. “Nobody’s really seeing us, almost like a snake in the grass. Our goal is to end up biting somebody at the end of the day and making them pay.”
Tennessee will open preseason practice on July 29 needing to find a quarterback to replace Joshua Dobbs, who started 35 games over the last four seasons. It must find a new pass rusher following the loss of Philadelphia Eagles first-round draft pick Derek Barnett, the school’s all-time career sack leader.
But the Vols also will be free from the weight of expectations that burdened last year’s team.
Tennessee was ranked ninth at the beginning of the season and raced to a 5-0 start before splitting its final eight games, including stunning defeats at South Carolinaand Vanderbilt. An injury-riddled defense struggled to stop anyone down the stretch.
That sluggish finish and the uncertain quarterback situation could help explain why SEC media picked Tennessee to finish behind Georgia and defending division champion Florida in the East. Tennessee beat both Georgia and Florida last year.
Not only did Tennessee not have any first-team picks on the media’s preseason all-SEC team, the Vols’ only second-team selections were offensive lineman Jashon Robertson and return specialist Evan Berry.
“I just look at it as kind of irrelevant and go out and play my game,” tight end Ethan Wolf said. “Of course we don’t like hearing negative things about our team, but we’re going to come out and play as hard as we possibly can come Week 1, and the rankings, they’ll go from there.”
Other players say they’re using the lack of preseason acclaim as incentive.
“I think it’s definitely motivating,” defensive end Kyle Phillips said. “We don’t have all the, I guess you would say, the high-profile players. But we have heart. I’d say this team is probably the best team I’ve had since I’ve been here team-wise, chemistry-wise and (with) people working together and in leadership roles and things like that. I’m really excited about this season.”
Phillips and offensive lineman Jack Jones spent part of the summer among a contingent of Tennessee student-athletes visiting Vietnam and working with children in orphanages and volunteering at sports camps as part of the school’s VOLeaders program.
Both said they can apply the lessons they learned in Vietnam to football.
“Going over there and working with these kids in sport, you really see that sports can bring anyone together,” Jones said. “Stepping back, we’ve got all these new freshmen coming in, and they might be from all over the country, but football’s bringing us together.”
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers could be adding another former MVP to their roster.
Looking to close the gap on the champion Golden State Warriors, Cleveland is in contract talks with free agent guard Derrick Rose, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Thursday. Rose, whose career has been sidetracked by injuries, could sign a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum, according to the person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.
Cleveland has salary cap issues and is limited in what it can offer Rose, who made $21.3 million while playing in 64 games for the New York Knicks last season.
ESPN.com first reported the Cavs’ pursuit of the 28-year-old Rose. Other teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, are interested in him.
Although Rose may not be the same player he was in 2011 when he was named the league’s MVP while with the Chicago Bulls, he can still score and would be another nice compliment to LeBron James, a four-time MVP.
The Cavaliers signed free agent Jose Calderon last month as a backup to All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. Rose, if healthy, would be a better option than the 34-year-old Calderon.
Cleveland struggled to fill the backup role last season after allowing Matthew Dellavedova to leave as a free agent following the 2016 championship.
Rose has averaged 19.5 points and 6.0 assists since being drafted first overall by Chicago in 2008. He was a three-time All-Star during his seven seasons with the Bulls.
MIAMI (AP) — Udonis Haslem believes he can still play, and the Miami Heat apparently agree.
The three-time NBA champion has signed a one-year, $2.3 million deal to remain with the Heat for what will be his 15th season. Haslem was already the longest-tenured player in Heat history, with all of his NBA seasons coming for his hometown team.
Among active players, only Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have spent the entirety of a career spanning at least 15 years with one franchise.
“It is a great, great, day to have Udonis Haslem sign a contract for his 15th season with the Miami Heat,” team president Pat Riley said Thursday, when the contract was announced. “He isn’t just Mr. 305, he is a true patriarch of the team. Today we are proud to announce that he is back to lead the Heat again.”
Haslem and Dwyane Wade are the only players who were on all three Heat championship teams, 2006, 2012 and 2013. Haslem is extremely popular with the Miami fan base, and 150 children attending a Heat summer basketball camp erupted into cheers when it was announced there Thursday that he had re-signed.
Haslem — the longtime captain of the Heat, going into his 11th season in that role — heard interest from other clubs this summer, though he said all along that he wanted to be in Miami and has expressed a desire to play in the 2018-19 season as well. He appeared in 16 games last season, though his leadership has been something the Heat have raved about for years.
Undrafted in 2002, Haslem spent his first pro season in France before signing with the Heat as a free agent in 2003. He’s now on his sixth contract with the Heat.
Haslem is Miami’s career leader in rebounds with 5,701, and has appeared in 830 regular-season games — 25 shy of Wade’s record. He’s also seventh on the Heat scoring list.
MADRID (AP) — A judge denied bail for the Spanish football federation president, his son and a federation vice president arrested in an anti-corruption probe after taking their testimony on Thursday.
According to a court statement, National Court judge Santiago Pedraz made the decision to keep federation president Angel Maria Villar, son Gorka Villar, and federation vice president of economic affairs Juan Padron behind bars while the investigation continues.
Judge Pedraz set bail at €100,000 ($116,000) for a fourth suspect, Ramon Hernandez, the secretary of the regional Tenerife football federation.
The four men were arrested in police raids on Tuesday. A state prosecutor accused them of improper management, misappropriation of funds, corruption and falsifying documents.
Judge Pedraz denied bail for Villar father and son and Padron for what he considered the flight risk due to “the large economic capacity that they have available.”
Pedraz said Angel Maria Villar is suspected of misappropriating private and public funds received by the federation “at least since 2009.”
In a statement released by the court, Pedraz alleged that Angel Maria Villar “took advantage of this position of dominance and power in the Spanish football federation in, for example, the naming of its executive board, the awarding of funds, the hiring and paying of federation personnel, as well as the excesses related to the favoring of his son Gorka Villar.”
On Tuesday, a state prosecutor’s office said they suspected the elder Villar of having arranged matches for Spain that led to business deals benefiting his son, a sports lawyer who has worked for CONMEBOL under three presidents who were all implicated in corruption cases.
Villar has been president of the Spanish federation for three decades. He is also FIFA’s senior vice president and a vice president of UEFA.
A former professional player, the 67-year-old Villar has been the head of Spain’s soccer federation since 1988, overseeing the national team’s victories in the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.
Villar is a longtime powerbroker in soccer both inside and beyond Spain’s borders, and he was singled out for questionable conduct in the 2014 FIFA report on the World Cup bidding process.
Two weeks ago, he answered a judge’s questions as part of an investigation into accusations brought by Spain’s Higher Council of Sports that his federation had committed fraud in the misappropriation of 1.8 million euros ($2 million) that was destined for humanitarian relief in Haiti. And in May, Villar’s reelection for an eighth consecutive term was marred when the only rival candidate withdrew in protest for what he said were irregularities in the election of the federation’s general assembly.
Prior to answering Pedraz’s questions, Villar spent two nights in a Guardia Civil jail on the outskirts of Madrid, not far from the Spanish federation offices which were raided by police on Tuesday along with private properties and regional federation offices.
Spain’s Higher Council of Sport pledged to guarantee that the federation’s areas of governance, which include the running of Spain’s men’s and women’s national teams, the calendar of the club competitions, appointment of referees and the distribution of government aid for soccer, will not be harmed by the arrests.
“What the government is doing is taking control of the situation so that the normal functioning of sports is not affected,” said Inigo Mendez de Vigo, Spain’s minister of education, culture and sport.
The Confederation of African Football’s executive committee approved two major changes to the continent’s top soccer tournament on Thursday, expanding it from 16 to 24 teams from 2019 and moving it from the beginning of the year to June-July.
CAF expects the first change to significantly increase revenue from the African Cup of Nations, its flagship tournament, and follows the lead of the European Championship, which expanded to 24 teams last year.
“The more the merrier,” CAF executive committee member Amaju Pinnick of Nigeria said this week in support of the expansion. Pinnick, who is also head of the Nigeria Football Federation, estimated that CAF could triple its revenue from the Cup of Nations — and member countries would ultimately benefit.
“It is certainly a bigger cake for everyone,” Pinnick said.
Switching the African Cup from its traditional January-February slot to the European offseason will increase the likelihood that Africa’s top tournament actually features the continent’s best players.
Previously, the African Cup clashed with a crucial period for the European leagues, forcing many African stars to choose between staying with their clubs, their employers, and representing their countries. Many, like seven of Cameroon’s leading players at this year’s African Cup in Gabon, choose club over country to the detriment of the Cup of Nations.
The proposals for the African Cup were made at a two-day meeting of African soccer’s leading figures in Rabat, Morocco, on Tuesday and Wednesday and approved by the confederation’s executive committee on Thursday. The changes will now be put to CAF’s general assembly in Rabat on Friday to be endorsed by its member countries, CAF president Ahmad said.
There was widespread support for the changes earlier this week and they are expected to be approved.
Two other radical proposals — that the African Cup be hosted outside of Africa and invite non-African teams to play — were ditched by the executive committee after a lukewarm response among delegates at the meetings.
The African Cup will be “exclusively held on African soil with African national teams,” CAF said.
Moving the tournament to the European summer months has long been seen as necessary for the Cup of Nations. But the change was resisted for years by CAF under former president Issa Hayatou, who Ahmad beat in an election in March to become head of African soccer. Ahmad, who is from Madagascar and goes by one name, promised a comprehensive review of the Cup of Nations in his election campaign and has made good on that promise four months into his presidency.
One issue to be worked out is how the 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifying competition, which has already started, will be tweaked to allow 24 teams and not 16 teams to qualify.
Also, 2019 host Cameroon has come under pressure for the slow pace of its preparations, and so adding another eight teams to the competition won’t help.
SOUTHPORT, England (AP) — The wind off the Irish Sea pushed away the rain clouds and bathed Royal Birkdale in sunshine, Stars and Stripes.
The British Open began Thursday with an All-American flavor.
Jordan Spieth, chomping away on gum as he watched one putt after another pour into the center of the cup, worked some bunker magic of his own late in the round to keep his card filled only with birdies and pars for a 5-under 65.
U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, with no competition and barely any practice since capturing his first major a month ago, ran off three straight birdies and holed a tough shot from a pot bunker for eagle on the par-5 17th hole for a 5-under 65.
Joining them was Matt Kuchar, who first endeared himself to these British fans as a 19-year-old amateur in 1998 at Royal Birkdale. Kuchar tied the course record with a 29 on the front nine, only to fall into a routine of pars the rest of the way. He still shot 65, his best score ever in a major.
They had a one-shot lead over Paul Casey and Charl Schwartzel on a day that started nasty and ended with 39 players breaking par. The biggest question after a long day on the links was what was in store for Friday, when high wind and occasional showers were in the forecast.
“I thought today’s round was extremely important, as they all are,” Spieth said, atop the leaderboard at a major for the first time since last year’s Masters. “But given the forecast coming in, I thought you really needed to be in the red today. You can certainly make up ground in a round tomorrow, and we’ll see it happen. But being able to kind of play with shots, or play a little more conservative because you don’t try to do too much on a day like tomorrow, that’s nice and very helpful.”
Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy fall into that category.
Johnson, the No. 1 player who hasn’t played the weekend at a major since the British Open last year, managed only one birdie on a decent day for scoring and shot 71. McIlroy also shot 71 and was relieved. Coming off three missed cuts in his last four events, he was 5 over through six holes when his caddie gave him a pep talk. McIlroy closed with three birdies over the last four holes to stay in the game.
Phil Mickelson failed to make a birdie, the first time that has happened in a major in five years, and shot 73.
Kuchar was the only one at 65 who played in the afternoon. The wind remained strong, though the course was manageable for everyone who stayed out of bunkers and deep grass and who holed putts.
“I watched some of the golf this morning on TV. It looked awfully challenging,” Kuchar said. “It looked like anything under par was going to be a good score. Seemed like the later your tee time, the better draw you got. … For me, to start my British Open with a 29 on the front nine is a great way to start.”
Charley Hoffman had the best start of all, holing out from the rough on the daunting opening hole for an eagle. He was poised to join the leaders when he reached 5 under with a birdie on the 15th, only to drop shots on the next two holes. Hoffman shot 69 and was in a group that included Ian Poulter and Rafa Cabrera Bello.
Defending champion Henrik Stenson, who played with Spieth, had a 71. Stenson also played with Spieth the first two rounds of the 2015 Masters that the Texan won wire-to-wire and knew what to expect.
“He was rolling it superbly that week, and I don’t think it was that far behind today,” Stenson said.
But his best shot was with his feet in the sand. Spieth was in thick rough to the right of the 16th fairway when his shot crept into the back of a pot bunker. Not only was the ball on a slight slope, the rake marks left his ball between two ridges.
“This is dangerous,” he said to his caddie.
He aimed to the right of the hole to avoid it going off the green on the other side and into another bunker, and it came off perfectly about 10 feet away.
“That was awesome,” were his next words to his caddie.
He made the par putt — Spieth made a lot of putts on picked up a two-putt birdie on the 17th and narrowly missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the last. It was his best start in a major since he shot 66 at the Masters a year ago. Spieth rated it among the top five or six rounds he has ever played in a major, not bad for someone who came close to the Grand Slam two years ago.
“I couldn’t have done much better today,” he said.
Royal Birkdale was much more kind than it was nine years ago in raging wind and rain. The 146th Open began in cool temperatures, a light rain and a strong wind. Mark O’Meara, a winner at Royal Birkdale in 1998 who is playing in his last British Open, hit the opening tee shot.
And then he hit another one.
O’Meara’s first shot was lost in the gorse, he made a quadruple-bogey 8 and was on his way to an 81. His threesome required 18 shots to play that hole. But the weather settled down a few hours later, and the scorecards filled up with plenty of birdies and eagles.
Just not for McIlroy until late in the round, or Johnson and Mickelson all day.
“With the weather we’re expecting tomorrow, I still feel I’m in the golf tournament,” McIlroy said. “If I can go out and play a good, quality round of golf in the morning and try to get in the clubhouse somewhere around even par, under par, I’ll still be around for the weekend.”
SOUTHPORT, England (AP) — Jon Rahm thought he was moving a loose twig, didn’t realize he had violated a rule and eventually was cleared of a penalty in the opening round of the British Open.
It was the second straight tournament in which Rahm was caught up in a rules dispute.
This one occurred on the 17th hole on Thursday when he was playing his second shot out of deep grass. Rahm noticed what he thought was a loose impediment to the right of his ball and went to move it. But it was a vine growing just above the ground with thorns. Lee Westwood noticed and mentioned to Rahm that he was violating Rule 13-2 for improving the area of his intended swing.
The walking rules official was called over and after a brief discussion, Rahm was assessed a two-shot penalty.
That changed in the scoring area when the 22-year-old Spaniard met with David Rickman, the rules director of the R&A.
“It would not have affected my swing unless I hit a 50-yard slice, which was not the case for any player in the world in that situation,” Rahm said.
Why move it if it wasn’t in the way of his swing? Rahm said it was a reflex because he thought it was a dead twig, similar to a player moving away leaves or other loose impediments as a visual distraction.
There was no video of the incident, and Westwood and Patrick Reed were not close enough to him to see for themselves. Rickman, through an R&A official, said he weighed the balance of facts and rescinded the two-shot penalty. The bogey became a birdie. Rahm’s 71 became a 69.
“At the end of the day, it’s not my call, honestly,” Rahm said. “I can describe what happened as honestly and truthfully as possible, as detailed as can happen. And they make the judgment call. It’s up to them. They did say it’s a very fine line. I would have been fine with whatever the rules official … they know the rules better than any of us and it’s their call.”
Two weeks ago at the Irish Open, Rahm avoided a two-shot penalty in the final round for replacing his ball incorrectly on the sixth green after the European Tour received emails and calls from TV viewers. Andy McFee, chief referee of the European Tour, said Rahm made a “reasonable judgment” after having moved his marker one putter head to the side to get it off the line of his playing partner.
Rahm won the Irish Open by six shots.
ROUGH START: Mark O’Meara was honored when the R&A asked him if he would be the first to tee off at the British Open because it will be his last time playing and he won at Royal Birkdale in 1998.
The honor quickly turned into mild embarrassment.
It was raining, and O’Meara had his left hand on the driver as he waved to the fans that filled the grandstand. He felt his grip slightly wet, but figuring it wouldn’t be a problem, O’Meara took a swing. The ball shot to the right into the gorse, and O’Meara hit another tee shot. That one went into the pot bunker on the left. He wound up starting his final British Open with a quadruple-bogey 8.
He followed with another bogey into the wind. He made double bogey on the par-3 seventh. He was 9 over at the turn. O’Meara wound up with an 81, the highest score of the day. In his 109th round at the Open, it was only his third round in the 80s. His highest was the opening round at Carnoustie in 1999.
“It’s not the end of the world. I realize kind of where I’m at in my life,” O’Meara said. “But, you know, you still play for your pride. When I play like that, I don’t care who plays like that, they’re disappointed. And certainly I’m disappointed that I didn’t do better today.”
At the age of 60, O’Meara has reached the age limit for the Open. He got one last chance at Royal Birkdale, where he beat Brian Watt in a playoff in 1998 to add the claret jug to the green jacket he won earlier in the year at the Masters.
But it wasn’t his day from the first shot on, though O’Meara was happy that he was able to somewhat limit the damage.
“My day was toast after that first tee shot,” he said. “But I still had to play.”
FASHION PLATES: Justin Thomas had his “coat” and tie. Jason Day had his high tops.
Together they made a fashion statement Thursday at the British Open. More importantly, perhaps, both played well.
Thomas, wearing a Polo Golf cardigan and a loosely knotted tie, shot a 67 and was two strokes off the lead. Day shot 69 while wearing white Nike high-top shoes that stood out against his black pants wherever he walked.
“If you wear golf shoes with these pants, they don’t look that great,” Day said. “So they look all right with these shoes. I’m happy with them.”
Thomas also was happy with his throwback look, which the company had publicized beforehand.
“Obviously I knew it was going to get a lot of publicity and be out there,” he said. “But I didn’t come here to dress well. I came here to try to play some good golf. And I guess that just happened.”
CASEY’S CYCLING: Paul Casey is a cycling enthusiast at home in Arizona, and he took it on the road to Italy two weeks ago.
Casey said he cycled 300 miles, which involved 3,700 feet of climbing, from Verona and up to Corvara. He was accompanied by his caddie, John McLaren, on the occasion of his 50th birthday.
“There was a lot of wine drinking going on, as well,” Casey said.
Casey has had a resurgence since he brought McLaren, known as “Johnny Long Socks,” on his bag. He hasn’t won yet, but he had two close calls in the FedEx Cup playoffs last year, losing out to great final rounds by Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson.
It’s the majors that have his attention. He opened with a 66 on Thursday.
“When Johnny McLaren came on the bag, it was kind of a five-year bag to try and win one of these, win a major,” Casey said. “The Open has never been the one I’ve seem to have fared the best at. But I feel really good about this week. Don’t know why. Maybe I’m more in love with links golf than I was before. Certainly this course helps. I really like this course. Not putting that much pressure on myself, but very much wanting to win it.”
LONDON (AP) — The International Tennis Federation is putting off its proposal for a World Cup of Tennis Finals for another year.
The ITF said last month it wanted to combine next year’s Davis Cup and Fed Cup finals into one event to raise the profile of the two national team competitions. But on Thursday, the governing body said it would not put the motion to a vote at its annual general meeting next month in Vietnam.
Other proposals, such as reducing the men’s matches to best-of-three sets and possibly skipping the final match of the series if it is already decided, will still go before member nations for ratification at the Aug. 4 meeting in Ho Chi Minh City.
“We promised change and are already delivering change with a significant series of reforms,” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement. “Taking another year to build consensus around the World Cup of Tennis Finals will allow us to finalize an even stronger recommendation to the AGM.”
Last month, the ITF said it wanted to start staging the World Cup of Tennis in November 2018 in Geneva. The Swiss city was to host the event for three years at its 18,000-seat Palexpo.
The ITF said then that it had made the announcement of the host city well in advance in an effort to follow the successful model used by the Super Bowl and Champions League final.
But that has now been put on hold as the governing body tries to sell its idea to its voting members.
“This decision shows that we do not act unilaterally,” Haggerty said, “and are working with all our stakeholders to find the best solution for tennis.”
Haggerty also announced the creation of a World Cup of Tennis Finals task force. Board members Katrina Adams and Bernard Giudicelli have been appointed as co-chairs.
“The World Cup of Tennis Finals will unlock considerable new revenue for investing back into the sport through the ITF’s member nations,” Haggerty said. “Investment in the development of the next generation remains the priority of the ITF and its national associations.”
UMAG, Croatia (AP) — Rogerio Dutra Silva upset second-seeded Gael Monfils 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Croatia Open on Thursday.
The 64th-ranked Brazilian next faces Italian Alessandro Giannessi, after he beat qualifier Kenny De Schepper of France 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
Also in the second round, defending champion Fabio Fognini overcame a second-set wobble to win 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 against unseeded Nicolas Kicker of Argentina.
The third-seeded Italian had his serve broken twice set by Kicker in the second set.
In the quarterfinals, Fognini will play lucky loser entry Andrey Rublev of Russia.
Rublev beat last year’s finalist Andrej Martin of Slovakia 7-6 (5), 7-5.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. got the replacement he wanted. Alex Bowman got his dream job.
Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that the 24-year-old Bowman will replace one of the series’ biggest stars in the No. 88 car next season after Earnhardt retires.
Bowman has big shoes to fill. Earnhardt was named NASCAR’s most popular driver each of the last 14 seasons and fans of his late father often tracked Junior’s results following Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the 2001 season opener at Daytona.
“Ever since I was a kid, racing is all I’ve wanted to do,” Bowman said. “I’ve had so many people believe in me along the way. My family has sacrificed a lot and always been behind me. I would never have this chance without the support of Dale and everyone involved with the No. 88 team. To be part of Hendrick Motorsports and for Mr. Hendrick to have this confidence in me, it’s just amazing.”
Bowman already has some experience in this job. When the 42-year-old Earnhardt missed 18 races because of a concussion last season, Bowman started 10 of them in the No. 88, winning the first Cup pole of his career and finishing in the top 10 three times.
That was enough to get Earnhardt’s attention and eventually an endorsement in May.
“Alex Bowman to the 88 next year — is that what you guys want?” Junior asked during a livestream on Periscope following the series’ All-Star race. “That would be pretty awesome to see Alex in that car. That’s the plan, I hope. . Yeah, Alex in the 88. That sounds good to me. That kid earned it last year. He ran good.”
The 24-year-old Bowman performed well enough to get several full-time offers to drive in the Cup series this year.
Instead, he stayed patient. Bowman said he turned down each offer as he continued searching for the right situation. The Tucson, Arizona, native wound up with no full-time ride in 2017.
But with Earnhardt’s concussion history, Bowman likely knew it wouldn’t be long until he stepped away. Rick Hendrick’s team contemplated its options for months before finally deciding bring back Bowman, who also got a 19-race majority sponsorship from the Nationwide insurance giant. Axalta Coating Systems will sponsor the No. 88 for 15 races.
In 81 career Cup starts and 50 career starts in the Xfinity Series, Bowman has never won a race. But he had 13 top-finishes and won three poles on the Xfinity circuit before blossoming in Earnhardt’s car last season.
“Alex impressed the heck out of us last year with his talent, poise and professionalism,” Hendrick said. “He stepped up in a very demanding situation and showed that he can run with the best and compete for wins. His ability to stay focused through it all, and the way he’s handled himself since then, has shown a lot of character.”
Bowman joins a series that is clearly in transition.
With television ratings and attendance sagging and three major stars — Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Earnhardt — retiring since 2015, Bowman will become yet another prominent fresh face in a series that currently has five drivers who are in their 20s in the top 15.
The announcement comes two days Earnhardt attempts to qualify for his final Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis. The race is scheduled to be run Sunday.
LOVELOCK, Nev. (AP) — O.J. Simpson was granted parole Thursday after more than eight years in prison for a Las Vegas hotel-room heist, successfully making his case for freedom in a nationally televised hearing that reflected America’s enduring fascination with the former football star.
Simpson, 70, could be released as early as Oct. 1. By then, he will have served the minimum of his nine-to-33-year sentence for a bungled attempt to snatch sports memorabilia he claimed had been stolen from him.
During the more than hour-long hearing on live TV, Simpson was, by turns, remorseful, jovial and defensive, heatedly insisting the items taken in the armed robbery were “my stuff.”
At one point, the murder defendant in the 1995 “Trial of the Century” set off a storm of sarcasm and incredulity on social media when he said: “I’ve basically spent a conflict-free life, you know.”
All four parole commissioners who conducted the hearing voted for his release after a half-hour of deliberations. They cited, among other things, the low risk he might commit another crime, his community support and his release plans, which include moving to Florida.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Simpson said quietly as he buried his head on his chest with relief. As he rose from his seat to return to his prison cell, he exhaled deeply.
Then, as he was led down a hall, the Hall of Fame athlete raised his hands over his head in a victory gesture and said: “Oh, God, oh!”
Simpson was widely expected to win parole, given similar cases and his good behavior behind bars. His defenders have argued, too, that his sentence was out of proportion to the crime and that he was being punished for the two murders he was acquitted of in Los Angeles in 1995, the stabbings of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Inmate No. 1027820 made his plea for freedom in a stark hearing room at the Lovelock Correctional Center in rural Nevada as the parole commissioners questioned him via video from Carson City, a two-hour drive away.
Gray-haired but looking trimmer than he has in recent years, Simpson walked stiffly into the hearing room in jeans, a light-blue prison-issue shirt and sneakers. He chuckled at one point as the parole board chairwoman mistakenly gave his age as 90.
Simpson insisted he never meant to hurt anyone, never pointed a gun and didn’t make any threats during the holdup of two sports memorabilia dealers.
“I thought I was glad to get my stuff back, but it just wasn’t worth it,” he told the board. “It wasn’t worth it, and I’m sorry.”
Even one of the dealers Simpson robbed, Bruce Fromong, testified on his behalf, telling the parole board that Simpson deserved to be released so he could be with his family.
“He is a good man. He made a mistake,” Fromong said, adding the two remain friends.
Arnelle Simpson, at 48 the eldest of Simpson’s four children, told the board, “We recognize that he is not the perfect man.” But she said he has been “a perfect inmate, following all the rules and making the best of the situation.”
“We just want him to come home, we really do,” she said.
The commissioners said the murder case played no role in their decision, though a majority of letter writers opposed to Simpson’s release asked the board to take it into account.
Simpson said that he has spent his time in prison mentoring fellow inmates, often keeping them out of trouble, and that he has become a better person behind bars.
“I’ve done my time. I’ve done it as well and respectfully as I think anybody can,” he told the board.
Asked if he was confident he could stay out of trouble if released, Simpson replied that he learned a lot from an alternative-to-violence course he took in prison and that in any case he has always gotten along well with people.
Several major TV networks and cable channels — including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and ESPN — carried the proceedings live, just as some of them did two decades ago during the Ford Bronco chase that ended in Simpson’s arrest, and again when the jury in the murder case came back with its verdict.
Simpson said if released he plans to return to Florida to be near two of his adult children.
“I could easily stay in Nevada, but I don’t think you guys want me here,” he joked at one point.
“No comment, sir,” board chairwoman Connie Bisbee replied.
Authorities must still work out the details of Simpson’s release with Florida officials, including where he will live and what rules he must follow.
An electrifying running back dubbed “The Juice,” Simpson won the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s best college football player in 1968 and went on to become one of the NFL’s all-time greats.
The handsome and charismatic athlete was also a “Monday Night Football” commentator, sprinted through airports in Hertz rental-car commercials and built a Hollywood career with roles in the “Naked Gun” comedies and other movies.
All of that came crashing down with his arrest in the 1994 slayings and his trial, a gavel-to-gavel live-TV sensation that transfixed viewers with its testimony about the bloody glove that didn’t fit and stirred furious debate over racist police, celebrity justice and cameras in the courtroom.
Last year, the case proved to be compelling TV all over again with the ESPN documentary “O.J.: Made in America” and the award-winning FX miniseries “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
In 1997, Simpson was found liable in civil court for the two killings and ordered to pay $33.5 million to survivors, including his children and the Goldman family.
Then a decade later, he and five accomplices — two with guns — stormed a hotel room and seized photos, plaques and signed balls, some of which never belonged to Simpson.
Simpson was convicted in 2008, and the long prison sentence brought a measure of satisfaction to some of those who thought he got away with murder.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The family of an Australian woman shot dead by a Minneapolis police officer wants changes in police protocols, including a look at how often officers are required to turn on their body cameras, a family attorney told local media.
Other police shootings around the U.S. — particularly the killings of black men by police officers — led to calls for changes that included everything from bias training for officers to upgraded technology. Sometimes those changes have been initiated by departments themselves; sometimes they have been ordered by the federal government or through a lawsuit.
In the most recent Minneapolis case, Officer Mohamed Noor shot Justine Damond, a white 40-year-old life coach, once through the window of his police vehicle after she approached the car, minutes after she called 911 to report a possible rape. Noor’s partner told state investigators he had been startled by a loud noise right before the shooting. Noor, who is Somali-American, has declined to be interviewed.
An attorney for Damond’s family, Robert Bennett, told Minneapolis television station WCCO that the family is in disbelief. He said the Australian woman was no threat, and any notion that the officers feared an ambush is “ludicrous.”
Authorities said neither officer had turned on his body camera. Bennett, who helped the family of black motorist Philando Castile reach a nearly $3 million settlement after he was killed by a suburban police officer last summer, said the Minneapolis department’s body camera policy, and how often the cameras are turned on, are among issues the family wants examined.
Minneapolis police have said they already were reviewing their body camera policy before Damond’s death. Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo said police will soon release changes to body camera requirements, without elaborating. Arradondo said supervisors would work with patrol officers to ensure the cameras are activated more frequently.
In a blog post Thursday, Mayor Betsy Hodges said low use of body cameras is “not acceptable,” and said she expects officers to activate them the moment they begin responding to any call. She also said she would push for an immediate audit of the program.
Joseph Schafer, a criminology and criminal justice professor at Southern Illinois University, said calls for changes are common after critical events such as police shootings.
“The challenge can be that a single incident, while horribly tragic and unfortunate … doesn’t necessarily establish there is a systemic problem that needs to be fixed,” Schafer said, adding that changes may not always prevent future mistakes.
He said other shootings have prompted changes in many areas, including communication between dispatch and officers, training on use of force or other tactics, and in the equipment officers are given.
Cara Rabe-Hemp, criminal justice professor at Illinois State University, said changes in Minneapolis could include updating the types of calls in which officers are required to turn on cameras or changing how citizens participate in the civilian review process.
Minnesota created a $12 million police training fund after the shootings of Castile and another black man, Jamar Clark. The Legislature also approved $35 million in programs meant to reduce long-standing economic disparities between black and white residents, which Black Lives Matter and other organizations targeted as a root problem behind tension with police.
In Castile’s case, Minnesota’s governor and family members called for a federal investigation, and residents called for changes during city meetings. In the end, there was no federal civil rights investigation into Officer Jeronimo Yanez, but the city of St. Anthony requested a voluntary review by the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. That review is looking at traffic stops, recruitment practices and how the department works with the community.
In Cleveland, the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice helped spur a Justice Department investigation and consent decree that led to a revised use-of-force policy. The black youth was playing outside with a replica gun that shoots nonlethal plastic pellets when a white officer shot him in 2014.
The revised policy requires officers to try de-escalation techniques, such as taking cover, to avoid using force.
The department’s previous policy allowed officers to use force, including firearms, if they determined it was “objectively reasonable,” meaning it’s something an average officer would do. The new policy says force must be necessary and “proportional” to the threat. It also requires officers to give first aid, something Tamir didn’t get until other responders arrived about four minutes later.
In Milwaukee, the Justice Department’s COPS program in 2015 laid out the broad strokes of a plan for the police force as part of a voluntary review that’s still underway. That followed the death of Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill black man who had been sleeping in a downtown park when an officer shot him 14 times in 2014. The review is looking at police use of force, racial disparities, community engagement and mass demonstrations.
The COPS program also has agreed to review the policies of North Charleston, South Carolina, after the 2015 fatal shooting of Walter Scott. The review will examine how the department could improve its relationship with residents and its policing strategies.
MARIPOSA, Calif. (AP) — The town of Mariposa, with its century-old saloons and covered streets, normally bustles with summer visitors on their way to Yosemite National Park but on Thursday the Gold Rush-era hamlet was mostly empty as ash rained down and heavy smoke from a nearby blaze darkened the sky.
The five-day blaze in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada threatened hundreds of homes, and historic buildings, including a wood courthouse founded in 1854 and touted as the oldest active courthouse west of the Rocky Mountains.
The fire has already destroyed 45 structures in the outskirts of Mariposa. It’s not clear what type of buildings burned in the wildfire that’s scorched 109 square miles (282 square kilometers). At least 1,500 homes and other buildings remain under threat, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
About 15 miles southwest of the park, Mariposa’s charming main street has covered sidewalks, and historic wood and brick buildings that now house antique shops, restaurants, pizza parlors and art galleries offers a taste of the Gold Rush days.
The town of 2,000 people is located on Highway 140, the main road to Yosemite National Park. Only fire trucks and other emergency vehicles traveled Thursday on the highway and the town’s main street.
Carol Dewey, who owns a small bed and breakfast in downtown Mariposa, was one of a few business owners allowed to return to check on their shops in the town under mandatory evacuation.
“The place is like a ghost town,” Dewey said. “This fire has really devastated the area, business is just flat.”
Dewey, 64, said that in recent years about 30 new shops and wine bars have opened, attracting lots of young tourists but the fire has emptied the place.
“We just hope everything gets back to normal by next week,” she said.
More than 3,000 firefighters are battling the blaze that has forced almost 5,000 people from homes in and around a half-dozen small communities. It is 10 percent contained.
The fire got within a half-mile of Mariposa but crews have been able to keep it out of the town by dropping red retardant on the flames burning nearby slopes and using bulldozers and hand crews to build fire brakes, Cal Fire spokesman Jason Motta.
“We saw the fire come over the ridge on the north side of Mariposa and it crested the ridge just at sundown” when it was cooling down, Motta said, adding the lower temperatures helped fire crews stop the wildfire’s progress.
“The imminent threat to Mariposa is over but fire crews are maintaining the line to control the threat,” he said.
At its closest, the blaze was still about 35 miles (56 kilometers) from the boundary of Yosemite, where campgrounds are open, park spokesman Scott Gediman said.
The fire closed one of several roads into the park during its busy summer season, and rangers warned visitors with respiratory problems to be mindful of the smoky haze over the park’s landmark Half Dome rock face, Gediman said.
Yosemite does not appear at risk from the fire, which was moving south, away from the park, Motta said.
Record rain and snowfall in the mountains this winter abruptly ended California’s five-year drought. But that has increased the challenge for crews battling flames feeding on dense vegetation.
Statewide, about 6,000 firefighters were battling 17 wildfires, including about 2,200 at the fire near Yosemite.
Gov. Jerry Brown has declared an emergency, bolstering the state’s resources to battle the fire.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The primary race for an open congressional seat in central New Mexico is set to become one of the most diverse in the country.
So far, the race has attracted nine candidates — seven Democrats and two Republicans — and even more may jump in within the next few weeks.
A Native American woman, an openly gay white male, a Hispanic former U.S. attorney, a Sandia National Laboratories physicist and a conservative immigration lawyer are among those seeking to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is running for governor in 2018.
Debra Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo, hopes to become the nation’s first Native American congresswoman. Pat Davis, an Albuquerque city councilor, is vying to be New Mexico’s first openly gay member of Congress.
The race features Damon Martinez, a former U.S. attorney for the District of New Mexico who led the office during Justice Department reforms of Albuquerque police and who was ordered to resign earlier this year by the Trump administration. Joining him are physicist Dennis Dinge, Edgewood Mayor Pro Tem John Abrams, attorney Damian Lara and former law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez. All are Democrats.
Republicans include lawyer Michael Hendricks. He grew up in Aguascalientes, Mexico where his parents worked as missionaries. He now works with immigrant communities in Santa Fe and New Mexico. His only opponent so far is former state lawmaker Janice Arnold-Jones, who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2012.
Republicans have not held the seat since 2009.
Christina Marie Sierra, a co-author of “Contested Transformation: Race, Gender, and Political Leadership in 21st Century America,” said the diversity of candidates in the 1st District race is a reflection of New Mexico.
It’s also a reflection of the push for more diverse candidates.
“Even Janice Arnold-Jones is an example of the diversity within the Republican Party,” said Sierra, a retired political science professor at the University of New Mexico. “She would increase the ranks of women within the party.”
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce is going to court to challenge a state official’s ruling that Pearce can’t use all of his federal campaign war chest of approximately $1 million in the New Mexico race for governor.
The Albuquerque Journal (https://goo.gl/b3RGDx) reports that Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver decided that Pearce’s use of his federal campaign cash is subject to a $5,500 contribution limit.
Toulouse Oliver is a Democrat, and Pearce contends that her decision is politically motivated and that he has a First Amendment right to use his federal campaign cash in the state race.
Deputy Secretary of State John Blair told Pearce in a letter that the decision that the $5,500 limit applies is based on a review of state campaign laws and a 1996 court decision.
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s superintendent of insurance says health insurance providers are reducing requested rate hikes for next year on the state’s subsidized exchange.
Superintendent John Franchini said Thursday that health insurance rate increases are likely to range from between 6 percent and 20 percent.
Initial proposals from four insurance companies would have raised premiums by up to 80 percent.
About 55,000 New Mexico residents sign up each year for federally subsidized insurance through the state exchange, known as beWellnm.
Franchini says the largest initial rate proposal was calculated under the assumption that subsidies would disappear for out-of-pocket expenses such as copayments and deductibles for lower-income patients, as well as income-based tax credits that help people buy coverage.
Republican plans to overhaul health care subsidies and enforcement provisions have stalled in Washington.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Revenue is up at New Mexico’s state-run museums, despite the fact that fewer people are visiting them.
The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/2uNc6of) both results can be attributed in part to an increase in the price of admission implemented more than a year ago. As part of the admission changes, the museum system now offers state residents one free Sunday a month, rather than free admission every Sunday.
Department of Cultural Affairs statistics show 835,135 people visited the state’s eight museums in fiscal year 2017, down from 2016’s count of 898,381 visitors.
Despite the overall decline in attendance, Cultural Affairs Deputy Secretary Michael S. Delello says visits to the National Hispanic Cultural Center are up nearly 20 percent and visits to the New Mexico Museum of Space History have increased significantly as well.