Sunday, July 3, 2022

Thrilling U.S. Open was exactly what golf needed, plus Avalanche look unbeatable in Stanley Cup Final

Happy Monday, all. Hope you enjoyed a great weekend.

Let’s get right to it.

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Good morning to everyone but especially to…

MATT FITZPATRICK…

All Matt Fitzpatrick had to do to win his first major was hold off the world’s No. 1 player and the guy who just finished runner-up at the PGA Championship. No pressure, right?

Right. Fitzpatrick used outstanding ball-striking and some clutch putting to beat Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris by a stroke at the U.S. Open at The Country Club.

  • Not only is it Fitzpatrick’s first major, but his first professional win in the United States. The Englishman has seven career wins on the DP World Tour.
  • Fitzpatrick also won the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club in 2013. He joins Jack Nicklaus as the only other man to win the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open at the same course.

Fitzpatrick’s final round will be remembered for two shots in particular: first, a nearly 50-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole after he had bogeyed 10 and 11. Then, after driving the ball into the treacherous left fairway bunker on 18, he hit an incredible shot to 19 feet and easily two-putted for par. 

He was tough as nails all day, hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation and five birdies compared to three bogeys. With some of the world’s best — Scheffler, Zalatoris, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa — near the top of the leaderboard, Fitzpatrick never flinched, writes our golf expert Patrick McDonald.

  • McDonald: “Fitzpatrick had his fair share of miscues on Sunday, but he took the punches like a champion. In the process, he shed the moniker he saddled for so long, silencing his doubters and reigning atop the sport with the national championship trophy. ‘No words,’ Fitzpatrick said after hoisting the trophy. ‘It’s what you grow up dreaming of.”http://www.cbssports.com/”

It was also a huge week for golf in general. With the PGA-LIV drama dominating the lead-up, we got four days of an escape from that, with plenty of great golf, a terrific course, big names in the hunt and a tournament that wasn’t decided until the second-to-last shot. It was, simply, exactly what golf needed, writes golf guru Kyle Porter.

… AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO THE COLORADO AVALANCHE

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It’s hard to stop an Avalanche. In Game 2, the Lightning found that out the hard way. Colorado dominated from start to finish Saturday night in a 7-0 rout that puts them up 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final.

  • Valeri Nichushkin and Cale Makar both had two goals while Josh Manson, Andre Burakovsky and Darren Helm each had one.

  • The seven goals are the most Tampa Bay star goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has ever allowed in a game.
  • It’s tied for the second-largest shutout win in Stanley Cup Final history.

The road to a potential comeback starts with Tampa Bay’s offense finding its footing — something it is yet to do in the Final — notes our NHL analyst Austin Nivison.

  • Nivision: “Through the first two games of this Stanley Cup Final, the Lightning have only been able to muster 40 shots on goal and 1.71 expected goals. The most shocking part of all of this is how ineffective Tampa’s best offensive players have been. In Game 2, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Ondrej Palat combined for 0.0 expected goals.”

The Lightning trailed the Rangers 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Final and came back to win. A similar road back has to start tonight in Game 3 at Tampa Bay.

Honorable mentions

Not so honorable mentions

NBA Draft week: Knicks among most intriguing teams 🏀

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USATSI

The NBA season ended Thursday night, but the league never sleeps: The NBA Draft is just three days away, and the rumor mill is spinning fast.

While there’s no guaranteed No. 1 pick, there is a consensus top three of Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith and Paolo Banchero in some order. Then comes Jaden Ivey, and plenty of teams seemingly want to trade up for him. Among those teams are the Knicks, who NBA expert Colin Ward-Henninger ranks among his most intriguing teams heading into the draft.

  • Ward-Henninger: “Obviously, the Knicks would have to include their No. 11 pick in the deal, but they’d also likely have to give up some of their young talent like Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, Quentin Grimes or Cam Reddish. … The Knicks realized last season that their current roster probably isn’t enough to compete in the East, and trading for a player like Ivey would allow them to potentially get better now while still building toward the future.”

The Knicks aren’t at the top of Colin’s list, though. That “honor” belongs to another team coming off a disappointing season: the Trail Blazers, who own the seventh pick and need to put talent around star Damian Lillard. It should be a super fun week, and it’s just getting started. Be sure to read all our draft coverage here.

Do Tar Heels become No. 1 with latest transfer addition? 🏀

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USATSI

Over the weekend, North Carolina men’s basketball picked up arguably the best transfer still available in former Northwestern big man Pete Nance. As someone who has watched an unhealthy amount of Northwestern basketball the past few years, I can tell you Nance is a super skilled offensive player with 3-point range (over 45 percent last year) and a solid midrange game.

So, is all of that enough for North Carolina to jump Gonzaga in college basketball reporter Gary Parrish’s latest Top 25 And 1? Not quite…

  • Parrish: “Put simply, I just like Gonzaga’s roster a little better than I like North Carolina’s roster. The rosters are close in my mind. Very close. But I’m giving a slight edge to the Zags thanks to the fact that they’re returning six of the top eight scorers from a team that was the No. 1 overall seed in the 2022 NCAA Tournament — among them two-time All-American Drew Timme and double-digit scorers Julian Strawther and Rasir Bolton. Gonzaga has also been bolstered this offseason by the arrival of transfers Malachi Smith and Efton Reid.”

It’s hard to bet against a team that barely lost the national championship, returns four starters and just got a replacement for fifth. But it’s also hard to bet against Gonzaga given everything Gary explained. Anyway, here’s the top five of Gary’s latest rankings:

  • 1. Gonzaga
  • 2. North Carolina
  • 3. Houston
  • 4. Kentucky
  • 5. Duke

What we’re watching Monday 📺

🏒 Stanley Cup Final Game 3: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. on ABC

Cardinals at Brewers, 8:10 p.m. on FS1

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