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The Golden State Warriors and The Greatest Five-Year Run in NBA History

The Golden State Warriors are in the midst of the greatest five year run in the history of the NBA. They punched their ticket to their fifth consecutive trip to the NBA finals after sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers and they did so in unbelievable fashion. In three of the four games, they trailed by as many as 17 points before coming back to win each of those games. Portland played very good basketball in games two through four but couldn’t keep the Warriors at bay. It’s no wonder live betting lines at 888 Sport New Jersey have had them as heavy favorites in each game this season. They refuse to lose.

The Assembling of a Juggernaut

The Golden State Warriors juggernaut started with the seventh pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. They selected an undersized, sharp shooting, point guard from a mid-major, Stephen Curry. Curry has revolutionized the game with his unlimited range and slick ball handling. Two years later they selected another sharp shooting guard with the eleventh pick, Klay Thompson. Thompson is the perfect compliment to Curry. He doesn’t need to have the ball in his hands to be a lethal scorer. In 2016, Thompson scored 60 points and this quote from Kevin Durant says it all, “I don’t even know what to say, it was crazy because he probably has the ball in his hand for probably not even two minutes in the whole game. He was catching, shooting, cutting.” Thompson only took 11 dribbles in that game. In the 2012 NBA draft, the Golden State Warriors stole Draymond Green in the second round. Green has been their heartbeat ever since and a defensive stalwart. They also have added key bench pieces like Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, and many others who seem to fit like a glove.

Battling the Cleveland Cavaliers

There are two items that separate the Golden State Warriors from the early 1960s Boston Celtics. The first is the limited competition Boston had to run through, there were only eight teams in the NBA in 1960. The second is the team Golden State had to beat in the NBA finals. LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014. Before the return of James, Cleveland selected Andrew Wiggins with the number one overall pick in the NBA draft, and promptly traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love once James returned. This gave Cleveland a potent big three with James, Love, and Kyrie Irving; they were the favorites to win the NBA title going into the 2014-2015 season. Golden State ran into a bit of good luck in the playoffs as Love went down early in the playoffs and Irving fractured his knee cap in game one of the finals. However, Golden State finished the deal and won the NBA title. The following season proved to be the low point in the Warriors run, and that is amazing because the broke the regular season win record with 73 wins. The Cleveland Cavaliers saw historic performances from Lebron James and Kyrie Irving as they led them to the NBA title after falling in a three games to one deficit in the finals.

The Infamous Phone Call

The Golden State Warriors were devastated after losing at home in game seven of the NBA Finals. They were coming off an NBA title in the 2014-2015 season, and won 73 games in the regular season of the 2015-2016 season. After game seven of the NBA Finals in the 2015-2016 season, Draymond Green called Kevin Durant from the parking lot and told him they needed him. Durant was set to be a free agent and had come up short in the Western conference finals that year to these very same Golden State Warriors. Durant obliged and joined. The following two seasons saw Golden State dominate Cleveland and win two more NBA titles. Golden State is such a dominant juggernaut that they are making another team on a historic run, the Cleveland Cavaliers, an afterthought.

Finishing the Run

In order for Golden State to become the greatest dynasty in NBA history, they need to finish the run with another Larry O’Brien trophy this season. There are murmurs that Kevin Durant, a free agent following the season, has one foot out the door already. There are also talks that Klay Thompson, who is also a free agent following the season, might be looking to branch off on his own. The question is, if Golden State wins the NBA Championship this year, will they go down as the greatest dynasty in NBA history?

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Saskatchewan Roughriders Training Camp Battles

After a very long off-season that consisted of everything from a wild free agency period, a tutorial in provincial labour laws thanks to the CBA negotiations and everything in between, football season is almost here. Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp battles will be the consuming the headlines in the weeks to come, below is a primer of who will be competing at what positions before week one. Under the watch of new head coach Craig Dickenson, there will be plenty of positions up for grabs.
Back-up Quarterback
Last season around this time, it was a battle for the starting quarterback position that was dominating headlines. Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge duked it out for the starting spot. Collaros ended up winning out but Bridge saw plenty of time in Collaros’ absence, including the West Semi-Final.

That brings us to 2019, after striking out on Bo Levi Mitchell, Mike Reilly and Trevor Harris, the Riders brought back veteran pivot, Collaros. But it didn’t stop there, Saskatchewan brought aboard journeyman quarterback Cody Fajardo to compete with David Watford. Many fans will remember Watford getting his reps during Chris Jones’ infamous quarterback carousel in Collaros’ absence.

Fajardo brings with him three years of CFL experience but just 414 yards passing to show for it. His rushing stats are what stand out, however, with 437 yards and 13 touchdowns to show for his work.
Wide Receiver
The receiver position has overgone an overhaul over the last number of seasons. Back in 2017, Duron Carter, Bakari Grant and Naaman Roosevelt led the way. All three eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards that season. The up and coming Caleb Holley also put up 600 yards of his own. Now, two years later, just Roosevelt remains.

In the CFL’s off-season depth chart series, second-year player Shaq Evans appears to have the boundary receiver position held-down. However, opposite of him there’s a battle of Nationals at the field receiver position between Cory Watson and Mitch Picton. Watson was added this past free agency to provide a veteran presence on what is otherwise a young receiving corps.

Watson appeared in 18 games last season for the BC Lions, hauling in 38 catches for 408 yards and three touchdowns. Picton, on the other hand, has been biding his time on the Riders practice roster over the last two seasons. With Collaros firmly supplanted as the team’s starting pivot, both receivers should have equal opportunity to build rapport and prove their worth over camp and pre-season.
Offensive Line
The Riders have an interesting mix of young and old on the offensive line, which may come as a benefit. Left tackle is presumed to be anchored by Takoby Cofield, though Terran Vaughn started the first seven games of the 2018 season. At left guard, Brendon LaBatte will enter as the starter. However, it certainly helps that the Riders signed Dakoda Shepley who can step in if needed. Injuries hit the Riders offensive line in waves last season. Dan Clark will hold down the center position.

The most intriguing battle in the trenches may come at right guard. 33-year-old Philip Blake and former 11th overall pick in 2017 Dariusz Bladek appear to be vying for the starting spot. Both are nationals. At right tackle, Thaddeus Coleman will likely hold his spot as he did in 2018.
Cornerback
Again, citing the CFL’s off-season depth chart, it appears Crezdon Butler will be moving outside after spending a few seasons at defensive halfback. The emergence of Nick Marshall last season at least ensures one of the two cornerback spots are solidified. However, Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post reported May 20th that slotback Kyran Moore was going up against Butler in various drills. Assuming Ed Gainey and Loucheiz Purifoy hold onto their spots, Butler with his experience would be a good fit opposite of Marshall.
Middle Linebacker
Finally, at middle linebacker, an interesting battle is taking place. Let’s pretend for a second that Solomon Elimimian is pencilled in at the weak-side linebacker spot and Derrick Moncrieff is on the strong side. That leaves Cameron Judge and Sam Hurl to compete for the middle linebacker position. Hurl has the experience of having been in the league since 2012 and has also been a major contributor on special teams. Judge, on the other hand, is a former second-overall selection from the 2017 draft. He burst on to the scene last season with 41 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Both Hurl and Judge are nationals. This may be the most interesting battle at Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp.
The Last Word
Needless to say, there are plenty of more battles that are going to take place at the Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp. Players mentioned above may be surprise cuts or perhaps traded. Others may emerge as dark horses that many did not see coming, such as Marshall last season. No matter how you look at it, competition brings out the best in others and the Riders have plenty to offer in 2019’s training camp. Rider fans will hope it all translates to on-field play come kick-off June 13th against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

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Brooks Koepka Survives to Capture Fourth Major Championship

FARMINGDALE, NY– Brooks Koepka once again is in a familiar spot. In the illustrious winner’s circle of being a major champion. But getting his fourth major championship would not be an easy task. Bethpage Black showed why it’s one of the toughest major championship venues in America. Koepka started to miss fairways and Dustin Johnson roared from behind back into contention. But Brooks Koepka, despite struggling down the stretch, would make the critical shots the final few holes to survive and secure his fourth major championship in his last eight appearances. With the win, Brooks becomes the first player to win his first four major championships in two years or less. And become the first golfer to be the back-to-back champion of the PGA Championship and U.S. Open simultaneously.

But most of all, Koepka is solidifying himself as the premier millennial golfer, dominating in the tournaments that matter most.

“This was my most satisfying major win,” said Koepka after the round. “I’d challenge anyone to go out and play in these conditions, they were brutal. That was so exciting to get this done.”
Brooks Koepka’s Steady, Consistent Play Shines in Final Round
The final round was all about survival and outlasting the competition for Brooks Koepka. With Bethpage Black showing it’s difficulty and punitive nature, Koepka’s strategy was simple. Put the ball in play, try to make birdies and don’t get a big score.

There were moments where the final round could have gone awry. Brooks Koepka bogeyed the first hole and his playing partner, Harold Varner III, got a birdie that resulted in a two-shot swing. Dustin Johnson, starting the day seven back of Koepka, shot three under on the Front 9, to go within four shots of the leader. It was the third time in the past two years where Koepka and Johnson were near the top of a major championship leaderboard; the previous two occurred at the 2019 Masters and last year’s U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.

But when the winds started to swirl and the conditions became difficult at Bethpage, Koepka started to waver. With four consecutive bogeys on the Back 9, Koepka’s seven-shot lead was evaporated to one. Dustin Johnson, who was walking off the 15th green with a birdie, was starting to feel the momentum and the belief that he can snatch this major championship from Koepka. But bogeys on 16 and 17 put Johnson out of contention, paving the way for Brooks Koepka to survive and outlast the field. For Dustin Johnson, who was first in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and Proximity to the Hole Around the Green, he believes his game is in great shape to be competitive at future major championships.

“I really like the state of my game. I’ve been playing well all year,” said Johnson. “But unfortunately, just didn’t roll in the putts to get it done.”

For Koepka, it was all about getting to a finish line. Despite only converting 42 percent of fairways, Koepka made the ones he needed to the most, on 15 and 16. On the 72nd hole, his wedge shot to within 10 feet for the win, which he sank, epitomized the toughness and mental fortitude needed to secure a major championship.

“That was a stressful round of golf,” said Koepka. “The wind was up, DJ played well. He put pressure on me to play solid golf.”
Brooks Koepka Put on Major Championship Pedestal All By Himself
Bend but don’t break. That has been the mantra for Brooks Koepka all throughout his career. While his American peers were having success on the golf courses that exemplify affluence and status, Koepka was grinding his way on the European Challenger Tour. At one moment in Scotland, Koepka considered leaving the game of golf altogether. He was playing golf in 15 different countries, often staying in less than modest accommodations. He had driven through the night, survived a flat tire and only had 90 minutes of sleep before teeing off.

But this adversity, these tough conditions to overcome made Koepka a more complete player. He learned valuable lessons about never giving up and always being tenacious. This made him win on the European Challenger Tour, which eventually led to a PGA Tour card and an opportunity at stardom. For years, the golf world was focused on the rise of Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. When Brooks Koepka’s name was brought up, it was never given any credibility. Not after his first U.S. Open victory at Erin Hills. Or his back to back U.S. Open win at Shinnecock.

But his ability to win the PGA Championship at Bellerive, with Tiger Woods charging, as well as at Bethpage Black, with Dustin Johnson on his heels, puts him on a major championship pedestal all on his own. Those who doubted or criticized Koepka now are silent. It is that constant skepticism that fuels Koepka and has allowed him to become the best golfer in the world.

“Going the route that I did, it toughened me,” Koepka said. “It was a blessing in disguise.”
Brooks Koepka Becomes World No. 1
With Sunday’s PGA Championship victory, Brooks Koepka once again reclaims the title of World No. 1. He is tied for the fourth-most major wins before turning 30, behind only Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Ben Hogan.

Before Brooks Koepka, the last player to win back to back PGA Championships was Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods would intimidate opponents but also handle the emotions of adverse moments. With Brooks Koepka’s performance at Bethpage, he enters that conversation as not just the number one golfer in the world, but also the game’s most clutch golfer in the big moments.

“My belief is great right now,” said Koepka. “I’m playing great and am super confident. I did not have my best but to be able to hang in there, right the ship, and refocus, allowed me to win today.”

Most golfers would have completely quaked under the magnitude of the moment. Brooks Koepka may have blinked but he never fully collapsed. The time is now for Koepka to continue to dominate, entering his name into the conversation of one of the greatest golfers of all time.The post Brooks Koepka Survives to Capture Fourth Major Championship appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Brooks Koepka on Precipice of History at PGA Championship

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FARMINGDALE, NY– Brooks Koepka may not have had the flashy Saturday round in the 60’s. Or exemplified perfect putting compared to Thursday or Friday.

What Brooks Koepka is showcasing is his unflappability. The mental and physical fortitude to overpower his competition. And to maintain the wide margin of a lead he has built from the start of the PGA Championship.

Koepka entered Moving Day with a seven-shot lead. With his third round of 70, the three-time major winner once again has a seven-shot lead, the largest 54-hole margin at a PGA Championship. And as Koepka explained after his round, he believes that the mental ferocity he possesses at major championships allows him to outplay and outlast his competition.

“I think I’m more focused than any of the golfers out there,” says Koepka. “My focus for majors goes up tenfold.”
Brooks Koepka Continues to Stay Within Himself at PGA Championship
Brooks Koepka is doing everything that golf fans around the world demand of their major champions. He is powerful off the tee, he can craft iron shots from the fairway or the rough to the green, and he can putt superbly. But most of all, Koepka has the tunnel vision that enables him to go about his business, without getting caught up in the energy of the moment.

For the PGA Championship, Koepka is leading the field in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green (3.720), Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (5.77), Greens in Regulation (79.6 percent) and second in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (1.86). It is evident that Koepka is playing a different game compared to the rest of the field, personifying the model of a modern golfer.

But on a day where the lowest round was a 67, shot by Harold Varner III, Koepka had some adversity he had to overcome. After bogeys on 9 and 10, Koepka hit his tee shot on the par-5 13th in the rough. His second shot ended up in the rough as well. But Koepka’s physical will and mental toughness allowed him to get up and down, sinking a stellar putt to get a birdie. The round had been stabilizing and Koepka was off to the races once again, maintaining his wide margin.

“It was a difficult putt,” stated Koepka. “It was just straight downhill, downwind. To see one go in was important, and it gave me momentum to go get a few coming in.”
Rest of the Field Looking Up to Brooks Koepka
With Brooks Koepka having the opportunity to win the PGA Championship wire-to-wire, the other golfers have had the tough task of trying to catch the leader. And it’s proven to be challenging. Bethpage Black golf course does not provide many openings for players to shoot a low round. And Brooks Koepka is performing at an ultimate level.

Harold Varner III, who will be playing with Brooks Koepka in the final group, will attempt to put some pressure on the leader. His third round of 67 consisted of four birdies and zero bogeys. Currently second in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting (2.28), Varner III has raised his play exceptionally. Especially considering this is Harold’s fifth major championship played, second of which he made the cut.

But Varner III knows the steep hill he has to climb to beat Koepka. And recognizes the inspiration that Brooks is providing to golfers like him to continue to work and improve.

“The first thing that comes to mind is I think it’s great for golf,” stated Varner III on Brooks Koepka. “If you don’t go to sleep and think, man, this makes me want to work harder, if I can be that good, then I don’t know why you’re playing.”
Brooks Koepka Eager for Opportunity at PGA Championship History
No golfer on the planet has been as dominant the last two years in the major championships than Brooks Koepka. From his U.S. Open victories at Erin Hills and Shinnecock to his PGA Championship win at Bellerive, Koepka has developed a mindset and familiarity with handling the moment when you are atop the leaderboard.

“Every time you get in this position, you learn a little bit of whatever it might be going into the final day,” says Koepka. “I just have to have the same mentality, focus on myself and not anybody else. And at the same time, staying patient and staying in the moment, and every time I do it, I feel like I’m getting better and better at it.”

With a victory Sunday at the PGA Championship, Brooks Koepka is etched into the annals of golf history. No golfer has ever held two back to back major championships simultaneously. Not only would Brooks Koepka complete this feat, but he would win four majors in less than two years. Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus, two of the pillar golfers in the history of the game, haven’t done that.

But for Brooks, his focus isn’t on the monumental history at hand. It’s to play each shot the best way he can. But is he confident he can pull out this major championship? You bet he is.

“I feel confident going into tomorrow. I’m excited. I’m very excited.”

Watch out PGA Tour. The Brooks Koepka show has just reached new heights.The post Brooks Koepka on Precipice of History at PGA Championship appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Halifax Mooseheads’ Samuel Asselin Asserts Dominance at Memorial Cup

HALIFAX– Samuel Asselin loves to score. Particularly on stages where expectations and stakes are an all-time high. The Halifax Mooseheads forward, who generated 48 goals and 38 assists in the regular season, continued to impress on the Memorial Cup stage, tallying a goal and an assist in his team’s 4-1 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders.

Given the shortness of the tournament, Asselin knows the importance of winning the first game of the Memorial Cup.

“It’s huge,” said Asselin after the game. “The first win, get the monkey off your back and I think that’s what we did.”
Samuel Asselin Goal Scoring Ability an Asset in QMJHL
It was clear from early on that Samuel Asselin would be a stellar hockey player. A native of L’Assomption, Quebec, Asselin would be drafted to the Shawnigan Cataractes, after a promising Triple AAA career. In his early years with Shawnigan, the young forward possessed high hockey IQ, setting up his teammates with scoring opportunities.

But there was doubt whether Asselin, only 5’10, could become a prolific scorer. Prompting a trade from Shawnigan to Acadie-Bathurst Titan, halfway through the 2017-18 QMJHL season. It was his experience playing with the Titan where Asselin transformed from a role player into one of the best scorers in the QMJHL.

During Acadie-Bathurst Titan’s run to the QMJHL Championship, Asselin generated three goals and eight assists. This momentum translated to the Memorial Cup, where Asselin put together six points (five goals, one assist) including the game-winning goal to give the Titan its first Memorial Cup in franchise history. This performance, in front of a plethora of scouts and raucous junior hockey fans, caught the attention of Halifax Mooseheads general manager Cam Russell, who brought Asselin into his team at the start of this season.

“He’s such a complete player,” Russell noted. “He’s a competitor. He brings a level of skill that I think is underrated. He plays big in big games and provides great leadership. To add Samuel to the mix was important for us.”
Samuel Asselin’s Veteran Experience Will Help Halifax at Memorial Cup
Samuel Asselin is currently undrafted with the NHL. He was invited last year to the Columbus Blue Jackets training camp but failed to sign a contract. After leading the QMJHL scoring this season, Asselin hopes that a solid Memorial Cup performance will enable his career trajectory to the NHL.

Before being traded to Halifax, Asselin’s career high in goals was 17. But a switch in the lineup from Halifax Mooseheads’ head coach Eric Veilleux, moving Asselin to the first line, propelled the 20-year-old prospect to generate more offense.

“After Christmas, I had no choice but to move him to the first line,” said Veilleux. “A big addition for our team.”

The Mooseheads are the host team at this year’s Memorial Cup and are no stranger to success at this tournament. In 2013, led by Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, Halifax earned the holy grail of junior hockey. Now, Halifax is looking to continue the momentum, after beating the WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders, who advanced to the Memorial Cup with a Game 7 overtime victory.

“Confidence is key,” said Asselin. “I had my chances every year I just didn’t put the puck in. This year everything I touched went in.”

 

 The post Halifax Mooseheads’ Samuel Asselin Asserts Dominance at Memorial Cup appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Rebuilding a Rivalry: Jacksonville Sharks and Orlando Predators

Rivalries are meant to last forever, or at least a very long time. That is why the Orlando Predators have returned to the arena football business. Them and the Jacksonville Sharks look to hook back up this weekend and continue their great rivalry. Things were started in the Arena Football League (AFL) and are continuing in the National Arena League (NAL).
Rebuilding a Rivalry: Jacksonville Sharks and Orlando Predators
The Sharks enter this week with a 3-1 record and are tied with the Carolina Cobras and New York Streets for first place. The Predators are in fifth place with a 1-4 record, but had a very close, but good game against the Streets last week, falling short 53-54 with just seconds on the clock.

Brandon Russell and Connor Ferguson collaborated to remember a pair of Jacksonville-Orlando matchups from their lifetimes to remember what was once and what could be again a great rivalry.
Brandon’s Flashback
One of the most memorable games between these two is, quite ironically, the final meeting between the two. The Sharks made the quick trip to Orlando to take on the Predators in the first playoff game of the year. The Sharks came into this week as underdogs with a 7-9 record and an interim head coach while the Predators were looking strong at 12 wins and only four losses.

In the course of the game, the Sharks never saw the lead until 10:53 to go in the third quarter. From there, it was a back and forth scoring battle. In the fourth quarter, the Sharks were up 61-55 with just seconds to go in regulation. The Predators pulled a quick one and scored right as time ran out. Before the PAT, everything was all tied up at 61. Orlando felt good about their odds, sending out a victory tweet on Twitter. They missed the PAT, which sent this dramatic game into overtime.

Orlando received the ball to start OT and scored in less than five minutes. In arena football, both teams get the chance to score. This gave Jacksonville the chance to score and keep their playoff hopes alive. In a time of three minutes and 18 seconds, the Sharks scored a touchdown on a goal-line run from Fullback Derrick Ross. Interim Head Coach Bob Landsee had a difficult decision to make: Point After Touchdown or 2-Point Conversion Attempt? The city of Jacksonville is known as “The Bold City”, so Landsee decided to go for two. A very gutsy call was made to run the ball, even though Orlando knew what was going to happen. Ross got the ball and gave it his all, bulldozing right through the offensive and defensive lines to convert on the 2-point attempt.
Connor’s Flashback
I remember coming home from a hockey game when I was a young kid to turn on the TV and see an Arena Football League game. I was about 12 years old so the memory of it is a bit blurry, but I remember watching Aaron Garcia and the Predators take on Jacksonville in the 2010 playoffs.

It was the Barnstormers first year back in the league, but Garcia and that Predators team was one of – if not – my favorite to watch.

The pair of teams scored 60 points combined in the fourth quarter including 31 from the Predators as they escaped with a 73-69 win in Jacksonville.

Like I said, I don’t remember a ton from the game, but my family and I watched it in our living room. The only reason my Mom let me keep it on the TV was because of how great of a game it was and because she could tell neither of the teams liked each other all that much.

Hopefully, this Saturday when the teams match up for the first time as NAL franchises, we will get half as good of games as we’ve seen in this series in the past. That game kicks off at 7:00 p.m. ET and will be live streamed on YouTube. As always, we’ll have updates on twitter at @LWOS_IndoorFB.The post Rebuilding a Rivalry: Jacksonville Sharks and Orlando Predators appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Brooks Koepka Opens PGA Championship Defense with 63

FARMINGDALE, NY– Brooks Koepka doesn’t seem too affected by the PGA Championship date change from August to May. Whenever the phrase “major championship” predicates a particular tournament, it perks Koepka’s attention. These are the events where the three-time major winner unleashes his complete, powerful game.

The PGA Championship defense could not have started more impeccably for Koepka, who fired a seven-under 63 to take a four-shot clubhouse lead and set a new course record. For Brooks, this is business as usual for someone who has been at the top of his game the last year.

When asked what his favourite hole was at Bethpage, Koepka candidly responded: “All seven I birdied today.”

That’s a golfer who is in the zone.
Steadiness & Execution Critical for Brooks Koepka’s Opening Round Success
Playing alongside Tiger Woods, who is coming off his historic victory at The Masters, is no easy task. Except for Brooks Koepka. Last year at the PGA Championship in St. Louis, when the gallery of Bellerive Country Club was rooting for Tiger, Koepka’s laser focus and stellar shot making got him to the PGA Championship winner’s circle.

While Tiger Woods would experience a roller-coaster in his opening round of 72, Koepka exemplified unwavering steadiness and execution. With the rest of the field experiencing the immense, punitive difficulty of Bethpage Black, Koepka was steadfastly solid. Among his competitors, Koepka is first in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (6.543), Strokes Gained: Approach to the Green (4.261) and Strokes Gained: Putting (3.189). His 14 of 18 greens in regulation (77.8 percent) and 9 of 14 fairways hit (64.3 percent) demonstrated that when Koepka is firing on all cylinders, he is going to shoot low scores. And in major championships, when the stage is large and the expectations are high, it is where Koepka performs superbly.
It’s Early, but Brooks Koepka Is Not Slowing Down
At The Masters, Brooks Koepka was in the driver’s seat to win his first Green Jacket and fourth major in eight appearances. But hitting his tee shot in the water on the par-3 12th, paved the way for Tiger Woods to claim his 15th major championship.

While initially disappointing, it does not falter Koepka’s motivation and belief that he can still compete in major championships.

“It’s just golf, there’s nothing to rebound from,” affirms Koepka. “Second
place, it’s not fun, but at the same time you’ve just got to move on. It’s in the past. I could care less what happened last week or a couple years ago. It’s all
about this week.”

Even with the success Koepka has had in major championships, propelling him to a brief stint at World No. 1, there still is room for more universal respect from golf fans worldwide. Despite winning two majors last year, Koepka was still not listed in the world’s most dominant athletes. But over time, it is clear Koepka is accepting his persona and is less inclined to put his guard up towards the same media who disrespected him for years.

“I think you’ve got to find a chip or you’ve got to find something to motivate yourself and give you that extra little something going into a tournament or going into an event, whatever it might be, to really want to push
you over that line,” said Koepka.

If you don’t like or doubt Koepka’s abilities, it is at your own risk. With his sixth consecutive round at the PGA Championship in the 60’s complete, it is hard to imagine Brooks Koepka not in the mix for the Wanamaker Trophy come Sunday afternoon.The post Brooks Koepka Opens PGA Championship Defense with 63 appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Tiger Woods struggles in Opening Round

The reigning Masters champion and 15-time Major winner Tiger Woods got out to a slow start Thursday at the 101st PGA Championship. No stranger to New York’s Bethpage Black, Woods won wire-to-wire here at the 2002 U.S. Open and was the only player out of 156 to finish under par that year. Thursday Woods marked up his scorecard with everything from bogeys and double bogeys to birdies and even an eagle.
A difficult opening nine
Starting out on the difficult 502-yard par-4 10th hole Thursday, Woods went right off the tee for his first drive of the day. With fairways at a premium this week he was forced to lay-up from 201 yards out. A third shot over the green led to an eventual double bogey to open Woods’ quest for a record-tying 82nd PGA victory.

After four straight pars, the four-time PGA Championship winner bounced back with a birdie at the par-4 15th. A dialed in approach left Woods with a 15-footer which he rolled home with precision. Unfortunately, that was the last of the good news over his opening nine.

There was nothing positive coming out of the par-3 17th. Woods’ opening tee shot found the greenside bunker before he again flew it over the green with his second. While he was finally on the green with his third shot, he still had over 37 feet to go. Two strokes later the 43-year old carded another double bogey and a drop to 3-over par.

A routine par stopped the front nine bleeding for the time being. Woods took his opening round turn with a 38 and still plenty of work ahead of him.
From good to great to worse
In a tale of two nines, Woods came out of the gate at the turn on a mission. At the 430-yard par-4 1st hole he fired a 295-yard drive again down the right side into the rough. This time he was able to get out and send home a 14-foot putt for birdie to work his way back to 2-over.

Seemingly working out the kinks over the first half of the round Woods went back to back with another birdie at the short par-4 2nd hole. A picture perfect approach left Woods with just a little over three feet left with his third shot. From there

If back to back birdies wasn’t enough to ignite the crowd Tiger certainly lit the fuse at the 517-yard par-5 4th hole. With a 298-yard drive, Woods launched a 220-yard approach to 31 feet. From there he settled in over his putt for three, sent it reading the left break and straight into the heart of the cup as the crowded roared Tiger back to life with an eagle to soar to 1-under par.

The crowd quickly quieted after bogeys at five, seven and eight brought the roller-coaster round all the way back to 2-over par. As he turned in his scorecard, playing partner Brooks Koepka finished 7-under for the early commanding lead giving Woods and the rest of the field a lot of ground to make up Friday.

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Last Word on Golf Roundtable: PGA Championship Predictions

This week’s roundtable of predictions by Last Word on Golf’s talented group of writers tackles the 2019 PGA Championship. For more insight from each member of the Last Word on Golf team make sure to follow them at their mentioned Twitter handle. Don’t forget to follow @LastWordOnGolf on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and let us know your PGA Championship picks and predictions.
Favorite Underdog
Kyle Walton (@TheKCWalton)- Paul Casey (50 to 1)

The last Major memory golf fans have of Paul Casey is a missed cut at The Masters. Despite that, in 13 starts this season Casey has not only made the cut in 10 events but in each of those has finished no worse than a tie for 25th. Half of his made cuts were all top-10 performances including his latest start at the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago with a tie for 4th. The Englishman currently sits 17th in Driving Accuracy and could finesse his way around the treacherous Black Course.

Brenden Martin (@brendenmartin28)- Henrik Stenson (70 to 1)

Bethpage Black is a narrow course. You have to be accurate, especially off the tee. Stenson is ranked 7th on Tour in driving accuracy and has been in the mix in previous majors.

Brandon Eisenman (@BrandonEisenman)- Rory McIlroy (12 to 1)

McIlroy needs to have solid drives off the tee and hit as many fairways as possible to have a chance to contend. The former PGA winner may have a tough time at Bethpage this week, but look for him to be in contention as the weekend nears.
Biggest Name to Miss the Cut
Walton- Patrick Reed

With such a strong field this week this was the toughest prediction to have much confidence behind. While it’s true the last time the PGA Tour played Bethpage Black, Patrick Reed found victory but the 2018 Masters champion has had a tough 2019. He has yet to break through to a top-10 finish this year and has missed the cut twice in his last six starts. Additionally, Reed currently sits 169th in Driving Accuracy, 132nd in Greens in Regulation Percentage, and 126th in Total Putting; all stats you want with you, not against you at the PGA Championship.

Martin- Jordan Spieth

Spieth has been inconsistent with his play for the last few years and has struggled in key moments since he was a Major champion. He’s a great person, but he needs to regain his confidence and his game.

Eisenman- Jason Day

Day has played great golf all year long so far. However, Bethpage is one of the toughest courses in the country and he may have trouble making par on many holes. With his performance last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Day comes into this week looking to contend. But, he will miss the cut and fall in the rankings.
2019 PGA Championship Runner-Up
Walton- Tommy Fleetwood

There’s a gut feeling inside that says a European is going to make a run this week. The adverse weather conditions and thick rough set up perfectly for someone like Fleetwood to take advantage. Last week the Southport native made a strong run at the Betfred British Masters finishing tied for 8th. The 28-year old has made the cut in his last seven PGA Tour Major appearances and could take home his first Major victory this week in Farmingdale.

Martin- Tiger Woods

What Masters hangover? This is one of the greatest players in history and he has returned to glory. Watch him make a run on Sunday in his legendary red shirt.

Eisenman- Brooks Koepka

Koepka won the PGA Championship in 2018 with four solid rounds of play. Bethpage Black is a tough course to play on, but Brooks knows what it takes to contend for another major victory. Being paired with Tiger Woods this week should give Koepka a challenge as he seeks another win on the TOUR this season.
2019 PGA Championship Winner
Walton- Dustin Johnson

The 2016 U.S. Open champion is due for another Major victory so why not this year at the PGA Championship. Thus far this season Johnson has teed it up in 11 events featuring 11 made cuts, seven top-10’s and a victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship. The top-ranked golfer in the world nearly pulled off a comeback victory at the Masters but had to settle for a tie for second. Look for DJ to take advantage of his length off the tee and his continued Strokes Gained success to come home with the coveted Wanamaker Trophy this year.

Martin- Brooks Koepka

Koepka, of course, has a history of winning this tournament and has played well going into it. It will be close and not an easy course to play, but Koepka should be playing with a ton of confidence this week.

Eisenman- Tiger Woods

Woods comes into the PGA Championship searching for another major win. The 2019 Masters winner reclaimed his title of being one of the best golfers in the world with the win at Augusta in April. Tiger leads the PGA in reaching the green in regulation at 72%. Solid drives and nice shots on the green could land Woods his next major win.

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EuroLeague Final Four Preview

While the NBA Playoffs have reached the conference finals, the Euroleague is also reaching its climax. The Euroleague Final Four tips off this Friday, May 17. The single-game-elimination matches will begin with Fenerbahce Beko and Anadolu Efes, both based out of Istanbul. That game begins at noon, and should prove to be a good one. The next game tips off directly after the first, in a matchup between Real Madrid and CSKA Moscow. Can Real Madrid defend their title without teen sensation Luka Doncic? Can Anadolu Efes pull off an upset? Let’s take a look.
Fenerbahce Beko vs. Anadolu Efes
These teams had an interesting season series. They faced off five times on the hardwood, with Fenerbahce Beko winning three games to Anadolu Efes’s two. A big reason why Fenerbahce is favoured by basketball betting to win in the Final Four is their dominance in the games that they did take in the regular season. Fenerbahce was plus-35 in their three wins, with their largest victory being by 18 points. Anadolu Efes, on the other hand, was just plus-eight in their two wins.

Familiar names to NBA fans are featured on both teams. Shane Larkin, formerly of the Brooklyn Nets, and former San Antonio Spur James Anderson are both key contributors for Efes, and Fenerbahce has former Los Angeles Lakers point guard, Tyler Ennis, former Denver Nuggets guard, Erick Green, and another former Spur in Joffrey Lauvergne.

The slight edge that Efes does have in this matchup is Fenerbahce’s injury-troubles. Lauvergne and Luigi Datome are out, and Czech big man Jan Vesely is doubtful. If Efes can exploit the absence of those key players, they could be moving on to the Euroleague championship.
CSKA Moscow vs. Real Madrid
This should be an interesting matchup. Real Madrid took the title last year, but that was with budding superstar Luka Doncic at the helm. With Doncic now in America playing in the NBA, it will be interesting to see if Real Madrid can repeat. CSKA Moscow took the season series 2-0, but the games were decided by just five and four points respectively. With the games being played in the Fernando Buesa Arena, Spain, Real Madrid will have the benefit of a home crowd.

Madrid has former Cleveland Cavaliers seven-footer Edy Tavares down low, who’s shooting 79% from the field this season. In addition, Anthony Randolph (12.6 points per game) and Sergio Llull (10.6 points per game) could present problems for Moscow.

CSKA Moscow has been getting hot-shooting from former Toronto Raptors guard, Nando de Colo. The Frenchman has averaged 18 points on 47.1% shooting from deep in the playoffs so far. All-Euroleague First Team performer, Will Clyburn (13.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game), and former Euroleague champion, Cory Higgins (14.8 points per game on 49% shooting from three-point range) are other names to watch for CSKA Moscow in the Final Four.
Looking Ahead to the Euroleague Championship
The winners of the two Euroleague Final Four matchups are to face off on Sunday, May 19, in a winner-takes-all-style game. The winner of Sunday’s game will be crowned the new Euroleague champion, or, in Madrid’s case, the repeat winner. Regardless of the outcome, it should prove to be an exciting weekend for European basketball.

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