MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Two former U.S. Open champions are tinkering with their equipment in hopes of winning a second title this week at Winged Foot Golf Club.
Dustin Johnson, the winner of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont and the 2020 FedEx Cup champion, took his TaylorMade SIM Max 7-wood out of the bag and replaced it with a new SIM DHy 2-iron that is fitted with a Project X HZRDUS Smoke Black 100X shaft.
Johnson, who is currently ranked No. 1 on the Official World Golf Ranking, not only won at East Lake two weeks ago with the 7-wood in his bag, he also used that club when he shot a second-round 60 and won the Northern Trust at TPC Boston.
So why tinker with a good thing? Last Sunday evening, after playing a practice round at Winged Foot, Johnson decided that he wanted to hit a draw, a right to left shot, on some holes when he is not playing a driver. Like all fairway woods, Johnson’s 21-degree 7-wood is designed with a curved face, but the hollow-bodied 17-degree SIM DHy 2-iron is designed with a flat face. For elite players, flat-faced clubs tend to make it easier to hit draws and fades. Plus, the SIM DHy should create a lower launch angle for Johnson, so if he can hit a draw off the tee, the ball could run more after it lands.
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Jordan Spieth, the winner of the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay by one stroke over Johnson, switched into Titleist’s new TSi3 driver last week at the Safeway Open. His club has 10 degrees of loft and is fitted with a Fujikura Ventus Blue 6X shaft.
Spieth finished the 2019-20 PGA Tour season ranked No. 165 in strokes gained off the tee (-0.279). He averaged 301 yards per tee shot, a career-best, but hit just 52 percent of the fairways, a career-worst.
Titleist has remained mum on the details regarding the yet-to-be-released TSi3 and TSi2 drivers. Still, several golfers switched into the clubs last week, including and 25 others last week at the Safeway Open and 31 at the Portugal Masters, including Tommy Fleetwood (TSi3).
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Doc Rivers out as Clippers head coach
Doc Rivers’ time with the Los Angeles Clippers is over.
Rivers is out as the Clippers head coach following their loss in the Western Conference semifinals at Walt Disney World earlier this month, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Coach Doc Rivers is out with the Clippers, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 28, 2020
Rivers had just finished his seventh season with the organization, where he compiled a 356-208 overall record. They reached the postseason in all but one season under his watch, but never made it out of the semifinals.
Rivers confirmed the news on Twitter on Monday afternoon.
“When I took this job, my goals were to make this a winning basketball program, a free agent destination and bring a championship to this organization,” Rivers said in a statement on Twitter, in part. “While I was able to accomplish most of my goals, I won’t be able to see them all through.
“Though it was a disappointing ending to our season, you are right there and I know what this team is capable of accomplishing with your support.”
Clippers bounced from playoffs after blowing 3-1 lead
Rivers and the Clippers nearly reached the Western Conference finals for the first time in his tenure this season, as they mounted a commanding 3-1 lead in their semifinal series with the Denver Nuggets earlier this month.
The Clippers, however, watched that lead disappear almost instantly. The Nuggets rallied back from double-digit holes in the final three games of that series to upset the Clippers and reach the finals.
Rivers is the only head coach in league history to blow a 3-1 lead three times in his career — he did so with the Clippers in 2015 and with the Orlando Magic in 2003.
Rivers spent five seasons with the Magic and nine seasons with the Boston Celtics — where he won an NBA title in 2008 — before making the jump to Los Angeles in 2013. The 58-year-old had two years left on his deal with the Clippers.
According to Wojnarowski, both Clippers assistant Ty Lue and former Houston Rockets and New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy are among the top candidates who will be considered to replace Rivers in Los Angeles.
This post will be updated with more information shortly.
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Studs and duds from Packers’ 37-30 win over Saints in Week 3
The Green Bay Packers are 3-0 after going on the road and beating the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday night. Matt LaFleur’s team scored 37 points, giving the Packers a team-record and NFL-high 122 points through three games.
Here are the studs and duds from the Packers’ 37-30 win over the Saints on Sunday night:
WR Allen Lazard: The degree of difficulty on his 48-yard catch was high. He was stumbling and had to make an over-the-shoulder catch with Marshon Lattimore trailing in coverage. Later, Lazard’s subtle move at the top of his route allowed him to blow past P.J. Williams and uncover deep for 72 yards to start the second half. Teams are underestimating his build-up speed. He might not be super quick, but he can get moving with a runway in front of him. Matt LaFleur is doing a terrific job of putting him in the slot and in bunch formations to create the runways. Of Lazard’s six catches, five gained first downs or touchdowns. His 146 receiving yards were a career-high. He did have a drop on a catchable ball over the middle, and his missed block on Malcolm Jenkins resulted in a stop of Aaron Jones on fourth down.
QB Aaron Rodgers: His impressive start to 2020 rolled on. Rodgers completed three passes thrown over 20 yards and was nearly perfect throwing underneath. The Saints got him with a few pressures, but Rodgers keeps mixing aggressiveness, accuracy and decisiveness with a little of old improvisational magic. He drew the Saints offsides twice and also created an extended play touchdown to Marcedes Lewis. His deep throw to Lazard while moving to his left in the first half was sublime. Matt LaFleur kept dialing up easy stuff, especially on rollouts and bootlegs, and Rodgers kept hitting them for chunk gains. He now has nine touchdown passes and zero interceptions through three games.
CB Jaire Alexander: The missed tackle on Alvin Kamara’s long touchdown was egregious and unacceptable. We’ll forgive it here because Alexander was so good for the other 57 snaps on Sunday night. He delivered a third-down stop on the first series and later dropped Kamara for a loss in the flat. Emmanuel Sanders didn’t have a catch against his coverage. He was very close to ending the game on a pick-six late in the fourth quarter.
DL Kingsley Keke: Both of his sacks – the first two of his career – were impressive. On the first, Keke executed a wide stunt to his right, bursting around the corner and closing down on Drew Brees with Rashan Gary crashing inside. Even at his weight, Keke can really move. Later, he executed a perfect push-pull move on Andrus Peat, beating the block with strength and collapsing the pocket on Brees before he could get rid of the football. He also helped string out a screen on third down, forcing a field goal. Keke might have the right combination of athleticism and power to be a valuable interior rusher. As an added bonus, Keke almost always gets his hands up and into passing windows when his pass-rush plan doesn’t work.
TE Marcedes Lewis: His block on Cameron Jordan helped open enough room for Aaron Jones to score on fourth down in the third quarter. Later, he was on the same page as Aaron Rodgers in the scramble drill and made an athletic catch over his head with Malcolm Jenkins in coverage for a go-ahead score. His one-on-one block on a linebacker helped create Jones’ longest run of the night in the third quarter. Big Dog still has a little bite.
K Mason Crosby: Kicks from 52 yards and 48 yards were no problem for the veteran. He made the 52-yarder with more than enough leg and confidently drilled the go-ahead kick from 48 yards in the fourth quarter. Crosby has made all seven field goals and all 13 extra points to start the 2020 season.
S Will Redmond: He missed Alvin Kamara twice in the open field, and both plays ruptured into big gains. Both times, Redmond came flying in out of control and swung and missed at Kamara’s ankles. On the first, Kamara skipped away from No. 25 and picked up the first down on 3rd-and-15. Later, Redmond was the first to miss on Kamara’s incredible touchdown. Redmond’s misses were responsible for roughly 70 yards of Kamara’s 197 total on Sunday night.
CB Kevin King: Emmanuel Sanders did all his best work against King, catching all three passes for 38 yards, a touchdown late in the first half and two easy first downs. King also allowed a catch to Tre’Quan Smith that converted a first down and got dinged for a holding penalty. He can be disruptive at the line in press, but King can also be exploited in off coverage. Drew Brees picked on him a little bit.
Liverpool lay down Premier League marker in Arsenal win
Liverpool came from behind to maintain a perfect start to their Premier League title defence as goals from Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson and Diogo Jota saw off a resilient Arsenal 3-1 at Anfield.
The Gunners had also won their opening two league games of the season and hit the champions on the counter-attack to take the lead through Alexandre Lacazette.
But while Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham and now Arsenal have all lost in the opening three weeks of the new campaign, Liverpool have taken maximum points to lay down an early marker that they remain the team to beat in the Premier League this season.
The outcome of the match could have been very different had Mane not escaped with just a yellow card for an elbow on Kieran Tierney after just three minutes.
Arsenal followed the game plan that had brought them two victories over Liverpool in recent months as they dropped deep then looked to play around the Reds’ press when in possession.
However, unlike when they met at the back end of last season’s Premier League when Jurgen Klopp’s men had already won the league or the Community Shield in August, Liverpool were far sharper in pulling the Gunners out of position.
Mane was first to threaten with a clean strike from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross that was too close to Bernd Leno before Alexander-Arnold’s deflected effort came back off the crossbar.
The only time Arsenal did manage to pierce the Liverpool press before half-time, they opened the scoring completely against the run of play.
Robertson was at fault as he spooned Ainsley Maitland-Niles’s cross into the path of Lacazette, who also failed to make a proper connection but the ball bounced into the ground and looped over the helpless Alisson Becker.
Liverpool responded immediately to level within three minutes as Salah outmuscled Tierney and when his shot was parried across goal by Leno, Mane turned into an empty net.
Robertson them made amends for his previous error as Liverpool’s flying full-backs combined as Alexander-Arnold’s cross was this time converted by the Scotland captain.
However, where Arsenal sides of recent years might have collapsed, as they did in losing 4-0 and 5-1 at Anfield in 2018 and 2019, Mikel Arteta has instilled a new-found belief in the FA Cup winners.
The visitors were more expansive after the break and created a huge chance to level when Dani Ceballos put Lacazette through on goal, but Alisson stood up well to block the French striker’s shot.
Klopp introduced Jota for his league debut 10 minutes from time and the Portuguese international should have sealed the win when he fired into the side-netting from Salah’s excellent through ball.
The Egyptian was less generous moments later when he stole the ball of Jota’s toes and failed to beat Leno.
But Jota did not have to wait long for his first Liverpool goal as a sweetly-struck volley found the bottom corner to show why the Reds spent £41 million ($52 million) to sign him from Wolves.
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