AUGUSTA, Ga. – Nothing ever comes easily for Dustin Johnson in the majors, except for slipping into that Masters green jacket.
Johnson overcame a jittery start that conjured memories of past majors he failed to finish off. He turned that into a command performance, making sure this one-of-a-kind Masters with no fans also had no drama.
Not even close.
Johnson tapped in for par on the 18th for a 4-under 68 to finish at 20-under 268, breaking by 2 shots the record set by Tiger Woods in 1997 and matched by Jordan Spieth in 2015.
His 5-shot victory was the largest at the Masters since Woods won by 12 in his record-breaking win in 1997. All that was missing were the roars for any of his pivotal putts early and his birdie putts on the back nine that put it away.
The Masters, postponed from April because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was forced to do without patrons for the first time. Johnson still received a warm reception coming up the 18th from club members and their wives, his partner, Paulina Gretzky, and a few champions.
Two-time champion Bubba Watson was there to congratulate him.
“I always dreamed of having one of those,” Johnson said as he went to sign his card. “Now I got one.” Johnson’s 4-shot lead was reduced to 1 after five holes, and then he quickly restored control. Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im each shot 69 and were the only ones who really had a chance.
Smith got quite the consolation. He became the first player in Masters history to post all four rounds in the 60s, and all it got him was a silver medal. Johnson became the 12th Masters champion to never trail after any round, and his closing 68 broke another record held by Woods – it was his 11th consecutive sub-par round at Augusta National.
No one had a better finish than defending champion Woods, but only after the five-time Masters champion posted the highest score of his career, with three balls in Rae’s Creek for a 10 on the par-3 12th hole. He finished with five birdies over the last six holes to salvage a 76.
The betting favorite and biggest basher in golf, Bryson DeChambeau, couldn’t even beat 63-year-old Bernhard Langer, who shot 71 and wound up 1 shot ahead of the U.S. Open champion.
These were only sideshows on a quiet Sunday at Augusta National.
A Masters devoid of fans and played in November took away some of the charm of the event, but one tradition that remained was that of the previous year’s winner, Tiger Woods, putting the green jacket on new champion Dustin Johnson.
Johnson, the first No. 1 player in the world to win the Masters since Woods in 2002, was the main event. He won for the 25th time worldwide and his second major – he won the U.S. Open from 4 shots behind at Oakmont in 2016 – comes with some big perks. He can return for the rest of his life and will host the Masters Club dinner next April for champions.
But even a record score, and the widest margin of victory since Woods’ win in 1997, didn’t mean it was easy. This is Johnson, after all, who for all his talent has dealt with more than his share of misfortune, not all his own doing.
He was the 16th player to take at least a 4-shot lead into the final round of the Masters, and only four had failed to win, most recently Rory McIlroy in 2011.
That lead was down to 1 shot after five holes.
From short of the bunker on the par-5 second, Johnson muffed his flop into the bunker and had to scramble for par at the easiest hole on the course Sunday. After he settled himself with a birdie on No. 3, he came up short of the green and took 3 putts for bogey, then found a fairway bunker off the fifth tee, had to lay up and made another bogey.
Im started with two birdies in three holes and saved par with a fabulous flop over a bunker behind the fifth green. Suddenly, he was 1 shot behind. Ahead of them was Smith, suddenly 2 shots behind.
Just when it looked as though Johnson might be headed to a meltdown, it all changed on one hole.
Johnson’s tee shot to a pin on the top-right shelf at the par-3 sixth settled 6 feet away for birdie. Im chipped from just behind the green to 3 feet and missed the par putt. Johnson’s lead was back to 3.
Then, with Johnson blocked by pine branches and having to punch low into a front bunker at No. 7, Im from the fairway sailed the green into a bunker, blasted out through the green and made bogey.
Smith was still within 2 shots when they made the turn, and the wind was stronger than it had been all week, but the Aussie could manage only one birdie, and by then it was too late.
Nothing is sweeter than that walk up the steep hill to the 18th green with a 5-shot lead and a green jacket waiting. Except in this case, there was no one to cheer, hardly anyone to watch.
There were no roars this week. White and pink blooms of azaleas and dogwoods were replaced by gold and brown hues of Augusta in autumn. It really was a Masters unlike any other, except there was no mistaking that green jacket.
It’s a good fit for Johnson.
Batherson’s shootout winner lifts Senators over Flames – TSN
CALGARY — The Ottawa Senators emerged victorious in their fifth battle of the season with the Calgary Flames Sunday night.
Drake Batherson scored the game-winner in a four-round shootout to give Ottawa the 4-3 decision at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.
“I thought we played a good game even when (the Flames) made their push in the third,” Senators forward Colin White said.
“We hung in there and won it.”
The Sens have now won three of five against the Flames this season. Ottawa also has five wins in their last eight contests.
Calgary earned just one point from the game, leaving them three behind the Montreal Canadiens for fourth place in the North Division.
“It stings right now,” Flames defenceman Mark Giordano said. “We know how important these points are. We’ve got to come out better than we did. Obviously, in the third we had a great push. But we’ve got to find a way to get two points in games. That’s the bottom line right now.”
Connor Brown, Ryan Dzingel and Colin White each scored for the Senators (9-17-1) in regulation. Tim Stutzle also tallied a shootout goal.
Mark Giordano, Johnny Gaudreau, and Noah Hanifin scored for Calgary (11-12-3), while Matthew Tkachuk added a shootout goal in the loss.
Matt Murray made 31 saves for Ottawa, earning his seventh win of the season.
“He was solid. He looked calm back there tonight. He was seeing everything. The only goals (Calgary) got were a deflection and a rebound goal that came right back to the guy. He gave us every opportunity to win,” Senators head coach D.J. Smith said post-game.
Jacob Markstrom made 19 saves for Calgary.
Brown scored the first goal of the game with 6:12 to play in the first. He fired the puck from behind the right face off circle. The puck redirected off a Flames defenceman before sliding through Markstrom’s legs.
Dzingel scored for the second consecutive game to give Ottawa a 2-0 advantage before the intermission. He finished a two-on-one play, taking a pass from Chris Tierney before tapping the puck past Markstrom.
Senators forward Austin Watson and Flames forward Zac Rinaldo dropped the gloves within the opening three minutes of the second period, in hopes of sparking their respective teams.
It worked, briefly, for the Flames. Giordano scored his third of year 88 seconds later, firing a shot that deflected off Sens’ forward Josh Norris before beating Murray.
But Ottawa would restore their two-goal advantage thanks to Colin White‘s seventh goal of the season less than four minutes later.
Gaudreau scored in the third period to bring Calgary, once again, within a goal. It was his 11th of the season. The Flames would finally even the score thanks to a goal from Hanifin with over eight minutes left in regulation. It was the second goal in two games for the defenceman.
Calgary thought they had the game won later in the third as Brown tried to give the Senators the lead with his second of the night. With Markstrom out of position, the puck struck the right leg of Flames defenceman Juuso Valimaki and missed the net.
“It was an important time to keep the puck out of our net,” Valimaki said.
The Flames and Senators hoped overtime would decide things, but to no avail. Batherson’s shootout winner finally ended the battle in Ottawa’s favour.
NOTES: The Flames had eight power play opportunities Sunday night, but only scored once with the man advantage. The Senators were 0-for-2 on the man advantage…Sunday night’s game once again saw Ryan Huska coach for the Flames. Calgary hasn’t yet won a game since firing head coach Geoff Ward before the weekend. Incoming head coach Darryl Sutter will officially take over Monday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021.
Team LeBron beats Team Durant as Lillard hits game-winning three – Sportsnet.ca
ATLANTA — In the midst of a pandemic, this was assured of being an NBA All-Star Game like no other.
The stands were mostly empty. The crowd noise was largely piped in. There were no A-list celebrities sitting courtside. Two players had to sit out after getting haircuts.
But in the end, it had a familiar feel.
Team LeBron won again.
Knocking down shots from all over the court, LeBron James’ powerhouse squad closed the first half with a dominating run to set up a 170-150 romp over Team Durant in the league’s 70th midseason showcase Sunday night.
The top vote-getters in each conference have picked the teams the last four years, a duty that James has earned every season.
He’s now 4-0, having defeated Stephen Curry’s squad in 2018 and teams selected by Milwaukee’s two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo the previous two years.
This time, James drafted his two former adversaries and blew away Kevin Durant’s team.
“I think he’s got a future as a GM,” said Damian Lillard, another of James’ inspired selections. “He always gets it right.”
Antetokounmpo was the game’s MVP after shooting 16 of 16 for 35 points, even making all three of his attempts beyond the 3-point stripe. It was the most baskets without a miss in All-Star Game history.
“I’m just having fun,” the Greek star said. “Sometimes when you’re having fun and not thinking about the outcome, you just let your instincts take over.”
Curry chipped in with 28 points, while Lillard had 32.
James spent most of the night admiring his drafting skill from the bench. He played less than 13 minutes, scored just four points, and didn’t return to the court in the second half.
Instead, he munched a snack on the bench.
“I know he was managing his minutes tonight,” Curry said. “We had a great time, representing him as captain. It was a memorable night for sure.”
It sure was for Curry, who won the 3-point competition beforehand, then went 8 of 16 from beyond the arc in the game.
Lillard matched him, also making 8 of 16 from 3-point range.
This All-Star Game sure was different than the previous 69.
Determined to pull off an exhibition that is huge for TV revenue and the league’s worldwide brand, the NBA staged the game in a mostly empty downtown arena, a made-for-TV extravaganza that was symbolic of the coronavirus era.
Despite extensive safety protocols in place, two players didn’t even make it to tipoff. Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were ruled out because they got haircuts from a barber who tested positive for COVID-19.
The only good thing for Durant: He didn’t have to participate in this shellacking, sitting out the game with an ailing hamstring.
Bradley Beal led Team Durant with 26 points.
On a night highlighting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Team LeBron swept the first three quarters and cruised to the final target score, earning a total of $750,000 for its charity, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
The game got out of hand late in the second quarter.
With scant defence being played, Team LeBron took turns dunking off alley-oop passes. Chris Paul delivered back-to-back lobs that Lillard and Curry slammed through. Then, it was Paul on the receiving end of a payback pass from Curry.
After showing it could handle shots up close, Team LeBron headed outside in the final seconds of the half.
Lillard pulled up for a 3-pointer from the half-court line. Not to be outdone, Curry knocked down one from virtually the same spot.
“It was a lot of fun,” Lillard said. “Me and Steph shoot a lot of 3s. We shoot deep 3s. It was 3, 3, 3, 3, 3.”
Amid the joyful moments, the atmosphere at State Farm Arena was downright eerie compared to a normal All-Star Game.
Instead of a packed house, with A-list celebrities crammed into prime courtside seats, this game was attended by a smattering of hand-picked guests. They had plenty of room to spread out in a 17,000-seat venue that was essentially transformed into a giant television studio, with socially distanced spectators kept far from the court.
Towering video screens were set up behind the benches. Vegas-style lights flashed around the arena. Recorded crowd noise blared over the sound system. The entertainment was provided by the host Atlanta Hawks, who didn’t have any players in the game but were represented by their cheerleaders, drum line and DJ.
To address fears that one of its biggest events would become a super-spreader for a virus that has killed more than a half-million Americans, the NBA pared down its usual weekend-long ritual of extravagant parties, gridlocked streets and people watching
This All-Star Game was a one-night-only event, with a pair of skill competitions held shortly before the game and the Dunk Contest squeezed into the halftime break. The players flew in Saturday afternoon and were largely confined to a nearby hotel except for their time on the court.
“This is when everyone in basketball all over the world comes to one city,” James said before the game. “We’re able to sit back and go, `Wow, this is the game we have built.’ It’s a beautiful weekend for all walks of life, on the floor and off the floor.
“But I’m sitting here in my hotel room, isolated. My family’s not here. I’m by myself. It’s just different, to say the least, compared to previous years.”
All-Star Weekend was crammed into a few hours.
During the pregame, Indiana forward Domantas Sabonis defeated Orlando centre Nikola Vucevic in the Skills Challenge, redeeming last year’s finals loss to Bam Adebayo. That was followed by Curry knocking off Utah’s Mike Conley to capture the 3-Point Contest for the second time. The Warriors star added to the long-range title he won in 2015.
At halftime, Portland’s Anfernee Simons defeated New York Knicks rookie Obi Toppin in the Slam Dunk Contest, nearly kissing the rim with his winning throw-down. Cassius Stanley of the Indiana Pacers was eliminated in the opening round.
Team Durant: Zion Williamson of New Orleans started the game in place of Embiid. The Pelicans forward had 10 points. … Durant’s team heaved up 72 3-pointers, but made only 27 (37.5%).
Team LeBron: Paul had 16 assists, passing Magic Johnson’s record for most career All-Star assists with 128. … Lillard ended the game with another long 3-pointer. Curry was waiving to the spectators before it even went in. … James’ team shot 63.6% from the field, including 31 of 61 from 3-point range.
The 71st All-Star Game will be held Feb. 20, 2022, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. The 2023 game is set for Salt Lake City, followed by Indianapolis in 2024.
Bryson DeChambeau tames beastly Bay Hill to win Arnold Palmer Invitational – Golf Channel
Bryson DeChambeau captured his eighth career PGA Tour victory Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s everything you need to know from the very difficult final round at Bay Hill Club and Lodge:
Leaderboard: DeChambeau (-11), Lee Westwood (-10), Corey Conners (-8), Jordan Spieth (-6), Andrew Putnam (-6), Richy Werenski (-6)
What it means: In addition to his U.S. Open triumph, DeChambeau has now won Jack Nicklaus’ tournament (2018 Memorial) and Arnold Palmer’s. He’s also proven to be one of game’s best – if not the best – tough-course players in the world. Bay Hill was a beast on Sunday, with a field scoring average more than 4.6 shots higher than in Round 3. Add this to his dominant performance at Winged Foot and Bryson’s brawn seems best suited for the most strenuous tests.
How it happened: A four-man tournament was reduced to two front-runners when Westwood birdied the par-5 12th to tie DeChambeau. At 11 under, the final twosome was two shots clear of the field. They remained deadlocked until Westwood three-putted from 38 feet at the 14th. Conners did eagle the par-5 16th to briefly get back within one, but promptly bogeyed the 17th. Meanwhile, DeChambeau parred No. 16 and stayed one up on Westwood, who missed a 7-footer for birdie. The two parred No. 17 and when Westwood rolled in a 7-footer for par on 18, it meant DeChambeau had to make his from 5 feet for the win. After backing off once, he emphatically drilled it.
Round of the day: DeChambeau’s 1-under 71. The field averaged more than 75.5 shots in the final round and 71 was the lowest score of the day (shot by three players). After a bogey at the first hole, DeChambeau didn’t drop a shot the rest of the day, parring his final 12 holes.
Shot of the day: There was DeChambeau’s 377-yard tee shot on the par-5 sixth.
There was also DeChambeau’s 50-foot par save at the par-4 11th.
But the Shot of the Day was the winner, the 5-footer for par at the last.
Biggest disappointment, Part I: Spieth. With birdies at Nos. 4 and 6, Spieth was a co-leader. But there were no more red numbers. He bogeyed the eighth hole, made a string of pars, and then bogeyed Nos. 15, 17 and 18. It added up to a 3-over 75 and a T-4.
Biggest disappointment, Part II: Rory McIlroy. The past champion was four back to start the day and never gave himself a chance. He bogeyed the second hole and put two balls in the water off the tee at No. 6. McIlroy finished with 76 but still managed a top-10 when Keegan Bradley, who went 64-78 over the weekend, bogeyed the final hole.
Quote of the day: “I don’t even know what to say to win at Mr. Palmer’s event. It’s going to make me cry.” – DeChambeau
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