McIlroy shoots 65 to take lead, but Woods isn't far behind
Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods played together in the opening two rounds of the season in Abu Dhabi. They were together again for the opening two rounds at Bethpage Black for the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs. The idea is to get them together with a trophy on the line. Both took a step in that direction Saturday in the Deutsche Bank Championship in Norton, Mass.
McIlroy went from one extreme to another on par 5s just 30 minutes apart — a 4-iron into 10 feet for eagle on No. 18, a 5-wood in the water for bogey on No. 2 — but steadied himself for another 6-under 65.
Woods, playing in the afternoon, had three birdies on the opening six holes until he could no longer get a putt to drop. He made birdie putts of 30 feet and 15 feet late in the round to salvage a 68, which left him only two shots behind.
In between was Louis Oosthuizen, the former British Open champion with one of the purest swings in golf. Oosthuizen had four 2s on his card of 65, and goes into the third round just one shot behind and in the final group with McIlroy.
"Everything seemed to work pretty well out there," McIlroy said. "I felt like I drove the ball a bit better today and hit more fairways, which gave me some more opportunities to make birdies. And I was putting well enough to take a few of those."
The weekend is half over, as this FedEx Cup playoff event is known for its Labor Day finish. There remains plenty of work to be done, especially with nine players separated by only three shots going into the weekend.
Next tantrum usually just around turn
Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth have smoothed things over after their helmet-throwing dustup. Not to worry. In NASCAR, the next tantrum is usually just around the turn.
Emotions certainly will be running high Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the next-to-last race before the Chase for the championship begins. Several top drivers — including Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon — are battling just to get into the playoffs, so they'll be on edge during the AdvoCare 500, knowing any major incident could ruin their hopes.
"If you've been in racing long enough, you're going to have some type of disagreement with pretty much everybody you're competitive with on the track," Kenseth said. "Some of that stuff is natural."
While NASCAR certainly frowns on fisticuffs, it's impossible to keep tempers from flaring in a sport where the competitors put their lives on the line every time they get behind the wheel.
And, seriously, why would they want to rein in those emotions?
"Why does everybody like reality TV?" five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson asked rhetorically. "It's kind of in the same vein. People like watching train wrecks. People like watching controversy. Whatever that is, we're all intrigued. We love to be a voyeur and check it out. Most of us don't like being in that situation, but it sure is fun to watch."
Heading into Atlanta, Kenseth is among four drivers who have clinched their spot in the 10-race playoffs, joined by Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle. Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski are poised to get in as soon as Sunday night.
But Edwards, who heartbreakingly lost the championship to Stewart a year ago in the final race on a tiebreaker, likely needs to win in Atlanta or next week at Richmond to clinch a wild-card spot. Busch is in, for now, but he could get knocked out if another of the contenders wins. Gordon, a four-time Cup champion, also is in danger of missing the Chase. "We want it bad," Gordon said.
In other words, there's plenty of potential for another angry confrontation. "Everybody wants to see good racing," Kenseth said. "But whether they'll admit it or not, they like to see the rest of it, too — when guys go over the edge. That's been part of the sport for a lot of years."
■ Ricky Stenhouse Jr. used a late push from runner-up Brad Keselowski to pass Kevin Harvick and win the Nationwide race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday night. After a restart with three laps to go, Harvick lost the lead on the final lap as his car got loose coming out of Turn 2 and, Stenhouse, who was bumped by Keselowski on the front straightaway, went ahead for good in Turn 3.
Stenhouse, the defending series champion, raced to his fourth Nationwide victory of the season, and moved within 12 points of leader Elliott Sadler.
Keselowski got into a heated argument after the race with Harvick, who accused him of throwing a water bottle out of his car to cause an earlier caution flag.
Sundhage stepping down as U.S. coach
Once the U.S. women's soccer team's victory tour suddenly turned into a farewell tour for coach Pia Sundhage, Abby Wambach wanted to send her off on a fitting note Saturday in Rochester, N.Y. Wambach scored twice and added an assist in an 8-0 exhibition win over Costa Rica.
Hours before kickoff, Sundhage informed the players of her decision to step down as coach and return to her native Sweden to coach its national team. She will depart following a successful five-year term in which she led the Americans to back-to-back gold medals and their first World Cup final in 12 years.
"It's really a difficult decision to make as you can imagine being around those guys. They make me look good," Sundhage said, pointing to her players following the game.
U.S. Soccer will begin searching for a new coach immediately. There is no major tournament until the next World Cup in 2015.
Friday's late High School Football
Three city teams post big wins
Henry Clay 40, Belfry 20: Five players scored on Friday night for the visiting Blue Devils (1-2), who put up 397 yards to stun the Pirates (1-1), including 237 passing yards. Belfry entered the season as the No. 2-ranked team in Class 3A. Rhoman James had six of the Blue Devils' seven completions, for 198 yards and one touchdown. Davion Jackson carried 10 times for 47 yards and two scores. Justin Johnson led Belfry with 169 yards and two TDs.
Bryan Station 55, West Jessamine 20: Ora Johnson completed 15 of 23 passes for 217 yards and four TDs and carried seven times for 91 yards and two more scores, and the Defenders (2-1) overpowered the Colts (0-3).
Lexington Christian 28, Harlan 25: Dima Ballard hit Justin King with a 56-yard touchdown pass in the final minute to rally LCA (3-0) at Harlan (1-2). Ballard earlier completed an 81-yard scoring strike to Lincoln Henzman. The Eagles, who finished with 317 yards, have won their three games by a total of 11 points.
Wildcats split doubleheader in Ohio
Senior Ashley Frazier had 12 kills and a career-best seven digs to lead the 10th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team to a sweep — 25-8, 25-15, 25-23 — of Western Carolina in the Baymont Invitational on Saturday evening in Athens, Ohio. Kentucky's offense dominated the match with 51 kills. Sophomore Lauren O'Conner had 14 of those.
Kentucky lost 3-0 (25-18, 25-14, 25-16) to No. 17 Oregon on Saturday in the team's first matches. Frazier had eight kills to go with a career-high .583 hitting percentage. Junior Whitney Billings had nine kills and a team-high three blocks.
The last word
On Friday night, the Oakland Athletics experienced one of those rare offensive nights when nearly everything that could go right did. For everybody, too. Brandon Moss had career highs of four hits, four RBI and four runs, Josh Reddick hit his first career grand slam, and the surging, surprising A's routed the Boston Red Sox 20-2. Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine said:
"It wasn't any fun for anyone, that's for sure, except for the guys on the other side."