Late caution leaves Montoya without much-needed victory
It's been a season of bad breaks for Juan Pablo Montoya, so it was only fitting when things again didn't go his way. He was sailing toward his first victory since 2010, on an oval no less, when an ill-timed caution ruined everything. He had led 67 laps Saturday night at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway and needed to complete just four more when Brian Vickers hit the wall.
Montoya screamed into his radio, pounded his fist against the steering wheel, then quickly collected himself to consider the big picture: He'd come into Richmond ranked 27th in the Sprint Cup standings with absolutely nothing to show for the improvement Chip Ganassi Racing has made this season.
"I know we want to win, but we need the points," Montoya radioed crew chief Chris Heroy as they debated strategy.
It was decided that Montoya would pit from the lead, take four new tires and try to win in a frantic two-lap overtime sprint to the finish. But he restarted sixth in the outside lane that was clogged by cars on old tires. Kevin Harvick restarted seventh, behind Montoya but in the inside lane, and he darted his way around the traffic to the win. Montoya settled for fourth, his best finish since he was fifth at Martinsville, Va., in 2011.
"We got that caution at the end and it was a no-brainer to take tires," Montoya said. "I think what hurt us is we restarted on the outside and when you restart on the outside and people got really bad tires, everything packs up."
Coming oh-so-close drew sympathy from second-place finisher Clint Bowyer, who said he was rooting for Montoya to win once it became clear Bowyer and his Michael Waltrip Racing teammates would not.
"I really thought he was going to win that race. ... That was his race," Bowyer said. "When you see a guy getting beat up and having an opportunity like that — we're all human. If you don't have a shot at it, you'd just as soon see somebody that hadn't won in a long time win it."
Sluman, Faxon team for Legends win
After teaming with Craig Stadler for two runner-up finishes in three tries at the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf, Jeff Sluman decided it was time for a change. He called Brad Faxon nearly two years ago to court him as a teammate for the Champion Tour's annual team competition and the new pairing paid off on Sunday as they combined for a final-round 7-under-par 65 to finish at 23-under for a one-stroke victory at Savannah, Ga.
"I had a wonderful four, five years with Stads and all that, but like everything else, it was time," Sluman said.
After tie for third in their debut as a team last year, Sluman and Faxon came through in the better-ball format this time with each earning $230,000 of the winner's purse. Sluman's earnings pushed him past the $25-million mark for his professional career.
Fred Funk and Mike Goodes combined for a 63 and Gene Sauers and Kenny Perry (Lone Oak, Western Kentucky) had a 62 to finished in a tie for second, one shot behind.
Sluman and Faxon credited their close relationship for carrying them to victory. They shook off a sloppy second round, marked by their only bogey of the week, over an 86-year-old bottle of dessert wine Saturday night at a local restaurant.
"This is a perfect marriage because it's not like we're going to get mad at each other if either one of us doesn't play well," Faxon said. "I know he's going to try his hardest, and I'm going to try my hardest."
■ Billy Horschel shot an 8-under 64 in the final round of the Zurich Classic, maintaining his composure through a pair of weather delays for his first-career PGA Tour victory on Sunday at Avondale, La.
The 26-year-old Horschel began the day two shots behind third-round leader Lucas Glover and surged into the lead with six straight birdies after the first weather delay. He finished at 20-under, narrowly holding off D.A. Points, who shot a 65 to finish one shot behind.
The second delay happened before Horschel could take his second shot on the 18th hole, giving him 50 minutes to reflect on what was at stake — $1.19 million and a two-year exemption. Horschel had to make a 27-foot putt on the final hole to avert a playoff.
"I hadn't made a long one all week and I said, 'I'm due,'" Horschel said. "I was like, 'If it's my time, this putt needs to go in.'"
Although Horschel had never won on the Tour, he had been playing the best golf of his young career lately, with three top-10 finishes in his past three tournaments — tying for second in Houston, tying for third in San Antonio and tying for ninth in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
"I played well. It just wasn't my time," Horschel said of his recent top-three finishes. "It was nice that today was my time."
Kyle Stanley shot a 5-under 67 to finish third, while Chinese 14-year-old amateur Guan Tianlang finished 71st after making his second cut in two PGA events, the first coming famously at the Masters.
■ Inbee Park shot a bogey-free 4-under 67 to win the inaugural North Texas LPGA Shootout by a stroke over Carlota Ciganda at Irving, Texas. Park, the world's No. 1 women's player, finished at 13-under 271 for her third victory this season.
Miami's Larkin declares for NBA Draft
Miami guard Shane Larkin said he will forgo his final two years of college eligibility and enter the NBA Draft. Larkin averaged 14.5 points and 4.6 assists this season for the Hurricanes, who won 29 games, climbed as high as No. 2 in The Associated Press Top 25 and reached the NCAA Tournament's Sweet Sixteen.
Larkin's decision means Miami will be without its top six scorers from this season when it takes the court next fall. Larkin is the son of Baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, and had until the end of Sunday to officially enter the draft.
Legends end five-game losing streak
Ethan Chapman's double scored Nic Cuckovich for the tie-breaking run in the bottom of the eighth inning in the Lexington Legends' 7-4 victory over the Augusta GreenJackets on Sunday at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. The Legends had lost five straight games.
The Legends also got a two-RBI single from Humberto Arteaga in the first inning and a solo home run from Bubba Starling in the fifth. Chas Byrne (1-0), making his first appearance as a Legend, pitched three scoreless innings to get the win.
Etc.No. 11 Missouri shuts out UK softball
The 11th-ranked Missouri softball team scored six runs in the second inning and Chelsea Thomas pitched six scoreless innings in the Tigers' 7-0 victory against No. 19 Kentucky on Sunday at John Cropp Stadium. The Cats only managed three hits against Thomas.
■ Louisville football center Mario Benavides and defensive back Adrian Bushell agreed to sign as undrafted free agents with the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders, respectively. ... Western Kentucky offensive lineman Adam Smith agreed to a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. ... Murray State wide receiver Dontel Watkins agreed to play for the Tennessee Titans, and quarterback Casey Brockman will try out for a spot in training camp with the Seattle Seahawks. ... Former Kentucky running back Donald Russell, who transferred to Georgia State, signed with the Atlanta Falcons.
The last word
Greg Norman says golf's anti-doping procedures are "disgraceful" and blood testing needs to be instituted as soon as possible:
"How deep it is (the problem), I have no idea because we only do urine analysis instead of blood testing. ... It's a pinprick for a player and you find out what's going on. If you're the head of golf or any sport, if you're the commissioner for a sport, it's your responsibility to make sure your sport is clean. ... That should be your No. 1 priority."