McIlroy 'wobbles' down stretch before finishing off PGA victory
Rory McIlroy got the start he wanted Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, erasing a three-shot deficit in just five holes. The finish was hardly a masterpiece, except for the part when golf's No. 1 player posed with the trophy.
McIlroy didn't make it easy on himself on Labor Day at the TPC Boston in Norton, Mass. He tore up the turf on a tee shot that traveled 170 yards, and that was the only fairway he hit over the last five holes. He had to make a 6-foot putt to save par from a bunker, and a 5-foot putt to save bogey after a pitch sailed from one side of the green to the other. And he had to wait as Louis Oosthuizen's birdie putt to force a playoff slid below the hole.
"I had a couple of wobbles coming in, but I obviously did enough and I'm very excited to get a victory," McIlroy said.
On a leader board packed with some of the biggest names in golf — McIlroy, Oosthuizen, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson — the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland took a giant leap toward establishing himself as the best in the game.
With four birdies in six holes at the start, and limiting the damage from his mistakes at the end, McIlroy closed with a 4-under 67 for a one-shot victory over Oosthuizen, joining Woods as the only three-time winners this year on the PGA Tour.
McIlroy goes to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup. And with one of his wins being the PGA Championship, that might be enough for his peers to vote him PGA Tour player of the year. He also has a comfortable gap in the world ranking, and could be tough to catch the rest of the year unless Woods were to win the next two FedEx Cup events.
Woods made an early charge to get back in the hunt, though he never got closer than three shots until a two-putt birdie on the par-5 18th gave him a 66. He finished in third place, two shots behind, and earned enough money to become the first player to surpass $100 million in PGA Tour earnings.
Serena wins 6-0, 6-0; Fish withdraws
Didn't take long for Serena Williams to show her fourth-round opponent at the U.S. Open where things were headed.
"The first point of the whole match," 82nd-ranked Andrea Hlavackova explained, "when I served, and she returned, like, a 100 mph forehand return, I was like, 'OK, I know who I'm playing. You don't have to prove it to me. I know.'"
Monday's match in New York was less than 15 seconds old. It might as well have been over. Dominant from the moment she ripped that return of an 88 mph second serve, forcing Hlavackova into an out-of-control backhand that sailed well long, to the moment she powered a 116 mph service winner on the last point, Williams extended her 2½ -month stretch of excellence with a 6-0, 6-0 victory to get to the quarterfinals.
Men's No. 1 seed Roger Federer got some extra rest Monday because his fourth-round opponent, 23rd-seeded Mardy Fish, withdrew hours before their scheduled match for health reasons. The 30-year-old Fish missed about 2½ months this season because of an accelerated heartbeat and had a medical procedure in May.
The man Federer beat in July's Wimbledon finals and lost to in August's Olympic finals, Andy Murray, muted 15th-seeded Milos Ranoic's big serve and won 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to reach an eighth consecutive major quarterfinals.
Shanghai Bobby takes Hopeful Stakes
Shanghai Bobby rallied to the lead with less than a furlong to run and won the $300,000 Hopeful Stakes for 2-year-olds by 3¾ lengths at Saratoga Race Course on Monday in New York.
Rosie Napravnik rode the Todd Pletcher-trained colt, who ran 7 furlongs in 1:22.72 to remain undefeated after three starts.
Pletcher won the training title for the third consecutive Saratoga summer meet with 36 winners. It was his ninth career title at the track. Ramon Dominguez won the riding title with 68 winners, breaking the old mark of 64 set by John Velazquez set in 2004. Dominguez twice rode six winners in a single day, on July 22 and Sept. 2. Mike Repole was the leading owner, winning 13 races.
Baffert's father, Bill Sr., dies
William G. Baffert, the father of Hall of Fame Thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert, died Monday. He was 88. Bill Sr. died at his home in the U.S.-Mexico border town of Nogales, Ariz., according to the Daily Racing Form. No cause was given, although his son said recently that Bill Sr. had been in declining health.
Nicknamed "The Chief," Bill Sr. was the mentor for his son as a trainer. He was a rancher in Nogales, and used to race quarter horses on the Arizona fair circuit, with Bob riding many of them during his teenage years.
Report: Logano headed to Penske
A new driver is set to be introduced Tuesday at Joe Gibbs Racing, but there also will be one leaving.
Joey Logano, who has spent his entire NASCAR career with Joe Gibbs Racing and has six Nationwide wins and one in Sprint Cup this season, will move to Penske Racing to drive its No. 22 Ford in 2013, the Charlotte Observer reported.
Logano's move comes just as JGR is set to officially announce that former Cup champion Matt Kenseth is joining its organization in 2013. Kenseth will be introduced at JGR's headquarters in Huntersville, N.C., on Tuesday.
An official announcement of Logano's move to Penske could come as early as Tuesday as well, sources said.
Report: NCAA investigating UCLA recruits
UCLA said two of its freshmen basketball recruits have not yet received final amateurism certification from the NCAA and is disputing what it calls "misleading and inaccurate public reports" regarding its incoming class. A Scout.com report said freshmen Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker are being investigated by the NCAA for potential basketball recruiting violations.
Freshman Shabazz Muhammad has been the subject of an ongoing NCAA investigation involving alleged improper benefits he received in his recruitment from boosters of his AAU program. The forward from Las Vegas was one of the nation's mostly highly sought-after recruits last spring when he chose UCLA over Kentucky and Duke.
"Currently, there are two men's basketball student-athletes who have not yet received final amateurism certification from the NCAA. UCLA will not, and cannot, endanger the privacy of our student-athletes or the confidentiality of the process by providing a more specific response at this time to these reports," school spokesman Nick Ammazzalorso said in a statement.
■ Texas Tech Coach Billy Gillispie remained in a Lubbock, Texas, hospital Monday night while receiving treatment for high blood pressure, ESPN reported. Gillispie, a former Texas A&M and Kentucky head coach, was hospitalized Friday. He told the Lubbock Avalanche Journal that he thought he was having a heart attack or stroke when he called 911.
The last word
Louisville's defense got the job done and the No. 25 Cardinals won their season opener against Kentucky. Nonetheless, some aspects of the unit's performance were cause for concern for Cardinals Coach Charlie Strong. His team gave up 373 yards and the Cats' no-huddle sets kept the Cardinals on their heels. Strong said:
"We never felt like we had control. They were able to take the ball up and down the field. We were not able to get pressure. Kentucky was smart; they were able to come with the three-step game and get the ball out of the quarterback's hands quickly. We came with pressure, but we were just never able to get pressure."