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Sports in 6ix: Week in Review, August 6-12

Tiger Woods was awesome during the final round of the PGA Championship, earning a solo second place finish and stealing the show. (Credit: MSN.com)

Sports in 6ix is back! This past week in sports had plenty of action, with the loudest story being the roar of an all too familiar Tiger. Plus, NFL Training Camps and preseason action continued, and the WNBA Playoffs are now just one week out. Alas, your complete recap of this past week in sports is here!

 

Tiger Roars, But Koepka Wins PGA Championship

For golf fans, last month’s British Open Championship was a trip back in time. It has been over ten years since Tiger Woods, one of the greatest golfers of all time, last won a major championship tournament. It has been five years since he won a tournament at all. Constant back problems have left Woods on the shelf, broken down, beaten and battered. He has looked far from those adjectives over the past couple of months, as his 2018 comeback season continues. And there he was, holding the lead on the back nine of a major on a Sunday at Carnoustie, playing in golf’s oldest tournament, The Open. Woods would falter, get passed, and cede the victory to Francesco Molinari, his final round playing partner.

For those who feared Tiger’s T6 at The Open was just an admiration, rest assured! Woods outdid his performance at Carnoustie with a weekend for the ages at the 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Missouri. What made his final finish of a solo second at 14-under par even more impressive was that he entered Saturday’s third round at just 4-under. Woods promptly went out and shot a 66 on Saturday to put himself in contention, just four shots back of leader Brooks Koepka, entering the final day. Wearing his traditional Sunday red, Woods went out and put on a show that the Bellerive gallery and everyone watching will not soon forget. A round of 6-under 64 that included 8 birdies certainly wasn’t perfect. Nonetheless, Woods made the most of several rough tee shots, scrambling to recover. His back nine was much more solid from an all-around standpoint. An offline tee shot on the par-5 17th left him having to fight for a par. That ultimately doomed his chances of winning the tournament, but with a closing birdie on 18 and an Adam Scott par putt on that same hole coming up short, Woods took second place by himself in this PGA Championship, 11 years after he last won it.

While Woods drew the crowds and media attention for much of Sunday’s final round, it would be remiss not to discuss Brooks Koepka, the winner. Koepka couldn’t hole a birdie putt for the life of him on the front nine, but found better success down the stretch. He held off the hard-charging Woods and his playing partner Scott (both of whom were Koepka’s two favorite golfers as a child), winding up with a final score of 16-under par for a two-shot victory. The win vaults Koepka into the lead when it comes to consideration for golfer of the year as he adds the Wanamaker Trophy to his U.S. Open win from June. Throw in his 2017 U.S. Open win and Koepka now has won three of his last seven contested golf majors (he missed the 2018 Masters). He also joined Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, and Woods as the only golfers to win both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same calendar year.

Multiple MLB Series with Postseason Implications

There may be a whole month and a half until the start of the Major League Baseball playoffs, but the race to October is heating up. This year, more than any in recent memory, is providing riveting action in the month of August. This is without a doubt due at least in part to so many teams being in the running for, at the very least, a Wild Card spot. Several series matchups took place over the past week between teams in postseason contention. So how did they shake out?

The midweek contender matchups saw the Pittsburgh Pirates take two out of three games from the Colorado Rockies, while the Arizona Diamondbacks grabbed two out of three from the Philadelphia Phillies. A four-game set between NL East foes the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves ended in a two games apiece split, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics spit a pair of games, and the Houston Astros swept a two-game set from the San Francisco Giants. The weekend saw plenty more contender vs. contender action. The most noteworthy result by far was the Seattle Mariners completing a stunning four-game sweep of the defending champion and current AL West-leading Astros, in Houston to boot! The Rockies rallied after losing the first game to take three of four in their series against the Dodgers. The Braves took two out of three from the Milwaukee Brewers and the Giants also took two thirds of their three game set against the Pirates. To cap it all off, the Chicago Cubs won two out of their three games over the weekend against the Nationals, winning the series finale 4-3 on a walk off grand slam in the bottom of the 9th inning by pinch hitter David Bote. Let’s just say Wrigley went wild!

If the playoffs began today, the Red Sox, Astros, Indians, Yankees, and Athletics would be the American League squads in. However, thanks to their great weekend, the Mariners sit just four games back of Houston in the AL West and only 1.5 games back of the A’s for the second wild card spot. Meanwhile, on the National League side, the Cubs, Braves, Diamondbacks, Phillies and Brewers would be the teams currently in the postseason, with Atlanta currently holding the NL East lead by percentage points over Philadelphia, and Philly with the top Wild Card by percentage points over Milwaukee. The host of teams still alive in both the Wild Card and their respective divisional races is led by the Dodgers who sit two games back of the Brewers. The St. Louis Cardinals and Rockies are 2.5 back, the Pirates are 5 games behind, the Nationals 5.5, and the Giants 7 back.

Credit: John McDonnell/The Washington Post

Training Camps Roll on With Football Just 24 Days Away

Yes, you read that correctly. We are just 24 days out from the kickoff of the 2018 NFL season! Welcome back football, we missed you! With the first week of preseason games now in the books, there are several storylines from training camps around the league that have developed.

The most noteworthy of these is a sad and unfortunate one. Washington Redskins rookie running back Derrius Guice tore his ACL in the first quarter of Thursday’s preseason game against the New England Patriots. He will miss the entire 2018 season because of the injury. Guice’s injury is a big blow to the Redskins’ offensive plans for this season. He was set to be the elite between the tackles runner that has been missing in Washington in recent years. With Chris Thompson emerging last season as a game-changing third down and receiving back, it appeared the Redskins would have a fine combination to run behind an improved offensive line. Now, it is back to Rob Kelley and Semaje Perine competing for the early down backfield role. Both dealt with injuries last year and neither has been a game changer to this point in their NFL careers. Thompson may take on an even bigger role as a result of Guice’s injury. For fantasy football purposes, he is the Washington back to target.

In more positive news, some quarterbacks drawing plenty of attention in camp and in the preseason lived up to the expectations in their first live game action. For the Cleveland Browns, rookie Baker Mayfield showed flashes of brilliance against the New York Giants. Mayfield finished with a line of 11 of 20 for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 54-yard bomb to Antonio Callaway. He also showed a relative calmness when the pocket would collapse, scrambling to pick up first downs with his legs on multiple occasions. The Browns will hope Thursday’s preseason opener is a sign of more things to come for their number one overall pick. For the New York Jets, both rookie Sam Darnold and veteran Teddy Bridgewater had an impressive preseason debut against the Atlanta Falcons, each leading a touchdown drive. With Josh McCown likely the Jets Week 1 starter, Darnold is the QB of the future and Bridgewater is fighting for a roster spot, or perhaps fighting to win the Jets more back in any trade he might generate. Finally, after a lackluster Hall of Fame Game performance, Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson played better in his second go-around against the Los Angeles Rams this past Thursday. He threw for 119 yards on 7 of 18 passing, ran for a touchdown, and played turnover-free football.

In one final piece of NFL news from this week, San Francisco 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon hobbled off the field during Sunday’s training camp practice with a knee injury. Fortunately for the Niners, McKinnon avoided any ligament damage, so the injury is not as serious as it initially appeared. An MRI revealed McKinnon has a calf muscle strain and should have no trouble being ready for Week 1.

 

With Playoffs on Horizon, WNBA is Wide Open

Speaking of playoff races, the teams of the WNBA are in a much more immediate push than those of the MLB. After all, this coming week marks the final one of the WNBA regular season, with the playoffs set to begin on August 21st. The WNBA playoff format is different than that of the NBA. The top two seeds receive a double bye into the best-of-5 semifinal round. Meanwhile, seeds 3 and 4 receive a single bye into a one-game second round playoff, while seeds 5 through 8 all meet in first round one-game playoffs. This format leaves a heightened drama up and down the standings board even heading into the season’s final week as teams jockey for seeding.

Entering this week, the Seattle Storm sit with the league’s top record at 23-8. Their magic number to clinch the number one seed for the playoffs is just 1. Behind the Storm are the Atlanta Dream. With a record of 21-10, they will need multiple Storm losses to make up the two games and challenge for the top overall seed. Unless the Dream stumble big time in the season’s final week, both teams will have the double bye to the semifinals. Behind them, in current order of seeds 3 through 7 are the Washington Mystics (18-11), the Connecticut Sun (18-13), the Los Angeles Sparks (18-13), the Phoenix Mercury (18-14), and the Minnesota Lynx (17-14). Currently holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot are the Dallas Wings with a record of 14-17, but they are yet to clinch. The Las Vegas Aces sit just one game back at 13-18 and will be in the race for the last postseason spot during the coming week. The Aces will face the Wings in Dallas this Wednesday night. The regular season concludes Sunday with all 12 teams in action. Given how tight the standings are, there could be chaos right up until the final buzzer sounds.

Rafael Nadal

Credit: Sports News

Top Seeds Nadal, Halep Triumph at Rogers Cup

There were plenty of upsets throughout both the men’s and women’s Rogers Cup tournaments this year in Toronto and Montreal, respectively. But the week in which all eyes of the tennis world rest on Canada ended with the top seeds hoisting the hardware.

In the men’s tournament, Rafael Nadal emerged victorious. He capped his tournament with a 6-2, 7-6 win over upstart Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas who ran a gauntlet just to get to Sunday’s final. Tsitsipas picked up victories over four ranked players in Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev, and Kevin Anderson in Toronto. But on Sunday, his 20th birthday, he just couldn’t climb over the last mountain in Nadal, who counts this Rogers Cup win as his 80th ATP Tour title. Prior to dispatching Tsitsipas, Nadal went through Benoit Paire, Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, and Karen Khachanov to reach the final.

On the women’s side of things, top-seeded Simona Halep needed a full three sets on Sunday to beat the third-seeded Sloane Stephens and win the title in Montreal. The final score was 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 for Halep. Sunday’s final culminated an impressive Rogers Cup run through a number of game opponents for Halep. She also dispatched Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Venus Williams, Caroline Garcia, and Ashleigh Barty. Halep remains the top-ranked player on the WTA tour with a number one seed at the upcoming U.S. Open all but a lock. Stephens entered Sunday’s Rogers Cup final having not lost a single set at the tournament prior to facing Halep. She beat Francoise Abanda, Carla Suarez Navarro, Anastasija Sevastova, and Elina Svitolina on her road to finishing runner-up.

 

Another Race, Another Win for a Big Three Driver

You only need to know three names when it comes to the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series this year. The dominance of the “Big Three” of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. continued this Sunday at Michigan, where it was Harvick’s turn to pick up the victory.

The win was Harvick’s series-leading seventh of the 2018 season, and it came in the form of a clean sweep. Harvick swept the stages as well, giving him 12 stage wins on the year, adding to his already massive pile of playoff points, now at 40, also best in the series. He was sparsely challenged throughout this win at Michigan. Harvick led 108 of the 200 total laps. Next in line for laps led was Truex Jr. at just 25. Truex Jr. wound up finishing 14th and Kyle Busch finished 3rd. Even though Harvick has the most stage wins and race wins on the year, it is Busch who still holds the lead in overall series points with 986, 62 clear of Harvick. Truex Jr. is 144 back. There are now just three races left before the Cup Series Playoffs begin. Up next is a Saturday night race at Bristol this coming week.

In other NASCAR action from this weekend, Brett Moffitt won the Truck Series race at Michigan, and Justin Allgaier took home the victory in the XFINITY Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

 

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