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Proud To Be An American

Proud To Be An American

R.I.P. Dale Earnhardt 1951-2001 The Intimidator

R.I.P. Dale Earnhardt 1951-2001 The Intimidator

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Pujols gives Cardinals 5-4 win over Cubs

By R.B. FALLSTROM, AP Sports Writer

ST. LOUIS (AP)—Albert Pujols(notes) hit his second homer of the game with two outs in the 12th inning to give the St. Louis Cardinals a 5-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.

Pujols had his ninth game-ending homer of his career and first since Aug. 16, 2009, against the Padres on a 2-1 pitch from Jeff Samardzija(notes) (3-2) as the Cardinals prevailed in 95-degree heat. He has 41 career multihomer games, two of them this season, and has homered three times the last two games to emerge from a power funk.

St. Louis relievers retired 17 in a row to end it, with Eduardo Sanchez(notes) (2-1) striking out two in two perfect innings. The Cubs have lost eight of 10 and didn’t get a hit after Carlos Pena’s infield single with one out in the seventh.

This was only Pujols’ second game with multiple extra-base hits of the season, and he drove in four runs. Pujols hit a two-run shot off Randy Wells(notes) in the fourth and his RBI double chased Wells in a two-run sixth that tied it.

Pena hit a two-run homer in the Cubs’ four-run sixth against Kyle Lohse(notes). Kosuke Fukudome(notes) had three hits, two of them doubles, with an RBI.

St. Louis had the bases loaded with one out in the ninth before the Cubs went to Carlos Marmol(notes), who struck out Lance Berkman(notes) and got Tony Cruz(notes) on a flyout. Pujols, who led the National League with 38, 44 and 34 intentional walks the last three seasons, drew only his fourth this year in the ninth.

Marmol worked around a hit batsman and infield hit in the 11th and has thrown 25 1-3 consecutive scoreless innings on the road, a franchise best for Cubs relievers, according information provided by the Cubs from the Elias Sports Bureau.

Kyle Lohse gave up a season-high 11 hits and four runs, all in the sixth to match a season worst, and failed to last at least six innings for the first time in his 12 starts this season. He’s 1-4 with a 6.51 ERA in 11 starts against the Cubs.

Pena’s two-run homer was one of three extra-base hits in the sixth that erased a 2-0 deficit, with Tony Campana(notes) and Kosuke Fukudome also driving in a run apiece.

Pujols’ RBI double cut the deficit to one and chased Wells. Berkman singled on an 0-2 count against Sean Marshall(notes), who had held opponents to 3 for 21 with runners in scoring position, to tie it.

Like Lohse, Wells gave up four runs and lasted 5 2-3 innings, but the Cardinals needed only three hits. In two starts since coming off the 15-day disabled list from a forearm injury, Wells has allowed nine runs in 9 2-3 innings.

Wells had won his previous two starts against St. Louis, both last season, allowing one run in 15 innings.

Cardinals leadoff man Ryan Theriot(notes) singled in the sixth and walked and has hit in a career-high 18 games, also the longest active streak in the majors.

Notes: Cubs manager Mike Quade said 3B Aramis Ramirez(notes), who has missed three starts with a cut on his lip after getting struck in the face diving for a grounder, could return to the lineup Sunday. … RHP Matt Garza(notes) (elbow) is set to return from the DL on Monday and start at Cincinnati and Quade said RHP Rodrigo Lopez(notes) could start Tuesday. … 3B Matt Carpenter made the defensive stop of the game in his major league debut, diving to his right to rob Darwin Barney(notes) of a hit in the third, and doubled for his first hit in the ninth. … Attendance of 43,195 was the Cardinals’ third sellout of the season. … Theriot’s hitting streak is the Cardinals’ longest since Juan Encarnacion and So Taguchi(notes) also hit in 18 straight in 2007. He has 20 RBIs without a homer, the most since Willie McGee had 20 in 1999. … Kerry Wood(notes) gave up a double and hit a batter in a season-high two innings with two strikeouts. It was his only his second outing over one inning. … Warren Brusstar (1983) and Lee Smith (1982-83) each worked 23 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings on the road for Chicago.

Li Na tops Francesa Schiavone for title

Associated Press

PARIS -- As China's Li Na tossed the ball while serving at match point in the French Open final, a cry from a fan in the stands pierced the silence at Court Philippe Chatrier.

Distracted, Li stopped and let the ball drop. The words of support were in Mandarin: "Jia you!" -- which loosely translates to "Let's go!" After so many years of "Come on" and "Allez" and "Vamos," there's a new language on the tennis landscape.

Li became the first Chinese player, man or woman, to win a Grand Slam singles title by beating defending champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-4, 7-6 (0) at Roland Garros on Saturday. The sixth-seeded Li used powerful groundstrokes to compile a 31-12 edge in winners, and won the last nine points of the match, a run that began when the fifth-seeded Schiavone was flustered by a line call she was sure was wrong.

"China tennis -- we're getting bigger and bigger," said Li, who is projected to rise to a career-best No. 4 in Monday's new WTA rankings.

She already was the first woman from that nation of more than 1 billion people to win a WTA singles title, the first to enter the top 10 in the rankings, and the first to make it to a Grand Slam final -- she lost to Kim Clijsters at the Australian Open in January.

Thinking back to that defeat, Li said: "I had no experience. I was very nervous. For my second time in a final, I had the experience. I knew how to do it. And I had more self-confidence."

She broke away from the Chinese government's sports system in late 2008 under an experimental reform policy for tennis players dubbed "Fly Alone." Li was given the freedom to choose her own coach and schedule and to keep much more of her earnings: Previously, she turned over 65 percent to the authorities; now it's 12 percent. That comes to about $205,000 of the $1.7 million French Open winner's check.

"We took a lot of risks with this reform. When we let them fly, we didn't know if they would succeed. That they have now succeeded, means our reform was correct," said Sun Jinfang, an official with the Chinese Tennis Association. "This reform will serve as a good example for reforms in other sports."

At her news conference, Li wore a new T-shirt with Chinese characters that mean "sport changes everything," and offered thanks to Sun.

"Without her reform, then possibly we wouldn't have achieved this success," Li said.

When a reporter mentioned the June 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square and asked whether her victory could spark a sports revolution, Li said she's "just" a tennis player and added, "I don't need to answer ... this question."

Her tennis game, filled with flat forehands and backhands, looks better-built for hard courts, rather than the slow, red clay of Paris. Indeed, Li never had won a clay-court tournament until Saturday. She lost in the third round in three of her previous four French Opens, including against Schiavone a year ago.

But Li's movement on clay is better now, Schiavone explained, saying: "She slides a little bit more."

Li repeatedly set up points with her backhand, then closed them with her forehand, and she finished with 21 winners from the baseline, 15 more than Schiavone. Only after Li controlled the first set and the early part of the second did Schiavone begin working her way into the match.

"I tried to push more, to risk more," Schiavone said.

She broke to 4-all in the second, and held to lead 6-5. The 12th game was pivotal.

Serving at deuce, Li smacked a backhand that landed near a sideline but initially was called out by a line judge, which would have given Schiavone a set point. But Li began walking up to take a closer look at the mark left in the clay by the shot, and chair umpire Louise Engzell climbed down to examine it, too. She told Schiavone the ball touched the line. Schiavone leaned forward and pointed at the spot in question, discussing the ruling with Engzell; the restless crowd began whistling and jeering, as French Open spectators often do when a player vigorously questions a call. Engzell's call stood, and eventually she returned to her perch.

Schiavone wouldn't win another point.

"That ball was out," she said later. "Sure, you get angry. ... So what do you do? You're playing tennis, you have to go back to playing tennis and think about what you need to do. Obviously, I think it was a big mistake. But it's up to the tournament and others to watch that match again and evaluate the call."

Li is 29, and Schiavone turns 31 later this month, making for the oldest combined ages of French Open women's finalists since 1986. Perhaps that's why neither appeared to be too shaken by the stakes or the setting -- until the latter stages.

"The young people, they just play 100 percent all the time. (Li and Schiavone) are more selective. They know when to play the big points and not use too much energy when it's not really necessary," said Li's coach, Michael Mortensen. "They use their brains more than the young ones are doing."

Serving while ahead 4-2, Li missed four forehands in one game to get broken for the only time all match. Schiavone, as demonstrative an athlete as there is, leaned over, punched the air and shouted, while the vocal support group in her guest box launched into one of its many songs saluting her in Italian.

Schiavone then held for a 5-4 lead. In the next game, she moved within two points of tying the match at a set apiece by hitting a backhand return that skipped off the baseline oddly, producing a swing-and-miss whiff by Li. All told, there were five times when Schiavone was two points from winning the second set -- but she never got closer than that.

The fifth time came on that call she didn't like. Schiavone put a backhand into the net on the next point to make it 6-all. In the tiebreaker, two of Li's points came on volley winners, and one from a passing shot she hit that Schiavone volleyed into the net. The other four tiebreaker points ended with return or groundstroke miscues by the Italian.

When Schiavone's backhand sailed long on match point, Li fell to the court, covering the back of her white shirt with rust-colored clay.

Schiavone was the fourth consecutive top-10 seeded player that Li beat, including three-time major champion Maria Sharapova in the semifinals.

There's nothing subtle about Li's style of play: Essentially, she pounds the ball hard, pushing opponents back near the baseline, and hopes to outswing them. Li never let Schiavone get comfortable, never let her employ the all-court, net-rushing strategy that worked so well for what had been 13 consecutive victories at Roland Garros.

In 2010, Schiavone became Italy's first female Grand Slam champion. This time, it was Li who bit her lower lip when accepting the tournament trophy, and who mouthed the words while China's national anthem was played and its flag was raised at the stadium for the first time. Chinese players had won three women's or mixed doubles Grand Slam titles in the past. But none at the French Open. And none in singles.

"Amazing," Li said. "I got a text message from my friend. They said they were crying in China because they saw the national flag."

The Associated Press


Hey Gang...this is Double D and as you can tell...I am BACK!!!...been off for quite sometime...family problems and just life in general...anyway, I will be coming back on here soon with a NEW page and some exciting new options, so stay tuned...it's going to be a BUMPY ride...lol...have a GR88T day and God Bless


Saturday, February 6, 2010

2010 ARCA Racing Series presented by RE/MAX-Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200

2010 ARCA Racing Series by RE/MAX and Menards Event #1
Daytona Int'l Speedway, Daytona Beach FL, 2-6-10
Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200

February 5, 2010 / 1:02 PM

1 51 James Buescher/Plano TX Phoenix Construction Toyota 49.575 181.543
2 25 Mikey Kile/Westlake LA TAG Heuer Eyewear Toyota 49.653 181.258
3 16 Joey Coulter/Miami Springs FL Rip It Energy Fuel Chevrolet 49.770 180.832
4 22 Dakoda Armstrong/New Castle IN Cunningham Motorsports Dodge 49.782 180.788
5 11 Bryan Silas/Stuart FL Rockingham Speedway-American Custom Yachts Ford 49.952 180.173
6 66 Mark Thompson/Cartersville GA Phoenix Air Toyota 49.956 180.159
7 6 Nelson Piquet/Brasilia Brazil ESR Toyota 49.966 180.122
8 5 Bobby Gerhart/Lebanon PA Lucas Oil Slick Mist Chevrolet 50.029 179.896
9 35 John Wes Townley/Watkinsville GA Zaxby's Toyota 50.036 179.870
10 55 Steve Arpin/Fort Frances ON Venturini Motorsports Toyota 50.043 179.845
11 60 Patrick Sheltra/Indiantown FL PowerTrac Machinery Dodge 50.059 179.788
12 7 Danica Patrick/Roscoe IL GoDaddy.com Chevrolet 50.059 179.788
13 44 Frank Kimmel/Clarksville IN Ansell-Menards Ford 50.064 179.770
14 4 Ricky Carmichael/Tallahassee FL Monster Energy Toyota 50.065 179.766
15 32 Justin Marks/Rocklin CA Construct Corps Toyota 50.075 179.730
16 1 Nick Igdalsky/Long Pond PA ModSpace Ford 50.096 179.655
17 52 Bill Baird/Sturgis KY Saturn Machine Chevrolet 50.101 179.637
18 29 Jesse Smith/Wildwood MO Hormel Foods-Child's Tire Dodge 50.174 179.376
19 15 Alli Owens/Daytona Beach FL ElectrifyingCareers.com Chevrolet 50.227 179.186
20 09 Grant Enfinger/Fairhope AL BeasleyAllen.com-Roush Yates Performance Ford 50.241 179.137
21 30 Terry Jones/Amherstburg ON Jones Group Dodge 50.303 178.916
22 68 Steve Blackburn/Prestonsburg KY Harley-Davidson & Honda of Prestonsburg Dodge 50.338 178.791
23 77 Tom Hessert/Cherry Hill NJ Cunningham Motorsports Dodge 50.345 178.767
24 0 Butch Jarvis/Blountville TN Steris Corporation Dodge 50.361 178.710
25 59 Leilani Munter/Rochester MN GREENandSAVE Dodge 50.402 178.564
26 83 Sean Corr/Goshen NY Empire Racing LLC Ford 50.410 178.536
27 28 Chris Cockrum/Conyers GA Accu Tech-Mohawk Cable Chevrolet 50.453 178.384
28 95 Tommy Joe Martins/Como MS Tommy Joe Martins Racing Ford 50.506 178.197
29 12 Russ Dugger/Owasso OK Accell Construction Chevrolet 50.514 178.168
30 14 Chase Mattioli/Long Pond PA Big Machine Records Ford 50.761 177.301
31 58 Chad Hackenbracht/New Philadelphia OH Tastee Chocolate Apples Chevrolet 50.775 177.253
32 36 Robb Brent/Shelby Township MI Orchard Chrysler Dodge Jeep Dodge 50.780 177.235
33 85 Lance Fenton/Tyler TX Team Gill Racing Dodge 50.984 176.526
34 97 Matt Lofton/Mooresville NC Strutmasters.com Chevrolet 51.002 176.464
35 99 Josh Richards/Shinnston WV Presta Chevrolet 51.066 176.243
36 90 Milka Duno/Caracus Venezuela Stringer Motorsports Toyota 51.128 176.029
37 38 Greg Sarff/Powell OH Great Dane Trailers Dodge 51.255 175.593
38 42 Scott Stenzel/Alexandria MN Yellow Stripes Making The Driver Ford 51.313 175.394
39 21 Jennifer Jo Cobb/Kansas City KS Bowsher-Mooi Motorsports Chevrolet 51.514 174.710
40 06 Barry Fitzgerald/Sykesville MD TheBusPlace.com Ford 51.987 173.120
41 23 Frank Wilson/St. Marys WV Drug Testing Centers of America-Lifeguard Medical Chevy 52.073 172.834
42 80 Brad Lloyd/Napa CA Stadelhofer Construction-Matt Cardeiro Enterprises Ford 52.120 172.678
43 75 Chuck Walker/Stanley NC Bob Schacht Motorsports Chevrolet 52.145 172.596
44 26 Brad Smith/Shelby Township MI ApplianceZone.com Ford 52.455 171.576
45 76 Jerick Johnson/Faribault MN American Legion-David Law Firm Dodge 52.767 170.561
46 48 Jill George/Cedar Falls IA Radon.com Dodge 52.827 170.367
47 34 Darrell Basham/Henryville IN Anti-Monkey Butt Powder Chevrolet 53.306 168.837
48 17 Hal Martin/Galliano LA Mark Gibson Racing Dodge 0.000 0.000
49 31 Tim George Jr./New York NY RCR Development Chevrolet 0.000 0.000
50 81 Craig Goess/Greenville NC Greenville Toyota of NC Toyota 0.000 0.000
51 43 Kyle Martel/Lebanon PA Hanover Cold Storage-Finish Line Express Chevrolet 0.000 0.000

Earnhardt out front again and wants to stay there

AP Auto Racing Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Here's something you haven't read in a while: Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in first place.

OK, so it was only two laps. And it was a rain-shortened practice at Daytona International Speedway - the place where Earnhardt is, well, kind of good.

Still, in a season in which Earnhardt is facing a new round of intensifying questions about his lack of on-track success, it's better to be fast than slow even if it doesn't count toward anything. Earnhardt led two of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates to the top of the speed chart in Friday's abbreviated practice session, and it could be the first sign that he's back on the right track after the worst season of his career.

"His heart really, really, really is in it," said teammate Mark Martin. "He's incredibly driven to have the success, and his team is behind it. I think you'll see a spectacular year for him."

Boy, does he need one.

NASCAR's most popular driver had his confidence shattered in a winless 2009 season. He failed to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, his crew chief was fired midseason and he managed just five top-10 finishes all year.

His teammates, meanwhile, combined for 13 victories and swept the top three spots in the final season standings.

The lack of production increased the already-bright spotlight on Earnhardt, who found there was little escape from the scrutiny on his lack of performance. At the halfway point of the season, he revealed a fear of not being strong enough to handle the strain of another trying season.

"I can't have another year like this. I can't mentally. I can't physically. I don't want to put the people around me through this," Earnhardt admitted. "When we were really, really struggling, everybody in the family was upset. Crying and carrying on. All the women were crying, the men we're cussing. I'm serious.

"We can't put anybody through this (stuff) again. We've got to get this right."

Team owner Rick Hendrick agreed, and made fixing Earnhardt's No. 88 team the top offseason priority at Hendrick Motorsports.

It became all hands on deck as Hendrick leaned on Martin crew chief Alan Gustafson to help Earnhardt's team. Gustafson allowed two of his crew members - including his lead race engineer - to move over to the No. 88, and he agreed to work with Earnhardt crew chief Lance McGrew to create a partnership similar to the one Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon have used with smashing success.

Johnson, who displays the trophies from his four consecutive championships in his office above the shop floor where Earnhardt's cars are built, believes Hendrick has executed the best possible plan for Earnhardt to succeed.

"It's been tough on him. I think his confidence has been beat down some, and I think the unification between the 88 and the 5 is very good for him," Johnson said. "He looks up to Mark. He seems to respond very well to folks that have been around the sport for a long time. Mark is more than willing, especially if Junior engages himself and asks the right questions."

But, Johnson cautioned, it's going to take a willingness for Earnhardt to open up more to his teammates.

"He can't do it on his own. He's been more internal and to himself on cars, setups, kind of been on his own little island," Johnson said. "If he really embraces the teammate standpoint and is right there alongside with Mark day in and day out, they'll get it figured out.

"It may take changes in driving style, a lot of things that aren't familiar to him, but he's gonna have every opportunity and we're making sure he does."

Earnhardt disagreed with Johnson's assessment.

"You know, I think I'm kind of shy at times, but I've never really been against really working together and trying to take two teams and be stronger," he said.

His first chance to prove it comes Saturday night in the exhibition Budweiser Shootout, a race he's won twice before, including in his 2008 debut with Hendrick Motorsports. He followed that win with a victory five days later in one of Daytona's twin qualifying races, setting the stage for a potential sweep with a win in the 500.

He came up short with a ninth-place finish, but it raised expectations for the pairing of the popular driver with NASCAR's most successful team.

It never happened.

Earnhardt won just once that season - his only points-race victory since joining HMS - and hit a slump when the Chase began. He never contended for the championship and finished last in the 12-driver field.

It only got worse last season, when he opened the year with a sub-par showing at Daytona, where he's won 12 races spanning NASCAR's top two series.

He wants to be back out front again, badly. He was for two laps Friday, and hopes to parlay that into a lot more.

"I'd like to be able to get back out there and start doing some of the things I should be doing and should have done last year. Should have done the year before," he said. "Win some races, be a prominent fixture in the top five every week. Win some more races."

Story courtesy of: 2010 The Associated Press.

Starting Order for the 2010 Budweiser Shootout was shown on SPEED

#99-Edwards, Ford, chose 5th, starts 1st/POLE
#29-Harvick, Chevy, chose 15th, starts 2nd
(Harvick was ill, so crew chief Gil Martin chose the bottle)
#83-Vickers, Toyota, chose 4th, starts 3rd
#39-Newman, Chevy, chose 6th, starts 4th
#16-Biffle, Ford, chose 10th, starts 5th
#5-Martin. Chevy, chose 2nd, starts 6th
#31-Burton, Chevy, chose 22nd, starts 7th
#17-Kenseth, Ford, chose 13th, starts 8th
#1-McMurray, Chevy, chose 21st, starts 9th
#34-Andretti, Ford, chose 23rd, starts 10th
#88-Earnhardt Jr., Chevy, chose 17th, starts 11th
#71-Labonte, Chevy, chose 14th, starts 12th
#14-Stewart, Chevy, chose 9th, starts 13th
#82-Schrader, Toyota, chose 16th, starts 14th
#51-Waltrip, Toyota, chose 20th, starts 15th
#48-Johnson, Chevy, chose 1st, starts 16th
#18-Busch, Toyota, chose 24th, starts 17th
#75-Cope, Dodge, chose 19th, starts 18th
#9-Kahne, Ford, chose 7th, starts 19th
#42-Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevy, chose 10th, starts 20th
#20-Logano, Toyota, chose 18th, starts 21st
(since Logano is not 21 years old, crew chief Greg Zippidelli chose the bottle)
#2-Busch, Dodge, chose 12th, starts 22nd
#24-Gordon, Chevy, chose 2nd, starts 23rd
#11-Hamlin, Toyota, chose 8th, starts 24th/last

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ryan embraces offseason to fulfill potential

ST. LOUIS -- Brendan Ryan took some big steps in the past year. He earned an everyday job, played Gold Glove-caliber defense and was more consistently effective at the plate than he'd ever been before in the Major Leagues.

Then the offseason came, and Ryan really made progress.

Long known within the clubhouse as likable and excitable, but not always reliable, teammate, Ryan did something remarkable this winter. Not only did he regularly attend new hitting coach Mark McGwire's hitting sessions in Southern California, he showed up on time. Every single time. For some players, this may not be a big deal. For Ryan, it's a breakthrough. And it's another sign of the maturing of a very promising player.

"I don't think he's ever hit this much in the offseason [before]," said double-play partner Skip Schumaker. "I don't know if he even hit in the offseason before the last couple weeks of spring [in previous years]. He hasn't been late one time, which is more incredible than anything I think. He's done a great job. McGwire's been working hard with him, and it's hard not to like Brendan Ryan. He's a good kid, works hard and I think there's going to be some nice improvements."

It's telling that Schumaker still uses the word "kid," even though he's only two years older than Ryan. The shortstop's development as a teammate has been a gradual process. The thing is, it really seems to be taking. Ryan gets it more every year. And if he can take the kinds of steps on the field in 2010 that he did in '09, the Cardinals will have a fantastic player on their hands.

Jimmy Rollins won the Gold Glove in the National League, and he's an outstanding defender. But it's hard to argue that he's a better defensive shortstop than Ryan. That part of Ryan's game is already there. His offense is coming. He believes that working with McGwire will help it get all the way there.

"I think if I take one percent of what he's given me, I'll be that much better," Ryan said. "I'm eager to get to the finish line, but with each swing, I think we're getting closer to where he'd like me to be. We're taking batting practice out at Saddleback Junior College, and I can see the backspin off the bat. It's not where I'd like to be, but we have all of Spring Training. But it's encouraging. I'm getting a lot of backspin on the ball. I'd like to repeat better swings more often."

Ryan, like most of his teammates, declined to weigh in on the controversy surrounding McGwire's admission of the use of steroids during his playing career. Instead, he repeated again and again his regard for McGwire as both a coach and a friend. He also pointed to another St. Louis slugger as a model for what he's trying to accomplish.

"I battle changing my stance every week," Ryan said. "So the first thing was, let's find a batting stance and let's stick with that. The funny thing is, I had a hard time finding out who I am. So I just kind of started doing what Albert [Pujols] did, and I started taking good swings. So I'm going to hit like Albert this year -- at least batting stance-wise. I'm going to try. That's what we've been doing. It feels good. He's got a pretty darn good swing obviously. If I can do an impersonation of that and fall just short, then I should have a pretty good swing too."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

02/01/10 12:31 PM EST

McCarron refuses to back down

SAN DIEGO (AP)—Scott McCarron is not backing away from his accusation that Phil Mickelson and other players are cheating if they use the Ping-Eye 2 wedges with square grooves.

McCarron issued a statement Monday in which he wanted to clarify that while he believes “it’s cheating” for Mickelson and anyone else to use the Ping wedges, “I never called Phil Mickelson a cheater.”

“That being said, I want my fans, sponsors and most importantly, my fellow players, to know that I will not be silenced and I will continue my efforts to get the groove issue resolved,” McCarron said.

Mickelson said over the weekend that he was “publicly slandered,” and he hinted at legal action if the PGA Tour does not discipline McCarron for his choice of words.

Square grooves no longer are allowed on the PGA Tour because of a new USGA policy effective this year that requires grooves in irons to be more a more shallow V-shape, which generate less spin.

However, the Ping-Eye 2 wedges made before April 1, 1990, are approved for competition because of a lawsuit that Ping settled with the PGA Tour and USGA some 20 years ago.

It has not been proven whether the grooves of a 20-year-old golf club— Mickelson played them in college at Arizona State and found this wedge in his garage—spin more than V-shaped grooves made with today’s technology.

John Daly and Dean Wilson were the first players to use the Ping wedges this year, at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Mickelson, who finished 19th at the Farmers Insurance Open, said he was not sure the Ping wedge was more effective than his new wedges from Callaway.

Mickelson, however, has been angry with the USGA since the groove policy was announced. He claims he submitted wedges under the new rules that the USGA did not approve, yet he was allowed to use a Ping wedge with square grooves that are not conforming.

“I understand black and white,” Mickelson said Friday. “And I think that myself or any other player is allowed to play those clubs because they’re approved—end of story.”

McCarron said to use the Ping wedges violated the spirit of the rule.

On Monday, he directed some of his frustration at the USGA and the PGA Tour for knowing the potential for this controversy before it blew up on them last week at Torrey Pines.

“Instead of addressing the matter, the tour chose to put the onus to comply on its players,” McCarron said. “Unfortunately, a handful of players have chosen not to comply, and that is what has led to this current ordeal. In my opinion … the tour must now put a rule in place to protect the field and ban these wedges.”

McCarron said the focus should shift from a small number of players using the Ping-Eye 2 wedges to the majority of players “who chose to do the right thing.”

“I am still appalled by the fact that any player would make the choice to put this controversial wedge in play, and I stand by my previous comments,” he said.

The only apology he offered was to the Farmers Insurance Open for the distraction it caused.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is to meet with players Tuesday in Los Angeles to discuss the wedge dispute.

Story courtesy of: DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer

Bears hire Martz to be their offensive coordinator

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Bears on Monday hired Mike Martz to be their offensive coordinator.

Martz, 58, worked with Bears coach Lovie Smith in St. Louis, operating an explosive Rams offense that was dubbed “The Greatest Show on Turf.” The unit featured quarterback Kurt Warner, running back Marshall Faulk, and wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt.

As offensive coordinator under head coach Dick Vermeil in 1999, Martz helped the Rams win Super Bowl XXXIV by directing an offense that recorded the first of three straight 500-point seasons, an NFL record.

In his first year as a starter, Warner passed for 4,353 yards and 41 touchdowns.

Martz replaced Vermeil as head coach in 2000 and went on to compile a 56-36 record in five and a half seasons in that role. The four coaches who have followed Martz have combined to go 18-51 since he left.

Martz hired Smith to be his defensive coordinator in 2001. In their first year together, they helped lead the Rams to their second Super Bowl in three seasons, cruising to a 14-2 record, including 8-0 on the road.

After departing St. Louis, Martz served as offensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions in 2006-07 and the San Francisco 49ers in 2008. In his first season with the Lions, unheralded quarterback Jon Kitna passed for a career-high 4,208 yards at the age of 34.

After serving as an offensive assistant at Arizona State from 1983-91, Martz coached quarterbacks and receivers with the Rams from 1992-96. He left St. Louis to become quarterbacks coach with the Washington Redskins in 1997-98 before returning to the Rams in 1999.

With the addition of Martz, Smith now has three former NFL head coaches on his staff. The other two are defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and new offensive line coach Mike Tice.

Check ChicagoBears.com later for expanded coverage.

Story courtesy of: Larry Mayer | Last Updated: 2/1/2010 2:43 PM

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Roger Federer wins 16th major, prolongs British drought

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)—Roger Federer felt awkward for a moment, celebrating his 16th Grand Slam title while Andy Murray cried for Britain.

Federer timed his run to perfection at the season’s first major, beating fifth-seeded Murray 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (11) in the Sunday night final to collect his fourth Australian Open title.

This time last year, Federer was sobbing after a five-set loss to Rafael Nadal at Melbourne Park. He’d missed a chance to equal Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slams, compounding an emotional few weeks.

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Andy Murray of Britain reacts …

In the intervening period, he has won on clay at the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam of all four majors and equal the Sampras record. Then he regained his Wimbledon crowd to get the record in his own right at 15. He also became a father of twins.

This time, Murray was on the verge of tears after missing a chance to become the first British man since 1936 to win a major.

The pressure on the 22-year-old Scot had intensified after he’d beaten Nadal in the quarterfinals.

“I thought he was actually doing fine until he told me, ‘I think there will be some tears,”’ Federer said of Murray. “I’m like, ‘Don’t worry, it will be all right.’ And he actually did.

“In a way it was hard to watch, but at the same time I like seeing players who care for the game. It’s nice to see, you know. So you wish only the best for him.”

Federer enjoys making history. This was his 22nd Grand Slam final, his 18th in the last 19. He compared this triumph with his win last year at Wimbledon, when he earned the record for most majors in his own right.

“This felt similar in a way, because all of a sudden it was over and it hit me,” he said. “It was very much a rollercoaster with the emotions. I guess the match point was over, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is it. It was great.”

Murray was on the verge of tears, drawing deep breaths as he apologized for failing to end a 74-year-old drought for British men.

“Firstly, congratulations Roger, his achievements in tennis are incredible,” he said. “He was a lot better than me tonight.

“Hopefully, one time I can come back and win here,” he added, his voice breaking. “I got great support back home the last couple of weeks. Sorry I couldn’t do it for you tonight but …”

Murray could barely finish his thank you, explaining: “I can cry like Roger; it’s just a shame I can’t play like him.”

Federer, who had to be consoled by Nadal last year, offered Murray some reassurance.

“Well done for your incredible tournament; you played it fantastic,” Federer said. “You’re too good of a player not to win a Grand Slam, so don’t worry about it.”

Federer dropped serve only twice in the match and hit 46 winners. He said he felt as good as ever.

“I’m over the moon winning this again. I think I played some of my best tennis in my life these last two weeks,” he said.

Federer saved five set points and wasted two match points in the tiebreaker with some uncharacteristic shot selection before clinching it when Murray netted a backhand after 2 hours, 41 minutes.

Murray was desperate to become the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win one of the four tennis majors, but seldom had the answers to Federer’s unrivaled finals experience. He set a record for British men just by reaching two major finals in the Open era.

“I don’t feel great,” Murray said. “I think it was more the way the end of the match finished … Obviously, it was pretty emotional end to the match.

“If it was a complete blowout, if I lost 3, 4, and 2, you know, it probably wouldn’t have happened. But I had my chance to get back into the match. That was probably why I was upset.”

Federer also beat Murray in straight sets in the 2008 U.S. Open final, the only previous meeting between the pair at a Grand Slam.

Murray still holds a 6-5 advantage over Federer in career head-to-heads— one of only four players who can boast such an advantage—but has lost the last three.

Last year, Federer had just discovered—unknown widely at the time—that he was to be the father of twins.

The emotions bubbled over after his loss to Nadal. But he recovered from that defeat to win at the French Open.

He won Wimbledon before his twin daughters were born. Federer reached his fourth Grand Slam final of the year at the U.S. Open, only to lose in an upset to Juan Martin del Potro.

Federer ensured no recurrence of the upset here, though, adding the 2010 title to his wins at Melbourne Park in 2004, 2006 and ’07, becoming only the fifth man to win four Australian titles.

American Andre Agassi, who won the last of his four here in 2003, was the last father to win a Grand Slam title.

“It’s also very special the first Grand Slam as a father,” Federer said as his wife, Mirka, smiled and clapped from the stands, almost crying herself. “You get the best out of me.”

Federer got on top early, taking a 2-0 lead. But Murray broke back immediately with consecutive passing shots—one which the Swiss star even had to applaud.

Federer had to save three break points in the fifth game before holding with back-to-back aces. He then broke Murray in the eighth game, lifting his intensity in perfect time so that he could serve for the set.

Federer dominated the second set after breaking Murray’s serve in the third game, but his intensity dropped slightly in the third.

Murray pounced, taking a 5-2 lead before Federer rallied again, winning four of the next five games to force the tiebreaker.

After saving three set points, Federer missed his first chance to finish it off when his curling forehand just missed the line.

His unusual decision to try a drop shot at 10-9 backfired when Murray surged to the net and put a winner over Federer’s head.

The Swiss saved another set point, then converted his third match point.

In the mixed doubles final, Leander Paes and Cara Black beat Ekaterina Makarova and Jaroslav Levinsky 7-5, 6-3 for the Australian title.

The top seeds fared well at the Australian Open, with Serena Williams defending her singles title over Justine Henin and combining with her sister Venus Williams to win doubles—the sisters were seeded No. 2.

Another set of American siblings won the men’s doubles, with twins Bob and Mike Bryan beating Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic.

Story courtesy of: John Pye, AP Sports Writer