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Sunday, July 22, 2018

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Justin Thomas: Francesco Molinari is ‘hottest player on the planet’

Francesco Molinari

The praise keeps rolling in for Francesco Molinari.

After the 35-year-old captured his first major with a win at The Open Championship on Sunday, colleague Justin Thomas called Molinari “the hottest player on the planet.”

The words could not be truer. Though he finished 25th at the US Open, Molinari won the BMW PGA Championship in May, the Quicken Loans National in late June/early July, finished second at the John Deere Classic last week, and won The Open.

Vikings OL coach Tony Sparano has died

The Minnesota Vikings announced the tough news on Sunday that offensive line coach Tony Sparano has died at the age of 56.

In a statement announcing the shocking news, the team said that Sparano unexpectedly passed on Sunday morning.

“Our hearts go out to Jeanette and the entire Sparano family as we all mourn the loss of Tony,” the Vikings’ owners said in a statement. “Tony was a passionate and driven individual who cared deeply about his family, and especially enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren. Tony’s presence within the Vikings organization will be deeply missed. We are only thinking of Tony’s family during this incredibly difficult time. We ask that the entire NFL and Vikings family keep the Sparanos in their thoughts.”

Sparano leaves behind his wife, three children, and four grandchildren.

The 56-year-old has been Minnesota’s offensive line coach since 2016. He was best known for his four-year stint as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach from 2008-2011. In his head coaching debut in 2008, the team went 11-5 and made the playoffs, riding the tandem of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to success on offense.

Markelle Fultz expected to be Philadelphia’s sixth man next season

Markelle Fultz is ready to put the “6” in Philadelphia 76ers.

In an appearance this week on 97.3 ESPN’s “The Sports Bash,” Keith Smith of Real GM spoke on Fultz and his expected role for the Sixers in 2018-19.

“He’s probably likely to be the sixth man coming off the bench,” Smith said of the 20-year-old. “And in a lot of ways that’s a great role for him because on the days that he’s got it going, you ride him. On the days where he doesn’t, he’s a sixth man, that’s OK, sit down, we’ve got other guys who can handle the load.”

Fultz, who went to Philly with the No. 1 overall pick last year, was hindered by some well-documented health and mechanical issues in his rookie season. The net result was 14 total apperarances with 7.1 points and 3.8 assists per game.

After bringing back JJ Redick this summer, the Sixers can run back what they had last season with Redick and Ben Simmons as their starting backcourt plus TJ McConnell also available for matchups that require a more traditional point guard to start. That would allow Fultz to work his way back in lower-leverage situations off the bench.

Smith also says that the Sixers seem to be “really happy” with the work that Fultz has done with his new trainer, so it sounds like everything is trending in the right direction for the former Washington star.

H/T NBA Reddit

Aroldis Chapman dismisses knee concerns after rough outing

Aroldis Chapman Yankees

Aroldis Chapman dismissed concerns about his knee after a rough outing on Saturday.

Chapman entered the New York Yankees’ game against the New York Mets looking to close things out with a 7-3 lead. Unfortunately he failed to record an out as he put on five straight, walking three, hitting a batter and allowing a hit. He was charged with three runs in the appearance.

After the game, Chapman was asked whether his knee had anything to do with his issues Saturday. Both Chapman and manager Aaron Boone dismissed those concerns.

Chapman has dealt with knee tendinitis all year, though it mostly has not appeared to affect him. Prior to Saturday, he was 3-0 with 26 saves, a 1.35 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 40 innings.

Tiger Woods in striking distance of his first major title in 10 years

It’s been a decade since Tiger Woods won a major title — the 2008 U.S. Open — but that dry spell could very well come to an end on Sunday.

Playing in The Open Championship for the first time since 2015, Woods carded a 5-under 66 on Saturday, briefly topping the leaderboard and setting himself up for a run at the trophy.

“It would be … better on Sunday,” Woods said via the AP. “But I’m right there.

“It’s been a few years since I’ve felt like this.”

It was the first time Woods led or held a share of the lead in a major since the 2012 U.S. PGA Championship, and his lowest round in a major since 2011 Masters.

The 14-time major champion will don his signature red on Sunday when he tees off and attempts to legitimize his comeback and cement his legacy.

Jon Gruden says Khalil Mack decision is his ‘toughest’

Khalil Mack
The honeymoon period for Jon Gruden in his return to the Raiders has ended abruptly thanks to the holdout of one of the team’s best players.

Defensive star Khalil Mack did not participate in OTAs and officially held out of the team’s minicamp as he seeks a new contract. Mack is in the final year of his rookie contract and set to make just over $13 million, but he’s a former Defensive Player of the Year and deserving of a long-term deal.

Speaking at a Raiders fan rally at Ricky’s Sports Theater and Grill in San Leandro, Calif. on Friday, Gruden described the situation as his “toughest decision” right now.

The Raiders clearly want to have Mack in the fold and know they need him. GM Reggie McKenzie has even said they hope to keep Mack for life. A report in April suggested that Mack could set a record for guaranteed money. So far that has yet to materialize, which has led to little movement on the Mack contract front as training camp approaches. That’s not a position either party wants to be in.

15 NFL players with something to prove in 2018

Joe Flacco

The NFL can be notoriously fickle. The risk of injury, the lack of guaranteed money, and the ever-changing game can alter the trajectory of a career very quickly. For some players, it leaves them in a position where they have to prove themselves again in order to re-establish themselves as top-tier stars.

Here are 15 players who are looking to do just that in 2018. They may have had off-field issues, a lot of injuries, are entering a contract year, or any combination thereof. Either way, all eyes will be on them this coming season, and it’s up to them to respond.

1) Odell Beckham Jr., Giants

There’s so much good about Beckham, but we haven’t seen enough of it in the last year or so. He hasn’t stayed healthy. He’s gotten involved in off-field distractions. He hasn’t produced to the standards he’s capable of even when healthy. Now entering a contract year, he needs to prove to the Giants and everyone else that he can let his football do the talking. So far, he’s reportedly off to a good start.

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