Shaquem Griffin continues to inspire on cusp of NFL debut

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Twelve-year-old Logan Powell was already a die-hard Seattle Seahawks fan, even growing up in a household with a Steelers-loving dad.

If possible, Powell’s fandom of the Seahawks was amplified when Seattle selected Shaquem Griffin in the fifth round of the NFL draft last spring. Powell didn’t know who exactly Griffin was before the Seahawks selected him. He just knew there was a college player with one hand who wanted to play in the NFL.

“I was like ‘Ah, that would be cool if he was on the Seahawks,'” said Powell, who wears a prosthetic left leg. “And then he was drafted by the Seahawks.”

Powell and seemingly everyone else now knows Griffin’s story. The amputation of his left hand as a child. The chance he was given to play college football at UCF. The remarkable college career where he was the best defensive player in his conference and one of the best in the country. And ultimately being provided a chance to play in the NFL for the team his twin brother already played for.

Griffin’s story will likely add another unplanned chapter on Sunday in Denver, one nobody could have expected on the day he was drafted by Seattle. He’ll do more than just play in his first NFL regular-season game. Griffin will be one of the starting linebackers for the Seahawks with K.J. Wright out due to minor knee surgery.

The player who has been told countless times he can’t will make his professional debut as a starter.

For kids like Powell, it’s even more inspiration. If someone missing a hand can start in the NFL, then what is possible?

“He’s just proved he can do whatever he wants because he worked hard for it,” Powell said.

Griffin’s work ethic has been cited by coaches and scouts as the driving reason the 23-year-old is even in the NFL. But being an NFL player has brought another responsibility, one greater than what he experienced in college. Griffin understands he will always have a role more than just being a football player.

It’s why after Seattle’s final preseason game a week ago, he spent time back on the turf of CenturyLink Field meeting with kids from NubAbility , a nonprofit whose mission is to “encourage, inspire and instruct limb-different youth in mainstream sports.” He signed autographs. He posed for pictures. Powell was there among those listening intently to what Griffin had to say well after 11 p.m. on the field of a mostly empty stadium.

Griffin said he didn’t have a specific message to share; it was simply a chance to relish in the camaraderie of being together and seeing what was possible.

“There’s no exact message. It’s just us doing what we love doing,” Griffin said. “That’s living out our dreams. That’s us choosing what we want to do. There’s not really a message because we’re all on the same page. We all support each other. Having them come support me is another step along the way. It’s just living out our dreams the best that we can.”

Right in the middle of talking to the kids and signing autographs was Shaquem’s twin brother Shaquill, the Seahawks’ second-year starting cornerback. He’s helped his brother manage the transition from college to the NFL. He’s also been just as important in supporting and promoting what his brother has already accomplished.

“It means the world to me. Just seeing the people that look up to us, kids that are still pushing for what they believe in,” Shaquill said. “You understand what kind of role you’ve really got playing this sport, using this platform. I feel like what my brother is doing and what I’m continuing to do is way bigger than football — the giving back to others and motivating them and give them something to dream about. That’s what we play for, and being in that situation and talking to those kids, it’s a lifetime thing and something I always look forward to.”

Of course, there still is the football aspect to Griffin’s story and why so much attention will be placed on his debut. Seattle knew it was getting a tremendous athlete that could be an immediate contributor on special teams when it drafted Griffin. Whether he would play on defense would depend on how quickly he grasped the scheme and found a position.

The Seahawks ultimately decided to use Griffin in space and slot him as Wright’s backup. Compared to Wright in size, Griffin looks more like he should be a safety than a linebacker. But he’s taken to the position, even after a rough second preseason game when he looked lost and overwhelmed, which led to conversations with coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. about how to be more like the player they saw in college.

Griffin showed what Carroll and Norton wanted to see over the final two preseason games. And now he gets the chance to show it in a game that matters.

“When you’re a young guy trying to do everything for everybody, it’s insurmountable. That’s kind of how he was looking at it,” Carroll said. “He was tight, he wanted to please everybody, he was just trying to do too much stuff. We simplified it, got his language really clearer, what he was intending on trying to get done — like making his drops, making his reads and stuff, just simplify things — and he’s a really good ballplayer, he just took to it.

“I think he took also the fact that we showed confidence in him. Instead of ripping his butt about what he couldn’t do, we told him what could do, and he’s kind of followed it. All of a sudden he felt like he was very comfortable and much more at home, so we’ll see how it works.”

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Schauffele vents about beef with R&A over driver issue

Schauffele vents about beef with R&A over driver issue

Schauffele vents about beef with R&A over driver issue

Xander Schauffele accused The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of spreading the word that his driver failed random testing this week, leading him to ridicule from his fellow players.

Schauffele disclosed Friday that his Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero driver was non-conforming when it was tested before The Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. At that point, the development still was news to the media and fans. But after he shot a third-round 69 on Saturday, Schauffele took The R&A to task, accusing them of leaking the information to his opponents.

“So The R&A, they pissed me off because they attempted to ruin my image by not keeping this matter private,” he said. “This is me coming out and treating them the exact way they treated me.”

He said he heard heckling, in jest, from a fellow player

“It is an unsettling topic,” Schauffele, 25, said. “I’ve been called a cheater by my fellow opponents. It’s all joking, but when someone yells ‘cheater’ in front of 200 people, to me it’s not going to go down very well.”

Schauffele, a Californian ranked No. 11 in the world, said his was not the only driver to fail random testing, which involved 30 players.

“Other drivers failed,” he said. “… This matter should be private.”

Schauffele said he had no idea his driver was non-conforming when he put it in his bag before heading to Royal Portrush.

“I don’t sit at home and test my driver, you know. To my best belief, I was playing a conforming driver. I think The R&A’s job … well, the PGA Tour takes it up with the manufacturer. Our job as players is to show up to tournaments, put on a show for The R&A and for the Tour and to handle our business. It’s not to make sure our stuff is conforming.”

–Field Level Media

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Lowry cruises to first major win at Open

Lowry cruises to first major win at Open

Lowry cruises to first major win at Open

Shane Lowry recovered from a mid-round stumble to shoot 1-over 72 and finish with a 15-under 269, claiming his first major title at The Open Championship at Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush.

Lowry, from Ireland, entered the day at 16-under par and with a four-shot lead over England’s Tommy Fleetwood.

Playing in blustery weather, Lowry stretched the lead to six strokes early. Three bogeys in four holes around the turn dropped his lead back to four.

Fleetwood’s bid to catch Lowry hit a snag on the 14th hole, when Lowry bogeyed and Fleetwood double-bogeyed. Lowry then birdied No. 15, while Fleetwood shot par, to push his lead back to six with three holes to go.

The pair both shot par over the final three holes to seal Lowry’s victory.

Lowry, 32, held a four-shot lead after 54 holes of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, but settled for a tie for second after imploding with a final-round 76.

J.B. Holmes, who entered the day alone in third place at 10-under, finished a disastrous 16-over 87 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 67th — ahead of just three players.

American Tony Finau finished third overall at 7-under after shooting even par on Sunday.

Four-time major champion and world No. 1 Brooks Koepka had a chance to finish in the top three, but failed to birdie No. 18 and finished in a tie for fourth place with Britain’s Lee Westwood, who shot a 2-over par 73.

Koepka had top-three finishes in the other three majors this season (T2 Masters, won PGA Championship, and second in the U.S. Open) and was vying to become the first player in the modern era to finish in the top three in all four.

He joins Rickie Fowler, Jack Nicklaus, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods as the only players to finish in the top five at all four majors in a calender year in the modern era.

Fowler, who shot 3-over, finished in a four-way tie for sixth at 5-under with Englishmen Tyrrell Hatton and Danny Willett and with Scot Robert MacIntyre.

Italy’s Francesco Molinari had the round of the day with a 5-under 66, which boosted him 43 spots into a tie for 11th.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Ex-NFL LB Merriman sued for wrongful death

Report: Ex-NFL LB Merriman sued for wrongful death

The parents of a woman who

Report: Ex-NFL LB Merriman sued for wrongful death

The parents of a woman who died of a drug overdose in 2017 have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against former NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman, TMZ reported Saturday.

According to TMZ, the suit alleges Merriman drugged and possibly assaulted Kimberly Fattorini, who was a Playboy employee, on the night of a party at the Playboy mansion in Los Angeles. Fattorini’s death was ruled accidental and attributed to a combination of alcohol, cocaine and GHB — commonly labeled a date-rape drug — in her system.

Per the report, the suit claims a text message from Fattorini indicates Merriman gave her GHB. The suit goes on to allege that Merriman was with Fattorini, and did not want it known that he was with her, when 911 was called from a friend’s house, where Fattorini was found by first responders “half-naked with her jeans unzipped and unbuttoned.”

The suit also references two alleged text messages, with one of Fattorini’s friends saying, “(sic) Shawn killed her ass, what a [expletive] idiot,” and a promoter from the party replying, “That dumbass been drugging girls for years.”

A representative for Merriman denied the allegations to TMZ, saying neither Merriman nor his attorney “have any knowledge of him being named in any lawsuit.”

“This alleged lawsuit is baseless,” the representative added. “Shawne attended an after party more than two years ago where a young woman unfortunately overdosed.

“…The police thoroughly investigated and found no wrongdoing whatsoever by Shawne. The fact that they are raising this now, two years after the fact, demonstrates the baseless nature of these allegations.”

Merriman, 35, played eight years in the NFL, earning three Pro Bowl selections and one first-team All-Pro selection during six years with the San Diego Chargers. He played two years for the Buffalo Bills from 2011-12 before retiring.

–Field Level Media

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Bucs agree to contract with 1st-round LB White

Bucs agree to contract with 1st-round LB White

The Tampa Bay

Bucs agree to contract with 1st-round LB White

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers agreed to a contract with first-round linebacker Devin White on Saturday, a day before the team’s rookies report to training camp.

White was drafted fifth overall in April, slotting his contract value around $29 million over four years, all fully guaranteed, with a signing bonus around $19 million. Like all first-round picks, his deal included a fifth-year team option.

The Bucs’ veterans report to camp on Thursday.

Touted as one of the top off-ball linebacker prospects in recent years, the 21-year-old White is expected to start from Day 1 next to Lavonte David in the middle of new coordinator Todd Bowles’ 3-4 defense. White was a consensus All-American while winning the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker in 2018 at LSU, totaling 123 tackles (12 for loss) three sacks and six pass breakups.

White’s agreement leaves just seven draft picks unsigned across the league, including four first-rounders: defensive end Nick Bosa (No. 2 overall, San Francisco 49ers), defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (No. 3, New York Jets), quarterback Daniel Jones (No. 6, New York Giants) and defensive end Brian Burns (No. 16, Carolina Panthers).

The other three are 49ers’ second-round wide receiver Deebo Samuel, Giants’ third-round outside linebacker Oshane Ximines and Minnesota Vikings’ seventh-round long-snapper Austin Cutting.

–Field Level Media

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Herman fires 62 to maintain 1-shot Barbasol lead

Herman fires 62 to maintain 1-shot Barbasol lead

Herman fires 62 to maintain 1-shot Barbasol lead

Jim Herman needed to shoot a 10-under-par 62 Saturday to maintain a one-stroke lead after three rounds of the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Ky.

That’s because his lead at 24-under 192, which tied the low opening 54-hole score of the season, was threatened by Kelly Kraft, the native of Denton, Texas, who broke the Keene Trace Golf Club course record Saturday with an 11-under 61.

The 30-year-old Kraft, whose runner-up effort at The Greenbrier in 2018 has been his best finish on the PGA Tour, had a bogey-free round Saturday that included six birdies on the front nine and three back-nine birdies, along with an eagle on the par-5 15th hole thank to a 64-foot putt.

Herman, a 41-year-old Cincinnati native who is looking for his first top-10 finish of the season, also set the Barbasol Championship’s 54-hole scoring mark. He eagled the par-5 eighth hole and also the 15th to go along with six birdies in a bogey-free round.

He is crediting some of his success to none other than President Donald Trump, his former employer at Trump National in Bedminster, N.J. According to an article Friday at PGATour.com, Herman and Trump played recently, and the pro received some advice from the president.

“He gave me a good talking to and told me to use a different style if it’s not working,” said Herman, who decided to change his grip and style of putter. “… He gave me a little quick tip and get some conventional putting going and see what happens.”

After a terrible week of putting at the John Deere Classic last week, Herman said, “I had nothing else to lose. I had to change something up. That was his main advice: If it’s not working, change it. Put a lot of time in on the putting green this last week with the new style and new grip. It’s just rolling the ball nicely.”

The last time Herman led going into the final round of a PGA tournament, he went on to win the Houston Open in 2016, his only tour victory so far.

Tied for third are Austin Cook (63 on Saturday) and Bill Haas (65) at 20 under. Haas, a six-time winner on the PGA Tour, has made only one bogey through the first three rounds.

Cook, seeking his second PGA Tour victory, made five consecutive birdies on the back nine (Nos. 13-17) Saturday, and has four eagles this week, a personal best. The 90 eagles made by the players this week are the most in a PGA Tour event this season.

Three players are tied for fifth at 17 under.

With inclement weather in the forecast for Sunday afternoon, the finish time has been moved from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m.

–Field Level Media

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Clay, Nkemdiche among 6 Cardinals put on PUP list

Clay, Nkemdiche among 6 Cardinals put on PUP list

The Arizona Cardinals placed six players

Clay, Nkemdiche among 6 Cardinals put on PUP list

The Arizona Cardinals placed six players on the physically unable to perform list on Saturday.

Tight end Charles Clay (knee), defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche (knee), linebacker Brooks Reed (hip), offensive lineman Max Garcia (knee), cornerback Brandon Williams (back) and linebacker Dante Booker (knee) were moved to the list. The PUP players are eligible to come off the list at any time but cannot participate in any on-field team work until they are off the list.

Nkemdiche and Garcia are recovering from torn anterior cruciate ligament injuries, so they will continue to rehab when training camp opens.

The Cardinals report to camp on July 24 and will hold their first practice July 25.

Also Saturday, the team signed defensive lineman Sterling Bailey, who has played for the Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers since joining the league in 2016.

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NFL notebook: Shanahan returns to Broncos — as spectator

NFL notebook: Shanahan returns to Broncos -- as spectator

NFL notebook: Shanahan returns to Broncos — as spectator

Former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan was back at team headquarters on Saturday — his first visit to a practice session there since his firing in 2008 by then-owner Pat Bowlen.

The winningest coach in franchise history, with a 146-91 record that included playoff competition capped by two Super Bowl titles in 14 seasons with Denver, checked out the Broncos’ morning practice at UCHealth Training Center in Englewood, Colo.

“I was glad to have Mike here,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. “I invited him. I’m glad he could come. I invited him for the spring work, and the schedules never matched up, but I was glad he was here. I think it was good he was here. Mike’s got a big part in the rich history of this franchise. He’s welcome to come here any time he wants.”

Shanahan also met during practice with his former quarterback John Elway, who is now the team’s general manager and helped arrange the visit with offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello.

–The Broncos should be able to hear every whistle, every instruction, every hit during training camp.

That’s because Fangio has banned music during everything from the pre-practice stretch until the day’s final whistle.

“Anybody’s who has been a position coach, or assistant coach, they don’t like the music,” said Fangio, a former defensive coordinator who turns 61 next month. “It makes it hard to talk to your guys. I don’t see the benefit of having music out there. I was an assistant coach and I don’t want to drum out the noise to talk to my players. And there’s no music in games.”

–The Tampa Bay Buccaneers agreed to a contract with first-round linebacker Devin White, the day before the team’s rookies report to training camp. The Bucs’ veterans report to camp on Thursday.

White was drafted fifth overall in April, slotting his contract value around $29 million over four years, all fully guaranteed, with a signing bonus around $19 million. Like all first-round picks, his deal included a fifth-year team option.

Touted as one of the top off-ball linebacker prospects in recent years, the 21-year-old White is expected to start from Day 1 next to Lavonte David in the middle of new coordinator Todd Bowles’ 3-4 defense. White was a consensus All-American while winning the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker in 2018 at LSU, totaling 123 tackles (12 for loss) three sacks and six pass breakups.

–The Arizona Cardinals placed six players on the physically unable to perform list on Saturday.

Tight end Charles Clay (knee), defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche (knee), linebacker Brooks Reed (hip), offensive lineman Max Garcia (knee), cornerback Brandon Williams (back) and linebacker Dante Booker (knee) were moved to the list. The PUP players are eligible to come off the list at any time but cannot participate in any on-field team work until they are off the list.

The team also signed defensive lineman Sterling Bailey, who has played for the Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers since joining the league in 2016.

–Field Level Media

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Shanahan at Broncos practice for 1st time since 2008

Shanahan at Broncos practice for 1st time since 2008

Shanahan at Broncos practice for 1st time since 2008

Former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan was back at team headquarters on Saturday — his first visit to a practice session there since his firing in 2008 by then-owner Pat Bowlen.

The winningest coach in franchise history, with a 146-91 record that included playoff competition capped by two Super Bowl titles in 14 seasons with Denver, checked out the Broncos’ morning practice at UCHealth Training Center in Englewood, Colo.

“I was glad to have Mike here,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. “I invited him. I’m glad he could come. I invited him for the spring work, and the schedules never matched up, but I was glad he was here. I think it was good he was here. Mike’s got a big part in the rich history of this franchise. He’s welcome to come here any time he wants.”

According to Fangio, he and Shanahan have been familiar with each other, but more “as competitors. … We’ve gotten to know each other the last five, eight years.”

Shanahan also met during practice with his former quarterback John Elway, who is now the team’s general manager and helped arrange the visit with offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello.

Scangarello had previously worked with Shanahan’s son Kyle when they were with the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers.

Afterward, he went inside the team’s facility to reunite with staff members such as defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and assistant offensive line coach Chris Kuper (drafted by the Broncos in 2006), who were there during his coaching reign.

The Denver connections have remained since Shanahan departed, and he has attended several functions and ceremonies honoring the team. Now 66, he also had NFL stints as a head coach with the Oakland Raiders (1988-89) and Washington Redskins (2010-13).

Shanahan nearly had a chance to return to the Broncos as head coach when Elway considered firing head coach Vance Joseph in January 2018.

However, Elway’s idea to bring back Shanahan was not supported by Broncos CEO Joe Ellis, who wanted a full coaching search conducted if the team were to move on from Joseph, who was hired in January 2017. Elway considered that option before deciding to keep Joseph.

Joseph remained one more season, finishing 6-10 in 2018, before he was fired and replaced on Jan. 10 by Fangio.

–Field Level Media

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Ireland’s Lowry shoots 63, leads The Open by 4

Ireland's Lowry shoots 63, leads The Open by 4

Ireland’s Lowry shoots 63, leads The Open by 4

Shane Lowry said he was not pleased with the state of his game as he made the 180-mile drive north from his home town of Clara, Ireland, for this week’s Open Championship.

He changed his mind set after a conversation with his caddie at a local pub, and now is 18 holes away from claiming not only his first major title, but the first Open Championship held at Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush in 68 years.

Lowry tied the second-lowest score in major championship history with his 8-under-par 63 on Saturday, narrowly missing a fourth consecutive birdie putt on the 18th hole to tie Branden Grace’s 62 at Royal Birkdale two years ago.

As it stands, Lowry is 16-under par and will enter the final round with a four-shot lead over England’s Tommy Fleetwood.

“My mind’s a bit fuzzy at the minute,” Lowry told NBC after completing his bogey-free round. “Obviously, I just had an incredible day on the golf course. I’m looking forward to sitting down a little later on and just kind of reflect on it.”

Lowry leads the field with 19 birdies this week. The world’s 33rd-ranked player also leads in greens in regulation and his 197 is the lowest 54-hole score in Open Championship history. The only lower 54-hole score in any major was David Toms’ 196 at the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club in 2001.

While his game is certainly in excellent shape, the 32-year-old knows the mental part will be the biggest factor on Sunday.

Lowry held a four-shot lead after 54 holes of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, but settled for a tie for second after imploding with a final-round 76.

“Look, I’m very excited for tomorrow,” he said. “Four ahead for an Open Championship in Ireland … I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say.”

J.B. Holmes birdied the 18th hole to get to 10-under par and sits alone in third place.

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka is tied for fourth along with England’s Justin Rose at 9 under. They are seven shots behind Lowry but still in contention with wind and rain in Sunday’s forecast.

“It’s going to be an advantage for me, with the fact that I feel like I’m striking the ball well and I’m so far back,” Koepka told NBC Sports. “If you’re going to have difficult conditions, it’s going to be windy, maybe a little bit of rain, that’s kind of what I need. I need a chance, and hopefully that will be to my benefit.”

Koepka shot a 4-under 67 on Saturday despite struggling with his putter to post his 18th sub-par round in his last 20 rounds in majors. He is a combined 56 under in those rounds. Koepka has 26 major rounds in the 60s since 2017 — five better than anyone else (Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth).

“Just relying on ball striking, that’s it,” Koepka said. “I don’t think anybody in the field has hit it better than me. I’ve just probably putted the worst in the entire field, which is quite frustrating. I feel like I haven’t made anything outside 4 feet.”

Fowler posted a 66 on Saturday and is another shot off the pace, tied for sixth place with England’s Lee Westwood at 8 under.

Making up eight shots on Lowry figures to be difficult. Lowry said he was aware of Sunday’s forecast as he made a final push to reel off three consecutive birdies on No. 15-17 to increase his cushion over Fleetwood.

“I know it’s a bad weather forecast, so I said to myself if I can make one or two coming in I’ll really help myself,” Lowry said. “And that’s what I did, which is nice.”

With the partisan crowd heartily cheering his name, Lowry was quick to acknowledge that he will need to stay mentally sharp on Sunday.

“It’s going to be a difficult 24 hours,” he said. “But … God, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. Hopefully I can stick to my game plan and stick to my mental process over the next 24 hours and see where it leaves me this time tomorrow.”

–Field Level Media

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McDowell relishes home crowd, thinks of McIlroy

McDowell relishes home crowd, thinks of McIlroy

McDowell relishes home crowd, thinks of McIlroy

Graeme McDowell, who grew up in the shadows of Royal Portrush, ended Saturday’s round at The Open Championship at 2-under par 211 and in a tie for 29th place, well off the leaders.

And while McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, realistically won’t hoist the Claret Jug on Sunday, he was the feel-good story of the day, giving the home crowd a local hero.

Fellow Northern Irishmen Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy missed the cut on Friday.

“They were 10 deep down the first and second fairways. It was incredible,” he said after Saturday’s round. “Obviously without Rory and Darren here people really focused on me.”

With their encouragement, McDowell shot a 3-under 68 on the day. He started the day nine shots behind overnight leaders Shane Lowry and J.B. Holmes, meaning he had no pressure on him when he took the course.

“It was fun to have that Saturday looseness and kind of aggressiveness going on, but to be able to feed off this amazing crowd and to be able to enjoy it, frankly,” the 39-year-old said. “It didn’t have that Thursday, Friday tightness to it, that three-shots-off-the-lead tightness. I was relaxed and enjoying it and really taking it all in. It was a lot of fun. Massive crowds and great support.”

He had family support. His brother, Gary, works at Royal Portrush as a groundskeeper.

And he also was thinking of McIlroy, who was at Royal Portrush in spirit after making a late charge on Friday. He fell just short of making the cut and was emotional when he didn’t.

“I think Rory probably won himself a lot of fans last night. To show that raw emotion, to see how much it means to him, to see how much it means to all of us being out here and to bring this great tournament to Portrush, and for him obviously to not play the way he wants to play, the way he battled coming down the stretch says a lot about him as a person,” he said. “Sometimes these guys look like robots out here. We’re not robots; we hurt, and we hurt a lot sometimes. It’s a tough sport.

“He was coming in with the pressure of a nation on his shoulders and he was always going to feel a lot more than we did. So it obviously meant a huge amount to him.”

–Field Level Media

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Lowry shoots 63, leads The Open by 4

Lowry shoots 63, leads The Open by 4

Lowry shoots 63, leads The Open by 4

Ireland’s Shane Lowry shot the low round of the week with an 8-under-par 63 on Saturday to build a four-shot lead entering the final round of The Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

Lowry, who drove 180 miles north from his home to compete in Northern Ireland this week, posted the 13th round of 63 or better in major championship history. Only South Africa’s Branden Grace, who shot a 62 at Royal Birkdale in 2017, has posted a lower round.

Lowry’s 63 is the low round by two shots through 54 holes, and he is at 16-under for the tournament. England’s Tommy Fleetwood trailed Lowry by one shot entering Saturday. He posted a bogey-free 66 and still lost three shots to the leader and is at 12-under.

They will be paired together on Sunday as both players seek their first major titles.

J.B. Holmes birdied the 18th hole to get to 10-under par and sits alone in third place.

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka is tied for fourth along with England’s Justin Rose at 9 under. They are seven shots behind Lowry but still in contention with wind and rain in Sunday’s forecast.

“It’s going to be an advantage for me, with the fact that I feel like I’m striking the ball well and I’m so far back,” Koepka told NBC Sports. “If you’re going to have difficult conditions, it’s going to be windy, maybe a little bit of rain, that’s kind of what I need. I need a chance, and hopefully that will be to my benefit.”

Koepka shot a 4-under 67 on Saturday despite struggling with his putter to post his 18th sub-par round in his last 20 rounds in majors. He is a combined 56 under in those rounds. Koepka has 26 major rounds in the 60s since 2017 — five better than anyone else (Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth).

“Just relying on ball striking, that’s it,” Koepka said. “I don’t think anybody in the field has hit it better than me. I’ve just probably putted the worst in the entire field, which is quite frustrating. I feel like I haven’t made anything outside 4 feet.”

Fowler posted a 66 on Saturday is another shot off the pace, tied for sixth place with England’s Lee Westwood at 8 under.

–Field Level Media

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Stanley unapologetic for not yelling ‘Fore!’

Stanley unapologetic for not yelling 'Fore!'

Stanley unapologetic for not yelling ‘Fore!’

A day after he failed to yell “Fore!” when he hit an errant shot, Kyle Stanley revisited the issue on Saturday and refused to be remorseful about it.

“To me, it’s kind of a non-issue,” he said.

On hole 17 during Friday’s second round at The Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Stanley’s hit off the tee hit the mother of the caddie of his playing partner, Robert MacIntyre.

MacIntyre criticized Stanley for his inaction.

“I said I wasn’t happy,” MacIntyre, a 22-year-old Scot, said. “He didn’t really like my response. He’s the only one I’ve seen do that. It was straight into the crowd. It was into the crowd from the word go. And we’re expecting him to shout ‘Fore.'”

Stanley said plenty of others did, though.

“Five or six people yelled ‘Fore.’ My caddie did, my two playing partners, a couple of the marshals. So I thought that was enough,” he said.

The 31-year-old Stanley, who has two PGA Tour wins to his credit, added: “He made the argument that since I hit the ball, it maybe should’ve come out of my mouth first.

“It certainly wasn’t my intention to put anyone in harm’s way. I had my wife in the gallery, and my coaches.”

The woman reportedly was not injured by the golf ball.

–Field Level Media

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Broncos coach Fangio bans music during practices

Broncos coach Fangio bans music during practices

The Denver Broncos should be able to hear every whistle, every instruction,

Broncos coach Fangio bans music during practices

The Denver Broncos should be able to hear every whistle, every instruction, every hit during training camp.

That’s because new head coach Vic Fangio has banned music during everything from the pre-practice stretch until the day’s final whistle.

“Anybody’s who has been a position coach, or assistant coach, they don’t like the music,” said Fangio, who turns 61 next month. “It makes it hard to talk to your guys. I don’t see the benefit of having music out there. I was an assistant coach and I don’t want to drum out the noise to talk to my players.

“And,” he said, “there’s no music in games.”

The longtime NFL assistant coach is in his first head coaching role. He was hired in January to replace Vance Joseph, who was fired after two losing seasons.

“When it goes to the point where we need to simulate crowd noise in practice, which we will do, it will be noise,” Fangio said Friday. “It won’t be music. It will be noise. That’s what it is in the game. Noise by definition sounds annoying. Music sounds nice so if we have to deal with noise let’s deal with noise.”

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Chiefs WR Hill avoids discipline

NFL notebook: Chiefs WR Hill avoids discipline

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver

NFL notebook: Chiefs WR Hill avoids discipline

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill will not be punished under the personal conduct policy as the NFL closed its formal investigation into multiple alleged physical altercations.

Hill pleaded guilty to an assault and battery charge in 2015 but a full version of an audio recording aired recently revealed Hill denying assaulting his fiancée.

“Based on the evidence presently available, the NFL cannot conclude that Mr. Hill violated the Personal Conduct Policy,” the statement reads.

The Chiefs released a statement on Friday welcoming Hill back to the team for the start of training camp next week. The team’s fifth-round draft choice out of West Alabama in 2016 has amassed 223 catches for 3,255 yards and 25 touchdowns.

–The Philadelphia Eagles agreed to terms on a one-year contract with 36-year-old running back Darren Sproles, the team announced.

“My heart is in Philly. That’s where I want to end my career,” Sproles said on the team’s website. “That team, the city is like a family.”

Sproles, who ranks sixth all-time in the NFL in all-purpose yards (19,520), needs 163 yards to pass Tim Brown for fifth place. The three-time Pro Bowler will begin his sixth season with the Eagles after spending the first six years of his career with the San Diego Chargers and then playing three years with the New Orleans Saints.

–Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Drew Lock found out what the school of hard knocks will be like under new head coach Vic Fangio.

“He’s not a quarterback yet,” Fangio told reporters on the second day of training camp. “He’s a hard-throwing pitcher that doesn’t know how to pitch yet. The faster he gets that, the better off he’ll be and we’ll be.”

Lock, who failed to get selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft before the Broncos grabbed him the 42nd overall pick, isn’t expected to unseat new addition Joe Flacco as the starter in 2019.

–The Buffalo Bills signed journeyman safety Kurt Coleman to replace Rafael Bush, who is retiring after nine seasons.

Coleman, 31, is entering his 10th season and received a one-year contract that is reportedly worth just over $1 million.

He played all 16 regular-season games last season for the New Orleans Saints, making nine starts. Coleman finished with 32 tackles.

–Running back David Williams, who was originally drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2018, rejoined the team.

Williams wound up playing last season for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who signed him off the Broncos’ practice squad.

He rushed eight times for 36 yards in six games with the Jaguars. Williams was released May 10.

–The high stakes for building an NFL stadium for the Raiders in Las Vegas continues to rise with the latest cost estimate now coming in at $1.9 billion, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

A report indicated $40 million was being added to the cost in order to give the venue 20 more additional suites and a new club area near the north end zone.

The Raiders are expected to move into the stadium for the 2020 season, playing on a natural grass field under a translucent roof. Stadium plans call for it to have sliding doors that will open to give a view of the nearby Las Vegas Strip. The UNLV football program is also expected to use the facility.

–Field Level Media

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Broncos’ Fangio says Lock ‘doesn’t know how to pitch yet’

Broncos’ Fangio says Lock ‘doesn’t know how to pitch yet’

Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Drew Lock found out what

Broncos’ Fangio says Lock ‘doesn’t know how to pitch yet’

Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Drew Lock found out what the school of hard knocks will be like under new head coach Vic Fangio.

On only his second day of training camp, Lock, who reportedly was in a contract stalemate earlier this week, got verbally hit below the belt Friday by the old-school coach of the Broncos.

“He’s not a quarterback yet,” Fangio told reporters. “He’s a hard-throwing pitcher that doesn’t know how to pitch yet. The faster he gets that, the better off he’ll be and we’ll be.”

Four years of experience as a starter at Missouri isn’t enough to make Lock an NFL quarterback according to Fangio, the former defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears.

“His college offense had no carryover to pro offenses,” Fangio said. “He was under duress a lot in college, so a lot of his plays he was running around. I don’t think he’s as far along being an NFL-ready QB as he could have been.”

Lock, who failed to get selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft before the Broncos grabbed him the 42nd overall pick, isn’t expected to unseat new addition Joe Flacco as the starter in 2019.

“Drew will come in and compete for the backup job,” general manager John Elway told ESPN.com in April.

Fangio sounds like the tough-talking team player Elway needs in dealing with his young gun.

“I think a quarterback that can change his arm angles is a position when it’s needed,” Fangio said. “You don’t want to do it when you don’t have to do it. Obviously if someone’s in my face and I have to do it, that’s good to have that talent. But if I’m strong in the pocket and there’s nothing, I want to throw over the top, nice and strong. I don’t want to rely on side-arms.

“It’s good that (Lock) can do that, but he needs to use that when he needs to and not when he doesn’t need to.”

–Field Level Media

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Sproles returns to Eagles with 1-year deal

Sproles returns to Eagles with 1-year deal

The Philadelphia Eagles on

Sproles returns to Eagles with 1-year deal

The Philadelphia Eagles on Friday agreed to terms on a one-year contract with 36-year-old running back Darren Sproles, the team announced.

“My heart is in Philly. That’s where I want to end my career,” Sproles said on the team’s website. “That team, the city is like a family.”

Sproles, who ranks sixth all-time in the NFL in all-purpose yards (19,520), needs 163 yards to pass Tim Brown for fifth place. The three-time Pro Bowler will begin his sixth season with the Eagles after spending the first six years of his career with the San Diego Chargers and then playing three years with the New Orleans Saints.

“We are excited to bring Darren back,” the Eagles said in a statement. “It isn’t very often that you have the opportunity to add a player who has the sixth-most (all-purpose) yards in NFL history. He is the ultimate professional, and a leader on and off the field. He will add another proven talent to our running back room. His dynamic punt return skills are second to none. We can’t wait to get started next week.”

Sproles had discussed retiring after the 2017 season, the year he sustained a torn left anterior cruciate ligament and broken right arm in Week 3. He returned for last season but missed 10 games due to a hamstring injury.

He said he came back for 2018 because “I couldn’t let my career end like that.”

Sproles had topped 1,100 all-purpose yards in all 11 of his full seasons, peaking with an NFL-best 2,696 in 2011 with the Saints.

–Field Level Media

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Herman leads Barbasol field at midpoint

Herman leads Barbasol field at midpoint

Jim Herman shot a second consecutive

Herman leads Barbasol field at midpoint

Jim Herman shot a second consecutive 7-under-par 65 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead at the midway point of the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Ky.

Bill Haas is second at 13-under 131 following a 66 at Keene Trace Golf Club’s Champion course.

David Toms (8 under on Friday), D.J. Trahan (5 under), Kelly Kraft (5 under) and Kramer Hickok (5 under) are tied for third at 12 under.

First-round leader J.T. Poston, who tied the course record with a 62 on Thursday, produced a 73 on Friday to fall into a tie for 18th at 9 under.

Herman, whose only career PGA Tour win came at the 2016 Shell Houston Open, opened with four birdies and one bogey on the front nine. The 41-year-old Cincinnati native added four more birdies in a bogey-free back nine.

“Everything seems to be working this week,” Herman said. “I’ve really been playing very well. … I’m rolling the ball great. I’m hitting a lot of greens and making some putts. That’s always a good combination. …

“I’ve tried the best I could this week to set my sights high. I knew everyone was going to be going low. I’ve been always around the cut line it seems the last year, just fighting for cuts, missing out by a shot here and there. I had a goal of 15 under (through two rounds) and I just missed it, so we’ll reset and see what we can do on the weekend.”

John Daly, who completed in the Barbasol Championship after the Open Championship refused to give him a medical exemption for the use of a golf cart, missed the cut by three strokes. He shot 71-72–143.

–Field Level Media

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Ireland’s Lowry shares Open lead with Holmes

Ireland's Lowry shares Open lead with Holmes

Ireland’s Lowry shares Open lead with Holmes

Ireland’s Shane Lowry survived a shaky back nine and grabbed a share of the 36-hole lead with J.B. Holmes at The Open Championship on Friday while some of the game’s most famous names bit the dust.

Lowry, who grew up 180 miles from Royal Portrush, shot another 67 to match his first-round score. That left him at 8 under and even with Holmes, who shot 68 in the second round.

“I knew with the weather coming in, there’s going to be rain in the afternoon, I knew I needed to get off to a decent start anyway,” Lowry said of his 31 on the front nine. “To be out there doing it in front of the Irish people, it’s incredible.”

Lowry is not entirely new to the pressure of leading a major. He held the 54-hole lead in the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont with a third-round 65, only to become the first golfer since Payne Stewart (1998) to blow a lead of more than four shots in the final round.

Holmes’ two-round total of 134 is his best in a major by four strokes. A winner of five PGA tournaments, most recently the 2019 Genesis Open, he did not compete in the British Open last year.

“You can have that great round and that day where everything goes right. But it’s nice to get two rounds in a row,” Holmes said. “It shows a little consistency. And two days in a row I’ve hit the ball really well and putted well.”

Lee Westwood and Tommy Fleetwood, both from England, are one shot behind at 7 under. Westwood was the Open Championship leader through 54 holes at Muirfield in 2013, when Phil Mickelson emerged with the Claret Jug.

Mickelson, who carded an 8-over 150 total through two rounds, and Tiger Woods (6-over 148) missed the cut (1-over 143), along with local favorite Rory McIlroy, who shot a 6-under 65 but failed to make the weekend by one stroke.

“You know, I’m playing so bad that I really don’t know what to say,” Mickelson said following his round. “I’m just playing terrible golf.”

Defending champion Francesco Molinari of Italy (74-69) and Portrush native Graeme McDowell (73-70) just made the cut.

Without a single bogey in the second round, Westwood walked off the course Friday with only his second bogey-free round in 86 tries in The Open. But the 46-year-old Westwood, who would become the oldest first-time major winner, isn’t ready to start counting his shots toward a major title.

“There’s too much ground to cover before Sunday night. There’s a long way to go in this tournament,” he said. “I’ve never felt under that much pressure, to be honest. You lads write about it. I’ve always gone out and done my best. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

With a 7-under 135, Fleetwood shot his best score through two rounds of any major, thanks to four birdies on the back nine and six overall on Friday.

Brooks Koepka, who shot a 2 under 69 on Friday, is three shots back of the lead at 5 under along with Jordan Spieth, Andrew Putnam and South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli. After winning the U.S. Open in 2017 and 2018, and the PGA Championship in 2018 and 2019, the 29-year-old Koepka is trying to become the fourth player to earn five or more major titles before turning 30.

Woods started the back nine birdie-birdie but finished with bogeys on 17 and 18. Woods confessed he was travel-weary and ready to pack his bags Friday night.

“I just want some time off just to get away from it,” Woods said. “I had a long trip to Thailand and then trying to get ready for this event, to play this event, it’s been a lot of travel, a lot of time in the air, a lot of moving around and different hotels and everything.

“I just want to go home.”

McIlroy wasn’t quite ready to tag out after a miserable first-round 79, charging toward the cut line with a furious run of birdies in the second round. But he missed the cut at the Open for the first time since 2013, bouncing back with a win the next year.

Frittelli spun out of a share of the lead with a horrific tee shot on 17 and more trouble on 18 to end double bogey-bogey. His group at 6-under is one shot behind England’s Justin Rose, South Africa’s Justin Harding and Australia’s Cameron Smith, who are tied for fifth.

–Field Level Media

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Hometown hero McIlroy falls just short of Open cut

Hometown hero McIlroy falls just short of Open cut

Hometown hero McIlroy falls just short of Open cut

Rory McIlroy was 14 shots better in the second round than he was on Thursday, but a 65 left the hometown favorite one stroke from making the Open Championship cut at Royal Portrush.

McIlroy ran out of hometown magic but gave a strong effort before a raucous and supportive gallery following a brutal opening round.

McIlroy, who grew up in Northern Ireland approximately an hour drive from the Royal Portrush Golf Club, nearly pulled off the improbable after opening the final major tournament of the year Thursday with an 8-over-par 79.

It took all of McIlroy’s course knowledge and determination to reverse his fortunes Friday and shoot a 6-under 65 in the second round, but a final birdie was not to be had after the four-time major winner missed the green with his approach shot at the 18th hole.

His one-putt par left him at 2-over par for the tournament.

“It was awesome, sort of emotional,” McIlroy said of the crowd support in an interview on the ESPN broadcast. “I feel like I get a lot of great support anywhere I go, but I really felt it today. Every green to tee, all these people are here for me and they want me to do well. It sucks I’m not here for the weekend. I would’ve loved to play in front of them for two more days.”

Adding to the backdrop of McIlroy’s week was his history at the famed course. He once played Royal Portrush as a present for his 10th birthday.

McIlroy’s first-round struggles at a course he knows so well came as surprise. He shot a course-record 61 at Royal Portrush when he was just 16.

That kind of play was somewhat evident early Friday when McIlroy opened the front nine at 2-under with birdies at No. 3 and 7. His charge really started to gain momentum with birdies on the opening three holes of the back nine.

An untimely bogey at No. 13 derailed did not help the cause. He found a fairway bunker off the tee while following an aggressive line and was unable to salvage par. He still rebounded with a birdie at No. 14 and another at the par-3 16th hole but could not find one last birdie.

The 14-stroke improvement from his first round to his second round was by far his best in any event. His previous best improvement between the first two rounds was 10 strokes at the 2018 U.S. Open.

“I’m proud of how I snuck in there and played a really solid round of golf today,” McIlroy said. “It wasn’t quite enough. The good thing about this game is there’s always next week. Dust myself off and get ready for (the WGC-FedEx-St. Jude Invitational at) Memphis.”

–Field Level Media

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Raiders’ stadium cost in Vegas soars to $1.9 billion

Raiders' stadium cost in Vegas soars to $1.9 billion

Raiders’ stadium cost in Vegas soars to $1.9 billion

The high stakes for building an NFL stadium for the Raiders in Las Vegas continues to rise with the latest cost estimate now coming in at $1.9 billion, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

A report indicated that $40 million was being added to the cost in order to give the venue 20 more additional suites and a new club area near the north end zone.

The Raiders are expected to move into the stadium for the 2020 season, playing on a natural grass field under a translucent roof. Stadium plans call for it to have sliding doors that will open to give a view of the nearby Las Vegas Strip. The UNLV football program is also expected to use the facility.

Nearly $1 billion already has been spent on the 65,000-seat stadium, with the final three of 26 steel trusses expected to be installed in the next few weeks.

A 0.88-percent tax on Clark County hotel rooms is expected to pick up $750 million of the price tag.

A total of at least 46 annual events are expected to be held in the stadium, including concerts, MMA-style events and monster truck shows. The NCAA men’s basketball committee reportedly toured the facility this month with a future Final Four possible.

-Field Level Media

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