Weekend Sports in Brief
MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) — Staked to a six-shot lead, Justin Thomas spent more time Sunday worrying about what could go wrong than ending 12 months without winning.
And right when it started to go wrong, Thomas delivered his biggest shots in the BMW Championship.
In a span of three holes around the turn at Medinah, his six-shot lead shrunk to two. Thomas answered with two clutch wedge shots, two big putts and sailed to a 4-under 68 to secure a three-shot victory over Patrick Cantlay, who gave him a battle to the end with a 65.
“Patrick played unbelievably, put a lot of heat on me,” Thomas said. “In the end, it could have been good for me. It kept me focused, kept my head down. … I was really nervous going into today. I remembered that it’s really hard to win a golf tournament, and I’m glad that I was able to do so.”
The timing was ideal.
His first victory since the World Golf Championship at Firestone last year moved him to the top of the FedEx Cup going into the Tour Championship, where he will start the tournament at 10-under par with a two-shot lead under the new scoring format as the final 30 players chase a $15 million first prize.
“I can certainly say I never slept on a Wednesday lead,” Thomas said.
Cantlay, who made four straight birdies around the turn, secured the No. 2 position and will start at 8 under. Brooks Koepka will be 7 under, a staggered start all the way down to even par for the final five players.
MASON, Ohio (AP) — Two unexpected champions embraced their first Rookwood championship trophies, concluding a week that brought more questions than clarity to the upcoming U.S. Open.
Who’s going to be healthy on the women’s side? Will stumbles in the men’s bracket at the Western & Southern Open carry over to New York?
And are Madison Keys and Daniil Medvedev capable of carrying their newfound momentum into a Grand Slam event? After winning the biggest tournament title of their careers, they were already getting asked about how it might transfer to the bigger stage.
Keys rallied late in both sets and beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 7-6 (5) for her second title of the season and easily the biggest of her career. After flameouts in her last three tournaments and a tough draw for the week, she couldn’t imagine the outcome.
Back on the court to receive the trophy, she told the crowd: “If you told me this is where I would be a week ago, I would have laughed in your face!”
Medvedev beat David Goffin 7-6 (3), 6-4 for his first Masters 1000 title. It was his third straight final, but the first time he had won. Medvedev lost to Rafael Nadal on Montreal a week earlier, then went on to reach his sixth final of this season, most on the ATP tour. He’s won twice.
“To finally lift the trophy this week is an amazing feeling,” Medvedev said.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Le’Veon Bell will have to wait a little longer for his debut with the New York Jets.
Coach Adam Gase announced that the star running back will be held out of the team’s final two preseason games.
“I was about 99% sure heading into the preseason,” Gase said after the Jets’ practice at MetLife Stadium. “It was all based off of how he practiced, conditioning and all those types of things.”
Gase and Bell spoke about the plan when training camp started, and Bell’s snaps increased in practice last week.
Bell has looked good in training camp after sitting out all last season in a contract dispute with Pittsburgh. Gase and the Jets don’t want to take any unnecessary risks with Bell.
“We’ll just get him as game ready as possible,” Gase said. “He’s not really going to know until we get into a real game, but I feel like he’s in great shape and he’s been contacting about as good as anybody on the practice field.
“So, I feel confident he’ll be ready to go (in) Week 1.”
That would be the regular-season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 8. It will mark the first time Bell will play in a game since the Steelers’ playoff loss to Jacksonville on Jan. 14, 2018 — a span of nearly 20 months.
“I’ll see y’all in September,” Bell wrote on Twitter about an hour after Gase’s announcement.
LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — The black clouds that enveloped Pocono and officially brought the IndyCar race to a premature end didn’t appear until the halfway point. But they’ve really been hanging over the track since the series returned to the mountains in 2013.
A fatal crash. A promising career wrecked by paralysis. And again Sunday, a first-lap demolition derby that sent another driver to the hospital and stirred an angry mob howling for IndyCar to get the heck out of town once and for all.
It may be a moot point, IndyCar and Pocono don’t have a deal for a 2020 race.
But for Robert Wickens, the Canadian confined to a wheelchair after last year’s accident, IndyCar has no place on the 2 1/2-mile superspeedway.
“How many times do we have to go through the same situation before we can all accept that an IndyCar should not race at Pocono,” he tweeted.
The counter argument was posed from the Australian snapping victory lane photos inside a cramped Pocono media center as rain pounded the track outside. Will Power was in the right position Sunday to claim the win when lightning struck in the area to not only win the race, he ended the potential for his first winless season since 2006 and he took the checkered flag at Pocono for the third time in four years.
“I really hope we come back, I do,” Power said. “It’s hard for us to find good ovals that suit our cars.”
IndyCar at Pocono has turned into perhaps the scariest race day in auto racing, 500 miles of danger for drivers on the 2 1/2-mile track and white knuckles and clasped hands for anyone watching the event.
The green flag had barely been dropped when 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato used an aggressive — arguably foolish — move to trigger a wreck that sent Felix Rosenqvist to the hospital.
Sato tried to shoot a gap on the first lap, cut off Alexander Rossi and connected with Ryan Hunter-Reay in a crash that left cars and debris strewn across the track. Sato’s car landed upside down on Hunter-Reay’s Honda.
“I can’t even begin to understand how after last year Takuma thinks that’s acceptable,” Rossi said. “It’s disgraceful.”
Rosenqvist hit the fence nose first and his car slammed back on the track. Rosenqvist did not suffer life-threatening injuries and was cleared.
“Definitely feel lucky escaping without any serious injuries after visiting the catch fence there,” he tweeted.