PGA crowns youngest ever FedEx Cup champ

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PGA crowns youngest ever FedEx Cup champ

From Comcast SportsNet

ATLANTA (AP)For much of the day, it all seemed so confusing.

This guy is going to win. No, no, that one can still pull it out. And lets not forget the player whos not even in contention.

In the end, the point scenarios didnt matter a bit. This one was decided on the course, not by a computer.

And what a finish it was.

After staying alive with an astounding shot from the water, Bill Haas defeated Hunter Mahan on the third extra hole of a winner-take-all playoff to capture the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup and golfs richest prize early Sunday evening in the dwindling light of East Lake.

My hands were shaking, Haas said. This is pretty cool.

He looked out of it on the second playoff hole when his shot from a fairway bunker trickled down the hill alongside the 17th green and wound up half-submerged in the water.

Haas figured his ball was fine until he heard the groans from the grandstands behind the 18th hole.

I thought it was a nice shot, he said. I thought, That cant be in the water. I never would have thought that when it was in the air.

His brother, who was on the bag, delivered the bad news.

Yeah, caddie Jay Haas Jr. said, I think it is.

Bill Haas didnt throw in the towel. Instead, he put his right foot in the pond and delivered a shot worthy of a massive payoff, water flying upward and the ball spinning toward the cup, settling just 3 feet away.

It was an all or nothing shot, Haas said. If I dont pull it off, Im shaking Hunters hand.

He saved par and headed back to the par-3 18th for the third time in less than an hour. This time, he played it safe, driving left of the green, chipping to 3 feet and rolling in the biggest putt of his young career. Mahan failed to salvage par after driving into a bunker, the difference between winning and losing nearly 10 million.

Im sure my money people, whoever I have helping me out with money, they would suggest that I maybe invest a little, Haas said. I need to think about it long and hard, but I do need to give myself some sort of reward, some sort of toy or whatever it may be.

He certainly earned itif nothing else, for the way he persevered. He squandered a three-stroke lead down the stretch and his first shot of the playoff banged off a grandstand right of the 18th green. He chipped to 10 feet and made a downhill putt to keep himself alive. In hindsight, that was just as amazing as the shot out of the water at 17.

I hit horrendous shots, Haas said. I just fortunately hit really good recovery shots.

Coming down the stretch, more than a half-dozen players had a shot at the FedEx Cup. Even Webb Simpson, who began the week leading the points but finished 10 shots back in 22nd place.

Then, it all came into focus. When Haas and Mahan claimed spots in the playoff, everyone could put away their calculators and their criticism of the convoluted system that determines a champion.

The winner of the playoff would win it alleven though Haas still wasnt sure he had captured both the tournament AND the FedEx Cup until he did a television interview alongside the 18th green.

Both trophies were there and there was no other player, he said. I looked at my wife and she nodded her head, so that was when I realized.

Haas earned a combined 11.44 million, including 10 million for capturing the FedEx Cup. Mahan had to settle for 864,000 as the runner-up and 700,000 for finishing seventh in the FedEx Cup.

A long, tough day. A lot on the line, Mahan said. I couldnt have been happier about how I played. I just couldnt make a putt.

Haas won for the first time this year, and the payoff could be more than just a massive bank deposit. Fred Couples makes his final captains pick on Tuesday for the Presidents Cup, and Haas put on quite a show.

It definitely put me in the talk, Haas said. I did what I could do.

Even if Couples wasnt watching, his assistant captain had a great view: Jay Haas, Bills dad, was in the gallery and raised his arms as his 29-year-old son delivered the riveting conclusion.

Im proud of him the way he came back, the father said.

Only a week ago, Bill Haas was poised to make the Presidents Cup on his own until a 42 on the back nine at Cog Hill. He was atop the leaderboard Saturday at East Lake until a bogey-double bogey finish.

We were eating dinner, Jay Haas said, and you wouldve thought he was the worst golfer in all of Atlanta and maybe Georgia. He was way down on himself.

He almost let it get away from him again. Haas had a three-shot lead when he walked off the 15th green, only to make bogey from the trees on the 16th and bogey from the gallery on the 18th for a 2-under 68.

Mahan had to make par on the 232-yard closing hole. He hit a clutch chip the biggest weakness in his gameand holed a 5-foot par putt for a 71 to join Haas in the high-stakes playoff.

Simpson, the top seed, closed with a 73 that made it possible for anyone who won the Tour Championshipexcept for Aaron Baddeleyto pass him.

Luke Donald, the No. 1 player in the world, made birdie on the 18th hole for a 69. He needed a three-way tie for second to capture the FedEx Cup, and could have done it had Mahan and Baddeley both made bogey on No. 18 in regulation. Instead, both made par.

Donald wound up in a tie for third with K.J. Choi, who needed birdie on the 18th to get into the playoff. Choi shot 70.

Charles Howell III also needed a birdie to get into the playoff, but came up well left of the green on No. 18 and settled for bogey. Jason Day had a 30-foot birdie putt to join the playoff and gave it a strong run. He missed a meaningless 4-footer coming back and settled for bogey.

Haas was at No. 25 in the FedEx Cup standings, making him the lowest seed to capture golfs biggest prize. He joins a distinguished list of FedEx Cup winners that includes Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk.

No need to beat himself up anymore.

Anything can happen, Haas said. Anything did happen.

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.