Storybook start: Stanford alum Zhang earns unforgettable win in first LPGA event

Two-time NCAA champion Rose Zhang became the first LPGA Tour winner in her pro debut in 72 years, capturing the Mizuho Americas Open with a par on the second hole in a playoff against Jennifer Kupcho on Sunday.

The last female player to win as a pro in her debut was Beverly Hanson, who edged Babe Zaharias to take the Eastern Open in 1951.

“What is happening? I just can’t believe it,” Zhang told NBC Sports after the round. “It was just last week when I won NCAA with some of my teammates and to turn pro and come out here, It’s just been amazing.”

Zhang shot a 2-over 74 in the final round and squandered a chance to win the event on the 72nd when she missed an 8-foot par saver after making at least a half dozen clutch saves in a gritty final round performance.

The much-heralded 20-year-old from Stanford made a nearly identical 8-footer on No. 18 at Liberty National on the first playoff hole. Kupcho, who won an NCAA title at Wake Forest in 2018 and had a final round 69, also made a par.

Both players hit the fairway on No. 18 on the second playoff hole, but Zhang hit her approach from the fairway within 10 feet. Kupcho was short on her approach, her first putt went just over the back edge of the green and her second putt just missed. That left Zhang with a two-putt par to win.

Zhang held her face in disbelief after the winning putt fell and was then mobbed and presented with bouquets of roses.

Zhang, who is seen as the most-hyped player to join the tour since Michelle Wie in 2009, did not have a birdie in her final round and finished at 9-under 279 on the course with the New York City skyline as a backdrop.

South Korean rookie Hae Ran Ryu (70) was third at 8 under. Aditi Ashok of India, Ayaka Furue of Japan and Eun-Hee Ji of South Korea were at 7 under. Ashkeigh Buhai of South Africa, Leona Maguire of Ireland and Yuka Saso of Japan finished at 6 under, three shot behind the leaders.

Zhang turned pro last week after the NCAAs and much was expected right away. She was the top-ranked women’s amateur for 141 weeks and won every big women’s amateur event, the U.S. Women’s Amateur, the U.S. Junior Girls, the NCAAs and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

The …read more

Source:: The Mercury News


Sixers Can Trade Joel Embiid in 2024 With Another Early Playoff Exit

Joel Embiid could be traded by the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2024 offseason should the franchise fail to reach the Eastern Conference Finals again — this, at least, according to Sportsnaut’s Matt Johnson.

“While the 76ers would receive significant interest from around the league if they decided to trade Embiid, it’s not the approach ownership or the front office wants to take right now,” Johnson prefaced before saying, “However, that stance will likely change in 2024 if Philadelphia can’t reach the Eastern Conference Finals.”

For six straight offseasons from 2018-2023, the Sixers were eliminated from the Eastern Conference playoffs. Five of those seasons, including the past three, saw a second-round elimination, while Philadelphia went winless in the 2020 postseason against the Boston Celtics in the first round.

Whether with Ben Simmons or James Harden running the show from the backcourt, Embiid has not had a supporting cast capable of helping him reach the Eastern Conference Finals. It remains to be seen if Harden will be back as the Sixers’ 1A star this summer as “The Beard” enters free agency.

New Sixers Coach’s Prior Experience Can Help Joel Embiid

New Sixers head coach Nick Nurse’s prior coaching experience with the Toronto Raptors — specifically, coaching Spanish big man Marc Gasol — could help Embiid unlock thus far hidden parts of his offensive repertoire according to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Noah Levick.

“Is there anything from Gasol’s Raptors tenure that could be helpful? We think so,” Levick wrote. “Embiid generally won’t have as much freedom to survey the floor as Gasol, but he’s become excellent in many of the same spots where the Spanish big man dished out assists.”

Levick broke down the specificity of potential offensive sets the Sixers can run with Embiid playing the same role Gasol did for the 2018-19 NBA Champion Raptors within a Nurse-coached offense.

“Nurse may very well encourage more movement around Embiid in the Sixers’ Delay actions,” Levick wrote. “We imagine basic Chicago action (down screen into dribble handoff) with various alternative options — curling short instead of coming up for the handoff, the screener slipping backdoor, etc. — could be useful.”

Knicks Monitoring Sixers’ Joel Embiid Situation Closely

Should Embiid force the Sixers’ hand and request a trade before the front office has a chance to scope out what return he’d yield, the New York Knicks …read more



In ‘unprecedented’ situation, Kotsay tries to stay patient as losses pile up

MIAMI — A’s manager Mark Kotsay’s first full year in Major League Baseball came in 1998 with the Marlins. He was part of a team that featured budding young stars like Cliff Floyd, Edgar Renteria, Álex González, Liván Hernández, and Luis Castillo.

That team — managed by Jim Leyland — went 54-108.

Kotsay tries to lean on that experience as he guides an Oakland team that is on track to finish 2023 with a much worse record. After their 7-5 loss to Miami on Sunday, the A’s are now 12-49 having won just five times in 25 road games.

“We are in a situation that’s kind of unprecedented,” Kotsay said before Sunday’s game. “(That) rookie year for me and a lot of my teammates, we can name a ton on that roster who went on to have pretty successful careers.

“So I think you have to draw on that a little bit as a leader and kind of help these guys with their vision, even though we’re going through a tough time and they’re being challenged. There are ways to paint a good picture that we’re going to get through this and that it’s really good on the other side.”

Sunday, Luis Arraez hit a tiebreaking infield single in the eighth inning as Miami (32-28) completed a three-game sweep.

Joey Wendle doubled against A’s reliever Austin Pruitt to lead off the inning, then advanced on Jacob Stallings’ single. Stallings took second on right-fielder Ramon Laureano’s throw to the plate as Wendle remained at third.

Sam Moll relieved Pruitt (1-3) and struck out pinch hitter Jorge Soler before Arraez’s hard smash over a drawn-in infield bounced off second baseman Aledmys Diaz’s glove and drove in Wendle to give Miami a 6-5 lead. Nick Fortes ran for Stallings and scored from third on catcher Shea Langeliers’ passed ball.

The A’s lost their 14th straight on the road. Today, JP Sears (0-3, 4.37) gets the start for the A’s in the opener of a three-game series at Pittsburgh. The Pirates will go with go Johan Oviedo (3-4, 4.50).

“That’s the story of our year right now and everyone in that room is feeling it,” Kotsay said postgame. “There’s a lot of emotion now in that room. It’s continuing to be a grind.”

Yuli Gurriel had three hits — falling a home run shy of a cycle — and Garrett Cooper went deep for the Marlins.

Tanner Scott (4-1) pitched a scoreless eighth for the …read more

Source:: The Mercury News