Bryce Harper delights home crowd with Home Run Derby win

The ball cleared the center field wall, and the sellout crowd roared. Bryce Harper threw his bat in the air, thrust both index fingers skyward and yelled with delight as a shower of streamers rained upon the crowd of 43,698. It could have been a scene from a playoff game. That it was merely the All-Star Home Run Derby mattered not to Harper or the Washington Nationals fans, who were thrilled to see their hometown hero deliver the night’s final longball Monday. In the midst of it all — and in the middle of trying season — Harper grabbed the microphone and

The Open 2018: Golf to introduce blood testing as part of WADA regulations

Players have previously only been subjected to urine tests but a condition of golf’s inclusion in the Olympics was that the sport would need to meet testing standards deployed across other WADA-regulated sports. About 20 per cent of the field will be subject to testing which has already been introduced on the European Tour. “I’ve done it a few times,” said Europe’s No1 Tommy Fleetwood. “I’m pretty confident that it’s a clean sport but we’re an Olympic sport these days so rules apply to everybody. “If everybody’s doing the right things, then it shouldn’t be a problem. I don’t see

Rory McIlroy confident his firepower can boost him to victory at The Open

The toughest course on the rota has claimed many a victim down the years but McIlroy, one of the longest hitters in the game, feels he has the ammunition to put it in its place. “My record at the Open has been pretty good over the last few years and I don’t see any reason why I can’t continue that good run this week,” said McIlroy, who practised with Spain’s Jon Rahm yesterday. “With the way the rough is, someone like Jon and I can fly it over 320 yards – you’re basically taking all the trouble out of play

Jordan Spieth reveals Claret Jug sadness ahead of The Open

Spieth reluctantly took part in a setpiece handover of the Open trophy on the first tee at Carnoustie to R and A chief executive Martin Slumbers and afterwards owned up to a surprising sense of emptiness. “I thought maybe somebody would meet me in the parking lot and I’d just give them the case back and we’d move on. But it was a ceremony, and because of that, it actually hit me harder,” he said. “I was thinking: ‘Man, this was in my possession. I took it to all the places that allowed me to get to where I am

Danny Willett: Former Masters champion opens up on his fall from grace ahead of The Open

He is able to do so with complete honesty because, finally, the wheel has begun to turn but if you ever wondered what happened to that twitchy Yorkshireman who won the Masters then here it is in unflinching detail. Willett’s fall from Augusta hero two years ago to a missed cut and withdrawal specialist was widely (mis) interpreted as a classic case of golfing Icarus, a player who flew too close to the sun and could not handle what went with becoming a Major champion. The truth was that at 28 he was only on the course at all with

Sources: LeBron to miss Team USA minicamp

6:02 PM ET LeBron James will not participate in USA Basketball’s minicamp in Las Vegas next week, multiple sources familiar with James’ plans told ESPN. James, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was in Vegas over the weekend to observe his new team, the Los Angeles Lakers, play a summer league game, but he will not be present for the training camp, which is slated for July 25-27 at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center. It will be the first official USA Basketball gathering with Gregg Popovich as the head coach. James played for Larry Brown on the 2004 bronze medal team at the

The Open 2018: Rory McIlroy confident his firepower can boost him to victory at Carnoustie

The toughest course on the rota has claimed many a victim down the years but McIlroy, one of the longest hitters in the game, feels he has the ammunition to put it in its place. “My record at the Open has been pretty good over the last few years and I don’t see any reason why I can’t continue that good run this week,” said McIlroy, who practised with Spain’s Jon Rahm yesterday. “With the way the rough is, someone like Jon and I can fly it over 320 yards – you’re basically taking all the trouble out of play

British Open viewer’s guide: tee times, TV schedule and streaming options

The 147th British Open begins on Thursday at Carnoustie, and tee times for the opening round are from 1:35 a.m. ET to 11:16 a.m. ET. Tiger Woods, making his first British Open start in three years, tees off at 10:21 a.m. alongside Hideki Matsuyama and Russell Knox, and that group goes off at 5:20 a.m. on Friday. The TV broadcast begins at 1:30 a.m. on Thursday on the Golf Channel and continues until 4 p.m. Weekend coverage is also on NBC. Below is the TV schedule, streaming options and tee times for the week. TV SCHEDULE (ET) Thursday: 1:30 a.m.-4

Scherzer gets nod to start MLB all-star game in home park

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will bat sixth for the National League in the all-star game in his home ballpark on Tuesday night in Washington (7:30 p.m. ET). Harper is hitting .214 with a .365 on-base percentage, .468 slugging percentage, 23 home runs and 54 runs batted in. Despite his hitting struggles, Harper is an all-star — voted in by fans — for the sixth time in his seven-year major league career. Nationals teammate Max Scherzer will take the mound for the NL as expected with Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts saying it’s good for baseball and for the country

LaVar’s latest boast: In prime, I’d beat LeBron

1:31 PM ET LaVar Ball made headlines last year when he said that he could have beaten Michael Jordan one-on-one back in his playing days. Now the braggadocious basketball dad is making the same claim about his son’s new teammate: LeBron James. In a recent interview with Fanatics View, Ball said he would have been able to beat James because the four-time NBA MVP is “too weak.” “ too weak,” Ball, 50, said during the interview, which was published last Thursday. “Back in my heyday, can’t nobody hold me. 270 (pounds), benching 500? All I gotta do is back

He Was Quitting Golf. Then He Qualified for the US Open.

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Less than a month ago, Chris Naegel called his wife, Lindsey, with a lump in his throat. He was done, he told her. He was ready to quit professional golf.

The admission did not exactly stun her. Naegel was 35, a journeyman bobbing in the backwaters of the sport, from the Hooters Tour to the eGolf Tour to the Adams Tour to the Minor League Tour. He had just badly missed the cut at a Web.com event.

“I was kind of, I don’t know,” Naegel said. “Over it.”

He recalled that moment as he was looking for his ball Monday evening somewhere on the fifth hole here at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, where he was practicing with his caddie for the United States Open, which starts on Thursday. It was late, the shadows were growing long and the barn swallows were sweeping across the fescue. Only a few golfers remained on the course. One of them was Tiger Woods.

Naegel caught sight of a large crowd of fans streaming down an adjacent fairway.

“Yeah, that’s got to be him,” he said, knowing the kind of commotion that follows Woods.

They passed like ships in the night — if one was an ocean liner and the other a dinghy. But this week, they will share the same coveted waters.

The charm of the U.S. Open is its meritocratic qualification system, which allows peripheral players to dream of joining the elites. Anyone with a handicap below 1.4 can place an entry with the United States Golf Association to compete in sectional tournaments that determine about half the Open field.

This week, there are college amateurs, club professionals and a National Hockey League referee teeing it up alongside the likes of Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Woods. Perhaps the longest of the long shots among the 78 qualifiers is Naegel, the long-thwarted pro from Wildwood, Mo., near St. Louis. He is ranked 1,098th in the world.

He arrived at Shinnecock buoyed by a magical three-week stretch that followed his dour conversation with his wife. The couple agreed that he would be done with the game after he went to Texas to compete in a one-day, 36-hole sectional qualifier for the Open. They had no reason to expect him to reach Shinnecock, but he had already booked the trip.

Knowing that he would walk away soon, Naegel felt liberated. He started playing like an athlete with nothing to lose. A couple of days after the decision, he competed in a Monday qualifier for the Nashville Open and carried his own bag, forgoing the use of a caddie. He shot a 64. He finished seventh in the tournament to earn Web.com tour status for the rest of the year.

At the qualifying sectional on June 4 at Shadow Hawk Golf Club in Richmond, Tex., Naegel needed four birdies over five holes to force a playoff. Down by two strokes on the par-5 18th, he made a 40-foot eagle putt, then birdied the first hole of the playoff for his ticket to the Open.

A week later, he and his caddie, Michael Wellington, pulled into Shinnecock shortly before 5 p.m. and quickly sped out to play nine before the sun sank into Peconic Bay.

Wellington, 40, who cannot always travel with Naegel, had to use a friend’s frequent-flier miles to get to the sectional near Houston.

“I told him even before we played, ‘I’m going with you to Shinnecock,’ ” Wellington said. “He goes, ‘I know.’ ”

The two met and started playing together in 2002, not long after Naegel picked up the sport. He had never played a round of golf until spring break of his freshman year in high school.

“I probably 10-fingered it and gave it a baseball swing,” Naegel said.

But he fell headlong into the game. He tried to walk onto the team at the University of Mississippi but could not get playing time. So he went to Missouri Baptist, an N.A.I.A. school, and led the Spartans to the 2006 American Midwest Conference championship.

“I just stayed with one of my teammates in Chicago,” Naegel said. “He sells insurance.”

For Naegel, golf has been an undulating flow of minor progression and devastating setback, as it is for many golfers on the margins of the professional tour. In 2017, he missed full status on the Web.com tour for the season by one stroke at qualifying school.

Forced to play his way into events with Monday qualifying rounds, Naegel shot 64 in one but lost in a playoff. He shot 67 in another but missed by a stroke.

“It’s one thing to play poorly at these qualifiers and not even have a chance,” Wellington said. “He was playing well.”

After earning a spot in the Web’s BMW event in Greenville, S.C., last month, Naegel missed the cut, beating only a handful of golfers. It was, he said, the worst he had felt as a professional.

He called his wife and said he would rather be home with their two boys. She could tell he was serious.

“He’s like, ‘If I’m going to be grinding this, I’ve got to see something better,’ ” Lindsey Naegel said. “That’s probably the most frustrated I’ve seen him in a long time.”

She told her husband she supported his choice, either way. But she also encouraged him to reconsider making any rash decisions before they had a chance to talk things through.

“I didn’t think he was done, really,” Lindsey Naegel said. “I said, ‘Get through the next two weeks and come home, and we’ll talk about it.’ In the next two weeks, our lives changed significantly.”

Wellington said he could see how Naegel’s decision allowed him to relax and have fun again. Wellington related it to his own experience after he learned he was bipolar. He stepped away from the game to focus on his new charitable foundation, Birdies 4 Bipolar.

On Naegel’s bag at the Open, Wellington said, his job will be easy. Naegel keeps his own yardage and typically reads his own putts. Wellington’s primary task will be to roll out quotations from the book they are both reading, “Relentless,” by Tim S. Grover, and from their favorite movie, “Caddyshack.”

“I’m just out here working on my comedy act,” Wellington said. “What I know about the mental game,” he added, “is that if you’re laughing, you’re in the present. Golf is about being in the present.”

Naegel admitted that might be a struggle this week. The goal of competing in the U.S. Open had helped sustain him through the years of frustration.

But regardless of how he plays at Shinnecock, he knows he cannot give up the game yet. There are still too many possibilities.

“Plus,” Naegel said, “I don’t know what else I’d do.”

Just before darkness fell on Monday, he and Wellington made their way down Shinnecock’s ninth fairway only to stare up at the face of a drastic elevation change leading to the green.

“Holy smokes,” Naegel said.

“Is that the green up there?” Wellington asked.

“I didn’t know there’s mountains on islands,” Naegel said.

He managed to deposit his shot within birdie range.

“I believe in his game,” Wellington said. “People are just getting ready to understand how good his game is. All the guys in St. Louis, we know about his game. It’s no secret to us. We just wondered when it was going to be put on full display.”

As word got out about Naegel’s improbable run, Wellington became an overnight celebrity in his own right. Fans on social media have bestowed a nickname on him, right out of a golf movie that seems aligned with Naegel’s journeyman narrative.

They have been calling him Romeo, the name of the caddie in “Tin Cup.”

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page B8 of the New York edition with the headline: He Was All Set to Give Up Golf. Then He Earned a Coveted Spot.. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

SOURCE: GoogleNews

About The Author

Reply

Get more stuff like this
in your inbox

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.