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Jordan Spieth leads entering final round of Pebble Beach Pro-AM

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Jordan Spieth leads entering final round of Pebble Beach Pro-AM

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — One swing put Jordan Spieth closer than ever to ending a long and mystifying slump, and served as a reminder that he still has a long road ahead at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Two shots behind with three holes to play Saturday, Spieth holed out with an 8-iron from 160 yards for eagle on the 16th hole, the start of a stunning turnaround that sent him to a 1-under 71 and a two-shot lead going into the final round.

Daniel Berger helped out by going from a share of the lead to two shots behind when his tee shot on the par-5 18th was out-of-bounds by mere inches and led to a double bogey.

“It’s a good lesson to learn for tomorrow, how quickly things can change out here,” Spieth said.

The timing was ideal for Spieth, who has been without a victory worldwide in his last 79 events since he won the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale.

He led by two shots at the turn only to miss the green and make bogey at the 10th and 12th, and then bail out of a tough wedge to a back pin on the par-5 14th that spun off the green for another bogey.

The pin on the 16th was cut to the left on a severely pitched green, and it was perfect.

“With the wind in off the right and a little mud on the right side of the ball, I knew I could throw it out to the right and let kind of the wind and the mud do most of the work,” Spieth said. “In the air I thought it was going to be really good. It was one of the only shots I kind of said, ‘Oh, be good’ on today. Certainly a bonus for it to drop.

These moments used to happen when Spieth was winning all the time. This was the second time this week he holed out from the fairway, and now he is on the cusp of winning again.

Spieth was at 13-under 203 with plenty of contenders right behind.

Berger called over an official for a linear measure of his ball on the 18th, against the hedges but inside the white disks that mark out-of-bounds. He still had a 72 and was two shots behind.

“I’m still two shots out of the lead, so I feel pretty good about my chances going into tomorrow and drop a few more putts and it will be a good week,” he said.

Patrick Cantlay, whose third round began with such promise when he hit 8 feet for eagle, birdied the 18th for a 70 and joined Berger two shots out of the lead. Tom Hoge (68) and Russell Knox (69) also were two shots behind.

This is the second straight week Spieth has had at least a share of the lead. A week ago in the Phoenix Open, he couldn’t make any putts and closed with a 72 to finish two shots behind.

Even so, this is considered a body of work — seven straight rounds of good scoring, and this week doing it while mostly keeping the ball in play.

He expects there to be nerves, just like always. He’s equally excited about the process as the position.

“I don’t really care about the time frame stuff,” he said about the 43-month drought. “I’m really just going to throw that out of my head because I’m finally consistently doing things over the last two weeks that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I think, obviously, the more you continue to do that, the bounces go your way, like the hole-out did today on 16.

“Someone may do that to me tomorrow or come shoot a 64 or something. I mean, it’s golf and it’s Pebble Beach.”

His goal was to set a target and go get it, realizing that his game is still not as complete as when he was winning often and regularly contending in majors.

“It’s working that direction, but it’s not there yet,” he said. “I’m just trying to have it feel a little bit better than yesterday.”

Jason Day was very much in the mix, too, after a 68 left him in the group at 10-under 206. Paul Casey stayed three shots behind with a great break on the 18th when his tee shot tumbled down onto the rocks, but had a flat enough lie he could hit off the rock back into the fairway. He shot 71.

Maverick McNealy had a 69 that included a penalty shot behind the fifth green when his ball moved right as he set the club behind the ball.

Spieth didn’t have to contend with what he predicted to be a “mean” day at Pebble Beach. The rain in the forecast was gone by the time he teed off. The raging wind was more of a stiff breeze along the ocean holes that Pebble gets all the time, though it was no less challenging coming back into it on the back nine.

No rain was in the forecast, just typical Pacific wind on a course where it all can change quickly.

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Donald Douglas, longtime PSAL executive director, dead at 58

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Donald Douglas, longtime PSAL executive director, dead at 58

Donald Douglas, the longtime executive director of the Public School Athletic League, died late Friday night, according to friend and PSAL colleague Dwayne Burnett.

Douglas was 58, according to his Facebook page.

Douglas died of a heart attack, while vacationing on the island of Jamaica, after a bad fall eventually caused a blood clot to form, according to Burnett. The Brooklyn native and Bushwick High School alum had retired this week from his post. He was PSAL director since 2004, when he was promoted from deputy director, and spent more than 35 years working for the New York City Department of Education.

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Don’t make this catcher mistake

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Don’t make this catcher mistake

The 2021 fantasy baseball draft season is upon us, and with its arrival comes a variety of strategies to test out and employ.

Drafting with position scarcity in mind is something we see every year, and though the catcher position is routinely linked to the strategy, the belief that you need to draft one of the top backstops early is a mistake. If you have been leaning in that direction, it’s time to change gears before you fall over.

In fantasy football, position scarcity has people drafting No. 1-ranked tight end Travis Kelce early because, in securing him, you are obtaining a significant advantage over your opposition. His production dwarfs that of anyone else at his position and on a 10-man roster in a weekly matchup, the impact is huge. The same cannot be said regarding the No. 1 catcher, J.T. Realmuto.

There is plenty to love about Realmuto from a fantasy perspective. His three-year average has him as a .273 hitter with 25 home runs and 81 RBIs. The numbers are strong, but does drafting him in the fourth or fifth round over a 40-homer Pete Alonso or a 200-strikeout Lance Lynn still give you an advantage? Not when you understand it’s just one-fourteenth of your overall team production or when you see what you can get at the position several rounds later.

Casting aside 2020 data, we can look at a number of backstops who not only hit 20 or more home runs, but also hit .270 or better in 2019 and can be obtained at a much lower cost. Willson Contreras, Mitch Garver, Christian Vazquez and Omar Narvaez immediately stand out.

JT Realmuto
JT Realmuto
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You also have players such as Yasmani Grandal and Roberto Perez, who matched the power, but fell short on the batting average, or James McCann and Travis d’Arnaud, who posted strong averages, but hit for slightly less power. That’s already eight players who can provide similar numbers at a fraction of the cost, and we’re just scratching the surface.

If Realmuto was a .300-30-100 player, the conversation would certainly be different. He’s a great player but he isn’t performing at a level that leaves your opposition in the dust. If his production can be matched 10 rounds later, you’re better off using that early pick on an elite arm or a bigger bat at another position. Leave your catchers for later.

Howard Bender is the VP of operations and head of content at FantasyAlarm.com. Follow him on Twitter @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays from 6-8 p.m. Go to FantasyAlarm.com for all your fantasy football advice.

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Mets star Pete Alonso opens up on why he quit social media

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Mets star Pete Alonso opens up on why he quit social media

PORT ST. LUCIE — Pete Alonso wasn’t the only big voice in the Mets organization to deactivate his social media accounts over the offseason.

But the first baseman going dark on Twitter and Instagram had nothing to do with the aftermath of a stock market saga, which was the reason owner Steve Cohen ditched Twitter, and everything to do with a new outlook on life away from a screen.

“I think that real life is just absolutely fantastic and for me, I think life is a blessing, it’s something that I feel like a lot of people, sometimes including myself, take for granted,” Alonso said Friday after a workout. “And I want to spend every second soaking in every single day because every single new day is a blessing, and I feel like especially in wake of what happened last year, there’s a lot of things that I feel like were taken for granted.

“In 2019, if you see everybody wearing this mask, you kind of scratch your head and just be like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on?’ But there’s a lot of new social norms that are in place now that we took for granted. I think for me, I just want to be appreciative of every single day. I want to live in real life.”

Alonso had been one of the more active Mets interacting with fans through social media, especially during his Rookie of the Year season in 2019, when he adopted “#LFGM” as the team’s new rallying cry.

Though he will no longer be in touch with fans online, Alonso is very much looking forward to welcoming them back in person at Citi Field this season. After playing at an empty stadium in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Mets are expected to have at least a portion of Citi Field open to fans when the 2021 season begins.

“Playing on TV is absolutely fantastic, but being there in person where one swing of the bat or making a diving play or striking somebody out, you can make that many people in person smile, stand, clap, cheer, yell even just by doing something,” Alonso said, with a big smile breaking out. “Once I heard 40,000 people at Citi Field go absolutely bonkers, that’s an adrenaline rush that I’m addicted to.

“I can’t wait until it’s packed out again like that. If it’s 25 percent, 30 percent, I can’t wait to hear people cheer again in person. For me, it’s addicting, and I love it.”

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