Rickie Fowler wins Honda Classic for fourth PGA Tour title

Rickie Fowler is a winner again on the PGA Tour. (Getty Images)

It wasn’t particularly pretty on Sunday, but Rickie Fowler picked up his fourth PGA Tour win at The Honda Classic.

For the first time in four tries in his PGA Tour career, Fowler converted a 54-hole lead, maintaining the four-shot edge he had to start the final round at PGA National’s Champion Course. In the end, Fowler bogeyed the final hole to shoot 1-over 71 at cap off the win at 12-under 268.

The final round didn’t get off to a great start for Fowler, who, after a birdie on the par-5 third then dropped a shot at the following hole. Two holes later, Fowler’s tee shot found the water hazard left and led to a double bogey. However, Fowler steadied the ship, managing to not drop another shot on the front side. A par at the 10th hole kept his edge at two.

Back-to-back birdies on the 12th and 13th holes were the sealing circles on the card, scored with a 39-foot putt followed by a 24-footer.

Fowler came to the Bear Trap — holes 15, 16 and 17 at the Champion Course — needing to simply avoid disaster to win. He got through 15 and 16 in 1 under with an impressive birdie on the 16th hole. However, Fowler tried to cut his tee shot into the 17th into the green, toward the water. His ball started too far right and sailed too far right, finding the water hazard. Rather than bothering to even scope out if his ball was playable from the water, Fowler moved forward to the drop zone and put his third shot to 6 feet before converting the bogey putt.

From there, Fowler simply had to finish dry. He did that, albeit with a bogey, ending a winless drought that went back to the 2015 Deutsche Bank Championship.

The victor credited his work over the first three rounds and his putter for getting him through a tough round in windy conditions.

“To be in the position I was after 54 holes here, give myself that cushion, allowed for a tough day today,” he said. “With the wind, there weren’t a whole lot of low scores. I think there were some early on. Some guys made some good moves. But other than that, like I said, I gave myself enough cushion where I could kind of get away a bad nine, which I started with, and then lucky enough, the putter saved me at times and gave me that cushion I needed on 12 and 13, and made a great swing into 16.”

The win, the cap to a great start, albeit on a limited schedule, to his season, puts Fowler in stout company that has won on the PGA Tour in 2017. Fowler humbly remains convinced he hasn’t earned the right to be mentioned in the same company as the likes of Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. Add in Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama, and that’s the lead crop of the next decade on the PGA Tour.

“I want to continue to play well and I want to be, whether I’m talked about with those guys or not, I just want to play the best that I can and keep pushing myself,” he said, “and ultimately just keep trying to put myself in position to win and start collecting more of these.”


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Wild GM swings away, sacrifices picks to rent Martin Hanzal

The Minnesota Wild have earned this.

They’ve earned the trade GM Chuck Fletcher pulled off on Sunday night, acquiring centers Martin Hanzal and Ryan White from the Arizona Coyotes for a package of lofty draft picks.

“Our players have played hard. They deserve management to step up with how hard they played,” said Fletcher, whose team sits atop the Western Conference with a 39-14-6 record and 84 points.

“There isn’t going to be a called third strike here. We’re taking a swing. Our players deserve that. Our fans deserve that.”

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The Wild acquired centers Martin Hanzal and Ryan White and a 2017 fourth-round choice for a 2017 first-round draft choice, a 2018 second-round draft choice and a 2019 conditional fourth-round draft choice that could become as high as a second-rounder.

“We’re looking to add some size, some experience, some versatility to round out our roster,” said Fletcher. “The second goal is not to give up any of our prospects. Teams have been calling about our guys for a while. That’s the preferred method of payment.”

Indeed, the goal was to “acquire some assets without giving up any of our top prospects,” as Fletcher put it. After all, he’s traded his share of draft picks in the past, and assistant general manager Brent Flahr has still managed to fill the cupboard with blue-chip prospects.

Hanzal is an asset Fletcher coveted. Partially because he knows what adding him to centers Eric Staal and Mikko Koivu could mean for the Wild’s postseason chances.Partially because he knows others coveted him, too. “The goal was to have him play for us, and also to keep him away from other teams in the West,” he said.

Even through Fletcher didn’t touch his treasure chest of prospects, it’s still a significant price to pay for two players that are unrestricted free agents after the season. In Hanzel’s case, it sounds very much like he’s traded for a rental.

“He was the top rental on the market, if you will,” said Fletcher.

“Anything’s possible. For right now, we’re putting our chips in the middle of the table for this year,” he said. “With respect to the summer, there’s an expansion draft, who knows where the cap will be, free agents … for right now, our focus is on this next stretch of the regular season.”

And then the games that follow them, as Fletcher and the Minnesota Wild take their best shot at winning the Stanley Cup.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Penguins blow away Flyers in windy Stadium Series game

The wind whipped and swirled through Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. In the end, it was the Philadelphia Flyers that were blown away by the Penguins, 4-2, in front of an announced crowd of 67,318 on Saturday night.

Rookie Jake Guentzel had two assists, and Matt Murray made 35 saves, as the Penguins moved to 2-2 all-time in NHL outdoor games.

The Penguins took a 1-0 lead on a perfect pass from Guentzel to Crosby for a layup goal to Michael Neuvirth’s left. Sean Couturier broke his stick in attempt to defense Guentzel, leading to some confusion that left Crosby open for goal No. 34 at 11:18 of the first.

It was Guentzel again to help the Penguins made it 2-0, sending a quick pass to Nick Bonino for a one-timer on the power play at 6:44 of the second.

The Flyers cut the lead to 2-1 on a nice power move from Jakub Voracek, faking out Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz and then tucking the puck around goalie Matt Murray.

But the Penguins extended the lead to 3-1 with some nice work by Eric Fehr and Matt Cullen.

Cullen scored on a second effort after Neuvirth made the initial save, getting his 10th of the season at 1:50 of the third. Fehr had the assist, continuing to be Mr. Outdoor Game as he previously scored two goals at the previous outdoor game in Pittsburgh and one against the Chicago Blackhawks in D.C. as a member of the Washington Capitals.

The Flyers cut the lead again to start the third period, as Shayne Gostisbehere fired a puck through a Wayne Simmonds’ screen for a power-play goal, making it 3-2 at 6:48 of the third.

But Neuvirth gave up a soft goal to Chad Ruhwedel, his second of the second, at the Penguins increased the lead back to 4-2:

The Penguins moved within five points of the Washington Capitals for first in the Metro and first overall in the NHL. The Flyers remained five points behind the Boston Bruins for the final wild card spot.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Players brawl off-ice, near locker rooms in AHL game (Video)

The American Hockey League sees its share of fights on the ice. On Saturday night, it saw one off the ice, near the locker rooms and featuring one vicious punch.

Vince Dunn of the AHL Chicago Wolves was walking back to his locker room on Saturday night, having received a fighting major at 17:09 of the third period in a bout against Kurtis Gabriel of the Iowa Wild, who was also hit with a major.

Dunn was jawing with Gabriel as they both walked to the back. Gabriel then walked over to him, as arena security guards scurried over in anticipation of some off-ice action.

Boy howdy, was there action:

 

Gabriel gave Dunn a shove. Dunn reciprocated, and then grabbed his opponent’s jersey. Gabriel appeared to throw a punch. Dunn responded by nailing the Wild forward with a wicked right that destroyed him.

Other players and security personnel ran over to break up the scrum.

Fine and suspensions will be no doubt on the way. Will they arrive before the Wild and Wolves play again on Sunday afternoon? Hopefully not because this was fun!

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Spring Training 2017: Cardinals sign a top Cuban prospect

Jose Adolis Garcia is the new member of the St. Louis Cardinals. (AP)

Jose Adolis Garcia is the new member of the St. Louis Cardinals. (AP)

Welcome to The Stew’s Spring Headlines, our daily look at the biggest MLB stories and news items from around spring training. Here you’ll find a quick recap of all the day’s action and other fun stuff from around the internet that we think is worth your time.

BIGGEST NEWS OF THE DAY: The St. Louis Cardinals announced the signing of Cuban free agent Jose Adolis Garcia on Friday. The 24-year-old outfielder is the younger brother of Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia. It’s a minor-league deal, but it carries a $2.5M bonus, according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez.

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Ben Badler of Baseball America believes Garcia is not yet a polished prospect, which is why he had to settle for a minor-league deal. He’s expected to start the season in Double-A or Triple-A, but a major league callup seems unlikely this season. Garcia was a .315/.395/.517 hitter over his most recent 380 most recent plate appearances, according to MLB Trade Rumors. [@JesseSanchezMLB]

LOCKED IN: The Cubs have signed setup man Pedro Strop to a one-year, $5.85M contract extension that will cover the 2018 season. The 31-year-old right-hander avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing to a one-year, $5.5M contract, which covers 2017. His new deal also includes a $6.25M club option for 2019.

Strop has proven his value to Chicago. Since coming over with Jake Arrieta at the 2013 trade deadline, he’s posted a 2.68 ERA with 254 strikeouts over 211 1/3 relief innings. Even with Wade Davis and Koji Uehara now in the mix, his role will remain vital to the team’s success. [ESPN]

STILL LOOKING: The Marlins are reportedly still looking for pitching depth. A trade doesn’t seem likely at this point, but they could look at unsigned veterans such as Henderson Alvarez, Doug Fister, Colby Lewis and Jake Peavy. [Miami Herald]

NOT WELCOMED: Orioles vice president John Angelos would not be willing to welcome Donald Trump to Camden Yards. [The Stew]

Matt Wieters is officially a Washington National. (Getty Images)

Matt Wieters is officially a Washington National. (Getty Images)

IT’S OFFICIAL: The Washington Nationals officially announced their two-year, $21.5M contract with
Matt Wieters on Friday. We also learned details of a non-baseball related injury that may have hampered Wieters’ efforts to land a deal this winter. According to Wieters himself, he dropped a glass water jug on his left forearm/wrist in early November that resulted in a cut and required several stitches. The injury held him out of any baseball activity for 10 weeks, but he’s expected to be fine moving forward. [@chelsea_janes]

 

AIM HIGH: We know the Dodgers aren’t shy about making splashy moves. According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, they hoped to pull off another big trade this winter after inquiring about Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander. Of course, we also heard the Tigers were open to trading anybody and everybody too for a time, so Verlander’s name being connected to Los Angeles isn’t a huge surprise. Obviously though, nothing came to fruition. [FanRag Sports]

PROGRESS: Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre was able to do some jogging on Friday as he recovers from a strained left calf. Beltre suffered the injury last week, and is excepted to be unavailable for the Dominican Republic during the World Baseball Classic. Barring a setback though, Beltre is expected to be ready for opening day. [@Sullivan_Rangers]

WBC PREVIEW: Here’s everything you need to know about the team from Colombia. [The Stew]

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!