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US Open champ Fitzpatrick holds 1-shot lead at RBC Heritage

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HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick shot his best round on the PGA Tour with a 63 Saturday for a one-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay through three rounds at the RBC Heritage.

Fitzpatrick had six birdies and an eagle when he holed out from 149 yards away on the par-4 third hole. He was at 14-under 199, poised for his first tour win since that major title 10 months ago.

“For me, that’s ideally the start you need on a Saturday, isn’t it?” Fitzpatrick said of the unexpected hole out. “It just gets you off to a good start.”

Cantlay, who lost in a playoff to Jordan Spieth a year ago, shot 66 to move to 13 under and into position for another try at the plaid, tartan winner’s jacket.

Spieth was also again in the hunt, another stroke back after a 66. He’s seeking to do something he hasn’t in his career — defend a title.

World No. 2 Scottie Scheffler and second-round leader Jimmy Walker were among five players tied at 11 under. Scheffler shot 69 and Walker 72.

Walker, who opened 65-65, reached 14 under and was tied with Fitzpatrick before blowing up with with three bogeys on the back nine and falling back.

Walker missed a par putt inside 2 feet on the 11th to fall out of first. Then, his tee shot on the par-3 14th caromed off a wood piling and way off the green, leading to a second bogey.

On the par-5, 15th, Walker’s second shot appeared to stay in one of that tall, stately trees that front the green, or at least there was no video evidence his ball splashed into the water hazard alongside. Walker took a one-stroke penalty and had a third bogey in a five-hole stretch.

Masters champion Jon Rahm gave spectators who’ve celebrated his second major victory all week something to scream about at Harbour Town when he opened with three straight birdies and closed within three strokes of the lead.

But the feel-good, Rahm-com storyline fell apart on the par-3 fourth when his tee shot stopped on a wood facing short of the water. He followed with a one-handed, backhand shot that stopped 65 feet from the cup and needed three putts for a double-bogey. Rahm never found that same swagger the rest of the way.

The world’s No. 1 player finished at 8-under after a 69 and is 18 holes away from a well-deserved rest after winning at Augusta National last week for his second major title. He’ll return to the tour in two weeks to defend his Mexico Championship title.

Fitzpatrick has struggled much of the year, missing four cuts in his last seven events before arriving at Augusta National last week. That’s where he finished tied for 10th and came to one of his favorite courses — he’s played this tournament eight seasons — with confidence.

“I think this is a golf course that’s shown that there are low scores around here this week,” said Fitzpatrick, whose family took vacations to Sea Pines Resort when he was a child.

Fitzpatrick played Harbour Town as a young guy and took tennis lessons on the green clay courts that used to host the WTA’s annual pro tennis tournament, now called the Charleston Open. How was his tennis game?

“Not as good as my golf game at the time,” he said.

Fitzpatrick, who surpassed his previous tour low of 64 last accomplished at this venue two years ago, looks to add a championship trophy to his Harbour Town memories.

Cantlay has had four top-seven finishes at Harbour Town in five previous appearances. He had birdies on three of his first six holes to give himself a chance at another high finish.

“I’ve had a good track record around this golf course and had a number of chances, so should be nothing new tomorrow,” he said.

Fitzpatrick was lowest on a picture-perfect Saturday custom-made for going low — and plenty of golfers accomplished that at Harbour Town Golf Links.

Former PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley finished off a 64 before lunch, while Chez Reavie had a 65 to get himself into the top 10. In all, 37 of the 73 competitors finished in the 60s.

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Perpetual Man in Motion, McAleer Helps Raise Gradient’s Mojo

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Before the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, Stevan McAleer received instructions from Gradient Racing owner Andris Laivins:

Just finish the race.

It had been a rough start to the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for Gradient’s No. 66 Acura NSX GT3. A mechanical problem at the Rolex 24 At Daytona resulted in a 19th-place finish in the Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class. A crash in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac left the team in 14th place in GTD standings.

The just-finish instruction led McAleer to ask a specific question of Laivins:

“What happens if we’re P4 fighting for P3?’” McAleer said. “He said, ‘I just want to finish this race.’”

Oddly enough, that scenario – fourth fighting for third – is precisely where McAleer found himself in the final minutes at Long Beach.

“I came on the radio and said, ‘How badly do you guys want this podium?’” McAleer said. “I think I scared them a little bit. To be fair, I didn’t really have anything for Mike Skeen at the end, but it was a great weekend.”

Funny how a basic finish can revitalize things. McAleer, moved to a full-time role after the team parted with Katherine Legge in early April, helped Gradient Racing improve to 12th in the GTD championship points standings heading into this weekend’s Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

“You could see the relief on the team’s faces,” McAleer said. “Fourth place to me is maybe not great – I’m always after some of the biggest trophies – but it was certainly a win for a team whose last couple of races had been unlucky.”

Now he and co-driver Sheena Monk press forward to WeatherTech Raceway, where McAleer has memories of a victory in 2016 with Freedom Autosport in what is now the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. WeatherTech Raceway’s offseason repaving project is the first topic of conversation leading into the weekend.

“It will be interesting to see how that suits the Acura,” McAleer said. “Looking at the lap times from last year, the car definitely had some pace. It didn’t look like it was the fastest, but it was in a window that I can work with.”

McAleer’s newfound duties with Gradient Racing are added to his already crowded schedule, joining his previous commitment to co-drive the No. 28 RS1 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport with Trent Hindman in the Michelin Pilot Challenge. McAleer will race in both series this weekend, along with his extensive coaching obligations that include co-ownership of a Whelen Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by Michelin team with four cars entered.

In his world, a busy schedule is beneficial.

“The constant being in a race car regardless of what it is has always helped me adapt to something that I’m maybe not necessarily familiar with,” McAleer said. “People might have concerns with that, like maybe you’re not going to be as efficient as you could be. I disagree. Each car has a limit, and it’s my goal to find it. I thoroughly enjoy it.”

McAleer, who spent last weekend coaching drivers in another series at Sebring International Raceway, has multiple student clients in different series. Add his involvement with go-kart racing to his coaching and driving, and he’s eternally busy.

“That’s all deliberate for me,” McAleer said. “I’ve seen drivers’ careers disappear overnight for whatever reason – they get hurt, they move on to something else, or the team retires. There are so many variables in this sport just because of the sheer amount of funding it takes to run programs. … If I have 10 programs going, I know without a doubt that 10 programs are not going to disappear overnight.”

So, he aims for the weekend, with a crowded calendar, a never-give-up attitude, and few complaints.

“I would argue that there is nobody in the paddock as busy as I am from a driving standpoint, but that’s my own doing,” McAleer said. “When I complain that I’m tired, my wife tells me quite quickly that I did it to myself.”

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GAME 3: Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic Crushed Cleveland Cavaliers 121-83

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ORLANDO — Paolo Banchero and Orlando Magic are celebrating their first playoff win at home in 13 years after crushing the Cleveland Cavaliers 121-83 on Thursday night at the Kia Center.

The win cuts the Magic’s deficit 2-1 in the series as they look towards evening things up on Saturday at home.

NBA Playoffs Game 3: Orlando Magic Paolo Banchero. Photo by Harry Castiblanco / Florida National News

Paolo Banchero | 31 points and 14 rebounds

On how much of a role the home fans played tonight…

“They played a huge role, you know. I don’t think people realize how much of a difference it makes, you know, when you make a play, or you score and the whole arena erupts every single time. It just gives you a huge energy boost and it makes you forget that you’re tired or whatever
it may be. Definitely give a lot of credit to the Magic faithful.”

On what point tonight he realized that he had it going…
“I would say when I made my first basket. I just threw it up and it went in. Because I missed the first like five or six and I knew that they were all pretty easy shots and that I was just too excited almost, too much energy. I shot a lot. Too strong left and right. So, I would say when the first one went in, and it wasn’t even supposed to go in. I was really trying to get a foul but that’s when I was like ‘ok. I’ve got it going from here.’”

NBA Playoffs Game 3: Orlando Magic Jalen Suggs. Photo by Harry Castiblanco / Florida National News

Jalen Suggs | 24 points
On how much the home fans fueled the team tonight…

“Very much so. I mean, just the confidence that they give you after every bucket. You see everybody stand up, you hear everybody cheer [and] you hear the roars. You know, I think it excites you to come back down, get a stop [and] go do it again. It gives you a bit of extra motivation. Some juice. Some more pop in your step. So, it was definitely felt, and it was rocking in here today. Boy, that was fun. We [were] talking about it all game – just how lit, how energetic it is in there, and yeah, I’d like to keep doing this here.”

NBA Playoffs Game 3: Orlando Magic Frantz Wagner. Photo by Harry Castiblanco / Florida National News

Franz Wagner | 16 points
On which point he realized that tonight was going to be the Magic’s night…
“Probably some time in the third or fourth quarter. I just think you get those leads by just going play by play and taking it from one moment to the next. I thought our urgency all night was really good. Our energy was great, everybody was really locked in, and we need a similar effort on Saturday.”
On what impressed him the most about Paolo Banchero’s performance tonight…
“I mean… the shot-making. That was pretty special. Extremely tough shots. Some against two defenders. It makes the game pretty easy for the rest of us.”
Orlando Magic will need to win three times in the next four games in order to advance to the second round of the NBA Playoffs, something the franchise hasn’t done since 2010.

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Allen and the Cavaliers host Orlando with 1-0 series lead

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Orlando Magic (47-35, fifth in the Eastern Conference) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (48-34, fourth in the Eastern Conference)

Cleveland; Monday, 7 p.m. EDT

BETMGM SPORTSBOOK: LINE Cavaliers -6; over/under is 202.5

EASTERN CONFERENCE FIRST ROUND: Cavaliers lead series 1-0

BOTTOM LINE: The Cleveland Cavaliers host the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference first round with a 1-0 lead in the series. The Cavaliers won the last meeting 97-83 on April 20 led by 30 points from Donovan Mitchell, while Paolo Banchero scored 24 points for the Magic.

The Cavaliers are 31-21 in Eastern Conference games. Cleveland is fifth in the Eastern Conference at limiting opponent scoring, giving up only 110.2 points while holding opponents to 46.3% shooting.

The Magic are 32-20 in conference matchups. Orlando has a 6-9 record in one-possession games.

The Cavaliers are shooting 47.9% from the field this season, 0.5 percentage points higher than the 47.4% the Magic allow to opponents. The Magic are shooting 47.6% from the field, 1.3% higher than the 46.3% the Cavaliers’ opponents have shot this season

TOP PERFORMERS: Jarrett Allen is averaging 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds for the Cavaliers. Max Strus is averaging 2.0 made 3-pointers over the last 10 games.

Banchero is scoring 22.6 points per game and averaging 6.9 rebounds for the Magic. Jalen Suggs is averaging 1.7 made 3-pointers over the last 10 games.

LAST 10 GAMES: Cavaliers: 5-5, averaging 110.9 points, 40.4 rebounds, 28.3 assists, 8.7 steals and 3.9 blocks per game while shooting 48.3% from the field. Their opponents have averaged 113.6 points per game.

Magic: 5-5, averaging 108.1 points, 40.6 rebounds, 23.9 assists, 8.7 steals and 4.9 blocks per game while shooting 45.6% from the field. Their opponents have averaged 106.6 points.

INJURIES: Cavaliers: Ty Jerome: out (ankle), Dean Wade: day to day (knee), Craig Porter Jr.: day to day (ankle).

Magic: None listed.

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