Happy Friday! This weekend's Australian Open finals are now set: Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal (men) and Naomi Osaka vs. Petra Kvitová (women).
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
The Rules of Golf have long stated that the flagstick must be pulled out when putting from on the green. Failing to do so, and thus hitting the stick, would result in a 2-stroke penalty — until now.
What's happening: On Jan. 1, the U.S. Golf Association and its British counterpart, the R&A, made putting with the flagstick legal at all levels of golf — a rule change designed to simplify and speed up the game, as a caddie (or a friend) is no longer required to tend and pull the pin.
By the numbers: In 1990, short-game guru Dave Pelz published a study in Golf Magazine that found that 33% more putts rolled in when the flagstick was in versus when it was out, per the WSJ (subscription).
The other side: Phil Mickelson experimented with it during a tournament last week but said "it felt very uncomfortable" and doesn't appear likely to do it again.
The bottom line: This rule change has resulted in a complete re-examination of the science of putting.
P.S. Tiger Woods made his season debut yesterday at the Farmers Insurance Open, shooting a two-under 70.
The starters for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game were announced last night, and there were no real surprises.
Up next: Over the next few weeks, NBA coaching staffs will pick the All-Star reserves. Among the potential locks: Nikola Jokic, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Blake Griffin, Nikola Vucevic, Bradley Beal, Ben Simmons.
Finn the Whale (Vancouver Canucks) and Gritty (Philadelphia Flyers) during last night's Mascot Showdown. Photo: Jeff Vinnick/NHLI/Getty Images
The NHL's best are in San Jose this weekend for some All-Star festivities of their own, writes Axios' Mike Sykes. Get ready for a fun-filled few days.
All-Star Skills Competition (9 pm ET): The action kicks off this evening, as players go head-to-head in a variety of skills contests. They include:
All-Star Game (Saturday, 9 pm ET): Teams from all 4 divisions will play in a 3-on-3 tournament for the All-Star championship.
Look: 2019 All-Star rosters.
So, uh, Gonzaga beat Santa Clara 98-39 last night. The 59-point victory is the largest road win by a D-I team against a D-I opponent since Dec. 15, 1996, when USC beat UC Irvine by 62 (107-45).
P.S. The rosters for the 2019 McDonald's All-American game were unveiled yesterday. Arizona (which has the top-rated class), Duke, Florida, Villanova and Kentucky each have 2 commits in the game.
Photo: Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images
There are 3 things that seem almost certain in life: Death, taxes and the Cleveland Browns being dysfunctional, Axios' Mike Sykes writes.
Driving the news: The Browns made strides on the field last season, as rookie Baker Mayfield led them to a 7-8-1 record. But off the field, the organization was chaotic as ever, according to a lengthy, behind-the-scenes report from ESPN's Seth Wickersham.
Why it matters: When Jimmy Haslam bought the Browns in 2012, he seemed committed to building a winning culture in Cleveland. Unfortunately, his own leadership style appears to be hindering those efforts.
The bottom line: The Browns won't change until Haslam changes. His decisions, based on whims, have pit front office members against coaches and vice-versa, and no organization can win like that.
Ray Kroc and his wife Joan meeting the San Diego Chicken in the Padres stadium. Photo: Bettman/Getty Images
45 years ago today, McDonald's founder Ray Kroc purchased the San Diego Padres, saving the beleaguered franchise from relocation.
How it happened: While relaxing on a private yacht off the coast of Florida, Kroc read about the Padres' plight and impending move to Washington, D.C. and decided right then and there that he wanted to buy them. Rich people, man.
Your 2019 Tournament of Champions winners, Ali Farag and Nour El Sherbini. Photo: Courtey of U.S. Squash
NEW YORK — The 2019 J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions concluded in epic fashion, with upsets in both the men's and women's finals. Here's the on-site report from contributor B.G. Lemmon:
Men: (2) Ali Farag def. (1) Mohamed El Shorbagy 3-2 (10-12, 6-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-8)
Women: (2) Nour El Sherbini def. (1) Raneem El Welily 3-0 (11-9, 11-8, 11-8)
Signing off: Hope you enjoyed our coverage! If you want to stay up to date on all things squash, follow the world tour on Instagram. Until next time.
Kendall "No football this weekend is weird" Baker
Trivia Answer: Michigan (Brady/Ford), Stanford (Elway/Hoover), Miami of Ohio (Roethlisberger/Benjamin Harrison), U.S. Naval Academy (Staubach/Carter)