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53-minute seventh inning of do-or-die Game 5

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    February 1, 2018 2:27 AM EST
    GULLANE -- Two dozen cameras were in position Monday morning to capture the first big moment of this British Open, only they werent anywhere near the golf course. [b]Wholesale Sharks Jerseys Free Shipping[/b] . They waited in the driveway as a silver station wagon pulled through the gate and stopped in front of the clubhouse at Muirfield. Ernie Els climbed out of the back seat holding the shiny claret jug he won last year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and he promptly handed it over to Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson. "Thank you," Dawson told him. "Youve been a great champion." Now its up to the 43-year-old South African to reclaim the silver prize, and that doesnt figure to be easy. Els won last month in Germany. He won the last time the Open was played at Muirfield in 2002. He has more top 10s in the British Open than any other major. But he has this piece of history working against him -- the last major champion in his 40s to successfully defend his title was Old Tom Morris, and that was 151 years ago. The Big Easy is not a betting man, but he was asked to pick someone to wager a pound on at Muirfield. "Id have to look at the odds, wouldnt I?" he said, trying to buy time. "Maybe a long shot. I like to go for the long shots." Thats what he might have been considered last year at Royal Lytham. He was winless on a major tour in two years, failed to qualify for the Masters for the first time in nearly two decades and was No. 40 in the world. But he was close to flawless on the back nine and was the recipient of a shocking collapse by Adam Scott, who made bogey on his last four holes to finish one shot behind. Back to the wager. He was asked who should be considered in the pole position. "To name one, Im going to have to name 20," Els said. "Thats how close it is. I dont know. A guy who likes the layout. A guy who likes the bounces. Im not sure." That was a good start. There is nothing like links golf, with its humps and mounds along the fairways, a landscape framed by tall grass and dotted with pot bunkers. It can be played in the air when the grass is green during wet summers, or played on the ground when the course is crusty and yellow, which is the case this year at Muirfield. Els remembers his first experience with links golf, and he loved it right away. "The sound is different. The divot into the fairways are different. The whole experience is different than anything else around the world," Els said. "So its something youre either going to really like or youre not going to like. I was fortunate enough that I really fell in love with it." A long shot? Maybe someone like Jordan Spieth, the 19-year-old Texan who was headed toward another top finish on the PGA Tour until he holed a bunker shot for birdie on the last hole at the John Deere Classic, got into a playoff when Zach Johnson made bogey on the 18th, and won on the fifth extra hole. Next thing he knew, Spieth was on a charter flight to Scotland for his first British Open. He has experience with links golf, having played the Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen in 2011. And for those who believe experience is required, Ben Curtis won in 2003 in his first major championship, let alone his first time playing links golf. Curtis reunited this week with Andy Sutton, the local caddie he hired at Royal St. Georges. Sutton was told of an American player looking for a caddie 10 years ago and had never heard of Curtis. Not to worry. A lot of Americans had never heard of him, either. Tiger Woods is always a favourite, and he has the best odds this week, even though he hasnt won the claret jug since Hoylake in 2006. Els is well aware of the quality of champions Muirfield tends to produce, from Harry Vardon and James Braid to Walter Hagen and Henry Cotton, from Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to Lee Trevino and Tom Watson, along with Nick Faldo and Els. And yes, he believes the course has something to do with that. "Its just a wonderful design," Els said. "The par 3s are unbelievable. The par 5s have been changed a little bit -- theyre longer. Each and every hole is a little bit different. Theres left-to-right, right-to-left, and it all happens out there. Every links shot that you can imagine, youre going to play it this week." Els returned to Muirfield a few weeks ago, and he played a quiet nine holes Sunday evening. He remembers much about Muirfield, a course where he tied for fifth in his professional debut in 1992 and won a decade later. And there are some shots he is trying to forget, such as the double bogey on the 16th hole that nearly cost him a chance at having his name on that claret jug. Els had to make birdie on the par-5 17th and close with a par just to get into a four-man playoff over four holes, and he won in the first sudden-death moment in Open history over Thomas Levet on the fifth hole. Even then, Els hit into a bunker on the 18th and had to save par for the win. He certainly is not ruling himself out this week, not after the victory in Germany and his tie for fourth in the U.S. Open. Els might not win as much as he used to, but he plays the hard courses well. And with a forecast for dry weather and strong wind, this might be hard. The claret jug is the oldest trophy in golf, first awarded in 1873. Els took it around the world over the last year, as he did after winning in 2002. The jug stayed outside London the last two weeks, cleaned and buffed so it was shiny when he handed it back to the R&A. [b]Cheap Sharks Jerseys For Sale[/b]. It was just business as usual for the Thunder at home. Durant scored 32 points and the Thunder beat the Bulls 107-95 on Thursday night for their eighth straight win. [b]Cheap Sharks Jerseys Online[/b] . The formidable trio of Canadian receivers -- individually known as Chris Getzlaf, Rob Bagg and Andy Fantuz -- will share the field at Mosaic Stadium one more time on Sunday. [b][/b] . 8 Kansas to a 64-63 win over Texas Tech on Tuesday night. The freshman from Vaughan, Ont. TORONTO -- The first thing you notice is all the blue.It runs deeper than denim, richer than the label on a bottle of LaBatts. And its everywhere. Its on the jerseys and the T-shirts, which might as well be standard issue for everyone who walks through the gates. Its on the hats and sneakers, too. Its even in the hair.Wait, the hair?I do this quite a bit, said Malcolm DeYoung, a middle-aged man whose closely cropped locks are dyed sapphire, like a blueberry on top of his head-to-toe Toronto Blue Jays outfit. A lot of people are coming up asking me where were from and getting pictures. Its a lot of fun.DeYoung is from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and he is roaming the 100-level concourse at Rogers Centre an hour before Sundays game between his beloved Blue Jays and the rival Boston Red Sox. The city is jam-packed on Sunday, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Reese Witherspoon, Matthew McConaughey and other celebrity A-listers taking over King Street for the annual Toronto International Film Festival. And the best hockey players on the planet will soon come to town for the World Cup of Hockey.But the locals are most consumed by the outcome of a four-team fight for the American League East crown. The Blue Jays sold 46,953 tickets for Friday nights game against the Red Sox. On Saturday and Sunday, the announced attendance was 47,829 and 47,816, respectively. This season, the Jays have topped the 3 million mark for the first time since 1993, when they won the second of back-to-back World Series titles.Its all about baseball again in Toronto, eh?Indeed, the Blue Jays and Canada are going together like poutine and gravy. Fans here have fallen hard for bat-flipping slugger Jose Bautista, reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson, native son Russell Martin and the rest of a star-studded team that has recaptured the full attention of one of North Americas most cosmopolitan cities -- and an entire nation.If you notice the signs at the ballgame, theyre from Cape Breton and theyre from Alberta. Theyre from all over Canada, said Don Cherry, the 82-year-old former NHL coach and co-host of the popular Coachs Corner segment of Hockey Night in Canada on CBC. Its not just Torontos team. Weve got the whole country to call from, and believe me, it is sure enthusiastic here. When you can bump the Maple Leafs to the third, fourth page, thats pretty good.National treasureIt wasnt always like this.Canada has had a major league team since 1969, the Montreal Expos inaugural season. The expansion Blue Jays came along eight years later, and at the peak of their popularity, from 1991 to 1993, they made three playoff appearances, won two World Series and sold an average of 4,029,264 tickets per year at SkyDome, the first stadium with a fully retractable roof, to say nothing of a 348-room hotel.But the players strike of 1994 killed the buzz. Over the next 20 years, the Jays had 10 losing seasons and didnt reach the postseason. Attendance plummeted. From 1995 through 2014, the team sold an average of 2,141,538 tickets per year, bottoming out at 1.495 million in 2010.What is it, then, about these Blue Jays that has sparked a renewed love affair between country and team? Why are fans suddenly turning out en masse, singing OK, Blue Jays in unison during the seventh-inning stretch, even flinging their blue caps onto the field after Donaldsons recent three-homer game, the baseball equivalent of hockeys hat trick?I think they really represent our country, said Wes Coleman, a volunteer firefighter from Kingston, Ontario. They always try to appeal to the Canadian people by various measures, like [playing at home] on Canada Day and stuff like that. Because its our only national team now, its something that we can all gather around as a country to really root for.Longtime former Blue Jays president Paul Beeston tapped into that national pride when he rejoined the organization in 2008. Beeston restored Canadas red maple leaf to the teams logo, which had changed so much that it became unrecognizable. He expanded the Blue Jays winter caravan -- a promotional tour the team takes in the offseason -- to make stops from coast to coast and moved the clubs short-season Single-A affiliate to Vancouver. It helped, too, that Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar and fellow ex-Blue Jays stars Duane Ward, Lloyd Moseby and Devon White started youth baseball clinics across the country.I did the caravan last year and we were in Vancouver, and that was one of those times where I was like, Man, there are fans everywhere in Canada, said Martin, the veteran catcher who grew up in Montreal and speaks fluent French. Were all the way across the country and people are lining up to take pictures with us. Thats what made me realize, yeah, its true, all of Canada is watching us. This is nuts.But it wasnt until last summer that Canada really got hooked. The Jays record was 50-51 and seemingly headed for another third-place finish on July 28, 2015, when then-general manager Alex Anthopoulos, a Montreal native, pulled off a blockbuster trade for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Two days later, another stunner: Anthopoulos acquired ace lefty David Price.The Blue Jays were for real. Finally.It wasnt like 92 or 93. This was a whole new feeling, Beeston said. We started to win, and all of a sudden we were cclimbing from fourth to third, third to second, second to first. [b]Cheap Sharks Jerseys[/b]. There was a love affair with the Blue Jays that showed not only with the box office but showed in television ratings, radio ratings, merchandising, everything else.The Jays finished on a 43-18 roll, won the AL East by six games, and packed Rogers Centre with earsplitting crowds.I always look back to one of my personal experiences in September against the Yankees. I struck out the side, and I mean, my heart was vibrating, said lefty reliever Brett Cecil, Torontos first-round draft pick in 2007 and the teams longest-tenured player. It was unbelievably loud.The decibel level reached unprecedented heights in the epic, 53-minute seventh inning of do-or-die Game 5 in an AL Division Series showdown. Bautista punctuated a four-run rally with a three-run homer -- and heaved his bat like a javelin -- to vanquish the Texas Rangers.I was sitting next to Price when he hit it, Cecil said. We both stood up and put our hands on the rail, and you could feel the vibration in the padding of our rails in front of our dugout. Youre not going to find that in too many places.Said Beeston: That was baseball at its best. That had everything that you wanted. It was just a fun game, and I think it created a lot of new baseball fans. And its just carried over to this year.Hockey mentalityAs fans march through the gates at Rogers Centre before Sundays 1:07 p.m. game against the Red Sox, their T-shirts and jerseys represent a virtual roll call of the Blue Jays roster: DONALDSON 20 ... BAUTISTA 19 ... ENCARNACION 10 ... MARTIN 55 ... TULOWITZKI 2 ... PILLAR 11 ... STROMAN 6 ... OSUNA 54 ... DICKEY 43 ... TRAVIS 29.A favorite player? All of em, DeYoung says.Cherry made his choice clear last year when he went on television and stumped for Donaldson to be voted in as the ALs starting third baseman for the All-Star Game. Guess who led all players with more than 14 million votes?Donaldson, he plays like a hockey player. I love him, said Cherry, who