Three head-to-heads for the Rugby World Cup quarter-final between hosts Japan and South Africa in Tokyo on Sunday:Siya Kolisi v Michael Leitch(COMBO) This combination photo created on October 16, 2019 shows Japan’s back row Michael Leitch during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Ireland in Shizuoka on September 28, 2019 (L) and South Africa’s flanker Siya Kolisi during the Pool B match between New Zealand and South Africa in Yokohama on September 21, 2019. – Japan will play against South Africa in their Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match on October 20. (Photo by William WEST and Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)Both marauding flankers are “Captain Marvels”, talismanic figures who lead by example and should be wearing capes, such is the superhuman impact they have on their teams.Kolisi and Leitch both had to win fitness battles to play at the World Cup after suffering serious injuries and it’s impossible to overestimate the psychological boost the return of the blindside giants has had.Kolisi, who became South Africa’s first black captain last year, will be a calming influence for the Springboks this weekend as they look to avoid a repeat of 2015 when they were humiliated 34-32 by Japan in their opening game.So cool is Kolisi, he even had time to visit the Japanese Grand Prix last weekend, where he presented Red Bull’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen with a Springboks jersey.South Africa will start as favourites after beating Japan 41-7 in a warm-up last month, but Leitch warned: “We’re not going to lie down for them — we want to reach the semi-finals.”Cheslin Kolbe v Kotaro Matsushima(COMBO) This combination photo created on October 16, 2019 shows South Africa’s wing Cheslin Kolbe celebrating after scoring a try during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between South Africa and Italy in Shizuoka on October 4, 2019 (L) and Japan’s wing Kotaro Matsushima scoring a try during the Pool A match between Japan and Russia in Tokyo on September 20, 2019. – Japan will play against South Africa in their Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match on October 20. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT and Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)For neutrals, this weekend’s meeting could be the pick of the quarter-finals in terms of explosive, high-tempo rugby, and both teams have pace to burn out wide.Springboks pocket-rocket Cheslin Kolbe has the electric speed that had world champions New Zealand scrambling in their World Cup opener, which the All Blacks ended up winning 23-13.Cousin of 400-metres Olympic gold medallist Wayde van Niekerk, Kolbe brings the X-factor for the Boks — precisely what Matsushima provides for Japan, scoring five tries as the Brave Blossoms defied 50-1 odds to win all four pool games and reach the last eight for the first time.Matsushima’s sidekick Kenki Fukuoka is no slouch either, as he proved in skinning Ireland’s defenders in their 19-12 upset in Shizuoka.Japan coach Jamie Joseph likens his finishers to “Ferraris” — but in Kolbe south Africa have a genuine match-winner of their own. Blink and you could miss it.Handre Pollard v Yu TamuraJapan’s fly-half Yu Tamura (R) runs with the ball during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between Japan and Scotland at the International Stadium Yokohama in Yokohama on October 13, 2019. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)Pollard, blessed with a sublime kicking game, alternated fly-half duties with Elton Jantjies during the pool stages but he will marshal South Africa for the showdown with Japan.He is up against a slightly unknown quantity in the shape of Tamura, who has been a revelation for the host side.Cool as a cucumber, Tamura leads the World Cup with 48 points so far and has landed 10 penalties — also a tournament high — despite not always understanding the instructions English-speaking team-mates are barking at him.Tamura’s kicking has been spot-on and he never shirks a tackle. His calmness under pressure alongside Leitch and veterans such as Shota Horie and Luke Thompson will be crucial when Japan face a fired-up South Africa side with serious World Cup ambitions and hell-bent on exorcising the demons of the “Brighton Miracle”.For more sport your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.
The world-renowned ultra marathon the Comrades Marathon which takes place annually has been cancelled.The marathon which left many in doubt for the first time in more than 70 years due to the coronavirus pandemic has officially been called off according to preliminary reports.The ultra-marathon was scheduled to be held for the 95th time on June 14. It was earlier placed on hold.ASA president Aleck Skhosana said in a statement: “Cancelling what would have been the 95th edition of the Comrades Marathon was a long and arduous decision to make.“With the race’s rich history, its powerful nation-building attributes and contribution towards social cohesion, as well as its immense economic impact, it would have been premature to rush into an outright cancellation sooner. However, we believe we have jointly arrived at the correct decision to protect the health and safety of all concerned as well as the lives of our fellow South Africans.”The Comrades Marathon was earlier postponed from June 14 to a suitable date that was yet to be confirmed as organisers hoped the race would be held this year.This is the first time the race has been called off since it was suspended between 1941 and 1945 due to World War II.For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.
Playing her first final of 2019, Ostapenko settled well enough thereafter but Gauff looked imperious, shrugging off a double fault at the start of the ninth game to take the set.The opening set of the @WTALinz final belongs to @CocoGauff!The takes a 6-3 lead over Ostapenko. pic.twitter.com/tsrOuL7AxW— WTA (@WTA) October 13, 2019Ostapenko finally got a look at her opponent’s serve in set two as they exchanged breaks early on, before the weight of what she seemed set to accomplish appeared to hinder Gauff.It meant the second went 6-1 to the world number 72 but the pedigree Gauff displayed en route to round four at Wimbledon and round three in the US Open came emphatically to the fore in the decider.After dropping serve for 2-0, Ostapenko got involved in an animated exchange with the umpire, repeatedly asking the official, “Can you see the ball?” Coco Gauff claimed the first WTA Tour title of her career with a thrilling 6-3 1-6 6-2 victory over Jelena Ostapenko in the final of the Linz Open.The 15-year-old American sensation was the youngest WTA finalist since Nicole Vaidisova won the Tashkent Open in 2004 and showed plenty of the form that saw her spring to grand slam prominence this year to take the first set. Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, rallied impressively both to level matters and delay a victory that marks the latest staging post in Gauff’s rapid rise.Gauff, who stunned world No. 8 Kiki Bertens in the quarter-finals, was forced to save a pair of break points in the first game but immediately got stuck in to the Ostapenko serve, opening up a 3-0 lead. Related News First-time finalist Coco Gauff to face Jelena Ostapenko in Linz Open decider First-time finalist Coco Gauff: I showed I can play at a top level @CocoGauff is your @WTALinz champion! The 15-year-old defeats Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 to claim her first WTA title! pic.twitter.com/i8ArqH6RnG— WTA (@WTA) October 13, 2019At the next change of ends, newly appointed coach Marion Bartoli sought to settle her charge but Gauff was on a roll, and Ostapenko was forced to gamely repel a pair of match points at 5-0.Those near misses knocked the teenager, who plopped a forehand into the net to be broken to love in the next game.She regrouped superbly, however, as both players tore into each other with all-or-nothing groundstrokes. One of those from Ostapenko was shown to be long on a challenge and Gauff let out a scream of delight, embracing a landmark triumph.
An all-college football edition of the Monday morning quarterback . . .Could this past weekend have gone much better for the Mountain West Conference with the Air Force and Utah wins against Pac-10 teams and TCU’s shocking 17-10 victory over No. 7 Oklahoma in Norman, despite being four-touchdown underdogs?Well, yes, if Colorado State hadn’t blown an 11-point second-half lead at Colorado and if BYU had been able to put more than three measly points on the board against Boston College. As for Wyoming and San Diego State, you had to expect neither would beat Florida or UCLA, respectively . . .The Cowboys can take some solace in the fact that they played Urban Meyer closer in his first year at mighty Florida (32-14) than in his first year at Utah (47-17) . . .TCU’s victory has to make the Horned Frogs the updated favorite to win the Mountain West Conference. I’m sure Utah and BYU are more than a bit concerned that they must face the formidable Frogs so early in the season with their young teams and first-year coaches. The Utes go to Fort Worth on Sept. 15, while the Cougars get TCU in Provo Sept. 24 . . .As expected, Utah quarterback Brian Johnson had his share of struggles with tipped passes, missed passes and a fumble in Friday’s opening victory over Arizona. But the fact that he passed for almost 100 more yards than Alex Smith did in his debut almost exactly two years earlier, has to bode well for the Utes’ offense this year. Now if the U. defense can get in gear . . .BYU new coach Bronco Mendenhall may be a terrific motivator, astute about bringing back old BYU traditions and a top defensive coach. But Saturday’s 20-3 loss showed why he may not be quite ready for prime time as the main decision-maker. He had a few questionable decisions Saturday, most notably the two in the second half when the Cougars punted from inside the BC 40-yard line, including one from the 36-yard line with nine minutes left . . .Speaking of traditions, it was written that the Cougars were decked out in their old uniforms and old helmets Saturday afternoon. The white helmets looked familiar, but the uniforms still look quite Aggie blue to me. Maybe the Cougs should consider going back to the royal blue jerseys. It couldn’t hurt, could it? . . .So much for the “new” offense in Provo. Sixty passes, but just eight yards rushing? Those look like Gary Crowton numbers to me . . .Wonder if heralded quarterback Tommy Grady is having second thoughts about leaving Oklahoma for Utah after what happened on the weekend. Not because he has the task of beating out Brian Johnson next year. But after the performance of the OU quarterbacks Saturday in the upset loss to TCU (13 for 31, 128 yards), perhaps Grady would have had a chance to play very soon in Norman . . .Nebraska vs. Maine . . . Kansas State vs. Florida International . . . California vs. Sacramento State . . . Unfortunately we’re going to be seeing more, not fewer of these kinds of matchups in the years to come now that the NCAA has approved of a 12-game schedule. Big-name schools are more likely to schedule smaller, often I-AA schools in an effort to ensure a win, rather than tougher intersectional opponents . . .Which brings up the question, why couldn’t BYU have figured out a way to schedule Utah State this year, rather than Eastern Illinois? The Cougars and Aggies are longtime rivals, who haven’t played since 2002 and aren’t scheduled to meet in the near future. The old argument was that the Aggies weren’t good enough to play the Cougars. But Eastern Illinois? . . .Speaking of the Aggies, it was understandable, but unfortunate they had their game with Nicholls State cancelled Saturday. Instead of getting warmed up with a likely win against a Division I-AA opponent, they have to start the season on the road against a Utah team that has played a game. You know the old college football saying — “You improve most between the first and second games.” That means the Utes should have a huge advantage with a game already under their belts . . . . . . Local football fans have been chomping at the bit waiting for the college season to begin. But the Saturday after next, may be a good day to make plans to go golfing or fishing or take the family camping. On Sept. 17. Utah, BYU and Utah State all have the Saturday off. The Cougars and Aggies have byes that week and the Utes have the Thursday night ESPN game at TCU. It would have been a great day for Weber State and Ron McBride to grab the spotlight, but they’ll be in Fargo, North Dakota, playing North Dakota State. E-mail: email@example.com
MIDWAY — If anyone knows what it’s like to be in Tony Finau’s shoes, it’s Daniel Summerhays.Six years ago, Summerhays was a 16-year-old playing against an experienced college golfer in the Men’s State Amateur finals.Today at 7:30 a.m., Summerhays, a junior-to-be at BYU, will face off against the 16-year-old Finau in the State Am finals at Soldier Hollow Golf Course.Summerhays advanced to the finals with a sudden-death win over his close friend and BYU teammate Clay Ogden in the morning quarterfinals, then came back to defeat former State Am finalist Carl Jensen 3 and 2 in the afternoon.Finau had an easier route, defeating 33-year-old John Owen 6 and 5 in the morning and an under-the-weather Nic Van Vuuren 3 and 2 in the afternoon.When asked what advice he has for the young Finau, Summerhays said, “I’d tell him to have fun, enjoy it and not be nervous. He shouldn’t be satisfied with being in the finals, just go ahead and win it.”Well, maybe he’s not advising Finau to actually win it, but to not be content just to be there. However, Summerhays did win it in 2000 at Oakridge Country Club when he knocked off favored Billy Harvey. It was the first of two State Am titles for Summerhays.Knowing Finau, he will be out to win today. Since he first began playing golf, Finau has aspired to be a professional golfer and has already won some national tournaments and even played in several PGA Tour qualifiers.As far as taking Summerhays’ advice not to be nervous, that shouldn’t be a problem. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Finau plays with an utter calmness, never reacting to good shots or bad ones.Finau took up the game at age 8 after his younger brother, Gipper, received a lot of attention for his golfing prowess at age 6. Within a couple of years Tony was scoring close to par and at age 12 beat some of the best players in the world at the Junior World tournament in San Diego.Finau, who will be a senior at West High, is being heavily recruited and says his four top choices are BYU, USC, UCLA and Washinghton.Summerhays smiled when asked if he’d like Finau to join him at BYU.”I’d love to see him in a BYU uniform,” he said.Against Owen, Finau was 2 up when he won four straight holes and closed off the match at the 13th hole.In the afternoon, he got ahead early and coasted to victory against Van Vuuren, the 24-year-old from South Africa, who was battling a bad stomach besides the talented Finau.Van Vuuren’s father flew in from South Africa to watch the State Am and also to see his son play in the U.S. Public Links Tournament this week in Washington. Van Vuuren didn’t blame his loss on his sickness, however.”I woke up feeling sick and was fighting it the whole day,” he said. “No excuses, though. I just got off to a rough start with three bogeys on the first five holes.”In the morning round, Van Vuuren looked just fine in knocking off defending champion Michael McRae, who had won his first two matches after shooting course records of 67 and 62 in the medal-play rounds.McRae was 1 up after 12 holes when Van Vuuren got hot with birdies at 12, 13 and 14 to take a 2-up lead. McRae stayed in the match with a birdie at No. 17, but Van Vuuren, after hitting over the green at 18, sank a clutch 6-foot par putt to win.The marquee match of the morning was between Summerhays and Ogden. The two had been teammates at Davis High, besides at BYU. Summerhays gave Ogden his nickname “Clay-dawg” and often referred to him as “Dawg” during their friendly match.Ogden never trailed but was never more than 1 up as the two played near-flawless golf. Ogden’s bogey at the ninth was the only one between them as both shot 67 for 18 holes. Summerhays missed a 12-footer at the final hole to win it, and the two went to extra holes.At the first hole, Ogden missed a 10-foot birdie to win the match, and they went to hole 20. There, Ogden caught the right front bunker, while Summerhays went left. Ogden’s blast went 15 long, and after he missed the putt, Summerhays closed out the match with a four-footer.”I played well, but he just outplayed me,” said Ogden, who will fly to Washington today to defend his Public Links title.Summerhays led most of the way against Jensen, making the turn 2 up and extending the lead to four through 12 holes. However, Jensen birdied the next two holes to give himself hope, but bogeyed the 15th hole when he hit it long. The match ended at 16 when Summerhays lagged his 90-foot putt within two feet.”I was making decent swings, but the ball wouldn’t go in the hole,” said Jensen. “But the main thing is Danny is just really good. He does a lot of things I could only dream of doing.”Jensen defeated Weber State golfer Greg Buckway on the final hole of their morning match. Buckway will join Ogden and Van Vuuren at the Publinks tournament this week. If Finau does prevail today against Summerhays, he won’t be the youngest State Am champion. Summerhays was 16 and one month when he won, while Finau turns 17 in September. However, George Von Elm won the event in 1917 at age 15. Related E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Utah State Am results
Even though the Utah basketball team has been practicing a couple of hours a week for the past month, the Utes officially kicked off the 2008-09 season Friday with a spirited 2 1/2-hour practice.College teams around the country were allowed to begin their 20-hours-a-week practice schedules Friday, and the Utes started off in the HPER-101 gym, where the Ute volleyball team plays its games.Last year, the Utes’ opening practice was open to the public, but this year they’ll have a “Jimmy Ball Scrimmage” on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.The Utes have an experienced team with seven of their top eight scorers back from last year, led by seniors Luke Nevill, Shaun Green and Lawrence Borha, with five freshmen joining the mix.Coach Jim Boylen calls himself more “confident” as a second-year coach and believes having his rookie year behind him will help the team as well.”Our system is in place; we have to get better at it, but it’s a nice feeling to know that we’re going into our second year,” Boylen said. “I want to teach as much as I can. I’m going to focus on teaching, getting my players to do what’s expected and how we do that.”The Utes have all their starters back and only lost sixth man Johnnie Bryant, who was second on the team in scoring last season.”A year under coach Boylen helps us a lot,” said Green. “We have high expectations for our team. We want to be competitive in every game. Of course, we want to play in the postseason, hopefully in the NCAA tournament.”One of the Ute freshmen is former Brighton High star Jace Tavita, who was just cleared to play by the NCAA a week ago. He found practice different from high school.”It was a lot different — really, really intense,” he said. “Once we stepped on the court, we were ready to run.”In Friday’s opening practice, the Utes worked on fast breaks and running the ball, something Boylen wants to emphasize more this year.”One of our main focuses this fall and our first day is our running game,” Boylen said. “We want to push the ball, and I want to be a more consistent running team this year.”The Utes’ first exhibition game will be Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. against Grand Valley State, and their first official game will be Nov. 15 against Southwest Baptist, also at 2 p.m. Utah’s home schedule includes games against Oregon, California, Gonzaga and LSU.”We’ve got a schedule fans can be excited about and rally around, and I hope they do,” Boylen said.The Utes were picked for fourth by the media in the preseason poll behind UNLV, BYU and San Diego State. Boylen said he doesn’t worry about where his team is picked, but he expects to contend for the Mountain West Conference title.”I think we have a team than can compete for a championship,” he said. “We still have a ways to go in blending five freshmen with four seniors, but that’s what camp is all about. We’re going to try to develop that chemistry you need to be a great team.””We’ll be more a complete team this year with everybody contributing,” Green said. “If we do that, we’re going to be a great team.”UTE NOTES: Freshman point guard Chris Hines is still hobbled by an ankle injury and “is still a month away,” according to Boylen. … Boylen said the team will have two practice sessions today on each side of the Ute football game and another practice Sunday before taking Monday off. Ute hoops• Utah returns seven of its top eight scorers, led by center Luke Nevill.• The Utes have five freshmen, including Jace Tavita of Brighton High and Josh Sharp of Lone Peak High.• Utah will hold a Jimmy Ball Scrimmage Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Huntsman Center. E-mail: email@example.com
Related STANFORD, Calif. — The Stanford basketball team must wish it could play Utah every game. And the Utes are glad they’re unlikely to see the Cardinal again after getting blown out for the second time this season, this time by an 84-66 count at Maples Pavilion Sunday afternoon.Earlier this year, Stanford routed the Utes 87-56 at the Huntsman Center in a game they shot the lights out. Just like on that snowy January night in Salt Lake, the Cardinal shot the ball well, particularly from 3-point range, where they hit 11 of 26.The ironic thing was, the Utes came into the game as the No. 1 team in the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage defense (39.0 percent). However, they didn’t have an answer for the Cardinal, who were above 50 percent all game before dropping to 48.3 percent after coach Johnny Dawkins cleared his bench.Stanford had come in struggling, having lost four of its last five games, only to suddenly find the range against the Utes, who dropped to 11-17 overall and 3-13 in Pac-12 play.“We had breakdowns,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “The first half we weren’t really locked in guarding them. Some is a credit to their ability to stretch the floor. We tried to play some zone, and that didn’t work.”Stanford’s junior guard Chasson Randle hurt the Utes most, scoring 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 4 of 9 from 3-point range. John Gage came off the bench to score 11 points, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, while Dwight Powell hurt the Utes inside with 15 points and eight rebounds.“Tonight we had breakdowns in dribble handoffs and pick and roll coverage. We were getting beat off the dribble and they were kicking to guys to hit threes.” Krustkowiak said. “A couple of inefficiencies for us we need to work on.”Stanford hasn’t been a great shooting team this year, ranking dead-last in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage at 41.3 percent, although in Pac-12 play it was tops in 3-point shooting. However, in the first half, when the Cardinal jumped out to a big lead, it looked like the Utes were hardly guarding them.“We allowed them to get some open baskets and 3-point shots and that allowed them to separate themselves from us,” said Ute guard Jarred DuBois. “Good offense is always going to beat good defense. If you play hard and they hit a contested shot, there’s nothing you can do about it.”Stanford raced out to a 44-31 halftime lead over the Utes, thanks to 53.3 percent shooting and 7 of 14 from 3-point range. The Utes found some life early in the second half, hitting their first four shots and getting within four points at 49-45 and 51-47.However, a couple of turnovers (where have we heard that before?) — by DuBois and freshman Justin Seymour — handed the momentum back to Stanford, which scored nine straight to make it 60-47 with 13:23 left.“We had two consecutive turnovers when we were in striking distance,” said Krystkowiak. “I don’t know if there’s anything that’s sucking the life out of our team more right now than turning the ball over. When they take it down and score, it really compounds the issue.”Aside from a couple of untimely turnovers, DuBois had one of his better games, scoring 22 points, including 6 of 9 from the field and 9 of 9 from the free-throw line. Jordan Loveridge had 11 points and six rebounds, while Jason Washburn finished with 10 points and six rebounds.Afterwards, Krystkowiak talked about the possibility of playing Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament and perhaps figuring out the Cardinal next time around. However, that’s unlikely since the Cardinal (17-13, 8-9) appear to be locked into the 8 vs. 9 game against Washington, and the Utes will likely play Colorado, USC or Arizona State in the opening round. The Utes and Cardinal would have to meet after a couple of wins each.But that may be for the best since the Utes haven’t played well yet this year against Stanford.“We don’t match up very well against them,’’ Krystkowiak said. “They’ve got athleticism at some spots and they’ve got our number for whatever reason.” Utah Utes basketball: Ute recruit Delon Wright could be a top player next year
Utah football: Michigan by the numbers He’s got great hands. Last year he caught 43 balls and we hope he can at least pull that number this year. That’s a lot of touches. – Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said.SALT LAKE CITY — One of the keys to Utah’s football season this year will be how much Devonte Booker can hurt opposing teams with his legs as one of the premier running backs in the country.Another key will be how much Booker can hurt opponents with his hands.His hands?That’s right. Perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of this year’s Ute team is the receiving ability of Booker, who may be the best pass-catcher on the team.That’s taking nothing away from Kenneth Scott or Bubba Poole or Tim Patrick or any of the freshman phenoms in the Ute receiver corps.But Booker can catch the ball with the best of them and we all know what he can do once he has the ball in his hands.He showed that last year by catching 43 passes, which was second-best on the team behind Scott, who had 48 catches. And remember, Booker didn’t start the first four games when he got a handful of receptions.Booker was blessed with a great pair of hands. As he said, “I’ve had that since I was little. I’ve continued to work hard at it and catch the ball every time it comes my way.’’It hasn’t gone unnoticed by his coaches, running backs coach Dennis Erickson and head coach Kyle Whittingham, who have both raved about his ability to catch passes out of the backfield.Erickson, who has coached for 45 years, calls Booker “probably the most diversified back I’ve ever coached,’’ referring to his pass-catching ability along with his power and elusiveness as a running back. He also said Booker “catches everything’’ and has “probably as good a pair of hands as I’ve ever seen for a back.’’“He’s got great hands,’’ echoes Whittingham. “Last year he caught 43 balls and we hope he can at least pull that number this year. That’s a lot of touches.’’Last year, Booker averaged just under 26 touches per game — 22.4 rushing and 3.3 receiving. Whittingham said he would like to see Booker get at least 30 touches a game from running the ball and receiving in 2015. If he got 25 carries and five receptions per game that would add up to 300 carries and 60 catches in the regular season.When asked about how much he’d like to carry the ball, Booker said he doesn’t have a number in mind.“As many times as the coach wants me to carry it,’’ he said. “I don’t have any numbers. When we get to that point coach Whit will wear the tires off of me. Yeah, I can go as many carries as I can.’’“We don’t want to put a number on it, but the focal point of the offense is Devontae Booker,’’ Whittingham said.Quarterback Travis Wilson, for one, appreciates Booker’s ability to catch the ball.“Devontae probably has some of the best hands on our team,’’ he said. “He’s a real weapon wherever we put him, running routes or in the backfield. He’s somebody I always know will be in the spot where I need him to be. He’s reliable and has great hands to make those catches.’’Booker isn’t fussy whether it comes to running or catching the ball, but says his ability to catch the ball keeps the defenses honest.“A lot of people don’t know I can catch, so when they get me out there one-on-one, it’s great, with the linebacker or whoever it is,’’ he said. “I show off my great hands and they’re like, ‘Oh this guy can catch too.’’’Last year it took four games for the Ute coaches to figure out that Booker was their best option at running back, but this year he’ll be the man from the start of Thursday’s season opener against Michigan.“Going into this year and knowing I’m going to be the main guy, is good for me,’’ Booker said. ‘’I’m ready for the contact and I’m ready to take on the load. I’m going to go out there and continue to do what I need to do to help this team win.’’Whether it’s running or catching the ball. Related Amy Donaldson: Football has helped Ute lineman Leka Uhatafe through heartbreaking losses
I worked on balance on the free-throw line and not falling into the lane when I shoot. That’s helped me a lot. – Gordon HaywardSALT LAKE CITY — For Gordon Hayward it was simply a matter of better balance.Although he shot over 80 percent during his first six years in the NBA, the Jazz forward had a habit of falling forward after a free-throw shot. The result was inconsistency at the line.Hayward’s numbers have been almost identical the last five five seasons — 83.2, 82.7, 81.6, 81.2 and 82.4 percent from 2011-12 to 2015-16 after shooting 71.1 his rookie season. This year it has jumped to 87.0, more than five percentage points above his career average of 81.5 percentHayward says it’s no accident because he made a concerted effort in the offseason to improve his free-throw shooting, which has moved him up to No. 17 in the NBA in free-throw percentage in 2016-17.“I worked on balance on the free-throw line and not falling into the lane when I shoot,” he said. “That’s helped me a lot.”Hayward isn’t the only Jazz player to show significant improvement at the line.Rudy Gobert has made an even bigger jump, going from 56.9 in 2015-16 to 65.6 percent this year, which he attributes to a lot of offseason practice.Whenever coach Quin Snyder talks about Gobert’s improvement this year, usually the first thing he brings up is his improved free-throw shooting. Snyder feels it has helped his overall game and given him more confidence offensively.“He’s shooting a better percentage from the line, which has an impact on him psychologically,” Snyder said. “It makes him more confident around the rim, he’s more patient, less rushed to get the ball up.”Both Hayward and Gobert are making one more free throw per game as Hayward has improved from 4.9 to 5.9 per game, while Gobert has gone from 2.6 to 3.7 makes per game.As a team the Jazz are shooting 74.9 percent on the season, which sounds good unless you compare it to the rest of the NBA. The Jazz rank just 25th overall, ahead of Detroit, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Orlando and Miami.The best team in the league is Utah’s Saturday night opponent, Indiana, which is shooting 81.9 percent for the season, just ahead of San Antonio (81.8 percent). The record for a season is 83.2 percent by the Boston Celtics in 1989-90.A RARE ‘T’: It could have been because his beloved Seattle Seahawks had lost their playoff game earlier in the day and he wasn’t in a great mood, but Snyder got a rare technical foul in last week’s game against Orlando. It was his first of the season after getting none last year. He said he’s changed his ways since the days when he coach in the D-League.“That doesn’t happen very often,” he said about his technical. “(Official) Kane Fitzgerald told me it was like old times when we were in the D-League. I was more animated then. I learned my lesson.”As a team the Jazz rank second-to-last in the league in total technical fouls (18) as well as technicals by players (5).MORE CAREFUL: When Alec Burks went crashing to the floor last week against Orlando, everyone held their collective breath since Burks’ last two injuries happened on drives to the basket when he landed hard on the floor.“A couple of times he’s gotten up in the air and everything’s good — he hasn’t gotten hurt,” said Snyder. “He’s attacking the rim and it doesn’t look like any of the psychological stuff is there that people wonder about. It’s great to have him back.”As for Burks, he says he’s still going to go to the basket hard but will be a little more careful.“I’m going to be aggressive, that’s my game,” he said. “I’m still going to attack the rim. But I was a little reckless before and I’m going to pick my spots more.”JAZZ NOTES: After not playing for three days this week, the Jazz will have four games in five nights: at Dallas Friday, at home Saturday against Indiana and Monday against Oklahoma City and then on the road at Denver Tuesday … Dallas has won three straight games and moved from 15th in the Western Conference standings to 12th … The Jazz have beaten the Mavericks twice already at home and after Friday’s game will play at Dallas on Feb. 9 … Utah’s current four-game win streak is its fourth of the season, but the Jazz have not exceeded four this year. Last year, the Jazz had a seven-game winning streak in late January and early February … Last season after 43 games, the Jazz were 19-24 compared to 27-16 this season.
SALT LAKE CITY — Over the years I’ve had the privilege to experience many memorable rounds of golf, playing outstanding courses such as Augusta National, Cypress Point and Bandon Dunes.Now I can add Sage Lakes Golf Course to the list.The 6,202-yard par-70 course in Idaho Falls is one I’ll remember for the rest of my life, particularly the 192-yard par-3 No. 14 hole where I witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime event last Monday.No, it wasn’t a hole-in-one — that’s something I’ve already experienced once in my life. This was better.Of course, everyone knows what happened last Monday morning when the moon moved across the sun for a rare total solar eclipse. In Utah people got to see 90 to 95 percent of the eclipse, but a large swath of the country was able to see the real thing, the 100 percent total eclipse.From what I can gather from talking to people who saw the partial eclipse and those of us who saw the total eclipse, the difference was like hitting your tee shot on a par-3 within a couple of feet of the hole as opposed to sinking the tee shot for a hole-in-one. Hitting it close is nice, but a hole-in-one is unforgettable. Same with a total eclipse.My son Andrew and I had decided a couple of weeks ago that we didn’t want to miss out on the total eclipse experience, even if he did have to miss his first day of college classes. The closest place for us to witness the Great American Eclipse was up I-15 in Idaho Falls, where it seemed half the state of Utah ended up joining us.My biggest concern in the days leading up to the big event was where to watch the thing. I wasn’t thrilled about sitting in a Walmart parking lot or hanging around some stranger’s farm.Then a couple of days before the big event, I got a bright idea. Why not watch it on a golf course? I looked online for courses in the area and chose Sage Lakes because it looked like a pretty good layout and it was pretty wide open between 8 and 9 a.m. when we hoped to arrive in town after a 5 a.m. start from Salt Lake.We pulled into the golf course parking lot at 8:45 after a manageable drive with few delays amid a steady stream of traffic. The starter told us it was a slower-than-usual Monday morning as most folks apparently didn’t choose to be playing golf during the rare event.At first, my son and I had planned to play just nine holes, but as we came up the No. 9 fairway soon after the eclipse had begun, we decided it would be fun to keep going and be out on the course when totality hit, rather than waiting around the clubhouse. The course, by the way, was very well-maintained with a variety of fun holes to play.So we hoofed it out to the back nine, as the light gradually became dimmer and dimmer, radiating an eerie light that we’d never experienced before. We kept checking on the sun through our red-white-and-blue All-American Solar Eclipse Shades as we walked up the fairways (we took them off for our shots), while keeping an eye on the time, knowing the total eclipse would begin at 11:33 a.m.We finished No. 13 at 11:25 and walked to the No. 14 tee and turned the wooden bench around so that it faced directly southeast and settled in for two of the most thrilling minutes of our lives. Because the course is set amid a residential area, there were dozens of families around us sitting on blankets on their back lawns or in chairs on their decks awaiting the eclipse. When totality hit, as anyone who saw it knows, it was simply spectacular.The only negative to it all was getting out of town and back to Utah. Staying an extra hour to finish the rest of our round hurt our escape home, as the drive out of Idaho Falls was about 100 times worse than getting out of LaVell Edwards Stadium after a Saturday night football game.As for the golf, I must admit the anticipation of the total eclipse hurt my concentration on more than one shot. I can count on one hand the number of shanks I’ve had in recent years, but a couple of holes before the moment of totality, my easy wedge shot from 75 yards out went straight right about 37 yards. At least I could blame it on the looming total eclipse.However, my son, a single-digit handicap golfer, who has been in a bit of a slump this summer, thrived. After a couple of early bogeys, he played the last 12 holes, from the time the eclipse started to the time it ended as we were walking off No. 18, in 1 under par. It was one of the best rounds of his life.We joked together afterward how “eclipse golf” suits him well and how he needs to do it more often. The only problem is, the next total solar eclipse in these parts, directly over northern Utah, won’t come around for another 28 years, in August of 2045.Who knows, I could be in a rest home at the time, but someway, somehow I’m going to find a way to join Andrew for another round of eclipse golf.