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SI:AM | Epic Comebacks: It started with Manchester City and ended with Justin Thomas

Plus, the Warriors went up 3–0.

Good morning, I’m Josh Rosenblat. Thank you to those of you wonderful readers who referred to me as “czar” in email responses. It is much appreciated.

In today’s SI:AM:

JT clutches up as a rookie falls short

Everything from the Premier League’s final day

🏀 The Warriors are up 3–0, thanks to Andrew Wiggins

JT’s legendary back nine

To any observer of the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Justin Thomas’s four-over-par 74 in the third round put him too far back to win his second major. He found himself seven strokes behind leader Mito Pereira to start yesterday’s final round.

Good thing Thomas wasn’t any old observer—until he was.

After four birdies in his final 10 holes, he finished yesterday’s final round with a three-under 67, tied for the best round of the day. Then, all Thomas could do was observe the final groups play Southern Hills’ intense final stretch as they tried to match or beat his five-under score for the championship.

Pereira seemed poised to do just that as he stepped up for his final tee shot with a one-stroke lead. His drive found the creek that snakes along the right side of the 18th hole, and he finished with a double bogey, leaving Thomas and Will Zalatoris in a playoff.

This place is so tough,” Thomas said. “I was asked early in the week what lead is safe, I said ‘no lead.’ I just stayed patient and found myself in a playoff.”

Thomas was nails in the three-hole aggregate playoff, going birdie-birdie-par to secure his second career PGA Championship.

“His comeback from seven shots back—it reached eight early in the round—tied the PGA Championship mark set by John Mahaffey in 1978 at Oakmont Country Club,” Morning Read’s Gary Van Sickle wrote.

That piece of trivia has now put Thomas into a new category in the history of the professional game, Van Sickle added:

“Thomas, 29, has two major titles and 13 other PGA Tour victories. He’s already in the neighborhood of Hall of Fame career stuff. The way he won this PGA Championship, with a remarkable comeback, is one that will stand the test of time.”

“It’s the title winner!”

It might not have been the “Agueroooo” goal of 10 years ago, but yesterday’s title-winning sequence was dramatic in its own right.

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Heading into the final match day of the English Premier League season, Manchester City would clinch its fourth title in five seasons with a win at home over Aston Villa. If they fell short, Liverpool could claim it with a win at home versus Wolves.

For 75 minutes, Aston Villa, managed by Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard and with ex-Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho leading the charge, did their job. After Coutinho’s 69th-minute goal, Villa was up 2–0.

But then came the “bang-bang-bang of goals,” Jonathan Wilson wrote.

Not even 10 minutes after he entered the game, İlkay Gündoğan headed home a Raheem Sterling cross in the 76th minute. About two minutes later Rodri tied the match. And, in the 81st minute, it was Gündoğan who scored yet again to give City a 3–2 lead, making them Premier League champions. And deserving champions at that, Wilson wrote.

“Nobody scored more than City this season, nobody conceded fewer and nobody won more games. Judged purely on footballing merit, nobody can doubt that it is a worthy champion—as Liverpool would have been. Only once before—Liverpool in 2019—has a team got more than the 92 points Liverpool amassed this season and failed to win the title. Even given the financial iniquities within the game, the standards City and Liverpool are reaching are extraordinary.”

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Leeds and American manager Jesse Marsch avoided relegation with a dramatic 2–1 win at Brentford. Tottenham secured a place in next year’s Champions League with a 5–0 win at Norwich City that saw Spurs’ Son Heung-min score twice to share the season’s Golden Boot award with Mohamed Salah of Liverpool.

The best of Sports Illustrated

The French Open got underway yesterday, and while not at his peak, Rafael Nadal is still a major factor at Roland Garros. The soon-to-be-36-year-old “has become the elder statesman tennis desperately needs,” Jon Wertheim wrote.

“Into the void steps Nadal. Athletes are supposed to be more jaded and less accessible as they age; Nadal has gone the opposite direction. The most focused and passionate competitors are supposed to be the first to burn out; Nadal’s matches still come across as sponsored content for intensity. The most physical player in tennis history wasn’t supposed to be around for this long.”

Two seasons ago, the Warriors traded for Andrew Wiggins. Now, it’s paying off, according to Rohan Nadkarni. … Michael Pina wrote about how Bam Adebayo dominated in Game 3, leading the Heat to a 2–1 series advantage Saturday night. … Michael Rosenberg had a column on the Nick Saban–Jimbo Fisher feud that outlines how winning college football coaches “can do as they please.” … Emma Baccellieri wrote about legendary baseball writer Roger Angell, who died Friday at 101 years old. … Lyon is back at the top of the women’s soccer hierarchy, Andrew Gastelum wrote.

Around the sports world

These NBA draft prospects improved their stocks at the draft combine last week. … Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was forced to retire while leading, making for a big weekend for Red Bull at the Spanish Grand Prix. … The Oilers took a 2–1 series lead over the Flames thanks to an Evander Kane hat trick in a six-minute span. … The Lightning continued to dominate the Panthers to go up 3–0. … The Rangers got on the board with a Game 3 win over the Hurricanes. … Juwan Howard isn’t interested in the Lakers’ job, according to a report. … Kylian Mbappé is staying at PSG.

SIQ

A professional golfer born on this day in 1934 shared a name with which current NFL backup quarterback?

  • Trey Lance
  • Mason Rudolph
  • Jacob Eason
  • Tim Boyle

Friday’s SIQ: The Cleveland-Milwaukee game on May 20, 1985, was the first MLB game of the season to…

Answer: be rained out. It set a record for the latest first rainout of the MLB season. There had been 458 games played before the season’s first rainout. Before that year, the latest into a season that the first postponement had come was April 26.\

“It figures it would happen in Cleveland,” Brewers manager George Bamberger said, according to the Associated Press. “Well, I don’t really mean it that way. Being the first place to have a rainout doesn’t help anybody’s reputation, though.”

From the Vault: May 23, 1983

Edmonton’s offense in the 1982–83 season was a well-oiled machine. Led by Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, the Oilers led the league with 5.3 goals per game in the regular season and kept up their high-scoring ways in the playoffs. Only once over the first three rounds did Edmonton score fewer than four goals in a game. It won games in the second round against the rival Flames by the eye-popping scores of 10–2 and 9–1. No one could stop the Oilers. No one, except for Billy Smith.

Smith was the man in net for all four of the Islanders’ Stanley Cup victories in the early 1980s. He was nearing the end of his dominant stretch in ’84 but was in peak form against the Oilers. And he wasn’t just stingy with his goals allowed; he played with a mean streak, as E.M. Swift wrote:

“[In Game 1, Glenn] Anderson had been carrying the puck behind the Islander net when Smith swung his stick back, striking Anderson above the knee. Referee Andy van Hellemond properly called Smith for a two-minute slashing penalty. The Oilers, who were 0 for 7 on the power play for the night, failed to convert, and the incident was forgotten.

“Until [Edmonton coach and GM Glen] Sather slept on it. Suddenly he thought of a way to incite his charges. He demanded, and got, a meeting with John McCauley, the league’s assistant director of officiating. Sather thought Smith, who regularly flails at players coming around from behind the net, deserved an [attempt]-to-injure match penalty for slashing Anderson, whose knee had swollen to such an extent overnight that he was unable to skate in practice the next day. When he didn’t get anywhere with McCauley, Sather took his case to the press. ‘Smith plays like a maniac,’ he said. ‘He swings that stick around like a hatchet, and if the referees don’t stop it, hopefully we’ll have someone on our club who will eliminate the problem.’

“When informed of Sather’s remarks, Smith, who claimed to have hit Anderson in the arm, not the knee, and is never one to dampen a controversy, said, ‘Let’s face it. If [Dave] Semenko runs at me and hurts me, anything could happen, and the victim could be Gretzky. If they want blood....’”

Smith shut out Edmonton in Game 1, and the Islanders won Game 2 6–3 to take a 2–0 series lead back to Uniondale. A 5–1 New York win in Game 3 all but wrapped up the series. Swift’s story went to print before the Islanders finished off the sweep in Game 4, but he was still able to draw a smart conclusion from the first three games.

“​​One of the appealing aspects of this tainted final is the feeling it leaves of a changing of the guard. The Islanders clearly are nearing the end of their reign. In the first three games they played virtually flawless hockey and still weren’t easy winners. The Oilers aren’t yet ready to take their place, but Edmonton’s talent is only too apparent. Even the players are aware of it. Said [Bob] Bourne, who was the Islanders’ top postseason scorer through Game 3, with 28 points in 19 games, ‘I was talking to my wife, and I told her that the Oilers were going to win a Stanley Cup very soon. Maybe next year or maybe the year after that. I just hope it’s not against us when they do it.’”

Swift’s words were prescient (that Islanders team only made one more deep playoff run) but Bourne’s were even more so. The Oilers did win the Cup “next year” and “the year after that.” Unfortunately for Bourne, the first win did come against the Islanders.

—Dan Gartland

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