Horschel, Mickelson lead after 2 rounds at Open

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Horschel, Mickelson lead after 2 rounds at Open

Updated June 15, 10:15 a.m.

ARDMORE, Pa. -- Following a 3-under-par 67 on Friday, Billy Horschel finished Friday in the lead at the U.S. Open, tied with Phil Mickelson.

The second round, delayed three hours thanks to the completion of Thursday's first round, was completed shortly after 10 a.m. Saturday morning, when 23 of 26 groups who teed off in the afternoon on Friday finally made their way in.

Saturday's third round is scheduled to begin at 12:28 p.m. Players will go off in threesomes on both holes No. 1 and 11.

Mickelson and Horschel lead by one shot over five players at even-par, including Luke Donald, Steve Stricker, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and amateur Cheng-Tsung Pan.

Horschel's 67 came after he was forced to finish his first round in the morning before heading back out for his second round not even an hour later. His round tied Mickelson's from Thursday for the low score of the tournament.

"Yeah, 66 sounded better but I three-putted No. 13," he said. "I'll take the round. It was a good day. Obviously, it was a long day [with] 29 holes.

"But it was a great day. Four birdies at a U.S. Open. I'll take it."

Mickelson, who at one point fell all the way back to even par, birdied the 18th hole after the horn had sounded to shoot a 2-over-par 72 and reclaim a share of the lead.

"It was a nice way to finish on the 18th," Mickelson said. "I fought hard all day, let a lot of birdie opportunities slide early and in the middle of the round. I fought hard to stay in there and hit a lot of good quality shots. Made a bunch of good pars.

"On 18, when you don't really expect to get one, I put the ball in a good spot and was able to roll one in. It felt good."

Twelve players are within at least three shots of Mickelson and Horschel.

World Nos. 1 and 2 Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy both finished Friday 3-over for the tournament. They'll be paired together for the third straight day on Saturday.

After his grimacing and shaking of his left arm caught attention on Thursday, Woods disclosed Friday afternoon that he's been dealing with an elbow injury since he won the Players Championship back in May (see story). Woods was another who had to finish his first round Friday morning only to head back out onto the course shortly thereafter.

"Long day," he said, laughing. "And I'm hungry."

Seventy-three players survived the 8-over-par 148 cut line to play the weekend. Notable names who made the cut right on the number include Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedker and Mike Weir.

Other notables who will miss the weekend include Zach Johnson (11-over), Keegan Bradley (12-over), Nick Watney (11-over), 2010 champ Graeme McDowell (13-over), 2009 champ Lucas Glover (13-over), Angel Cabrera (15-over), and 2003 champ Jim Furyk (16-over).

Scores ballooned for a second day at Merion on Friday, when despite soft conditions, the rough proved too much for many too handle (see story). Just one hole, the par-3 13th played under par on Friday.

Oosthuizen withdraws
Louis Oosthuizen withdrew from the tournament on Friday with an undisclosed injury. Oosthuizen nearly didn't come to Merion this week, as his wife is pregnant with their third child. The 2010 British Open champion put up a 75 in his opening round.

Robert Garrigus (16-over) also withdrew Saturday morning.

'That Kangaroo stole my ball'
Mickelson's round was brought to temporary stop on the front nine when a groundhog ran onto the fairway. Watch the video here.

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”

Ivan Provorov buries Chicago nightmare by showing Blackhawks his true self

Ivan Provorov buries Chicago nightmare by showing Blackhawks his true self

Ivan Provorov moved on but didn’t forget.

The 19-year-old still remembers losing his footing on the United Center ice in front of 21,263 fans, alone in his own end and costing the Flyers a goal in a blowout defeat to the Blackhawks on Oct. 18.

In just his third NHL game, Provorov had his rookie moment. He also had a minus-5 rating when the 7-4 loss was all said and done.

Well, on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center, he saw the Blackhawks again and made it a point to show them his best. Provorov ripped off two goals in 31 seconds of the second period to erase a 1-0 deficit and spearhead a 3-1 win for the Flyers (see story).

Better output than last time?

Provorov laughed, paused and then laughed again.

“A little bit,” he said. “I think so.

“I was trying to use it as a positive thing. Try to prove that that’s not me, that it’s just one bad game.”

Consider that job done.

“I didn’t play my best at that game,” Provorov said. “But I put it behind me, learned from it and this was a better result tonight.”

In 31 ticks of the clock, the Russian defenseman topped his goal total through the first 25 games (see 10 observations). Provorov uncorked a slap shot and slung a wrister for the tallies early in the middle stanza.

“I think you have to keep everything in perspective from a night like that,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said of Provorov’s first game against Chicago. “He is a guy that continues to work at his game and continues to build.”

Provorov didn’t net the hat trick, but in the same period, saved a goal on the defensive end when he quickly pounced on a puck dribbling toward the goal line off and behind goalie Steve Mason.

“I came from the left corner and I saw the puck was rolling on Mase’s shoulder,” Provorov said. “It went down, rolled to the goal line. I just got there as quick as I could and swiped it out.

“I think it was close. As soon I saw the puck, I tried to get there as fast as I can.”

After experiencing some growing pains to start the season, Provorov has played better. Once he makes a mistake, he rarely makes it again.

“He’s just beyond his years in terms of maturity and the way he studies the game,” Hakstol said a little over two weeks ago. “He’s a young guy that I can probably ask him about a play that happened two weeks ago in a game and he would immediately have recall on that play. A very intelligent player, he’s handled the ups and the downs pretty well."

Mason isn't surprised by Provorov's development.

"When you come into the league at a young age, it’s not easy and you’ve got to get your feet under you," Mason said. "We’re starting to see that [with Provorov]."

And two goals in half a minute don’t hurt.

“Score one goal in a game, it’s a good feeling. Score two in one shift, it’s unbelievable,” Provorov said. “Two great plays by our forwards. The whole team, it was a great effort, we played a great hockey game, so it was easy to play.

“Every time you score, it’s like a confidence booster. For me, it’s defense first but when you get goals and assists, it’s always nice.”

The Flyers had the players’ dads on hand for Saturday’s game. Provorov’s father, Vladimir, couldn’t make it from Russia, but you can bet he tuned in.

“He watches every game back home,” Provorov said. “Today was a little easier because it’s only 9 p.m. back home when the game started, so yeah, I think my whole family watched it.”

He watches the other games at 3, 4 a.m.?

“Yeah,” Provorov said with a smile, “then he takes my brother to practice at 6.”