Confident McIlroy ready for weather at Merion

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Confident McIlroy ready for weather at Merion

ARDMORE, Pa. -- At some point, Rory McIlroy says, he wants to get into the city of Philadelphia so he can do one thing …

Run up the Art Museum steps like Rocky Balboa.

“I was half thinking of going to the steps in the city -- the Rocky steps -- wherever they are and run up them,” McIlroy said during his media availability for the U.S. Open at Merion East Golf Club.

As far as touristy things to do go, perhaps Philadelphians will catch McIlroy at the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall or even Pat’s at 2 a.m. for a cheesesteak.

More likely, though, McIlroy will be front and center when the tournament begins on Thursday, playing alongside Tiger Woods and Adam Scott. That’s the top three-ranked golfers in the world playing together for the first two rounds at Merion.

With any luck, McIlroy hopes to be playing with Woods or Scott in the last group on Sunday.

“It's something that wasn't too much of a surprise. The guys at the USGA have done it quite a few times before,” McIlroy said. “It's always nice to be a part of a group like that. Something that I'm excited about. It's a good thing. I like it because you're in a group like that there's a lot of buzz and a lot of atmosphere around it and it gets you focused from the first shot.

“Teeing off on Thursday afternoon, there's obviously going to be a lot of attention on that group and it's just nice to be a part of it.”

A winner of two majors, including a record-breaking performance at the 2011 U.S. Open played at Congressional Country Club outside of Washington, D.C., McIlroy could very well remain in the spotlight come Sunday. A lot of that has to do with the condition of the golf course. The heavy rain that has hit the region has turned the grounds at Merion soft. That means the course will be easier and scores will be lower.

Often the U.S. Open is a war of attrition in which the winner is the last man left unbroken by the extreme rough and slick putting surfaces. But the rain takes control away from the course and gives it back to the players.

When McIlroy won in 2011 with the record-breaking score of 268 (16-under), the rain played a major role.

He expects the play at Merion to be very similar.

“I didn't really enjoy the [the 2012 U.S. Open at the] Olympic Club last year. I much prefer this sort of golf, I guess,” McIlroy said. “When you hit a shot and it doesn't bounce one way or the other, when you hit it and it stays where you think it's going to stay. There's still not going to be that many birdies out here. You've still got to hit it on the fairway. It's still a pretty tight golf course. So when you do get it in the rough, you're not going to make birdies out of there. So you're going to have chances, but you're going to have some holes where it's going to be very difficult.

“I expect the scores to be a little lower than what they would be if the course was a little firmer and drier, but I don't think you'll see scores like the scores that were shot at Congressional a couple of years ago.”

Maybe not yet, but the course could become even more water logged.

Forecasters are predicting more rain for Thursday. However, it doesn’t hurt that McIlroy feels confident about his game. In fact, McIlroy pointed out, his game might be in better shape heading into this week’s Open than it was when he won at Congressional.

“I guess that the two majors that I've won I've sort of come in a little bit like that, with low expectations,” McIlroy said. “I feel like coming into the U.S. Open this year, my game's in much better shape than it was last year. I came off the back of three missed cuts in a row and I wasn't playing very well. And this year I feel like my game is actually in good shape. So I feel coming in this year I've got a way better chance than I did last year.”

McIlroy doesn’t need to play alongside of Woods and Scott to get noticed. Chances are the gregarious 24-year old from Northern Ireland would have a large gallery following him around regardless of who he was lined up with.

Better yet, maybe Woods is happy that McIlroy will take some of the attention.

“I think it will be fantastic. I was part of that the first time they did it in ’08 and it was very electric out there,” Woods said. “Normally we don’t get those types of pairings very often. When you do it just makes it that much more enjoyable for us as players.”

Forget Cherry Hill's Bobby Ryan, Johnny Gaudreau wants to play for Flyers some day

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Forget Cherry Hill's Bobby Ryan, Johnny Gaudreau wants to play for Flyers some day

Forget about Cherry Hill's Bobby Ryan. (Forget about Millville too — sorry, Mike Trout.)

Another South Jersey star athlete has his eyes on playing for a Philadelphia franchise some day.

Yes, we're talking about Carneys Point, New Jersey's very own, Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames.

On a radio hit Friday with 94WIP's "Morning Show," Gaudreau expressed his interest in one day putting on the orange and black.

“It would be sweet to play [in Philadelphia] some day,” Gaudreau said. “You never know in sports, but it’s a lot of support back here in South Jersey and the Philly area.

“I’ve got a ton of family here, all my friends. All my friends come back here, all my good friends and kids that I’ve played with my whole life are from South Jersey.”

The problem is, "Johnny Hockey" has five years left on his six-year, $40.5 million contract extension he signed with Calgary signed before last season. 

In the final year of his contract, 2021-22, Gaudreau has a modified no-trade clause … and yep, the Flyers are reportedly on that list too.

Gaudreau, who turns 24 on Aug. 13, scored 18 goals and 61 points in 72 games last season with the Flames. The 5-foot-9, 157-pound Gaudreau has 73 goals and 204 points in 232 career games in Calgary.

The former Hobey Baker Award winner will be turning 29 when he's able to reach unrestricted free agency.

Could he be what Jeff Carter was to the Kings in 2012 to the Flyers in 2022?

Only time will tell.

H/t to Sportsnet.

MLB Notes: Mariners send top prospect Tyler O'Neill to Cardinals

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MLB Notes: Mariners send top prospect Tyler O'Neill to Cardinals

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners have acquired young left-hander Marco Gonzales from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for top outfield prospect Tyler O'Neill.

The clubs pulled off the surprising deal Friday, the second move to add pitching help in as many days for the Mariners. Seattle acquired veteran reliever David Phelps from Miami on Thursday.

This time, Seattle added a young starter who will have a number of seasons of club control but paid a hefty price.

O'Neill was considered one of the top prospects in Seattle's farm system and had been on a tear of late at Triple-A Tacoma. The 22-year-old O'Neill had 19 home runs in 93 games at Triple-A.

Gonzales, 25, is still working his way back from missing all the 2016 season due to elbow surgery. He pitched in one major league game this season for the Cardinals.

Cubs: 3B Bryant sidelined by sprained finger
CHICAGO -- Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is out of the starting lineup after he sprained his left little finger on a headfirst slide.

Bryant got hurt in the first inning of Chicago's 8-2 victory at Atlanta on Wednesday. X-rays were negative, and he is considered day to day.

The 25-year-old Bryant is hitting .275 with 19 homers and 40 RBIs in 88 games. He won the NL MVP award last year, helping the Cubs to their first World Series title since 1908.

Javier Baez got the start at third for Chicago's series opener against St. Louis on Friday at Wrigley Field.

Athletics: Carter signed to minor league deal, Montas, Olson promoted
NEW YORK -- The Oakland Athletics have signed free agent slugger Chris Carter to a minor league deal and promoted right-hander Frankie Montas and first baseman/outfielder Matt Olson to the majors.

The A's made the moves before playing the New York Mets on Friday night.

Carter was recently cut by the New York Yankees after hitting .201 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs. He tied for the NL lead with 41 homers for Milwaukee last year but struggled as a first baseman and designated hitter for the Yankees.

Carter was assigned to Triple-A Nashville. He played for Oakland in 2010-12 and hit 19 home runs.

Montas was 1-1 with a 6.91 ERA in 21 relief appearances for Oakland before being sent down on June 11.

Olson is joining Oakland for the fifth time this season. He hit .184 with four homers and nine RBIs in his previous four stints.

Cardinals: OF Grichuk, LHP Duke activated from DL
CHICAGO -- The St. Louis Cardinals have activated outfielder Randal Grichuk and reliever Zach Duke from the disabled list and recalled catching prospect Carson Kelly from Triple-A Memphis.

St. Louis also acquired minor league outfielder Tyler O'Neill in a trade with Seattle for left-hander Marco Gonzales, and designated catcher Eric Fryer for assignment before Friday's game against the Chicago Cubs. Right-hander Sam Tuivailala and outfielder Magneuris Sierra were optioned to the minors after Thursday's 3-2 loss to the New York Mets.

Grichuk was sidelined by a lower back injury. He made a rehab appearance with Double-A Springfield on Wednesday and went 1 for 4 with a three-run homer.

The 34-year-old Duke is coming back from Tommy John surgery last October. He went 2-1 with a 2.36 ERA in 81 games last season for St. Louis and the Chicago White Sox.