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Golf is back in the Olympics for the second time after a 112-year absence, following a successful return in Brazil in 2016, when England’s Justin Rose captured the gold medal. Rose held off Sweden’s — and then-reigning Open champion — Henrik Stenson. American Matt Kuchar finished third to win the bronze.

None of the three medalists are back this time when the event begins Thursday just outside Tokyo. Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama figures to be among the biggest storylines in his home country, but there are plenty of others, including one that involves a couple of top players who will not participateJon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau.

Here is a look at the tournament.

How we got here

Only 60 players qualify for the competition, based on the Official World Golf Ranking of June 21. A maximum of two players per country can participate, with up to four if all of the players are ranked among the top 15 in the world. The United States had 10 players ranked among the top 15 and is the only country to qualify the maximum of four players.

If one player qualified for the tournament, another player from that country could also participate, regardless of ranking. And if someone from a country withdrew, another player from that country could take the spot, so long as that player qualified within the ranking criteria.

Format

Starting Thursday, there will be 72 holes of stroke play through Sunday, with no cut.

Countries represented

There are 35 countries that have at least one player competing in the tournament.

The venue

Kasumigaseki Country Club is the home for both the men’s and women’s events. The club is a 36-hole facility located about 35 miles outside of Tokyo, with the East Course being used for the competition. Opened in 1929, the club has hosted several high-profile tournaments, including the 1957 World Cup, where Koichi Ono and Torakichi Nakamura of Japan defeated the heavily-favored U.S. team of Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret. It has also been home to multiple Japan Opens, Japan men’s and women’s amateur championships and the 2010 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, won by Matsuyama — earning him his first invitation to the Masters the following year.

The East Course has made Golf Digest’s top 100 courses in the world and underwent a renovation in 2016 by Tom and Logan Fazio. It measures 7,466 yards and features the Japanese dual green system, meaning each hole has two greens, one used for summer play and the other in the winter.

The favorite is out

Spain’s Jon Rahm figured to be a strong bet to win the gold medal, given his recent form that included a victory at the U.S. Open and a T-3 at The Open. But prior to leaving for Tokyo, Rahm tested positive for COVID-19, ending his dream of representing his country in the Olympic Games.

Rahm’s withdrawal — along with that of Bryson DeChambeau, who also tested positive for COVID-19 — means a rocky start for a tournament that expected to see both players figure prominently. This is Rahm’s second COVID-19 withdrawal; he was forced out of the Memorial in June after three rounds of an event in which he led by six strokes going into the final round.

Given his positive test there, Rahm would have no longer been required to test on the PGA Tour for at least three months. The Tour actually had plans starting last week to halt its testing program.

But the Olympics required a series of tests and Rahm is out. Spain will still have two competitors, with Jorge Campillo a late add who will join Adri Arnaus.

The Americans

Dustin Johnson would have qualified, but he announced in March he would be skipping the Olympics. Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele are top-10 in the world and will be considered among the favorites to win the event — or at least earn a medal. Patrick Reed, who is replacing DeChambeau, has fallen to 13th but was ninth when the Olympic cutoff occurred on June 21. He’s the only American to have competed at Rio in 2016, when he tied for 11th. Both Morikawa and Schauffele have Japanese family ties, which heightened their interest in competing.

What will DeChambeau do next?

He won’t be competing in the Olympics, and perhaps an eventful month that included a back-nine blow up at the U.S. Open, a caddie break-up at the Rocket Mortgage and then a dust-up with his equipment manufacturer at The Open (for which DeChambeau apologized), this will be a welcome break. DeChambeau was in need of a re-set anyway, and will get that chance.

Captain America

Reed appears excited about the opportunity that was presented when DeChambeau had to withdraw and will endure quite a few hassles to make it happen. He was required to go through a prolonged testing process that won’t get him to Tokyo until Wednesday, which means he will not have time for a practice round.

Little time to celebrate

Fresh off his Open victory — and second major championship — Morikawa now takes a shot at Olympic glory. He became just the eighth player to win two majors before the age of 25 as well as becoming the first to win two majors in his debut appearance in each.

As for the Olympics, Morikawa was certainly excited about the prospects when he qualified.

“It’s going to be one of the best things of my life,” he said. “To think back that I was an amateur two years ago, literally two years ago, and to be on this team and heading to Tokyo puts a smile on my face. I’m really excited.”

The local favorite

A lot of attention will be focused on Matsuyama, who became the first Japanese male golfer to win a major championship when he captured the Masters in April. Matsuyama, who won the 2009 Japan Junior Championship and the Asia-Pacific Amateur at the same course in 2010 (and then defended his title a year later in Singapore), has had little success since his victory at Augusta National. He tested positive for COVID-19 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which caused him to skip The Open. Rikuya Hoshino, ranked 76th in the world, is the other Japanese player in the field.

Keeping gold in Great Britain

Justin Rose is not in Tokyo to defend his Gold from Rio, but fellow Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey are determined to keep the medal for the United Kingdom. Both players have come across as more than eager for this opportunity, spurred on by the joy shown by Rose.

“What came from that was the surprise of how proud Justin was and the emotions he felt from winning,” Fleetwood said. “He spoke to me about it a lot. I just think it was really cool seeing his face light up and hearing him talk about how he felt about not only competing in Olympics but being an Olympic gold medalist. It was very, very cool seeing him and watching him talk about it.”

Fleetwood added that “you’re not just playing as an individual, you’re playing for the nation. I don’t know that we would see that as pressure. We would see that as a proud moment and something that we’re, really, really excited about. It is fantastic that we’ve had a gold medalist for our sport, and I’m sure we would just absolutely love to keep that going.”

Growing the game

Juvic Pagunsan is the sort of player golf’s leaders had in mind when they began pushing for inclusion in the Olympics more than 15 years ago. It wasn’t all about the top names; part of the plan was to inspire Olympic participation in countries where golf might have otherwise been underserved.

Pagunsan is 43 and from the Philippines. He has played most of his golf on the Japan Tour, where earlier this year he won his first title, the 2021 Gateway to The Open Mizuno Open. He used only 11 clubs and had to carry his own bag due to COVID-19 restrictions, which did not allow caddies. That victory got him into The Open but he elected to skip the tournament at Royal St. George’s in order to prepare for the Olympics.

Team Norway

Viktor Hovland and Kristian Krogh Johannessen will represent Norway at the Olympics. They have known each other for years. Johannessen has been somewhat of a mentor to Hovland, who played college golf at Oklahoma State and has won twice on the PGA Tour. They partnered at the 2013 European Boys event.

“We have a very rich Olympic tradition,” Hovland said. “Now, with golf being an Olympic sport, I think it would be great for people back home to just get into the sport.”

The ultimate pressure

How important is the Olympics to Sungjae Im and Si Woo Kim? The South Koreans are both prominent players on the PGA Tour. Each decided to skip The Open in order to be better prepared for the Olympic tournament. And it’s not just the medals they covet: Earning a spot on the podium means an exemption from military service.

Both Im and Kim are subject to compulsory military duty called conscription in South Korea. Males ages 18 to 28 are required to serve at some point. Sangmoon Bae was on the International Presidents Cup team in 2015, his last professional event before his mandatory service. He came back to golf and won on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour. But it has been a struggle to regain his place. Bae barely played during his two years of service.

The way to avoid military service? Win an Olympic medal.

The perks

Gold, silver and bronze medals are the obvious prizes for Olympic glory. There is no prize money.

For those competing in the tournament, world ranking points are being offered. But it appears that the Olympic competition will have a strength of field that offers fewer than 50 world ranking points to the winner, a number that was decreased due to the loss of Rahm and DeChambeau. That would put the Olympics in line with a tournament such as the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Those points can be particularly important to those players farther down the list.

The tournament is also considered an official event on the European Tour and a victory would offer full status there. The winner of the tournament will also receive a one-year exemption into the major championships and the Players Championship, while the medalists are exempt from local or first-stage qualifying for the U.S. Open.

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Buckeyes great Laurinaitis joins Ohio State staff

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Buckeyes great Laurinaitis joins Ohio State staff

Ohio State is adding James Laurinaitis, one of the most decorated defensive players in program history, to its coaching staff as a defensive graduate assistant for the 2023 college football season.

Laurinaitis, a former Buckeyes linebacker, is one of only eight players in team history to earn All-America honors three times. A two-time captain, he won the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s top defensive player and the Butkus Award as the top linebacker in college football. Laurinaitis spent the 2022 season as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame, working under his former Ohio State teammate Marcus Freeman.

The 36-year-old will work primarily with Ohio State’s linebackers. He twice earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors and was a second-round pick in the 2009 NFL draft. Laurinaitis became the then-St. Louis Rams’ all-time leading tackler with 852 stops in seven years. He retired from the NFL after the 2016 season with New Orleans.

“I am thrilled for our program and especially for our current and future Buckeyes who will benefit so much from having James on staff,” coach Ryan Day said in a statement. “James is a terrific young man with wisdom as a Buckeye and experience as an eight-year NFL veteran. He is going to be a very important part of our program going forward.”

Laurinaitis played at Ohio State alongside Brian Hartline, whom Day recently promoted to offensive coordinator

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Spartans making deals in fracas vs. Wolverines

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Spartans making deals in fracas vs. Wolverines

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — At least four more Michigan State football players facing misdemeanor charges for a skirmish inside the Michigan Stadium tunnel will likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions, lawyers said Friday.

“It’s going to happen outside of court,” said Max Manoogian, an attorney for Angelo Grose. “There is going to be no criminal responsibility whatsoever. There are no admissions being made, no pleas being tendered.”

Scuffles broke out in the tunnel after Michigan defeated Michigan State 29-7 on Oct. 29. Video showed Michigan State players pushing, punching and kicking Michigan’s Ja’Den McBurrows.

Seven players were charged, though only one, Khary Crump, faced a felony. That charge was dropped in early January in exchange for a guilty plea to a misdemeanor. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

Grose, Itayvion Brown, Brandon Wright and Justin White returned to court Friday and agreed to sign up for a special program, MLive.com reported.

“Participants work with a case manager to create and successfully complete a plan for accountability. Upon completion of that plan, charges are dismissed,” said Victoria Burton-Harris, chief assistant prosecutor in Washtenaw County.

Manoogian predicted charges would be dismissed in six months.

“They’re going to do some good work in the community, do a little bit of philanthropic work, jump through a couple of hoops and the prosecutor’s going to dismiss the case on their own,” he said.

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NHL Power Rankings: Projecting playoff chances for all 32 teams

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NHL Power Rankings: Projecting playoff chances for all 32 teams

The 2023 NHL All-Star Game is on tap next weekend, and once the break is over, the volume of trades should really start heating up as teams fall into the “playoff contender” and “there’s always next year” cohorts.

As of this point, there are no teams that have clinched a playoff spot, and no team is mathematically eliminated either. So let’s take a look at each team’s current playoff chances (per FiveThirtyEight), and identify what could go right or wrong to reverse that trend.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors rates teams against one another — taking into account game results, injuries and upcoming schedule — and those results are tabulated to produce the list featured here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the most recent edition, published Jan. 20. Points percentages are through Thursday’s games.

Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: 83.33%
Next seven days: @ FLA (Jan. 28), @ CAR (Jan. 29), @ TOR (Feb. 1)

Playoff chances: >99%. Boston should be offended their odds aren’t an even 100%. The Bruins are a postseason lock, and then some.

Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: 72.34%
Next seven days: vs. SJ (Jan. 27), vs. BOS (Jan. 29), vs. LA (Jan. 31), @ BUF (Feb. 1)

Playoff chances: >99%. Carolina would have to face the mother of all rough patches to not make a fifth consecutive postseason appearance. And that’s saying a lot, considering the Hurricanes have weathered their share of adversity and keep coming out on top.

Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: 68.75%
Next seven days: @ DAL (Jan. 27)

Playoff chances: 95%. New Jersey is tracking toward just its second playoff appearance in 10 years. An imminent fall off the rails is wildly unlikely, and the Devils project to be one of the must-watch clubs in what will be a talent-packed Eastern Conference field.

Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage: 69.39%
Next seven days: vs. OTT (Jan. 27), vs. WSH (Jan. 29), vs. BOS (Feb. 1)

Playoff chances: >99%. Toronto reaching 18-wheeler-off-a-cliff territory is all that could negate earning a playoff spot. How far the Leafs end up going in the postseason is a whole other calculation, of course.

Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage: 67.02%
Next seven days: vs. LA (Jan. 28)

Playoff chances: >99%. Tampa Bay is a sure thing — at least to reach another postseason. The Lightning’s biggest potential for derailment (aside from compounding injuries) might be fatigue. Headlining the Stanley Cup Final three seasons in a row takes its toll. Is there load management in the future to safeguard against disappointment? Stay tuned.

Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage: 65.00%
Next seven days: vs. NJ (Jan. 27)

Playoff chances: 97%. Dallas has lost consecutive games in regulation only once since November, and just four times total this season. The Stars will carry that promise into a surefire postseason opportunity.

Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage: 63.00%
Next seven days: vs. PHI (Jan. 28), vs. STL (Jan. 30)

Playoff chances: 93%. Winnipeg should have no trouble staying on course to a well-deserved postseason slot. The Jets’ only potential stumbling block could be figuring out how to maximize the luxury of an (almost) healthy roster, without disrupting chemistry that’s taken them so far already.

Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage: 64.89%
Next seven days: vs. CGY (Jan. 27), vs. CBJ (Jan. 28)

Playoff chances: 93%. Seattle needs its goaltending to hold up. That’s it. Because there’s little else that could hold this high-powered Kraken crew back from their inaugural playoff showing.

Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage: 62.50%
Next seven days: vs. VGK (Jan. 27)

Playoff chances: 89%. New York is on thin ice in the ultracompetitive Metropolitan Division. Teams are breathing down their neck already, and to hold tight in the top three, GM Chris Drury can’t be shy about adding a player (or two) ahead of the trade deadline. That insurance would help prevent New York from slipping into wild-card territory.

Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage: 62.25%
Next seven days: @ NYR (Jan. 27), @ NYI (Jan. 28)

Playoff chances: 82%. Vegas needs its health. Injury troubles have pushed the Golden Knights off track before, and they’ve been an issue already throughout this season. Vegas squirrelling away wins early should protect their postseason potential, though — barring a further pileup of ailments to come.

Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage: 58.51%
Next seven days: vs. STL (Jan. 28)

Playoff chances: 93%. Colorado just recorded its longest win streak of the season — at six games — and looks increasingly like the reigning Stanley Cup champion we expected. And when the Avalanche are hitting their stride, there’s little doubt playoffs lay ahead.

Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage: 60.00%
Next seven days: @ FLA (Jan. 27), @ TB (Jan. 28), @ CAR (Jan. 31)

Playoff chances: 63%. Los Angeles can pump up their playoff outlook as buyers before trade deadline. The salary cap won’t make it easy, but the Kings’ adding another left-shot defenseman, bottom-six forward or even a depth goaltender would aid in holding off Edmonton or Calgary for the Pacific Division’s third seed.

Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage: 59.57%
Next seven days: vs. BUF (Jan. 28)

Playoff chances: 81%. Minnesota must fear a surging Avalanche (and really, who doesn’t?) The Central was suffocating enough, and now that Colorado is climbing, the Wild have to keep pace or risk duking it out for a wild-card berth into the postseason.

Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage: 59.18%
Next seven days: vs. CHI (Jan. 28)

Playoff chances: 86%. Edmonton has racked up wins lately thanks to overall improved play, from forward balance to strong special teams to dialed-in defense. The Oilers can’t rest on their laurels or revert back to bad habits like leaning too heavily on its stars. Edmonton’s postseason hopes — and success — depend on being more multi-dimensional than that.

Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage: 59.38%
Next seven days: vs. SJ (Jan. 28)

Playoff chances: 75%. Pittsburgh looked poised, at one point, to be a powerhouse. Currently, they barely hold a playoff spot. The Penguins can improve their odds by adding forward depth ahead of the deadline, and hoping certain defensive stalwarts — including Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin — can keep flourishing.

Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage: 56.12%
Next seven days: @ SEA (Jan. 27)

Playoff chances: 56%. Calgary must find its identity. It’s not all the way locked in yet. To make the postseason, Calgary has to execute like a playoff-caliber team. But putting on a full 60-minute effort might be the easy part. The Flames’ challenge is to keep coming together, decide what they really are and lean into it.

Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage: 56.86%
Next seven days: @ TOR (Jan. 29), @ CBJ (Jan. 31)

Playoff chances: 59%. Washington is in that middle-of-the-pack position that makes a pre-trade-deadline move imperative. The Capitals need to target blue-line help. John Carlson is hurt now, and if there’s an opportunity to bolster the back end sooner than later, Washington could boost its postseason positioning that much faster.

Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage: 57.29%
Next seven days: @ MIN (Jan. 28), vs. CAR (Feb. 1)

Playoff chances: 35%. Buffalo is at a crossroads: Are they a young team standing pat until next season, or is a playoff push now in their sights? Because the opportunity to swing big is there. The Sabres’ best chance of a springtime berth involves adding defensive depth, possibly targeting an impactful bottom-six forward, continued excellence from its top-six group and consistent goaltending. Buffalo has surprised all season; what else is up its sleeve?

Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage: 56.25%
Next seven days: No games

Playoff chances: 43%. Nashville longs for consistency. Juuse Saros is playing well in net (.920 save percentage) and the Predators have improved offensively since Christmas into a top-15 goal-scoring team. To extend its second-half potential into a postseason shot, Nashville has to get consistent scoring every game.

Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage: 52.00%
Next seven days: vs. LA (Jan. 27), vs. BOS (Jan. 28)

Playoff chances: 30%. Florida needed better goaltending to turn its season around. Now, the Panthers just need healthy goaltenders. Sergei Bobrovsky was sidelined last week with a lower-body issue and Spencer Knight is just back from injury himself. Alex Lyon has been there to help, but Florida has simply got to give its goalie — whoever that is — all the support it can up front to have a shot at playoffs.

Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage: 53.19%
Next seven days: @ NYI (Jan. 27)

Playoff chances: 4%. Detroit showed some serious early-season promise, and they’re still an above-.500 team. If the Red Wings can start scoring again, and if Ville Husso can get some help, and if Detroit can tighten up defensively … maybe they find a way back to what worked before. If not, the Red Wings could be looking for a golden draft lottery ticket.

Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage: 51.00%
Next seven days: vs. DET (Jan. 27), vs. VGK (Jan. 28)

Playoff chances: 13%. New York has been in an offensive drought since mid-December. If that doesn’t change fast, and the Islanders still hold postseason aspirations, then GM Lou Lamoriello must target forward help on the trade market. And then hope that kick-starts better performances from within.

Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage: 50.00%
Next seven days: @ COL (Jan. 28), @ WPG (Jan. 30)

Playoff chances: 12%. St. Louis’ best chance of a postseason push is keeping all of its best players — including an eventually healthy Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly — in the fold. And potentially being buyers instead of sellers ahead of the trade deadline. And then going on a magical win-almost-every-night kind of run. So yeah, it would be a lot.

Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage: 49.00%
Next seven days: @ WPG (Jan. 28)

Playoff chances: 1%. Philadelphia not being the worst team in their division is a (relative) achievement. There’s always next year to — maybe — get back in the playoff mix.

Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage: 47.87%
Next seven days: @ TOR (Jan. 27), vs. MTL (Jan. 28), @ MTL (Jan. 31)

Playoff chances: 1%. Ottawa rallied to overcome a slow start with its 12-5-2 run through late fall. Since then, the Senators have simply fallen. Would getting — and staying — fully healthy have kept Ottawa’s previous momentum and playoff hopes alive? A question that will linger into the planning for next season.

Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage: 38.78%
Next seven days: @ CAR (Jan. 27), @ PIT (Jan. 28)

Playoff chances: less than 1%. San Jose won’t be appearing in the postseason. But the Sharks could emerge as big winners at the trade deadline by moving marquee players like Timo Meier and Erik Karlsson in deals that set San Jose up for long-term success in the future. A fine consolation prize.

Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage: 44.90%
Next seven days: @ OTT (Jan. 28), vs. OTT (Jan. 31)

Playoff chances: less than 1%. Montreal losing Cole Caufield for the rest of the season was the end of any lingering postseason dreams. No matter. The Canadiens have a young core and plenty of potential playoff opportunities in their future.

Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage: 42.71%
Next seven days: vs. CBJ (Jan. 27)

Playoff chances: less than 1%. Vancouver responded surprisingly well to a coaching change last season. Can they do it again? Last season, the Canucks went from last in the Pacific to missing the playoffs by two points after Bruce Boudreau slid behind the bench. Rick Tocchet would be some sort of magician to coax an even better run out of Vancouver now … but hey, anything is possible.

Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage: 37.76%
Next seven days: @ ANA (Jan. 28)

Playoff chances: less than 1%. Arizona won’t parlay great performances from the likes of Karel Vejmelka and Clayton Keller into playoff games right now. But there are still a couple more years of possibility that Mullet Arena will host an NHL playoff tilt. And that’s fun to think about!

Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage: 36.17%
Next seven days: @ EDM (Jan. 28)

Playoff chances: less than 1%. Chicago is “Bound for Bedard” — as was their plan. The Blackhawks can help the cause by finding trade partners for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and really embracing the franchise’s future direction.

Previous ranking: 32
Points percentage: 35.71%
Next seven days: vs. ARI (Jan. 28)

Playoff chances: less than 1%. Anaheim can see the big picture here. Playoffs are out, clearly. But the Ducks have cap space to spare, a trade deadline looming to start the healing — er, improving — process and great odds in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. And those are the odds that really matter for Anaheim.

Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage: 34.38%
Next seven days: @ VAN (Jan. 27), @ SEA (Jan. 28), vs. WSH (Jan. 31)

Playoff chances: less than 1%. Columbus has yet to win consecutive games in regulation this season, so the playoffs will remain something of a pipe dream.

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