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The AJC’s Top 50: Nos. 36-40

The landscape of Atlanta sports changed in 2017.

Literally.

Stadiums were raised, razed and renovated.

There were many more significant moments in sports involving the city, it’s teams and people connected to our region.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution compiled and ranked a list of the 50 biggest moments in Atlanta sports for the year. Over 10 days, we will reveal the list in ascending order, five at a time, until it culminates with the biggest and most defining moment on Dec. 26.

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Today: 36-40.

40. Brad Keselowski wins Atlanta NASCAR race

A late driver error enabled Brad Keselowski to capture the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 5. Kevin Harvick led for 293 of the 325 scheduled laps but was penalized late for speeding on pit row. Keselowski passed Kyle Larson with six remaining laps and won by .564 seconds. The victory was the 22nd of his career and first in Atlanta. “These races aren't easy,” Keselowski said. “They’re 500 miles, and a lot can happen, and when you think you've got it, they slip away. I know how it goes.”

39. Sergio Garcia wins Masters

The best player to never have won a major is no longer Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard burst on the golfing scene as a teenager. However it took until the age of 37, in his 18th year and 74th major after turning professional, to finally break through. Garcia won the 2017 Masters on April 9, winning a playoff over Justin Rose with a 12-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole. Mission accomplished – at last. He closed with a round of 69 to finish at 9-under par.

38. Tour Championship duel winners

Xander Schauffele won the tournament but Justin Thomas took home the biggest prize in all of golf. Schauffele won the PGA Tour’s Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club, the first rookie to capture the 30-player event, on Sept. 24. However, Thomas won the FedEx Cup playoff and its $10 million bonus. The tournament marked the first time since 2009 when the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup weren’t won by the same player, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, respectively, taking the honors. Thomas capped his Player of the Year campaign when he shot a final round 66 to finish a shot behind Schauffele.

37. Deshaun Watson leads Clemson to national championship

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson didn’t let another opportunity for a national championship get away. In a rematch with Alabama, the Gainesville High product threw a two-yard touchdown pass with one second remaining for a 35-31 victory on Jan. 9. Watson engineered touchdown drives of 88 and 68 yards on Clemson’s last two possessions. Watson went on to be drafted into the NFL No. 12 overall by the Texans in April. He was on his way to a Rookie of the Year award when a torn ACL ended his season in November.

36. Hawks draft John Collins

The Hawks never expected for John Collins to be available when it came time for their No. 19 pick in the NBA Draft on June 22. When the sophomore from Wake Forest was still on the board, new general manager Travis Schlenk jumped at the opportunity to select the power forward. The Hawks had Collins ranked in the top 15 of the draft and Schlenk employed his best player available strategy. Collins averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds and earned All-ACC first team and ACC Most Improved Player honors.

The list so far:

36. Hawks draft John Collins

37. Deshaun Watson leads Clemson to national championship

38. Tour Championship double winners

39. Sergio Garcia wins Masters

40. Brad Keselowski wins Atlanta NASCAR race

41. Hawks open practice facility

42. Ascension of Braves’ Ronald Acuna

43. Kennesaw football wins conference, goes to playoffs

44. Georgia State takes over Turner Field

45. John Isner wins fourth BB&T title

46. Georgia Swarm win National Lacrosse League title

47. Matt Stafford gets NFL-record contract

48. Braves release of Bartolo Colon

49. Rams hire Dunwoody’s Sean McVay

50. Warrick Dunn in Falcons Ring of Honor

Links:

Day One

Day Two

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